Monday, February 8, 2010

Courageous Or Crazy ?

At lunch on Friday a friend remarked to me that what I was doing was courageous. It wasn't the first time someone has said that to me. I shrugged my shoulders. Because quite frankly I don't see myself as courageous.

Now tell me you think I'm crazy and I'm sure to nod my head yes. Some days I think I am out of my mind to have chosen this point and time, the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression to start over and launch a new career. But courageous ? Not through my eyes.

To me courageous is how I describe the members of our armed forces who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Courageous is what Rosa Parks did when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. Courageous is what the NYFD does every day when they run into burning buildings and risk their own lives to save others.

Merriam Webster defines courage as having the "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty". OK, so I am venturing and it does require mental strength to persevere. But courage sounds like a much bigger word to me than simply taking a risk. Courage sounds like something larger than who I am and what I am doing.

I didn't feel courageous when I left teaching to get into radio sales. I didn't find anything particular brave about my actions when I moved to DC for a promotion or back to NYC to sell cable. People thought I was courageous then too. I only remember moments of thinking I was completely insane. Those times when I wondered why I had left the predictable and comfortable for the unknown. And now looking back I suppose I can see how that too was perceived as courageous.

Maybe part of being courageous is not being aware of it at the time. Which is probably a little insane itself. Whatever the risk you choose, there is no place or time to get caught up in how brave you are. You just do. You put one foot in front of the other and you expect to win. You don't allow yourself to entertain the thought there might be any other outcome. If you feel your courage fully, you might also feel your fear.

So maybe I am both. Crazy and courageous. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. How courageous can you really be if you're also not a little bit crazy ?

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