brave is starting again

The Bravery Files

It’s been so interesting the last month, to read what some of my friends have written about what BRAVE looks like in their lives. Whether we are in the same situation or one completely different, it is possible to find encouragement and inspiration from other people’s stories, and that is why I am loving this mini series on my blog.

Let me introduce my friend Claire. She and I met in our church in Brussels and I’ve always admired her adventurous spirit (though she might not describe it that way!) She’s had her own business as a language teacher, has done the hard work to build up her writing career, and now is taking an even bigger step of bravery in pursuing that dream even further. There’s lots I can learn from her and I love what she has to say to us today…

adventure awaits

I know what it is to start again. To pack up all my belongings, say goodbye to people I love, and then travel hundreds of miles to a different city or, sometimes, a different country.

I’ve moved to study; I’ve moved to be part of churches; I’ve moved to reconnect with my roots.

It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it usually hasn’t been. I am not good with change; I am not good with parting with possessions. Saying goodbye breaks my heart. And then, when you arrive, things are usually not quite as you imagined them. Sometimes it’s hard to make friends. Sometimes people don’t really seem to understand you. Sometimes you struggle to find your place in the new universe you’ve entered. And there’s the admin. So much admin.

I’ve travelled by car and I’ve travelled by train. When I moved to spend a year in Guernsey, I travelled by jet foil, I think, though I’d have to go back into ancient diaries to corroborate that.

I’ve travelled by plane, too – to Spain, when I spent an academic year there as part of my degree. That year was tough. I moved to a place I didn’t know, whose culture was foreign to me, and whose language I was far from fluent in, though I had studied it rigorously full-time for two years.

This August, I’ll be getting on a plane again. This time, it won’t be for two hours; it’ll be for eight. And I won’t be staying for eight months; I’ll be staying for up to three years.

My visa interview is on Friday, so I can’t yet make the Official Announcement, but I’m hoping to move to Washington, DC to do a Master’s in Creative Writing.

Every part of that sentence makes me smile. I fell in love with DC as a result of a slight (okay, not slight) obsession with The West Wing, and the first time I visited, it took my breath away with its majestic monuments, its picture-book houses, and the deep, deep red of the autumnal maple tree. It doesn’t hurt that it is brimming with great restaurants or that the next Presidential election is only months away.

As for writing, it’s something I did prolifically when I was growing up, but it’s only since moving back to Belgium three years ago that I’ve rediscovered it. I think I’m good at it, but I want to be better. Spending two to three years focussing on my craft, being around others who are doing the same, and being coached by people further down their literary paths than I am – all this sounds like an opportunity that cannot be turned down.

So am I excited?

Of course.

I’m also terrified.

This time, I can’t fit my life in a suitcase or two. I have an entire flat to dismantle, parts of it to sell, parts of it to store, parts of it to give away. And yes, parts of it to throw away.

And this time, again, I’ll be living in a place whose culture is foreign to me and whose language I am not fluent in, though I have been exposed to it a fair amount. I’ve done this enough to shed the rose-tinted glasses: I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be days when I am overwhelmed by everything that is new and different, days when I struggle to understand what is required of me, days when I ache to be back where everyone sounds like me or where someone who’s known me for a long time can make me tea just the way I like it and give me a hug.

I know, too, what the temptation will be: to find myself a nice flat and spend my time closeted in there, reading, writing, and turning to Facebook and twitter for company. It’s easier that way. Less scary. It’s on my own terms.

But that is not living deep or sucking all the marrow out of life. And, like Henry David Thoreau, that’s what I want to do. That means risking friendship again, and with it the possibility of being hurt and the pain of a later goodbye. It means engaging fully with the wonderful city where I’ll be living – exploring, getting out of my comfort zone, trying new things, maybe even new cuisines or types of literature.

It means not dangling my feet in the world of Starting Again, but diving in. Getting my hair wet.

Am I brave? I don’t feel brave. But here’s the thing – I don’t think you always have to feel it.

claire photo

Claire can be found blogging at Claire’s Brussels Blog or at Conquering Babel, which is all about learning a language. Her ebook by the same name is available on amazon. You can find out about her books here. And if that’s not enough, she also tweets at @clairelyman