Skip to content


This post isn’t really about knitting, but I hope you’ll indulge me and give it some thought.

Courage. It’s one of those small words that carries great impact and comes in all forms.

I was cleaning up photos on my mobile last night when I came across a few images I had forgotten about. Our city made the national news last month when Nancy Belmont, a leadership coach living a few blocks away, started “The Courage Wall.” Inspired by the “Before I Die” wall that began in New Orleans, the Courage Wall was one of those simple ideas that went a long way.


Located across the street from our dry cleaners, I began to notice activity in May when an empty lot was cleared up, long pieces of wood appeared and more activity than usual began. We walk down this street frequently – almost every day. I was intrigued and excited to see what was going to happen in this space that I always thought could go to better use than just sitting vacant. Then one morning in early June, it appeared – a large, 8′ x 20′  black chalkboard complete with buckets of chalk, empty spaces and the title “I WISH I HAD THE COURAGE TO…” written across the top.

I thought about this wall a lot over the next few weeks. What I liked most about it was it was anonymous and a way to get people to interact with each other, respect each other and get a peek into other people’s deepest desires, regrets, wishes and dreams, reminding us that we’re not alone – judgement free. These are thoughts that people probably wouldn’t share out loud – we all have secrets, after all. It changed daily, almost like little elves came out at midnight and washed it clean. I liked that idea as well – each day we start fresh and begin again.

I began walking up there often just to take a look at the wall. Things like “not worry about money” or “ask so-and-so out” were common, or one of my favorites written in a child’s hand “jump off the big diving board in the deep end.” But sometimes there was something on there that struck a chord and I would carry an anonymous person’s wish in my mind all day, wondering about them and their story and hope that “writing it out loud” would give them the courage we are all seeking to make their dream a reality.


I started to feel like a fraud. I’d walk up, read the desires of strangers, then walk home, never contributing.

When I finally got up my own courage to contribute to the wall, it felt good to see it up there. Mine is pretty simple – to play the violin. I’ve always wanted to but I was busy with ballet, skiing, school, art, knitting, family, the list goes on. The cold hard fact is that I cannot read music. After an elementary school music teacher told me “you should find another interest because music isn’t for you,” after I asked for help, I gave up. I actually choked up writing that simple statement on the board and went home that night and ordered a book on learning to read music for adults. The funny thing is that even though I knew it was me holding myself back, the simple act of writing it up there in bright yellow chalk made me realize that hey, maybe I can do this for me for no other reason than to fulfill a lifelong wish.

We can apply this thought, “I wish I had the courage too…” to so many things in life. Just look at the news – people have the courage to fight for injustice, to change the name of a well-known football team because it’s just not right, to get flags lowered that shouldn’t be flying in the first place, to get married and have equal rights, to fly into space, to cure horrible diseases, to lend a helping hand, to stand up for what they believe in. We can even apply this our knitting lives – and I’ve heard it countless times. “I wish I had the courage to learn Fair Isle” or, “Lace scares me. I wish I had the courage to try it out.” Heck, it’s only knitting and my thoughts are that we can rip it out, start over, get a different yarn or try a new pattern, but to someone different it’s just not that easy. When did we all get saddled with so much self-doubt?


There’s mine, top center.

I was standing in my own way.

It’s July and the wall is gone now. We still walk by that space frequently and I think of that wall and my dream often. Why did it take a huge chalkboard across the street from my dry cleaners to make me do something about it? I hope this post makes you think about what you want to have the courage to do. Maybe you’ll take a step towards making that wish a reality. Get out of your own way!

So now it’s your turn, dear readers. What do you wish you had the courage to do, knitting or otherwise?


12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Peggy Blechman #

    There’s the Levine School of Music throughout Wash., DC. They have classes for adults. Give them a call. You’ll be in my thoughts & prayers.

    July 10, 2015
  2. Wow, Tanis, this is scary. I can idenitfy with your feelings shared in your post today. Courage is something I was not allowed to have as a child. I was the good girl/show piece of our broken family, so it doesn’t come easy to me as an adult either. I appreciate you sharing this with us, and baring yourself. That too, took courage!

    Mine? I wish I had the courage to: Quit my FT job and dive into dying yarn as a business.

    July 10, 2015
  3. Karen #

    Thx T. Moving, insightful, and inspiring me to get out of my own way. Here’s to you and your violin!

    July 10, 2015
  4. Anya #

    If it makes you feel any better, I know people who can play a musical instrument but who can’t read music. But playing by ear limits them, obviously. This was such a great post. I’m still thinking about what I would write. And by the way, piano is an easier place to start– you don’t have to “create” the notes because each key is laid out for you– but violin can be so beautiful.

    July 10, 2015
  5. amyholterman #

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
    I’m in the process of embracing courage in many aspects of my life. The biggest hurdle right now is that I would like to travel on my own. Enjoy the violin!

    July 10, 2015
  6. I hope that you will take up the Violin. A book you might want to read “A Practising Mind” the story of a man and how he learned the piano as an adult.

    July 10, 2015
  7. Beth #

    I love this post! Such a great public art / public health installation.
    I will definitely mull this around for a bit and write it somewhere in my home.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

    July 10, 2015
  8. This is such a wonderful idea. Sometimes it is such a great breath of fresh air knowing that we’ve put our darkest fear out where others can see it, but without the judgement of our peers. Giving hope to others in a relatable way, seeing the things that make us all human, without revealing the who. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the idea of going back to school and getting a degree is one of the most terrifying and thrilling idea to me. I just wish I had the courage to do it.

    July 10, 2015
    • Cynthia #

      Awesome post Tanis – thank you for sharing. I played the violin for 8 years if you need any pointers haha! I wish I had the courage…to draw or paint. Maybe I will jump in too!

      July 11, 2015
  9. Bravo for having the courage to write on the wall. No one should ever be told music is not for them. We all can learn. I learned to play the violin at age 50 and still play 8 years later. It is a challenge but I’ve never regretted it. (Mind you, knitting has taken over.) Courage !

    July 12, 2015
  10. elaine #

    Beautiful post 🙂 I must say that after a not so great foreign exchange student experience two years ago, I’ve mustered up the courage to try it again. The first of the girls arrives next week from Germany, the second the next week from Finland. Your post helped ease the jitters I was beginning to get. And… GO FOR IT! Take some violin lessons! You’ll be happy to did! I’d wanted to learn to spin for 30 years, and my DH got me a wheel last Christmas. So play away! I can’t wait to see a pix! Thanks, Tanis 🙂

    July 14, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Josephine | TanisKnits

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: