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My obsession with quotes began in my thirties. In 2003, I moved back to the Chicago area after a two-year stint in New Orleans. I was a career bartender. So, my lifestyle allowed me the freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted.

Illinois was where I needed to be, but my heart was still in New Orleans, so my desire prompted several road trips to Louisiana. I preferred to travel alone to write, reflect, and have complete control. I recommended traveling solo to anyone who hasn’t yet. It’s more fun than you think.

Driving to New Orleans from Chicago can be done in about fifteen hours if you only stop for gas. I preferred to split the drive up into two days and spend the night somewhere along the way. The fastest route from Chicago to New Orleans is I-55 South to I-10 East. Memphis is the halfway point, but I’d drive until the sunset and find a hotel for the night. Then I’d wake up at dawn and get back on the road.

One time, when planning a trip down, I grabbed my Road Atlas. For those that don’t know, atlases are books of maps drivers keep in their cars. You would have to look at the map and plan a course of action. Travelers would write down their directions and head down the road. This was long before smartphones and GPS systems were a luxury.

This was my third or fourth time driving to New Orleans for a visit, and I was tired of the same ole highway scene. It was time to see something new. That’s when I saw it on the map. Hannibal, MO. As a lover of all things literary, I knew that’s where I wanted to start. Then my finger found the Great River Road. I could follow the Mississippi south until I reached New Orleans.

It took about five hours of driving, but once I was parked, Hannibal welcomed me with a bright summer day and a heap of Mark Twain attractions. There’s a riverboat, Twain’s boyhood home, a museum, etc. Walking some streets had me imagining Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn running by, laughing, and being those characters. The ones I knew and loved.

One of the most impressive things I saw while touring Hannibal was a glass case. It displayed copies of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in more languages than I could recognize. I remember thinking, “What a testament to a renowned piece of art.”

Of course, I couldn’t leave without purchasing a few books, so I picked up my copy of Letters from the Earth and a thin book of quotes. I didn’t spend the night in Hannibal. Instead, I jumped back on the highway and stopped at several towns I found tucked away in the rolling green hills of Missouri.

When I took time to eat or rest, I read the Twain quote book. It’s so tiny I finished it before I reached New Orleans. By the end, I knew I had a favorite. If you’ve read any Mark Twain quotes, you know how difficult choosing just one can be.

But, when I mulled over the book, there was no question that this was my favorite. I still have that book, and it’s the only quote I put a mark beside. When I penned an asterisk next to it, I remember proclaiming these words to be my favorite Mark Twain quote and my favorite quote.

“Courage is a resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Having courage is essential not only to me but to most people. I never thought I had any, at least I didn’t think I had any at this age. Looking back, I see it differently. But that’s the irony of life, I suppose.

At that time, I wasn’t feeling great about my choices and was fearful of making others. This quote gave me a new perspective. Courage is facing your fears head-on. I was afraid to drive around the country alone, but I was bold enough to do it. Some said I was crazy, but worrying about what others think is the most life-stifling fear.

Resolution is not letting your fears stop you from going for what you want. And bravery is not needed if there is no fear.

My mind goes to The Wizard of Oz. When I was a child, I understood that the Scarecrow always had brains, and the Tinman had a heart. But I couldn’t understand how the Lion already possessed courage, as the Wizard claimed. He was the one in the group with the most fear.

As an adult, I realized Lion is the most courageous because his fears were greater. It doesn’t take courage to do something you’re not afraid to do.

I love this quote and think of it often when fears come my way, like writing a blog and posting it for the world to read. It’s intimidating and makes me vulnerable to critics and other unwanted attention. But I love to write, and this blog is fun. So, I must face my fear of vulnerability and keep posting.

When you face small fears with courage, you’d be surprised at how that nerve will grow. You may even make your dreams come true because, as they say, everything you want is on the other side of fear. But that’s another quote for another blog.

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