He leapt up from his seat to help me, and I was struck by it because I’m so very used to not being helped.
Here, like this, he said, and twisted my backpack around so that it fit into the overhead locker with an ease I hadn’t managed.
Thank you. I sat back down.
Felt his eyes on my neck.
Caught his eye.
He was the row across from me, and in the aisle seat. As the airplane doors closed it was apparent that he had the row to himself, and so I said, can I move there? To that free seat beside you? I like to look out of the window.
I almost didn’t ask. But then I did. He said, yes, of course, please do.
Then he said, Is that Tony Robbins?
I looked down at the book in my hands. It is, I said.
I’d pick up a couple of business and personal development books in the airport bookstore, because I like that stuff. LOVE that stuff. My dad is a change management consultant, and so growing up those were the books in our house, and now I’m a grown-up they’re the books I keep in my house. I was impressed the guy knew who Tony Robbins was. I mean, I thought he was hitting on me, at first, but actually he really knew his work, had smart things to say about him. Was able to see his ideas and build on them himself. And so that’s how we spent the flight. Swapping ideas.
He’s a writer, too – working on a project that sees him travel the world, interviewing billionaires, so that he can write their stories in a book he’s working on. We didn’t shut up as we shared thoughts about how to grow, how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, how to conquer our individual kingdoms. It was my JAM. I’d never met anyone who loved that kind of stuff as much as I do. We were both wanky together! He might’ve even been more wanky! I didn’t know there were others!
(…there are always others, aren’t there?)
But then. Here is where we differed. On our ideas. About how people can make life they’re proud of. In charge of.
To live a life that we are proud of. In charge of.
He plays “big”. Isn’t writing a book on how to make a living – it’s about billionaires. Isn’t working with his buddy – he’s working with the best in the field. Doesn’t jog – trains for ultra fucking marathons. Hiked Everest. Sets the grandest of grand goals and then smashes them.
And that’s great. Incredible. Good for him.
But I’m not in it – life – for that stuff. For the “big stuff” like that.
I mean – it’s cool.
But I don’t think that’s the point.
Of being brave in our everyday lives.
I don’t want those things. My bravery is different.
I couldn’t articulate that to him, though.
My life felt “less-than” compared to his. I shrank, a little, throughout the conversation, as each accomplishment he listed made what I was proud of seem… inconsequential. He didn’t do it in a mean way – and certainly not on purpose. It says more about me than about him. But felt it, I did. So as I left the plane and waited for my connection, I had to ask myself why. Why I felt that way. Why did my version of brave feel inferior to his version of brave?
What is “brave”?
I think it’s brave to hope.
I think it’s brave to say hi. To ask. To say, actually, I’m not okay, truth be known.
I think it’s brave to keep putting on foot in front of the other, day after day after day, when we can’t see further than our face, and trust that we have what we need to make it work. It’s brave to exist.
I think it’s brave to be kind, and to say no to the things we don’t want to say yes to. Brave to choose honest vulnerability over masked confidence. To fuck up.
Everest is our own personal demon. Scaling that is brave.
Showing up is brave.
Doing your best, every goddamn time – that’s bravery.
And really, I think it was brave of me to recognize how that guy made me feel and ask myself why. It might’ve been easier not to ask the question. If I asked the question I might not like what I found. But I did. And it makes me feel powerful, knowing those answers.
So I invite you to ask yourself.
What’s *your* version of brave?