The best days of your life have yet to come
but it’s okay, it’s alright to open up…
Closing the door, closing your eyes,
You’re only closing yourself off.
So much to see, so much to try,
Don’t be afraid of what you want.
Trapt, “No Apologies”
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve realized that there are a lot of things I’m good at: I can communicate effectively, my empathy helps me to connect to and appreciate others, and I’m pretty good at taking an idea and finding ways to spin it into something better.
But that one thing that I’m really good at? The one thing that I’m pretty much an expert on?
Holding myself back.
Over the years, I fought through that instinct because what I wanted to accomplish outweighed any fear, my desire to achieve my dreams — no matter how simple they seem — was marked by fierce determination to see them through.
And I did.
Despite my anxiety, I went away to college. Despite my homesickness and fear of the unknown, I flew to France. Despite uncertainty that I could do it on my own, I bought a house.
Despite all the excuses not to do something, I listened to my heart and trusted my instinct that told me these dreams could come true, that they were meant for me, and that they would irrevocably change me.
When I want something, when something feels so natural, so right, when I can’t imagine anything else, when I know it’s meant to be, nothing can stop me, not even myself.
College. My parents and I had toured three campuses across the state, all with good, promising programs, all ones that, sure, I could see myself attending. But in my senior year in high school I reached the height of my anxiety, and with each mile that passed, the further from home we drove, the more I wondered if I was making the right move or if I shouldn’t stay closer to comfort.
It was raining the day we pulled off the highway and drove through town, tracing the route by the river. The clouds were dark and a storm was threatening to break; usually, this would have hampered my view, stirring up old anxieties, but all I felt was excitement.
I remember a smile spread across my face as I caught sight of someone walking down the sidewalk with their umbrella in this quaint town, that smile widening even more as the tall brick buildings of the small campus came into view. In an instant, I knew that this would be my school, my home, my Haven. Those four years were some of the best and proudest of my life.
* * *
France. Jersey friend and I were sitting in the Barnes and Noble cafe, flipping through magazines as we wiled away a summer afternoon — his a tech magazine, mine on writing. Our conversation was casual and easy — one of those conversations where you don’t remember specifics but you do remember the company — my eyes skimming over the ads and contests that dominated the back pages. One ad caught my eye — just a few simple words that seemed to flash importance:
Writers. Artists. Retreat. France.
I continued flipping through the pages, but something stopped me; I interrupted our conversation, reached down to pull my phone out of my bag, and sent myself a text message of the URL. I needed to check this out, something told me. That afternoon at home, I did. A week later, I put in an application for the barter program. About a month later, I received an email welcoming me for a stay during the month of November.
As I sat alone in the airport waiting for my flight to board, I was an absolute wreck. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling as I tried to convince my parents and myself that I was great, that I was excited, that I was fine; I couldn’t help but be afraid even after a call of encouragement from my best friend. I could turn around, I thought. I didn’t have to board this flight.
Eight hours later, I collapsed in a corner of the CDG airport in tears. Missed flights, missed trains, having no idea how to call the owners of La Muse Inn, and a pat-down by security had left me feeling defeated. But I was there, in the country that I loved, ready to embark on what would become the most important, incredible personal journey of my life. Little did I know, that the journey had started the minute I put in that application.
After hearing about the nightmare that was my travel experience, my best friend said that she would have turned right around and gotten on the next flight back to Philadelphia. But I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I wanted this. What’s more, I needed this. Something told me to write down that web address, intuition led me to submit that application, and fate (or maybe just Kerry and John) saw to it that I would be accepted, that I would be spending a month nestled in a tiny village in the south of France, working on my writing, working on myself, and meeting incredible friends. I just had to trust myself and see it through.
It has been the greatest experience of my life.
* * *
Lititz. Less than fifteen miles from where I grew up, this small town always held a place in my heart for its charm and history, and after spending more and more time there as friends moved in, I decided that this was where I wanted my next apartment to be. But I hesitated. My friend called me all the time, telling me about apartments he had seen for rent when he was walking his dog, and though I put in a few calls, they were half-hearted attempts at moving out of my parents’ house and back on my own. I didn’t know what I wanted, I didn’t know where I wanted to be. All I knew was that I wanted something of my own, a place to call home, a place where Riley and I could be happy. And another apartment just didn’t feel right.
I was sitting in the den with my parents, the two of them on one couch, me on another, as we watched whatever was on TV. I talked to them about my situation — how I wanted and was ready to move back out on my own, but I wanted a yard for Riley, and something that was affordable for just one person.
“Renting just doesn’t seem to make sense,” I said.
“Why don’t you look into buying a house?” My dad asked.
