Before I left for Cape Town in 2005, I did this thing, I started second-guessing my trip and got scared to leave.
This was my first big trip in several years, Italy was in 2000, and I wasn’t going with my sister this time. My anxiety had roots in little things like my creature comforts (my couch) and routine (cuddling with my cat before sleep, going to the gym, seeing my friends).
There’s a picture still vivid in my memory of this time; I am sitting on my sage green sofa in our living room. My parents bought it for my sister and me, as well as this little garden patio home, which they thankfully unloaded shortly after the recession. Watching my TV that sat in this massive 1990’s style TV console, and thinking I really like this place. I really love my home, I’m comfortable here.
Slowly, the spiral starts…
- I won’t have a couch like the couch. It won’t be my couch. I’m living with people I don’t know, watching the shows they want to watch, or not watching anything at all (little did I know the popularity of ‘soapies,’ WWE, and re-runs of the Fresh Prince at the time).
- What food would I eat? I didn’t know what South African cuisine was, or if I would like it (I did).
- My autonomy will be nonexistent and I won’t have my car to get around.
- I don’t know anyone on this trip. What if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me?
- Also, for the first time since I worked in the deli in high school, I wouldn’t have an income.
- What if I come home and want to go back but can’t afford to go back and miss everyone (that happened)?
- I won’t have, what if, what then… Later, I learned from one of the trip leaders to call it “awfulizing,” and the term is so accurate I still use it today almost 20 years later.
Today, the more experienced version of me recognizes this pattern.
Logically, I know it’s not about my couch, bed, food, car, money, etc. I mean it’s a little money and a little those things, but it’s the fear of breaking out of my comfort zone. Now, this is the cool thing about getting older, I also recognize this feeling and the result when I push through. It’s scary to leave your comfort zone, to second guess big changes, but often, what is waiting on the other side is beautiful.
So back then, I used a trick to pull me out of anxiety spirals like this (amazing it took this long to be diagnosed with anxiety, honestly).
If this trip were canceled or rescheduled, would I be upset?
That’s it. Simple. If the answer is yes, I do the thing. If the answer is no, I give myself permission not to do the thing.
The answer for Cape town was undoubted “yes.” I wanted to go. Needed to go. Of course, when I got to Cape Town, those thoughts evaporated. I forgot I’d ever questioned leaving and I am still grateful I had the courage to push past my nerves and go.
Remembering this maze
So often in my life, I let fear dictate my decisions. It’s threatening to happen right now. Sitting at my desk at home, I am looking at all the projects I’d like to get done. I’m petting my dog and knowing I’ll miss him. All the while, talking to my family and planning to see them in a few days. All these things threaten to disappear on this trip or at least change to something I no longer recognize.
Cancel the tickets, ask for a refund, just stay home, and don’t go.
Thinking about leaving my job, and this incredible income, afraid I will never see it again. Afraid I can never buy anything luxurious again. Scared of what financial instability can do to my life and that’s no joke, Afraid afraid afraid.
Brianna, you can go back to work tomorrow if you want. Let this sabbatical idea go and get back to work.
No, I’m not willing. Let’s watching this ride! If you’re debating, just do it.
Brianna is a businessperson, writer, and teacher with a passion for social science and healthy living. All of my interests seem to intersect and come together on Indie. If you’d like to read more articles like this one, check out Indie. Thanks, as always, for reading!