Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Emily:
My life has turned out in a way I never pictured and that no one ever saw for me.
I spent the first 19 years of my life sitting in front of a TV dreaming. I would watch people live their lives and believe that the things they did would happen when I was older and without me needing to actually get up and do things. I was always just waiting for life to happen so much so that when I graduated from high school I hadn’t even applied to college or thought about what I wanted to do. I ended up at a community college and in my first apartment alone and scared. I could barely leave the place.
It would take me two hours to work up the nerve to go to the grocery store.
Suffice to say, I had deep rooted problems from being allowed to do nothing while growing up.
I was 19 and somehow dating this 25-year-old boy who had been in the navy for 5 years. And he hated the navy. It was a waste of his life and so outside of working his 16 hour shifts of doing nothing on a boat sitting in the harbor he craved adventure. In the short three months we were together we did hiking trips, took last minute road trips to places like the Grand Canyon and found enriching cultural events to fill the time.
But during this time I was still this scared girl, and while he was planning our next adventure, I was on the couch watching TV.
We fought a lot.
And in one of our fights he hit the hammer that put the nail into forever changing who I was.
He called me a Fragile Deer.
He said that I was always afraid of everything and I did nothing. I didn’t choose quality friends and I was always ok with how everything was. It all just stabbed my heart. I didn’t want to be a fragile deer, one that could break so easy. That wasn’t how I wanted to see myself.
And he was right, I hated my friends and I never had an opinion. I couldn’t even order food properly because I didn’t know what I wanted or as afraid I would be judged.
After we broke up I started pushing myself to do all the things that made me feel afraid.
It started with me going to the park by myself. I would sit in the parking lot afraid to get out of the car and say to myself: “You’re not the fragile deer, other people do this, you can do it too.”
It’s tattooed on the back of my arm to remind me that I can grow my strength, face my fears.
In 7 years I have discovered the real me.
The person that lives off of being outside; hiking, camping, farming, just being outside.
I have moved to a city where I know no one, joined groups like the Hash House Harriers (Google it, there’s one in every city all over the world!), I have driven 48 of the 50 states alone, and traveled to two countries by myself.
Well to sum it up: I have been and spent time in 49 of the 50 states (missing Alaska); I have been to Canada, Mexico, Britain, France, Span, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia. And in every instance I have been so afraid. I’m currently living in Australia, hitching rides with strangers around the country.
Actually, at this exact moment, I’m in Bali with some friends I made on one of the rides I hitched from Perth to Darwin.
Sometimes I’m a box checker, just checking off that list as I visit places.
I live by the motto, you always regret not doing, you’ll never regret doing. I throw my fears about money, loneliness and stress to the wind and say just do it.
And in the end I never regret it.
But things aren’t perfect, they never are. I have depression and anxiety and they rob me of happiness anywhere that I go. But there are times when I’m in a new place and I find myself looking at something beautiful and I can just feel that that is what life is supposed to be.
I was living basically on the street, or in other words a tent in the bush, in Darwin at this place called Mindil Beach where all the backpackers with cars go to hang out. I had made friends with these two guys, one French and one Italian. On this particular evening they pointed to this satellite tower that could be seen in the distance and said we’re going to climb that for sunset.
I am very afraid of heights. I have a habit of getting dizzy and not being able to breathe when I am above 5 feet. But I smiled and said yes.
I found myself at the base of this abandoned tower looking up at what seemed like endless rungs of a small metal ladder. I told the boys that I may cry, but I’m going to do it.
I clutched on to the first rungs and started my ascent.
I grabbed that ladder so hard as I climbed higher that my hands were bright red. My heart pounded, I was shaking and could barely breathe.
I made it to the first level and thought “No more.”
I stood on the little grated balcony and gripped the side railings for dear life. I was maybe about 20 ft. off the ground. I told the boys that I don’t think I’m making it to the top and they should just continue on without me.
So they gave me reassuring hugs and continued. And I sat there breathing, starting to calm down and I thought come on, that wasn’t so bad.
I could hear the boys above me hollering about the view and this eagles nest that was next to the ladder. I had to keep going. So I sucked it up and within minutes found myself on the top, hugging my friend, looking at the view and smiling. I had conquered one of my long holding fears. I watched the sunset over Darwin, with my new perspective of the city and I felt so alive and happy that I had pushed myself.
On the way down I stopped next to the eagles nest and spied this string sitting in the middle. I took it and stuck it in my pocket. I now wear that bracelet around my wrist and every time I look at it I feel strong and happy.
I’m a conqueror, and everyday I disprove the Fragile Deer.