I never thought that I was brave. When I was a busgirl at one of my first jobs at a country club, I was timid. I was afraid of the other waitresses who were older, most experienced, smoked cigarettes, had kids and second jobs. I felt small around their exposed tattoos and shared stories about Poison concerts.
I’d work in the all-men’s room where swearing, excessive drinking, and avoiding wives was a favorite pastime of our members. I would fear the ass-grabbing, snide comments and remarks of “Honey, get me a drink.” Still, I grinned and bore it. The tips were good, and after all, where else would I work?
Being brave at home didn’t come easy. Everyone has a role in their family, and mine was caretaker. I helped raise my siblings from the time they were in diapers. I was a teenager. I enjoyed a lot of freedoms, but not at the expense of being guilted into familial obligations. I had to muster the courage to stand up for something I really wanted, and when I couldn’t get it, well, that’s just the way it was.
It’s safe to say that I wasn’t a very brave little girl, either. When I was little during rolling Midwest thunderstorms, I’d hide under the blankets fearing the roof would blow off. I’d tell myself God was bowling, just how Grandma Jean used to tell me.
I grew in college but was still timid around new people and situations. I joined clubs and academic organizations. I wrote for the college newspaper. Yet, I was always eager for the meeting to be over with. I didn’t want to over extend myself at the expense of looking silly. I couldn’t speak up at the editorial meetings out of fear of sounding stupid. I never really got anywhere leadership-wise because I didn’t really believe that I could offer anything more valuable than the others. I earned my good grades and graduated.
What came next was a shock. My college relationship was one that meant so much to me. It came to an end, and my core was shook. When it was pulled away, I reeled.
The breakup was the turning point of discovering something bigger within myself. Looking back on it now, I’m actually grateful. I wonder back to how different my life would be if that relationship played out. I pray to my lucky stars that it never did play out, because it was an unhealthy relationship and I was of an unhealthy mindset.
When I was done letting life shit on me, I decided to muster up some bravery. Bravery never came naturally to me, so at first, I faked it. I announced a cross-country move. I stood up to my mom who was appalled and non-supportive, but eventually relented. I took all the savings out of my bank account and geared up for a new life. I summoned bravery and it took me places.
Traveling and living different places took a lot of bravery, but it’s not the type of bravery that lasts. It’s a good “high” to live in and discover somewhere new. But even new places lose their novelty. After traveling and living all over the place, I grew tired of reinventing myself. I wanted consistency and community back. I decided it was time to put down roots.
I’ve been living in Hawaii for four years and I’m getting ready for a big transition in my life: getting married to the love of my life. Since leaving home, I had been looking for bravery in novelty, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s been within me all along. I don’t have to be moving mountains to think I’m brave. I don’t have to be living off the beaten path to be considered brave.
Waking up every day to face life and its challenges is brave. Doing the sometimes excruciating work of self-discovery and healing is brave. Admitting you have a problem in some area of your life is brave. Working to find a solution to that problem is brave. Setting out on a new chapter even though you’re scared and really don’t know what or how you’ll get along and trusting you’ll be fine is brave. Giving it another shot, day after day, is brave.
The answer to whether or not I’m brave is yes. The timid little girl is finding bravery in all the old places within herself, places where it’s always been, always belonged. She belongs there, too.