I had dreamed of travel for as long as I can remember having dreams. My dad used to tell us stories of the trips he went on as a young man that I never tired of listening to. I would pour through encyclopedias and books about places and memoirs of people who had traveled the world.
I wanted that. I wanted to see new places. Have new experiences. Connect with new people. Have things go wrong and come up with new plans on the fly. I wanted to travel all over the world.
But then we moved to Alaska.
Alaska had a lot going for it. It did. But for me, it prevented me from following my dreams.
A lot of people would ask, “well, why didn’t you try harder?”
How to explain how hard it was for me living in Alaska? How to explain how those difficulties always made my depression worse? And then, finally, how after my already extreme anxiety and the new diagnosis of bipolar I lived in so much more fear of the world around and inside me than ever before?
I had to work hard just to keep myself from going “crazy.” Any dreams I’d once had needed to be forgotten. Thinking about them and knowing they’d never come true was just too depressing.
I had my lot in life. It wasn’t what I’d wanted. But it was what I was given.
Now let’s fast forward.
Desperation had me finally leave Alaska. I picked Boston.
Failure moved me back to Alaska.
Determination moved me back to Boston.
Determination. Choice. Strength.
I failed. But I survived. I came back to try again.
My late 20s is when I finally met Ann (the best most awesome therapist there ever had been and ever will be and who I miss beyond words because she finally retired). It’s when I took charge of my mental health and became determined to stop letting me be its bitch. It Was Not Easy!
Living with mental health disorders is NEVER easy. But I had discovered something powerful about myself. I discovered that it was possible to do things I had been afraid of doing.
I learned how to dream again.
A dream fulfilled
Life has interfered with a lot of the travel I have wanted to do since I first got started going after this dream, but I think about what I have still managed to do, and it reminds me of just how far I have come.
- I’ve had fun at Christmas markets in Germany while visiting friends.
- I’ve stood inside the Paris Opera House and gazed in awe at the famous chandelier.
- I’ve jumped and cheered alongside other fans at the quarterfinals of the 2011 South American Cup.
- I’ve meditated inside the Golden Temple – the most peaceful and holy place I’ve ever been.
- I have born witness to the reminders of a history we as human beings should never forget, at the Kigali Genocide Museum.
My experiences were, as I had expected, not always easy...
India was the biggest challenge of them all. After more than a month alone into a three month trip, everything so different from everything I’d experienced before and so many things having gone wrong, I reached the point of truly wanting to give up. I remember one night I curled up in a corner on the floor of my room in Jaipur – weeping at my loneliness and wondering if death would be a real option for me.
I’d never been more scared. But I ultimately gave myself permission to be lonely and sad without continually chastising myself. Because, goddammit, I *was* alone! I was allowed to be sad!
Determination. Choice. Strength.
I was failing. But I could survive. I will try again.
But I looked back at what I’d accomplished before, and I knew I could stand up and keep going. So the next day, I got up and forced myself to do something that had always previously brought me peace of mind.
As I sought a good place to sit and sketch, a boy came out from a nearby shop and offered me a chair in the shade, and a bottle of water to help against the heat. I sketched for hours. People would stop and watch. They’d take pictures with me. I even got my photo taken for the newspaper!
Taking that time to clear my mind and focus, as well as soak up the joyful energy of the locals, was everything I needed to keep moving forward. To leave my depression of the previous day behind me.
… but I am beyond grateful that life provided me with the opportunities to go after that life-long dream anyway.
Some of the things that travel taught me were how to ask for help when I needed it, how to truly connect with people, and, most importantly, how to enjoy my own company.
Dream big or small. Just dream.
Dreams don’t all have to be these huge, life-altering experiences. I have a lot of small dreams. They’re more like wishes. I wish to eat dinner some day at a 3-star Micheline restaurant. Why? Just cause. It’s an experience I will probably only get once in my life, so why not?
After having accomplished that particular life-long dream, I kept making big dreams. They’ve been hit or miss. No matter how attainable (or not attainable) some of them are or have been, they give me something to yearn for. I might fail. I’ve failed in the past. But I’ve also managed to do so many things that have scared the crap out of me, and those are the things I hold onto the tightest.
Because, big or small, failures or not, I learn more about myself every time I go after one of my new dreams. And that’s, for me, what makes dreaming so important. And is what I am the most proud of in my life.