I WANTED TO BREAK MY SOBRIETY BUT I WROTE A LETTER TO MY BEST FRIEND INSTEAD

Here’s the bad news: no matter how long you’ve been sober for, you’re still going to end up in situations where you want to reach for a bottle.

Here’s the good news: you can walk away. These moments don’t have to end with drinking away your discomfort.

Every time I’ve ever wanted to break my 21-month streak of sobriety, it’s never once been about ‘just wanting a drink’. Thank god for Ruby Warrington for teaching me to get interested, instead of judgemental, when an urge hits me like a bolt of lightning (in her bestseller Sober Curious). I have always managed to investigate where the urge came from, and every time I’ve found that the origin isn’t innocent at all.

In my first year of sobriety, I was hit with an all-consuming desire to drink several times while travelling the East Coast of Australia. I was constantly surrounded by backpackers enhancing their adventures with drinking and drugs. I was only about a month into my travels on Frasier Island, which is known for dingos, amazing views of the stars, 4x4s driving down the beach and insane parties. I was on a group tour with a bunch of other backpackers, and the island doesn’t have almost any phone reception.

So we arrived and the first night something inside me was triggered. The avalanche of urges I had been dismissing at every stop along the coast so far slid into me all at once, and it was all of a sudden UN fucking BEARABLE. I panicked. I walked off from the party happening at the main camp to go find a shred of privacy and a place to sit to try to sort my shit out.

What I Instagrammed (above) vs. what I was feeling (this blog post)

My phone was a useless brick and I couldn’t reach out to anyone. I was so embarassed and felt so isolated. I found a hammock, opened a note on my iPhone and started writing a letter to my best friend while crying uncontrollably.

This is it. It’s ugly. It’s raw. It’s one of the most honest things I think I’ve ever put on the internet.

As my friend Sarah says, this letter is me trying to “ride the wave.”

Dear Sarah,

I’m having a fucking breakdown for the first time on this trip on Fraser Island where I have no cell reception and basically have to walk into the bush to get some privacy. 

I don’t know what triggered this but I guess I’m writing you because I hope it helps me figure it out. 

I think the thing that really made me burst into tears, and the straw that broke the camels back, is that I want a drink. I want a drink so fucking badly I could scream. It’s almost been a year and I still have these moments and it feels hard to believe, but I do. I want to run down to the beach and scream into the waves but we’re not allowed to travel alone because of the fucking dingos attacking people at night (typing that almost made me laugh). I hate that this is the only time I want alcohol – when I’m so uncomfortable in my own head I want OUT. I just want to turn down the volume on my thoughts for like, one day. But I can’t and I feel so trapped. 

It started with feeling ugly compared to the other girls in my group. Then the girl I was supposed to share a tent with didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, then the fact that on top of all of this I need to drag myself to this group social outing and act like the ducking life of the party, sober, and I don’t want to talk to anyone. 

I’m being a drama queen and I know right now I’m having a really shit attitude because they people in my car on this tour really are lovely but I just am having a day where being around alcohol feels unbearable. And I hate that. I hate that I can’t be like everyone else and just drink to ease the discomfort. 

I miss home. I miss having people who understand me. I miss not having to explain myself constantly, and dealing with everyone’s assumptions about me (both that they say to my face and don’t).

I also can’t blame the alcohol. I’m being a bit of a sop. 

I should be having the time of my life and today I just can’t help but be so negative. I don’t know when it happened in the day, but it makes me want to roll over and hide. Run away. 

I was going to go take a shower to rinse the sand off and I saw some gorgeous girl putting makeup on in the bathroom and I literally just turned around and walked out thinking ‘what’s the point of trying to clean myself up?’

And what is the point? Of me coming here? I wanted to grow and I wanted to learn to take myself less seriously so I guess this is where I’m being tested. 

What I need right now, more than anything, and I think you’d maybe say this to me too…is to a) breathe and b) realize that what’s happening in my head has turned hostile and it’s time to get outta there.

Which is why I’m writing you, right now. 

