Being Brave

Over the years, when people learn that I’ve lived in approximately 40 dwellings, 15 cities, 5 states, and 2 countries, they’ve called me “brave.”  ‘I could never move to another state/country,’ is the response I’ve gotten most often.  But I never really felt brave for doing any of that, so I would often just smile, thank them for their compliment, and internally think ‘That’s brave?  Okay, if you say so.’

To me, moving around wasn’t brave . . . it was a necessity.  I felt like an outcast for most of my young life, never really “getting” the vibe of the people and towns where I spent my childhood.  This was true even for most of my family.  While my mother and I were usually of the same mind, philosophically, most of the rest of my kin were complete strangers to me in the sense that we just couldn’t understand why the other was the way they were.  They were completely comfortable with their lot in life, while I had always felt that there was something “more.”  So, venturing out into the world to find where I belonged was an urgent need within me.  Which is why I questioned people who called me brave for going after what would make me happy.

However, recently I came across a philosophical quote that really spoke to me:

Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.

This was presented to me during a highly stressful time at work, when I was planning to stand up for myself, but was afraid of the outcome.  In one of those Everything-Is-Connected moments, I had actually stood up for myself at work that very morning, then had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and found that phrase in my fortune cookie.  Right then, I felt that the Universe was giving me a sign that I’d done the right thing in standing up for myself, and in the next moment, I reflected upon the ‘You’re so brave’ comments I’d received over the years.

I could now understand why some people thought of me as brave.  Throughout my life, I’ve been someone who stands up to people, or does the “right” thing, even when my heart was beating nearly out of my chest.  I refused to be bullied in giving up my seat on the school bus.  I usually speak up when someone tries to cut in line somewhere.  And yes, I stand up for myself when I feel I’m being treated badly.  Sometimes it takes me a while to summon up the courage, but when I do . . . let’s just say that people’s ears will ring for a while afterwards.

It’s a similar thing with regards to the moving around.  The only difference is that I was never scared to move when/where I did; instead, there was excitement to have new adventures and make new friends.  Sure, I didn’t always know what would happen when I arrived, but those bits of the unknown don’t really faze me.  Again . . . adventure.

So, maybe the reason people thought of me as brave was because some part of them really wanted to venture out of their own safety zone, but they held back because they were scared half to death.  They allowed the fear to drive their decision, so anyone who chose differently would be seen as brave, because they assume everyone is just as scared as they are.

But you know, bravery isn’t just found in life’s big decisions.  It can also be found in smaller ways.  Speaking up when you see a mugging in progress.  Memorizing a license plate if you witness a hit and run, or sticking around long enough to give the police a report.  Being honest about something even when you know doing so will come with negative feedback.  Heck, even having a baby takes a large amount of bravery.  There are SO many unknowns with having children, so to be willing to give up much of your life over the next 18 years for someone whose habits and personality you don’t even know yet (not to mention medical issues) is very gutsy.

So I encourage you to find the bravery in your life.  See the places where you’ve moved forward even when your fight or flight response was overwhelmingly huge.

You might just find that you’re braver than you thought you were.

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