A little over a year ago, I returned from a two-week solo trip in Portugal with an unwanted souvenir — panic attacks. I had my first after landing in NYC, at baggage claim in JFK, when a cop with a sniffer dog had to get me a paper bag for my hyperventilation. The second was a week later on the subway.
Through therapy, it was clear to me that these panic attacks, and the heavy weight I felt on my chest, were a result of a general anxiety about my life. I needed a change; complacency at work and restlessness in my personal life were no longer an option.
So I decided to pursue my (terrifying) dream of long-term traveling. I applied to a program called Remote Year, and after I was accepted, I made a thorough case to my manager as to why it would be beneficial for the company to let me go. After taking it up the hierarchal ladder and presenting all my research, I got the OK to travel on my own for about 6-9 months and work remotely in three different cities.
In the middle of the process, I met a wonderful man (isn’t that how life works?). From our very first date, he knew that I was leaving and the relationship would either accommodate this dream of mine or not last. Romance definitely wasn’t a priority.
I was over the moon that my dreams were playing out in real life when suddenly an unexpected departure on my team led to a possible promotion at work. The catch? It required me to stay in New York.
I thought the decision would be harder, but I truly loved my job and knew that in the long run, climbing the corporate ladder would serve me well. So, I opted for the “adult” choice and agreed to stay, knowing well that traveling could be postponed.
This last year has been unpredictable. It has taught me that being an adult isn’t just about doing the responsible thing. It’s about knowing what you want, and especially what you deserve, and going after it. It’s about changing your mind, over and over again, and tuning out the guilt. It’s about nurturing what feels good and not needing a reason to purge what doesn’t. It’s about knowing that some dreams change and some never will.
It’s about knowing how to keep yourself open to what you can’t see and giving things the chance to play out, and it’s about knowing when to step back and plan ahead and when to take the leap of faith.
I don’t regret staying. By making one decision, I was able to undergo a series of subsequent life events that wouldn’t have happened as such had I left.
Work has had its ups and downs, and that man I didn’t expect to meet grew into a life partner. I solidified lifelong friendships and reevaluated others. I joined a club field hockey team. I took two writing classes (poetry and travel) to hone my craft, and I took a couple psychology courses to explore my dream of being a therapist. I got a job offer from a great company, and I turned it down. I decided to go back to therapy, deal with a new onset of depression head on and even boldly spoke up in the workplace about it when I felt unsupported. This year was full of surprises. This year was necessary for my growth.
Life is like a choose your own adventure book. Sometimes we choose responsibly, sometimes we choose impulsively, and sometimes, we choose out of fear.
I’m mindful of how each decision I’ve made has altered the course of my life — from the decision to stay to how I have chosen to use my time and money. I’ve learned that it’s not just about achieving the dream; it’s about the confusing, frustrating, difficult journey towards it. Every day is a choice.
I’m heading in one direction right now, and when I decide to make new and different choices, I won’t let myself have any reason to think twice.