Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.”
That might mean taking a big leap of faith, or it might mean taking a baby step in a new direction. Whatever it means, take that step. Now.
Give up the excuses, push through the fear and the doubt, and don’t listen to those who discourage growth.
I have wanted to travel around the world since I was 13 years old. In college, I discovered my passion for helping others and working toward a more just and compassionate world. I wanted to find a way to combine my passions and live a life that fulfilled me, a life I could get excited about every single day.
About a year ago, I applied to an international service program teaching English abroad. My roommate had gotten into graduate school for clinical psychology. Most of my friends had secured good jobs and found apartments in Boston. I was still looking for direction, still waiting and hoping to get into this program, one where I would actually lose money.
I didn’t get into my first choice program. I had dreamed about going to Bangladesh all year, I worked so hard on my application, and I was crushed with disappointment when I got that letter. For the first few days, the bitter part of me thought if I couldn’t go to Bangladesh, I wouldn’t go anywhere.
That feeling didn’t last long. I couldn’t let one disappointment stop me from living out my dream. The program offered to send me to my second choice country—Ecuador. I knew nothing about Ecuador (I had spent all my time reading up on Bangladesh). But I had studied Spanish through college and knew I needed to go. I needed to take this opportunity while it was knocking. I accepted the placement and started planning for my departure.
In the months before I left, my world was shaken. A few weeks before graduating college, my long-term boyfriend broke up with me. I was leaving the comfort of my college, a place I had come to call home, and all of my best friends wouldn’t be living down the hall anymore. My security blanket was torn away from me, and I spent most of my time living in the past and crying over what I’d lost.
Over that summer, things changed. I grew apart from my friends at home. I didn’t fit in so well with my circle of friends from high school. My car was broken into and over $1,000 worth of belongings stolen. My best friend’s fiance was diagnosed with cancer for the seventh time, and I saw someone I love dearly struggle through undeserved pain.
As my departure date grew closer, I became more fearful. I wasn’t sure I could leave home when everything had become so unsteady. I didn’t feel strong enough to leap into the unknown. My family, friends, and co-workers understood. My parents told me I didn’t have to go; I could stay home and find a job there. My boss told me I could keep my job while I figured things out. I wondered whether my relationship would still be intact if I wasn’t leaving the country. I felt guilty leaving my best friend during such a difficult time.
But staying home out of fear of the unknown wouldn’t have been right.
I would have let fear guide my path, instead of following my heart.
While my life felt so rocky and unreliable, going to Ecuador was the one thing I was sure of. I acknowledged my fear and insecurities about leaving, and after a few tearful goodbyes to friends and family, I got on the plane and moved toward the next chapter.
I’ve now been in Ecuador for just over three months. I’ve made connections with new people, traveled through the Andes to different cities and cultures, and gained a month of teaching experience. I’ve had nights where I felt lonely, scared, or sad. I’ve gotten sick three times. I’ve been frustrated by the cultural clashes I’ve experienced. But I’ve also grown. I’ve learned that I have more strength than I knew, I am braver than I thought, and I know now that I can handle whatever life throws my way. Every challenge has taught me to trust myself, and has shown me how much I have to be grateful for.
Little by little, I am learning to let go of my fears, my insecurities, my doubts, and my past.
I’m learning that, though change can rattle you to your core, it is necessary for growth, and it is an inevitable part of this wonderfully unpredictable life.
When we let go of all the things that hold us back, we are free to build the life we have dreamed about. When we drop the negative energy and have a little faith in ourselves, we discover just how much we are capable of.
There will always be a reason to doubt; fear will always find our vulnerabilities. It is normal to be afraid—we are human, after all.
Choose to take that step forward anyway.
Don’t let fear hold you back from living the life you are truly capable of living—I promise that what you discover will be worth it every time.