Six years ago, Tony and I signed up and completed our Open Water Scuba Diving certification. We’ve been diving all over the world since then. Hawaii, Thailand, Curacao. Everywhere. And every single time, I’ve had an immense amount of anxiety about jumping in that water. In all honesty, I’ve never really liked diving, but I always jumped in, hoping that someday I would come to enjoy it.
After we returned from Antarctica, we all got pretty sick. It wasn’t COVID and it wasn’t deadly, by any means, but we were all coughing and achy and tired. Some of us got medications, and others just fought through it. None the less, I wasn’t sure we would be able to do anything special for Tony’s birthday in mid-December.
In the week leading up to the day we had originally marked as the beginning of his birthday trip, I would wake up each morning and ask, “So, how are you feeling about getting on an airplane and going somewhere?” We would both evaluate how we felt, and until three days before we left, we both agreed that we weren’t ready to leave home. But on that Monday morning, as I peered out of the bedroom door, Tony said, “I’m feeling so much better! I think we should go.”
I pulled together some airline miles, threw an outfit or two in my bag, and we were on our way. The night before we left, I laid in bed thinking about the upcoming scuba diving we would do in Honduras. It was strange. I wasn’t anxious at all. I didn’t really have any feelings about it. When we had planned other diving trips, I always got nervous. Days, sometimes even weeks before, I would dread the moment we had to dive. I secretly hoped the weather would fail us and we wouldn’t be able to go.
I laid in bed wondering why I was suddenly so calm. I suppose I knew why, I just had to process it. I had been through so much anxiety and worry in the past year. I had stepped outside of my comfort zone in so many big and unexpected ways – more ways than I ever predicted – and each and every time it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. And so, I’ve started to stop worrying.
I worried about quitting my job. It turned out just fine, great actually, better than I could have ever imagined.
I worried about traveling to the other side of the world all by myself. It turned out fantastic and I’ve met people who have changed my life in ways I can’t begin to express. I’ll carry those encounters with me for life.
I worried about what a year of unemployment, lack of structure, immense travel would do to my health. Today, my mental and physical health is the best it’s been in my entire life. I am now the most confident I’ve ever been.
I have worried – day after day – for my entire life. And it’s given me nothing. In fact, it’s taken away so much. So, without even realizing it had happened, I’ve stopped worrying. In a strange way, I’m living in the present. Not in a ‘focus on drinking your cup of coffee’ way, but in a ‘this is where I’m at in life’ way.
So, when Tony asked me on the boat on our way to the dive site in Honduras, “Are you nervous?” I responded, without a doubt and with full confidence, “No, I’m actually not. I haven’t even worried about this dive trip once.” I took us both by surprise, and guess what? It was one of my favorite dives. I didn’t worry, I didn’t give that feeling – worry – the control it wanted, and I enjoyed, with robust calmness, the morning under the water, completely liberated from something that I never thought I’d be able to rid myself of.
We spent the rest of the weekend in Honduras exploring. We rented a car, drove from one end of the island we were staying on to the other, and then back again. We tried the local food, stopped at roadside cafes, played with sloths and monkeys. It was a relaxing weekend and a great place to finish my international travels for 2022.
I’ll spend the next week in Ohio with my family, and as I look back on the year, I realize how incredibly profound 2022 was. I started the year working as a corporate executive, leading a team of 250 people, conforming to what society thought I needed to be. I am still ridding myself of the ties that the world has put on me, holding me back from what I really can and should be, but for one of the first times in my life, I feel more authentic than I ever have. While it might not be completely perceivable to the outside world, the voices in my head are much calmer. There’s not an internal war going on with what I want to be fighting against what the rest of the world wants me to be.
I’ve started to put together a list of goals and accomplishments for 2023, and each item on my list is something dear and close to my heart. I am working on things that will make me a better person and allow me to live more authentically, forever, because at the end of our lives, if we haven’t been who we are meant to be, it can never happen. We are the only ones with our stories, and our views, and our challenges. We are the only ones who can walk – or wheel – this planet in the way that we are. We have a responsibility to do that in our own way – authentically, differently, positively. We have a responsibility to be everything that we can be, and it’s never too late to figure out who that person is!
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