There are so many things that require courage: starting a new job, moving to a place where you know not a soul, swimming with electric eels (and God knows what else) in the Pacific Ocean, awaiting test results in a doctor’s office, driving in a snowstorm, staring Death in the face as it claims a loved one. I have done each of those things and yes, they took courage…but there is something else out there that forces me to dig waaaaay deep. Something that requires a different kind of bravery.
And that something is simply…being who I am.
Why would that take guts? What’s there to be afraid of?
As I said, it’s a different kind of bravery. It has nothing to do with me not liking who I am, or not feeling confident about the things that make me ME. In fact, it has nothing to do with me at all, and more to do with things and people outside of myself.
Being me means standing up for what I believe in, making noise about something that other people either don’t care about or don’t seem to be affected by. It’s particularly difficult when the people who don’t seem to ‘get’ you or your convictions are the ones closest to you. As a teenager, this created a lot of anxiety and I eventually got the message that my strong opinions needed to be swallowed. It’s taken a lot of bravery, as an adult, to voice my thoughts. Oddly enough, the recovery of this part of me – a sensitive, empathetic activist – started me on the path to a new career in writing.
That was another thing I had to be brave about: following my heart when it came to choosing my life’s work. I underwent a gruelling Master’s program in Speech-Language Pathology because it was a safe choice. I had the patience to work in challenging situations and a knack for creating an environment in which clients were able to push toward their communication goals. It was a secure, stable career path – and it wasn’t for me.
Once again, I had to speak up and say something that impacted not just me, but also my husband and my children. I didn’t want to be a speech-language pathologist anymore; I wanted to be a writer. I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t being me – but being happy meant we would be a single-income family for an indefinite period of time. I don’t regret this decision, but looking back at that time in my life of closing up shop and letting my license to practice expire, makes me feel like that took a lot more guts than jumping into the choppy ocean off the coast of Maui.
Being brave these days continues along the same theme: putting my voice out there. (It’s not lost on me that for years I helped others ‘find’ their voice when, all along, that was the toughest thing for me to do.) Every time I hit ‘publish’ on a blog post, or submit an article to an editor, or clutch a microphone on stage in front of an expectant audience, I am being called to be me. And be brave.
It’s a lot easier now than when I first started on this path a few years ago, but I am always conscious of the fact that a little piece of me has now floated onto a page and is lying there for anyone to read and judge. But it’s something I am compelled to do, because silencing who I am – swallowing my opinions and convictions – is not something I can live with.
Every day I choose to be brave in a way that has nothing to do with physical feats or facing the unknown. Some days I need to take an extra deep breath and push through. Some days I need to take a step back, be with my family – my sources of love – and let my bravery build back up again.
Perhaps the driving force behind being brave enough to be me is the belief that I am here simply for that reason, and nobody else can do exactly what I came here to do.
So, in a way, I owe it to the people I love and even to people I will never meet, to do just that.
And just as important, I owe it to myself.