Dum Spiro, Spero

“As I breathe, I hope.”

So where the hell have I been?

A loaded question, that. One that I could answer in so many ways without ever actually admitting where I was or what I was trying to accomplish. It would be so simple. So easy. Too easy.

Four months ago I packed up the majority of my worldly possessions and moved to the UK in hopes of enlisting in the British Army. My eligibility based solely on my being a citizen of a Commonwealth Country. For four months I relied solely on the kindness of distant family members and old school chums of my mother’s for food, shelter, and a warm bed. For four months I traveled to and from Career Offices (had it switched, twice), upped and moved around the country every few weeks, said my ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir’s, took tests, worked my ass off, ran every day and integrated into British society the best I could.

It was a humbling experience to say the least, one that I’ve learned a lot from.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, and for reasons both in and out of my control, I didn’t make the cut.

This time.

While I’m not entirely sure there will be a ‘next time’-life, as it so often does, happens, and sometimes our decisions are made for us-I haven’t given up either.

I’ve debated so many times about whether or not to post this. About whether or not I should have been open about it in the first place. I chose not to originally because I was afraid there was a chance that I would not succeed and that I would have to come back and admit defeat.

Well, here I am.

Except, I haven’t been defeated. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. And while I do have shaky mornings where doubt and guilt and fear creep in, I also remember all that I’ve accomplished. 4 months ago, I couldn’t run a mile and a half. 4 months ago, I hadn’t ever lived anywhere outside of my little island. 4 months ago, I hadn’t realized how bright the sun shines here and how beautiful the ocean is and how lucky I was to be near it every. single. day. 4 months ago, I never would have considered trying new foods, picky 20 year old that I was. 4 months ago, I didn’t have the discipline to run every day. 4 months ago, I was so afraid of leaving that I thought I wouldn’t last a month. 4 months ago, I hadn’t known I had a secret passion for cooking and baking (well, ok, so I did know the latter, but it was more of a guilty pleasure, now I have about a thousand recipes bookmarked that I’m absolutely dying to try). 4 months ago, I had never done anything as nerve-wracking as showing up at a Barracks to do Selection. 4 months ago, I wasn’t nearly as patient or humble or easy-going as I am now. My self respect was all but mythical. I had done nothing to respect myself for 4 months ago.  4 months ago, I didn’t think I could stand on my own.

But I did. And, yes, I stumbled often. But I always got back up. Maybe not right away, maybe I took a day to-as we island folk say-“catch myself”, but I got back up. Even when I was afraid to. The worst thing you can do is not get back up, to not try because of fears.

Fear, guilt, resentment and doubt make everything seem impossible. They cripple you. You gain absolutely nothing through them.

My one regret is that I didn’t write it all down. I have snippets of my journey, but not the whole thing. No matter how good my memory is, I know if I tried to chronicle  it now (and I just might), I wouldn’t be able to recapture the whole thing. I neglected writing often because I knew if I wrote, I would have to examine my feelings and there were moments when I was too afraid to feel anything. I had to keep going, keep striving, because I knew if I wrote, all the doubts and fear would boil to the surface.

But I’ve learned I do not like who I am when I don’t write. Yes, I got back up, but I think there were times when I would have gotten up a whole lot quicker if I had bundled up all my negativity and hurled it at blank page. I’m slowly but surely working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way and I don’t think I would be feeling as positive about everything right now if it weren’t for the morning pages. (Even if I often rebel and don’t write them exactly in the morning). I’m finally ‘getting’ them. The more you bottle things up, the more you feed your fears and doubts, the more blocked you are. Some people use tragedy for inspiration, I used to. When I was young and bitter and angry and knew everything. I can’t do it anymore. I need to acknowledge my negativity, get it out on page, and then I need to let it stay there. It’s the only way I can focus on anything else. Otherwise…it festers and I go days and days wallowing and getting absolutely nothing productive done.

And-as cliche as this will undoubtedly sound-home is truly where your heart is. I spent months living in other people’s homes and I had both positive and negative experiences with this. For 4 months I maintained and projected an overly polite version of myself whenever in the company of my hosts out of courtesy, respect, and gratitude. This was, at best, humbling and, at worst, soul-sucking. I gained a new perspective on and appreciation for the homeland that I was so quick to leave. I, oddly, gained some self-confidence, because people are going to think what they want about you regardless of how polite and cooperative you make yourself out to be, so while I don’t advocate being ungrateful, I also wish I had stuck to my guns a little more and stood up for myself in certain situations. I’m slowly learning to do that, in no small part due to being able to accomplish what I did in spite of fears of inadequacy. I still showed up, I survived.

It would be nice if I could say that I’m completely confident and not at all worried about where my life will go from here, but that’s just not true. I am worried, I am afraid. But it’s ok, because I will continue to get up. I will continue to try. While I am in the process of job-hunting and will undoubtedly have to settle for something less exciting right now, it doesn’t have to be the be all end all. Maybe I’ll try again in six months (because I’ve become addicted to running despite my better judgment and natural disinclination to do so), maybe I’ll decide it’s not for me and find my true niche.

And through it all, I’ll be more faithful to my first passion, writing. And I will dabble in budding passions, and be kind to myself, and give myself permission to dabble, to do things I love.

And I will breathe, and I will hope.

I encourage you all to do the same.

So how are you all? What have I missed?


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