Pour One For The Homies: Confessions Of A “Good Kid”

I’ll admit it: Growing up, I was the goodie two shoes. I never really got in trouble, I didn’t experiment with illegal things or have dangerous friends. I got straight A’s and never missed a day of school.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess you could say I was a low-key, kind of “boring” kid. I was my high school class speaker, voted “most eligible bachelorette” in college (remind me why this was a thing, SPU?), and never touched alcohol until I was 21 (short-lived, since I stopped drinking at 22).

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the life of a traveler is definitely not a safe one. While on the road I’ve had some pretty scary, sketchy and downright dangerous stuff happen to me. But usually this blog only gets the fluff and smiles of the good days.

So, what turned this girl from yawn to yeeeeessssss? Here’s how it happened.

It all started back in 2013 when I met a boy. Yep. I know.
This boy was very very important to me, but ended up ripping my heart out and basically making me wish I was never alive…but that’s another story.

Anyway, after that experience I realized how much of my life had been about pleasing other people. This was also right about the time I had shaved hair, started getting tattoos and pierced my septum. Was I cool, yet?

But that wasn’t enough. I had wanted to travel to Ireland since I was a little kid. My grandpa is Irish, English and Scottish and I’d grown up associating a good story and a great (albeit corny) laugh with my Irish heritage.

I had basically all but planned the entire trip out in my mind. And I was ready to go. But remember that boy I mentioned earlier? Yeah, you guessed it—he talked me out of going. Not only talked me out, but flat out told me that if I did go he would break up with me. Nice guy, right?

So, naturally, the first thing I did after the *KABOOM* ending of that relationship was to buy a plane ticket. By myself. To Ireland and the UK.

Since that first trip I’ve learned a lot about myself, but one of the biggest things is how much fear held me back from doing a lot of things in my pre-23 year old life. To be clear, there were some benefits to that. I probably wouldn’t have graduated from college without the fear that my mom would kill me if I didn’t (Haha. It’s a joke, mom.).

But when it came down to it, what I wanted for my life, and who I wanted to be, was so dictated by the surrounding fear of not being accepted by those around me that I didn’t even realize I could make independent decisions to make myself happy. It sounds kind of sad, now, but I don’t think I ever considered the fact that I should/could pursue the things that made me happy—even if they didn’t make sense to other people.

To those of you who might be nodding your heads, this one’s for you:

I’ve learned so much more (and grown so much more) by failing royally. Like I mean big-time fails. I mean moving to another country and hating almost every minute of an experience most people dream about, F-A-I-L.

But you know, I smile when I think back on my failures because they’re a reflection of just how far I’ve pushed myself to grow.

What is fear holding you back from?

Maybe it’s travel related (if it is, call me) or maybe it’s just taking a risk to apply to that job, or move to a new place. Do it. Not because you’re going to have a 100% success rate, but because even if you fail you still gain so much. Believe me.

If your heart is pulling (or in my case, dragging) you a certain direction in life, follow it. And those people who threaten to leave or abandon or not support you? Get rid of them. I’m serious. Shake them off, and find your people and a community to support you. Even if it’s an online community or Facebook group or whatever, there are people out there who will support you. I will support you.

So be your crazy self. Take risks, and live your life as fully and completely you. Not because everyone else is taken, but because you are f*cking fabulous (sorry, mom), and why the hell would you want to be anyone else?

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Fear Not, For I Am With You

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The tattoo I have on my left arm I got done months ago. It says “I will face my fear. Only I will remain” in French.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 

― Frank HerbertDune

Before I moved to France, the number one thing people said to me was, “Wow, you’re so brave.” I’ve always thought this was funny, because I would never use that word to describe myself. I was scared as shit to move to France. And even now that I’m living here, I’m terrified of so many things. I’m scared of going to the post office, of buying bread and not knowing how to respond in perfect French when the lady asks me how I’m doing. I’m scared of getting lost when I go on walks, not making any friends, or being in a situation where no one can understand my need for help because they don’t speak English. 

These are real fears. But they are also all futuristic and somewhat ridiculous (even though I’m convinced the lady at the bakery is out to get me). Each one of them has the potential of stopping me from thriving while I live in France. They are barriers to happiness. But they are also motivators to making this experience something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. See, each time one of these fears surfaces, I remember what I have overcome to get here. 

A year ago I was afraid to breathe. I was unsure who I was, what I was supposed to do with my life, and why it didn’t seem like anything was worth living for, anymore. My heart was broken, two members of my family had been diagnosed with breast cancer within months of each other, and I was floundering in my job and relationships.

There’s a reason they say fear is “crippling.” It doesn’t kill you. It leaves you to fight yourself, daily, in some kind of one sided torture. You feel trapped, isolated and like there’s no one else in the world that could possibly understand. But what’s worse, is that you try to talk yourself out of it. You try again and again to fix it, ignore it, numb it until something – anything takes away the pain of admitting that you need help.

But, we weren’t made to fix ourselves. The broken hearts, the self depreciation, the voices in our heads that tell us it’s impossible to get past this, “There is no future, so why even look forward?”

Instead of moving forward, fear holds us back. It can do more damage to us than any other person ever will. Fear of being alone, of being unwanted or of being unable to achieve the standards we’ve set for ourselves. It paralyzes us, sets us on paths to destroy ourselves through whatever means we use to get rid of it. 

I know this, because a year ago this was me. I did everything to try to subdue, freeze, isolate, cover up, conceal and dilute the fear that I felt. Fear that stretched back to childhood. Fears of inadequacy, fear of being unloved – or unworthy of being loved. Fears of never achieving anything. Of the people who had told my mom that for whatever reason (race, gender, socioeconomic standing) I would never amount to anything, being right.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Last year I took a two week long backpacking trip around the UK.

Two weeks is no great pilgrimage. There wasn’t a great cathedral that I would find waiting for me at the end of my journey, and there weren’t any saints to welcome me. But before I left, I decided to take these two weeks to do something crazy – to live in the moment.

You see, fear is of the future, not the present. Danger is in the present, and is very real, but fear? Fear is a manmade, demon of a reality, that will probably never even happen.  When we stop worshiping the future, we drain fear of its power. 

See, as a Christian, I serve a God of the present, who tells me not to worry about the future, because he’s got it covered (Matt 6:34). Which is awesome, because that gives me so much more creativity, ambition and energy to sow into the present – seeds which will grow and produce a more beautiful future, in the end. 

I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking about fear a lot, and remembering what it took for me to overcome my own demons. I tried and I tried and I tried to fix myself, but it wasn’t until I let go and let God start working that I saw any kind of healing happen. Only after I realized it was ok to be broken, could I begin the process of being mended. 

Overcoming fear is as simple and as terrifyingly difficult as acknowledging that it exists. Until you do that, there really is no way of overcoming it. We all have our own unique terrors, each one changing as we grow and evolve as people. But today I’m reminded that where there is brokenness, there are also opportunities for a healing so intensely refreshing, and in some ways, simultaneously painful, that it can do nothing but refine us into a version of ourselves that would otherwise be inaccessible. 

So here’s to taking life one moment at a time, and allowing ourselves to grow and transform into the people we are meant to be. It doesn’t happen over night, it’s a daily chore. But it’s in those little moments, when we decide to conquer the now, that we find the strength, over time, to claim the victory we have won. 

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The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis