Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Fine Line Between Bravery or Insanity

Bravery.  We use the word so casually but yet what does it really mean?  

To me bravery is a fireman who leaps into the flames to save a human being.  A soldier on the battlefield facing dangerous situations but carrying on nonetheless.  My older sister who was near the front lines of the first Gulf War.  That's brave.  Hell, to me someone is brave if they're willing to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower or stand on the deck of the Empire State Building..

I'm terrified of heights.  Completely, absolutely and to a state of crippling panic.   I turn into a whimpering, shaking ninny.  

No.  Not at all what I'd consider brave.

Yet, on regular basis people tell me how brave I was to have moved here to England.  Where I knew only my aunt, uncle and cousin.  To just plop down and begin a new life.  

But to me I can't help by think:  really, how scary are strangers?  They're just people you haven't met yet.

I've always been the one in my life to walk up to the stranger at the bar.  I'll think about it for a second, come up with something witty to say and just plow on.  I've never understood the trepidation.  Really, the worst that can happen is they will be dumb, rude or....worse...boring.

Well, truthfully, we all live in a little bit of fear of being cornered by somebody who's cringetastically boring.  

But it's not going to kill us.

Though if there's no immediate escape we may feel like killing ourselves. 

And so I suppose for me physical bravery is true bravery.  But it's an interesting thing to contemplate.  In some ways there are many types of bravery.  There're people who are brave with their physical being - the soldiers, the firefighters, the policemen.  There are people who are brave with their hearts - they jump easily and willingly where many of us would be reticent and cautious, worried of being hurt.  And there are those who are brave with their lives - willing to try something, someplace new.  

In my case it wasn't to escape a life or change who I was.  Quite the contrary, I would say that the life leaps I've taken have been to believe more strongly in myself and who I was and, in some ways, find the place where I am supposed to be.  Perhaps, like the heart leaper's quest to find "the one", the life leaper's quest to find "the place" is just as transient, as much a fairy tale and yet...still as much a possibility.  Like winning the lottery, if you don't buy the ticket, you won't win.  And people sometimes do win.  

I am not a nomad or an aimless traveler.  When I left Seattle years ago I said I'd go to New York and if I hated New York I'd go to L.A. and if I hated L.A. I'd go to London.  I neither hated nor loved either New York or L.A. but I realized 3 years ago that London was simply New York with better accents.  But I was reminded that I loved England.  And so...here I am.  

When people ask, "Weren't you scared?" I say, "You can always go back."  Again, unlike the love leaper or the physical leaper, the life leaper isn't burning bridges...or being burnt.  I could always move back to New York or Los Angeles or even Seattle.  While some friends have moved away, they're still friends and there would be more friends to be had in those places.  Though, as I get older, the uprooting does become tougher.  While you know you'll stay in touch and visit the important people, if you're not in the immediate vicinity it is never the same and relationships inevitably change.   I sometimes long for a cottage on Bainbridge Island, taking the ferryboat over to downtown Seattle.  I recognize though that much of that is love and nostalgia, for the lovely childhood that I had and the home that it will always be.  But for me now, to go back is to go backward.  For now.  

And for now, at least, I want to continue to move forward. There's so much of the world I haven't yet seen, I haven't yet smelled, I haven't yet tasted.  But I've been lucky, not as lucky as some but luckier than many, and I continue to be grateful for that little bit of gumption, guts, bravery or just plain insanity that has led me to where I am.  

Which is sitting in a bar in Bath writing and drinking a gin and tonic.   Living the life of a writer in England.  

And right now, life definitely could be worse.

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