11 March 2013

Thoughts on Being Brave

Today, I left work early, walked twenty-five minutes to the Metro, took the train, got off at my stop, walked another twenty minutes to the store, purchased a sack of lemons, a package of parsley, and a plastic tupperware.
And I've never done any of that before.

I've made lots of excuses why I hang around work for an extra two hours waiting for Ben to get off, and yeah, most of them are valid. I'm planning lessons. It's a long, dark walk. I want to watch The Real Housewives of Somewhere by myself. But those aren't the only reasons.
I'm really freaked out by the idea of being by myself in Moscow. It's not necessarily the city thing or the language thing as much as it is a combination of both.

I was so confident in Chicago. I loved taking the el by myself for work, for my internship, and wandering the streets alone. Finding cafes to write in, looking for shops that sold clothing I could afford. I was never frightened, never shy about venturing into a neighborhood I had never been before. I thrived on it. I listened to music, I gathered thoughts, I wrote little poems on pieces of paper in my purse. But now?

I am shy and nervous. It began to seem like almost everyday I'd rehearse my Russian with Ben:
She'll ask you if you need a bag. Say this. 
Then what will she say?
This. Say that. 
What if she asks me something I don't understand? What if?

But when my last class ends and I'm left sitting and waiting, I just never have the nerve to walk through the dark streets to my train. I sit and I fret about all the possibilities. All the things that could happen and how I have no voice and the what if's and the worries... oh, I am just a worrier.

I was just a worrier.

A year or so ago, my friend Jessica and I were at a party when someone remarked on how small we both were. Jessica very calmly and confidently explained that she didn't like people calling her small and she didn't like to think of herself as small.
"I'm huge," she said. "I don't want to think of myself as a petitie person--petitie is forgettable and weak. I want to be huge."
That mentality really stuck with me. I began to figure that at some point I would have to stop telling myself I was a worrier and just be huge. So today I gathered up my things, looked through my Russian phrasebook, wrote down the words I needed to know to go to the store for dinner supplies, and waved good-bye to my boss.

"Oh, you're finally going!" she exclaimed. "Good for you. No reason to sit and wait around for so long."
I told her my plans to finally go to the store by myself.
"Good. You'll do fine. Remember! You're in Russia now! You're a Russian woman! Act like it!"
So I did.
I power-walked down the icy sidewalks in my one-and-a-half inch "heels" (heeled boots, but good enough), I used my Metro card, I got off on my stop, I went to the store, I picked out my lemons, I asked for them to be weighed, I found my parsley, and I went to that cash register and I paid for those items with my Russian debit card. And that was it.

I know this seems like a small victory, and it is. I have far bigger things I want to accomplish while I'm here, but this was a crucial and important first step. I'm proud. Today was a good day. I'm going to go squeeze those lemons into this recipe now. Have a good day, y'all.


  1. I've just discovered your blog, I don't have one myself but I have to say I'm hooked :) What an inspirational post - I love the idea of being 'huge'. I tend to worry a lot too but that's such a great way of being and I'm going to try it out. You've brightened my day.
    Love from an English girl! x

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words! I'm so glad to have you along, Charlotte!

  2. I am huge, what a wonderful affirmation. Overcoming fear is so huge and wonderful and really beautiful.

    1. Thank you, Rachel. Just repeat that to yourself every time you feel small. You're HUGE!

  3. Molly B. - Los AngelesMarch 11, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    My family is made up of very petite Polish women. When I was 9 I remember a complete stranger said to me "You're SO tiny!" A 'harmless' comment, but it stuck with me my whole life and really dented my confidence back then (because when you're 9, you are huge in your own mind). I too am overcoming that, though, and I am proud to say I just took Los Angeles public transpo for the FIRST TIME last week! It's not a super safe city, which made me worry, but when I found myself without a ride from work the other day I opted for the bus, and am happy to say I will be riding again today! I feel a little bit bigger already. At this rate we'll both be seven foot tall by Summer :)

    1. Awe, I'm so glad to know you're going through something so similar! I was kind of nervous posting this because I didn't want to come off... "wimpy" or something. But yes! You and I are HUGE!

  4. I love this post - love the writing, love the sentiment. I too find myself worried over doing seemingly easy things sometimes. You've gotten yourself a new follower :)

  5. When my brother and I were kids we were scared of the smallest things – I remember ordering a pizza for delivery was the most nerve-wracking thing either of us could do. We would toss coins and call each other babies for not wanting to be the one to make the call. Now as grown adults we STILL hate calling for take out.

    The next time I need to order some food I'm going to tell myself I'm huge and get on with it. Love this post.

    - Kathleen

  6. what a lovely blog topic. reminds me what the definition of courage really is....walking through the fear. That is were most of us get hung up and that is where alot of us stay. I especially like that you used your brain and some acting skills. I've always thought that should ALL be taught to act. You pretended you were huge and left the home, in a big way. In that, you carried your energy with you .....passing in and out of the crowds. No doubt on levels, many picked up on it. Acting as if is a very powerful tool to use, and like you said, it works! They've done studies on actors who play roles that they don't feel comfortable with, then measure their immune responses (amongst other things). What do you know, the immune responds VERY strongly, and most season actors would report they would become sick afterwards act., in response. I loved that You chose to you those same skills to create what YOU wanted to create! How very awesome. Sorry to go on, just got inspired. Keep it up and you will walk wherever you darn well please. :O

    1. I never really thought of it that way, but I'm so glad you've opened my mind up to it. I've always been very fascinated by method actors, but never thought of my life as something to be acted in. Thank you for your thoughtful words. : )

  7. Ooh I just saw this post linked from your latest one, and I really feel it now...I just arrived in Paris, France, to study abroad around a week ago, and in NYC I was the same as you - I love being by myself whereas here it fills me with a bit of apprehension. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it's really helpful for me to hear that other people go through the same things & get perspective on when it's "normal" to feel fear...like, yes, it's normal to be nervous before going grocery shopping in another language. Yes, it's normal to be nervous before the first day of class in French. It doesn't mean there's anything "wrong" with me. Anyways, love your blog! <3 Especially as a first-generation Russian-American whose parents really refuse to go back to Russia...a girl can dream.

    1. It's totally normal! I'm glad this post gave you some comfort!

      And I'm very interested in your parents story... feel free to email me!

  8. I'm living in Russia right now. I moved to Russia alone, but I still have times where I dread going to the store because I am afraid they are going to ask me something I don't know the answer to!


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