Two years ago today I hopped on a plane and left the United States to live a life abroad. I had a backpack and two suitcases. The rest of my life was put into storage. Stuff that I didn't think I could live without, but I didn't need right now. And I'm sure it was stuff that if I pulled it out of the containers now, I'd laugh. "Ha!!! I thought I'd need this again one day? Really?" And then I'd toss the pile of black work clothes that I kept, just in case this whole island gig didn't work out and I needed something to wear in the salon. Buh bye.
I've had a lot of people tell me that I was brave, fearless even. I just have to laugh. I certainly didn't feel brave. I felt careless, stupid, irresponsible, like I was running from a life that I had created for myself. Twelve years in Seattle, cultivating my support network and friends that ended up as family, building my clientele as a hairstylist. I didn't feel brave. And FEARLESS??!!! Noooooo.
I don't know about other expats' experiences, but leaving my comfortable life in Seattle was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. A decision that came with consequences, such as SEVERE anxiety that landed me in Emergent Care. I've had anxiety before, but this was anxiety that I didn't even know was possible. A month before the move, I started breaking out in hives. Hives that turned into full blown Monster Face, Unrecognizable Shannon. Valium, prednisone and sleep were my best friends. Eyes almost swollen shut, rash down my neck and all over my face, trouble breathing. This was NEXT LEVEL shit!!!
And to add insult to injury I had a HUGE zit on my forehead. The Universe was really testing me.
Don't think I didn't think about canceling my plans. And not just because of this swollen face mess. Guilt trips from friends, family, my own doubts, what if it doesn't work out?, what if you can't find a job?, what if there's a hurricane?, aren't you going to miss your cat? My heart was heavy, my face was a mess, and still, something inside of me told me that if I just stuck with my decision, I wouldn't regret it.
My therapist once told me that when you make up your mind about a big decision, The Universe will throw little Turd Bombs in your way to see how serious you are. This was the biggest shit storm if I'd ever seen one!!! But I'm stubborn. And I'd told everybody that I was going to do this, so I HAD to do it!!
I may have been flippant in the past about how I came to my decision to move, however, it was anything but. It was a decision THREE YEARS in the making, starting after I returned home from dog-sitting in Maui and I cried for an entire day because I wanted an island life. For three years I was pretty miserable, until finally I realized that I could either sit in my shit and feel sorry for myself, or I could something about it. I could bitch and complain to anybody that would listen about the weather and being depressed, or I could move and see if that made me happier (the sun, beach and salty air really does wonders for your soul!!)
I am forever thankful for my friend Dan, who sat with me in a bar one night and put the idea in my head to leave Seattle. What's always stuck in my head about that conversation was when he told me, "You know, if you don't like it, you can always come back to Seattle. Believe me, everybody will be here doing the exact.same.thing as when you left. They'll be at the same bars, with the same friends, doing the same shit." Sold!! Time to go!! That scared the shit out of me. I didn't want to be doing the same thing, I wanted something different!! And adventure!!!
I may have had the courage to move, but there are plenty of people who have had the same courage. This island is filled with expats who had courage, so there's nothing really special about me and what I did. Don't think that this courage doesn't also lay within you, you just have to dig through all of the fear to uncover it. But it's there, believe me.
I've always held the belief that life is about making memories. It's about saying yes to the crazy ideas, even if they end up with your car being searched and the police questioning you. (And that was when I was 16!!! See, always up for an adventure. Sorry Mom!!) When I was doubting my decision, I asked myself over and over again, "Would you be happy a year from now if your life was exactly the same?" And my answer is what kept me going, is what keeps me going now.
Ask yourself: If this is as good as it gets, is it good enough? Your life, your relationship, your job. All of it. Is it good enough?