It’s time for FOLLOW YOUR FEAR DAY once again!
Last year, I announced the writing of my graphic series,
Testament. This year, I had something different in mind…

When I took up martial arts as a teen, I should have known I was going to break something. But even though cracking my shoulder came as a painful surprise, it quickly seemed like not that big a deal. Granted, it was the most severe injury I had sustained up to that point, but being unable to move my right arm properly gave me a great excuse not to do homework. It was almost worth it. After all, even as an adult, when all the grappling locks and katas had faded from my memory, the confidence that martial arts gave me meant that I was never afraid to walk down the street at night.
That confidence has served me well. I have defended my friends against attackers and remained calm in life-threatening situations. It’s liberating to know that there’s very little a person can do to you that you can’t deal with. But that all changed.

One summer, as I strolled down a busy downtown street on a sunny afternoon, a man, a complete stranger, bee-lined his way out of the crowd and came at me. Before I could even process the threat, my right shoulder (the one I’d been too stubborn to let heal properly the last time it was injured) was dislocated. Not just a little. When I looked down at it, my shoulder was gone- the joint had found its way somewhere into my back.
I stayed strong all the way to the hospital- as is my habit, I joked with the EMP’s that the worst part was that the incident ruined my plans for the day. Ironically, when it came time for the “laughing gas”, I was no longer finding any of this funny. It was being tied down to the bed that did it- tied by tubes being inserted into my veins and nose, as I lost all sense against my will, with strangers having complete access to my body. That was when the helplessness sunk in.

In the months that followed, I attended physiotherapy- diligently, at first. I was still chilled by the warning by the fellow at the fracture clinic- that any further damage would likely lead to surgery, and a decrease in mobility in my right arm. I’m an artist. I need that arm. I need it to work as perfectly and meticulously as it always has. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost that ability.
But time quickly turns the concerned outrage and well-wishing of friends into a nuisance. I’d removed the sling, but still needed to remind people that there were certain tasks I couldn’t perform properly. Everything was a reminder of that feeling of helplessness I had felt on that hospital bed. To think that a single stranger in a single moment could affect my life so drastically. And I hadn’t even seen it coming.

Because it’s the world we live in whether we want to acknowledge it or not, I get followed, harassed, and even assaulted on the street on a fairly regular basis (I can think of about 51% of the population that knows how that feels). I used to hold my head high, practically daring them, in my head, to try something. Now, I must remind myself that I can’t count on my trusty right arm anymore. It’s been taken out of the fight. I have a weak spot.
The fear of further damage to my arm has led me to downplay just how serious my original injury was. I’ve been afraid to admit how badly- and how easily- I was hurt. This wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it has shaken my confidence. And that loss took my liberty with it.

For years, I’ve been holding back. There are so many things I’d like to do, to try. I’d like to go bowling with my friends without worrying about over-extending my rotator cuff. I’d like to take more than one parkour class without disjointing my shoulder in the process. I’d like to reach tall shelves, re-organize my closet, to stretch in the mornings without the constant fear of the potential damage I might cause. I have popped my shoulder doing things as simple as rolling over in bed. I carry this weight of worry on my shoulder like a parrot that won’t stop talking about how fragile I am.
Well, that parrot can shut the hell up. Taking a cue from my physio exercises, which focused largely on pulling motions using giant elastics, I’ve decided to take up a sport that mimics the same actions, while also giving me my focus and combat-ready confidence back.
By Follow Your Fear Day on August 24th, I will have tried archery for the first time. If I like it, I will continue with it, until I feel I am ready to get back into my martial arts training. I will not let one little injury, or one crazy stranger, keep me down. I will regain that carefree confidence I once had, and kick some ass while doing it. So that hopefully, next time I get jumped in the street, they’ll be the ones heading to the hospital.

I’ll be presenting a talk about my experiences at FOLLOW YOUR FEAR DAY, this Saturday, August 24th, at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick Ave). Doors at 7:30, show at 8.
Get your tickets today!

Rae, Follow Your Fear Day 2012

See you there!