I’ve never really thought of myself as “brave” but it’s a word that gets thrown my way on a far more regular basis than I would like. Heading to the bar for a drink after a spot at a comedy night, it’s rare that I won’t have a complete stranger exclaim to me; “You’re so brave, I couldn’t do what you just did.”
It often leaves me scratching my head in confusion, I certainly don’t feel that getting up on stage, rubbishing on about failed relationships, sharing crude, debaucherous tales and randomly sprouting out of tune lyrics from my favourite pop divas makes me all that brave at all.
Are they being honest or are they saying that I’m brave because I wasn’t good? I don’t think I am brave. More than anything, I feel like it might be a little bit self indulgent. After a recent encounter at gig I began to wonder about the term ‘brave’ – as I explored it within my own mind I started to travel down many paths within my own self.
I decided that to chat to some ladies who I think of as brave and whose life journeys have involved tough choices or hurdles along the way that have helped to define who they have become.
Now, I don’t know anyone who has run into a burning building or risked their life to save that of another however as I’m sure many of us know, an act of bravery for some is a simple as getting up the strength of get out of bed and face the world each day.
Immediately I thought of my best friend Stacey, a lady who I genuinely believe is one of the toughest and most resilient that I have ever met. She hasn’t always been this way – in fact knowing her since we were in primary school, I always kind of considered her to be a bit of a hypochondriac drama queen (sorry babe!) however, all of that changed almost two years ago.
Stacey and I were living together and despite the warnings to the contrary, living with my best friend was one of the most fun experiences ever – but all of a sudden it changed. I felt like I’d been hit by a train so I can’t even begin to imagine how Stacey felt – within the space of a week, at age twenty four, she was diagnosed with MS and doctors also found a four centimetre tumour at the back of her head, attaching itself to her spinal cord.
The removal of the tumour was horrendous; the tumour was wrapped around the nerve that controlled the left side of her face meaning that it too had to be removed. My beautiful Stacey could only smile with half of her face and all of a sudden it seemed like her amazing flame had been dulled. It hasn’t been easy for her – that much is evident, but even then I still wondered – did she feel brave? When I asked her, she told me, “People call me brave all the time, which makes me feel a bit embarrassed…I never felt like I was being brave, I just felt like I was getting through each challenge.” Which I guess is what being brave actually is – right?
Stacey is basically blowing me away at the moment. Not only has she been through two more surgeries, worked hard to learn how to understand and live with her MS but she has also met an awesome guy – John, and while he is certainly more than just a quick fix, Stacey did make me laugh when she explained; “People called me brave for going on blind dates but I don’t think that makes me brave – I just wanted to find someone to put a ring on it.”
I am yet to feel like I possess the same level of bravery that I believe some of the other women I have encountered do, and while I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable being told that I am brave for doing what I think of as ‘dumb comedy’ I suppose I can make brave my own.
I can chose to hear it as a compliment rather than in a patronising manner and I can choose to use it as a motivation to push on. Most of all though, I can be bravely self-indulgent because with life experience under my belt I now know that without being brave enough to indulge my soul in doing the things that truly make me happy, I would ultimately be facing the tougher challenges of regret, disappointment and true sadness.
While life is never as straightforward as simply ‘choosing happiness’ – I’ve learned that it can be pretty brave if you’re able to put in action a path that allows you to do so.