Baby Steps

Traveling to a new city is fun, but traveling to a new city to live there for seven weeks? Scary.

Almost weekly (ok … daily) during school, I call my mom. How do I do laundry? What happens if you eat undercooked chicken? Why does my stomach feel weird? What do I do when I have a professor that I may not get along with? I failed a test, am I going to fail out of college? How long does it take to boil water? The list goes on and on. I usually get the classic sigh and my mom calmly explains to me that I’m not dying, the world is not ending, everyone does not hate me, and usually water takes between five and 10 minutes to boil. “Adulting” can be pretty hard and overwhelming. To make matters worse, college is going by a lot quicker than I thought it would. So now, here I am, one year from graduation and still without a clue on how to properly “adult.”

When the opportunity for me to spend the summer working for a not-for-profit in Peru arose, I felt this nagging voice in my head to take it. If you know me, you know that I can’t help but take any opportunity I get to travel. Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is one of my favorite things, but until this point, I had always traveled with groups. Someone else was always taking care of the details and I was just along for the ride. I could feel my palms sweat at the thought of traveling alone, living alone, and working in a foreign country. I can’t even figure out how to do things on my own at school when most things are taken care of for me, let alone fly to a brand new country and survive.

The anxiety in me was telling me “heck no!” But, the adventure in me was pulling harder, telling me that if I didn’t go, I might regret it for the rest of my life. So I got everything squared away, talked to my parents (not that they needed much coercing), figured out how to make it all count for my BSP internship credit, packed my bags, got to the airport, and then realized that I wasn’t sure if I could actually do it. I couldn’t possibly do this, could I? I mean, the only experience I had with living away from home was school. I had this horrible sense that I was incapable, too young, and that I wouldn’t make it. Oh, crap.

But then I was reminded that life is all about baby steps. The only thing I had to do in that moment was walk through security, which is easy enough since I know how to walk. Then I had to take an escalator and that’s just standing, so I can definitely do that. Then I had to find my gate and I had done that before, so that would be easy. I knew that I could get on a plane, and sit, and I knew that I could find my next gate once I got to my next airport. As long as I kept thinking about taking things step by step, it didn’t seem so scary.

It is really east for me (and I would assume a lot of people) to get way ahead of themselves. We look at big projects or life decisions and see it as a whole, instead of a bunch of little decisions along the way. They don’t say things like “don’t cry over spilt milk” and “don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill” for nothing, right? If one thing were to go wrong, it wouldn’t ruin the experience as a whole. In fact, I find that I learn more from my failures than I do my successes. So maybe it wouldn’t be that bad if every little detail didn’t go my way.

I’m guessing many of you out there have felt inadequate and scared of stepping out of your comfort zones at one point or another. Did you do it? I have a strong inclination that stepping out of your comfort zone will always be worth it. Even a bad experience can have positive effects. Nobody has ever grown from staying comfortable and, if Hanover has taught me anything, it is that it takes a little bit of blood, sweat and tears to get a desired outcome (Thank you Dr. Yoon for teaching me that the hard way).

I can’t imagine what would have happened if I decided I wasn’t “ready” for this experience. I probably wouldn’t have to do my laundry in the sink or brush my teeth with bottled water, but I also would definitely regret not believing in myself. I am convinced that our society makes it so easy to lose faith in our own personal capabilities. We look at social media and see people doing “better.” And instead of taking things one step at a time, we give up. Think about eating cake. When you look at a cake, you don’t see yourself sitting down and eating the entire thing in one sitting (or maybe you do). You think about it piece by piece. A piece today and a piece tomorrow quickly adds up to the whole cake, and you didn’t get a belly ache in the process. I have been trying everyday to think about life like that. If I can tackle it one day at a time, or even one minute at a time, then it becomes more manageable. They always say that life isn’t about the end but rather the journey. And that journey is made up of little moments along the way.

So there I was, wiping the tears from my face, staring at the airport security entrance, and with a deep breath I crossed the line.

Baby steps, Katie.

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