2017 was a year of huge change in my life, but it didn't seem like it was going to be that way back at the very beginning of the year. When the year started I was still dealing with crippling anxiety that was put into place by the disintegration and deceit of my three year relationship the previous summer, not to mention the death of a friend from cancer and another friend having a stroke at a very young age. My mind was a mess and, in turn, my body was also a mess.
Early 2017 was a continuation of my fun adventure into the physical manifestations of anxiety, landing me in urgent care a couple of times, only to be told it was all in my head. It didn't help that a case of costochondritis lead me into getting an EKG, a stress test, a mammogram, an MRI, and x-rays of my lungs just to rule anything worse out (for those who don't know, costochondritis involves chronic chest pain, which is a GREAT mindfuck for anxiety suffers).
In the past I had always been someone who DOES. I didn't let fear hold me back, yet there I was at the beginning of 2017, afraid to make plans to do anything out of fear and thoughts of "why bother anyways?"
I knew I had to get over this, because I was not someone I enjoyed spending time with. In fact, being alone was something that scared me most of all. I recall both laughing and crying simultaneously and hysterically while watching Jen Kirkman's comedy special on Netflix.
"I know I could hit my head on the bathtub and no one will know... and I'll die. I'll bleed out, and three days later a cat will eat my face. I don't have a cat, but when a single woman dies a cat appears."*
I was terrified of something like that happening. Yes, for real (except for the appearing cat part, because I already had three cats and I'm sure they would've feasted on this glorious mug of mine). I decided then that I couldn't let anxiety win, so I used rewards points to book myself a flight to Los Angeles.
For the past ten years I'd been visiting Southern California, and it had always helped me center myself, so I figured it was worth a go. I also knew that I could actually convince myself to get on a plane to go there (since a fear of flying was something that had flared back up with a vengeance... yay?). So, I went.
My time there was what set the rest of my year in motion. I visited my favorite Thai Massage place in Laguna Beach and left there with my body feeling pain free for the first time in months and months. From there I went to a lovely AirBnB that I booked in Malibu. It was tucked away in the hills next to a stream where the frogs sang at night, and the air was delightfully chilly and humid that time of year. I was off grid. Through my alone time, hiking, and visits from local friends, I felt like myself for the first time in a while. I found peace. I discovered that I wasn't as numb as I thought... that I could still FEEL. I hadn't felt much of anything besides fear in quite some time, so it was a nice awakening.
When I got home from that trip I started planning again. Now, perhaps this is where I could be accused of going into RUN mode for the rest of the year, but I have no regrets, because I wasn't running away from anything... I was running towards it. I went to London, Yorkshire, Paris, back to Los Angeles, Oregon, New Orleans, San Diego and faced my fears head on... all while having an amazing time.
Also, after that trip in February, it was clear to me that I needed to follow my heart, and my heart wasn't in my home in the Chicago area anymore. That piece of my heart had broken, and I didn't really have interest in repairing it... at least, not yet. I think I'd been in love with Los Angeles for a number of years, but life in Chicago always kept me from even thinking about moving away. I didn't have anything that was truly holding me in Chicago anymore, so I decided to leap. It was a leap I honestly never thought I'd ever take, because I was talking myself out of moving West for years at that point. It was time to stop talking and start listening.
With the help of some friends, I packed up and headed West on an amazing cross country road trip. Now, I am here.
I've been in Los Angeles since October first, and I haven't had any regrets. For the first time this year I don't feel as though I want to run anymore. I am here. I am happy. I've connected with my wonderful friends who already lived here, and I've made some new amazing friends as well. The most important thing, though, is that I am happy when I am alone. I'm not afraid anymore.
Like I said... I wasn't running away from anything this year, I was running towards it. All of the running, all of that fear facing, has helped me really reconnect with the present. Live in the moment. I don't have any profound advice for you if you are experiencing anything similar to what I went through, but I can tell you this much...
Don't hide. Run.
Run towards what you are afraid of. Face it. Challenge it. It will be hard, but the only way to face fear is to head it off at the pass.
So here I am, a Chicago girl in Los Angeles. I didn't fully wrap up my life in Chicago, so there are still pieces there for sure. I'm not even sure what 2018 is going to bring for me, but I'm also not worried about it. Why? Because I've stopped worrying so much about the future and just focus on each day of my life as it comes. I appreciate it as a gift. I enjoy each moment, no matter how exciting or how dull it may seem to others.
I'm not by any means saying that I'm perfect at this point. I still have work to do. I still have lingering fears to face. But for now... I am here.
I am here.
*quote from Jen Kirkman's "I'm Gonna Die Alone (and I Feel Fine)" on Netflix.