The other day, in the midst of heartbreak over the relocation of one of my favorite Nash-places (oh I do miss you, Well Coffeehouse!), I discovered Portland Brew on 12 South. You combine good coffee, a five-minute drive from my house, plenty of seating AND a parking lot, and I am a happy girl. I was there to meet up with the my favorite Nashville blogger, Annie Downs. The first time I met her, I kept awkwardly bringing up things I’d read on her blog. When I apologized, she said, “It’s fine. It means we’re already friends.” How awesome can you get?
Anyway, she sat down across from me and rattled off a list of things to talk about, including but not limited to Katie Heaney’s new book and writerly podcasts. My organized brain was noting things like “for future conversations with friends: make topic lists.” (Get ready for that, my people.) Then the conversation turned to Annie’s new book, Let’s All Be Brave. I’ve been waiting for this one, y’all. And a couple days later, the first two chapters were downloadable for free. (You can still get them here.)
So I read them one morning, curled under my Purdue blanket and eating breakfast. And I was crying only a few minutes in as Annie wrote about a friend of hers who made a big choice. She took a small step, quietly, but it was one that made big waves. I kept thinking I know those moments. Accepting my Vanderbilt offer was one of them. Writing my thesis has been a series of them. Quietly, over and over again, moving forward. Saying yes. Saying I’ll keep going even though I’m gonna cry the whole time.
Well. Let me just tell you—if you read some good words about bravery, there is a 100% chance (in my experience) that you will be challenged to do something brave within the week.
That’s why I’m going to France.
(I stopped typing for a while after writing that line. I looked away from the computer. But there it is.)
I’ll be there for three weeks taking a workshop with one of my favorite poets. In the French Alps. In a little town with a farmer’s market. And MONT BLANC. Like in the poem. REAL LIVE LITERATURE, folks.
If you know me, you know that I haven’t cared about “studying abroad” before. As all my friends scheduled semesters, summers, and spring breaks abroad, I was like “But I just want to live in my dorm” or “but I just want to hang out with my Mom on Saturdays.” Whatever, I just appreciate knowing a place well.
But, a couple months ago, I found this writing program in France. And I applied. Because two years of writing and tears (wow, the theme of this blog post is clearly Anne-is-a-crier) and stress and loneliness and travel and thesis-ing made me want something different. Something I’d never do otherwise. And this felt right—and it also felt safely settled in the realm of I-won’t-get-in-anyway and even-if-I-do-I-won’t-be-able-to-afford-it.
But, by some miracle, I did. And I can. Getting the email with this information made my heart beat faster and ruined my concentration for days. Seriously, it made my hands shake, because the first thing that came to mind was great, now I have to go to France. BUT.
Excuse the top-40(ish) reference, because far be it from me to think God speaks through Sara Bareilles songs, but something in me has been listening every time I hear that song. I want to see you be brave.
It feels like I’m being asked to grow up, to step out, to take a chance, to take advantage of where I am and what I’ve done. When I told my parents about France and how it was actually possible in a don’t-pass-this-up way, all I could say to convince them (even though we’re all scared) was that this just feels right.
I don’t have a plane ticket or a place to stay or a plan at all yet, really, but my response to those types of things lately has been but who cares, I’ll figure it out! and who even am I anymore? Well, the same. I’ve got a “to France!” list going on my phone notes. And I’m learning French in my spare time. I’m not throwing caution to the wind completely just yet.
But I’m listening. I’m listening to the loving God who’s been quietly whispering I want to see you be brave for months now. I’m listening as “…in France” gets added to the end of that sentence.
So I’m going to pack up a few carefully-selected books, some pretty dresses, lots of notebooks and pencils, cross my fingers and go. Because I want to see me be brave, too.