It was the question that changed everything. I submitted an application with guidance from my dad and sent an email out to a real estate agent I had met on Twitter. ReMax became my obsession as I poured through the pictures and descriptions of houses in my ideal location of Lititz. A week later, my mom accompanied me to see some of the houses in person, and while one or two were beautiful, none felt right, none felt like home.
Back to the listings. One house in particular caught my eye, but as it was at the top of my price range, I kept passing it over until one day I finally decided it couldn’t hurt to check it out. We set up an appointment to view the home a few weeks later. I couldn’t stop smiling as I saw the front of the 1926 house, saw the fenced in backyard that would be perfect for Riley to run and play in, saw the spacious front porch where I could imagine spending warm summer evenings outside reading or writing or talking to my neighbors and friends. We stepped inside. In an instant, I knew this was it.
Think logically, I tried to remind myself. I knew that I tend to let my emotions run away with me, and I tried not to get too excited for fear of being disappointed, but everything was telling me that this house would be my home. The beautiful old staircase, the renovated kitchen, the wood floors, the sunny rooms, the converted third floor — it was everything I could have ever asked for and so much more.
That was a Friday. There was a showing on Sunday and I wanted more than anything for my parents to see it before I made the very big, very real decision. My real estate agent suggested putting an offer in right away, before the open house, as that could otherwise mean more offers from interested others. I hesitated. It was a huge jump, and I suddenly began to wonder if I was ready to take it. Everything was happening so fast, after all.
I wanted to wait; I knew I couldn’t wait. That evening, we made an offer.
A counter-offer, many inspections, and some minor maintenance later and I was signing the papers and shaking hands and smiling with more happiness than I have ever felt before. My mom was waiting on the porch as my dad and I pulled up to the house — my house — and we stepped inside. The rooms were empty, our footsteps echoed, but I knew, without a doubt, that love and laughter would fill that space between the walls.
It was the biggest decision I’ve ever made, guided by a dream, intuition, and a realization that I could find happiness again.
Three huge events that have changed my life so profoundly; three times I could have hesitated and held myself back as I so often do out of fear or discomfort or uncertainty of how it will all work out. I’m realizing now how I tend to push through on the big things, but I let such little, simple things get in my way — small insecurities that feed on each other until I’m consumed with self-doubt and a lack of self-worth and wondering what anyone could possibly see in me, wondering if I really am as alone as I feel, wondering if I’ll ever be good enough.
Look at what you’ve done, I try to remind myself. Look at who you are.
You’re more than good enough.
And you’re the only one holding yourself back.
It’s with this reminder that I start again with a dream that has been with me ever since I was a little girl, a dream that I have shelved and then taken back out to admire and dusted off before deciding that it wasn’t time, it wasn’t time, it just isn’t time…
A dream that I’ve been so afraid to pursue…
Because it’s the dream that I’m most afraid of not coming true.
I’m writing again. These past two weeks, I’ve been writing feverishly, building a world inside my head and transposing it to the page. Writing. Creating. Imagining.
For years, I put my writing off, the screen blank, the files hidden away in a computerized folder betrayed by promises that I would take them out and write again. Oh, I’d written a few pieces here and there, created a series that spoke to my heart and that I believed in, but there was something missing.
I didn’t believe in myself.
Not in my ability as a writer, a storyteller. Not in the fact that I could ever see my words published in print. It’s possible — I’ve written for a magazine and some newspapers — but that writing wasn’t where my heart is, it isn’t where my dream is.
To cloak truth in fiction, to understand humanity through writing for these characters, to create a world so possible, yet so decidedly different from our own…It’s the imagination, the creation, the questioning and seeking answers which stirs my soul, which whispers its longing, which lights that fire.
Finally, I’m listening.
I’m going with it. No holding myself back, not anymore. No promises of later, no excuses, no turning back.
Write now, edit later. It’s the mantra that most writers go by, the practice that’s so hard to actually facilitate. As I work on this new piece, not knowing where it’s going, I realize that this first draft is complete and utter crap.
And I’m loving it.
I edit my work, I edit my life. I think and analyze and question too much, lose myself inside my own mind, looking too far inward; this is where the seeds of doubt are planted. It’s what had led me to put down the pen; it’s what could have stopped me from going to college, from flying to France, from having this home: What if?
That’s right: What if? So what if what I write turns out to be fodder for the garbage? I’m finding the joy in the art of writing again. So what if I don’t see my works published? I’ll find the success in having completed something personally meaningful.
So what if I don’t see this dream come true?
I’ll know that I tried.
I’ll know that I trusted myself, that I didn’t hold back.
And I’ll know that there are many more dreams to choose from.