A few people have said to me how brave it is for me to move to Brussels by myself. Now I know it’s not that difficult to move somewhere for five months when there are about a hundred other people in the same boat, to a city that is used to the comings and goings of people like us. It’s hardly reporting from a war zone. But still, it is a scary thing to do, and therefore something to be brave about.
Except I wasn’t brave at all. I think bravery implies that you recognise your fear, you think about it and then you do it anyway. This, like pretty much anything I’ve achieved in the last few years I didn’t really think about much. I just put myself in a situation where I’d signed up for something, and by the time I realised it was actually pretty scary it was just sort of there, and I had to deal with it.
There was only actually ten days between when they announced it and when you had to have your form in. Ten actual days, not ten working days. Ten days to read it, discuss with your family/partner, speak to the policy colleagues to get support and find out which department would be must useful, write two big long application forms and get these checked by said policy people and persuade the senior people with the money that this is a brilliant idea and totally worth you being away while still getting paid so they can’t replace you. All it really took was one decision by me to apply, which was easy because I didn’t think I’d get it, and then the wheels were set in motion and I was off planning negotiating tactics and phoning the deputy director every hour to get him to look at my case. I got so caught up in all the persuading I never really stopped to think about what it would mean. And then I got through the selection and I was doing it, and I had to do all the millions of things in preparation, and then it was two days before and my stomach was doing nervous backflips.
And that’s how it is with almost anything I do now. Time seems to really speed up as you get older, everything is hurtling towards you all the time, and it’s just about all you can do to keep going. For example, when I was younger, whenever I had to do a presentation, I would spend days and days writing it and practicing it to the point where I had memorised the whole thing as full sentences, and I’d be a nervous wreck beforehand. How I sometimes give training courses, which is way scarier, and I’ll spend maybe an hour reading though my notes. I’m sure that same nervous wreck is still inside me somewhere, but I just don’t have the time to let it out any more.
And I actually think that’s not a bad way to do things. To do brave things, you don’t need to be brave all the time, all it needs is that short period where you commit yourself to something and place yourself in a situation where you have to to it, and then life’s busyness will take care of the rest. Obviously the thing you commit yourself to do has to be something that’s just a little bit of a stretch, something you can actually do. But if you ever thought for even one minute that you can do it, you probably can. And all it needs is that short period of confidence to commit to something and then you don’t need to be brave at all.
That is my random little theory of bravery! I think while I’m in Brussels and life is hurtling towards me (ha!) I will just have to put these half formed ideas out there because they’ll never get a chance to grow into something proper. That or just post pictures.
*** Edit: I’m not just talking about moving country. I think this applies to virtually any decision: To sign up for a new leisure activity, to study something, to go for a job interview, to run a marathon **
And in more randomness, I had this song in my head the whole time I was writing this. I have a soft spot in my heart for Menswear. Anyone else old and British enough to remember them?