Just when I had proudly congratulated myself on mastering (somewhat) the art of 'looking right, not left' when walking in England, I was thrown a curveball. What may you ask, was it? It was riding as a passenger on the left-hand side of a car. Mind you, I was incredibly thankful when my new friend picked me up at the Shawford Train Station in Hampshire, England a few weeks ago. However, as I clamped myself in and quickly glanced at my reflection in the side-view mirror, I soon realized I hadn't taken into account that cars would be coming towards us to my left. In previous visits to the U.K., I had been in the back seat of a black taxi or Uber. This was my first time sitting upfront. And I must admit the first few minutes my feet probably drained of blood from me pressing them into the floorboard. I was convinced, each time a car came near us, that I was going to be hit. It was yet another reminder of being aware that normal in one country is not that in another one. It reminded me too of the importance of relinquishing my perceived control of people, places, and things.
Relinquishing my perceived control is even more clear to me now that I'm 12 days away from my one year anniversary of being outside of the United States. When I returned to Stockholm, Sweden last October, I had a plan. That plan had a plan too. And even though I knew from previous trips abroad the reality of jet jag, I was convinced when the plane touched down at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, that I would get to the apartment I was renting, slough off my bags and head back out into the 9°C (48°F) weather. Of course, my body scoffed at this, rendering me exhausted for the next few days. But it was more than the jet lag that had wiped me out. My emotions were at the cusp of processing the vacating of an apartment I'd lived in for over seven years and a job I'd said goodbye to after 20-plus years. I was on a new journey as a digital nomad, armed with my passport, my laptop, and my newly purchased steel-blue matching luggage set.
The first three months were challenging. Not because of anything external. No, it was because I was determined to do stuff (look for work, make connections, etc.), with the unspoken and familiar goal of leap-frogging over how I was feeling. I didn't want to admit to myself that I was afraid. I didn't want to admit to myself that I was anxious. But the scariest thing I was afraid to admit was that I was happy I had done what I'd been wanting to do since first visiting Stockholm during the summer of 2015. I didn't want to admit that, although I had no idea how this part of my life was going to unfold, I was deliriously ecstatic I hadn't allowed the internal cult of negativity to talk me out of following my heart. I'd lived enough life to know that bathing myself in doubt and regret were two of the best ways to dim my light and my hope.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, it wasn’t until I began to open up to my new circle of friends in Stockholm that the heavy boot of self-judgment and fear began to lift. In admitting my fears and insecurities, and my worry of what they back home may have been saying about me, I became less afraid of my new life in Europe. However, I had to come to terms with realizing I was more afraid to believe in my new venture. When I did begin to believe in it, opportunities presented themselves, reminding me of the professional dreams I had always wanted to pursue. And that's what I've been doing for the past few months. I won't lie, at times it's scary living a life that for many years I’d merely fantasized about. But I'm loving it. And I'm so very grateful for those in my life who are honest, supportive, and uplifting.
Almost two years ago I made a list, inspired by something the singer Ciara shared on RuPaul's What's The Tea podcast. Several months later I wrote the list again, forgetting the previous one. Last September, when I began to sell items and pack boxes for my eventual move out of America, I came across both lists. They were identical, both highlighting the same professional goals and desires. I’d also written down my desire to pursue a healthy romantic relationship.
Family and friends have applauded me for being on this journey, saying things like "Erick, you're so brave." I always reply that I'm not doing it alone. The support of my Higher Power and the positive energy that surrounds me helps to fuel this. I've also joked that doing this is much less scary than allowing myself to fall in love. But a few weeks ago, I decided to stop saying this, to others and to myself. Because I do want to find love in a healthy and supportive relationship. I'm ready to believe it's possible.
For many years I thought I wanted love. But as I look back, I see that my actions suggest I didn't believe in it. I'm definitely aware that I'm afraid of the vulnerability needed to make it possible. But not anymore. Or shall I say, now I'm willing to admit I’m afraid and share about it. And most importantly, challenge myself to believe in the possibility of it. In the same way I've been encouraged to believe in other parts of my life.