My writing always features an ever-present theme – my continuous, yet futile, search for elusive somethings. This actually doubles as the theme of my life, and also the catalyst for the anxiety that seemed to
stalk follow me throughout my journey of self-discovery. Reminiscing on every segment of my life, I can still remember a ball of tension in my belly; a familiar feeling that I assumed everyone constantly experienced. It’s funny how perspective works in that way. You often think that your reality is the reality, but that’s rarely ever the case. Jarrell and I decided to travel the world for this very reason. We knew that we were only seeing a snippet of the world, and did not want to design our life from the narrow perspective we were exposed to.
That’s another blog post for another day. For now, let’s stay focused on the anxiety I remember feeling at track meets as a child, assemblies as an adolescent, during finals in college, and especially throughout my career in Corporate America. I was always chasing something. I needed to be a great athlete, and a scholar, then a college graduate, while also being a great girlfriend, before eventually becoming a successful businesswoman and wife. I allowed these titles to define me, much like my shoes, hair, and apartments.
It was never enough. After getting a beautiful two-story condo, painted in pastel colors in sunny Los Angeles, I was ecstatic. I had arrived in the city of Angels, homeless, just 3 months prior, before house sitting for a friend of a friend. To finally have my own space granted a much-deserved breath of fresh air. I thought that the anxiety surrounding my living situation would immediately dissipate, and for a moment it did, but not for long. It was soon replaced by a strong desire to completely furnish my new condo. And so I was back on the track, chasing this next requirement for validation, disguised as a goal. Once my apartment was perfectly decorated, complete with a fully stocked bar, I began to question the location. I felt that Inglewood wasn’t enough.
Needless to say, my next apartment on Wilshire Blvd wasn’t enough either. Then I simply started eyeing my car, because an old Honda Accord didn’t match my apartment, which was a short walk from Beverly Hills. Before long, my slim frame (which I would kill for now) needed work, and I impulsively bought a $400 monthly plan for unlimited workout classes, and more yoga pants than any woman needs. The chase was never over, and I began to see that it never would be.
So I quit. Cold turkey. I fell in love with myself and quit my career. Then I fell in love with Jarrell, and sold everything I had raced so hard to obtain. I felt relieved for a split second. I thought that because I stopped chasing things, the feeling in my belly would immediately dissolve, but it never did. Because even though I stopped running, the race continued, and everyone around me was still competing.
Every interaction was filled with faux excitement, as people constantly asked what I was currently chasing, before blurting out every benchmark they had recently surpassed, and every new title they were now racing to achieve. Initially these interactions were dreadful. After always having the best, and most widely accepted, chases going on in my life (athletics, college, graduation, cross country move, career, etc.), I now had nothing. I was just in love and living, and that didn’t garner the same pats on the back that I had grown accustomed to.
Neither did traveling the world. When Jarrell joined me in quitting the race and selling everything, we were ecstatic. We felt free and alive for the very first time. Neither of us were doing anything we didn’t want to do. We were spending our days together, learning and laughing, while dreamscaping the life we wanted together. It was brilliant, but it wasn’t enough.
My friends and family were confused about how this “trip” would improve my resume, or make me more appealing for jobs upon my return. They didn’t understand that I didn’t want a job. I wasn’t taking a break from the race. I was quitting it altogether.
So, again, I thought that my anxiety would be gone once we embarked on this journey, but nope. It was still there. I was still worried. I had to make this work. I couldn’t run out of money and run home with my tail between my legs. I had something to prove, and despite all of my previous efforts, I was secretly racing again.
Our first country was Panama, and a month into our stay we hiked to the highest point on Bastimentos Island and marveled at this view. The air seemed fresher from that viewpoint, and my vision clearer. It was the first time I can remember living completely in the moment. I wasn’t regretting anything from my past, or plotting for my future. I was simply enjoying where I was, and more importantly who I was, and whom I was with. How we had been courageous enough to leave our hometown to see things like this, I’ll never fully understand. Our belief and faith was unmatched, and in that moment, I felt validated.
Fast-forward a year, and we were in Europe, beginning our second year abroad. We had spent an entire year with only the things that could fit into our 35 Liter backpacks (about 20 pounds worth of stuff). In that time we had chased each other on black sand beaches, lived without hot water for months on end, ran out of money in a third world country, before launching freelance careers to become self sufficient. We’d fallen deeper in love, screamed in the Coliseum, traveled through 8 countries in total, sacrificed our necks and posture to gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for hours, and smiled at each other throughout bumpy speedboat rides, creating mental images that will forever be engraved in my mind, next to the definition of ‘trust’. In short, we’d lived.
And by this time the reaction of others had drastically changed. Every interaction we had was filled with awe and admiration. Strangers were mesmerized by our courage and ambition, and we stole the spotlight at every dinner party we attended, with stories of our worldly adventure. Even our family and friends now saw the value in our journey. But I still felt the ping in my belly. I still felt like I needed to upgrade from cheap travel, to afford our lifestyle how we wanted.
Our freelance careers and small online businesses weren’t enough. So we chased. We launched new businesses, and pushed ourselves, until it hit me. I’d like to say it was in a beautiful setting on the Phi Phi Islands, as I peaked passed the leaf of a palm tree to see the beautifully clear blue water, and gain my clarity. But it was nothing like that. The setting was more like a tiny outdated apartment, that was all we could afford, in some discreet location, far off in the world. I was stressing about the ridiculous amount of emails one of our businesses had garnered, watching Jarrell casually sketch out an illustration for a movie board he was working on.
Jarrell was always the cool and collected ying to my frantic and anxious yang. He was always relaxed, and sure of whatever it was we were doing. He didn’t doubt himself, or me. He believed in us equally and had faith in our resilience. In that moment I could see that Jarrell believed that he was enough, and I said to myself the two words that freed me of anxiety: I’m enough. It was a strange, and unexpectedly immediate release of tension. It was liberating, and I began repeating and expounding on my new power.
“I’m enough; just as I am. I don’t need to see another country, or make another dollar. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes I make or lessons I must relearn; I’m enough. I don’t need any things or people to validate me, because I’m enough just as I am.”
There is no thing, or achievement, or goal, or benchmark in this world that will ever match the feeling of accomplishment I felt in the moment I realized and embraced that I’m enough.
I was enough at track meets as a child, in assemblies as an adolescent, and as a college student and businesswoman. I was always enough, and the people around me, particularly my mother, always saw it. But it doesn’t matter how other people see you if you can’t see it yourself. It also doesn’t matter how others live, or question your life, once you believe you are enough. I don’t mind others chasing benchmarks, and I no longer get anxious when asked about my current standing in the race. I believe I am enough, and therefore do not feel insufficient or insecure in sharing that I am not chasing anything. Rather, I am simply being, and living.
Honestly, my body still hasn’t caught up to my mental growth. I’ll still face a situation that would undoubtedly have brought on anxiety in any other part of my journey, and begin to go through the same physical motions that used to precede the tension forming in my belly, but it never comes. That is no longer my reality, because I’ve allowed myself to decide my direction, while understanding that my titles or achievements do not define me.
Because I am enough. And now that I know that, everything seems to be okay.