When I was a kid, I never wanted to spend the night at my friend’s house. I would always come up with an excuse for my friends to stay at my house, so I didn’t have to go to theirs. I didn’t feel comfortable outside my home. Nor did I feel comfortable being alone. In fact, I was slightly terrified to be left by myself.
I was also the kid who got picked on at school and the one who would more than likely be chosen last when picking teams for kickball. I was never the obvious leader and was probably the last person the teacher or my classmates would pick to be in charge of a group. While I wouldn’t really classify myself as shy, I definitely desired to keep a low profile. I was an introvert from the start.
My, how times have changed…
Decades later, I find myself traveling here and there and everywhere, sometimes with travel companions and sometimes cross-country totally by myself. My eight-year-old self, who was sometimes too scared to stay overnight at her cousin’s house across the street, wouldn’t know what to make of me today.
If someone would’ve told that eight-year-old she would eventually lead dance teams, run her own businesses, be a role model to young kids, and actually have a little confidence, I don’t think she wouldn’t have believed them.
Traveling was never something I really thought of growing up, but looking back, I could tell I was meant for a life of dreaming and boundary pushing. Why? Because every time that old Reba McEntire song “Is There Life Out There?” came on, it would always make me wonder. I would always feel this little flutter in my chest. “What was really out there?” Eventually, I started to find out.
Soon after I opened my dance studio in 2006, I took a solo trip to North Carolina to teach at a workshop. A few years later, I hopped airplanes across country by myself to visit Arizona. In 2012, I took a trip to Europe and saw the Sagrada Familia, the ruins at Pompeii, marveled at the Sistine Chapel, rode a gondola in Venice, and purchased a handmade table covering from a street vender in Dubrovnik. Then, it was swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands as a writer’s assistant, and landing my first press trip as a paid writer to a cattle ranch in the mountains of Montana.
When I started maturing and working my way into adulthood, I learned quickly that who you’ve been isn’t who you have to be. And to take it one step further, you’re actions are not defined by someone else’s opinion of you – you are not what people think you are. Although I may have been the dorky, unpopular, awkward, eight-year-old at one point in my life, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t grow into a confident female who didn’t care what people thought of me and my weird quirks. (In fact, that’s exactly what I grew into!) Somewhere inside that goofy eight-year-old, there was (if I do say so myself) an eventual strong, determined, hell-bent, and fierce woman who never takes “ho-hum” for an answer, who always expects the most out of life, and who is never afraid to think outside-the-box. I may lose my footing some, and I may not feel fierce all the time, but I can pretty much guarantee you if I want something bad enough, I’ll work my butt off to get it. (Most women have this hiding inside them – realized or unrealized.)
And even though I once feared the unknown, it doesn’t mean I’ll retain that fear and watch possibilities and opportunities pass by. Maybe I’ve learned from my fears. I guess that scared eight-year-old taught me a thing or two about living – to not let natural fears and born-into limitations restrict the rest of your life. And to CERTAINLY not let the opinions of others have any bearing on who you want to be or who you become. No matter where we are from, who we are surrounded by, or how much money we have or don’t have, there is always a way to accomplish our goals and see our dreams through to fruition. I have seen too many possibilities in my life to believe otherwise.
Another fear I have is of water and ships. Did I mention the trip to Europe was a two-week cruise in the Med? I was scared driving up to the ship, terrified when I boarded, and frozen to the point of tears as I stood clutching the railing of my balcony as the ship traveled farther and farther away from land. I knew I would be… but I wanted that experience, and I was ready to fight for it. And guess what? I won.