I’ve written about the concept before, but new developments prompt me to revisit the role of bravery in my journey. In the seven and one half years that I’ve had a damaged brain, people have regularly commented on how brave I am in dealing with everything. I didn’t understand the connotations of such a designation, but it was always stated with a positive, if not admirable, tone so I took it as a compliment. Bravery in recovery seems to be an essential element in those who suffer well. Some feel I have exhibited this characteristic but I haven’t always seen it this way.
Originally, I understood bravery to be “making the tough choice”. Knowing one option to be more difficult, painful, and scary than another, and choosing it anyway is brave. I didn’t think what I was doing was brave. I was doing what I could with the hand I was dealt. I was persevering, but that was more of a response than a choice.
Later, I could see that what I took for a common-sense response to my situation was indeed a choice. Against my general disposition, I could have grown bitter, embraced the role of entitled victim, and wallowed in self-pity. It wasn’t an appealing option, in my mind, but it was an option nonetheless, and that meant I had made a brave choice.
Even so, something prevented me from fully accepting this interpretation and application of bravery until recently. What bothered me was that I wasn’t responsible for the events leading to the decision I was ultimately left with. This wasn’t a response to my actions, I thought, this was a response to a drunk driver’s actions and until I initiated something despite the difficulty involved, the “brave” label felt a little misplaced.
Then I decided to become a bicycle mechanic.
Now, I haven’t ridden a bike any meaningful distance in over 15 years. I don’t own one now. I never considered the trade before, but after assessing the strengths and abilities of the remaining functioning parts of my brain, it seemed there was a good chance I’d be decent at it. I began down this new, random career path volunteering for roughly four hours a day at the Fort Langley Cyclery, which I found in a Google search. Working without pay meant that I reserved the right to work more or fewer hours, depending on my energy levels, and to take a day off when I wanted, with minimal notice. For that reason, exploring the possibility of becoming a bicycle mechanic was a brave decision, perhaps, but still a relatively safe one.
Six months of volunteering and I was interested enough to enroll in two weeks of training at the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs. This, I will admit, was a very brave thing for me to do. My struggles with anticipatory anxiety, misunderstanding instructions, travel, and new environments riddled this decision with red flags, but I went ahead anyway, got an “A” in the program, and a personal “A+” for bravery.
If you were to come into the shop today, I might ask you if there is anything you need help with or if you have any questions. And if you were to say you were just looking, I would reply, “Cool, if you need anything, let me know,” but inside I just might be thinking, “Phew, ‘just looking’ is good.” I do my best, and it’s getting slightly easier, but nearly every question I get in the shop puts me face-to-face with my cognitive deficits. Recalling information about each bike, presenting the relevant information in a logical way, asking for and recording information regarding a bike brought in for repair, diagnosing the problem to provide an estimate, is hard enough. Doing any number of these simultaneously is, with my brain, not for the faint of heart.
It’s for the brave.
And here I am, doing it 30 hours a week.
But seriously, if you have need a hand with anything, let me know.