You may have heard the saying “Not all who wander are lost.” And although I can empathize with that to a point as far as meaning just because you do not have your plans etched into stone does not mean you necessarily are in need of help/guidance/directions.
That being said though. I WAS lost. For a long time. Lost in my own fear. My own uncertainties and insecurities. I wrote “Social Anxiety” on a name tag in bold Sharpie black and slapped that bad boy on my chest and wore it for ages. Every morning I would peel it off yesterdays shirt and press it firmly on to the current shirt of choice. It kept me hostage within the realms of my own daily life in so many small ways. No I couldn’t make that phone call. No I couldn’t make eye contact with the other parents at my sons karate classes. No I couldn’t make my own order at the restaurant on date nights. No I was not going to get out of the car and attempt small talk with my husbands co workers. Lost of people assumed I was a bitch with an attitude because I didn’t appear friendly to folks who didn’t KNOW me.
The hardest part was my lack of friendships. Local friends. I have plenty of amazing, supportive, wonderful online friends. But so often I found myself longing for a relationship in person with a friend. Someone to sit and drink coffee with and shoot the shit with. Another mom to meet at the park down the street and chat with while our kids ran around. I was lonely. I fluctuated between pitying myself and being angry at myself because it was my own damn fault I felt so secluded, so isolated. Why was it so easy for other people?
Then we began this trip. And the first few campsites were cake. No other campers nearby, just my family to focus on. Easy. Until we hit a larger, more crowded campground in Conroe Texas and suddenly I found myself surrounded by people. I became really super aware that I was felling lonely. All of these friendly woman to strike up a conversation with and I didn’t have the first clue how. If you have never danced with anxiety, maybe this entire problem looks so ridiculously simple to solve that you think I was being a fool. But it’s not that easy when the voice in your own head is SO LOUD.
Until one day it dawned on me.
What is the WORST that can happen?
I will be ignored? Dissed? Judged? Mocked? Laughed at? Turned away? Turned down?
So what? We didn’t stay anywhere longer than 3 weeks tops. Worst case scenario it goes horribly wrong……and I say “see ya” within a couple of weeks tops. This isn’t fucking high school. I’m not stuck with any judgy bitches who will make my life hell for 4 solid years. I am a grown ass adult living my life. And I have wheels under my home so who really cares? The permanence of my social anxiety began to rapidly fade in that realization.
The first thing that happened is this cool chick in the RV next door meandered over one day and struck up a conversation with me. And I wasn’t half as awkward as I thought I might be. And she made some joke about kids making you drink wine and she cussed and I thought “holy shit, maybe she is my people.” But then the next day my husbands were both there and she asked who they were and I faltered and thought “Oh shit. Here it is. I admit I’m poly and she gets all judgy and that’s that.”
Except it turns out she and HER husband are poly too.
Well. Small fucking world.
And it dawned on me…….isn’t that the entire POINT of all of this? That we area ll way more similar than we ever even realize? I tell that to teenage girls all the time. The ones struggling with fitting in and self esteem and worrying about hair or weight or pimples. I assure them that ALL teens are way more focused on their own perceived flaws and the ones who try to make you feel bad or tear you down tend to be the ones who happen to have the lowest self-esteem in the first place
So, there it all was. I held this power. Not to fear but to love. To build relationships. To meet people. To greet people.
And I began. To go directly to the camp workers and ask questions face to face when I needed assistance. To go in to a restaurant and order my own food and make eye contact and say thank you with a smile. Once in awhile I’d meet some jerk who didn’t like my loud kids or caught me kissing two men in one day and made assumptions and it really didn’t matter like I thought it would because I was rolling away from those people soon anyway.
And then yesterday happened.
I met two people in one day. No , I mean, 2 people I have chatted with and fallen in love with as awesome humans on Facebook I met in person yesterday.
The first was my girl Hannah. This girl is one of my girl crushes, dude. Her eyeliner is always on fleek, she is just in general beautiful, she is this super strong woman who is not afraid to speak up about the things she carries closest in her heart, despite the fact she sometimes gets backlash from it. She is brave and sweet and I adore her. And I felt 120% frumpy showing up to meet her. But I went anyway. And it turns out she is exactly as groovy in real life as she is on line. And it was fun. And her kids were cute as hell and got along great with my kids and it was fine. Fun. Nice.
Then I drove a couple more hours to a house I had never been to in a town I had never set foot in to meet a person I didn’t even know what she LOOKED like. But her posts and her messages to me made me sure she had a big heart, a great sense of humor, a beautiful view on life in general. So I went. And I got out of the truck. And I hugged her hello. And she made me feel at ease. And she had a beautiful smile and made our clan of 10 feel nothing but totally welcome in her home. Her whole family was so kind. We were all sad we had to cut the visit short and we made promises to come back through for a longer visit later on down the road.
And later on it struck me what a big deal this all was.
I had stepped so far out of my comfort zone that the zone was now this teensy little insignificant speck on the map of my life. I had met two people in one day and it turned out to be super easy and totally worth it.
This is one of many small (but HUGE!) reasons that this trip has been changing lives. This isn’t just about adventures and hikes and seeing America. This is about so much more. This is about bravery and personal growth and breaking through walls that have held me captive for so long.
This is what gratitude looks like.
This is my purpose in wandering.