Since I was young, every time I did something new I would slowly buckle with angst and anxiety into a quiet ball of tenseness, defensiveness, and fear. The problem was always as simple as natural discomfort that arises from an unfamiliar environment.
More so, for me, it was being in a place I didn’t want to be: feeling desperately out of control of the circumstances, or the company, which usually arose from not having the choice whether or not to be there.
And so, in these moments of knotted anxiety and fear-stricken panic, I did the only thing that truly remained in my control: I escaped it.
I became an escape artist for most of my young life.
I feigned a good two weeks of illness to start the 6th grade and that juvenile hell of entering junior high, which includes the weirdness of puberty and finding girlfriends and all the other such things you might encounter.
The anxiety would crop up when I was even younger, too — but it was less a cognizant decision than it was an emotional overreaction. I have one distinct memory of running. Just running. Apparently I took off in a panic from my first grade classroom and headed all the way to the parking lot where my father had parked to walk me to school — I think I actually made it there before he left, too.
Gazelle speed, baby.
I only learned years later that doctors had told my parents what afflicted me was what surely sounds like a medically-invented ailment, “separation anxiety.” They used the term to refer to the anxiety that resulted from when I was separated from them: in other words, a form of severe homesickness.
Looking back, I know that it was homesickness, for lack of a better term. But what is homesickness but a desperate plea for familiarity, for comfort, for simple peace of mind amongst circumstances or choices that are not your own?
Fast forward some 21 years later.
This morning, I awoke in a small hotel room in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland, where I flew in the night previous and first glimpsed the Northern European landscapes in the hazy glow of cloudy dusk, even though it was 1AM.
These days, every time I travel — hell, every time I do something new — I think back to the days when I was younger and would buckle with anxiety and fear.
And when things feel like they’re going horribly wrong all of a sudden (this morning, it was blowing out the electricity in my hotel — yes, really — which fried my power converter and I feared also fried my laptop’s battery charger), those feelings crop up again.
But now I know better — that I don’t need to escape. All I need to do is remember. I remember how to ground myself.
What I remember is that what saves me is people.
People are my catalyst for remembering. Even among unfamiliar faces speaking an unfamiliar language, people are always the saving source of connection, calm and peace — it’s in a smile or laugh, a compliment or a strained-English direction to the nearby sports bar that I can find solitude from that once-overriding fear, and home amongst a distant land.
I tell you this story not to self-confess — I do, though, wish to remind you, we all have “means of remembering” like this. For me they include not only people, but practices like yoga to connect the breath with body movement, and writing to connect the swirling chaos of thought and idea in my mind’s eye into a chosen coherence; into a intentional, shepherded order.
For you, they might be different.
But if writing, artistry, creation and experiencing a creative journey aligned with freedom, happiness and purpose is a high value of yours — one that helps you “remember” amongst the chaos, fear or unknown — then I’m inviting you to join me for an experience with my writers’ group, The Literati Writers.
Join me for three months this summer, and I’ll help you turn your creative journey into one that’s more and more special with every passing week.
Membership is currently priced at $197/quarter (which comes out to $2.18/day), and will help you learn the means to flourish — freedom that will last you a lifetime.