Over the past few months, I’ve changed.
This is not surprising given that in March 2015, just prior to traveling, here is a snapshot of where I was: My boyfriend and I ended a serious 2.5 year relationship, I resigned from my job in Newport Beach, CA, I moved away from California and back to Connecticut where I grew up (for you international folks, it’s about 1 hour north of NYC by train).
I moved back in with my mom temporarily while I figured things out and sorted my next move. My plan was to find a job in New York City and live the exciting urban lifestyle I’d so sorely missed (or at least thought I did).
I seemed okay on the outside, but I was struggling. I had a gut feeling I was doing the right thing for myself at that time, but what next?
Through a series of events that are too intricate to get into right now, I realized I needed to travel. For the first time in a long time, I found myself at a crossroads where I was single, unemployed, and had savings in the bank. I knew I’d be crazy not to get out and do something cool. So, travel I did and here I am.
Part of how I’ve changed is that I am more of a “yes” person than I’ve ever been before. Many things we think are difficult to do really aren’t. When the thought started marinating 10 minutes ago before I opened my tablet to write it down, I hesitated. Why? Because I don’t like to sound preachy and all Kumbaya. “Adopt a positive approach and shift the lens through which you see the world in order to be happy” is something that would have annoyed me prior to traveling.
Actually, it still irks me now and here’s why. I’ve always known there was fundamental truth to this statement, but to me this advice is intangible and lofty. It takes steps to get to a place where you not only understand this mindset in theory, but also you experience it as part of your day to day. And it’s a constant practice, it’s not a destination. (But that also sounds cheesy so here’s the deal. I’m a walking cliché and my writing will stink if I’m constantly apologizing for things deemed corny, sappy or cheesy. So, readers: here is where I stop apologizing).
Anyways, There’s really no other way to say it. Having a more positive mindset is a practice, and I am only learning. Sometimes I put forth a noticeable effort on my end, and sometimes the lessons seem to just naturally…arrive. Perhaps it’s a subconscious effort. I don’t know, who cares.
For me, a large part of this learning curve has involved bending to the whim of Travel. Travel changes you and it does so in a rapid and unforgiving way. Travel doesn’t care what your plans are. Travel is not always patient, gentle or kind. Travel will humiliate you. Travel will surprise you. Travel will frustrate you. Travel will knock you around and make you cry. Travel will uplift you. Travel is terrifying. Travel is beautiful. Travel is the best thing in the world, but Travel is not easy.
Today I was texting with my mother and I finally received the Question.
Are you coming home for Thanksgiving?
I’m not sure yet.
Here I take a moment to honor my mother who is a total rockstar. As I expected, she was sad, but she also understands that I am doing what I need to do right now. She wants me to be happy and she fully supports me. Her support means the world to me and I am deeply grateful for it. (Don’t worry Dad and Stephen, I didn’t forget you! Your support also means the world to me and I love and miss you everyday).
I know it’s the middle of her work week and I know she’s not a morning person, so the following event did not shock me. But it did get me thinking (and subsequently typing away to all of you on the other side). I casually asked if she’d like to chat in the morning for 10 minutes (EST) on Skype. She responded that she had work. I replied with the same honest proposition in case she changed her mind – let me know if you want to set aside 10 minutes to chat before work. And I meant it. I wasn’t being passive aggressive as I might have been in the past. She replied, starting with “it’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just difficult.”
A few weeks ago, this response might have really bothered me because it could sound like a weak excuse. (Sorry mom, I love you but that’s the truth). I would have been tempted to preach about how “difficult” is a state of mind and how 10 minutes is hardly a commitment, especially considering that we only connected via Skype every few weeks.
But here’s the deal. I know my mother beyond loves and adores me, I know that mornings aren’t her thing, and I’m not worried about chatting at a later date. We will talk soon and it will be great. That’s not the point.
If there’s anything I hope you take away today it’s this: I observed my inner response and it surprised me. Sure I felt slightly disappointed, but mostly I was delighted by an easy, peaceful freedom. The interaction was a catalyst for reflection – I recognized how it was easier for me to happily adapt my plans and say “yes” to doing uncomfortable things in other areas of my life. And I do not intend to sound holier than thou here. I figure it makes sense to take the wins when we can – It’s awesome when it happens because it doesn’t happen all the time.
What’s more? Get this. I can now fathom doing things extremely early in the morning. I genuinely enjoy it.
There was a time not long ago where I would procrastinate waking up as much as possible. Many mornings, I wished the sun would just stay behind the horizon so that I could remain curled up and cozy and sleep for hours. And sure, I think it’s common/awesome to do this every now and then. Who doesn’t love a warm, cushioned bed, a fresh cup of coffee and a good book (or movie on Netflix)? But I would feel this way almost every day, and there were many times I wanted wine to keep me company.
So what changed? Perhaps I’m writing at this very moment to explore the answer because I have no idea. I just know it did. And here I will put forth a challenge. Pick one tiny thing in your life that would be “difficult” to do – it can be small, just as long as it would be a good use of your time and you currently have an excuse for not doing it. 5 minutes to wake up earlier and shave your back hair. 2 moments to read funny jokes, 10 minutes to write and stamp a postcard, I don’t care. Pick something. And quit winge-ing, as the Aussies say.