I found myself dancing naked in my hotel room a week ago in the Maldives. Not just a little sway back and forth in my chair, a full on, hands in the air dance.
I knew my life had derailed from where I needed it to be, but I had no idea how off course I really was. I look back on where I was just one month ago and it amazes me that I was able to continue forward each day. I had become blind to a burning desire inside of me. I had learned to silence it and convinced myself that my dreams were too silly, too big, to fulfill. My days were monotonous and filled with so many unhealthy things. I was drinking more days than not and attempting to satiate a missing desire with pints of ice cream and blocks of cheese. Most nights, before bed, I would pop a heartburn pill so I could sleep through the night without acid bubbling up into my windpipe. I spent my evenings watching re-runs of the same shows for the millionth time, telling myself that I had everything. And I did. I had it all. I had everything society told me I needed. But it wasn’t what I needed.
It’s been one month. I haven’t taken a single heartburn pill and it’s been weeks since I’ve had any alcohol. I enjoy my meals, each and every one, and when I am full, I stop. I haven’t had a scale to tell me if I ate too much or too little the night before. My jeans still fit and I feel nourished in a way I’ve never experienced before. When I go to sleep at night, I don’t wake up. I rest my head on the nearest pillow, I dream, and I wake up fully refreshed for the day.
I spend most of my days outside, whether it’s by a beach or roaming the streets of a city. I’ve adjusted to the extreme heat I’ve experienced in most places and have learned to embrace it. The sunshine seeps into my soul each day, and I know it’s something that was missing from my life. I enjoy my coffee every morning with leisure and gratitude. I don’t rush through it. I taste it and I think about my day ahead, with excitement and peace.
I’ve learned to let go of control. I’ve given strangers the ability to help me and guide me, often telling me what they think is best. And I’ve not argued. Instead, I’ve learned to appreciate their thoughtfulness and am grateful for the many, many people who have extended a helping hand. Relinquishing the control I’ve been hanging onto for years has released all anxiety. I don’t get upset anymore and I don’t challenge most people. Instead, I’ve handed over my trust to them – complete strangers – and have let them guide me. I’ve learned that not understanding what most people are saying can be quite liberating. There is absolutely nothing I can contribute – good or bad – when I simply don’t speak the language. Letting go has been so calming for me.
The fear I had when embarking on this trip was something so intense that I still cannot believe I was able to overcome it. It was truly debilitating, and there were mornings where I had to hold myself back from throwing up in the bathroom. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wasn’t sure I could go to the other side of the planet as a disabled woman and experience what I needed to. A few days ago, I laid on my bed in Kuwait and tears just fell from my eyes and down my cheeks. I still cannot believe I am doing this. I am so proud of myself. I’ve told myself that I want to learn to feel, to appreciate all of the emotions I encounter in my life. I want to stop putting on a poker face and restraining what my humanity is trying to express. I have felt more in the past month than I can remember feeling in my entire collective life. I’ve let each feeling come out however it needs to, and the release I’ve gotten from experiencing each of them has been redemptive.
I will meet Tony tomorrow after a month of solo travel. It’s an incredibly bitter sweet moment for me. This past month has been one of the best in my life. I’ve spent much of it on a 12-hour time difference from my loved ones, in places where completely fluent English speakers are hard to come by. I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with myself and only myself. In that time, I’ve learned to trust myself. I’ve learned to love myself. I have a new best friend and it’s me. I’m not tired of me and I enjoy spending time with me.
I’ve come to love my body, this vessel that might seem damaged to the average eye but has taken me far and wide, and kept me safe along the way. We are friends now too.
When I started this journey, I had so many things to discover about myself, and I’m learning more and more each day. I told myself that if I got nothing else out of this, I wanted to come out of it a better person. I’m just getting started but I already know I am a better person. I am a better version of myself. I am so excited to bring this happier, better me to all of the relationships in my life. I’m excited to be present for those relationships, and to give them the attention they deserve.
I have no idea what my future holds. It’s a strange thing, really. I obsessed over every aspect of my life path before this, and now, I don’t even think about next week. I am living every single day for what it is and nothing more. I’m living in the moment and it’s quite peaceful here.
In the weeks leading up to my departure, so many people gave me boundless words of wisdom. “You won’t regret this.” “You will come back a stronger person.” “I’m so proud of you for following your dream.” And my absolute favorite, “I would do the same thing if I was ten years younger.” I am telling you right now that you are never too old. You will never have enough money. It will never be the right time. Life will never take a pause so you can figure yourself out. You owe it to you and to your loved ones to live your absolute best life. You get one chance. One chance. Whatever your dream, however big or small, you have a responsibility to deliver it to the world.
Oh, and for any of you who think I’m going to run out of adrenaline soon, I think you are wrong. My heart is telling me to keep going, and for the first time in my life, I’m going to listen. I hope you can find the strength and the courage to do the same, to listen to your heart, to be the best version of you that is often buried in the pressures of our societal expectations. Be you!
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