Are We Really Brave?
My big month stay in Paris has been a true, once-in-a-lifetime, experience. Which I don’t think really registered with me at first. Doing this felt impossible. Far away, not accessible, overwhelming. But as soon as it was booked and it was happening, it just felt easy. Like it was supposed to happen. There was nothing that felt weird or crazy to me. Sure I had some anxiety about the whole experience and what I’d do when I’m there. But the act of doing it and leaving my home for this adventure felt like it was exactly what I should be doing. And once I got there, I felt like I belonged. Like it was the right thing to be doing without question. It felt like home and it simply felt easy.
I found myself walking to a new friend’s apartment for dinner one night and seeing the city at sunset as it began to light up, and it all kind of hit me. First the street lights, then, of course, the Eiffel Tower. It sparkled. The weather was perfect as this October month has been unseasonably warm. I was in a t-shirt and jeans and I was just smiling so big. Then I noticed a group of girlfriends all taking photos with the stunning sunset behind them on the quintessential Pont Alexandre III. I felt less like a tourist finally, and more like I just belonged. What is this? What the fuck am I doing and why is it so fucking amazing?
I kept thinking to myself, don’t let this month and this feeling, come to an end!
I have no idea what that means though. Am I living in la la land in my head? Probably. Am I just a good chameleon? I like to think of myself as a pretty confident city slicker. But I’ve sat on this for a while and am still not sure if I have the answers. Does it mean I’m supposed to live here? Are these the types of experiences that make people pick up and move? Not surprisingly, this is also how I feel when I go to New York City which is why I always felt this pull to live there. Maybe this is just who I am, someone who thrives in a city and new surroundings. Or maybe, as someone I met said to me this month, am I just brave for doing this?
Am I just brave?
Someone said to me that what I was doing this month was so brave. Which I felt taken aback by. I don’t think I’m not brave. I think living somewhere even for just a month takes a level of chutzpa to get through it. It also takes your bank account to be at a certain place to make it work which I would be remiss not to mention and acknowledge. And don’t get me wrong, this put a dent in it.
I will say, I do feel like I worked quite a bit while I was here and kept up my usual posting and emails, nothing fell through the cracks. Hell, I even built a digital product to sell as soon as I returned. This was a lot of work, too! I also pushed myself to meet new people and travel around the country solo. I never associated these things as me just being “brave”.
Bravery is such a bold adjective to describe someone’s actions and character. To me, it’s someone who is jumping into the line of fire because they’re brave as fuck. Although I am sort of that person. I am less of one to sit and think, and more of one to just do. This is ironic because I can decide to do something, and then overanalyze the whole thing up until the second it happens. But I’m willing to jump the hell in and sign the fuck up for the crazy. I think it’s why I have a blog, and why I quit my day job, twice. It’s also why I rarely turn down the opportunity to travel and see a new place. It’s why I packed my bags for a month to live elsewhere thousands of miles away just because.
When you’re in it it doesn’t feel like you’re being brave, it just feels like living.
But I would never say this was brave. I think this was crazy, insane maybe. Why does one need to do this? I felt compelled to do it. And once making the decision, it just feels normal. Not like I’m doing some big brave thing. I’m just doing the thing. Because I booked it and I’m doing it. It’s just, happening. Don’t question it, just go live it. I booked it so I have to now pack my bags and go, I can’t just not go, right?
What’s interesting though, is the person who said this to me I would’ve turned around and said it right back to her. It wasn’t me who was brave playing pretend in Paris for a month. Which is truly what it felt like to me. It was she who dropped her life and career in her mid-30s to move to Paris. She did this all to follow a dream to learn to cook at the Cordon Bleu. She wanted to pursue something many of us just dream of.
This is interesting because this is not the first person I know who has done such a thing. I think I surround myself with these people. Brave fucking women. But I tend to sit and look at them and think “God that’s cool they did that, how brave”. Because deep down I feel like I could never be that person who does it. Not because I don’t think it’s amazing but because I don’t think I’m brave enough to do it myself.
I just don’t think I’m that brave…
Is it bravery though? Or is this just living your life and those who are fearful of it all correlate it with bravery? I don’t feel brave. I also don’t want to discount the courage it takes to do these things. Because they are not easy decisions. But I have never felt brave. Insane maybe, but not brave. But I just wonder if these decisions are easier for some to make than other people. Are people just comfortable, or scared? Or both? I think I was both. It’s why I’m not doing a lot of things like selling my condo to try living elsewhere. I enjoy the security of a low cost home that has been renovated perfectly to my liking. It’s why I’ve never lived anywhere else in my adult life because I’m comfortable. Can we be both though?
That’s why I would never call myself a brave person, in fact, I’d say I’m a coward at times. But maybe I can be both when I want to be. These are big decisions though and there’s nuance with it all. However, I can tell you this month has made me reflect on which nuances are important and which are not. Perspective is everything and a shake-up like experiencing a new life for a whole month may be just what I needed. I can tell you my home feels larger and more luxurious than I remember. I don’t take for granted having decade-long friendships living a mile away. Or family within 45 minutes. Sometimes you need a little perspective! But yes, I also miss a lot of things from Paris and that has made me question everything. It was truly that life changing.
Brick by brick
I think one of the reasons why this doesn’t feel brave and instead feels just like you’re living through it, is because it’s gradual. Brick by brick this moment came to fruition. I put it off for years which you can read about here. But finally booking it and doing it just felt like small little moments leading up to it. It’s not jumping off a cliff. It’s getting to a moment bit by bit. And that feels less like bravery and more like a long to-do list that you’re chipping away at. It seems much easier once the big decision is made.
My lesson learned
When I think of the lesson learned here after this rambling of bravery and fear and cowardice, it’s the lesson that viewing things from the sidelines will always feel bigger than they are when you’re in it. The thing that’s far away and out of reach feels terrifying. Overwhelming. Scary. Sometimes it’s being in the “what if” decision-making phase that feels the absolute scariest. It’s once the decision is made that everything falls into place.
It might still be messy and hard, but the hardest part is in fact making the decision. Because otherwise, you’re just on a hamster wheel doing the same things, right? What are you going to do to shake it up so that you finally get off the hamster wheel? Jumping off of it is terrifying. You’re comfortable on it, I get it. But the wheel won’t change until you make a decision to do so.
This can be applied to anything. A miserable marriage or relationship you’re in is the hamster wheel. Seeing the happy friend from afar feels terrifying to make a decision to change what you’re experiencing. Or maybe seeing other people pick up their whole life and move somewhere new looks scary as hell. But once you make the decision, you just keep going forward. I promise it was a hell of a lot easier than that feeling leading up to actually choosing to do this. This is the lesson learned. This is the thing we all, I think, tend to struggle with.
And why I chose this photo.
The photos I chose to share in this post are something I envisioned in my mind as something I wanted to do while I was in Paris. It felt out of reach, like a dream. Like oh that can’t be real, that’s not what life is actually like in Paris. No, that is. It is exactly what it is like. It just took making a decision that I pondered over for years and failed to make until grief hit me and taught me hard decisions are just that. Hard at the moment, but then get easier once they’re made. And yes, I did sit in Paris and read a fucking book. Okay, maybe just a few pages. But I did that. And I’m going to do it again.