Because sometimes you only realize how shitty you’re being to yourself once you write it down. 

I’m gonna give myself a pep talk, wipe my tears and imagine you’re here with me looking me in the face and telling me I’ve got this. 

Reggie

All of the above was hiding under the urge to drink.

Looking back at the East Coast, I was trying to prove myself when I never needed to. I was trying to avoid being the black sheep. I wasn’t asking myself if these were even a parties I wanted to attend anymore or people I really wanted to please.

I like to learn lessons the hard way (apparently) so I can write about them on here for strangers on the internet to read. In fact, I wrote another blog post along the same lines if you want a bit more of about how powerful personal beliefs are.

So if you can manage to turn down the drink you really wanna down, maybe you’ll find what’s really festering below.

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I F*CKING HATE THE WORD FINE

The dictionary defines fine as being, “in a satisfactory or pleasing manner.” But when was the last time you used the word fine and it actually reflected that definition?

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WNABWBF 💕

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The last time I used the word fine was when my boss commented that I seemed off and not very chatty. I started off with some complete bullshit, veered into honesty, then closed with something about not sleeping enough and closed my rambling with, “…but I’ll be fine!” He said something along the lines of “uhhhh allright, just thought I’d ask,” and scampered off to resume working.

I was not fine, but I realized partway through my explanation that he asked but maybe wasn’t ready for a real answer. Besides, it’s not like I was going to say, “I’m unhappy about the amount of unpaid work I’m doing and I’m anxious about not knowing what I’m doing next or where I’m going, so yeah I’m a little on edge!!!!”

I think if you use the word fine to describe how you are feeling in the present moment, it often carries subtext: you are not fine, you don’t know how you’re doing so you use fine as a default, or you don’t want to get into it.

How’s your job?

Oh fine.

How’s your wife?

She’s fine.

How was your date?

Fine!

The dictionary defines fine as being, “in a satisfactory or pleasing manner.” But when was the last time you used the word fine and it actually reflected that definition?

I think we use this word so much for a few reasons.

  1. We often have no idea how we are actually feeling, and don’t have the vocabulary to voice these feelings.
  2. We don’t want to speak our truth for fear of making things awkward, being misunderstood, being invalidated, overloading someone and a million other reasons.

emotionally illiterate

While being able to correctly identify the emotion you are feeling seems easy, in theory, in practice most of us are pretty terrible at it. My quick and dirty all-encompassing definition of emotional literacy is being able to understand, communicate, manage and accept our emotions. This goes beyond a four letter word and gets into the fact that we often don’t even have the language to express ourselves.

I only caught wind of this skillset when I listened to Brené Brown’s podcast episode with Dr. Marc Brackett where they discuss ‘permission to feel.’

We are not taught the value of emotional literacy so it’s no wonder we are f*cked and using the word fine so much. Between hurtling through modern life so fast we barely stop to check in with ourselves and being taught to suppress our true feelings, it’s a pretty bad recipe for being able to read our internal cues. This stuff isn’t my wheelhouse, and I won’t pretend I can teach you how to master emotional literacy myself…especially since I’m learning alongside you. HOWEVER, you can start by watching this slightly dated but still highly relevant TEDx talk where Dr. Brackett explains this subject super well, and why it’s important.

standing with your emotional dick in your hand

“How are you?” is a funny little verbal exchange that means nothing, but is used as a way to be cordial. If you answer honestly with a heartfelt, personal response, you risk the other person looking at you wide-eyed like, “Um, TMI.” If you give a one-word reply, then you’re kind of contributing to the problem.

8 Ways to Respond to the Worst Small Talk Questions, theeverygirl.com

So let’s say you ask your coworker how they are doing in passing, and instead of saying fine, they hit you with a big old truth bomb that their dog died and their mom has cancer and they are super depressed. Unfortunately, their honesty is extremely poorly timed: You have a meeting you have to make it to in five minutes so you say sorry and run away, which works well because you have no idea what to say to comfort them. Meanwhile, that person is standing there with their emotional dick in their hand wondering why they even bothered opening up at all.

