Today’s Bloganuary prompt is “How are you brave?” I like how the year is starting off with positive questions.
I had to think about this one a bit. To the casual observer, my currently unconventional life (single, 50-something, childless, self-supporting woman in a foreign country) might seem “brave,” risky, odd, exotic, or a number of other adjectives to describe the non-standard. Most of the aforementioned attributes, I never expected to be (except 50 – and very grateful to have reached this milestone).
Bravery is relative, and it is ephemeral. It’s a discipline, and a privilege to be able to exercise it. Bravery is to be seized upon, or to be leaned into, depending on the circumstances. And what is brave today may develop tomorrow into the habitual or quotidian. I feel this describes some actions I’ve taken that might be construed as “brave,” such as leaving a life of material ease, and moving alone to work abroad in a place where I did not know the culture, the language, or indeed a single soul, when my plane first touched down so many years ago.
Back in 2004, before I took a hard left turn and accepted a job offer in South Korea, I committed an act of bravery in leaving a marriage that lacked respect and honesty. Without throwing stones or divulging details, it is enough to say that I married into financial comfort and a lifestyle that reflected the American dream, but emotionally, the relationship went off the rails. There’s a whole story connected to this period of my life (memoir fodder?); suffice to say, after ten years together, I left. At age 35, it was the first time I had ever lived alone.
Even though it was scary, I loved that period of my life, newly single, before I moved abroad. I transitioned to singledom relatively well, mainly because I had made the right decision. I had, as I discovered, a trove of inner strength to sustain me. Believe me, I tapped into that strength. My life wasn’t without its problems and heartbreak then. Loneliness has dogged me my whole life.
One thing that might seem brave to others is my sense of self-sufficiency. I’ve developed this trait over time out of necessity. So when I picked up my life to live alone and later go abroad all those years ago, this was a handy trait to possess. The problem with such a well-developed trait is that it has a dark opposite. One thing that makes me an abject coward is that I have a hard time asking for help.
If I were to cultivate more courage in my life, I would want to work on being more vulnerable with people and asking when I need assistance, companionship, advice, without worrying someone will be offended or view me as fragile. It seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? To be brave, by asking for help.
Above all, I think love is at the core of bravery. Love of others, of self, and of life. Love can go beyond barriers with its courage.
I’ve included a couple of photos from my taekwondo practice when I lived in Busan, South Korea. The left is at my black belt test. The master is standing to the right, and also holding the wooden board at practice. I promise to tell this story sometime (p.s. yes, I passed the test):