I never know the right way to open a post, and had to stop myself from writing “Oh, hey girl. Come here often?” with a gif of Ryan Gosling. I think you’ll be really pleased that I refrained from doing so.
So, as I had previously written, I moved to France! This was a pretty big move for me, but one that I had long anticipated. I graduated early, so I had a lot of downtime to use up. Of course, I could have stayed home; but as a Sagittarius (haha shut the fuck up Mar, no one cares about your star sign), my natural instinct and desire is to get up, out, and experience something new. And this is definitely something new.
I hadn’t done much extravagant traveling in my life. I never went to Europe as a child, or some big elaborate exped through mountains on a family vacation. I didn’t really start solo-traveling until last year, when I spent a month in Ghana for service. That trip was also a big step for me — I had never travelled overseas alone. And truthfully, the idea of traveling alone was something I never thought I would be interested in growing up. I was really enmeshed with my family as a kid, and didn’t want to go anywhere unless they were there with me. I lacked a whole lot of independence before I was fifteen. And then, of course, I was sent to Wilderness Therapy at 15, and was force-fed independence by living out in the Vermont mountain woods for the winter. At the time, I truly considered that a heinous act of barbarism from my parents. How could they expect me to go from being a dependent fresh-teen to fending for myself in the brutal Green Mountain cold? I struggled to adapt greatly.
My first night there, I was in absolute shock. I had a kidney stone at the time, which was small and not causing me much pain at all, but I remember screaming and crying at theloudest volume my small frame could possibly muster, complaining of severe pain. I was grasping for anything to get me out of there. I panicked deeper than I ever have, and even pretended to faint! Twice.
Oh, the drama.
Of course, the Wilderness guides were trained to deal with such … extravagance … and they compassionately but firmly listened to my screeching for a good two hours before I eventually wore myself out and actually passed out under a frosty tarp between two trees. They understood, before I even understood, that I needed to scream and cry myself to sleep that night. I had entered an entirely new era of my life, and it was crushing.
And the next day, with a little hesitation, I woke up and schlepped my 60 pound backpack over my shoulders like a true CHAMP and up the mountain as we hiked to our next base camp.
By my Wilderness graduation in February (I had arrived in November), I think it’s fair for me to say I was an entirely new person. I had experienced the highest highs, and the lowest lows. My entire life inside and out of treatment had been remodeled, and it all happened so quickly. It was a lot to handle, but I processed it in the most natural way I could. With time. I spoke the words I needed myself to hear, I felt the pain that I had bundled up for years. It took a lot of time to unpack it. It took a lot of time to acclimate.
Acclimation. That’s a word I never really used or applied to my life until my pillowy lack of independence got snatched from beneath me. By the time I had graduated Wilderness, I admitted that word often. I spoke at my ceremony on how it hurt deeply to acclimate when I wasn’t ready. But I also said, You can’t ever truly be ready to acclimate. It just happens. And it hurts, of course, to adjust to new change. You cry, you shout — or you internalize it, and feel that strangling of your heart within. But once you’ve let yourself feel your own pain and frustration with change, you fall asleep under frosty tarps, and you wake up with the mindset of making it work.
I say all of this to you now, because I’m trying to remind myself of my own fifteen-year-old words currently. My first few days in France were really hard. Of course, this trip is different than Wilderness because I chose to come here (and it also doesn’t involve shitting in the woods & eating dirt). I did some good, heavy crying. I did quite a bit of reassurance-seeking from my parents. This is an entirely new way of living for me, and it didn’t feel too great at first.
But now I’m at day five, and I feel the sun starting to warm over my face again. The same sun that’s warmed my face my whole life, the same comfort of “It’s a new day. You’ve woken up, you’re still here, and this is your life.” My life looks different, and it’s taking time to warm up to it, but listen! I am warming. I’m thawing, and melting into the fact that this is where I am.
Change is really fucking hard. No matter how minute or drastic it looks. A big change isn’t necessarily moving across the world; it’s valid to feel crushed by whatever is giving you a hard time to adjust to. And if no one is validating that, know that I am. I’m HARDCORE validating that for you.
But good things can come out of change. Wilderness didn’t feel very good to me back then, but three years later, it has completely shaped the way I view my life. Independence feeds my soul, and I wouldn’t have ever learned that if I didn’t screech my lungs bloody that first night in the woods.
So… Hey girl. Here is your pass to screech your lungs out. Go get ’em.