Editor’s note: I recently had a long, beautiful conversation with one of my besties, Lara Zielin, about what we’re doing with our lives, what we want and what’s holding us back. The next morning, I found this guest blog post in my inbox. Inspired by our conversation, she pitched sharing her new commitment to everyday adventures with readers who care about living life intentionally. Her post is about saying yes to life, and I wholeheartedly say yes to that.
I realized recently that I’m scared. It’s taken me a long time to figure this out because on the outside I do okay. I go to work, I clean my house, I volunteer, I work out, I pay bills on time. Blah blah blah.
But something was off. Even though I couldn’t name it, I saw it manifesting in my life.
Like how much I was drinking, for example. My favorite thing suddenly became coming home, pouring a big, fat glass of wine (or three or seven), and watching television. I looked forward to this. Many days, it was the highlight of my day.
Or how much I was eating. I had been able, through diet and exercise, to discard about 10 pounds over the past few months. But it came raging back—and then some—the second I let up on the gas. What was this monster I was barely keeping at bay? Why did I want to pad myself—literally—and what was I trying to protect myself from?
The biggest thing I noticed is how little I wanted to leave the house. People would ask my husband and me to do things and my first instinct was no. Make that a Big Gulp sized absolutely not with a side of nuh-uh and an extra serving of fuck that.
I looked around and marveled at the people who, effortlessly, went to art openings and parties and neighborhood get-togethers and actually seemed to be enjoying themselves.
I wanted none of that. But such a drastic response didn’t feel right. This didn’t seem like an introverted answer to too much external stimuli. This felt like something was off. In fact, my introverted friends were doing laps around me in the social category.
And that’s when it occurred to me that I was scared. Actually, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” helped me put an official name to it, but I had been sensing, even before I read her first chapter, that I had a fear problem.
I was terrified of putting myself out there.
I was too fat, after all.
I was too ugly.
I was going to get hurt. Someone, somewhere was going to find a way to wound me.
No matter if I succeeded or failed, I was going to open myself to criticism.
In other words, I was going to mess up. And people would notice.
Did I mention I was too fat?
This isn’t how I’ve always lived. But that kernel of fear has always been there, I think. And, honestly, it’s getting worse as I get older.
Except, then this thing happened.
I was in the airport in Detroit this past August, and I spotted Josh Gates. You might read that and think, “Who?” but for me, this was the one person I longed to meet. He is the host of a Travel Channel show called “Expedition Unknown.” Before that, he hosted a Syfy show called “Destination Truth.” If you’d put a list of celebrities in front of me and said, “Who do you want to connect with?” I would have answered Josh. Every time.
And it’s not just that he’s handsome and hilarious—because he is—or that he is a natural leader who’s not afraid to be self-deprecating. For me, what I love most about Josh is his quest for adventure. He’s going to places and seeing things that most of us only dream about. Even if he didn’t have a TV show where he was paid to do this, I think it would still be inherent to who he is.
So of course I stalked him in the airport.
And because he’s the nicest person in the whole world, he left his comfy first-class lounge and took a selfie with me.
This meeting changed me.
I knew I was supposed to run into him. And you can roll you eyes at that, but in my heart, I understood our paths had crossed for a reason. Not because we were supposed to be best friends or he was suddenly going to start following me on Twitter. It was deeper than that. Josh was a lesson for me. I felt this way down deep, where my realizations about my fears were also starting to dawn at the same time.
Josh was a reminder for me not to lose my sense of adventure. When I was a kid, I wanted work for National Geographic and have fantastic experiences around the globe. In my 20s, I went on a cattle drive in Montana and went on a tornado chase across the Midwest. I traveled abroad when I was in college and was never afraid of meeting people or experiencing new things. After I divorced my first husband in 2004, I boarded a plane and went to Italy by myself. When I finally found and married my soulmate, I felt both fearless and delighted, like the whole world was full of possibilities.
Who, then, was this person who was suddenly afraid to leave her couch and was numbing herself with wine and food? Who was this person who was hiding from the world?
I wanted to change. I wanted to overcome my fear and have adventures again.
I also understood inherently that I didn’t have to go to Italy to have an adventure. I didn’t have to make this crazy hard.
For me, the issue wasn’t whether or not I could board a plane. It was whether I could choose every day to do something that got me out of my comfort zone. Could I choose to, say, go to a museum instead of watching television?
Could I say yes to invitations instead of no?
Could I go places and experience things that were within my reach?
I want the answer to be yes. So I’ve decided it’s time for change.
One thing I’ve done so far is to stop drinking for the month of January. I feel so much better already. I might stop drinking for longer, but I’m at least going to do one month. This article from the Chicago Tribune inspired me in spades.
And I’ve started to say yes to more of the right things. One night, I asked a friend to drive to Detroit with me and eat Syrian food. It was Thursday. It was raining. I don’t even eat Syrian food. If ever there was a night to stay home and drink, this was it. But I did it. My friend helped me. And it was awesome.
Looking ahead, here are more things I want to say yes to:
- Yes to an upcoming talk at the library about train stations. (I don’t know why I want to go to this, but I totally do.)
- Yes to visiting more new restaurants, even on nights it’s raining.
- Yes to quirky local attractions. (Jiffy Mix headquarters, I’m coming for you!)
- Yes to talks and symposia and exhibits.
- Yes to being in the woods more.
- Yes to friends.
To me, this little stuff is more important than planning a big trip to Fiji and saying, “Oh, I did that one thing once for 10 days,” and then living like a zombie for the other 355 days of the year. This also isn’t about being busy. Plenty of people have packed schedules and are miserable. To me, this is about being engaged. Being present. Being challenged.
There is much to see and do. I want to be part of it. To stay curious. To continue to learn. To feel the fear and to do it anyway.
Because the truth is I might feel fat and I might fuck something up, but I can’t let that define me.
Choosing to do the thing that terrifies me is hard. But I believe this is the key to everything. And I’ve decided to go for it.
How about you? Are you feeling like the couch is your closest friend, too? Maybe there’s an everyday adventure you want to have this week—or this month. Let me know in the comments, and maybe we can cheer each other on.
Lara Zielin is the author of the young-adult novels “Donut Days” and “The Waiting Sky.” She writes small-town romance novels under the name Kim Amos, which feature casseroles and kissing. Follow her on Twitter @LaraZielin.
Related posts on overcoming fear on Newvine Growing:
- Feel the fear and do it anyway
- Lauree Ostrofsky’s next adventure, feeling the fear and doing it anyway
- Reblog from Cameron Boehmer: Fear Makes You Less Human, Love Makes You More