Yesterday was a bit of an ordeal. As many of my friends know, I’ve been planning a trip to Europe, on which I’ll be departing on the 23rd of May. Yesterday I got it stuck in my head that I’ll be leaving in just a little over a month and I have no idea what I’m doing, or how to do it, and I proceeded to have what I can only describe as a 5 hour panic attack.
As I’ve described to a few people directly, I wasn’t sure if I was hungry, tired, or having a full on panic attack. I felt vulnerable and unprepared. Throughout the day I was nervous and jumpy, and it took almost all of my mental capacity to keep myself from going into full on meltdown. My heart rate was bouncing between 105 and 115 all day.
I’ve never been able to constructively deal with stress. At the best of times I completely shut down, I lock up, I block out the world, and I go to bed. At the worst of times the opposite happens, I become a raging volcano waiting for a fault line to slip, and I go off. Luckily, once I got home yesterday and had dinner, I shut down. I went to bed almost immediately after eating, slept until 10:30 when I got some water and melatonin, and went back to bed. After all that, I still didn’t wake up rested.
My sleep was plagued with terrible dreams. That the next month went completely against everything I’m trying to plan. That people came home far ahead of schedule, that I couldn’t afford my trip anymore, that I couldn’t sell my Jeep because I got in an accident shortly before I would have been leaving and again couldn’t go on my trip. Everything that could go wrong did. Not all at once, in one huge downward spin, but multiple scenarios played out in my mind as I slept.
The only thing I can take out of any of this is how important this trip must be to me. I’ve only ever reacted in ways similar to this about things I’ve cared deeply about. The thought of not being able to go on this trip brings me to my knees and destroys my psyche. But like Nick said to me yesterday, it’s good that I’m experiencing this stress and fear, because I’m not going to back down. It’s terrible, but I’m going to somehow push through it and become that much greater because of it. “Which means the next time you feel this you can say ‘Oh, I’ve felt this before. And that was fine.'” Which, I won’t. At first. But I understand what he’s saying.
Time is passing so quickly, in six weeks I’ll be leaving the continent for six weeks. I’ve never gone that far from home before, let alone by myself. I’ve got plenty to be freaking out about, I don’t think anyone will argue with that. Since the moment I bought my tickets I’ve had to convince myself that this trip is actually happening. There have been varying moments of it being real to me, maybe yesterday it actually hit me, and hard. I’m going on this trip. I’m going to go to the airport on the 23rd, I’m going to spend a few days in Toronto, and then I’m going to go to England. If I don’t have something, I’ll either get it or make due without. If I don’t have a place to stay I’ll figure it out. I’ll meet people.
Like many people in their early and mid twenties, I wouldn’t really say I know who I am. If I had to describe myself I would first need to know within what context. It sounds melodramatic, but there are only versions of myself, I don’t know my true self. Not anymore. When I was in the 4th grade we moved from one side of the city to the other, and I didn’t fit in. I had always been somewhat of a manic child. I exhibited extreme mood swings and juvenile behavior, even for a 9 year old. I want to say that before we moved, because my classmates had known me to be that way since we all started preschool, they just took it as normal and no one noticed. But looking back I’m not even sure I really had any friends before we moved, either. People knew me, but I didn’t know any of them. So, after we moved, I had to cope. To do that I tried to blend in. For every class, for every group of people, for each individual person I interacted with, I was a different version of myself. I latched on to their dominant personality traits and reflected them back. I became a chameleon whose skin was a mirror of everything around itself. Most of the time it worked just fine. Sometimes, it didn’t work out well. If I was spending spending too much time with the ‘trouble makers’, I became one, too. I would be disruptive. I got into fights. My schoolwork suffered. I was suspended multiple times until I finished elementary school. When I was with ‘good’ kids, I played Chess at a level that rivalled out teachers at times, my grades were some of the best in the class, I was happy, I would fit in and people liked me. At least, who I presented myself as.
It continued into high school, and luckily I was spending time with ‘good’ kids almost immediately. I did well, but I still struggled. I’m very fortunate to have spent my time with the right people. I turned out alright. But all through my life I’ve only ever felt like I’m a reflection of the people around me. If there isn’t at least one other person around me I don’t know what to do, how to act. I’ve been caught in an internal existential crisis for the last 15 years. It’s hard to be yourself around people when you don’t know what that is. It’s difficult to articulate to people, and most just seem to dismiss it.
And that’s why this trip is so important to me. It’s cliche, but I really do feel like I’m going to Europe to find myself. My true self, who I am underneath these mirrors. To force myself to traverse an environment so foreign to me that I won’t know how to act, what to reflect, and my true self can finally step through for me to latch onto, and I can come home as a real person.
Maybe that’s what I’m so afraid of. I don’t know the last time I met my true self, I don’t know what to expect. If my friends and family will still like who comes back. If I had to describe my deepest fears, the unknown would be 2nd from the top. And I’m getting ready to dive head first into more unknown in six weeks than I’ve experienced in the past 24 years.
But I’m committed. And I’m terrified. But I won’t let anything keep me from doing this. I might melt down a hundred more times before I leave. I might meltdown a hundred more times AFTER I leave. I might come back a broken person. But I’ll rebuild. I want to be a person again. I want to stop fitting in, I want to start standing out.
So, I don’t have a picture for yesterday. And, ironically, I put off making a video about procrastination. I’ll be working on that tonight instead. I’m still exhausted, I’m still trying to reel myself back in, but I’m doing a lot better today.
Thanks to everyone who helped talk me down yesterday, each one of you made a big difference. I cannot express how appreciative I am to know such amazing people.
Thanks for reading.