The Dam is Demolished, posted to Conquering Creatively, January 2021
This feeling has been years in the making. Starting when I was a young adult and always wanting to explore but being told that it's too dangerous. It's too expensive. It's too much for you to handle. You're going to get lonely. You're going to hurt yourself. What if something happens to you? After hearing these words come with such force from so many people I love, they took on a power of their own. These words built a dam around my excitement. They held back my sense for adventure and convinced me that I was incapable of traveling, adventuring, living on my own. I need a partner, friends, some sort of safety net to catch me when I fall. I don't think we realize the significance of our words. These words said to me were never meant to break me down or to hinder me, rather they were said with love, compassion and protection. However through these words, they crippled me. They took over my identity creating a woman who lived out of fear, creating a woman I didn't want to be. They inhibited me from exploring, traveling, meeting new people, learning other cultures. These words became larger than life. So finally, it came to a point in my life that cracks started to form in the dam these words have created. The first large crack formed when I started my own business 5 years ago. Creatively drenched my thirsty soul and I started to recognize I was stronger and more capable than I realized. A few years later, another crack formed. I came out and left behind the lie I had lived for 27 years of my life. The dam was loosing power, and I was beginning to gain mine. The words were loosing their concrete heaviness that weighted me down for all these years. Then, a few months ago the final crack began to take form. This crack was unlike the others, it was the beginning of a huge shift in my life. A mental and emotional shift unlike the ones before. It was planned, it didn't happen rapidly. I took a chisel to the crack and slowly started to break apart the remaining concrete. I practiced mindfulness and stopped allowing other's words to fall so heavy on my shoulders. I decided it was time for my first solo journey. This would be the only way to truly release the flood waters and allow my soul to feel fully hydrated and healthy. And so I began. Months out I spoke this trip's existence into the universe. I knew if I spoke it, it would hold me accountable. I shared my excitement with friends and family. However as the months passed, and January approached (my scheduled kick off date), the self-doubt began to consume me. I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I was working out almost everyday trying to control the overwhelming anxiety that had taken my emotions hostage. I made lists upon lists - how to pack my car, what I needed to pack, how to pack, what to do if I forgot something. I researched and played out every scenario in my head. I followed blogs and forums. I asked questions to anyone who would listen. I asked friends for advice. I learned how to change a tire. I packed enough weapons that to the average person it looked like I was defending a small town from a zombie apocalypse. I planned my trip out. Then changed it and replanned it. Then changed it again. I made emergency contact cards and hid them in my car, luggage, purse and jackets. I packed food so if I got stranded in my car I could be well fed for days (honestly probably weeks). And then it was here. The week prior to leaving for my multi-month solo road trip across the country. I went to my parent's house for the holidays and began unpacking everything I had just packed so I could take photos and make lists where everything would be located. Night after night I stayed up until the early hours of the morning packing, repacking, unpacking, repacking, journaling, making lists. Panic ensued. I cried, a lot. I couldn't sleep. I felt like my chest was going to explode, I was in over my head. I started thinking "I don't have to do this, no one is forcing me to take this journey but myself, I have no one to impress". However, I knew if I didn't take this trip, and I allowed my anxiety to continue to control my life, I would never feel truly deeply satisfied. I would never trust myself. I would continue to live a fear based life and all those words would pile right back up and the dam would form again. So I pushed on. All clothing, toiletries and camera gear packed into 2 duffles and one backpack. I decided against taking suitcases. The day before my departure I was standing in the kitchen talking to my mother about all the terrible scenarios I've gone over in my head. Including but not limited to : Being stranded in my car in a snow storm and figuring out what area of my car would become the toilet (I decided the front passenger seat with a toilet made from trashbags and a storage container as the seat) A bear attacking my car in the middle of the night while I'm sleeping in the back of my car. First, hit the panic button. Then quickly and safely get to the front seat. Grab your spare glasses from the overhead compartment and go go go. Someone breaking into my car while I'm sleeping in it (I'm car camping part of this trip). If they come into the driver side, they would be able to drive off with me in the car. I came up with a safe & creative solution that I will share once implemented. Then my brother said something that took both me and my mother by surprise. He plainly said "What if nothing bad happens and you just have a really good time?". Immediately my mother and I burst into laughter because he was right. This was the one possibility I hadn't planned for. What if I just have a really good time? It didn't help with the immediate anxiety, but those words continued to circle back through my brain over the next few hours and days. What if I just have a really good time?