I have often heard one of two things about myself. That I am brave, and that I am lucky.
Brave, because I have chosen to defy norms and conventions that society typically sets out for women. Lucky, because I have privilege to defy these norms.
(I think that “lucky” negates “brave,” no?)
The first one (“brave”) makes me feel rather sheepish because I don’t think of myself a brave person. A brave person, I think, is someone who is fully aware of obstacles, and is also fully aware of the fear and anxiety within. Yet they choose to do what they do, or what they cannot but do. I wonder if these brave individuals would ever call themselves “brave.” This willingness (or “I cannot but do this”) to face fear in a seemingly hopeless, choice-less manner is what I call “bravery.” You can ask: If there is no choice involved (“I cannot but do this”), why is this person brave? Exactly. They aren’t calling themselves brave; you are. They are simply doing their thing.
I don’t see myself as brave because I DO NOT see any obstacles, ergo, I feel no fear and/or anxiety. People say I am brave because I chose not to have children. (But I didn’t! I just didn’t choose to have children.) People call me brave for defying the societal notion of women as childbearing individuals. (But I didn’t defy anything! Not a single person tried enforcing any such conventions on me. Not my parents, or my parents-in-law, or any one else.) People call me brave for talking about my experiences with street harassment. (But I don’t feel harassed any more, and I have little to no trauma attached to those incidents any more.) People call me brave for speaking about the time I lost touch with myself, floundering in self-hate and misery for months. (But it’s precisely because I regained love and joy that I spoke about it.)
I remember reading about pioneer LGBTQ activists, and marveling at their courage and resilience. Then I wondered, is there even a choice? We do what we do because we are moved to do so in a way that is specific and unique to us. It isn’t a choice, it is utter choicelessness.
Often times I have felt so wedded (or welded) to the moment that I have felt choiceless too. I cannot but go forth in that direction… whether it leads me to my future husband, or a job that makes me feel utterly shitty about myself, or a relationship that is equal parts exciting and disempowering. We look at the outcome to decide: Was that a good/wise/smart move? Ahhh, we will never know. Or perhaps it simply doesn’t matter.