On Tuesday, I attended a talk given by Polish Holocaust survivor Gary Gray, at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne.
His presentation was raw, honest and unbelievably emotional. It somehow felt as though the atrocities he described took place only yesterday. Each and every word seemed to take him back to this place of extreme hunger, overwhelming exhaustion and all-consuming sadness at the thought of his family being torn and decimated.
Not only did it put my privileged life in perspective, it also brought me to wonder…
Would I have survived?
Would I have helped?
Would I have shown courage?
Would I have accepted?
Would I have lost hope?
Would I have given up?
There is no way of knowing how one may have felt, what one may have done or who would have been who. Plus, what would be the point? As Gary Gray wisely expressed it at the end of his talk, all we can and should do now is everything in our power to prevent and eradicate racial hatred.
Sitting in the back row, I nodded slowly in agreement. Fact is, I couldn’t be more on-board with his heartfelt request.
Back home an hour or so later, reflecting on what I’d heard, two words came to my mind…
Two words that give us force
Two words that help us survive
Two words that enable us to ignite change
Often used to describe chivalrous acts, bravery is also a strength we can tap into in our daily lives.
That’s all well and good but… How is that relevant to being beyond borders? Well, here are a few tips and examples from my personal experience and that of other world travellers which show how crucial bravery can be when moving abroad.
1. Think big
When making an important life decision such as moving to a different country, be clear on why you are doing it. Think of your “why” as your shield of bravery. Write it down and refer to it in times of struggle or doubt.
Recently, I have found myself questioning the choice I made eight months ago when I quit everything and left behind my job, my career, and my life as I knew it. When these thoughts rush to my mind, I take a moment to stop and think back to my “why?” Truth is, I moved to Melbourne to follow my dreams, live with my partner, inspire others, and ultimately make a difference. That recollection alone is, more often than not, sufficient to keep me going.
2. Act small
Allow me to ask you this… What if bravery was acknowledging that life isn’t about going from A to B but is a roller-coaster of a journey from A to Z and that courage lies in articulating actions for each and every letter in between?
Every day, every week, every month, take small actions that will bring you one step closer to your goals and dreams. Split them down into manageable chunks and try to install a rhythm that will help you be consistent and avoid that terrifying feeling of being overwhelmed.
You should have seen my ‘moving out of China’ list on excel. It was gigantic but having precisely articulated each step down to its smallest component helped to make it manageable and a lot less stressful.
When things get tough, think about Gary Gray’s story and ask yourself… What would he do? If the answer is along the lines of “keep going” then go for it. Believe in yourself and stay strong. Curveballs are what life is meant to send us but bravery is a choice we can make when they hit us.
When I was working in Germany, my manager told me that I would have to stay in the same job for at least three years and that my goals and dreams were completely unrealistic. I made a mental note of not taking him too seriously and following my own path. So much has happened since then and I most definitely did not stay in that job for three years… So, persevere!
4. Ask for help
Being brave doesn’t mean suffering in silence, quite the opposite. One of the magical things about our world is that it hosts billions of us humans. Usually, that means there is someone else out there who has been in a similar situation, has faced similar challenges and might even have found a solution to a similar problem. Pride is often our worst enemy and so can fear be. If you have a question, ask. If in doubt, ask. If you need help, ask. We’re braver together.
This one, I have to admit, I am pretty terrible at… But when my bank card was swallowed by an ATM in Norway, I had no choice. Shy and embarrassed, I asked a couple of friends I had known for only three weeks whether I could borrow some money from them. To my surprise, they didn’t hesitate and said they were happy to help. Their trust brought us closer together faster.
5. Trust yourself
Are you in a situation that feels inexplicably wrong? Do you get an odd feeling in your heart or in your gut when you think about this relationship, this job or this or that option? Walk away. Being brave doesn’t mean “never giving up at all costs.” It means aligning what we do with who we are and who we want to be.
Choose honesty over popularity
Lead your life with an open mind and an open heart
Acknowledge that everyone around you has a story to tell
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Wow! Thank you! I constantly wanted to write on my blog something like that. Can I implement a part of your post to my blog?
Hi Linh, many thanks for your comment and feedback! Please feel free to message me through the ‘contact’ page to talk about a potential cooperation between our blogs. I look forward to hearing from you!