I spent too much of my 20s not really liking myself; not feeling smart/funny/interesting/pretty/worthy enough. I fantasized a conditional future where things—I—would change: when I got a new apartment, a husband, published my writing, after New Years, my birthday, tomorrow…things would be so much better then.
And so I drifted along Inertia River: college, graduation, career, apartment, promotion, boyfriend(s)…all sorts of reinforced accomplishments kept a haphazard lid on my bubbling unhappiness; a melding of commitment issues, shame spirals and an Ambien problem way beyond sleep-eating.
But the self-loathing story is tired, no?
So I created my then, booked my proverbial ticket out: November 4th, nonstop to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. I quit a successful career, drained six years of savings and left my friends, family and comfort zone. To fly to India. Alone.
Call it stupid, self-indulgent or brave (I like brave), but I needed something different. I wanted an adventure, to be inspired, to meet interesting people, to feel interested, to see the world. I was ready for change.
It was rash and there’s plenty of other (less dramatic, less costly) ways to reboot your life. But this was mine.
And it wasn’t always easy: Problems travel too and I was burdened with more baggage than my Patagonia backpack allowed. But being depressed in a 12 person hostel dorm room isn’t fun; lacking confidence leaves you sightseeing alone and naivety gets you robbed. In Turkey. By your cab driver.
My physical journey quickly gave way to an emotional one. The further from home I got, the closer at myself I looked: I had somehow become just an amalgam of expectations — my friends’, my parents’, society’s. I had absorbed them as my own only to feel disappointed that I didn’t want to want to settle down, that material possessions left me hoarding mostly unhappiness. Meaning, as I knew it, meant little and I had no idea who I was, until finally — far from the suppositions of who I should become — I could just be.
And here’s the onslaught of verified cliches: You can find yourself by getting lost. Bearing witness to real suffering puts things like a bad hair day and insomnia in perspective. The best medicine for a broken heart is a fling with a foreigner. Helping others helps you! The world is big, we are small, less is more, life is short. And somewhere in the middle of living my Pinterest quote board, hopping on 22 hour bus rides, teaching English in Laos, milking buffalo in India —I started to feel happier, inspired and more confident.
The proof is this. I’ve been writing since for-ever, and it’s all sitting in various folders and files that might as well be labeled ‘I don’t think I’m good enough’. And it might still not be good/interesting/funny/ worthy enough. But I didn’t pick up and travel the world to live out that story.