July 02 2020
“Destiny sets the outer frame of experience in life; freedom finds and fills its inner form.”
It took me two years to leave the country again.
But I lamented enough of my days to have a distinct memory of the emotional roller-coaster that I was riding during those two years. And it was all because I was stuck, but refused to take responsibility for the place I found myself in. Or at least to recognize that I had put myself in those chains and buried the key myself.
I’ve been stuck before. It happened right after college. I took a job 15-minutes down the street from where I had essentially spent my entire life growing up. It was the easy next step, and in its own way it made sense. I worked, I grew, I made money, I moved out of my parents house. It felt like I was checking all the boxes, but each day I had this dreaded feeling that I was wasting precious time. That my energy was going into checking those boxes instead of finding any joy in doing so.
I didn’t know I could change the path I was on. It seems obvious from the other side, but when you’re in it, it’s anything but. Human nature demands us to seek comfort and patterns. Our brains find solace in a schedule and following the status quo. But within those parameters, we also fail to grow. I was engulfed in my pattern and desperate for a change.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I put in my two weeks notice. I was both terrified, empowered, and stunned at how easy it all was. In my mind, I had built it up to be accompanied by an avalanche of drama and anxiety, but walking out of the office that day I felt impossibly light. I had done it- I had decided my next move for myself, and for the first time since the day I walked across the stage at graduation, my life felt like it had endless possibilities again.
But like all things that wake us up and shake us, there usually follows a quiet period. This isn’t unusual. If anything, it’s comforting. It gives us time for reflection, for anxiety to relax its ever-hungry head and sink back down into the soft blanket of norm. I feel even now that if I had kept going at the breakneck speed I was that I would have burned out.
I was happy in those months after my time spent abroad teaching in Spain. I caught up with friends, spent time with family, and regaled all of my stories and time spent traveling. I did a little more traveling and took time for self reflection. But then month four of being back home began, and I began to feel restless and anxious to find a job. Everyone around me was working full time. They were getting raises and promotions after 5 years at the office. Friends were getting married, having kids, and buying houses. I was sitting in my childhood room methodically applying for jobs, any and all, trying to maintain my sanity and remind myself of the lessons I had learned. I was both desperate and picky. I didn’t want to go back to my previous pattern, knowing deep down that if I did, it would all go down the same way it had two years ago.
So I held out. I turned down perfectly good jobs. Turned down perfectly good salaries. I took a job working as a remote virtual assistant. The hours were stupid, the pay laughable, and I was miserable. But I wanted a remote job. I wanted a way to continue to travel and support myself. I was playing a dangerous game of trying to meet the expectations of society and follow my own goals and desires.
And then it worked. I finally got what I had been looking for after a year of misery. A company brought me into their folds as fully remote. The pendulum swung up and I finally felt like I wasn’t failing or flailing. I traveled to Texas, New Orleans, Arizona, New York, Florida, Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. I visited friends. I took a long ass road trip. I ate good food and checked places off my ever growing bucket list.
Then, I stuffed myself back into my little box of self doubt.
Society is a hard beast to beat down. Did you know, most of our beliefs are instilled within us by our parents and our society? Beliefs like how much money we should make, where we should live, the clothes we should wear, the food we should eat, the activities we should do, and the list goes on and on. Our environment can both nurture us or poison us. For me, my environment was the latter. By the standards of those around me, I wasn’t cutting it, and I felt that pressure. But I didn’t want to give everything I had worked for up to bow to society. But I was scared. I knew what I wanted, but I was afraid to go for what I wanted. I was plagued by stupid questions like “What if I fail?” “What if it’s all for nothing?” “What if traveling doesn’t actually bring me fulfillment?” “What if I make no friends?”. You get it. You’ve probably asked yourself these questions, too. We usually do when we are about to embark on something new outside of our norms.
So there I was, all set to launch but terrified to click ‘Submit’ on that flight. And you know what happened? Months. Months happened. I was frustrated, jealous, mad at myself, but mostly, I was miserable. My inability to decide forced me to live a life entirely on pause. I wanted to go, and I would so I put zero effort into laying roots where I was. I spoke in endless waves about all the things I would do but never did them. I read books like “You are a Badass” and “Live, Love, Explore” and felt so inspired but always chickened out of making a decision.
Until, finally, I got the nudge I needed. I reconnected with an old childhood friend who had quit her job months prior. She had visited Colombia and fallen in love. “Come,” she said, and sent me all the details down to which AirBnB’s to stay in.
That night, I went online and bought the damn flight without a return ticket. And the next day, everything was different.
There is power in realizing you are in charge of your own destiny- your fate, your life, your day to day, where you land, what you do, who you spend time with, what you spend money on, how you make money. You are in charge. Not your parents, not your siblings, not your friends, not your boss, not your rich uncle three times removed, not society, not your best friend, and especially not your fear. Despite having already learned this lesson at least three times, it’s still one I have to reteach myself almost every other week. I get to choose. I get to decide. And God, if that isn’t the most empowering part of being human, I don’t know what is.
At the end of the day, only you know what makes the most sense for you. And it doesn’t even have to be a thing, it can just be a feeling. I’ve found that when I’m doing something right for me, I feel confident and happy. What a simple feeling- happiness. So if there is one thing that can sum up best the last five years of my life, it’s this: be relentless in the pursuit of what makes you happy.
And it’s okay to get stuck, so long as you get unstuck. It’s okay to question yourself, so long as those questions lead you to the path of your happiness. And it’s okay to ask for help if you don’t feel strong or brave enough to do it alone. Be like Wendy- believe in fairy dust and just jump out the damn window.
There are only two things that can happen.