Before I left my old life (oops…first I typed “lie” instead of “life”…Freudian slip, maybe?), I got my second tattoo. It is a Chinese symbol on my right wrist. It means “brave.” And yes, I verified the meaning with TWO native Chinese speakers BEFORE I got my ink. So no jokes about sweet-and-sour chicken on the take-out menu, OK?
Mostly, I got the tat to remind myself to be brave in the face of 100% uncertainty. Which was what I faced in giving up everything I knew and had to embark on an adventure thousands of miles away. By myself. I felt I needed a visual reminder to keep going, even if the going got tough (which it surely would). But also, partly, I got the tattoo because, hey, in my old life (or lie, depending on your perspective) having a wrist tattoo would have been verboten. Hell…having too short a skirt in the courtroom was grounds for reprimand…so, visible body art? I shudder to think of the consequences.
And so I’ve had the tattoo for several years now. I mostly forget it is there. Sort of what happens when you have tattoos, I suppose. But today, like many days…someone asked me how I got where I am, and when I told them (the condensed version…not the full-blown story), they remarked that I was very brave to give up everything and do what I did. I hear that a lot, actually. And every time, I think “no, I’m not brave.” And then I invariably think about my tattoo (which, strangely, they did NOT ask me about…most people who go down this road of inquiry do ask.)
Funnily enough, I don’t ever think of myself as brave. Mostly just impulsive. And somewhat of a survivalist. I mean, had I stayed where I was, I probably would have jumped off the Aurora bridge by now (suicide-barriers notwithstanding). So when I think about how I got to where I am now, I don’t think of myself as brave at all. Just a regular human being, trying to get by in this crazy world. In the end, survivalist instincts kick in. Saving yourself is a very basic instinct.
Maybe it is brave to give up miserable security for the promise of unstable happiness? Or perhaps it is brave to eschew all material things for a more spartan existence? I’m not sure. But one thing I am sure of is that on a day-to-day basis, I don’t think of myself as more brave than anyone else. I just know myself well enough to be sure that I can get by no matter what my circumstances. And I also didn’t want any regrets on my death bed. And that’s how I ended up where I am today.
So perhaps if that is bravery, then I am brave.
Some days do I miss the comfort and convenience of the old ways? Sure, who wouldn’t. I mean…money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure as hell does buy a comfortable existence from which you can tolerate a lot of bullshit. High thread count sheets, a luxury car and a big house in a super-safe neighborhood don’t exactly suck. But then again…all those material things really didn’t make me happy. Or even content. They just helped me get by. A crutch. Like alcohol or drugs, I suppose.
Fast forward to my life now. It couldn’t be more opposite from what I’ve known. Yet, tonight, sitting with my loyal pup and one of my inherited Chihuahuas, in the direct aim of the two fans I am using to keep from sweltering in the Caribbean heat, I am enjoying the simpleness of my being. And relishing in the concept that I haven’t thought once of jumping off a bridge (or going for that permanent dive) since I got here.
Brave? Maybe. Better off than I was two years ago? Yes. Content? Definitely.