“Accept yourself. You don’t have to prove shit to no one except yourself”
– Aubrey Drake Graham
After what seemed like years of mentally weighing out the pros and cons, in addition to a slew of other mental obstacles, I finally felt confident enough to quit my job and travel internationally for 3 months. This was a very big deal for me and I felt like I was finally taking a big step in the right direction. I was confidently and unapologetically taking control of my life and what I wanted to do (for what seemed like the first time in my semi-adult life). I was no longer allowing fear to control my decisions. That was it. I had enough in my savings account to travel for exactly 3 months according to budget, I had a place to stay when I came back, and I had enough money to hold me over for a couple months when I got back while I was figuring out what my next steps would be.
Once I had pulled the trigger and indeed quit my job, I thought, well. The biggest battle is over and I’ve conquered those fears!
It’s never that simple is it.
What I did not anticipate to happen next, was the on-slot of what I have coined as “IPOF” “Insidious Projected Outsider Fears”. You know, the worst kind of fears… sneaky, gradual, confusing, disrupting.
After the plane tickets were purchased and I had put my two weeks in, I was feeling so excited and empowered that I was chattering away to anyone and everyone about my “big step.” I told friends, coworkers, peers, grocery store produce guys, clerks – everyone. I mean, I felt like Ron Burgundy when he discovered he was in Love with Veronica Corningstone- I wanted to shout it from the top of a mountain! ..but I didn’t have a mountain. I had a neighborhood Sprouts.
“Wow that’s amazing! But.. you don’t know what you’re going to do when you get back..at all? See I would never be able to do that, I’d be too worried. And do you have a reusable bag or would you like to purchase one?”
Okay first of all Laura, you know I always forget my bag in the car. Second of all, when I get back? I haven’t even left yet!
I started to notice a pattern. It wasn’t one time that these questions would come up immediately preceding my statements about my big life changes. This was how almost every single interaction played out. This continued before, during, and immediately after returning from my trip.
I always would laugh it off, adding in an overly-cavalier “Yep. Not a clue.”
But the reality is that it bothered me.
Those small and seemingly harmless questions bothered me. I’d think, “wait..should I be worried about it?” And before I even realized it, I was chowing down on a heaping portion of IPOF. It definitely didn’t taste good. Definitely didn’t make me feel good, but I kept eating it anyways.
You have to understand that I was raised by two unwaveringly supportive, positive, and unconventional parents. I mean my mother is this sweet little Japanese/Italian fairy who quite literally dances around singing songs from Sleeping Beauty and who’s favorite quotes are “only too much is enough” and “to each their own’ said the old woman as she kissed the cow.” (Yes, she learned that second quote from one of the dementia patients at the facility she works at- her “Virgo friend Mary Jane Livingston.” No, you aren’t surprised.) She doesn’t delve into deep probing questions or conundrums and just kind of happily floats along. Unlike my father, who can theorize for hours on end about anything quantum-related (well, anything related to anything) and built his life and net worth essentially by taking risks, proving people wrong, and disregarding the status quo when it didn’t suit him. Thus, my psyche was, in part, protected by their parenting.
The fact is, I had just gotten over those questions/fears! I had just fucking spent months and months reminding myself and counteracting all of the inappropriate fears to get to the place I was at so I could enjoy my next steps, including my trip and the simultaneous and subsequent “road to self discovery.”
Here’s another fact: I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got back.
Here’s a third fact: Not knowing was okay with me. I was comfortable with it. That is, until I was told by others that I should not be comfortable with it and rather be fearful.
People project their fears and feelings sometimes knowingly, but often unknowingly, onto others. It happens all of the time. This was the case with all of the loaded questions I was receiving. There is a place for these questions. They are reasonable questions. However, it’s the projected weight and pressures that come along with them that I take issue with. The unhealthy additive: IPOF.
When we are unsure of ourselves and people touch on those insecurities, it can send is into a downward spiral.
Here’s the takeaway:
I want to remind everyone, including myself, that it’s not only okay to not know what your next steps will be, but it’s appropriate. It’s also completely and utterly okay and appropriate for that to be your answer.
It has to be okay. If other people can’t accept that as the very valid answer it is, then they really have some big personal fears they are hiding behind. It has nothing to do with you. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, except yourself. Do not allow other people’s fears to dictate how you live your life.
“Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself”- Harvey Fierstein