#leapfear Day 25 – Maureen

I had my intro planned.  And then I read Maureen’s story.  I have to rewrite this.

I met Maureen for the first time at the photoshoot.  We have travelled in similar circles, live in the same neighbourhood, knew OF each other but had never met.  What a shame.  I think she is amazing.

I will brag on her behalf here.  Maureen is an exceptional teacher.  Innovative, progressive, a leader among her peers.  She has worked tirelessly to push the boundaries on what is possible in a science classroom.  She has worked with teacher and student teachers to have a lasting impact on the future of education. This woman is my hero.

But at the session, she was distracted.  She was eager to get to the part where she was photographed with her daughters.  It is clear that they are the centre of her universe.  They are wonderful young women and you can clearly see the love this family has in the final images of this session. I think I better understand her distraction after reading her story.  What I saw as someone who is confident in her own body is really pragmatic.  That is not what I saw through my camera however.  I see a woman who is simultaneously strong and soft.  Intelligent and thoughtful.  Sensitive and confident.

What moved me about Maureen’s story is that leaping through our fears is a lifelong process.  I understand where she is.  I have just moved through some of those things myself.  They are terrifying but we can use those fears to push us to be better people than we knew we could be.  They are hard.  Painful. Challenging. And will be confronted with many tears.  But we can use those tears to grow the seeds of a new version of ourselves if we choose (like the biology reference?).  I know Maureen is that kind of person.  She will surprise herself on the other side.

Maureen chose to write her thoughts in an essay. The first paragraph was intended as a note for me, but I thought it was an important part of the story.

After reading the first couple of leapfear stories, I considered dropping out of the project, because my fears are very raw and current. I was worried that I didn’t fit the “leaping” part of the project. Ironically, as I read the story of each courageous woman and her leap, I became a little less worried and more determined to move through my battle and face my current fears. So, in essence, the leapfear project has been wonderful therapy.


I was thinking recently about my school photo from kindergarten taken 50 years ago. I proudly stood in the middle of the back row, a position that I would be repeated in many future school photos as the tallest and biggest kid in my class, in a plaid jumper lovingly made by my mom. “She’s fat and happy,” is what they often said, and they were right. I was a big kid who was blessed with a wonderful family, many amazing friends and good health that has continued for all of those 50 years. Sure, I was teased, but it never really bothered me for more than a fleeting moment and I certainly didn’t let it get into my head. I’ve always been pragmatic. They said I was fat, but I already knew that and I moved on.


When I was in the ninth grade (all 5 ft 10 and 190 lbs of me), I was sitting in the guidance office choosing courses for grade ten and the guidance counsellor tried to convince me to change Art to Typing. He said, “you’ll need some practical skills to get a good job as it is unlikely that you’ll find a man to support you.” It was the 70’s and I guess “thin was in.” I did take the typing class and decided that I would use my love of school and learning to go to University, something only one other person in my extended family had done before me, and find a good job. Now, four University degrees later, I’ve been in school as a student, teacher and professor every year since my kindergarten photo. As a determined person, I knew what I wanted and I went after it with great joy and never feared a moment.


In addition to teaching, I am passionate about so many things: I love spending time with my husband, daughters and dear friends, travelling, theatre, trivia, watching all sports, museums, baking, and the list goes on and on. That is not to say that I am fearless. I am a pragmatic person who doesn’t have a risk taking personality. I might fear sky diving or bungie jumping, but I have no interest in trying them. So within my bubble where I have control, I’ve never felt fearful.


Then came 2015. Worst year of my life! A long story complicated by family illness, multiple trips to the hospital, surgeries, my own knee injury, loss of a long term job contract, looming retirement (am I ready?), imminent empty nest syndrome should both daughters go away to university, aging parents… my protective bubble burst and fear slapped me in the face. It is the worst feeling, ever.


The biologist in me knows that fear is met with a “fight or flight” response. After reading the poignant, courageous stories of triumph over fear presented by the women profiled in this project, “leapfear” has become my therapy. I know that I will have the strength to fight. “Deep within you are powers you’ll never know you have – unless they’re unlocked by fear.” (Psychology Today, 2010). My heartfelt thanks to Anita and the women of leapfear who have shared their super-powers.