As I prepare for my next big adventure, I have been thinking a lot about bravery, and what that means to me in my life. It’s easy to conceptualize bravery when admiring another from afar, but a little more complicated when applying it to my own life’s journey. And within that journey, it’s simpler to apply it to a tangible feat, like sailing alone across the Pacific, but what I am actually being reminded of right now is that real bravery starts with something much deeper. I think if I had to come up with one word that equals bravery for me, it would be vulnerability. Brene’ Brown, one of my heroes and favorite teachers in life studies vulnerability, and through her research, sheds light on its significance to our emotional well-being. If you are not familiar with her work, her TED talk on vulnerability is a great place to start. She says that “vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” I would have to agree.
The reason I am thinking so much about bravery lately is not so much because I am preparing to head out alone across the Pacific again, but more so because in conjunction with (and really, as a result of) that decision, I am putting myself out into the world in new ways. As with each time I have ventured to do this in my life, I am feeling extremely exposed and nervous. Not only am I being asked to speak at various events about my experience in the 2016 SHTP, but I am in the beginning phases of creating a documentary film about the history of the women skippers of the same race (to ask the question: “why aren’t there more women participating in solo offshore sailing in general?’). My documentary project is gaining so much momentum already that there is no way except forward. It is truly taking on a life of its own, and I am called to be all in. Between heeding this call and agreeing to speak in public, I am being challenged to embody my own experiences and put myself in the public eye in new ways. In short, I am being asked to be brave. I will be honest and say that this feat feels harder to me than when I shoved off the dock into the greatest unknown of my life nine months ago.
The act of writing honestly about my personal experiences, public speaking or interviewing my heroes itself isn’t scary. What feels intimidating is that to do so, I am stepping out of the relative safety of my circle of friends and private life into a much more exposed arena. Through blogging and speaking, I am inviting people that I don’t know into my personal successes and failures. I am also reaching out across oceans and airwaves to my sailing heroines and declaring my intentions, sharing my humble (compared to theirs) experience and asking to interview them about theirs. I am presenting my talk and SHTP video to groups of accomplished sailors who have many thousands more ocean miles under their belts than I do. In doing all of this, I am opening my experiences up to judgement and criticism as well as celebration and support.
All of these things make me quake in my boots, but as I said in my last post, I am heeding a call and trusting that I am at the right track. As scared and vulnerable as I feel every day, I continue to show up in front of my fears, and I continue to put one foot in front of the other. Brene’ Brown reminds me that “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen” and “the willingness to show up changes us….and makes us a little braver each time.” And so this cycle of bravery lifts me up and reminds me that as uncomfortable as it can feel, there is also freedom in being seen. There is power in sharing myself wholly with people. There is power in sharing all of the parts, not just the shiny ones. Lately it has been hard, but the more I stick to it, the more I am reminded of the nugget of truth found in Brene’ Brown’s research, that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” In my life, when I have had the courage to show up and be vulnerable, transformation and expansion always occurs. So, trusting that fact, I am stepping into the arena and showing up. I am not sure exactly for what yet, but the quaking in my boots tells me it’s going to be well worth it!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt