New Year’s Eve was my first opportunity to see a handful of old friends after returning to the states a couple weeks ago. Upon hearing that I’d just returned from South America, a friend of a friend said this- “I wish I could travel like you do. But I would be afraid.”
I laughed, thinking of the moment I booked on my one way ticket to Thailand over three years ago. I was on my way to an easily navigable country nicknamed “the land of smiles”, and yet because I’d never left the country, my excitement was barely noticeable over full scale terror that I was moving to another continent. Little things like layovers in Abu Dhabi and Taipei seemed as daunting as climbing Everest. Based on my level of irrational fear, you’d have thought international airports were full of wasps and vengeful ninjas and that the agency where I had to go get my expedited passport was tucked down a flaming side street in Hades instead of downtown Detroit (although the two do have similarities).
After having the “I wish I could travel” conversation more times than I can count, I’ve realized-
- There are a ton of non-traveling-people at home who think that I travel because I’m “fearless”. That is absurd, because travel is actually really easy if it’s what you want to do, and fearless? It’s not a real thing. We all have fear, it’s what we do with it that matters.
2.When it comes down to it, we usually aren’t having a conversation about travel at all- it’s the restrictions we impose on ourselves as a result of being unwilling to do things that feel uncertain or scary and then wondering why we don’t feel completely alive. Travel is just a symbol of the big ugly fear monster hiding under the bed that is keeping us from our dreams.
Historically, I have been afraid of a TON of things, potentially more than the average person. Luckily, I also think fear is totally boring, and as novelty seeker to the Nth degree, I dislike being bored way more than I dislike feeling afraid. As a result, I started to treat Fear like an acquaintance I run into at the coffee shop that I’m not crazy about. I’m polite, because Fear has on occasion had an interesting thing or two to say, but after a few minutes, I’m like “Heyyyyy homie, this has been great, but I have more interesting plans. No, sorry… you aren’t invited”. And then I go do something new and awesome.
….Except sometimes Fear is kind of tricky bastard, and he offers to buy my coffee, and it’s something really tasty like double caramel chocolate marshmallow pumpkin spice, so I say yes. Before I know it I’m sitting down with Fear, listening to him talk about something useless like Donald Trump’s hair or scented candle parties, and wonder where the hell my day went, because wasn’t I supposed to be off being a badass?
Which may be why up until that conversation I hadn’t set a single interesting New Year’s resolution, beyond a vague intention to write more often- I got caught up in drinking metaphoric lattes with Fear. Luckily the conversation around being afraid reminded me of why I started writing publicly in the first place (and why I probably need to get back to doing it regularly)- because despite having stacks of notebooks full of words and the dream of being a writer since I was a kid, I had a HUGE fear of being verbally vulnerable. And because I was afraid of the thing, and being afraid of the thing was limiting, I did the thing. Now I’ve got three years of blog posts, a couple thousand readers, published content, and this year I accidentally-on-purpose wrote a whole book, which is both exciting and terrifying. You guyssss… what am I going to wear when I meet Oprah?! 😉
I also realized in 2015 that despite my having nailed solo travel and verbal vulnerability, I still have a ton of ridiculous fears, and that I’d rather not spend 2016 tricking myself into hanging out with any of them. So I’ve decided that every day this year I’m going to openly acknowledge a fear, do the thing I’m afraid of, and instead of letting the fear buy me coffee and getting to comfortable hanging out with it, I’m going to let it go. Probably out loud, because that’s what writers do and otherwise my inner bum might decide, “Naw, I’m over that whole fear resolution. It’s a lot of work. I think I’m going to just get in shape and eat healthy for my resolution like everyone else.” 365 days, 365 fears….a whole year-o-fears.
And by the way… Fear numero uno? Sharing rough unfinished excerpts of my book with… humans. Fortunately, last night served as an opportunity to do just that- my friend Joe put on a writer’s salon so a group of us could kick off a new year of creativity. I read a thing, and I had the pleasure of listening to a group of other talented writers share their raw work- the universe is so good to us when we set intentions to expand, as is surrounding oneself with others committed to doing the same. Anyone else? Year-o-fears?
Fear #1 tackled, 364 left. 2016, lets go!
All love, Jen
***Dear readers- I’m in the process of moving. For 2015 words and written shenigans, visit my old blog AlmostOpenBook.com.