BRAVE November – Kaley

I am so excited to finally let you all in on the INCREDIBLE people who contributed to this “BRAVE” series!

kaley 3The last, and certainly not least, is my dear friend and newly transplanted East-Coast-residing superstar, Kaley. She is the Coordinator for Campus Life at Erskine College in South Carolina, and they are so lucky to have her! You can find her blogging at This Next Adventure and you will surely recognize her signature laugh and exclamations of courage in everything she says and writes. She’s a firecracker, and no one who has the opportunity to spend time with her ever forgets her. Her words here ring so true as we begin this adventure into what it means to be BRAVE…

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I was so honored when Sarah asked me to write about bravery. But then I thought, “what do I know about being brave?” At first I thought about the kind of bravery that makes  people do BIG things like go to outer space or fight for the abolition of slavery or sit in the front of a bus when they know the law says they can’t. But then I started to think, that is bravery, but there is quiet bravery too, that just rests in your soul and reminds you to keep living, keep loving, keep going. Sometimes bravery is small. I have a little green posted note in my office that asks, “is bravery big or small?” I still don’t think that I know the answer to that. But this is what I do know:

I think bravery increases when you give away- like faith, hope, and love. Sometimes someone just needs to hear you tell them that they are normal. That it is okay to feel. To feel love and loss and fear and uncertainty. They might think that they are being silly or stupid. I hate hearing those words and hear them all the time. I work at a college and part of my job is to counsel students in crisis, mostly young women. One of the first things they do is apologize for being in my office. They apologize for crying and for feeling whatever it is. Then they go on to tell me that they don’t know why they are so upset, why they can’t get it together, why they can’t move on. There is this epidemic where students don’t feel like they are allowed to not be okay. I have at least three people in my office every day who tell me that they feel alone. They think they are the only one hurting. The only one who can’t move on. And that breaks my heart. I love at the end of our time together, once they have cried everything out, being able to tell them that they are brave. That’s what I always say, no matter what. “You must be so brave to go through that.” Then I usually tell them some embarrassing story about myself and how it is so normal for life to not be a story with all success and no failure. And it’s crazy because most of the time they come back and tell me that they shared my story with their friend and then their friend told them of a time that they felt the same way, and now they feel brave because they know they are not alone. That’s what I want to be known for- for passing on bravery. For letting people be themselves even when it hurts. If I ever have children, I want them to say, “brave women run in my family.” Because they do. My mom is a total badass. She moved with my dad to Saudi Arabia, had two kids thousands of miles away from her family, and brought us up through two wars, teaching us to be brave and to love. My grandmother moved from Alaska and raised six girls on her own in California. She to this day always has a house full of loud people.

I think bravery looks different for everyone; it feels different for everyone. For some people it take immense amounts of bravery to cry in front of someone else; for others, being brave means fighting past tears. I am in a season where bravery is the only option. I moved across the country to a place where I don’t know anyone; I don’t really fit in, but I know I have purpose here. I am here for a reason. I drove across the country with my dad and on the day that we were going to be arriving at my new home, I sat on an Atlanta hotel bed with my toothbrush in my hand and I still had a mouth full of toothpaste and I felt it coming. I felt everything in my world throbbing in my chest- every emotion, every fear, every feeling- but no bravery. I choked it back for as long as I could, but then with toothpaste running savagely out of my mouth (almost like a rapid dog) I broke down to my dad (which I never cry in front of my dad) and I just let it out, “I don’t want to live in South Carolina.” And the words just sat there for a moment. Heavy. In the silence of the next few moments while tears started to run then pour and I finally spit out my toothpaste in the tiny little hotel sink. And then I let my dad hold me. At 24 years old, I let my dad hold me in his arms and tell me that I was going to be okay. He saw the bravery in me that I didn’t feel, that I had been pretending was there all along. And he was right. He is always right.

Bravery isn’t about proving to the world that you aren’t scared of anything. It’s proving to yourself that despite being scared, you can survive.

Life isn’t worth playing it safe all the time. Bravery is taking a chance on something wonderful even if you’re scared. Bravery is saying yes to something even if it has let you down before. But bravery is also saying no to something that is hurting you or pulling you backwards. Bravery always propels us on to bigger, better, more beautiful things. And it always pays off. Bravery is love letters and five years olds getting up again to ride bikes even though their knees are scrapped. Bravery is loving again after loss, trying again after failure, looking out to the world and seeing something good in yourself and in others even when the windows are foggy. Its adventures and trying new things and letting yourself change your mind and change your attitude and change your life. You find bravery in the most unlikely places.

When I was in fourth grade, my room was decorated (by my mother) in psychedelic 70s colors and prints and giant flowers. I had a ballet bar that my dad built for me from scratch and a giant inflatable chair that all 90s kids cherished like gold at one point. This room is well documented in pictures and videos that were sent to my grandparents because we lived so far away. I was watching old home videos last year at Thanksgiving and I noticed something I had forgotten about that room. Something that totally stood out. Right next to my giant poster of Brittany Spears sitting in the back of a truck. It was a page I had ripped out of a magazine. It was a page with a picture of Oprah Winfrey. At 9 years old, I had ripped a page out of my mom’s magazine and taped it on my wall. Under Oprah’s picture was this quote, “you get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” I loved Oprah. I think some of my earliest memories are waking up on Thursday mornings (that was the equivalent of a Saturday morning in the States) and walking out to my mom in her chair, drinking black coffee, and watching Oprah. I would snuggle up to her and smell her coffee and watch these stories unfold and Oprah would cry… like ugly cry. And she would always help people see that life is good and she rewarded courage and living life and doing big things. I wrote myself a letter that year. I am so embarrassed to say this, but I promised myself that I would dedicate my life to doing something big enough that I would be on the Oprah show. Well, Oprah went off air before I could do anything big. But she still lives on… because I have her 20th anniversary box set DVDs.

What I’ve realized about Oprah and so many other women who made a name for themselves, is that they didn’t really follow the rules. They had the audacity to be brave… even though they were women. I think really it’s because they were women. They knew that standing up for themselves was to stand up for others. And that always takes bravery. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “do one thing every day that scares you.” Being brave means having the courage to be scared and be okay with that. As long as you don’t let that fear control you. You have to stand up and walk up to the microphone, or sit behind a piano, or get on the plane, or type it out, or just show up. You have to look fear in the eyes, and say, “screw you! I’m bigger than you.” And then walk away and not look back. And that is scary. But its always worth it.

My favorite bible verse is Joshua 1.9, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God has called us to live lives without boundaries and borders. He calls us into the world, the real world, full of his love and grace and to lavish that onto broken people and places. That is a big responsibility. Even though the church and the world often tell us that our role is to be the damsel in distress waiting to be saved, or to be the one waiting to welcome our hero home, or to be behind the scenes making others look good. God called all of us to use the unique strengths and talents that he created us with. He created you just the way you are.

Be you, bravely. That is what this adventure called life is all about.

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