This summer, I traveled 1,453 miles across the state to ask 12 women the same questions: When was a time that you were fearless? What does being fearless mean to you? What does it look like? What does it feel like? 

In doing so, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my own personal definition of the word. For me, I am fearless by simply living my life. As an introvert, waking up to a day full of meetings, interviews and photo assignments can be daunting. Walking out my front door, stepping into a world where an invisible disease has infected more than 40 million people, is scary. Heck, as a young woman who still feels like she should be in high school, doing adult things like applying for a car loan, filing taxes and scheduling doctor’s appointments make me anxious.

I hesitate to even consider myself as a fearless person. I’m not alone in that, either. Nearly all of the women I interviewed mentioned that they don’t see themselves as fearless. Rather, they are often full of fear, but manage to muster up the strength to face whatever they’re going through. 

Being fearless isn’t always a mighty feeling; it’s often small and tucked away, masked behind more dominant feelings of anger, terror, passion or love. 

Fearless is being courageous, honest, confident, persistent, brave, purposeful, daring, resilient, authentic, unselfish, passionate and perseverent. 

View the whole issue here.

Being fearless is living your life to its fullest, despite the challenges it brings. Read Aly Wenner’s story
Being fearless is having the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Ready Melissa Vine’s story
Being fearless is telling the truth, even when it’s not always welcome. Read Megan Srinivasstory
Being fearless is being who you really are. Read Elle Wyant‘s story
Being fearless is continuing to do the right thing, despite it being unpopular. Read Joli Vollers story
Being fearless is doing something that terrifies you. Read Beth Shelton’s story
Being fearless is standing up for what’s right. Read Maria Alcivar’s story
Being fearless is competing in a sport where the goal is to injure someone. Read Karen Mackey‘s story
Being fearless is acting upon a calling. Read Amber Collins’ story
Being fearless is running for political office as a college student. Read Rachel Junck’s story
Being fearless is teaching others about differing perspectives. Read Amy Getty’s story
Being fearless is surviving a sexual assault and fighting for justice. Read Vanessa McNeal’s story

These women’s stories are purposely told in their own words to empower their voices. All of the stories have been edited and condensed for clarity.

As you engage with them, I encourage you to really take the time to empathize and find ways to relate. Then, ask yourself: When was a time that YOU felt fearless? What does it mean to be fearless? Write it down. Draw it. Share it with others. Or simply keep it for yourself. 

At its core, Fearless aims to amplify the perspectives of all Iowa women and gender-nonconforming individuals. The stories in this issue represent all of us. We are all fearless.