Home of the Brave?

I don’t believe I could count the number of people who, when they learned I was moving, remarked on how brave I was for doing so, how courageous I must be.

The first several times this happened, I was somewhat taken aback. Nervously, I thought: Bravery’s only needed in dangerous situations, right? So should I be worried? Do all these people know something I don’t?

Then I realized, the truly scary thing is simply walking away from the familiar and comfortable to face the unknown. What I was doing amounted to giving up the good in search of the great, refusing to settle for a life in which a few things were superb but the rest distinctly lacking. This is hard. It is lonely and risky.

And now, on my first first-day-of-school away from Alpine Valley in at least six years, hard, lonely and risky seem about right. Because today, I don’t feel very brave; today, bold feels more like reckless.

Going back for a moment to June, at the end of this past school year AVS hosted the Mother of All Going-Away Parties in my honor. It was almost like attending one’s own funeral, hearing and enjoying several heartfelt eulogies.

In a way, this surprised me almost as much as being called brave. Granted, I’ve wanted to be exceptional ever since I was quite young, as I imagined successive dream careers as a baseball player, a musician, then an academic superstar. Yet while I’ve hardly become immune to egotistical striving, eventually I more or less settled into what seemed an ordinary life.

Thus, when the words and gifts started flowing at that party, quickly approaching flood stage, I was quite overwhelmed. All these years (I’ve been involved with AVS since November 1998), I thought I was just being myself, just doing what I enjoyed. Shouldn’t everyone work hard and give all they can? Shouldn’t everyone try to be decent and do the right thing? What did I ever do that was so extraordinary?

Well, that evening I was honored,  to an almost embarrassing degree. My community validated my life choices in a huge, palpable way. Today, however, I don’t feel so extraordinary. Today I’m unsure how to proceed in building my dream life; I worry about running out of money and not feeling at home.

I suspect this is all part of the process, the journey. I know I need to be patient and gentle with myself. At the same time, I’m open to suggestions. If you have any practical advice, concrete steps I might try in manifesting my dream—making a living promoting Sudbury schools (and generally, doing work I love) while also feeling at home where I live—please, speak up!

After all, misery may love company, but success requires it.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Home of the Brave?

  1. Melissa

    I’ll pass along some advice that has always felt very meaningful to me. When you’re in a situation where you are vulnerable and unsure of the outcome sometimes the best thing you can do is lean into the discomfort. Be grateful that you’ve come this far and embrace the fact that you are vulnerable and exposed in this moment. You’re still brave and the future is still uncertain – but if you can meet that uncertainty with open arms I believe that the moment will pass and you will be more peaceful for having met it as a friend, not an enemy.

  2. Thanks, Melissa. That’s sound advice and sounds distinctly familiar (Pema Chodron? Byron Katie?). I’m also learning to see moods and moments more like the weather: they come and go on their own schedule, and the best thing to do is adapt and be patient.

    Patience has always been a challenge for me — which might not be apparent, as I tend to mask my impatience with loads of persistence. That is, I can’t wait to get [x], but I’ll keep trying for as long as it takes.

  3. More thoughts this morning…While I’ve read and thought about “leaning into the discomfort,” I’m still not quite sure what that means. Intuitively, I sense that what I seek is a middle ground between indulging and repressing, between attaching to the discomfort and denying or ignoring it. On a cognitive level I know all these things: yet when it comes to the day-to-day, actually applying this knowledge can seem curiously difficult.

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