What I just described happens in life ALL THE TIME. I look back and think of all the times I was so wrapped up in my own shit that when someone hit me with how they were really feeling and I immediately thought, “I don’t have time to unpack this,” or “oh god what do I say so I don’t sound like an insensitive asshole.” I’m learning that it isn’t about the amount of time you spend comforting someone or the exactitude of your language. Sometimes we all just wanna say shit out loud and be validated.

However, if something is over your head you can also just say so! You’re not a therapist, and maybe they do need professional help. Why not ask?

We often miss these opportunities for connection because both parties are so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing in that moment. I get it, both people end up a little vulnerable and the situation I described sounds pretty terrible. But if you genuinely trust the person you have the urge to share with, I think you’re safe to avoid using the word fine if you’re far from it.

Using the word fine = no vulnerability = no growth.

If you are the person someone is choosing to share their true feelings with, all I can tell you is to be as present as you can for them in that moment. Saying exactly the right thing doesn’t always matter, but making eye contact and making an effort to validate them is a good place to start. For example, if someone starts opening up then gets scared and back peddles with “…but it’ll all be fine!” and forces a smile. At the very least, tell them you understand how they’re feeling, and remind them they aren’t alone.

Also, this is sort of a sidebar, but if you know you can’t hold space for someone there are thousands of things you can ask that are still courteous and and interesting instead of ‘how are you?’ LET’S MAKE LIFE MORE GENUINE AND INTERESTING, FRIENDS.

All I ask

To start, I challenge you to banish this word from your vocab and upgrade for some words that really reflect what’s going on inside you. Get out of autopilot, and the next time someone asks you how you are – stop to actually get present and consider their question.

If you are in a place where you are really disconnected from your own emotions, consider looking a bit more about emotional literacy! Therapy really helped me learn this skill, but I had to practice it a ton before I started to have a hot clue about what I was feeling. Sometimes naming your emotions, even if it’s just on paper in a journal or jotted down in a note on your phone, is incredibly validating. The final step of being able to acknowledge your feelings – good or bad – without judging them is the tough bit. That’s some yoda shit that takes practice. Be patient.

Finally, next time you suspect that you are on the receiving end of a dis-genuine use of the word fine, feel free to tell that person that even if they aren’t fine, that’s ok too. Hugs help…just make sure to ask for consent first (yes, even for hugs, think of it as a sign of respect!). 🙂

Fine doesn’t do us any favours. My hope is that we’re all going to be better than fine if we stop using fine so much.

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THE ONE BELIEF THAT HELD BACK MY GROWTH FOR YEARS

No matter how bad I wanted to break the cycle my life was a mirror reflecting my beliefs back at me. Here’s how I changed, and you can too.

The year was 2016. It was Canada Day, and after getting blackout drunk by 4:00pm at ye old block party I decided to bring everyone back to my parents house without asking them. I showed up, shitfaced, with all my friends, and my parents were very good sports about it. My mom was teasing me about being a little bit drunk, so naturally I absolutely teed off on her. I was so combative my friend pulled me into the next room because it was like watching a train crash in slow motion. She got me to calm down, but the damage was done.

The next day I was stuck in the car for three hours with my mom and dad while we drove somewhere, and the air was thick with regret (on my part). This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and she said:

“I wonder sometimes if you are still a good person.”

I looked down into my hands, head throbbing. All I could think was ‘oh don’t worry, I KNOW I’m not a good person, so we’re all covered there.’

I believed I was a bad person.

I don’t know exactly when I started believing ‘I am terrible’, but it lodged itself in my psyche and grew into an overarching self-hatred that I’ve written about before.

Believing the above prevented me for years from becoming the person I always wanted to be, kept me depressed, gave me an excuse to act like a self-centered dickhead and allowed me to turn my back on my values time after time.

