I’m a scaredy cat. I’ve an irrational fear of snakes and needles and I haven’t seen a horror movie since 1995 when my my 11-year-old bestie made me chant Candyman six times in the mirror. So when people began referring to me as brave, I looked at them in complete shock. Do you guys even know me? I wondered.
They were referring to my decision to leave my graduate job for a riskier creative pursuit, end a 10-year-relationship, and move away from family and friends to a city of strangers halfway across the world. And yet, brave was the last thing I felt. Because it wasn’t a choice. It was my inner voice calmly and matter-of-factly telling me that these were the natural next steps.
When it came to the career change, sure, there were the usual suspects trying to talk me out of it. You know the ones: doubt, fear, inferiority. In the same way I’ve never considered myself brave, I’ve also never oozed confidence and the pep talks I give myself are usually pretty lame. Instead of You’re brilliant, articulate, creative, and can totally do this! it was more, Fuck it, let’s give it a go because you’ll kick yourself if you don’t at least try.
Leaving Australia — a country that ranks 15th in the top safest countries in the world — for Los Angeles was a little daunting. Visions of being held at gunpoint in a home invasion or being crushed to death in a 10-car pile up on the 405 may have crossed my mind. But the allure of LA was so magnetic; I craved a new city and a new outlook on life. So, I simply stopped watching Dateline and decided to take the scenic route to work.
Breaking up with my college boyfriend was the hardest part. Because by all accounts, he was amazing and I loved him very much. And not just loved but was currently still in love. But while I wanted to go and chase my MadMen dream of cracking iconic brand campaigns over three martini lunches, he wanted to start a sustainable brewery in rural Chile. Plus, we’d been together since I was 21 and I didn’t know myself as a single agent. The fear raged through me big time. My heart said, What if I never find love this real again? while my ovaries stated, You’re over 30 and you can’t afford to freeze your eggs. But it was my gut that ultimately made the point, If you die alone in your own apartment with two cats and an abused liver, at least you’ll know yourself.
The certainty of these gut-feelings gave me peace, comfort and security. It was the fact that others found these actions brave that gave me pause. It meant they were putting hopes and dreams on hold for fear of failure, staying in unhappy relationships because being alone was too scary, and by sticking with the familiar, were missing out on the magic of the unknown.
It made me realize that maybe we need to reframe our definition of decision-making and remove the risk equation all together. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong versus what could go right, we should focus on the things that bring us closer to hearing our voice: meditation, journaling, a morning surf, a hike. Because when you simply look in and listen, there is no choice, no fear, no fork in the road, the answer simply is. And even if that answer is challenging, it’s not scary, because it is the only answer for you. The real risk is ignoring it.