People keep telling me how brave I am, for doing this or that, but I feel fragile. Actually, when they tell me that something I’ve done is brave, I worry that they think I was an idiot for doing it. Because I tend to think bravery, just for the sake of being brave, is a waste of time. I don’t want to be brave. I want to be happy. My whole life, every risk I’ve ever taken was in pursuit of happiness. I couldn’t care less if I’m considered strong, or courageous, or admirable; I just want to be happy.
Part of my discomfort with being called brave is that I have a very wide streak of hiding under the bed in fear, and I refuse to see that as a flaw. I want to give myself credit for knowing when I’m scared, and respecting how I feel, and judging the danger accurately.
I don’t try new things because I want to be brave; I try new things because what I was doing before wasn’t working for me. I refuse to try new things just because they’re there, or because someone else tells me that it’s time to jump off this cliff or that bridge and be brave. I will jump off the bridge only when it’s crumbling under my feet, or when it’s not going in the direction I need to go.
In general, I tend to think of myself as cautious and turtle-slow. I take my time stepping into each new challenge (when possible), and my reluctance to just do what’s asked of me without question is long-lived and incredibly annoying to other people. I know.
There are times, though, when I know I have to be brave, and I know I have to force myself out of my safety zone and do scary things. But I don’t like it. And I reserve the right to complain bitterly about having to do it. Because being brave does not make me feel good. Doing things that matter to me, and that make a difference to the people around me, makes me feel good; expressing my individual thoughts, and still feeling like a welcomed member of the group, makes me feel good; and writing stories that matter to me and that reach other people deeply, makes me feel good; but I’d rather be able to do all of that without having to be brave.
I don’t often curse on the blog, but, as Cricket would say, Fnuh.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?