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Blasting off into Growth

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

I’m sitting here trying to decide how to start this post off, but all I know or can feel is how tired I am. It’s 4:40pm as I write this, over 12 hours since I woke up this morning to leave life as I know it behind and set sail for a new, big, intimidating life adventure. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, at least the whole live-out-of-a-backpack thing. As I packed up my last few things this morning, I took stock of the two bags that will be my sole sense of external “home” for the next few months and perhaps beyond. I’ve already racked up 15 months living this lifestyle, between India, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, as well as various parts of the United States. What’s a few more? …Or six months? A year? I don’t have a lot of expectations.

As I gathered my things and headed for the airport my stomach churned as it started to hit me. When I was younger this was easier. I didn’t have a lot tying me down. Making a home and starting a family hadn’t been on my agenda yet, and I didn’t have a very solid sense of my strengths and weaknesses. It made me a stupid kind of fearless. Now that I’m older I’m a little more aware of these things, which understandably makes me a little more resistant to taking off and living these sorts of adventures. I guess that’s why it’s even more vital for me to get out there and do it anyway… Growth comes from leaning into the discomfort, and the thought of leaving home definitely feels unsettling.

The universe does this to me regularly, drawing me into motion time and again, inviting me into change like a whirlpool sucking me into her center. I’m not even really sure I have a choice. At first there is this surrender, understanding and liberation in hearing its call. Motivation ignites a fire under me and I do what I need to do to step into the flow that beckons me into some sort of destiny. But then, once I’m here, the walls begin to close in and I realize I’m on the damn ride and there’s no getting off. I’m fast tracking it towards the depths of personal transformation and there’s no changing course.

I flashback to last year at this time when a similar sense of destiny asked me to take her hand. She had big things in mind for me, but needed me to follow her down a narrow path, away from the life I was living. And so I did, in awe of the beauty she had prepared for me as it sparkled in the distance. It was exhilarating. Except, that is, when the cracking reality of my life fell on me like a ton of bricks, reminding me of the life I left in the name of serving a higher purpose.

I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a heavy weight of vertigo, coming to terms with the fact I left the man I loved and the life we were building together. I’d frantically try to decide if it was all just a bad dream, dizzy and disoriented, praying that I’d wake up and find myself back in his arms. Instead I’d be met by the distressing echos of myself puking into the toilet, reminding me this was in fact my new life and the only way through the pain was to keep moving forward.

That is exactly the feeling that begun to settle in again today as I said goodbye to my dog and my beautiful bedroom and home, to safety, security and all of the known. Overtired and a bit disheveled, Scottie and I hauled my two bags out of the house and into the car, making our way toward the airport. All I could think about was how some more sleep would be really awesome. I tried to rack my brain around self care options and remembered that hydration might help, but after a few moments of searching decide I’ve left my water bottle back home. We turn around and, immediately upon arriving, I shift my foot to realize it was there all along. Yeah, okay. I am seriously so tired. And now we’ve lost time I hadn’t accounted for.

This past Tuesday I received word that I was being offered a position to work with high school students in Costa Rica for the summer. I’ll be supervising students around service-learning projects and outdoor adventures, a radical blend of activities that I’ve been properly prepared to lead through accumulated experience over the last decade. The company asks if I can leave within 24 hours. That’s obviously not plausible, but I tell them I can be on my way in 48 hours instead as the program starts Thursday (that is today). So it begins.

Perhaps you can imagine what might go into preparing to leave the country for an open-ended amount of time with such short notice. Chaos, mostly. Shoving things into boxes. Lots of phone calls and emails. Too many errands. What do I even pack? 75-85 degrees. Torrential rain. I know how to dress for both of those climates, but have never really associated these two weather patterns regularly happening at the same time. Between packing and saying goodbyes over the last two days, there wasn’t a lot of time to catch my breath. Or sleep.

