There once was a gal who wanted to ‘blow-up’ her life. She packed a bag and headed to a distant land to experience all it had to offer and in the process, she found herself…(and she also found a prince) ~ Me – March 5, 2016
In March, I blogged about the new American fairytale – “stories of women whose life is not what they want it to be, [who] pull up their roots, take a major leap that no one else understands and go on a journey towards wholeness.”
I didn’t say this then, but for months (years) before I wrote that, I had struggled on and off with a need to get away from a life that has felt directionless and lost because it hasn’t turned out like I expected. I’ve been dying for a reboot. I said on that day in March that if I could, I’d move to Australia for a year. A month later, that desire had morphed into a reality. Now, almost halfway through my adventure, I figured I’d tell you how that came to be.
In June of 2014 I was hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, by myself a good amount of the time, struggling with my lungs and with my inability to get a good night’s sleep or put food in my belly without wanting to hurl, and learning a difficult life lesson of taking just one step at a time. (I can’t seem to go on a trip without learning some deep truth about life.) Somewhere along that path, in the green vastness of the Andes, I pulled a Chris. In the midst of great difficulty and also great beauty I jumped out of the present moment and into the future and asked, “so where do we want to go next?” I asked it out loud and I believe I asked it not only of myself but of God.
The answer was almost immediate and came straight from my guts.
(Immediate but a bit indecisive…and a bit out of nowhere.)
In the weeks and months and years that followed, the idea of traveling to Australia in honor of my 40th birthday stuck to me like glue and my imagination ran wild with what kind of trip it would be. At one point, a large group of my dear friends was in on the plan to come along but things change and I didn’t plan or save and by the summer of 2015, I started to tell myself that it was too late and other people started to say that they wouldn’t be able to go after all, so I tried to pretend that I didn’t care and that it was no big deal.
But that wasn’t the truth, so I spent some time silently beating myself up for not planning ahead.
By October I still couldn’t shake the desire to travel Down Under, so I reached out to a friend who runs the Australian study abroad program under the same organization for which I work. I told her I wanted to travel to Australia and asked what the possibility was that I would be able to come and work with her for a month to alleviate some of the costs of travel.
About 10 days later, I got a response saying that she would love that and would keep it in mind, but then I didn’t hear anything more.
I still really wanted to go to Australia (or London) but tried to pretend some more.
In early December, I had lunch with a friend and mentioned how sad I was that I hadn’t set myself up for this thing I wanted and that I hadn’t heard back about the work possibility and that I really, really wanted to go but was trying to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to because flying to Australia is so darn expensive and no money and blah blah blah. And she said…maybe my friend who’s a pilot can get us cheaper standby tickets.
I had said what I wanted, and my Australian dreams came alive again.
In mid-January, the two of us got together to talk about making plans…and she mentioned possibly going to Italy instead of Australia and I said…after much hemming and hawing…okay. (Because I am sometimes a people pleaser and I thought that maybe I could kill the Australian dream.)
I was excited about Italy. But I was extremely sad…grieving really…about not going to Australia. I kept having the feeling that Australia “had something for me” and that I was going to miss out on it if I didn’t go this year. I told myself that this was silly and that Australia would still be there the next time I wanted to travel, but the thought of not going left me anxious and I couldn’t shake the feeling. I tried to convince myself that Italy was fine…that I was feeling fine…
On February 11th, I wrote another email to my friend in Brisbane.
“Okay. So it’s me again. Still pondering the Australia thing…”
No response this time.
Three weeks later, I wrote the aforementioned blog post about blowing up your life…because deep down that was what I desperately wanted to happen for myself.
(Side note: Between my October email and my February email, my desires had gotten extra jumbled because that whole prince thing that I mentioned in said blog post was coming into play. I had met and was getting along famously with a prince who was moving to the country I had been wanting to visit for two years (Australia) while simultaneously being from the other country I had wanted to visit for two years (England) and I have this habit of believing that everything happens for a reason even though I know that sometimes things just happen. The prince issue has since been alleviated due to reality checks about life circumstances. Not all life blowing up scenarios can turn out like they do in other people’s memoirs.)
On March 13th, I got a reply that indicated there wasn’t really a need for me to travel to the program in Brisbane.
I promptly burst into tears.
Something in my heart was telling me to press on, but I also couldn’t figure out why I wanted this so desperately; why I felt that I would be missing out on something that I needed if I didn’t go.
Confession: This is the type of situation in which I usually give up.
When I want something badly and I get an ambivalent response, my M.O. is to act like I don’t care…to say “it’s fine” and move on. This is a habit, a defense mechanism to keep me from disappointment, that I picked up early in my life. It’s a pattern that has been very hard for me to break.
The problem with defense mechanisms that keep you safe, however, is that they generally also lead to being disappointed anyway.
Slowly, painstakingly, tenderly over the past couple of years, I have seen God move in this area of my life. The work has been slow but He’s been healing and working through remnants of pain and mistrust and a sense of fatalism that have been hard for me to shake. My confidence has grown, my understanding of Love and being loved has grown, and in this particular moment, some small voice inside me – a voice that I have been working to recognize – felt strong and clear and said,
“Don’t do the thing you usually do. Ask for what you want.”
So I did. And this time the response from Brisbane was “let me think about it.”
That moment of bravery was one that’s been in the making for a long time. I didn’t hide my face and pretend that I didn’t want something that I knew would make me happy. I knocked on the door and it opened just a little bit further. And then on the Friday before my 40th birthday (the one I wanted to celebrate in Australia), I heard that I would find out if it was a real possibility in a couple of days. And then it was a real possibility. And then my boss said yes. And then her boss said yes. (And then the government said hold up for a second…but that’s another story.) And suddenly I was on my way…I was on my way to blowing up my life…(just a little because I didn’t necessarily want to blow it up completely).
I felt like God had given me a birthday present that was two years in the making, and it was more extravagant than any gift I would have thought to ask for myself. I wasn’t going to Australia for a vacation. I wasn’t going to Australia for a month. I was going for four. (And if this post wasn’t already way too long I’d tell you more about how I ended up in London too.)
It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since I’ve been here (though there has been a lot of sunshine and they grow roses here too). There have been some really hard days. I’ve had to come face to face with expectations I didn’t know were as strong as they were…those expectations of the new American fairytale. Expectations like clarity about life and finding a prince (influenced in part by the 99.5% of you who told me I was probably going to find my husband here…thanks for that, you nerds).I’ve had none of the desired epiphanies. In fact, it turns out I’m still learning the lessons from the Andes mountains two years ago about taking one step at a time.
I have, however, been able to walk alongside some great college students who have deep questions about life and faith. I’m learning about a culture that is causing me to reflect more on my own. I’m enjoying the quiet pace of life, the sea and the land. I am learning how to be here wherever I am, to be in the moment, though I still struggle with looking too far into the future. I have loved almost every minute except the ones when I’ve been homesick for my people on the other side of the world. I’m packing in as much experience as I can, and I am very thankful for this mini explosion that is now woven into the tapestry of my life.