I drove from Calgary to Vancouver to Victoria back to Calgary in two days.
That’s 24 hours of driving in 48.
Until a few months ago, I had thought that I wouldn’t leave Calgary again. I wouldn’t travel much, except to see my mom in Texas… I would settle down in love and health and that would trump travel eternally.
“You’d love Vancouver, it’s much more suited to you than Calgary.”
Thanks, but he’s/she’s here. Thanks, but I’m too anxious to leave. Thanks, but I’m happy here.
And then when I ran out of excuses, and the opportunity presented itself to me in the form of one of my best and oldest friends uprooting her whole life to move to Victoria with a backseat available if I wanted it…. I found myself debating whether or not I wanted to go on an adventure way more intensely that I ought to.
Why was I at such a crossroads? Why was I sitting in my office chair bawling my eyes out because I couldn’t tell if I was capable of leaving my house for two days? Isn’t this what I wanted? I wanted this crazy, cool, spontaneous summer and here was a golden opportunity staring me in the face and I couldn’t meet its gaze.
I was completely unaware of just how terrified I was of ‘leaving’. And it was really sad.
Here I had been, living my whole life in Calgary because I thought as long as I stayed in this city, my anxiety would stay at bay. Someone could help me here, I knew where to go if I got too bad. I was always telling myself I couldn’t stray too far because the further I am from home the more danger I am in mentally. That had been my outlook for years and years and I never realized it.
And it was coming to a head right now because, for the first time in a very long time… I realized I had no real ties connecting me to this city I’ve clung to so tightly. No one and nothing that I couldn’t pack up and bring with me or leave behind. Truthfully, I think that was both the scariest and most liberating feeling I’ve ever had.
So I got in the car. I wiped my tears off my face, I clenched my shaking hands together and I got in the goddamn car.
Holy. Something about the mountains makes your mind work clearer, faster. Like the city has way too much radio static that you can’t even hear yourself but once you’re out, it becomes clear. You wouldn’t know this is a problem in my life, but I hadn’t been able to cry in about two months. My life had been going through constant intense change that should evoke a very personal and introspective response, and I felt dry as bone.
But it was nearly instantaneous, as soon as I couldn’t remember the roads I was seeing, my eyes swelled and I was blind. And I cried, and cried, and it was an automatic response, I wasn’t sad about anything… but I had been. And so I had that release, and I laughed my ass off while I did. I was surrounded by mountains, all misty and laughing, completely unconcerned.
We drove through the winding paths, and when the sun went down– I felt my first real tinge of fear. Driving at night always does that to me. Every shadow cast on the road I found myself flinching at, every car we passed I convinced myself would be the last. Eyes watching every yellow dash leaving our field of view, I panicked. I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t have strayed, I’m in too unknown a territory and no I have no choice but to stick it out, to watch the roads, to wait for the unknown end I always assume is inevitable in the midst of a panic attack.
And then I remembered that I was in the backseat of this trip. I wasn’t the driver, I wasn’t uprooting my life, I was just travelling along the road.
So I closed my eyes.
And I remembered why I was doing what I was doing. I remembered the mountain sheep we’d passed, mindfully eating the grass closest to the road without endangering themselves. I remembered the amount of singing I had done, something extremely unlike me that I made a mental note to add to my cheesy road trip repertoire. It actually calmed me down, and the ‘big bad reason’ why I didn’t want to come on the trip had come and gone, just like that.
Becca and I laid in bed listening to Matchbox 20, talking about failed relationships. West Side Story played on the TV in the background, and we had to get up in three hours.
We played this card came that we used to play at Tim Hortons every friday at 2 in the morning… and even though she was leaving I knew nothing would change, nothing had ever changed between the two of us. These are the memories I want to keep forever.
I guess what I’m trying to say, the reason I’m sharing all this… is because I know that I often let my fear get in the way of opportunities that I might have really benefitted from. I mean, had I not gone on this trip, I wouldn’t have gotten to have these moments of clarity, I wouldn’t have remembered that I’m not emotionless… I just tend to inhale a little too much of the smog of the city to think clearly, I wouldn’t have remembered that I need to leave sometimes in order to thrive. I wouldn’t have solidified the idea that I do not wish to stay in Calgary too much longer. I wouldn’t have fallen as completely in love as I am right now, if I didn’t get in the car.
I could spend all this time thinking about what I might have let fear interfere with in the past, and you could too, but the point is, sometimes you just need a little push.
I remembered for the first time in a couple years that anxiety doesn’t have to be a defining characteristic. And I hope I don’t forget that anytime soon.