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I Am (Not) Brave

            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.

            Too bad.

            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.

“You said a bad word!”

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?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

56 responses »

  1. This is a beautifully expressed wonderful way to live a life and for how we treat others: “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.”

    I’m sorry for whatever or whoever is pushing bravery at you for the empty sake of bravery and causing you to curse in Cricketese.

    It seems to me you know your path and your well-considered decisions and that gives you a centeredness (as in a good thing, being grounded). I hope you can rest in that assurance.

  2. I often have people tell me that they think I am brave. I know that they mean it as a compliment and I’m sure it is the same for you. That getting outside of our comfort zones thing….it’s not my favorite thing either Rachel. But there are times it must be done. So keep on as you have been keeping on!

  3. Whether it takes being brave or not, I am wishing you all the joy shown in that first pic of your little pup…

  4. A fighter pilot friend used to say, “Bravery is overrated. Just do what you must do.” He didn’t care for being called brave. He thought himself as practical, not brave.

    Cricketese. Love it. Cheers

  5. You may not think you’re brave, but it takes courage to do new things.

  6. Do what’s natural and convenient for you. Don’t pay any mind to others.

  7. 😱😱 Fnuh?!?! 😱😱 OMG. Perhaps just being not unhappy, though not totally happy, would be a start, at least for me. I often feel trapped.

  8. We all just want to be happy, nothing wrong with that at all.

  9. Its trickier than you think. There are billions of other people out there trying to figure out what makes them happier. We clutch at wealth, love, and still flounder. I think its the human condition, unfortunately.

  10. Whilst I fully understand what you are saying I have to say that there is no courage without fear

  11. On the 13th of September, I had to have some very unpleasant procedures to establish whether or not I had Bladder cancer. My wife came with me, and when it was all over, she said “You were so brave”. I told her, “Bravery wasn’t on my mind, I had no other option but to bear it”.
    (The tests were clear)
    Best wishes, Pete.

  12. Your story reminds me of the old pithy saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” If that is bravery, so be it.

  13. I don’t think you are alone in your thought process. I have no desire to do something simply because I want to be seen as brave, either in the mirror or by other people. I also don’t NOT do something worried that I’ll be seen as weak by myself or others. I step out of my comfort zone when I am ready to take the step, not led by others’ thoughts or judgements. Rachel, in my time reading your blog, I’ve seen your growth, and honestly, you have bravely faced more than you are probably aware of; putting our vulnerabilities in black and white on a page without knowing who will be reading them or what judgements they will have is, to me, one of the bravest things we both do.

    Keep concentrating on your path to things that bring you happiness, but don’t be afraid to recognize and praise yourself for when you have bravely stepped out of your comfort zone, for whatever reason!

  14. Hmm, what about “wise”?

  15. Beautiful post yes live your life as a wish and make yourself happy ❤️ well shared 💕

  16. love this Rachel… ” I don’t want to be brave. I want to be happy.
    i will run the risk and say I do applaud you trying new things which is brave by definition.. xo 💗

  17. An odd thing, it seems, to put titles on people.

  18. OK, Rachel. I recall commenting not too many posts ago that you and your mom and the pups all seemed brave to me. I have learned my lesson. I won’t say that again!

  19. Just be yourself, Rachel.

  20. I love this and just can say you to be yourself and love yourself.

  21. If you move because you feel forced to, but you still move despite your fear, that’s still brave. You’ve still done it! Messier, yes. But you’ve done it:).

  22. Thought-provoking post. I enjoyed the read. Enjoy the weekend. 🙂

  23. I suppose brave really doesn’t accurately reflect how I see you. I see your vulnerability in each post. Being vulnerable to me isn’t quite the same as brave. I guess I think of bravery as more armored. At any rate I am grateful for your honestly showing up each week with your true self.

  24. The Bible has 365 “fear nots” in it. Turn to Jesus and let Him be your courage and your strength. He never fails.

    • Just a reminder: I’m Jewish. But also, I see the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament) as a record of how my ancestors tried to understand the world at a certain time in our history, not as a definitive guide to how to live today. Blessings.

  25. I think different people have different ideas of what “brave” is. I was taking a on-demand cycling class today (and this talk of brave reminded me of it), the instructor was commenting on the songs (from the 90s) which had her saying that the people (in the 90s) were “brave” because they would say, “Meet you at this place at this time.” and then just GO THERE and wait for their friend. No phone, just be at the place waiting. She thought that was brave. And . . . . (another song mentioned a taxi waiting) . . . that taxi driver was brave . . . just waiting there for you to show up, “no uber calling asking where you are.” She was horrified by these BRAVE things people did in the 90s. I rolled my eyes so hard I am surprised I didn’t fall off the bike. I think if people are calling you brave it is a compliment . . .


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