For Teaching Me To Be Brave

When I left for Japan a few months ago, my mom had tears in her eyes for days before my flight. She was worried. And sad. And anxious. Did I mention worried? I inherited my obsession with worst case scenarios genetically.

Why do you have to go so FAR? This is hard. This is too hard. It’s too much for you. Packing the house. Packing the bags. Traveling with two kids alone. Being so far. Dave goes on the road. Earthquakes happen. And then packing again. Packing the bags back up. Doing it all again. Doing some of it alone. And the uncertainty of what’s next. That’s stressful. It’s hard. It’s too hard.

She has a point. She always does.

It IS hard sometimes. The packing is hard. The goodbyes are never easier.

The flight is just so much sweating and several pulled muscles. She has that part nailed.

And sometimes Dave’s travels and I have to parent alone. But I can do it. I’m strong. I’m resourceful. I like red wine.

And earthquakes happen. And my reactions times are total shit but this house was built with them in mind. And I’m trusting. And statistically quite safe. I’ve checked the numbers.

And we do pack up again. And again. And there is uncertainty in our lifestyle. But you know what? There is ALWAYS uncertainty. We face ours head on because it’s part of the job description, but even if I moved home and took a ‘normal’ job and did things her way, nothing is for sure. I could lose my job, one of us could get ill, the house could burn down. ANYTHING can ALWAYS happen. At least this way we are very honest with ourselves that we truly have no idea where we will be living in one year. But it’s ok. Because I’m adventurous. I’m excited about possibility.

It’s hard. And scary sometimes. And sometimes I hate it. And sometimes I cry. But mostly I love it. And mostly I’m happy. Because I’m brave. I’m bold. I’m not afraid to do things differently.

________

When I was younger I suspect my mom sat around trying to guess what I would be like. What my life would hold. And based on my personality and my fears and my abilities I believe she probably pictured me as self-sufficient and compassionate and much, much more conventional. Much, much closer to home. Like within 100 feet of home.

When I was invited to sleepovers, I would generally accept because I wanted to be able to do it. I wanted to be super cool with sleeping somewhere else. But for a long, long, such a very long time I wasn’t. My mom and dad would drive me to my friend’s house with my sleeping bag and my coolest pajamas and I’d be like ‘Right! I’m off! Love you! See you tomorrow!’ and we would kiss and smile at each other and all three of us knew full well they would be driving back to get me before midnight.

It’s not that I didn’t feel safe or that I wasn’t happy to be with my friends. I fully and truly believed in adults and knew my friends parents were in charge and would do any and all emergency procedures properly. I loved my friends and had heart-split-in-half BFF necklaces and wrote all our names in rows in my notebooks. But the reality of change scared me. Their houses had dark corners  I didn’t know about. Their dinner was more spicy than at home. Their laundry detergent made things smell differently than at my house. My mom didn’t live there. My sister wasn’t here. CUE THE PANIC! CALL MY MOM! CALL HER! CALL HER NOW!

As I grew older I could make small steps towards being away from home. I stayed a week at a time at summer camp. I slept over at friend’s houses. I knew that being independent and wanting to get away from your parents was cool. I knew adventure was supposed to be fun. I faked like I liked it as much as I could. But truth be told, I wanted to be home all summer. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. I wanted to read books by the radiator having conversations with my cat to practice new vocabulary. I kept a front in the name of socialization. But it could only last certain tests.

My senior year of high school my German class participated in an exchange. I thought taking German was exciting enough in a school where most kids took Spanish or French, but now everyone was all psyched to host a German high school student (FINE, fine, I’ll do it) and then GO to Germany and spend a month there. Um….sure? Is this what we are doing? It’s cool to fly across the ocean and live with some other family who probably doesn’t eat waffles for breakfast? Do we know anything about what their laundry detergent smells like? No? Yea…ok…I’m cool. Sign me up. (I actually signed up)

A couple weeks before we were set to leave, I hit the panic button HARD. I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t. It was too far. I was too scared. We had a pow wow with me, my parents, and Herr Ahlers and I backed out. Big time. My friends from class were like...Lane..seriously? We can drink beer there! Boys with accents! No parents! And I was like you guys…I have a reading list to get to with my cat next to the radiator but I really wish you all the best.

You can forgive my mom back then for not foreseeing my life as it is now.

____________

The thing she doesn’t know, or won’t admit, or doesn’t believe, is that all the things that worry her so much, all her concerns, all her fears…all these things seem doable to me because of things she (and my dad. Hi Dad!) have given me.

They trusted me, they believed in me, they never forced me to do anything. They didn’t tough love me into sleepovers. They didn’t ‘too bad so sad suck it up’ and send me on that plane to Germany. They encouraged me, and pushed gently, and then held back when they say I wasn’t ready. And guess what?

I’m ready. Somewhere along the way, I became ready to go out alone into the world.

I’m strong. I’m resourceful. I’m trusting. I love logic. I’m adventurous. I believe in possibility.

The life we live, the life ANYONE lives, has struggles. Has stress. Things are not guaranteed, nothing is for sure, change is hard. But I do it anyway. I travel. I see things many people only dream of, I spend time with my kids that my own mother would have killed for, I collect memories and pictures the way many people collect shoes and handbags and cars and flat screens. I do all these things and MORE, all the things that scare the shit out of my mother, because she showed me that I could. Because she trusted me. Because she believed in me. Because she told me adventures are worth having. That life is short.

It’s hard. And scary sometimes. And sometimes I hate it. And sometimes I cry. But mostly I love it. And mostly I’m happy. Because I’m brave. I’m bold. I’m not afraid to do things differently.

Thank you, mom, for making me brave. And also, I’m sorry.

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