We stood there facing the rising sun peeking behind the gorgeous spires and turrets of the castle, watching the reds and oranges bleed through the sky and across our faces. I looked at my companions. New friends I’d made only a week ago and here we were, sharing this impossible moment of beauty and serenity.
How did I get here? I didn’t really care right then. All I knew was in the early hours of a chilly morning in April, I was present and alive like I’d never been before.
I arrived in Prague with no real idea of what I wanted to achieve, other than to live out my dream of being a world traveler with no grand scheme to dictate my future. I’d been under the thumb of a master plan for years that left me unsatisfied, insecure, and unhealthy. This was an opportunity to shake free of the expectations I felt I was drowning in since graduating from college.
What I didn’t expect when I stepped off the plane was the mind-numbing fear. This wasn’t my first go-around in the park. I’ve traveled before and some of that was solo, so I knew this wasn’t the usual nerves that accompany the exhilaration of being somewhere new further amplified by being alone. The fear that gripped me on that day was beyond what I’d expected. It was crippling.
I stayed in my new apartment, completely alone and utterly terrified of leaving. I needed food. Hell, I needed to see people and make sure this wasn’t all a dream; that I’d in fact, quit my job and moved away from home on a whim with no real idea of when, or if, I’d return. But I was too damn scared to take that step forward and fully embrace my decision.
In the end, my hunger won and I took my first tentative steps out of my apartment and into my new reality. This was home now. I’d make it work because I didn’t have a choice. This was what I wanted and I just had to deal.
What’s wrong with you?? You’ve been talking about this move for months and now you’re going to wimp out? Snap out of it!
I fought with myself in the beginning and I fought hard.
Then there was the bridge. The colors of sunrise thrown across the facade of the castle in the distance. The laughs and giddiness from new friends. The exhaustion after a night getting lost through the streets of a new city. And the tourist fumbling with a digital camera. There was magic.
I ran away to Europe thinking that it would be a panacea to my troubles. That somehow moving four thousand miles away would erase my conflicting emotions about my weight, my career, and my relationships.
The time I spent abroad was like a fantasy bubble filled with lazy days and long conversations with new friends that were fast becoming good friends. As time went on, however, I felt the gloss begin to fade and the pressure on the bubble build.
I came home when the dream didn’t exactly play out the way I’d hoped. My fall from grace was hard and it was painful. I was heavier than when I left. I came home more confused about my future than ever before. And I felt regret.
Most people seem intrigued when I mention my trip and on some level, it makes perfect sense. Quitting your job and moving to another country with no real plan seems daring and exciting. But inwardly, I cringe. I don’t give myself credit for that decision and find that I criticize the choice more than I celebrate the experience.
I marked it as another failure in a lifetime of failures. A sad attempt to run away from my problems instead of dealing with them head-on.
And I continue to run, even years later. When I feel my insecurities, doubts and fears well up inside, my first instinct is still to take myself away from those thoughts at any cost.
I retreat in my mind and in my spirit. I hold myself back from my friends. I turn my gaze downward and ignore my surroundings as I build up those walls yet again. I run away in my own room as much as I did when I got on planes and trains years ago. I’ve become almost efficient at the process.
I feel myself running away again today. I’m on a collision course between my past, present, and future as I face emotional and mental challenges coming from everywhere and I feel my control slipping.
I’m tempted to push everything and everyone away, as I’ve always done. I’m tempted to relive my hurtful past and get lost in the cycle that I’d fought so hard to break. I’m tempted to get back on a scale and scrutinize the number that pops up, after spending months blissfully ignorant of my weight. I’m tempted to ignore all of the career opportunities that I’ve fostered this year and to just forget about building a future around an issue I’m passionate about because it’s harder to believe that I can do it than to have faith in myself.
I’m so tempted.
While wandering aimlessly on my lunch break, I turned the corner and I remembered this blog. I remembered my glow last week when I finally accomplished my chin ups at the gym. I remembered the profound happiness I felt for my friend as we celebrated her bridal shower this past weekend. I remembered where this all started and who I was before.
I remembered that sunrise and that beautiful day in Prague when I felt that anything was possible.
None of that would have been possible if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.
I came back here to write after taking a major step away from this blog and the world I created a year ago. In my impulse to run, I realized that what I needed more than anything was to be reminded of all the good I’ve done.
For all of my negative self-talk and the constant over-analysis of my decisions, I never stopped to acknowledge something critically important: I accomplished everything I dreamed before I got on that plane to Europe. The specifics are different, but the heart of what I wanted, I have.
I don’t know what the future holds or if the choices I’ve made to become a wellness coach, earn a master’s certificate, learn more about strength training and eventually shaping a career that is far off the beaten path, will all work out well. That scares me and it triggers my need to hide.
But I created this blog while returning from a trip where my desire to run was especially strong. I found strength when I stepped out from behind my self-imposed barriers and spoke out about my journey. Somewhere along the line, I lost touch with that. I let the fears creep back in and hold me back when I’m at the precipice of some of the biggest decisions of my life.
And that’s alright. It’s okay to experience the fear and to let it do it’s thing. There will always be setbacks and challenges, and big life changes can be scary. What you can’t do is downplay all of the progress you’ve made because you’re holding yourself to a false standard. For that, I’m guilty and in response to that, I run.
So I’m back here, back to the place where I thumbed my nose at that standard a year ago, to say screw all of that. I own each and every single choice I’ve made and I’m grateful.
I ran this time, but I ran back to the place I needed most. And man, it feels good.
We all experience fears, especially on the path to wellness. How do you handle your fears? How do you keep yourself motivate to move forward with your goals? Please share your thoughts below in the comments. Remember to always pay it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂
6 Replies to “The Time I Ran Away to Europe”
How funny – my friend wrote me from Prague this morning. I’m not very good at handling my fears . I ran away to California the last time I needed a change and while there, I just missed the east coast and I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do in life. Feeling much more gravity and stability right now in life but will I know how to handle fear and change the next time they inevitably come? I hope so.
I know what you mean! But I think I’m beginning to realize that I’m learning how to handle my fears over time through each challenge. I’m better equipped now than I was four years ago. I still have daydreams of jumping on a plane and going far away but the difference is that I understand it’s not an escape from my issues. How funny that you got a letter from Prague today! This is all kismet, I tell you, lol. Thanks so much for stopping by Tamara. It feels good to be back. 🙂
Every choice is just that – a choice. And so long as there are choices and action steps, there are no failures, just lessons. Heck, I’m getting in my car in 3 weeks and moving out of state with my kids with no real plan and no job and it will either be OK or it won’t. There is no failure no matter what happens. I’m so glad you blogged today. I missed your words. I missed your wisdom.
You are so right Ilene and that’s what I keep telling myself as time goes on. Your upcoming move is really so exciting and inspiring too. It reinforces the point that life is always full of opportunities and we can never fail if we approach life with a full and open heart. It felt great to be back here and it feels so right to share these thoughts with you Ilene. Thanks always. 🙂