I arrive at the airport and the line is way longer than I’ve ever seen it for an Alaska flight. My passport doesn’t register with the machine, so even if I wanted to take my bag as a carry on (which I don’t want to… I’ve packed way too many toiletries for that) I still have to wait in line. What is usually a five minute wait takes 35 minutes and so by the time I get to the front of the line the Alaska employee let’s me know I’m SOL and I’m not going to make the flight. Overtired, my eyes begin to well, trying to comprehend that she’s not going to give me my ticket. She looks at my connecting flight in LAX and let’s me know if I book the 9:00am Delta flight to LAX I’ll make my 12:50pm departure time to Liberia.

The Delta flight is going to cost me more than my initial ticket to Costa Rica. I sit on the phone trying to fight back the waterfall of tears that threaten to break through, pissed and slightly embarrassed at having missed by flight. I eventually book with Delta. The woman says if I check my bag I won’t make my 12:50pm LAX departure, so I’ll have to take it as a carry on. Going through security they make me dump out half of my toiletries. As much as I’m trying to keep it cool, I haven’t had my morning coffee, nor anything to eat, so I’m still embodying this ridiculous water works spectacle. The security guard is trying to make this as easy as possible on me and lets me get away with keeping a few things, but makes me dump out most of my shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

After going through security a second time, my pack a bit lighter, I finally get that much needed coffee and make my way toward the first flight. I board, pulling out Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal, the Costa Rica Spanish Phrasebook, and a Spanish dictionary. I move between trying to dissect what the heck J.K. Rowling is saying in this Spanish twist and do a bit of research on the side as to what I might expect from living in Costa Rica. All of this is making me realize just how rusty my Spanish is and I begin to fight off the looming overwhelm that is making itself apparent.

I arrive at LAX and look around to get a sense of where I am and where I need to go. This is obviously the Delta terminal. Gate 69 is where I need to be, but I’m currently around the 30s. I see a sign for some gates in the 100s and it becomes apparent I need to boogie somewhere else and so I ask for directions. I’m told to take the bridge. It’s a straight shot, one person says. Another says to be careful because there are a lot of twists and turns… she says I might get lost. I head toward the bridge and make my way across the parking lot toward terminal 6, reassured by another person that it is a clear path. Construction begins to come into focus and I look out in all forward directions for said bridge. There is nothing but rubble around me. No bridge.

Realizing more time wasted, I scoop up my larger pack from the cart I’ve been pushing and book it back to the shuttle area I was previously waiting at (this is where I initially received the really helpful directions about the bridge I was supposed to walk across). The shuttle arrives and the driver says its for employees only, but takes pity upon my poor state and lets me join.

Upon looking at myself a bit later in the bathroom, when I finally get a chance to pee after hours of holding it, I realize I completely neglected making myself look presentable when I left this morning. Like… Didn’t even register to do something with the poof of unruly happenings on the top of my head. I truly didn’t even know my hair could look like that. More impressed than anything, and too tired to care about outcomes, I quickly throw some water in my hair and scrunch it up, wondering if that actually will do anything for me.

As I arrive to the terminal, I ask the other travelers in the security line to let me cut, wanting ample time to board this time around. The group obliges, but as my bag goes through I’m stopped once again as they strip me further of my toiletries, locating my multi-tool and confiscating that as well. I tell them fine, just take it! Take it all! I’m partially serious, but at some point I recall loud, passionate words escaping my mouth as another hefty load of my things are whisked away.

They let me go and I make it to my gate, proud of my timely arrival. With a sense of achievement, I look up and see no mention of my flight. None of the gates around me mention my flight. I look down at my boarding pass. 12:05pm. WHAT. It’s 12:15pm. My flight just left. I do the math in my head and realize I landed when they were boarding. There was absolutely no way I would have made that flight. Alaska lady was dyslexic, and I didn’t even bother to double check the time after she told me what flight to book.

