I was never taught to be brave. To my recollection.
It was more the opposite. Not cowardly, but timid. Don’t raise your voice, don’t handle things yourself. Always ask for help. Defer to men. Defer to adults. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Be a polite quiet lady. Demure. Graceful. I was taught to stand up straight, how to choose the correct china patterns, correctly set the table. How to correctly clean the house, and fold laundry. I was taught how to dress appropriately for specific occasions. How to place my hands and feet just so when having my portrait taken.
Those of you who know me well are already laughing. But this is true – I’m not exaggerating. (Your feet should be at a 45-degree angle and your outside hand should rest over your inside hand and you tip your head JUST so.)
But that wasn’t the kind of child I was. I was half girly-girl and half tomboy. I wanted my mom to put my hair in piggy tails, but then would immediately go climb a tree. I would come home filthy and promptly want to put on my fancy shoes and play dress up. I would play in my grandmother’s costume jewelry box for hours, then go race big wheels around the neighborhood crashing into dirt piles. And for a while, that was okay because I was a kid.
But I struggled a lot when I started to get older. A lot of the things I found joy in were deemed no longer “appropriate” for someone my age. I wasn’t supposed to make much noise. I wasn’t supposed to want adventures or want a big life. I was told how I was supposed to feel, and what I was supposed to believe, and what I was supposed to want out of life. And I didn’t agree with almost any of it, but saying so got me in trouble. I really hated being in trouble. I felt like I lived in a world of “no”. I started becoming afraid. Of everything. All the time. I wanted to fit in. I wanted approval. But all my natural tendencies got “no no no”.
What I ended up becoming afraid of was myself. All of these things translated into “being me is bad”. To get approval and fit in I had to be someone else. So I locked the real me away and followed instructions. And sadly, for a while, life got easier. Everyone loved me. I was the golden child. I could do no wrong. I ended up in places I didn’t like with people I didn’t really like. My life wasn’t mine – it was being decided by others.
See it coming? It’s Like a horror movie when someone says “I’ll be right back”…
Bravery, I have learned, is not a lack of fear. It means being afraid and doing it anyway. In my case bravery means being so terrified that I think my brain and my heart are going to shut down. Fear so tangible you can smell it. And still doing it anyway.
Because I am loud. Not all the time, mind you, but I have a huge laugh. When I sing I have a huge voice. When I play the piano I pound it so hard I break my fingernails. I don’t want to ask for help all the time. I want to try to figure it out myself first. I don’t mean to draw attention to myself, but I do. It’s my natural energy. I am polite, but I’m not even remotely a demure quiet lady. I’m not graceful (though I can walk comfortably in even the highest of heels – thank you, Mom!) and I’m not even that “lady-like” most of the time even though I look sleek as hell in a tight dress and can do makeup and up-dos like a pro. (BELTCH)
This is me. Half girly-girl, half tomboy. That part hasn’t changed one bit.
Oh my god. I’m Me.
I wish I could say the change happened with one wild realization, a good night of sleep and I woke up “100% Me” the next day. But that is not even remotely true. What happened is that little parts of me started to emerge a little bit at a time. Sometimes allowing a part of myself to emerge would cause a negative reaction in a person near to me that I loved and respected and at first I would immediately think it was “a sign” that I was doing something wrong. Nope – I wasn’t. It’s that the people in my life were not used to me rocking the boat. Well, I was rocking it now. And it was upsetting pretty much everyone and everything in my world.
All of my “me” was starting to come out whether I wanted it to or not. So I had to choose. Me, or them. And that sucked. That sucked a LOT. In 98% of the cases a good sit down and chat worked it out and all of those people are still very active in my day to day life and have become some of my biggest supporters. They are so happy to see me embrace my true self and just be Me all over the damn place.
Sadly, when you really choose to be yourself some people you love just can’t deal with it. You are not who they wanted you to be. This isn’t the life they wanted for you. Your life is not for them or they don’t agree with you. Sometimes people are threatened – they don’t like that you’re big or loud or that you’re trying to accomplish something. They get a little pissed off when you succeed, or a little bit smug when you try something and you fail.
But here’s the cool part – the reason that’s happening is that your beautiful awesome-ness is causing them to reflect on themselves and their own non-awesomeness. And for some people, the only way to make them feel better about themselves is to knock others down. It sucks, but it’s true.
There’s a saying that only tragedy will show you who your true friends are but I haven’t found that to be 100% true. Some people love a tragedy. They love to be there when everything is awful. Your TRUE people are not just the ones who swoop in to help when everything is the worst, they also cheer the loudest for you when everything is the best. Surround yourself with those people and you are on your damn way to being the bravest SOB that ever walked the earth.
But there’s only one person you live your whole life with and that’s YOU. You get to do this all once. Even if we come back around with another lifetime it won’t be the same as this one. You have this shot. This chance.
What do you want to do with it?