April 6, 2018 – Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Before I left, the most common response I got when telling people about my trip was “Ahhh, I’m so jealous!”.
I never really knew what I was supposed to say in response. “I’m sorry that I’ve induced a negative feeling in you”? “Don’t be jealous, just do it yourself”? “Maybe you should examine why you’re feeling that way and figure out what it is you really want in your life”? I usually just went with “I know, I’m so excited!!”
Either way, this response (from relatives, friends, coworkers, strangers I was meeting for the first time) almost always made me feel bad. Partly because I wished everyone I talked to could do their version of this journey as well, but more because I sensed that many people weren’t really jealous of the travel. It seemed people were jealous that I understood what I wanted in my life, and that I was actively taking steps to make it happen.
As someone who used to follow “the rules” about how you’re “supposed” to live your life, I understand why my path is jealousy inducing. I used to be on that side of the tracks as well, and I also used to be jealous. Which means I know how hard it is to get to the side I’m on now.
The reason I felt bad about this was two-fold. The first part was knowing that there was only a fractional chance that the person I was speaking to would ever take the leap off the “right” track and onto their own track. The second part was that, for those who did take the leap, I knew what was ahead of them, and it isn’t pretty.
I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert today, and it described something like this (in my own less articulate words, clearly). It isn’t easy to change your life. It isn’t fun. It doesn’t feel good. It is the hardest fight you ever face because it’s all internal, and only comes from really knowing yourself, which is a process that both takes time and means acknowledging and accepting the bad parts of yourself along with the good. You think you’ve done it, and then you realize you were drastically mistaken and you have to start again from square one, which means you never really know if you’re “there” in the future (probably because you aren’t because we’re always evolving).
Many people think the hard work I put in to be able to take this trip is limited to earning the money required to go and being in good enough standing at my job that they would allow me to leave (unpaid) for three months to do it. While that does take work, I’m well aware that for someone with my level of privilege, it’s not really that much work. The actual work was asking myself the questions about who I am, who I want to be, what matters in my life (and, in turn, what doesn’t), and what choices I need to make to get myself on the path that I want to be on. It was painful – and messy – and I’ve been working on that for at least 8 years. I hurt a lot of people along the way. I hurt myself more than anyone.
My journey didn’t necessarily need to be a trip, or a really long trip, or a really long trip far from home. What I needed was to be alone, and to realize that I am *absolutely fine* when I’m alone. If I’m completely honest, this piece of my journey actually started last year in New York, and I’d been battling the demons it brought up for months before I left for my trip. That’s all to say I know that not everyone has the level of privilege I have, but anyone can take this journey – if they want to. They have to want to put in the work, and they have to be brave enough to keep going when all of the bad things come up.
As you can probably guess, there isn’t one magic piece of advice I can give you about how to know if you’re ready to start your journey, or what your path looks like, or what demon (or demons) you need to overcome to get there. What I can tell you is that if you are really still, and really quiet, you will hear a whisper. It will be familiar because it will have been whispering to you for your whole life, and you just have to follow that whisper, one small, terrifying step at a time.
Check out this post to start Joy’s journey from the beginning.
For more from Joy, check out her Know Your Worth interview.