When running into the water is brave

I know I’ve mentioned this more than once, but I don’t like to be cold.

Like, at all.

There’s been a recent heat wave here in Southern California, and we’ve hit some temperatures that I thought I left behind in Texas. I’ve been used to upper 70s as the highs for months now, but last weekend gave us some of those lovely triple-digit temps that make you feel like you’re melting.

Not cool, bro. (I hope you appreciate what I did there.)

OK, fine. Let’s be brave and go into the Pacific.

My forever friend Maddie came to visit me over the weekend, and we did what any typical gals in their early 30s (or probably any age, really) would do on such a warm Saturday: We went to the beach. Now, I typically don’t like to get in the water in the Pacific Ocean—it’s rather chilly, after all. Maddie went ahead and tested it out, and even though the day was beyond warm, her reaction was enough to let me know that getting in the water was essentially the same as diving into the Arctic when you’re covered in ice cubes. But for some weird reason, I got up and walked toward the water, anyway. I figured putting my feet in there would cool me off enough.

Mads was still in there (she had obviously lost her mind for a moment), and she was urging me to come in farther. I got until the water was almost to my knees, and I yelled out that I was being brave. Then Maddie said something that I wasn’t expecting.

“That’s not what brave looks like—just run!”

I don’t really like to be challenged on my boldness, so I took off running straight into the water. I’ll admit that I didn’t go super far (mainly because I didn’t want to wash my hair—judge me on my shallowness and laziness all you want), but I did go much farther than I had originally planned. I didn’t like the feeling of being so cold, but I guess it did end up feeling a bit refreshing as I walked back to my towel.

There’s a whole world out there waiting for us to be brave.

The truth is that Maddie was right—being brave doesn’t look like standing in one place, shaking, and not moving forward at all. It’s not brave to pretend like you’re being brave. Instead, it’s brave to take chances and to run after the things that you need to without sitting there and thinking about all of the things that could go wrong or make you feel uncomfortable.

In fact, being brave is hardly ever about being comfortable.

Years ago, I had feelings for a guy who was my good friend. In my head, I thought about all of the things that I could say to him and imagined what it would be like finally to get it all out of my heart. But I never said a word to him. Not one single word. I stood there, just like I did on that shoreline, and I let myself think that I was right where I should be and that I shouldn’t go any farther out into the water. I can tell you right now that I wish that I had run toward him and told him about everything I was feeling for him. I wish that I had let myself be completely uncomfortable and had poured my heart out. I wish that I didn’t worry about the equivalent of washing my hair or feeling cold.

I wish that I had simply dove into the rushing cold waters without thinking with my head but, instead, with my heart.

I chased down a group of teenage girls for this pic. I knew at least one of them would be a talented photographer.

I can’t make those wishes come true now, but I can certainly change the way I take on the waters that scare me in the present and in the future. I can think more with my heart and not so much with the overly worried voices in my mind. I don’t want to fear those cold waves—I want to run toward them without hesitation. I want to know not only what it looks like to be brave but also what it feels like to be brave in every aspect of my life.

Yes, there are going to be plenty of times in our lives when we’re faced with the decision to stand exactly where we are and stay comfortable or not only step out of those comfort zones but take off running from them as fast as we can. I hope that I’m able to choose that second option—and I hope that you are, too.

We were never meant to stand on the shoreline and watch the world and all of its opportunities pass us by as the waves crash at our feet.

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