A Lesson in Letting Go
There was a time in my life when I suffered from massive bouts of depression for not having traveled enough. I’m aware of how ridiculous it sounds, but I think that any honest traveler will tell you how horrible it feels to find oneself confined within the walls of the same city for months on end. I was also coming to terms with the fact that the goals I had created as a child were imploding before my very eyes. That the dreams I had planned for myself were packing their bags and walking out on me without a second glance or a kiss goodbye.
I thought I was going to see the world before my 25th birthday. I had obtained a degree in anthropology to do just that. But 25 came and went, and I was still in Toronto. I also thought my father was going to be around to walk me down the isle and into the arms of the man I would meet when I was 20 and marry at 25. Neither of those happened either. I was definitely most certainly sure that I would leave U of T with my degree in Anthropology and skip straight off to an exotic grad school in hopes of discovering the cure for misanthropy or the culture of a never-before-seen native civilization. Guess what? That definitely most certainly didn’t happen.
I contemplated death almost as often as I dreamed about leaving the country. Afraid to travel alone and constantly rejected by my friends and family, who simply didn’t have the same desire as I to pack up and leave, I felt like I was not only tied, but bolted and glued down to this cruel city.
I spent my 20’s in gut-wrenching despair as if my soul had given up on me and was trying to leave my body in an attempt to find someone else who would listen to its call. I graduated university without a job offer and no energy to bother applying for grad school. My father passed away – an event that almost killed me – and my remaining family was filled with about as much affection towards each other as this woman.
My panic was lung-crushing and I wanted out of the country but I was too afraid to go anywhere, so for the next 5 years I stayed home and cried. I cried for the life I couldn’t make for myself, I cried for the unbearable loss of my father. I cried for the kids or husband that I didn’t have by then, and the Masters degree I didn’t have the energy to pursue. I cried for the countries I hadn’t seen, and the relationship I didn’t have with my mother. But most of all I cried for the lack of control I had over my life.
It’s the worst feeling – when you’ve declined to take the call of your soul for reasons like fear or loneliness or despair. At least that’s what I felt I was doing at the time – not living up to my dreams.
But then, on an odd day in my 28th year, I simply stopped crying.
It happened shortly after I bought my first home and joined a yoga teacher training program. I no longer needed to run from the city. I didn’t care what was on the other side of the sea. And come to think of it, my hometown didn’t seem like such a bad place to settle down in after all. For the first time in my life, I had a place to call home. I felt stress-free.
So I booked a trip to Italy.
In retrospect, I find it really funny that when I was finally satisfied with living in the city that broke my heart, I celebrated by booking a trip out of it.
As if all the screaming and crying over getting out had never happened. As if the pain of my twenties was just a bad dream. As if booking a trip to Italy was as common for me as making almond milk on Monday (my weekly ritual).
I had never once brought myself to book a trip away alone, not even when I wanted it most. And yet here I was, finally happy as a pig in shit, deciding with not a care in the world that a solo trip – to Italy – for two and a half months – would be just dandy. And it was. It really was.
Earlier this year and back in my hometown of Toronto, I got a craving. I called up my best friend and said, “Cat, I just want to buy a croissant, eat half a grapefruit, and drink an espresso for breakfast in Paris.”
I didn’t think much of the conversation at the time but the image of sitting on a patio in Paris had burned itself into my brain. I visualized everything from the wrought iron bars of the cafe’s entrance to the foam pattern on my cappuccino. Only unlike in my twenties, I wasn’t worried about it happening.
I turned 30 this year, and out of the woodwork came the friends and family I desperately desired just 4 years ago. To celebrate my birthday, my mother – happier than I’ve seen her in 30 years – whisked me off to Florida; my former boyfriend took me to every 5-star restaurant in Aruba, and my best friend Cat took me to Paris.
If you want to know how a macaron is supposed to feel while melting on your tongue, go to Paris. If you want to drink robust wine while eating strong, unpasteurized cheese, go to Paris. And if you want to have just half a grapefruit while pulling apart your croissant and dipping it into your cappuccino on a patio surrounded by wrought iron… please go to Paris.
Of course, I am not telling you this story to brag. After a decade of life-altering tragedies I guess I got lucky, and God only knows how, but I ended up with really great people in my life. Yet the most fascinating thing I observed in the past 365 days is that the less I stressed about getting somewhere, the faster I got there.
The moment I let go – of “needing” to travel, struggling to find happiness and a place to call home, fretting about not having true friends who I can count on, & pining after the family dynamic we never had, – and not a minute sooner, I got everything I had ever asked for in abundance. The satisfaction of not having to stress about it is an understated bonus.