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The Scariest Thing

Gulf pic

“You can do this, just give me your hand,” my husband and brother say this to me all the time. I’m an overly cautious person and always have been. I immediately think something is too dangerous or too hard and declare it as such. Hiking off the trail, swimming in murky water, roller-coasters, climbing a ladder, all things that most people don’t think twice about, make me all sweaty.

There have been so many times when I automatically assume I can’t do something or it’s too scary to begin. This is not to say that I am some Victorian fainting flower of a woman. I have given myself stitches in the woods with gasket sealant and cleaned the cut with gasoline, then powered myself with whiskey,  ridden a horse across a rocky Montana field at midnight  when I could hear rattlesnakes everywhere but couldn’t get around them, kept over fifty children calm by teaching them sign language during a lockdown in which I could hear the gunman outside my window, kept going on a field trip after one student left in an ambulance because my principal said I had to, walked through two growling and snarling dogs while singing to them so that I could deliver Christmas dinner to a student’s family, and spearfished stingrays at the middle of the night in the Gulf.

We are all confronted with choices in which one choice is scary or more likely, uncomfortable. I take the safe option most of the time, I like to be comfortable. Many times I think the thing that is out of my comfort zone is not possible. When my brother and I were big into Crossfit, I would often think that the workout of the day was not possible for me. I would just give it a try and see what happened. 300 pushups happened. Losing 50 pounds happened. It was scary, uncomfortable, amazing, exhilarating and so worth it. I have found that I learn more about the world, myself, everything, when I venture out and do the thing that scares me.

This year we moved from Oregon to Texas. There were so many reasons not to move; family, friends, my job, trees, good wine, the list goes on… We were comfortable in Oregon, settled. We each worked 60+ hours a week, the dog went to doggy daycare, we did yardwork and housework on weekends, we hung out with the neighbors, we barbecued with friends. We had a good life. When my husband’s job opportunity came up, we decided to go for it, be uncomfortable, have an adventure.

No challenge in my life prepared me for the adversity I would face with this move. My husband moved four months before I did. I had to finish the school year, sell the house, and his company needed him right away. Living alone for the first time at thirty-four years old, packing the entire house and putting the house on the market, while working full time, is incredibly difficult. I won’t even go into the emotional cost of that, it’s impossible to imagine unless you have been there. All I can say is that I gained nine pounds from March to June from a steady diet of Burgerville and chardonnay.

Leaving everyone you know to move to a state where you know literally five people is… I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like you no longer have a center. Your axis is off and you keep tripping because your support system isn’t close enough to catch you. It’s like vertigo. Leaving your family and friends gives you vertigo.

I didn’t think I could do any of it; packing, staging the house, driving out here, living in temporary housing while our house is built, making new friends, finding a new career. I was scared and did not think we would actually pull it all off, but kept plowing through.

However, none of this proved to be the hardest part.

The most terrifying part is learning to redefine myself. I am no longer a teacher who lives in West Linn. Who goes to bunko with Paula, Tamra, Melanie and Cindy. Who drinks wine at local vineyards. Who runs 10k and 5k races in the rain. Who is a local Oregonian and can tell you the best beaches, hiking trails, rivers and pumpkin patches. I don’t do Crossfit with my brother. People don’t know me.

I am no longer any of those descriptors, so who am I? Pretty scary shit for thirty-five years old.

But.

It’s liberating. I’m in a state where virtually no one knows me. I can do whatever I want, be whoever I want.

The woman who was scared of climbing over a tree to see a waterfall, just moved across the damn country, and had to make a new life. I decided to do all the things! We bought a boat, I learned to fish, I started swimming in the lakes, wore a bathing suit IN PUBLIC, started running with my dog in the Texas summer mornings, ate new foods, bought new boots, spent time taking pictures, started a blog, read over fifty books, and just did what I wanted to do. Not what I usually did. Not what my friends did. What I wanted to do.