The Alaska attendant nearby lets me know that was the last available flight until Saturday. I sit down, letting my ego slide into a puddle on the floor. This is defeat. I have failed. And you know what? I notice that I’m feeling some relief in this. I cry a little bit more, releasing the frustration and also welcoming in the release of not really caring anymore. I damn well gave it my all. I call my supervisor and let him know of the situation. He checks into it and thinks waiting until Saturday is probably the best option at this point. I call one of my best friend’s in LA and tell her the situation and relax knowing I have a place to stay.

The last time I was in LA was around my birthday in April. I came to visit Emily and her girlfriend, Adriana, and it was a long weekend full of realizations around the type of life I want to be living. I practiced my Spanish, had conversations that expanded my mind, ran in the moonlight and camped out on a magical fox filled island surrounded by dolphins. I left that weekend inspired and felt reinvigorated to lead trips abroad for young people.

And now here I am, coming full circle in some ways, back to the place that inspired me to finally take this journey in the first place, with these brilliant women who live life so empowered and with such purpose. As if contagious, I’m reminded that life can be so much more if we’re willing to take the big risks, work hard, and aim for goals that others are often unwilling to seek out.

I’m trying to hold this notion as my golden thread. At this moment it is Friday, and I sit eating my breakfast at a local coffee shop aware of how insecure my energy is right now. Life is spinning and I’m moving into a new world once again. I’m terrified because change is hard. I think back to the woman I was a year ago, who was so afraid to listen to her heart as it was so contradictory to who and what she thought she wanted. But she was brave and did it anyway. Really, this is the woman I have been moving through and becoming this whole year… It’s been an entire year of change, love, brokenness, rebuilding, magic and revisioning.

All of this feels like one big, continuous roller coaster. And, you know, for most of my life I really loved roller coasters. Now that I’m in my thirties though this isn’t the case. They make me kind of sick. I notice more of the violent shaking of my head between the safety bars and the way my stomach lurches up to my throat. It’s all a lot going on at once, and opting to hang out with a book or with my nephews who are too small to be on one of those rides sounds like a way better alternative. I think my relationship with change feels about the same, because when I was younger I just did it and I loved the drops, turns and speed. I’d see the edge of the cliff and just jump (I really did jump off of a lot of cliffs… Or tried to climb them. I don’t know what I was thinking. Oh… That’s right. I wasn’t). I didn’t feel the doubts, and I didn’t have a loud, fear-based alarm system going off in the background.

So I just lived. I wish I still had all of the travel blog posts from my early twenties- although I know they gave some of my family members slight heart attacks. Highlights include hitchhiking through South America and maybe almost being sold into the sex slave trade. Working with shamans and going into the depths of hell through an Ayahuasca-of-the-underworld-ceremony gone wrong. Backpacking through the Andes with some weird guy who was mad I wouldn’t sleep with him, and then backpacking most of it alone, sick and shitting white after eating some bad potatoes. Hitchhiking by myself and ending up at the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis after being propositioned as a sex worker. There are a lot of stories. Lots of adventures.

But that side of me hadn’t met the other side of me yet… The side that had her gardens and chickens, her dog and beautiful home. The side of me that was pregnant and getting ready to be a mom. The side of me that was supposed to get married to the man I loved. The side of me that values having my roots in one place and building community where I am. Because all of that is still a big part of who I am and who I want to be. And yet here I am, about to live out of a bag again. Entering into the unknown. Following the voice of a higher power that wants to me keep growing.

I know that I am going to continue to be pushed into more of the bigness of life, to release even more aspects of who I think I am in order to make room for the woman and leader I am meant to become. And so I sit here with the weight of all the emotions that dance through me, somewhat paralyzed, wanting to curl into a ball and cry for all that I’ve already gone through and all the change I have already endured. But inside that place, underneath my fear and inside my heart, there is a faith so strong and a knowing so powerful that I keep moving anyway. My life is not just for me. I am here to be of service to humanity, here to help this world to transition to something better, and I know that if I follow where spirit guides me, we will all be better for it.

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