On Courage (Or the Lack There Of…)

by Rachael on June 5, 2012 · 32 comments


(First off, I know, I know, total cliffhanger, Batman. But you know how these things are – potential jinxings, and whatnot. I guess if you want the official scoop, you’ll just have to email/gchat/come visit. Smooches!)

When it first started to sink in that I was moving from DC to California in the space of three weeks, the stress of everything that needed to be done and all the pieces that had to fall into place for it to work was entirely overwhelming. I was a veritable ball of anxiety just thinking about trying to adjust to a new city, a new home, and a new job… all at the same time.

(To say nothing of the daunting task of leaving my robust social circle back in DC, and building an entirely new one – and for an extreme extrovert like me, there is no fear like the fear of being lonely. Trust.)

But since picking up my life and moving it, my job, and my cat across the country almost two months ago now, I’ve had a ton of really sweet comments, emails and conversations with friends and readers who’ve told me ridiculously outlandish things like “you’re so brave” and “you’ve inspired me to go for that kickass job/move to a new city/insert freaking awesome goal here”.

These kinds of statements, while unbelievably sweet (and certainly not unwelcome, ha) always make me a little bit uncomfortable… because I don’t feel brave or strong or courageous. I suppose that if the definition of courage is doing something even when you’re afraid to do it, I might be able to claim a bit of that title, because lord knows I was absolutely terrified in the weeks leading up to the move, and, well, here I am.

But at the end of the day, I’m not brave. I didn’t summon some huge burst of GUTS ‘N GLORY that gave me the kick in the ass I needed. To be perfectly honest, there’s one reason, and one reason only that can explain my current status as a resident of Northern California:

I didn’t have a choice.

It’s simple, really; I was more afraid of boredom than I was of being out of my comfort zone.

That is – tragically – all that this enormous life-changing milestone boils down to. I spent five years in one (albeit glorious) city, and I needed a new challenge, because I’d seemingly conquered it.

I just felt like I’d done it all – like I’d made the lifelong friends, and found the favorite restaurants, and become a (hopefully favorite) fixture at the events. Granted, my “scene” was the deliciously dorky tech/whiskey-swilling scene, and I loved every second of it (how do you not?!) – but the fact remains that I outgrew it as only a true child of the first ADD generation, AKA Gen Y, truly can.

It was time for a clean slate for many reasons, sure. But the moment I was no longer attached to someone who couldn’t leave the District, I knew I had to fly. At the time, where I went didn’t seem to matter – but of course, hindsight is 20/20 and blah blah blah. Because the second I touched down in SF, I immediately knew – no, felt – that this was EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be.

Bravery is great.

Courage is grand.

Listening to your gut and following your instincts is better.

So much better. Because you don’t just get to call yourself brave, at the end of the day – you get to KNOW, in the pit of your stomach, that you’re on the right track, meeting the right people, and doing the right thing for yourself. You’re in line with How Things Are Supposed To Be.

After being lost, sometimes for such a long time… you’re BACK, baby.

And it feels so freaking good.

[image source]


1 Laurie June 5, 2012 at 1:57 am

I have no idea how old you actually are, but I’m at least 15 years older, and I just wanted you to know that whereas you were not the reason I quit my job this spring to cash out and take the chance I needed to take FOREVER and finally needed stroke-level high blood pressure to tell me I had the nerve, that you have been an awesome younger mentor in this process. (Yes, that’s totally possible.)

I am so very, very happy for you, because I have seen from your tweets and general updates what appears to be a seamless transition to this amazing city (although every life has its ups and downs. Please tell me your downs so I can know you are not a unicorn. Ha.) And I hope when I finally make it out to that awesome place you live that we can maybe hang out, although your social calendar would terrify anyone in these United States or anywhere. :) But for what it’s worth, I have met a lot of people on these internets, and I have to say that you are one of the most entirely well-regarded, and the most for sure on the right track. You are a force of nature, lady. You are awesome. May it ever be so.

2 Ms. Salti June 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

Good luck on your transition!

3 raeleigh/bigskygirl June 5, 2012 at 7:48 am

I don’t always comment, but you know I love you like whoa, right? Because I totally do. You are exactly right – John Wayne said it best: courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. He also said “life is hard, but it’s harder when you’re stupid,” which I’m sure you would also enjoy. Little motivational quote for you this morning. You’re welcome.

I am QUITE curious about the shot of whiskey situation…. hmmmm…. :) I wish you the absolute best, darling and I am so proud of you.

