I seem to do a lot that people don't understand. I wear hats to the bars. I put 100,000 miles on my car in under 4 years. I don't "date", anyone ever. (Does anyone even know what that means anymore?) I do whatever feels comfortable in the moment. I follow my heart and listen to my gut and never allow my brain to enter into the equation. It troubles me that some people don't understand that.
Today, I'm laying on my perfectly made bed in an oversized flannel and knee-high socks. My socks do not match, my flannel is from the men's section of a department store, and my hair looks messier than my life at the moment. I'm running through crazy thoughts of love, books, friends, and family and I'm desperately trying not to fall asleep.
This time one year ago, I applied for an internship in Sydney, Australia after a horrible, no good, very bad day. I recall this day like it was yesterday. I woke up late for my 8am. I didn't do well on what was the last exam before finals in my most important class. I realized I was spending thanksgiving by myself. I had caught myself in a messy situation with a boy who thought much less of me than I deserved. I was so busy at this time with my sorority, philanthropies I was working with, my job, and other extracurricular activities that I thought my head might explode. I glanced at a calendar that had a countdown for graduation. I had no plan for my life after that fateful day. And finally, I had my first real breakdown of senior year.
The combination of these events led me to search for the perfect post-graduate job in every country except the United States of America.
I believe there is a section of my heart reserved for my travels - the people I meet, the places I go, the food I eat, the memories I make, and the risks I take all while exploring the beautiful Earth we are privileged to call home. I wanted something new, and after hours of searching I found it.
Sydney, Australia was the destination I chose. I planned and plotted exactly how I would obtain such a far-fetched dream. I perfected my resume, delicately selected my choices for recommendation letters, and picked the finest writing samples I could find in hopes of receiving news that I was in the clear and set to change my address to P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.
Shortly after thanksgiving had come and gone, I received word that the job was mine if I signed the dotted line. It was a surreal moment for me. Possibility was on my mind like never before. I saw potential in a new way. I saw a fresh start, new friends, new places, new adventures and I couldn't wait to have the experience of a lifetime. The inside of my heart was happy. The inside of my heart was free.
I try to recall what my brain was thinking in that moment, but I can't. My gut told me to sign the papers and send them right away. So, that's what I did.
It was December 8, 2014 and I had a post-graduate plan.
Today is November 23, 2015 and I am in Charleston, West Virginia.
Many people have asked what transpired over the next few months that caused me to change my mind and to be quite honest, fear was a leading factor in my decision not to go. Fear of missing out (more commonly referred to as FOMO), fear of not finding whatever it was I was looking for, fear of the unknown, but the most prominent fears that I remember distinctly that impacted my decision not to take the opportunity of a lifetime - fear of not being successful and fear of what others would say about me.
Clearly I chose not to go. Whatever the reason, whatever the feeling, the fact of the matter was and is that I did not go. I thought I was protecting myself from a world of heartbreak, disappointment, and missing out by staying in the states and working hard like a young professional (also known as yo pro) should do.
Fear did not keep me from those things. They still exist in my safe bubble no matter what city I am in. Heartbreak, disappointment, and missing out follow each of us and wait for a moment of doubt to creep into our hearts and steal the show. I used to think that the heart was always right. If you follow your heart, you'll never go wrong - that was my motto. But I let my brain do the talking. I let the practical thing to do control my life and for a while, I thought I regretted it.
As I lay here on my bed, in my flannel and mismatched socks I'm thinking about timing and fate and the time I silenced regret and started living. It's easy to regret decisions you make, especially when you don't completely understand where they will lead. To be completely honest I don't know where I'm going. I have more anxiety than ever because I feel completely lost. I have a smaller network of friends than ever. I live at home but pay rent for an apartment in Washington, DC. I have no idea where in the world I want to live or what in the world I want to do. And it's easy to think that all of this could be avoided had I boarded that flight on July 28 for Sydney.
Since August, I have met incredible individuals who I have formed beautiful relationships with. The inside of my heart looks very happy when I think about how a crazy series of events led me to meet them - how if I hadn't graduated from college early or jetted off to Sydney in late July, I wouldn't even know their names. I think about the fact that I have been to 14 different cities in the last 6 months, having crazy adventures and seeing the beauty in connections. I stayed with a couple in Los Angeles who I met on Instagram. I bought a plane ticket to New Hampshire 12 hours before the plane took off. I couch surfed in Charleston, South Carolina for 8 days. I have done incredible things. I have started my dream company, something that would have been put off for years if I had decided to move abroad. Through this I have learned how to believe in myself and my ability to do anything I truly want and it has been completely freeing.
But "what if" will still creep in every once in a while and it will constantly control you and drive you absolutely mad if you let it. You will ask yourself "what if" no matter what you decide. And it's important to know that that's OK but you can't let it keep you from taking a risk.
I'm learning it's totally cool to be different and it's alright to change your mind. I do not know where my adventures would have led me if I had traveled abroad after graduation. But I know where my travels have led me because I didn't. And I wouldn't trade any moment, any mistake, any trip, any friend, or any night spent wondering "what if" for anything in the world.
I suppose there's a few lessons I've learned through this:
// Everything happens for a reason and as cliche as it is, it's something you learn more and more the older you get. You start to see life fall into place and how decisions you made several years ago led to the moments you experience now. It's pretty neat.
// It's important to be aware of what your heart looks like on the inside and follow what feels right.
// It's not my job to tailor my decisions for anyone else. If people do not like what I do or understand what I do, that's OK. My life was not meant to be lived for anyone else. It's a hard lesson to learn, especially with a "people-pleasing" mentality.
I am learning how to unapologetically be myself.
So now, I still wear hats to the bars. My car has driven over 100,000 miles. I still don't "date," and I still don't know what it means to date. I still do whatever feels comfortable in the moment. I still follow my heart and listen to my gut but now I allow my brain to enter into the equation, when my heart says it's OK. And I don't mind if people don't understand that.
Whatever you decide, wherever you go, if you make your decisions for you, you'll never go wrong.
(And hats look adorable at night, too)