When does ‘Be Brave’ become a bad thing?

Brick Lane street art

I went to see a psychic at the end of last year. I don’t entirely believe in all the woo woo-ness of it, but I’m willing to try anything once. To be honest, even if it is 98% bullshit it might get me considering things from another perspective – so why not try it? Oh and I had gin, a lot of gin. Gin tends to make me open to different realms of possibilities.

Anyway there I was, happy in my cynical bubble, waiting to hear about my planets being in retrograde so that I could call merry bullshit on the entire proceedings when, well … it all got rather awkward.

I walked into the room and within five minutes of sitting down the woman (who looked like an extra from the Hunchback of Notre Dame) gave up on the palm reading and looked me straight in the eye…

“You have just got to stop making such impulsive decisions”.

Ummmmm.

Its really awkward when your psychic turns away from the stars and auras and gives you the sort of talking to that only a mother should be able to give.

Ok, I am admittedly the Queen of impulsive decisions but I prefer to think of it as being able to analyse the pros and cons of a big life choice in a very efficient way. Moving to London? Less than ten minutes after my Mum suggested it. Starting a blog and posting every day for a year? Half an hour and one shot of gin. Quitting my job with no back up plan? Half a days thought give or take an hour.

Be brave is a mantra of our time, and one I seriously believe in. Every big ‘impulsive’ decision I have made has been from deep within the ‘be brave’ camp, relying  on gumption, heart and Pinterest-worthy quotes to get me through. Being brave is one of life’s sexier mantras; do something big and scary and it will lead you to a happier life – whenever you take risks you will be rewarded.

God I wish all the trite meaningful tattoos that you see on the collarbones of 18 year olds were true. But sadly the definition you had of being brave as a teenager has to be different to the one you form as an adult, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to pay rent for very long.

The danger comes when you start using ‘being brave’ as a justification for running away. Those big life crossroads that we all come to have an easy road and a hard road. Unfortunately most of the time the easy road is far more appealing and would make a far more Oscar-worthy scene if Reese Witherspoon was playing you in a movie. What is better in a movie montage, saying ‘fuck you’ to your boss and walking out after a bad day/week/year or being humble enough to think there might be something to learn, and knuckling down for a few months? Not sexy, not the obvious brave choice, but so much braver in the long term.

If the ‘be brave’ mantra starts to become an excuse for avoiding the hard parts of life then, to be blunt, you are missing the point. Being brave means taking the hard option, regardless of how sexy or appealing the other paths are. Sometimes being brave means staying in London when every ounce of blood in your body is calling out to move back home. Sometimes being brave is sticking with university even though it is making you cry bitter academic tears every night. Or sometimes, once every so often, if you are lucky enough, the brave option is to quit your career and go on the trip of a lifetime.

The bravest of decisions can be tiny. What a lot of people wouldn’t even consider as hard can feel to you like climbing Everest. I’m thinking about how hard it is to make friends in London, to walk into a party where you know no one. To say fuck-knuckles to the world and do things by yourself. Bravery is holding your tongue when you want to scream, putting others first when you are wrapped up in your own world, and speaking up when no one else will – even in front of those you love.

If being brave feels scary, like you might not survive, yet you think it is something you will look back on with a quiet smile in your heart…then you are being brave for the right reasons. You are being courageous, you are taking the risk that is hard but that is right for you or the person you want to become.

The psychic was right in some respects: I’m clearly going to live a long happy life and eventually marry Bradley Cooper. But as for her advice not to make as many impulsive decisions, that’s not something I’m completely convinced about. I wholeheartedly give myself permission to make impulsive decisions, as many as I like as often as I like, as long as I am being brave with them. I don’t want the easy way out, I want to be courageous and challenged even if that is hard, boring and 100% unsexy. I want to be brave even when it hurts.

 

So youve decided to move to London oh