A few months back, my high school friend Mary Catherine did a lovely interview with me for her blog, Starr Struck.
In the interview, she mentioned that she'd always considered me to be comfortable with myself, and comfortable taking risks. This was both wonderful and surprising to read.
I call myself an introvert. Though I enjoy trying new things and being with others, I feel most comfortable – and most myself – in familiar places with those who know me best.
I also have a nervous, easily excitable personality. Add those traits together and you don't get the type of person who you'd think would like to take risks. Or, indulge me and let's take it a step further – someone who's brave.
There's been a lot going on over the past few months both with myself and with those around me. People are moving, changing jobs, getting married, having kids, and just doing lots of big, life-changing stuff. And all of these changes, even if they seem everyday and ordinary, take some guts to take on.
As I've talked to friends of mine over the past few months, I've thought about what it means to take risks and have come to think of the word brave a little differently. Here are some personal examples of folks in my life making big changes that I find super brave:
A good friend recently left a comfortable life to try a new job, in a new field, in a new city.
Another friend went to culinary school with plans of starting a catering business. She's put in a lot of time and work attending classes after work and restaurant internships on the weekend.
My mother recently sold her house that she'd lived in for 20something years, left her job, and moved to another city in a new state.
And guess what: all along the way, all of these people were scared, uncomfortable, (maybe) financially unsure, and anxious. But they did what they did, and to me that's brave.
It's a funny thing, this idea of taking risks.
If I looked at my position as an expat objectively, it would seem really brave. I live abroad, away from home, have worked in different jobs as a freelancer and contractor, doing what I love, etc. But on a day to day basis it sure doesn't feel that way. I'm one of those people who's nervous every time I leave the house, and until about two months ago, if I was alone I was embarrassed to order and pay at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. because of my different accent. I just really hate having attention drawn to me for a reason that I didn't earn, and it made me uncomfortable.
But even though I've felt scared, like, 90% of the time that I've been in London, I didn't leave because I knew my disappointment in myself would be much greater than any fear I'd feel on a near daily basis.
I knew that my greater goal, and the growth I'm gaining from the experience, was larger than any embarrassment I might feel when it's my turn at the post office and everyone in the line behind me is about to learn that I'm slightly different from them. Get a grip, Sally.
So maybe being brave enough to take a risk isn't what we normally think of. It's not waking up everyday and feeling confident enough to make a big decision, or even necessarily confident in yourself at all.
Maybe it's knowing yourself well enough to make an informed decision about what's right for you, and then acting on it no matter how uncomfortable or downright scared it might make you feel. To me, that's brave.