This article originally appeared in the June 2018 print issue of Skirt! Magazine.
It was a monsoon-like day when my husband, Frank, our 3-year-old son, Reese, our dog, Chaos, and I piled ourselves and whatever remaining items didn’t fit into our moving pod into our truck and Sprinter van. With a boat and a Green Egg grill in tow, we waved goodbye to our beloved Folly Beach home, shook the hands of its new owner, and pulled out of town, headed into the unknown.
“Why would we ever leave Charleston?” you might ask. After all, it is the No. 1 city in the world for pretty much everything. “Who would ever want to move away?”
We had our reasons, most of which were nurtured by my husband who felt the long-awaited call for adventure out West grow stronger and stronger. I have to admit, he had to convince me that it was the next right thing for our family. I had just started a business and was doing well in my career. We had a great network of friends, our son was in a great preschool, and we had a beach house to boot. I didn’t think that it got much better than what we were fortunate enough to have.
But Frank was playing the long game. Whereas I clung to our life in Charleston like a long-awaited life raft, he saw it as a starting point from which to dream up our next big family adventure. Frank envisioned a lifestyle spent outdoors exploring the public lands of the Rocky Mountains, teaching our son (and me, for that matter) to fish and hunt, summer nights spent camping under the stars, and a commute across town that didn’t involve an entire afternoon sitting in traffic and crossing five different bridges. And with the money we would get from the sale of our beach house, he rationed, we would be able to purchase a property wherever we chose to settle out West, plus a home near his family in North Florida to escape to during the harsh winters. After all, Reese is still a few years away from having to adhere to a strict school schedule, and both of us are able to work remotely, so it seemed like a reasonable plan.
Slowly but surely, I was beginning to see what he saw. So over the course of the next year, we began to plot our departure from Charleston and dream of no-see-ums-free days out West. Last summer, we even took a two-week road trip through the Rocky Mountain states to scout out a few locations. I was stunned by the majesty that surrounded us at every turn – and the lack of humidity. We left with new resolve to leap into a new adventure of traveling and living out of our Sprinter van to find our new home in either New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, or maybe even Oregon or Idaho.
So on a rainy day in late April, we drove into our new “normal.”
A few days after our departure, when the newness of it all had started to wear off, a long-avoided fear within me began to roar. I became anxious and stir-crazy, with a pit in my stomach that would only be satisfied if I had some sort of meaningful work to thrust myself into. I’m ashamed to say that it sent me spiraling into an emotional black hole that only a call with my best friend could pull me out of.
After I emerged from my melancholy and self-pity, I realized how easy it is to say that it would be thrilling to leave it all behind and venture out into a new life somewhere else when you’re surrounded by the things, friendships and lifestyle that give you a feeling of comfort, security and identity. But what happens when you make that leap – and instead of feeling exhilarated, confident and free, you begin to feel panicked, anxious and a deep feeling of worthlessness?
In picking myself back up and wiping away my tears, I thought about fear, and how sometimes it takes removing ourselves from everything we know to finally face what it is we’re afraid of the most. For me, it is not a fear derived from the potential of financial ruin or a lack of physical safety; but rather it is fading into obscurity, never doing anything worthwhile or noteworthy with my life. This fear may seem ridiculous, but for whatever reason it is a very real thing that I’ve long carried within me. Truth be told, this was my greatest fear about our move.
Perhaps we don’t only take big leaps and risks in our lives because of our need to test our physical limits, but to confront our internal, emotional fears and demons as well. In taking chances on the outside, we confront and expand our internal capacities as well. Fearlessness is not merely the absence of fear, but is the process of becoming: It takes facing the fear to ultimately become fearless. The start of our trip had finally brought me to something within myself I was most likely always protecting myself from with a schedule full of meaningful work. And I faced it. Tears, shame, embarrassment, and all, it brought me into my fearlessness.