4 JustMe June 5, 2012 at 8:11 am

I’m about to do the same thing – although I’ve lived in this place before – but you’re right: the fear of boredom is too great for me to stay. Life wasn’t meant to be played safe.

You’re awesome.

5 E3 June 5, 2012 at 8:11 am

Rock on, sister. If I’m ever in the area, many drinks will be had. Same goes for if you’re ever in Toronto.

6 Foggy Dew June 5, 2012 at 8:22 am

I only moved halfway across the country when I made my big life-changing move (Texas to D.C.), and while it may not have been the road less taken, it’s made all the difference. I’m so happy your new path has given you new challenges and San Francisco is treating you well (it better, or else).

You know what else is good about living on the West Coast? All those 9 p.m. Heels’ games are now on at 6. You don’t even have to worry about OT anymore.

7 Ms. Salti June 5, 2012 at 9:42 am

Congrats on your move! Been following your updates on FB and am so happy to see you’re having such a great time. You truly are an inspriation, girl. Just the thought of what you took on gives me severe anxiety and I so admire what you’ve done. Can’t wait to hear about all your shenanigans!

8 dominique June 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

see, i think though, that the feeling of “i didn’t have a choice” means that the courage is so built into you that it feels like its own force. you know? you are an inspiration regardless of moving, or anything else, for precisely this – for an unrelenting dedication to Doing You, always.

9 Melissa June 5, 2012 at 11:39 am

” I was more afraid of boredom than I was of being out of my comfort zone.”

That is officially one of my new favorite lines because it’s just so damn accurate. Listening to your gut and following your instincts is the BEST thing you can do for yourself. Not everyone knows HOW to just follow their instincts- so good for you for just going out there and doing what felt right.

Seriously love this post.

10 Tyler June 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

I definitely think that your move falls into the courage category: doing something even when you’re afraid to do it.

I am glad to see that you are adjusting well to life out there. I have spent a bunch of time there and I knew that you would fit right in there!

11 Jenn June 5, 2012 at 11:50 am

I got the same comments when I moved to Atlanta… I honestly think it was more stupid than brave, but whatever :)

I heard the same thing when I moved across the country to go to college, and when I went abroad to Spain for a semester. I think it’s just a reflection of other people’s fears or secret desires that they haven’t worked up the nerve to do yet, but for me (and I presume for you) it was more self-preservation.

I would have crumbled to dust if I had stayed close to home for college or for work. I would have suffocated and in order to keep myself alive, I had to do something bigger. Not everyone feels that pressure of their world closing in, and I guess that works for them but it would never have worked for me.

I’m proud of you for taking on a new city. Can’t wait to see you conquer it and perhaps one day join you :) xxoo

12 Sara June 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

As my move and big life decisions have paralleled yours (albeit trailing behind several weeks), I think I’ve come to the conclusion that when you “don’t have a choice,” you simply can’t imagine choosing the other option (in our cases, to stay in our current cities). There is always a choice, but once the other option ceases to exist as a feasible path, the courage or bravery is just sort of innate (kind of like Dominique said above).

Also, I think actually feeling courageous can only really come after the adjustment; in retrospect, maybe you’ll look back and realize that, whoa, you were really freaking gutsy to uproot yourself and make a huge change.

Even if you don’t know, you deserve credit for instigating change, following through, and landing exactly where you need to be. That’s a huge feat. <3

13 meleah rebeccah June 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Good for you, Rachael! And, quite frankly, you really ARE an inspriation.

14 cari June 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Love this and love you. You will always make friends easily wherever you go! The fear of boredom has fueled SO MANY of my life decisions, and I wholeheartedly agree that change is the only way to prevent feeling stuck.

And of course SF felt like home as soon as you stepped off the plane. You can take Girl Cat out on your leash like it ain’t no thang! Meow.

15 Mike June 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm

All this talk and you still haven’t touched on how awesome your new job at Adobe is?????

16 Alexandra the Tsaritsa June 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I followed my gut here, four years ago, and I knew when I did it that I was doing the right thing. It just felt like it was supposed to happen that way. I still feel the same way. SF is just awesome.

17 katelin June 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

i mean yes of course you made the best decision. you’re on a coast that’s closer to LA! hurrah! but really, love this post and just love that you followed your gut for such a huge decision. it’s basically what everyone says they’ll do but don’t always so i’m glad you did (if that makes any sense at all, haha).

18 Emily June 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

When I first moved to New York people would tell me how much they admired what I did and they thought it was go brave. (probably beacuae I moved without a job) But I felt like you, I didn’t feel brave. It was just something I had to do. I had to leave California. I had been there my entire life and I felt done. Nothing new was left to experience. I don’t regret it. And there have been hard times but I know I made the right decision.

