Monday, November 2, 2015

The Bold, the Beautiful, and the Badass

Oh, friends. Oh, blog. Where do I even start?

Well, let me start back at the beginning of this trip. Earlier this year, the fantastic Dr. Maslen invited me to speak at the University of Glasgow, which was a huge honor, and turned out to be an amazing time. I'd asked to do more of a discussion than a lecture, and he kindly rounded up a conference room and as many willing bodies as would fit in it (and then some!) It was a terrific conversation, and a phenomenal evening.

As you would expect, given that he's one TARDIS away from world domination!
A few of the hardiest souls joined us for drinks afterward, and then I learned an amazing thing: of the students at our table, none were from Scotland – and most had only been at school for six weeks. We had students from China, from the US, from Italy and Greece, all packing up their lives – sometimes on less than a month's notice! – and moving to Glasgow for the promise of a first-rate education.

That was nearly two weeks ago, and I'm still thinking about it. Like, I just can't fathom what kind of guts it takes to do a thing like that.

Nor am I a very good photographer for the people who are actually doing it!
I guess I've been thinking a lot about bravery this year, and on this trip in particular. Since I left Dallas, I've done things that my soft, doughy soul couldn't have contemplated five years ago. I sang karaoke, badly and stone-cold sober. I went by myself to a country where I can't even read the alphabet, nevermind speak the language. I held a baby. I let myself get lost. I ate horse meat and beef tongue and things I didn't even think to ask about. By the time I go home, I'll have solo'd New York City public transit, shared a room and a bed with someone I haven't actually met, and probably racked up another couple of firsts along the way. And while I'm proud of all those things, I still don't feel even half as brazen as those students, some of whom are at least ten years my junior.

For the record, this is свински късчета по кметскн, or "pork nibblies in the mayoral style." I didn't meet the mayor, but let me tell you - she's got serious swagger.

While I was in Bulgaria, Evil Dan and I had a great discussion about this, because (as someone who likewise packed up his life and moved halfway around the world) he's also high on my list of unfathomable badasses. His theory is this: a badass is someone who's been through something worse than you have. When you're five and the worst thing you've done is shut your finger in a door, it's the kid who broke his arm falling out of a tree. When you're twenty and just moved away to college, it's the student who spent two years living on the street. When you're thirty and just had a baby, it's the parents who had preemie triplets and lost one.  It goes on forever, because there's always someone who's had it worse than you. 

And of course, we all have to deal with something sometime. Badness happens, and you just have to suck it up and handle it somehow. So what really stands out to me at the moment are the people who have actually volunteered for that up-suckery - who willingly put themselves out there for something that they knew was going to be tough (even if it's also worthwhile, because why else would you do it?)

Because you can't get to the land of immaculate patisserie by staying safely in your house, that's why!
Actually, I didn't intend to talk about book stuff here, but that's one reason I'm so glad that Pamela Skjolsvik asked me to edit her first book, Death Becomes Us (which I just finished last week!) She's a friend of mine from our writers' workshop, and she's a lot like me, bravery-wise: we both feel like sheltered little homebody hobbits for whom the wizard never came calling. The difference is, when she decided to hitch up her britches and do something about that, she really went the whole nine yards.
Hello, my name is Pamela Skjolsvik and you don't know me and neither does your son, but he agreed to talk with me the day before the State of Texas kills him, so um, can I take the 9 to 10 slot or would you prefer if I spoke to him later in the day?
And yes, she is exactly as awkwardly, sweatily badass as she sounds. You'll be hearing more about her before her book comes out on the 13th, but don't wait on me – check her out and then get you some.

I mention awkward and sweaty because I think that's what really holds us back, most of the time. There's the brain-stem fear, sure (what if you get lost and mugged and eaten?) – but past that is that insidious fear of failure, of humiliation, of looking foolish and feeling ashamed. It's SO hard to do the hard things, not just because they're hard, but because you know you'll do them badly (at least at first). That's probably killed more dreams than anything else: whatever you do, your first efforts are going to suck – and it takes real courage to be okay with sucking. Or as they say in Saga, "You have to be brave before you can be good."

So whether you're doing NaNoWriMo, moving to the other side of the planet, or just trying to work up the guts to say hello – go bravely, y'all. Goodness awaits.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Tex. You are a wonderful editor and friend. Can't wait to hug it out with you when you get back!

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