I haven’t always been a very brave person. In fact, for a majority of my life, doing things that pushed me outside of my comfort zone was something I loathed, not looked forward to. You could say that anxiety plagued me for a majority of life, from my relationships to my life decisions of who I was supposed to be.
Despite this, I still had high ambitions in college of what kind of adventures I wanted to pursue in my young life. I consider some of the various options: Studying abroad, backpacking through Europe, or even joining the Peace Corps. However, I kept making excuses of why not to do it. Relationships, career opportunities, more education, lack of money – they were all my reasons for not being bold and pursuing something that truly scared me.
At the beginning of 2012, I had a huge opportunity planted in my lap. After exiting another relationship that just wasn’t right, I decided that 2012 would be different. I themed 2012 the year of taking risks. This is not to be confused with making stupid decisions, but making decisions that challenged me and pushed my way beyond my comfort zone. While most of my life I followed things by the book, this year was going to be different. I was going to do something HUGE.
After a while, I decided that I would finally take the trip I had always dreamed of and visit India and other parts of South Asia. I would also look for a job outside of my comfortable community of West Michigan. I would demand a delayed start to any job I worked at – employment would not stop me from realizing my dreams of visiting Asia. It was the perfect plan: travel for a month and settle into a cushy job opportunity back in the states.
As in most of my life experiences should have taught me, there are no perfect plans. In fact, the perfect plan was about to be uprooted for a more radical decision. As I began to network for job opportunities, I received an email for an opportunity to work as a Country Coordinator in Nepal or India. Looking at the job description, I initially dismissed it; I had no experience working abroad and the pay was meager by western standards. Still, I couldn’t put the idea of my head. I had to apply, “just to see” what would happen.
Well, as you know now what turned into a test of my ability ended up in a new radical opportunity to live abroad. I quickly realized I had nothing in my life holding me back from moving across the world – no girlfriend, low-debt, plenty of savings, and a state of mind that was tuned-in for something new. However, I was still deathly afraid to do it.
It wasn’t an easy decision and I nearly backed out one point. However, a lecture by an admired nonprofit director was enough to put me over the edge. I tried to explain to her that traveling for a month was enough for me. She quickly dismantled my argument, poking holes in the fact that one month of travel would not fulfill my goal of really immersing myself in another country. She also rebuked my fears that I wouldn’t be able to come back to the US and find a job afterword. It was enough to put me over the edge: I was going to work in Nepal.
The closer I get to leaving, the more I have embraced the fear of leaving. I recently wrote this to a friend.
Some people ask me if I’m afraid to leave. Afraid? Of course I have some fears. But really, if you aren’t a little afraid there is something humanely wrong with you. I enjoy fear, it gives me a chance to approach a place that I don’t know and embrace it. It gives me a chance for growth and renewal. It gives me a chance to say yes I was afraid, but I did it regardless. Roosevelt knew what he was talking about in his famous quote. Fear is nothing to be afraid of. It is to be embraced like any other feeling, hope, sadness, loss, regret etc. It’s just a thing we feel that is similar to others. Take away the clinging, the longing for security, and fear is just excitement of what is next to come. So when you ask me if I’m afraid, I most certainly am, and I LOVE IT!
We can’t get rid of fear – we can only turn it into something more powerful. It has been a long road, but I am finally doing what I have always been meant to do. So I fulfill my goal 2012, and make the riskiest decision I have ever made. I couldn’t be happier.