Soon, very soon, I will be departing on a Very Great Adventure. While some might choose to unimaginatively label it ‘travel’, it is for me most certainly a great deal more than that – firstly because I have never travelled outside of Europe, and secondly because it is the kind of journey I have always dreamed of having, and for one reason or another (most of them relatives of fear) have not yet had.
On the 10th of October I leave for Nepal for 5 weeks. I am going alone and not planning anything – the only thing that is sure is that I will do a trek in the Annapurna during my time there. When people hear about this trip, many of them tell me I am brave to be doing it, that they couldn’t go off alone like that. I usually smile and explain that I won’t actually be physically alone much of the time when I’m there, but what I really want to do is shout BULLSHIT! How dare you say you can’t do that; unless you have no legs you can, you just don’t really want to.
It makes me angry because I have heard the ‘Oh you’re so brave, I couldn’t do that’ routine so many times over the last ten years of my life and I used to be (and sometimes still am) the most scared, anxious, timid person I’ve ever met. I have done things and lived through experiences that I thought would break me, and though some of them came close, they didn’t, and I am stronger because of them. The reason I did them was because in some way I had to; because I believe in trying to be the best I can be, I believe that we are here to grow, and I believe I owe it to myself to be the person I wanted to be and live the life I knew I would lead when I was little and had no concept of self-limitations.
The ‘Oh I couldn’t do that’ phrase makes me crazy because it’s just laziness masked as a weak personality trait. Self-development is hard, it’s uncomfortable, it takes time and effort and struggle, and many people won’t do it unless they are deep in a crisis. It’s fine to want to live a simple life of routine, but then own it. Don’t act like you also want to have adventures (because the same people usually tell you they’re jealous of what you’re doing, like it’s actually something that they couldn’t do), but for some elusive reason can’t. And don’t assume that just because I’m doing it that it’s easy for me; it’s not – I’m just doing it anyway.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
On Saturday I jumped off a 15m high platform. It was scary. I did it because I like thrills and because I wanted to remind myself that unnecessary fears (I was attached to a rope) do not get to make decisions for me. Mostly I did it because I want to be the kind of person who says YES. I spent a long time saying ‘No’ because I let fear rule my life, but the day came where I said ‘Yes’ because saying ‘No’ was scarier – and it was my first big leap outside of my comfort zone. It was tough, and at times I thought I’d give up. Instead I remembered the vision that I’d had aged 11 of myself at 27 (don’t ask me why 27) and I made a promise that I would live up to it.
I recently came across something I wrote during that period of my life, at the age of 22. For me, this is when my life really started.
“I have always known that life is an ‘awfully big adventure’, but when I was younger that thought scared me as much as it excited me, so the adventures remained small. In the past few months, I have undergone a change in perspective of massive proportions, and I am now able to say that the idea of real adventure no longer scares me…much.
The change started when I was still in Cardiff (at the moment I am in Freiburg, Germany). I suppose it really began (as much as anything really ever begins) in the summer term of my first year at university, about a year and a half ago. I decided I really didn’t like the way I was – I wanted to become a ‘better’ person. At this point in time I conveniently met a whole bunch of people, most of whom I now count as my closest friends, who embodied all those things I wanted to be. They were (and still are!) kind, generous, friendly, fun, adventurous, and open-minded, and quickly became my best friends. They taught me a lot about another way of being; a way I desperately wanted to adopt myself. Unfortunately I happened to have about a thousand issues to deal with before I could become that way, but I knew I would make it in the end.
From a very young age, possibly about eleven, I knew the kind of person I wanted to be. I wanted to be a kind, giving, happy-go-lucky hippy, with a life full of love and friendship. As an adolescent I was about as far away from this image as it is possible to be. I was aloof, uptight, obsessive-compulsive, scared of life and being close to people, and angry a lot of the time. In the last year and a half, I have dealt with all of these issues. While I’m still working on being completely open and honest about myself to others, I have moved a long way in the direction I have always felt I was destined to follow.”
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I want to tell people the following:
♥ You can always, always do more than you think you can. If you don’t push yourself you’ll never know what you were capable of and you might die not knowing the extraordinary strength within you
♥ If you are committed to growth, find what you need to do and then do it. No ‘what if’s or ‘but’s. It will work out just fine. You know, deep inside of you, what you need. Listen, and then honour yourself by following that call
♥ Love yourself enough to give yourself the life you dreamed of having when you were little – you still deserve it just as much as you did then, and that spark that made you tingle and squirm with excitement is still in you. Don’t stop looking until you find it again
♥ Just keep trying. Remember that old adage ‘Two steps forward, one step back’? Sometimes it will feel like one step forward, five steps back. But this is where maths fails – because that one step forward is worth ten steps back. Just keep trying
♥ Forgive, forgive, forgive – yourself. The ONLY duty you have in life is to try your best. Whatever you can give in that moment from the place you are right now, is enough. And when you don’t try your hardest forgive that too
♥ Be your own best friend. Probably the most important lesson I learned along the way; if you want to have a harmonious relationship with yourself (in which you have the energy to focus on growing), be as kind, as forgiving, as understanding, as compassionate, as gentle with yourself as your best friend would be
♥ Always look inside for answers. You will never find truth if you look outside yourself. Everything you will ever need to know is already within you
♥ Let go. Just let go, of all the preconceptions, of your projections onto others, of your self-criticism, of your worrying, of your fears. You’ll find the only thing that remains is you, being brave, looking life in the eye