I’ve felt stagnant for so long. For years, it’s been as if I’ve just been going through the motions which may be why I’m really feeling that I need some sort of growth spurt. That’s not to say that my life hasn’t shown any growth over the years, but it was really all about my career at the time. I enjoyed my last career even though I, for the most part, fell into it. It wasn’t my dream job but trying to get to the next level gave me a sense of a purpose. Then.
A few years ago, when I received the heads up that my department would be moving to another state, I was devastated because I loved my co-workers, but I was never frightened for my future. I figured I could just start my search for a new job within the company, but something always felt a little off with that. I found myself delaying that search. My life was up in the air. Yet, I somehow seemed completely okay with this. I didn’t recognize this person at all. Where was the constant worrier that I knew so well?
With a year to go, my life started to change directions. I was finally able to let go of a few toxic relationships which opened a whole new world to me. The thing is, I didn’t realize how toxic they were until they had been gone for a few months. My migraine headaches suddenly disappeared. The mouth guard I had to wear to bed because I clenched my teeth all night long, was no longer needed. I felt like the weight of the world had lifted off my shoulder. With the constant drama gone, I could finally think clearly.
I started to know me again.
But that wasn’t enough.
I knew I needed to force myself to grow as a person. It was time.
I’m almost 40 and I’m definitely not the same person I was 5 years ago. Heck, I’m not the same person I was 1 year ago. While I felt like I was fighting to find this new me, I didn’t know where to start.
I knew I would need to do something big to challenge myself. I’d have to, once again, face off against my anxiety. This is not an easy task for me or for anyone who has any sort of anxiety. All I knew was that I was sick of being held back because of worries that had never even happened. But, could I change those negative thoughts from something awful is going to happen to considering that maybe something great will happen instead?
My brother once told that when you go through horrible things it means that there is something wonderful waiting for you on the other side. In my heart, I do truly believe in that, but my head never listens to my heart. There was one of my challenges; for once, listen to my heart. It deserves it’s shot at life.
With that in my mind, I planned a trip to London for 10 days alone.
I’ve always been awe of those super cool women who travel the world on their own. You could even say, I was a little envious of them. They plan and execute these amazing adventures with no doubt that they are going to have the time of their lives with only themselves to rely on. That, my friends, is the definition of fearless. I yearned to be one of them.
I’ve said this before, but a lot of my fear comes from how I was raised. I grew up believing that there were limits to what I could do. I’m female which means I’ll never be as safe as a male. I truly believed, for longer than I care to admit, that the brave women who traveled alone were putting themselves in harm’s way; that they should be traveling with either a male companion or a group to keep them safe. Yet, I still wanted to be one of them. My heart wanted me to be an adventurer. I so badly wanted to just pack up and go. I wanted that freedom.
If you’ve read my previous posts you know that I found some of that freedom in New Mexico. I can’t describe the feeling of just being ok with only yourself. It’s the truest form of self-acceptance. Knowing that there is no one to lean on if you get lost or even just having to sit alone to have a dinner in a busy restaurant. You also get to do whatever you feel like that day; there’s no running plans past anyone for their approval.
Getting to New Mexico was hard for me, but I had reasons waiting for me there which made it just a tad easier to get on that plane. My newest trek though was truly a struggle.
Could I actually get on a plane and head to another country on my own? I mean, it was just London. I had been to London before. Twice, in fact. It was just always with other people.
And I really love London. I’m a big history geek when it comes to the U.K. and the Monarch. I was so excited knowing I could take as long as I wanted in each museum, tourist site, whatever in London.
So here I was all booked for London and just waiting for the panic to kick in.
It didn’t. At first.
What should have worried me was the nonchalant way I was dealing with everything. I’m a pretty Type A person. I like to plan. I like to know next steps. I need to be prepared for almost every situation especially when on my own.
But the way I was approaching this trip was to not focus on anything. I had my plane tickets. I had my hotel. But I had nothing else. I managed to book the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio tour and to get a pre-paid Oyster Card for the trains, but nothing else. I hadn’t even investigated getting from the airport to the hotel and back. I didn’t map out where the hotel was in terms of other places I wanted to visit. Hell, I barely thought of where I wanted to visit.
This should have tipped me off to the fact that something was wrong.
I was leaving on a Sunday night. By Sunday morning, I hadn’t even packed. I went to the barn that morning and hung out longer than I should have for someone who hadn’t even pulled out suitcase yet. When I returned home and started to throw my clothes on my bed to figure out what I needed, the dread kicked in.
I can’t even put into words what I was dreading. I had no reason why I suddenly didn’t want to go. I just knew I couldn’t do it. Jason mentioned repeatedly that my face was not the face of someone excited and happy to go on vacation. I called my mother crying twice. I sent my brother a text freaking out. He, of course, called and told me to take one step at a time which, by the way, I repeated to myself all the way to the hotel in London.
I made Jason bring me to airport 4 hours early, as opposed, to the 3 recommended for international flights. I just needed to get to the airport because, once there, I knew I had to force myself onto a plane. I really think a big reason I went through with this trip is because I told so many people I was going.
But another reason I cut through my fears and made it to London is because I needed to prove to myself I could do this. I’m perfectly capable of being in another country on my own. And I chose one that was easy; we speak the same language (I actually prefer their slang words), their money is easy to figure out, and the Underground is definitely easier to maneuver than the MBTA. Simple stuff here.
Except that for someone with anxiety, it’s not simple. And it’s definitely not simple for someone who was taught to worry about every little thing in life; someone who was always told that this just wasn’t how things were done.
For those who don’t know, I did get on the plane. Then I made it onto the Heathrow Express which brought me to Paddington Station. The next step was a taxi to my hotel. I relaxed at the Hotel. I had gotten myself to London!
Those 10 days in London proved to me I was so much stronger than I ever imagined. It may seem silly to other folks, but I really thought I was going to cancel this trip. I thought my anxiety would break me. But I crushed it with some help from my family (and by listening to the work of a performer I love – that could be a whole other blog post though). And I was all over that city. I conquered the train system, even to the point of giving directions to others. I never felt uncomfortable or awkward which are feelings I’m very well acquainted with, unfortunately. I had the most epic adventure ever, all the while, throwing up a specific finger to the person who taught me to live my life in fear.
One of my last few days there, I realized how truly happy I felt. I felt light and I was smiling the kind of smile that comes from within you. You know the kind of smile that lights up your whole face and makes your eyes twinkle? That was my smile!
It was then that I realized I had given myself a true gift.
I had not only taught myself to see past my anxiety, but I had taught myself to be truly on my own and to be happy about it. I allowed myself to find an inner happiness that no one else could have ever given to me.
This trip to London also helped to prepare me for things to come. I have a lot to take on in the next few months, such as, the idea of starting over in a new career. I decided to not go back to same old thing. It’s not what is in my heart. The more I thought about going back, the more my heart hurt. Yes, my brain tried to tell me it was really good money and I could be comfortable doing it, but I know I need to try something new. I need to follow my dreams. If I fail, at least I know I went down fighting.
In my world, going to London showed immense bravery. I’m holding onto that bravery to take the next steps in my life because it’s what I want. I recently heard a quote by former President Obama that said, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress”. That’s exactly what I intend to do; I will get where I need, no want, to be! I’ll surpass any anxiety that I may face because I’m on the path meant for me.
Here’s to me shattering the walls I had contained myself in for years. Here’s to trying new things. Here’s to not letting anxiety get the best of me. I’m on my way.
I hope you’ll all come along for the ride with me.