When this whole move prospect came about, one of my friends sent me an article that changed me. Maybe she could see the journey I was going to have to go through. Maybe she thought I needed this growth. Maybe she just gave it to me because I swear a lot. The article is called “The Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson. The gist is that you have can only care about so many things in life, spend that caring energy on the people and places that deserve it. Don’t waste your energy on the things you cannot change, the people who do not support you and the drama not worth your time.

We moved to Texas and I gave myself permission to stop giving a fuck about what other people think I should do with my life and what I thought I could accomplish. I had always been cautious and safe, and this move showed me that I can do so much if I just embrace the scary part and roll on.

This doesn’t mean that I’m sitting around as a Texas housewife eating barbeque, although that does sound amazing, it would be boring as hell. It also doesn’t mean that I am neglecting all others’ needs and tending to my own wants exclusively. It means that it’s ok if others do not approve. They don’t have to, this is my one life and I’m going to do it how I want, in ways that I approve. My husband and I have been a team for seventeen years, we are doing something right, and we are going to keep making decisions that are good for us. If that sounds selfish, great, I give no fucks. If that’s not how you want to live your life, I still give zero fucks. You do what you do and I will do what I do and hopefully we are all happy. I give fucks about people and things that are worth my energy.

I now own my own business, workout twice a day, take my dog to the dog park and run or walk him everyday, I write, I get to volunteer, have evenings free to spend with my husband and new friends, my weekends are for boating or concerts or other Texas fun.

My last blog article has been read by over a half a million people,  I can’t even describe the tears of joy I have shed about this. I wrote what I felt, and it actually resonated with people all over the world. It’s so amazing. I have read every comment, and have been moved by every single one. This has become one more amazing turning point in my life. I wrote something that made a difference.  All I ever wanted to do was make a difference,  and I did for a long time as a teacher, now my article reached so many. I am humbled and wholly impressed with how small our large world is, we are so connected.

I am so incredibly happy, it’s hard to imagine that our life was any other way that it is now. It’s not just that I changed careers, or just that we moved, it’s everything. Give yourself permission to be scared and keep going. Give less fucks and get more out of life. The scariest thing I have ever done is the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel bigger now, which is important at 5’1″. I feel more like myself than I have in a very long time. I am betting on myself, and I am fucking winning.

4 thoughts on “The Scariest Thing”

  1. My ex and I did the exact same thing as you a few years ago to save our marriage and start fresh somewhere new. I left in August while she stayed in Wyoming with our two-year-old son until Christmas break when we loaded our house up and drove down to Austin together. Unfortunately, our adventure didn’t turn out quite as good as we had hoped and we were separated again by April. I stayed in Texas for another school year after that and miss it fiercely every single day. I made so many wonderful friends and had lots of great experiences once I was single and free to be myself. I moved to Colorado to be close to my son again and while things are going well, Texas will always feel like my true home and hopefully someday I can move back. I wish you guys the best of luck on your new life 🙂

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  2. Thank you for sharing this. In July my husband and I moved from Oklahoma to Oregon for his job. I quit teaching, sold our house, moved away from everything….at 8 months pregnant. I relate to everything you said (except reverse culture exchange…and the fact we’ve only been married a year a half, though we had been planning this move since we met). The hardship of knowing and having no one, but also the freedom to do whatever I want and blossom even more into who I was meant to be–and right now that also means becoming a mama.

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  3. Thank you so much for the validation of changing the world, I have been teaching for 27 years. I feel I am being squeezed out of a profession that I dearly love but which does not love me back…sort of like an abusive relationship. I know that I have more to contribute and also to gain, but I have to be brave in order to make the career change. I don’t feel very brave just yet.

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  4. I’m impressed how brave you all are, yet I’m very sad. All of you wonderful, caring teachers…making a difference in children’s lives …leaving for what seems to be the same reason. School systems all over the country are disconnected from students, parents, teachers– they are answering to politicians who don’t even answer to “we the people” who elected them. I think basic morals/ values are missing in our society.
    I fear for my grandchildren. Will there be dedicated, caring teacher for them?

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