October 19, 2012

Be Brave

In June I connected with my 3 life-long best friends. During that lovely weekend, I found a delicate yet bold necklace that declared, "Be Brave." The message resonated with me deeply; it touched a spot of tenderness and growth in my heart--the part that began to trust myself.

Through years of self-reflection, therapy, and meditation, I've gained insights, changed habits, found happiness, and explored creativity, yet I've experienced an underlying discontent (beyond the basic level of difficulty that is life). Although I knew it was time to be brave, I wasn't sure where this path would lead. In the first weeks of a new academic year the path became clear: leave academia; take my gifts and skills to a new career. The biggest aha moment was when I realized I didn't have to be an academic. For so long--most of my life--academics has been a strongly-held identity for me. School was a place where I achieved and excelled. It gave me a feeling of enough-ness and of control. When things were difficult in my life, I felt I could change, save, or control  via hard work in school. Now I realize I don't have that kind of control. (In fact, I never did.) 

Although my role as a college professor was extremely rewarding for many years, it does not define me. And recently it has drained me. So I stepped outside the academic box. And when I allowed that space, my world grew huge. I saw all the many ways I can serve the world and my own passions. I took the leap: next September I will no longer be in academia (with no back-up plan in place).

When I told my colleagues, there were 3 themes to the responses: "I'm surprised, but actually not that surprised," "I'm sad for Lawrence, but happy for you," and interestingly, the most common response, "I admire your courage, bravery, and honesty." I didn't expect the last reaction, yet it poured in from people--from very different people. This was indeed my be-brave path.

There's a reason Brene Brown's TED talk, "The Power of Vulnerability," has over 6 million hits. She talks about vulnerability, shame, and taking risks. These are topics our society squelches in many ways. Our current level of societal discourse (e.g., news, social media, politics) is often judgmental, not open to vulnerability. So there's any undercurrent of uneasiness. People recognize they want to be true to themselves, take risks, make changes, yet it doesn't feel safe--we don't want to be vulnerable. But someplace deep in our hearts we believe the words of Brene: "Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love." 

To be brave is really to be vulnerable. It's not brave or courageous if we don't expose some part of ourselves. I think the more brave acts we witness--even small ones--the more courage we gain to tell our stories, be ourselves, and share our passions. The reality is we're all vulnerable. And that real-ness is often what connects us. We only need be brave enough to share, even just a little. Or to occasionally take a big leap:


  1. So Courageous Joy! I am thrilled for you and will love checking in to see where how your new life begins to evolve. I am just grinning from ear to ear!

  2. Thanks, Kimberley! I'm smiling just thinking of you "grinning from ear to ear."

  3. I, myself, have often shied away from that kind of vulnerability - especially when things get hard. I tend to fold into myself and hide rather than risk revealing myself. Thank you for the reminder... the inspiration... the possibilities. Keep up the good work, Joy. ;)

  4. What a thing, to realise that we never really had that control we were always striving for. Armouring up doesn't shield us from pain, and gets in the way of gratitude and blessings. Your courageous leap photos are WONDERFUL!