Reflections on Doing Hard Things

The ability to surprise yourself is a wonderful gift.  

To realize that you're capable of taking on challenges- of going through hell, and coming out the other side in one piece- is remarkable.

In 2010 I went through a really hard break up.  I’d moved across the country to New Mexico to be with a man that I thought I would marry.  Instead, after two years of sharing a house and dogs, a life together, we decided to part ways.  

I was devastated.  

I was far from home and had made the cardinal mistake of putting all of my eggs in one basket- I had few friends that were mine and not ours, I hadn’t developed many hobbies independent of him.  Essentially I’d fully and whole-heartedly intertwined my life with someone else’s, and when the relationship ended, I was left with pieces.

I moved out of our house into a small apartment with a girl I met on Craigslist, a stranger.  I refused to hang anything on the walls, so wary of settling into anything after such a big upheaval.  The only furniture I owned was a couch, which I traded with a friend for a bed.  

Those first few weeks on my own were some of the hardest in my life. I remember a month after moving out boasting to a friend that I knew things were getting better because I’d moved the Cheezit box from under my bed covers to the bedside table.  Things were looking up.

I reference this time in my life because it was a pivotal moment for me.  Before this turning point, my life had been smooth sailing.  I’d gotten into college easily, my first job came quickly after graduation.  The move across the country was challenging, but even I didn’t pick the location- I went along with my boyfriend at the time.

The months following that break up ended up being some of the best of my life.  I became close with my new Craigslist roommate and years later would stand up in her wedding in Boston.  I started making my own friends.  I went on dates. 

At the New Mexico Wine Festival with Marina and Christina.

At the New Mexico Wine Festival with Marina and Christina.

I’d always wanted to live in a big city, but never thought it would happen for me.  All of a sudden, I had this window of opportunity where I was completely untethered.  After a few months of interviews, I got a job in Chicago.  I sold my few possessions in Albuquerque, put my dog Lily in the car and drove to the midwest.

Moving to Chicago by myself was terrifying.  I only knew one person, my closest friend from my childhood.  I’d never ridden public transport before and had no idea how the buses and trains worked.

With friends on the back deck of my first apartment in Chicago.

With friends on the back deck of my first apartment in Chicago.

Just like I learned to adjust to life on my own in Albuquerque, I adjusted to city life.  I liked my job, I made a bunch of new friends.  And I was so unbelievably proud of myself for having made the choice to live in a big city.  

With my friend Stephanie who came for a visit!

With my friend Stephanie who came for a visit!

Now, 6 years later, another huge change is underway.  One of the biggest reasons I knew I could do this trip (aside from having Nate with me of course) is that breakup in 2010.  Despite all of the pain and discomfort, I proved to myself I could do hard things.  I showed myself how capable I was after having the rug pulled out from under me, with almost no friends, nowhere to live and virtually no possessions.  I was okay.  I survived.  

When I moved to Chicago, I had similar fears.  But I was okay.  I survived again.

And now I’m here, on a plane 30,000 feet above Ecuador thousands of miles from family and friends.  Again, I have virtually no possessions.  Again I have nowhere to live.  But I’m okay.  I survived.

In Medellin, Colombia

In Medellin, Colombia

Regardless of how this trip goes, I’ve already succeeded.  I’ve proved to myself that I can set a lofty goal and stick to it.  I’ve proved to myself that I can withstand the loss of my beloved stuff.  I can say goodbye… over and over and over again.  

Aside from the self-confidence this gives me, it also ignites a new and awesome question:

What else am I capable of?