I used to be brave. During one of my classes in college, a girl looked over at my ankle tattoo and remarked, “Wow, you’re brave!” Up until that point, I had never looked at myself that way. I suppose perception varies, but I was accustomed to living a life full of daring experiences. For example, I traveled to Jamaica by myself for a week. I worked at some very odd part-time jobs while completing my undergraduate degree. I had adventures camping, going to music festivals, and meeting tons of different people from different worlds. I didn’t feel fearless. I just felt like myself.
Yesterday, I discussed with someone about a move they made across the country. As I listened to him talk about the logistics of the move, I began reminiscing about all the times I went through the same process. After college, I moved to Atlanta, where my parents and brother relocated a few years before me. That move didn’t feel scary. When college ends, one assumes they will move somewhere. When I was 25, I met my ex-husband online and moved to Virginia to be with him. This one was scary. Not too long before the move, I purchased my own home in the Atlanta area. I secured a teaching position at a top elementary school. I finished my master’s degree in education.
So, why would I leave everything I had worked for and move to Virginia to be with a man that proved to be less than a stellar human? I thought that I fell in love. Looking back, I didn’t fall in love with him. I fell in love with someone who enabled me to stay on some formulated life schedule I created in my mind. I settled.
With a recently operated on foot, two dogs, two cats, and a truck filled with my life, I made a move to Hampton, Virginia, the armpit of America. I remember how brave I felt. My parents were against it, but they were against any risk-taking they deemed wrong based on their neurotic opinions. I know that I felt brave. I was taking control of my destiny. I never did anything without a complete calculation of cost and benefit. It proved to be the worst mistake in my life. Not the move, but the man. That is a story for another day.
My bravery came to a screeching halt.
Fast forward twenty-one years. I do not feel brave anymore. I feel scared, and I want my bravery back. I want to run toward the fires. I’ll put the protective gear on, but I don’t want to stay entirely safe for the rest of my life. Sometimes those fires surround amazing experiences that I do not want to miss.
From 2002 to 2020, I focused on staying safe because I created three humans who are not responsible for the consequences of my bravery. I became a mom, and in my mind, that meant staying away from all of the fires. I kept them safe. The leaps I took during that time were scary, but I was married. I had a partner in crime, per se. I only took risks if they were highly calculated and were for my husband or children. I followed their desires and their needs. I moved my family across the country in 2013, but that felt like a decision made more for their benefit. Staying in a city full of racism, crappy weather, and a toxic family felt riskier than a journey to Colorado.
Two years ago, I jumped off the tallest cliff in my world. I left my marriage, walked away from my family, ended toxic friendships, and chose myself. That fall temporarily wrecked me, but I have no regrets. I feel myself coming back. This adventure comes with many emotions: freedom, loneliness, fear, exhilaration, pessimism, etc.
I now struggle with the feeling of fear, but I also can’t pinpoint what cliffs I want to jump off. My two younger kids are sixteen and eleven. My responsibilities somewhat limit the opportunities to express my desired bravery. However, I know that I am on the right track because my wanting to run into those fires now feels less like a want and more like a need.