It’s July. My departure to Spain is just two months away. Two short months. And yet, I haven’t begun preparing much of anything. I don’t have my visa (late carta de nombramiento from Madrid). I don’t have my plane ticket. I haven’t mentioned anything to my work about leaving… I’ve only told a select few people that I’m even planning on going. I’ve been researching this program for more than a year now, so I should be thrilled it’s right around the corner… Right? But the truth is: I’m more scared than excited.
And I know, I know that my dreams should scare me. Personal growth doesn’t happen from inside your comfort zone. But that knowledge doesn’t make the doubt shrink any less inside of me. Am I making a huge mistake by leaving right now? But if not now, when? But I have a great job here… It’s relevant to my degrees, pays me decently, and offers room for future growth. Will I get a career opportunity like this in the future? And then there’s my personal life… Am I ruining my relationship by leaving? And please, don’t give me the: if it’s true love, it will work out/he will wait for you speech. Long distance relationships aren’t exactly easy (not saying they’re impossible – just that it’s easier to grow as a couple when together rather than apart). Not to mention, asking him to wait for me for 10+ months when we haven’t even been together that long is just insane. Plus, I don’t want to leave for Spain with my heart still here. I’d rather carry the pieces, no matter how broken, with me in order to heal. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that broken hearts do heal, no matter how unlikely it looks at the time. But am I insane to just throw this, my whole life here, all away on a whim? The job, my friends, leaving behind my family and relationship… But this “whim” has been something I’ve wanted to do for years: live & work abroad, speak another language, meet new friends… And the more settled I get, the less likely that will be to actually happen.
I know that in my future I want to do the whole traditional family thing. I want to have the nice house with a white picket fence. I want to have a husband I love to come home to every night. I want the 2.5 kids and pet (undecided what kind of pet I would like at the moment – maybe a hedgehog? or a dog, whatever). I don’t want to hear that I don’t have to have that kind of lifestyle. It’s not that I have to do anything. It’s what I want.
But I’m not there yet. I still have a desire to do some self discovery. I want to know who Genevieve is away from everything she’s always been around. I have lived within a 120 mile radius for essentially my entire life. What is life like in another continent? Not vacationing, but actually living. In a land where they don’t speak English. Where I am forced out of my comfort zone, away from the friends I’ve had since elementary and high school. Where I have to become self reliant, completely.
The thought of being completely alone is scary. Who will I turn to when I’m feeling isolated? I can’t exactly call up my friends and family with an 8 hour time difference between us. Most of the people in Spain will be speaking Spanish, and while I know enough to get by, I don’t speak it well enough to convey every complex emotion I will be feeling.
The people I have told about my plans to leave have given me a range of emotion. Some are so excited for me: How brave! they tell me. I could never do something like that. Others have implied that I’m throwing my life away for a short lived dream. Well, what are you going to do when you get back? they ask me. What will you do for work then? Will it be worth giving up your nice job now? And I don’t know. I honestly do not know. Maybe I’ll return and move to a bigger city, away from Montana. Maybe I will be able to adjust to life outside of my comfort zone. Maybe I’ll stay in Spain forever, until I can’t remember words in English anymore. Maybe I’ll find that teaching really is my passion. Maybe I’ll hate it and find something else. I just don’t know.
But what I do know is this: I’ll forever regret my decision if I choose to pass up this amazing opportunity for self growth. How often will a chance to live and work in Europe be readily available to me? What about when I do settle down and start a family? How easy will travel and new experience come to me then? Moving away from my comfort zone is scary. Saying goodbye to my friends and family is scary. The idea of ending my relationship is scary. But you know what’s even scarier? A life filled with regret. A life spent only looking backwards, always thinking what if I had just done this…?
Maybe with every big, scary life decision comes fear – the second guessing: am I making the right decision? The doubt. When there is a crossroad in your life, it’s easier to stay on the same, familiar path. It’s easier to do what is expected of you and follow everyone you know. It’s easy to just keep stepping one foot in front of the other. So I guess it’s time for me to do what’s not as easy. To take the road less traveled. To step into an unknown world, completely by myself. To find out who exactly Genevieve is when confronted by things that aren’t easy or familiar.
I know that this is something I want to do, something I have to do, for me. I also know that saying goodbye to everything I’ve known for my entire life is going to be terrifying. That being said, I can’t stay in my comfort zone forever and look back on my life and say I lived when all I actually did was exist.
I guess the point of this post is to let you know that you’re not alone if you’re scared of a big life change coming up. We tend to put up these fronts when confronted by others. We want to look and act tough. We want to confidently say, “Yeah, I got this!” when inside we are screaming, “What the hell am I actually doing?!” But it’s ok to be afraid. It’s ok to have no idea what comes next. It’s ok to put your needs and wants first, instead of trying to please others all the time. No matter how difficult, take that first step into the unknown. It could be the most important step in your life, but you won’t know if you don’t take it.
Thanks for reading. I think I needed to get this fear/panic off my chest, and strangely, I feel a little bit better. Putting into words all of the things that scare you can help you focus on something tangible rather than fearing the unknown. I know that there will be hurdles on my way to Spain, but that’s life: a series of hurdles. We get stronger by tackling them, right? Anyway, let me know your thoughts! Have you ever made a big life change? Was it terrifying? What methods did you use to cope or adjust?