The other day someone asked me an interesting question. I was talking about how I want to go to Morocco and she asked me something that I’m pretty sure other people have thought but haven’t said out loud to me. It was, “Aren’t you afraid?”
My immediate response was, “No.” But this made me stop and think. I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of a lot of things. But I used to be. I used to be afraid of everything and, because of that, my life was limited and limiting.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I played school as a kid, setting up the classroom, organizing everything, getting all the other kids in their seats, and giving them their lessons. I even wrote cursive letters across the top of the wall, just like they had in school back then.
When I went to college, I studied biology. Most of my classmates planned on becoming doctors, but that didn’t appeal to me. I worked hard and got good grades (I love learning, after all), but I just couldn’t see myself going to medical school. One day, I happened to say to some of my friends that I would love to be a high school biology teacher. The looks they gave me were a combination of distaste and incredulity. One even said, “Really? You have such good grades I thought you’d want to do something… more.” Wow. I immediately thought of all the great science teachers I’d had in junior high and high school. If it wasn’t for them, I never would have tried something as daunting as heavy sciences like organic chemistry, microbiology, and biochemistry.
But I was afraid that my dream wasn’t what I should have. So I didn’t become a teacher.
Fast forward a few years. I was living in Dallas, Texas, doing what I thought I should do – working a secure job with a steady paycheck and benefits. But I hated it. It was too big a city for me and the culture was something that didn’t fit me.
But I was afraid to move and try something new. So I didn’t. Until I had to.
I ended up moving to Tucson, Arizona, something that saved my life (more information about this can be found in my post “Warning: This One’s Heavy). I ended up working how many people work – in a cubicle, with, again, a steady paycheck and benefits. I hated that job. I hated being confined. I hated that I got written up for “talking too much to my co-workers.” What I hated most of all was that the work was meaningless.
And one day I did something I was very afraid of. I walked into the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts and signed up to learn how to be a massage therapist. I was afraid, and I did it anyway. It took me over a year to complete the program. Along the way, I got fired from my job, went on food stamps, and most of the time had no idea how to make ends meet. But I wasn’t afraid. I just knew this was the right thing to do.
I kept at it. When I graduated from the Desert Institute, I massaged in four different offices. I did temporary office work. I was a vastly underpaid seamstress. Eventually, I was able to get off food stamps, and decide what I wanted to do. I wanted to massage, and I wanted to teach. I became a teacher in training at the Desert Institute, working my way up to become the Chair of the Anatomy and Physiology Department. That biology degree had really come in handy.
I also explored other types of bodywork, becoming certified in shiatsu (a Japanese type of bodywork that is based on the same principles as acupuncture) and Thai massage. From there, I began teaching those modalities. I’ve now been a massage therapist for 23 years, and teaching for 21.
Along the way I married someone I thought I was supposed to be with for the rest of my life. It seemed like we were perfect together. And we were, for a long time. Until I understood that we were no longer on the same path, and hadn’t been for quite some time. In fact, we were so totally unsuited to be with each other that one day I realized I was fat and tired and afraid of everything again. Mostly, I was afraid I couldn’t survive unless I stayed married to someone I clearly didn’t love anymore, and who clearly didn’t love me. So I stayed. Because I was afraid.
And then I wasn’t afraid anymore.
I wasn’t afraid to learn how to live as myself, not as half a couple. I wasn’t afraid to learn how to become healthy by eating better and exercising. I wasn’t afraid to be alone so that I know when I meet someone special I will want to be with him because I love him, not because I’m lonely.
However, there is one new thing I am afraid of. That is having a life that is only half lived. So, no, I’m not afraid to go to Morocco.
(Just click the blue box with Watch on Vimeo in it and it should play. You’ll see why I want to go to Morocco.)