I’m so glad you love SF. One of my favorite cities.

19 Teacher Girl June 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Amen! I don’t even know what else to say. This post perfectly sums up so many things!

20 Jen June 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Funny that you say that about the move from DC to SF, because I happened randomly across your entry, but I was just there for the first time during Memorial Day Weekend…and I recall thinking the same thing, that this might be the place I could see myself choosing after living in DC. I love how friendly people are there and willing to answer questions, even from a lost tourist. Definitely has such a great vibe to it.

21 Jen June 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm

And with being in the Army and having lived all over the place, I don’t think I would feel I’d need much courage to move anywhere else, at least when it comes to the nuts and bolts of moving…but what makes it hardest is leaving the ones you love. I’d move in a heartbeat, if it weren’t for the heartstrings I’d be severing.

22 terra June 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I think it takes a certain something to go and do the things you know that you need to do and even though I’m super pissed you’re super stupid far away (FUCK YOU, GEOGRAPHY/GIANT FUCKING COUNTRY), I think it’s pretty badass that you realized you needed to GO and GET ON WITH IT and then, just like that, went ahead and did it.

23 Kellie June 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm

You are at such a fun stage in your life! Go and conquer it girlfriend! I know you can do whatever your heart sets out to accomplish! I wish I could pack up and move to Cali, but alas once you have a child your priorities change a bit. It’s no longer about ME first, it’s about the babe. And well, I think she should be near her family b/c family is the bomb. :) I am however working on persuading them to move to Cali or Texas or anywhere warm really. Then we can all be somewhere w/ beautiful weather! :)


24 MsDarkstar June 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Although San Francisco was the backdrop for the single biggest FAIL of my life (back in ’08), I would actually return if it meant I got to meet you. Also, the massive FAIL aside, SF is beautiful.

I absolutely embrace the ‘tabula rasa’ mentality (having moved 1000 miles, to a place where I had no job & knew no one back in ’09) because sometimes you just HAVE TO. In spite of the trauma that ensued post move, I am happier where I am now than I was in *coughwaytoomanycough* years back on The Frozen Tundra.

Sometimes you just need to embrace the insanity. Good for you for powering through and getting where you need to be! Carry on!

25 Kate June 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Love this. And you ARE incredibly brave and courageous to move across the country and go after what you truly want in life. I wish there were more people in this world who would stop settling or creating excuses for not doing things (moving places, etc) and just go after what truly makes them happy.

Rock on, woman. xo

26 Esmé Glass June 14, 2012 at 8:56 am

The fact that you not only recognized that you were in a comfort zone but chose to leave it is pretty dang courageous, lady. Too many of us go the safe-but-boring route.

Also, please tell me you’ve tried Blondie’s Pizza. It’s the stuff of cheap, grease-dripping dreams.

27 poodlegoose June 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I think your complete mindset is the way brave people think. I dunno. Maybe I’ve been reading too many fantasy novels lately. :)

28 poodlegoose June 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Which makes me an expert on the subject, natch.

29 B. June 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Having gone through a VERY SIMILAR transition earlier this year (how bizarre) – I definitely know where you’re coming from. For you, it was a necessary move – for people looking at how you picked up your life and moved across the country, it is a desirable step that maybe they can’t (or never thought to) take. Now it sparked something in them and they’re ready to take a leap of faith.

So, guts (always get the theme song from the show in my head when I see “guts”)/courage/bravery…whatever: you inspire people, lady!

30 AbsolutelyDC June 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I’ve moved quite a bit and I can tell you with each move, it is like a new chapter in my life. I remember events, not by the months but where I was. . . and when that event happened in relation to my last move. Moving makes you feel like you get a rebirth or at least a little more growth. Good luck :)

31 allison July 16, 2012 at 9:20 pm

granted I’m a whole 6 weeks LATE reading this post – it still rocks and so do you and your bravery.

I’ve never been to SF. Fall trip to the west coast!

32 Jas July 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I am so happy to see that you are loving San Francisco!

You said something about how being “forced” to make your transition somehow makes it less impressive – to you at least – and I feel compelled to say, “Girl no it don’t.”

Most people who make a move like this are generally led or left with seemingly little other options because of a ton of factors. Jobs, relationships…. Life… And to me, the reason doesn’t matter so much as the bravery and enthusiasm one (god willing) adopts when they tackle these new developments. It can be an adventure or a shit-show.

You seem to be making it into an adventure. And a super fun one.

(And plus you work for Adobe AAAAAH.)

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