May 8, 2018 – LAX, California
I’ve changed a lot on my trip. In many ways, the change is hard to describe. It sits under the surface, altering me in ways that I can feel but no one else can see. Decisions are easier. Worries are fewer. Love and empathy and appreciation come more quickly. I have something that’s not quite fear (but that sits very close to fear) that I will lose this when I get home. Because I don’t know how or when the change started, I don’t know what to do to keep it from unraveling. So, I’ve decided to write about how I feel, at least the best I can, so that hopefully I can remember.
Decisions are easier:
I used to struggle with decisions. I think many people struggle with big decisions, but I struggled with all decisions. What to eat for lunch? What to wear to work? How to start an email? Choosing one thing by default means not choosing another, and how will you ever know if what you chose was right?
The answer is:
- You will never know the outcome of choosing the thing you didn’t choose.
- Your choice was right. So, stop worrying.
Even if the outcome is horrible, you will have learned something (even if it’s just “don’t ever choose THAT again”). The lesson, however, is usually slightly bigger than that. Usually you learn something about yourself, your thought patterns, your habits, or, potentially, you learn something about someone else. Or maybe you just learn that you will be ok if you choose some weird type of dried fish for dinner at the Japanese supermarket and you don’t like it. After all, it’s only one dinner, and you’ll never have to eat that dish again.
Worries are fewer:
I used to be a worrier. I was addicted to the feeling of always having some type of problem or situation on my mind and thinking about it obsessively until I had what I thought was the best possible solution (this is certainly related to the above paragraph). Sometimes I worried about myself. Often times I worried about other people. Occasionally I even worried about things that have nothing to do with me (what if Trump takes his tweets one too far and North Korea decides to nuke us?!?!?). Worrying about all these things is futile, and I’ll tell you why.
You don’t need to worry about yourself, because you’ve got it under control. You’re always the smartest person in the room when it comes to you. You know yourself, you have instincts you can trust, and in the face of difficult decisions, please see the above. If you can approach situations with openness and an ability to be flexible, you don’t need to worry about yourself. You’ll get through it. You always have in the past, right?
You don’t need to worry about other people. They’re probably already doing that (you’re worrying about yourself, right?! ;-D). Seriously, though, putting your energy into worrying about other people takes your energy away from the other things you could be offering them. Maybe you can offer them some advice if they ask for it, or if you’ve had a similar experience you think they can benefit or learn from. Maybe you can offer them support. Maybe you can connect them to something that will help them. Your energy is much better off spent on these types of activities than worrying. Because when was the last time you worried something into being better?
Definitely don’t worry about the things that have nothing to do with you – they have nothing to do with you. Aspirationally, we should be trying to live a life that feels complete enough every day that if the apocalypse came tomorrow, we would think “OK, I did what I needed to do.” Obviously, this is hugely aspirational, but put your worry-energy into working toward that, rather than into worrying (similar to worrying about other people). Also, put your worry-energy into trying to make changes that you can make (again, similar to worrying about other people). Run for office, protest, donate to a candidate or a cause that will help counteract the bad stuff. These are the political “solutions,” but there are “solutions” like this to all sorts of problems. Put your energy, and time, and money (if you have it) into these things. It will make you feel way better than worrying ever did.
I’m not a religious person these days, but I was raised as a Christian, and there was a Bible verse that always stuck with me. I don’t remember it verbatim, but it said something about putting your worries on God. I always really liked it, because humans weren’t made to worry. Worry is fruitless. Humans were made to live.
Love and empathy and appreciation come more quickly:
Humans are not made to be alone. This might seem to be a strange thing to be hearing from someone who just took a 3-month trip by herself. Please don’t interpret this as me being lonely on my trip. I was not lonely, and I wouldn’t have changed a moment of my adventure. But the reason I was not lonely is that there were people all along the way. Even an introvert like myself eventually has enough self-time. We want to share with people. We want to connect with people. We want to learn from and support people. I know this because I did it with complete strangers on the opposite side of the world, even though it’s the least natural thing for me. I did it in countries where I didn’t even speak the same language as people. You find a way to connect and to share things, no matter how big the barriers are. And it’s the most beautiful thing.
Traveling around and meeting complete strangers who want to help you and support you and sometimes even love you makes you realize that it is not hard to offer these things to others. It is natural. We move so quickly these days, with our faces glued to our phones and our minds on thousands of different things (usually worries, right?!), we don’t even realize that there are people right in front of us to connect with. And we are all longing for it more now than ever. And the best way to get it is to give it. The more I connected with people, the easier it was. The more I let people in, the more I wanted to let people in. This is the change that I’m most hopeful will stay. Because who has ever had too much love in their life?
Check out this post to start Joy’s journey from the beginning.
For more from Joy, check out her Know Your Worth interview.