I have always been a homebody and not much of a risk-taker, regularly isolating myself in a tiny little room and dedicating all of my time and energy to my passions and art, leaving precariously little over for my happiness or health. I figured there would be time enough for all that later on in life, that if I worked hard now and never allowed myself to become dismayed or distracted, the rewards would ultimately be much greater than the costs.
So week by week I persevered, I pushed and failed and prevailed and fell, totally unaware of the terrible damage I was doing to myself — in my career, I had achieved much more than I ever imagined I would, but my confidence, sense of spontaneity and social life were all in tatters. In the pursuit of my dreams I had lost an integral part of myself, and I lacked the insight and understanding to acknowledge that I was in desperate need of a way out. But earlier this year I had an awakening. The truth is, I had long hit the point of exhaustion, every single day was a battle and writing had become more of a commitment than a passion. I desired excitement but lacked the courage to claim it, so depended too much on others to provide it. I had become a terrible whirlwind of anxiety and doubt, endlessly umming and ahing over every decision, overly concerned with the detrimental effect it might have on my life without realising I was cheating myself out of the only one I had.
But around 2am on a Tuesday night, after another long, dull day of feeling lethargic and uninspired, I made a last minute decision to book a flight to London, to take a risk and worry about all of the details later. And what felt like complete, idiotic recklessness at the time quickly proved itself to be the single most meaningful and impactful decision of my life.
What I learned about instigating real change in one’s life is, as daunting and difficult as it might seem at first approach, it only requires one small leap of faith to build a momentum all of its own. After I made the decision to book a spontaneous getaway, I began to feel my whole life outlook bend and change dramatically for the better. I stopped feeling so anxious over every little thing. I began to accept invitations and opportunities I did not necessarily feel comfortable with. And I tore down all of my walls and boundaries as I opened my heart up to new loves, connections and friendships.
Because the root of all fear is uncertainty, a deep-seated tendency to expect the worst in things, to believe it is a better to remain safely in your comfort zone than risk a horrible or embarrassing outcome. But the fact is, your comfort zone is a prison cell — one that constrains your full potential and confines you from the boundless opportunity the world outside it has to offer and the only person with the power to free you from this penitentiary of senseless insecurity is you. And that is the most wonderful part — in your hands and heart you hold the key to unlocking all of your life’s potential and all of the possibilities therein, you decide the length of your sentence, and the minute you make the decision to be free, you will find venturing out of your comfort zone only gets easier, because it will become clearer and clearer with every risk you take that all of your reservations and fears are completely unfounded.
And so I flew off to London, with a heart full of hope and adventure, and for reasons I won’t delve into too deeply here, all of my plans immediately fell apart — I found myself in a foreign country alone, without a place to stay or any idea of what I was going to do, and truthfully, there were a few particularly dark moments where I strongly considered cutting my losses and booking the next plane back home to Melbourne. But I had come this far, travelled almost 10,000 miles and invested too much time and energy into making this trip happen to turn away now, so rather than descend madly into panic mode, I pulled a deep breath, composed myself, and decided I would instead take this opportunity to spend the next two weeks going against my nature and saying “Yes” to every little thing I could. And I never looked back.
I watched the red double-deckers go by from a luxury hotel in Knightsbridge. I spoke for hours with a deeply fascinating woman in Soho who had lost the love of her life from an overdose. I danced with a roomful of French strangers in Shoreditch. I dined with two of Australia’s finest minds in Notting Hill and knelt by Tolkien’s grave in Oxford. I emptied pint after pint with the punks in Camden Town and watched the sunset spill through the twisted, leafless trees in Hyde Park. I laid sleepless on the bottom bunk of a hostel in Westminster while a stranger in the bunk above me shamelessly and violently pleasured himself. I took the train through France and spoke with the CEO of an advertising firm in the carriage cart. I spent an unforgettable weekend in Amsterdam, navigating the narrow streets and stairwells, smoking in coffeeshops and loitering in window sills with a talented, effortlessly elegant musician who sang me her songs, lent me her coat, and cooked me Andijviestamppot for tea. I was put on the wrong train to London and found myself utterly lost in Brussels, wandering from station to station, including Maelbeek Metro, only 12 short hours before the bombs went off, a devastating and blood-curdling attack that carried with it an indispensable personal lesson — that life is precious and incredibly fragile and must always be lived to the fullest.
…I came home a new man. I see now that I have things to do and places to go. That a life is a string of moments where each one is as valuable as the next and must be embraced like it is the last one you have. So the next time I come face to face with fear or doubt, I will not make excuses, retreat into myself, or shrink weakly away to what is sure or safe. Instead, I will stand my ground, shrug my shoulders, and shout back grinning into that black, lightless void the answer to the question of the rest of my life, “Eh, why the hell not?”