2014 started out in a very promising manner. By mid-April, I would have said I had almost everything I’d always wanted – A great job where I was appreciated, challenged, earning a decent living and enjoying fantastic colleagues and a boss I admired and respected. I was in a committed relationship that seemed to have real, long-term potential. I was singing regularly with my band and learning how to climb in a year-long mountaineering course that I’d started in January. I was a new homeowner since the prior Thanksgiving and was loving my townhouse and that sense of ownership. I had great friends and was loving life.
All of that changed abruptly in May . Life has been a series of tough emotional challenges ever since. My job and relationship ended. I travelled to South America for a few months to clear my head. I caught Dengue Fever and was sick for the better part of a month. I met someone in Colombia and foolishly started a relationship that ended in the kind of painful and explosive drama that Lifetime movies are written about. I started a new job at a small firm in October, only to be let go on New Year’s Eve (for unclear reasons, oddly enough – especially to my employer), suffering through three months of one of the most isolating, self-esteem crushing office cultures of my career. My father’s twin brother suffered a stroke and died in a prolonged and agonizing way on Christmas Eve. My adopted “family” in Seattle, The Zimmermans, moved to Florida and I was left to spend the holidays without them.
Yeah. December was particularly rough.
And thus, I found myself with long, empty days of job searching nothingness in January of 2015. A kind of numbness set in. I tried very hard to establish a sort of routine to keep me sane. I would try to go to the gym every morning, and then follow it with breakfast and a few hours’ of job searching. I would then try to make sure I had at least one social contact per day with a friend, or perhaps a date (online dating and job searching are eerily similar in many respects, and it made sense to apply my skill set to both pursuits simultaneously,) or at the very least, go to a coffee shop and work if I had no other social engagements. Days when I didn’t want to leave the house ended up just compounding the sense of isolation, failure, and ambiguity that my life had become.
In fact, ambiguity seems to be the order of the day at the moment and I’m trying to learn how to embrace it instead of allow it to choke me in it’s paralyzing vice. Why events have played out the way they have is a source of daily mental vexation. Wondering and fearing what might lie ahead has had the effect of pulling me closer to those little things that feel safe and comfortable.
Like my couch, for example. My couch is a five foot square space of safety. I am drawn to it and it has become increasingly difficult to leave it. My gym, my car, my local Trader Joe’s – these have all become my emotional crutch that help me cope with the overwhelming amount of change that I’ve experienced these past nine months.
Which is why, after two months’ of job searching, I feel it is time to remove the safety wheels. Rip off the band aid. Stir things up again. I’m becoming too comfortable in my own space – its time to go travel again. That, along with my belief that it’s going to be too difficult to secure employment in my industry over tax season is the reason I started thinking about going to Africa.
However, my emotional ties to routine, to my couch, to not having things “change” again – have also resulted in horrendous indecision when it comes to trying to make plans for this trip. Since mid-January, I’ve probably booked and cancelled 4 sets of flights. I was all set to take this 3 1/2 month odyssey on February 16, only to receive a call about a very promising job interview on the 14th, and I cancelled again.
The truth is, I have had this trip to Africa in the back of my mind for the better part of the last decade. My plan had been to take a sabbatical in my 40th year (fast approaching) and travel from Cairo to Cape Town. My logic with my employer a few years’ ago, was that I could take maternity leave, but just not have the baby:-) They found that amusing, but also workable. Life is so funny. I would never have imagined in my early twenties that I wouldn’t be married and with a family of my own by the time I was 40. The “when will it happen” has morphed into “IF it will happen”. This trip was going to be my consolation prize.
If I couldn’t have what I want most in life, I’ll take travel.
And so, finding myself yet again glued to my couch, I made the decision last weekend, to make my dream a reality, and put my faith in my long held desire to go to Africa . Despite the intense fear I felt, I had to believe that I’d be glad I made the choice once I got on the plane. I thank my friend Jerri who literally made me stay with her through midnight on Saturday so that I wouldn’t go home and cancel my flights again.
I got on that plane on Thursday and now find myself writing this in a bar at a campsite in Arusha, Tanzania. I am horrendously jet-lagged and still haven’t adjusted my head space to where I am and what I am doing here.
But it’s too late to turn back.
It’s time to turn inwards. To let go of fear. To embrace change. To embrace ambiguity. Focus on my most important relationship. The one I have with myself.
I hope you will enjoy the journey with me.
(Incidentally, my laptop decided that after working ok for four years, it was going to stop functioning on my first day of this trip. I am going to be forced to borrow computers and/or use internet cafes, so the posts will be limited and might not contain photos – sorry!)