Sometimes it was the wind in my sails pushing me to work more and more to prove to my bosses, peers and myself I was competent. Sometimes it was the casual sex that was a bid to be loved and cared for masquerading as purely physical rigour. Sometimes it was the fits of depression that made me feel like I wasn’t fit to be a part of the human race. Sometimes it was the binge eating and battering my body at the gym. Sometimes it was the job titles or achievements I chased to feel worthy and prove I was something more. Sometimes it was the alcohol I dumped down my throat so I could act like I wasn’t weighted down by this belief for a while. Sometimes it was someone saying something nice to me and smiling but wanting to vomit on the inside.

It was the echo of “you are not enough, and nothing you ever do will wipe your slate clean.” Always.

No matter how bad I wanted to break the cycle my life was a mirror reflecting my beliefs back at me.

Let’s talk about moving forward, onward and upward out of this mental shithole.

so is it that you stop acting like an ass, then become a better person, or does the belief that you are good come first?

There’s no wrong way, I reckon. If it’s the chicken, the egg, or you say fuck it and lobby the industry, the answer will out in the end…right?

I feel like when you combine the mountain of research around self-fulfilling prophecies and the placebo effect, it’s pretty hard to deny that what we believe tends to come true. There’s probably a million iterations of this statement but that’s the plainest way I can put it. Our brains can generate some incredibly powerful shit based on whatever stories our subconscious is clinging to.

The diagram above (belief > potential > action > results) is called a reinforcing, or causal loop. They can be negative or positive, or both in order to maintain a balance, but in general these loops produce momentum.

For example, I managed to quit drinking, which was a massive initial push that kick started the belief that maybe I’m not so terrible after all. The positive action didn’t cure the belief, but it got me started.

If you think changing your self-talk is the way to change the belief, then daily affirmations might be part of your strategy. The most important thing, according to self-affirmation theory, is that your affirmations reflect your core personal values (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Make sure to use your personal strengths or strengths that matter to you when creating your affirmations.

RESEARCH ASIDE, IN MY CASE, I THINK BELIEVING I WAS A BAD PERSON WAS A TOTAL COP OUT FOR ME.

Thinking you’re terrible based on the past is like telling someone they can’t call themselves a vegan going forward if they’ve ever eaten meat.

There’s comfort in staying stuck in your self-deprecating ways. There’s a lack of uncomfortable accountability when you can blame most things on being a piece of shit. There’s a great excuse to throw away your potential and pour your money down your throat and up your nose when you don’t believe you deserve more. There’s a cycle to stay stuck in that gives you a sense of control even if you’re out of control. There’s always another person around the corner who will reinforce the belief that you don’t matter if you let them. Saying I sucked was an excuse. A nice bit of self-sabotage packaged in a convenient scapegoat.

I recently read The Four Agreements and there’s an underlying theme in the book that I think is really powerful: we are often (if not usually) the worst perpetrators of making everything way worse and halting our personal progress based on the stories we tell ourselves.

”Nobody abuses us more than we abuse ourselves, and it is the Judge, the Victim, and the belief system that make us do this. True, we find people who say their husband or wife, or mother or father, abused them, but you know that we abuse ourselves much more than that. The way we judge ourselves is the worst judge that ever existed. If we make a mistake in front of people, we try to deny the mistake and cover it up. But as soon as we are alone, the Judge becomes so strong, the guilt is so strong, and we feel so stupid, or so bad, or so unworthy.”

Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

So yeah, the truth is that the power is in your sweaty, probably ketchup/hommus/peanut butter covered hands. It’s time to put down the dip and get to work, whatever that looks like for you.

Take it from someone who is still figuring all this out — you deserve to believe better things about yourself and so do I.

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I LEARNED HOW TO STOP SELF-ISOLATING DURING THE PANDEMIC

I was keeping people at a distance well before the pandemic started and all it was doing was making me depressed.

Since I have your attention, here is a LinkTree of Black Lives Matter information, places to donate and resources, here is a link where Canadians can take action toward defunding the police in their city and here is a list of petitions you can sign to demand Justice for Breonna Taylor.


I lived by myself in a bachelor apartment for almost three years. For two of those years, I was single. For a year an a half of those years, I worked from home. At the time, when I would stay home without any intentions of seeing anyone I called it relaxing alone time or a weekend to myself, but then the pandemic gave it a name: self-isolation.

