being brave, choosing joy

The Bravery Files

Last week, I kicked off a new mini series on the blog, with Helen talking about when being brave means taking the leap and doing something you’ve dreamed of, even before you’ve perfected it.

This week I’m excited to have Ellie contribute her own perspective to The Bravery Files. Ellie and I met in Uni, and lived together (in dorms and then flats) for three of the four years we studied there. Needless to say, she’s a fantastic friend and I’ve loved watching her grow in bravery the last eight years. Here she is…

I think bravery is quite funny really. There are things that I do and have done that might on the outside be considered brave, but I don’t find them to be, and other things that, on the outside probably seem very ordinary and un-brave, but which require the utmost bravery in me.

It’s all a matter of perception.

And a matter of time.

There are things that I did when I was younger that at the time were scary, but now are very ordinary. The first time I do something new it’s frightening, but the next time it’s less so, and so on.

When I was about thirteen I went on a train to London on my own to visit a friend, and at the time it was pretty scary. Now, getting a train alone is as mundane and everyday as waking up in the morning.

When I was 18, if I had to stand up in front of a room full of people and talk then I was petrified with fear. Now, it’s a pretty common and normal part of my working week.

And, yet, because these things aren’t common and mundane for other folk, it can seem as if doing them is very brave on my part, but it’s really not. It’s all just quite ordinary and non-scary.

I think, on reflection, one of the most obvious ‘brave’ things that I’ve done in my life was moving to South Africa. I think the thing that marked it out as requiring bravery was the fact that although I wanted to go, I also really didn’t want to go, because it was scary, and would be hard. I was terrified, and when my visa arrived in the post (the last official requirement being satisfied) I cried. But, I wanted to go more than I wanted to stay, so I stopped crying, bought a ticket, and within a couple of weeks I was on a plane.

There were times of hard, and times of scary. But I also loved it. I learned things, and I made wonderful friends, and I am so glad I decided to go.

A recent brave thing I did was to agree to speak at a women’s conference that my church was organising. When they asked me I was struck by this moment of total indecision: “I don’t want to do this, because it will be scary and hard, but I still really, really want to do it”. In that moment of indecision I picked being brave, and I went with the second feeling and said yes. And it was scary, and it was hard, but it was also wonderfully fun, and so I’m glad that I said yes.

I think when I was younger I used to be quite a bit more of a scaredy-cat, and more often than not I would say no than I would say yes. But, as I say yes to things a little bit more, I find myself increasingly glad that I have. It doesn’t make the prospect of doing the thing any less scary, but it does mean that there’s a bit of hope that it will be worth it.

That’s what being brave is to me: when I have those moments of indecision, stuck between the fear, and the potential joy, to be brave is to choose the joy, and say yes.


Ellie lives in Newcastle as a Student Worker. She is a bit of a tea and coffee snob, and knits me nice things. She blogs at Surrounded by Clouds and you can also follow her on twitter.

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