I Am Brave
The more you praise and celebrate you life, the more there is in life to celebrate
The Feminist Footprints Travel Blog was created to augment my experience of living abroad. And as I’ve gotten my sea legs on the peninsula of Korea and written monthly posts about traveling around South Korea, France, Portugal, and beyond, it has slowly, very slowly become clear to me that I am brave.
Now, one might argue duh, of course I’m brave. After all, I’ve lived on my own since I was sixteen; at twenty-one, after running out of tuition, I moved to NYC with my meager college snack bar tax refund, no job and one contact. I taught myself to waitress and bartend and finished college by charging one or two classes to my credit card and paying them off over the semester before signing up for the next set of classes.
I’ve been my sole support, put myself through college, and traveled to 16 countries, mostly on my own but, honestly, I’ve never thought of myself as brave, the exact opposite actually. This began to change the day---a few months ago---I woke up with the thought that it was out of character for me to be living in South Korea and then almost immediately disagreed with myself.
That morning, I remembered that I chose to stay out when my mother kicked me out for the third time at 16, that I chose to move to NYC when I couldn’t come up with the out-of-state fees my Ford Motor Company Journalism scholarship didn’t cover. I traveled to Cuba by myself; I took an apartment in Paris by myself; and I moved to S. Korea by myself without language, friends, or family. And yet, as I said, until very recently, it simply never occurred to me that I was brave.
I think I dismissed my bravery because it didn’t/doesn’t fit into the NY Times editorial/opinion page or the bestseller’s list concept of bravery. I’ve never recused a baby from a burning building. I’ve never truly put my body on the line for another person or cause. But as I get older, I’m starting to think that bravery has as much to do with putting yourself out there, trying for what you want, continuing to try even if you don’t get it in the end that makes you brave.
Asking a guy out in a crowded bar; getting on that ferry with an uncertain destination;traveling alone to a new city or country---domestic or foreign---moving abroad when it makes your friends shake their head in wonder because you’re beyond the stage in life where your parents will save you if you fuck up---if that was ever even an option.
Since arriving in South Korea, whenever I get nervous or scared entering a new restaurant, checking out an all Korean art performance, or attempting a new adventure by bus I tell myself to snap out of it, that I’m not allowed to be scared because I fucking moved to a foreign country by myself. All bets are off because I can survive what needs surviving. And although this is true, in the day-to-day of living, I forget this, we all forget this.
I have also come to think every day bravery goes hand in hand with contentment---not happiness---but contentment.
I celebrated my 33rd birthday in Cuba. I wasn’t there specifically for my birthday but as research for a novel I was doing on Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution (Talk about brave!). One of the many cool things I did the three weeks I was on the island was get a reading from a Santeria. In a bare bones house that I remember more like the Apocalypse Now shack, I was told by the love child of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz and Jabba the Hut that I wouldn’t be happy until I was 50 years old. 50! Can you imagine how a constitutionally glass half empty girl would feel when hearing this at 33?!
Naturally, my Santeria’s prognostication spooked me, but thankfully I am a near perfect balance of Pieces and Aries. Which means, I freaked out and then I handled it. And for twelve years I mentioned it in passing as a party trick and then tucked it away. That is until Korea. Korea counts age almost from inception, so when you are born you are already 1 years old. Soooo, in Busan, while staring out of my hotel room window onto the Korean Strait, when I turned 49 at the stroke of midnight, I really turned 50.
This didn’t occur to me for a few days. I didn’t remember my Santeria priest at first but when I did, I laughed. The strangeness, the unexpected wonder of turning "50" in Asia. But then I thought about it and realized it was the perfect place because, after an incredible rocky life, and a rocky start in Korea I had found bravery and contentment, if not happiness.
My life looks nothing like what I thought it would, what I’d planned on and yet, I am content. I have made my peace not being on a list of 30 writers to watch under 30; not publishing my first novel with a major publishing house; not finding romantic love, all the things we are reared to define ourselves by. Here I am middle aged, no writing career, no romantic life and yet, I am content, bravely shaping my life on my own terms.
It strikes me that the idea of happiness is a dangerous elixir, which forces us to always be in search of something for which the definition is always changing. But contentment is a different animal. Happiness is the golden calf, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but contentment is a decent job, decent health, a safe home, 40 Acres and a mule. A chance. An opportunity.
The quiet life I have carved out for myself has gifted me not with a pot of gold but 40 Acres and a mule and it looks like a brave new world as I head into the year Two Thousand and Twenty.
Thanks for stopping by! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! See you soon but in the meantime, be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!