Here was a typical weekend in my life when I lived alone:

FRIDAY NIGHTArrive home from work to an empty apartment. Take off bra. Cook dinner and eat it in front of the glow of my computer. Abandon my intentions of going to bed early because I’m talking to someone half interesting on a dating app. Make my horizontal arrangement look cute for the gram and upload a story. Consider meditating and deflect that idea immediately because it involves silence. Instead end up eating popcorn straight out of the bag then masturbating to put myself into a coma.

SATURDAY MORNING – Wake up and regret not sleeping with my retainer in. Go to a workout class (wow! some social interaction?) and grab brunch with some friends after. Crawl into bed will a full belly as soon as I get home and watch Netflix or nap. Consider stretching or showering.

SATURDAY NIGHT – Wake up from two hour accidental nap OR rouse myself after two hours of scrolling on Instagram. Avoid making plans if I don’t already have plans. Pick up Indian food dressed like a coked out Lindsay Lohan from the restaurant around the corner. Binge eat so much goddam butter chicken. Maybe cry. Watch a documentary and cry some more. Text my best friend Sarah to see what she’s up to. Delete dating app after seeing and almost accidentally swiping on someone I know. Throw phone across room and fall asleep with the lights on.

SUNDAY MORNING Go for a run or walk to get a coffee. Do some productive shit like groceries or laundry.

SUNDAY NIGHT Make an excuse why I can’t go for dinner at my parents house (don’t lie we’ve all done this). Subtweet about a boy I feel salty about. Watch 25 YouTube videos about productive morning routines to make myself feel productive. Fall into Sunday depression and question all my life decisions and wonder why I’m such a loser. Do a face mask because skin care is the only thing I can do right in that moment. Deal with the mountain of dirty dishes that I’ve left in my sink. #sundayscaries

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I had what I was supposed to have as a independent single person: the bachelorette pad downtown to myself. It was the perfect location, size and decorated the way I liked it. So why, amongst this space that was just mine (that I thought would make me feel like an adult), did I feel so empty? Don’t get me wrong – I loved certain parts of my alone time: making myself pancakes on Sundays. Being able to walk around naked. Living in my own mess and nobody telling me to clean it. Being loud or quiet. Looking back I thought I was living the dream being on my own, but whose dream was it? It’s hard to say, but maybe it was Sex and the City that first put the idea in my head that a successful independent women has a space of her own even in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I never questioned if it was MY dream. I don’t need to be on my own to be strong. I know that now more than ever because I’m stronger than I ever have been. This lesson extends to many parts of my life, but the most obvious thing to me is that I’m so much happier not eating alone every night. Right now I’m feeling extra grateful that I’m in a hostel living and working with a group of great people (socially distanced from the rest of the town) instead of being isolated by myself. Because I’ve been there. And I know what it feels like. Living alone didn’t make me feel the way I thought it would and that’s ok. I’ve grown so much more not because I’m alone, but because I’m surrounded by good people, and that’s ok to admit. Letting go of living alone as part of my idea of “making it” is ok. Craving connection after being alone too much is ok. We’re gonna be ok. #sololife #solotravel #solotraveler #covid19 #independentwoman #loveyourself #thepowerofnow #liveyourtruth #growthroughwhatyougothrough #vulnerabilityisstrength

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Based on what you read above I think I have an idea of what that was like for people who had to lock themselves away all on their own. It didn’t take a virus to make me keep people at a distance – it was feelings of unworthiness and ideas about what self-reliance was supposed to look like that made me stay away.

The neuroscience researcher John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago has been studying loneliness for over 20 years. He defines loneliness as perceived social isolation. We experience loneliness when we feel disconnected. Maybe we’ve been pushed to the outside of a group that we value, or maybe we’re lacking a sense of true belonging. At the heart of loneliness is the absence of meaningful social interaction—an intimate relationship, friendships, family gatherings, or even community or work group connections.

