10/31/2013 09:34 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Am I Brave?

My friends and family keep using the word 'brave' to describe me and my 'mature' year in Italy, but it makes me uncomfortable somehow, since I don't feel brave (and what does that mean, anyhow? somehow that's too philosophical a question for today, when my feet hurt!).

I am NOT merely concentrating on the negative here (ok, sometimes I do, but my more natural leaning is to look on the ridiculously bright side of things....), but here is a list of things I am not brave enough to do (yet) -----

1. I bring a book with me to every meal, and read while waiting and eating, probably to avoid 1) making eye contact, 2) feeling vulnerable and 3) thinking about being alone. Im sure there are more reasons, but that's enough for now.....

2. I whine. I feel sorry for myself. I am tempted to go down the 'what should be...' road. I create my own 'safety zone' by acting predictably -

I plan (or am under the delusion that I do), so that, here in Venice for a few days, I have a hotel recommended by a friend (thanks, Jane) to serve as my base. I now know my way back here pretty well, even if not always via the shortest route.

I am learning my limits. I don't like the crowds, so a few minutes in St. Mark's Square was more than enough for me. I headed off in other directions, seeking some room to meander.

I also know I have to sit down periodically and breathe it all in, so I am 'following the churches'. I bought a 10 euro ticket that gives me access to all the churches around Venice that charge an entrance fee, so I am following the (very clear and large - hooray!) map and trying to visit as many as possible - they are pretty uniformly spectacular and overwhelming, and they also offer wonderful resting places.

I have to eat.

I have to shop (for others, but also, admittedly, for myself - I really did need some Italian tights today.....).

3. I am predictable. When confronted with a new situation (usually of my own choosing, like coming to Venice for a few days alone), my first question to myself is, 'what the hell am I doing here?'. I have to remember that these feelings and questions aren't new for me, even if the place is new. And, fortunately, I can usually get over it without beating myself up too badly - after all, to whine for too long in Venice just doesn't seem right!

4. This journey is complex for me, and the daily emotions are complex.

5. I'm scared of many things. At least until I know I can get 'home' to someplace comfortable and safe, I am terrified of putting myself in any kind of real or imagined danger. I feel safe wandering around Italy, and I stay in well-lit (relatively, considering the narrow alleyways) places full of people, but I am not good at maps or directions or even the language!

I'm also afraid of being in places that I think emphasize my alone-ness, so I am still missing a lot. I don't really want to go to the bars for an appertivo and conversation in the afternoon as everyone seems to do, because I don't do well there and don't feel comfortable. Since I am romantically-challenged, I don't go to some of the wonderful recommendations I have received from my non-solo friends - foolish, but true....

Oh, well - I am learning on a daily basis....

I can't wait, though, so I must do and see and enjoy and try, but it is hard! As noted above, my feet hurt today (so I had to figure out how to buy a ticket and use the vaporetto in the right direction!), so I guess my pragmatism sometimes works - after all, I have to solve it by myself. Is that brave? I'd say it is pragmatic!

In Italian, 'brava' (f) means 'good', in a 'clever' or 'skillful' way, I have been told. That's a whole other story.....