When I was 18 I confessed my undying love for my high school crush in his yearbook. Yeah. I was THAT girl. I don’t know what I thought would happen. Maybe he would suddenly see me for what I really was and love me back. Or maybe he would mock me mercilessly and I would be faced with the reality that he was a total ass hat and not the shining pillar of teen boy I thought he was.
Unfortunately, life isn’t an ’80’s movie. I bared my soul, and you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Life went on as usual. I didn’t see him again until an incredibly awkward encounter at our ten year class reunion. He was drunk. I was sober. And he did end up being a total ass hat.
My point is.. well I’m not sure. I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about the moments in my life when I’ve been bold and brave, those moments when I’ve stepped up to the plate and taken a huge risk. There aren’t a lot of them, or at least I don’t think so. I tend to play it safe and protect myself from any emotional or psychological discomfort. In the end, I really think that does more harm than good.
Back to bravery though. The moments you choose to close your eyes and fall off the cliff, trusting fate to catch you, those are the ones that define a person. When I look back at mine, I wonder less about my capacity for courage, and more about my inability to choose the right times to say fuck all and dive, head first, into the abyss.
Confessing my high school crush? Sure, maybe it was something I needed to do to find a sense of closure. Or maybe it was just a self serving ploy to create a little boy drama in my otherwise virginal existence. I had the guts to write down my feelings on the way out the door, but I couldn’t let go and try actually interacting with the guy. I didn’t look beyond my media sculpted sense of romance long enough to see that love isn’t like the movies. The real risk isn’t in the confession, it’s in building a relationship from the ground up, putting in time and effort in spite of the possibility that it could all go to Hell.
Therein lies my weakness. My bravery is always quick and fleeting. There’s the initial adrenaline rush (YES! I’m GOING to do this!), then it ebbs away when I realize that this might take more than just one bold move on my part.
I’ve been in a healthy relationship for over eleven years, I’ve given birth completely naturally. I’ve done both of these things with an absolute commitment to my cause. Yet the idea of committing, really committing to something just for me, like the childhood dream of being a writer, terrifies me. It’s the greatest, and perhaps the most important, mental challenge I’ve faced. And always, always, as I press on through each excruciating paragraph, that voice in the back of my mind is whispering, but what if you fail? What if you put in all this work for nothing? What if you are the talentless hack you think you are?
As my throat constricts and panic sets in, a second, much weaker, voice breaks through: What if I CAN? What if time and commitment are enough? What if I can pull it off and live the dream?
What if.. what if.. what if..
Living life bravely, refusing to just be lemming, getting in line and following the herd off of that inevitable cliff, takes a lot more than a willingness to be bold and take a few risks. It takes the guts to stand up, not to others, but to yourself and say “No matter what it takes, I’m going to do this.” Refusing to bail when things get uncomfortable, completely ignoring all exit routes: that’s real bravery. And it’s a lot easier said than done.