I woke up around 2 am in a cold sweat. ‘How am I going to unravel this?’ I didn’t sleep the rest of the night thinking I had made the biggest mistake of my life. Just a few days earlier, I had put in my resignation. I had a one-way ticket booked to Sydney, Australia with plans to visit Bali, Indonesia and who the heck knows from there. I couldn’t do it. I had to call my boss and tell him I would stay. I could retract this, right?
I had spent weeks, months really, rehearsing how I would say three simple words – “I am resigning.” I had rehearsed it with a half a dozen people, wrote it out over and over, spent countless hours lying awake at night wondering if this is what I should do, all the while knowing deep down it was the right thing for me. I lost 20 pounds in the month leading up to actually putting in my notice, knowing it wasn’t real until I said those words. This was probably one of the most difficult decisions I had made in my entire life. Six days after I did, my Apple Watch alerted me that there was a trend with my resting heartrate. It was significantly lower. I can’t really explain why this was so hard for me, but I won’t ever forget the mornings leading up to it sitting on the couch where I could feel my heart stressing and aching, my body totally paralyzed, knowing that a huge chapter in my life was coming to an end. To say that there were all sorts of emotions leading up to this moment would be an understatement.
It took about three days after the announcement was made that the 250 people I was leading stopped reaching out. Just like that, this wonderful, enormous group of people had moved on. The phone calls stopped. The emails stopped. It was as though I got off at a train station and everyone else stayed on the fast-moving train. I was so happy for them; it’s how it should have been. Plus, it gave me some time to really let the idea of my new life settle in. To be clear, though, I’m not convinced it’s settled in. In fact, I know it’s not. I am scared out of my mind. I was 26 years old when I went into an operating room and let a team of physicians brutally remove my hips and replace them with titanium. I am more scared of this adventure than I was on that day. But on the other side of that ying and yang is liberation and excitement.
I had lived my entire life up to this moment dreaming, non-stop dreaming about taking a year of my life to experience the world. If Tony got a nickel for every time I would randomly tell him that we should quit our jobs and go travel, he’d be the wealthiest man any one of us knew.
I started a bucket list years ago, and on that ever-growing list are two things I will check off soon. First, spend a week alone in a foreign country. I’m not sure why Southeast Asia drew me in, on the other side of the planet, but I’ll check that off my list.
Second, do one thing every year that scares you to death. I’m not sure if it’s age or the sensationalism and fear that the media has created, but I’ve become a lot less adventurous and a lot more afraid. And I don’t like it. When I think about this adventure and where it will start – in Indonesia – what scares me the most is the risk of another human being harming me. I hate that as a disabled, female, solo traveler my biggest concern is another human being. And if we’re talking ying and yang, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is the many human beings who I know will step up and help me along the way. I didn’t expect this out of a solo trip, but I am facing a new dynamic of my disability. I thought I had faced it all, the entire disability, and figured it out in its entirety. But I’m learning that I still have more to discover. I’m learning that going out into the world alone – something I’ve not had to do before – is quite intimidating. I’m putting my life into strangers’ hands on the other side of this planet, hoping that when I need help up a step or into the bathroom or onto the train, that someone will appear. Talk about doing something that scares you to death – put your life into complete strangers’ hands and trust that they will take care of you.
Facing this disability head on and navigating its depths is a huge part of my fear and discovery, and I know that the months ahead will hold even more undiscovered realities for me. I am afraid of learning about myself and beyond ecstatic to get to know who I am today. Truly, I am so incredibly lucky to be doing this. Lucky to be able to fight the fear so that the regret doesn’t consume me someday.
So here I am, face-to-face with my dream. Face-to-face with everything I’ve been saving for, planning for, hoping for. Everything I’m totally afraid of and everything I can’t wait to encounter. To say this is the most surreal moment in my life is quite possibly the actual truth. For weeks, I have been full of emotions, letting every single one soak in as they would come to me randomly, trying my best to just feel them – on my workouts, in the shower, sleepless at 3 am. When my first flight took off from Atlanta this evening, and I looked out over the city, tears falling into my COVID mask, totally overcome with emotion, the peace I had been searching for started to settle in. I knew I was in the exact right place for me.
Whew, here we go. Dreams really can come true!