At the start of each year, I choose a word to keep in mind for the coming months; a word that will help me focus in on what’s needed in my life.
This year, that word was ‘brave’.
In the past, I’ve used words like ‘simplify’ to remember to get back to what’s really important to me; one year, having the word ‘gentle’ in my mind helped me learn not to be quite so hard on myself. (Okay, that one’s still a work in progress.)
But this year, bravery was required.
See, it’s easy when you’re in your mid (okay, maybe late) 30s to slip into a very comfortable routine. You get up in the morning, eat the same porridge, do the same work, tell the kids twelve more times to clean their rooms, pay a few bills, watch some telly, then go to bed at the same old time.
And then get up tomorrow (at the same time as always) and do it all again.
What does it even mean to be brave?
Bravery means something different to each of us, and probably different again at various points in our lives. One person might think it’s brave to pack everything up and go backpacking indefinitely; another might see bravery as simply stepping outside her front door.
Here, in my (I’ll admit it) late 30s, bravery means facing up to the things I’ve been talking about doing for years.
Like the swimming lessons I’d wanted to take for my whole adult life. I couldn’t swim well, and was ashamed to admit it to anyone; finally climbing into the pool and saying, “I want to learn” was a big move for me this year.
There are little things, too, like celebrating my birthday. I’ve never been one to have a party – partly because I don’t want to ask people to celebrate my day, and also because my birthday is in mid-winter and who can be bothered? – but this year I hosted a small gathering of friends to mark the occasion.
Bravery is making a move on that book I’ve been talking about writing since I was four years old. Yes, more than thirty years of talking about something finally came to fruition this year when I decided it was either now or never; I couldn’t spend another nearly three-dozen years being all talk.
I got myself a writing coach (writing a book is very different to the articles I write for my day job), faced up to the difficult topic I needed to write about (depression) and then turned on the tap. The words flew out; I typed through the nights and it was the biggest rush of happiness I’ve ever felt.
It’s felt brave, as well, to speak up for myself more. To talk to a counsellor. To try being happy with the mum I am to my two children. And to take some risks with my work.
All of these things bring with them a level of anxiety, ranging from plain old discomfort in a situation I’ve put myself in, to panic attacks in the swimming pool.
But I just bring myself back to that word – ‘brave’ – and remember that this is exactly what I wanted out of my year.
To be braver than ever.