I’d like to propose a toast. To starting new things, making mistakes, going on adventures (monumental and tiny), and to being scared – but doing it anyway. As I prepare for an international move on Sunday, I’m feeling so many things, but the prevailing emotion is eager anticipation for the future. And this is exciting for me because, for the first time in what feels like my whole life, a significant change is more exciting than it is intimidating. I don’t find myself agonizing over every possible detrimental outcome. I’m not letting myself be overwhelmed by my anxiety, which is how I felt through most of the large (and even small) choices and changes I’d made in my life as a teen and a young adult – going off to college, meeting new people, choosing a major, graduating, finding a job…all of these choices seemed, at the time, fraught with the ever-present voice of crippling anxiety that was saying: “What if this isn’t the right choice?”, “What if they don’t like you?”, “What if it turns out terribly?”, and the ever-helpful “Don’t screw this up”. It seemed that for each of these momentous and trivial life occasions, my anxiety tended to conquer my enthusiasm, at least for the first few weeks or moments. I can adjust, but I tend to have to really make an effort at non-anxious anticipation.
This is a huge milestone for me for many reasons. It is my biggest, most significant life development yet – I am leaving my newly found home in California to live (for at least a year, if not more) in the United Kingdom, in London. It is the first big life change that I’ve completed relatively independently, without the hands-on assistance of my parents (which is not to say that they haven’t been an enormous help in so many ways, especially emotionally, but y’know, I wasn’t actually packing boxes with my mom). I am physically leaving behind a great job, a fantastic relationship, and a great network of friends and colleagues for…the unknown. A future that I have dreamt about and am passionate about but that holds a lot of uncertainties. And it feels strange because I know from past experience that there should be alarm bells going off in my head and I should be feeling that constricting-throat, too-fast-heartbeat sense of panic but for the first time…I don’t.
Being curious as to what has changed, I started to introspect. I suppose I have more life experience, and therefore a little more perspective on how much this matters in the grand scheme of things. Having more experience and knowing myself better, I am more comfortable with my choice and knowing that it’s right for me – it’s what I want to do, it’s what I love (for reasons I will expand upon in a separate post). I have developed my relationship skills so that I feel that even though as I said earlier I am physically leaving behind wonderful people and connections, I am confident that those relationships, professional and personal, will still grow and flourish when several thousand miles apart. And reflecting on this made me realize a very obvious fact that evaded my brain logic when I was younger: it gets easier.
I say ‘when I was younger’ as if I am now some wise old woman, which is not what I mean. What I mean is that, even while navigating my relatively narrow and easy life choices, I have gotten so much better. Better at preparing, better at conceptualizing, better at anticipating with positivity. Your brain wears pathways in the ruts it knows, and I am so glad I have been able to consciously grow those ruts of anxiety and fretfulness into ones of joy and confidence. There are still, of course, little droplets of anxiety in there too, but they’re helpful – that healthy level of anxiety helps me fill out my visa paperwork on time and y’know, scrub down the bathroom. What I really mean to say is that I’m so glad I have practiced making what seem like momentous, high-stakes decisions enough to get to a place where they are not so hard and scary. The decisions made by my younger self needed to be arduous and nerve-racking so that I could get to a place where they’re…not-so-scary. I know myself better, I have a better idea of what I want and need, I’ve learned a little more about life and the world – though still not nearly enough to satisfy.
To all my brilliant friends and loved ones making hard choices and doing hard things: I love you. You and your big changes and choices inspire me to make leaps, be excited about the future I can build for myself, and say yes to the things that seem crazy. So far, I have learned that life is short, yes, so take the opportunities that will help you make it what you want it to be. But life is also long – you have time to remake yourself again and again and again. Be kind to yourself. Keep making hard choices, and they will feel better, more natural, more right. And, of course, I have learned that I have so much more to learn -and I can’t wait.