Am I Enough?

I went on a date last week. He wasn’t a traveler, and as I shared my travel adventures with him, his facial expressions told me that he not only couldn’t relate to me but could not understand me at all.

“You do all this by yourself?” he asked. “Aren’t you scared?”

“But how do you spend all that time by yourself?”

“But all alone?”

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His response reminded me of a similar conversation I had a few years ago while in Clearwater, Florida. I was “all alone” at a Phillies Spring Training game, and the cute guy sitting next to me was also having trouble wrapping his head around this.

“I can’t believe you’re here by yourself. I could never do that,” he kept repeating.

I laughed, smiled, and assured him I love the Phillies, and I love traveling. I told him that I had been talking with friends for years about going to Spring Training, but we never got around to it. I explained that I was tired of waiting for other people to do the things with me that I had always wanted to do. And so I invited the friends, but committed to going with or without them.

His comments stayed with me after the game and eventually brought to mind memories of days when I was much less confident, days when I really wasn’t so sure I could do it all alone.

It was March 2010, my last year of college. On a whim I’d signed up for a 10K in Charleston, SC. I had friends who ran it every year, and I had been wanting to try it for a while. It wasn’t until after registering that I learned my friends weren’t going to be able to make it that year, and I was left with the choice to back out or go at it alone.

I thought about how I had no idea where I would be the following year, and how this might be my last chance to participate. I also thought about all the independent women I knew, the ones who didn’t sit around waiting for others to validate their dreams, but took control of their lives and went after what they wanted.

And then I decided to face my fear of being alone and risk finding out what would happen if I chose me.

Being a broke college student, the only accommodation I could afford was a one­ room cabin at the local KOA campground.The night before the race, I lay there all alone in my dark little cabin with questions and fears running through my head:

How stupid is this?

How probable is it that I will be attacked in the woods?

Is this even going to be fun?

What if I get hurt?

What if I get bored?

What if I don’t like me?

In the midst of all those questions, the following words found their way into my journal:

I’ve always envied those people, women in particular, who just seem to be able to do anything independently. …I’ve always wanted to be able to do it, but would not because I didn’t know what I would do with myself or whether it was safe.

I’m lying in bed, in a cabin, at a campground, and I am alone, and it is fun. I’m getting up in six hours to run a 10K across a bridge with 40,000 other people, and I will be all by myself. I’m looking forward to having a great time. But am I crazy? Normal people don’t do things like this…

The following morning, I drove as close as I could to the starting line and walked, all alone, towards the crowd. Everyone had someone -- someone to talk with, someone to stretch with, someone to pass the time with. I would have to pass the hour or so until the race began all on my own. Was this an exercise in confidence and independence or just sad and depressing?

As time passed, I began to get a kick out of watching the people around me. What types of stretches did they do? What costumes had they chosen? Who had been training for this? Who knew what they were doing and who, like me, was just completely winging it (not just the race, but life)?

Before I knew it, we were off and running, each mile bringing with it new challenges and surprises. A man on the corner handing out Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a band here, a DJ there, a group of men running in tutus, a massive bridge (not a surprise but a bigger challenge than you would expect).

I didn’t feel alone while running except for a moment at the finish line. There was no one for me to celebrate with. No one to congratulate me… No one there but me.

And once again, I was faced with the question, could “me” be enough? Enough of a reason to have taken the trip, enough of a reason to celebrate?

It turns out, it was and I am.

And so are you, even if you don’t know it yet.

See, I don’t care that my date couldn’t understand me; but those questions he asked, those are questions you, the Her Bags Were Packed community, also ask -- and that means they matter.

So here’s what I want you to hear me saying: I did not just wake up one day and have the confidence to start traveling on my own. I got here through baby steps. Taking the baby steps of facing my fears and sitting with feelings of loneliness when I would have rather avoided them are what taught me I was stronger than I knew and gave me the confidence to keep taking bigger steps.

This isn’t about never experiencing fear or isolating yourself. It is about deciding that you and your dreams are worth the risk of occasionally experiencing fear and loneliness. It’s about trusting that even in those moments, you will be enough.

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