BRENE BROWN

The funny thing is, the more time I spent alone when I lived alone, the less I felt like I belonged in my social groups, and the more I thought I should be alone. It was a fucked up cycle, and I often turned to Instagram and dating apps instead of showing any sort of vulnerability and turning to my friends and family for connection. Talk about the path of least resistance.

Hindsight is honest, and I didn’t realize the extent of how this habit was impacting my emotional wellbeing until I ended up locked down during the height pandemic in a hostel with 10 other people in the middle of Queensland, Australia. We got to know each other, lived together, grocery shopped together, worked in an apple packing shed, ate together and basically spent every waking moment together. I opened up to them and showed up even when I felt unworthy (where’s my medal?) and allowed myself to feel loved and accepted. I recognized that the way I was spending my time before wasn’t relaxing or restorative.

I thought I would be going nuts being around other people so much, turns out that being alone and scrolling as much as I was before was making me a little nuts.

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So during the height of the pandemic I was locked down in a hostel and working in an apple shed with a group of people I would come to connect with deeply. This experience made me realize, after living alone for three years, that eating dinner is more fun with other people (especially when it involves dancing to help with digestion 🤣) and spending too much time on my own isn’t good for my mental health. Today was the first day we split apart fully. Many I’ve already said goodbye to, but this group (in the photo) went off to keep adventuring down the coast and I’ll now be staying in Cairns for who knows how long (lol) to work on some creative projects I’ve been slowly chipping away at since coming to Australia. They’ve taught me to embrace silliness, the importance of stretching and speaking clearly, how to cook all sorts of stuff, new ways of seeing the world, what confidence can look like and made me realize that there is nothing more important than connection. I’ve always traveled alone and been a independent person, but I am a million times more open and joyful because of what I have shared with them: my food, my soul, my toiletries, my weird humour, my secrets, my memories, my dreams, my doubts, my fears and my hopes for the future. I said this in the last boxing class I ever taught and I’ll say it again: we’re not meant to do it all on our own. They reminded me of that ❤️ #loveyours #travelaustralia #backpackerlife #vulnerabilityisstrength #courageovercomfort #peopleneedpeople #bravingthewilderness

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Obviously I still adore pockets of time to myself here and there, especially when I need to check in on if I’m living my values, but this experience of living with other people also made me realize how much what I was doing before wasn’t working. Turns out, the story I had always told myself about what independence was supposed to look like was basically just forced social starvation which ain’t it. I know that now.

There’s a reason Carrie Bradshaw hardly ever ate dinner in her apartment by herself and there are so many sitcoms based around groups of room mates.

We’re not meant to go without authentic connection. It makes us human.

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COVID-19 MADE ME REALIZE I’M NOT BAD AT MAKING DECISIONS AFTER ALL

Should I bail on my working holiday visa and fly home to Canada while I still could, or should I stay in Australia?

I was unaware of how long I had been laying on the park bench until I realized the sun was setting. I was hungry too, but I made a deal with myself I couldn’t get off the bench until I knew what I was going to do. Did I look like an unhinged, depressed millennial who dropped their Airpods down a sewer grate? Probably, yes.

That’s the beautiful thing about living in a small town in a different country: you feel way more anonymous and give far fewer fucks.

It felt like Australia was weeks behind everywhere else when it came to COVID-19. I knew it was only a matter of time before the fear, closures and restrictions landed here. People had already begun hoarding; there was one box of overpriced pasta left on the shelf at the grocery store. I had heard murmurings that in Brisbane (the nearest city to the small town I was in) many of the hostels were either closing or not accepting new backpackers.

Things were about to get a whole lot more complicated for working holiday visa holders. I thought my only problem was finding another farm job when the planting season finished. Turns out I had to contemplate a much bigger decision:

Should I fly home to Canada while I still could, or should I stay in Australia?

I had entered into a state akin to when Cameron realizes he ran up the milage on his father’s prized car in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and goes totally catatonic. I know the reference is dated (sue me I fucking love that movie), but it felt like everything in my life froze for three days and wouldn’t resume until I chose to stay or go.

