Courage.

It used to be that people who climbed mountains, went into space or saved lives were the bravest amongst us. It used to be that you had to do something extraordinary to be considered brave. Nowadays bravery is found in the small things, the small every day acts of normality. We ordinary people are the bravest amongst us as we dare to live. We dare to go the cinema or bar after work, we have the audacity to want to see a concert or grab some culture. The nerve of us, travelling by public transport and working in high risk buildings such as schools and offices.

Each night as we lay our heads down and run through the litany of near death experiences (otherwise known as daily routine) we sometimes forget how lucky we are to be alive. We cheated death once more today. We were not the victim of a terrorist, extremist plan and tomorrow we will rise and fight again.

We are buttoned into our small lives. We are forced to deal with problem after problem, very few of which we created ourselves.

We bear the brunt of bankers stealing money and not going to jail. We deal with cuts to housing benefits and child support, while politicians abuse the expenses system. We lose generations of people because governments go to war for oil. We watch those in power turn a blind eye to rapes or paedophile scandals all because the perpetrator is a ‘celebrity’. We work for less than a living wage and realize that we’ll have to work until we drop dead because there is no such thing as a decent pension any more.

We suffer all these things. But worse than that, it has become so routine that we don’t even realize we are suffering. In fact we are told we are not suffering. The media shoves a message down our throats, telling us how lucky we are and we swallow it. We swallow lies about refugees or immigrants who are simultaneously stealing our jobs and lounging around on benefits. We swallow hour after hour of bullshit paid for by a small group of people running the show.

I, for one, am tired of the bullshit. I am tired of feeling weary every time I look at a news bulletin or scroll down my Facebook feed. I am tired of people dying to serve some bigger twisted political game. I tired of being told that I can mourn for Paris but I can’t mourn for people in Beirut, or Iraq or Afghanistan. I am tired of hearing about children killed in acts of war, or little babies washed ashore because they needed to escape their war torn country. I am tired of being told which victim my heart can break for, because, to be honest, my heart breaks for them all. I am tired of people forgetting how human we all are, in spite of the monstrous acts we commit as a society.

I struggle for a way to process the grief and still be able to function. In this age of social media, the way we show solidarity with these events are hashtags and profile picture changes. I am not changing my Facebook profile picture to match the colours of the French flag, not because I don’t feel their pain but because I feel that I’d need to change it daily to keep up with the flow of horrific deaths that occur.

I struggle to remind myself to be brave, to step outside the door and live with some semblance of normality. To travel to far-flung places and not get eaten up by other people’s stereotypes and judgmental attitude.

I struggle to greet the world with a smile and an open heart, some days I fail and some days I don’t, but every day I try. I surround myself with a tribe of people who feel the same way. We come from different countries, religions, skin tones and political backgrounds but essentially we recognise the bravery in each other. We support each other in the small acts of courage, hoping that one day, we can stop being brave about small things and tackle the bigger things.

Killing people, has never, in the history of the world, solved a problem. It sends ripples of hate into the common consciousness and has a knock on effect of more killing, more bloodshed, more loss. These acts of hatred and cowardice will never be productive because I know I am not alone in my bravery. I see it in others. I see it on the news, I see people helping and opening their homes and hearts to people who have been hurt, regardless of their religious moniker or the shade of their skin. If you are one of these brave souls, then I am grateful for your presence. I recognise how tough your job is and I applaud you whole-heartedly for doing it. If you are not one of these souls, I hope you meet one some day soon.

Good luck to us all. We are each fighting a battle, we are doing the best we can. Let’s celebrate the small victories each day.

xoxo

Quick Valencian Updates (Weeks 1 – 5)

1) Survived the first 3 days at work, with one instance of almost going into the wrong toilets, one instance of forgetting my keys and getting locked out between buildings and one instance of the year 7’s thinking I was saying ‘sex’ when really I was saying ‘six’. Their 6 word poems almost went down a whole other rabbit hole.

2) Blew out the fuses in the house putting the washing machine on for the first time. That was a fun twenty minutes.

3) So far I’ve been here a week and not had to kill anything. Not a single creepy crawly has died at my hands. I see the message from their kin in Mexico reached them in time.

4) The boys who live in the apartment opposite me like to drink, smoke and party most of the night. They’re also fond of playing football or doing kickboxing shirtless in their living room…so there’s that.

5) I’ve stopped obsessing over what may be lurking in the wardrobes in the spare rooms. I figure if there’s a creeper in there he’ll be weak with hunger by now and I can probably kick his ass.

6) Must buy some form of weapon next time I’m at the shop…..just incasey

7) Learned a new Spanish phrase this week – “Que Mono!” which means “How cute!” My landlady kept saying it over and over again while looking at pictures of the Doherty babies.

8) One of my students asked me if I was staying with them forever. Jury is still out on if it was asked through desire or fear.

9) Got the metro for the first time. After having training in Mexico City, this was like a cakewalk…..except for the part where I stood for five minutes sticking my ticket in the wrong place & then cursing the doors for not opening.

10) It amuses me so much that my wifi name is ONOBEBO, a small reminder of the days of shit social media networks.

11) Was on stair duty this week and one of the little year 5’s came up and tugged me on the arm and said “I think you’re very beautiful’ smiled and then ran away. Totally cute!

12) We were talking about fear & bravery in year 7 class cos of our novel and I had told them about doing the Auckland Skywalk even though I was afraid. One of them said “But why would you do it if you’re scared?” and I gave them the “Fear is not the boss of me” speech and then he told me he thinks I’m the bravest grownup he knows.

13) Spent time being a grown up on Saturday. Did laundry, cleaned windows etc. My thoughts on window cleaning are now – suck it. No matter how much swiping, they will still be a smeary mess. I’m thinking of opening it as an art installation.

14) Discovered the joys of an old lady shopping bag. It isn’t as pretty as the one my friend has but oh the joy of being able to carry more than one bottle of water without hurting myself!

15) Discovering I’m not the worst in my Spanish class = utter joy.

16) We talked quite a bit about Nature vs Nuture this week with yr 8’s as it’s a theme in their novel. One of the scenarios they had to discuss was about being gay. Boy these kids have some disturbing views at such a young age.

17) Went to visit the beach yesterday. The sun shone, I ate paella and drank beers. I can see how life will be in the summer and I like it.

18) Started a new blog for all the travel related stuff – littlefeetbigcity.wordpress.com –  come visit there for other stuff.