In seven days, I’ll be stepping off a plane in Houston, TX. Yes, our first point of re-entry to the states will be Texas. We won’t stay long, just a two hour lay over or so, but still. I will be back in the U.S. I will be home.
Every time I think about that count down, I can feel the anxiety rise in me like bile. My heart beats faster and I get that panicky, “Oh shit, oh shit” feeling.
It’s not that I don’t want to go home. I’m excited to see my family and my dog and to speak English everywhere and know how to use public bathrooms (I’m lookin’ at you, Japan).
The dread I feel, the quickening of my heart beat, the hot flush up my neck is about this trip being over.
We planned this year for SO LONG. We plotted and researched and schemed. We made deposits and routed flights and had an infinite number of planning nights at the wine bar near our old Chicago apartment going ten rounds over whether or not we should try for a lantern festival in Thailand (we didn’t) or surfing in South Africa (we did).
Now, it’s just over. Just like that.
I know not “just like that” because I’ve been blogging all year about this experience. I know that it hasn’t passed that quickly, that in fact for large stretches of it I felt down right bored, itching for a task or some bigger project to work on.
But when that thought- “7 more days”- creeps up my neck, that’s how I feel. Like I just blinked and it’s over.
Today I went skiing in Niseko, and after falling yesterday whenever the hill got just a little too steep for my liking, I was ready to try again. I got off the chair lift, and skied up to a drop off. There I overheard an Aussie instructor giving a lesson to the woman in tow. She warned that our bodies will naturally lean back toward the mountain when it gets steep. That it’s our biological response to fear and danger. We have to fight the inclination because everything is easier when we let go and lean down the mountain into the slope. The shift in weight from our heels to the balls of our feet helps us turn faster and more easily, and, counter intuitively, it gives us more control. I heard her say this and then set off over the ledge, trying my best to apply her logic. To her credit (and I didn’t doubt her, she was an official instructor after all), it did work. It’s hard as hell to talk your brain back from the brink when you feel like you’re careening down a steep cliff, but leaning forward, even as I picked up speed did actually help me keep control and tighten up my turns.
I couldn’t help but think about this lesson as it applies to my life now.
It’s hard to let go. It’s hard for me to admit that this trip is over and to be open to what’s next. Even after a year of practice- letting go of my apartment, my things, my family, my stable life- I still want to dig my heels in and stay in the same place. I don’t want to go down the mountain.
But as the year unfolded and one incredible experience led into the next even better place, I was reminded that what’s next is good.
The truth is, I wouldn’t opt to keep traveling even if we had the money and the time. I miss my life back home, and I know I’m ready.
The dread I feel isn't about returning home. It's about change.
I’ve always been afraid of change even when the current situation isn’t perfect. I’ve stayed in relationships longer that I should have because I was afraid to leave (and terrified to be alone). I stayed in jobs I didn't like because I was afraid I couldn't get a better one. Change is hard even when it’s necessary.
Now, with just seven days left on the trip, I'm feeling anxious almost constantly. I know that I cannot stop these feelings from creeping up, but I can control my reaction. Now when I’m freaking out about what’s next, I take a breath and remind myself that something good is coming, even though I can’t picture it or feel it.
Even now, sitting in our hotel in Japan watching the snow fall outside, I’m reminded that there is a season for everything. This was a season of my life, and what’s next will bring new and awesome challenges.
I just have to trust and keep leaning forward.