I'm not sure I'd class myself as a brave person. I've never been able to watch horror films. I tried once and ended up having to sleep on my brother's bedroom floor convinced mine was haunted. I certainly get cold sweats when approaching a roller coaster. My tummy gets familiar butterflies when facing down interviews or public speaking. But, somewhere along the way, my quiet bravery has led me to make decisions that have created the life I have now. And what a life...
As with every story, this one starts with my childhood. My parents are rather alternative. Or, less politely, a bit bonkers. It all started out normal enough. They both worked in teaching and we lived in a suburban town in England. Then, apparently overnight, they decided to up sticks and move their four children to the Isle of Arran where they proceeded to set up their own gift business. As if this wasn't startling enough, they also gave us the option to be home-educated. This was our choice and one I was hesitant at first. But when I noticed all the fun my brothers were having, I decided to give it a bash. Long story short, I flourished. My confidence bolstered, I went on to follow my dream career as a wildlife conservationist. Something I doubt I would have achieved if I'd stay in the school system. My first brave decision.
My career has been packed with putting myself in uncomfortable situations. I remember how sick I felt before starting all of my placements. Turning up in often remote locations with no idea what I was meant to be doing. Strangely, it was often the little things I agonised over. Going to live on a remote seabird island with absolutely no facilities was fine (read about this experience here). Learning to catch a rope to pull in the visitor boats, however, filled me with dread. Flashbacks to hilariously unsuccessful attempts at rounders would always run through my mind as the boat approached. I nailed it though. Every time.
When the opportunity came up to apply for my current role, I almost didn't go for it. 'Capercaillie Advisory Officer' seemed too grant for someone who had only had two short-term paid roles to date. I'd only been working as the 'Capercaillie Assistant' for a few months and been surprised to get that job. Looking back, I was punching. This is a managerial role. On paper, I was going to have to fight for this opportunity. And fight I did.
After much agonising with my patient mother on the end of the phone, I decided to put my application in. To my delight, I got an interview. Remember those butterflies I mentioned? These were horrific. Walking into an interview where I knew I was underqualified AND knew the people who were interviewing me was horrifically intimidating. This wasn't even the end of it. I had to go for round two when they couldn't decide between myself and another applicant. By this point, I could feel my steely resolve growing. I wanted this job. I wanted to keep this life I had built in the Highlands. I wanted to help save this birds. So, I got it. 3 years on, I still have no idea how I pulled this off.
My alternative childhood meant that I learnt to question everything. If I didn't have to go to school, what else could I change? My questions eventually led me to embrace veganism at the age of 24. An obsessive animal lover and passionate environmentalist, once I got a hint of the impact that the meat and dairy industry was having on things I cared so much about, I was left with no real choice but to be vegan. The problem was, I had no idea how to tell anyone. I knew that once this was out, there would be judgement. I'd been on the non-vegan side of the fence. I'd judged, thinking them to be all barmy extremists, to my shame. Once 'out', the judgement came. Whether in the form of direct questions or snide comments, it met me wherever I turned. It still does. But I'm stronger now. I clung to my values and now unveil them proudly. If people ask, they will get an honest answer. If they don't, then I will continue to eat my yummy plant food and be proud of myself. Undoubtedly one of the most important decisions I have ever made.
Oh, I didn't stop there. A couple of years later, I embraced minimalism. This year, I've temporarily, and perhaps permanently, given up alcohol, and you can read about why here. I've also never wanted children and, if I ever get married, it certainly wouldn't be a traditional ceremony.
In 2019, I made one of my best decisions yet. I decided to leave my comfortable 2-bed suburban house to live in a static caravan on a farm. A static caravan, may I add, that had no central heating and I was going to spend my winters there. Why? I wanted freedom. I had been tied up paying extortionate rent and worrying about the fact that I could barely cover my bills, let alone put any money aside. I needed a way out so decided to take this provided the perfect opportunity.
As my savings finally started to grow, I put my mind on what I wanted to do with it. It might seem unsurprising to you by now, but I decided to swerve the whole mortgage thing. I didn't need much and I certainly didn't want to beholden to mortgage payments that seemed to last an entire lifetime. So, for my biggest life decision yet, my partner and I have decided to build our own tiny home (read about this here). I know. WTF.
Perhaps I am brave. But I truly think anyone can be. I'm not a remarkable character from a story book. I've just learnt that if you throw yourself into a life that you really, really want, you will get it. The scary thing is, I've barely even started. Intrigued? Make sure to sign up as a member to my site below to follow along and see what an earth I get up to next...