Which is how I found myself laying on a bench for four hours trying to think my way out of it. I felt an enormous amount of pressure to decide so I could start moving forward in some sort of direction.

I’m bad at making decisions, or at least that’s what I’ve always believed to be true.

It’s like my reverse superpower. I do whatever I can to avoid making a choice based on my own opinions, or I put it off until I’m backed into a corner. I also try to please as many people as I can in the process, or at least minimize collateral disappointment.

From the moment my brother called to talk about the Coronavirus situation (that I had been trying my best to avoid thinking about) I knew I was being faced with a decision opportunity to change.

So I started out by going to my default: trying to choose to stay or go based on other people’s opinions, emotions and experiences. I messaged friends living abroad to see what they were going to do and listened to my friends back home in self-isolation. I called my parents every day and they begged me to make a decision and to come home. I asked other people in my hostel what their plans were. I listened to my brother, who is a doctor and is way more rational then I’ll ever be.

IMG_6614
A truth bomb my friend Alex sent me.

For the most part, none of it helped.

Talking to my fellow travelers didn’t help at all because I realized everyone had such different situations impacting their choice to stay or go. Talking to my friends and family didn’t help because they were mostly mega anxious.

Of course, it goes without saying there were also a bunch of details to do with money, healthcare and housing that impacted my decision that I won’t bore you with. I’ll just say that at the time of making the decision to stay or go I wasn’t in an ideal situation. I also understood that COVID-19 is serious AF and keeping others safe was top of mind for me too.

Before I went and dramatically laid on a bench for several hours, I told my parents I was going to buy a plane ticket and come home.

It felt good to see the relief on their faces on FaceTime, but it also felt like resignation. Instead of buying the plane ticket and waving the white flag, I found myself horizontal in a public place staring at a bunch of white parrots in a tree. I wasn’t sold on the decision I had already expressed my commitment to. I was so annoyed with myself for telling them I was coming home before I had *actually* decided that I practically was hoping a bird would shit on me to SEND ME A GODDAM SIGN AND HELP ME OUT.

I could feel my brain wrestling back and forth between believing in myself, and buying into the fear.

I had the balls to move across the world alone, and felt like I could tackle whatever came at me. Then a very loud, rude part of my brain chimed in with the following messages:

“Your friends and family are worried, don’t be selfish. Besides, what are you trying to prove? Who do you think you are trying to make your own decisions? What if someone I care about gets sick? What if I GET SICK? What if you stay and you end up having to come home anyway NOT ON YOUR OWN TERMS? You’re stupid to stay in Australia during a global pandemic. This has never happened before! What if!!!!!!!”

I eventually got off the bench due to needing to pee.

I went back to the hostel and bought the plane ticket that night. Even once it seemed final and I had backed myself into a corner there was the nagging truth I couldn’t avoid: everything in my body and soul wanted to stay.

Even if it blew up in my face later, I was so tired and frustrated I didn’t care about making the right decision anymore.

I wanted to listen to my gut and make the brave decision.

With some hindsight, I realize now that there were two personal beliefs I was challenging:

  1. I am bad at making decisions
  2. I do not believe in myself

I canceled the plane ticket and proved myself wrong to the power of two. I wanted to puke from the uncertainty. I knew I’d be disappointing people I cared about. I didn’t know if I was going to be ok. But I wasn’t just changing my mind about coming home – I felt like I was growing and changing.

Now I wake up and pack apples, grateful to have a job. I have a place to live and I’m grateful to the hostel manager who kept things open and stopped accepted new backpackers to keep me and the others who stayed, safe. I pay a monthly premium for health cover I’d get for free in Canada, and I’m grateful. I even got dumped during the pandemic, and I came out on the other side swinging and still grateful to be here!!!!!!! I miss home, but I’m grateful to have people I love. I acknowledge my privilege in being in a position to make a decision and I am super grateful to have the choice.

Change starts with challenging what you believe to be true about yourself. The behaviour follows those beliefs. Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to move forward, but it’s never too late to be brave (or to cancel a plane ticket and eat some of the cost).

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