Monday, April 18, 2016

Part of that world

I've been on a Disney kick lately. Disney movies, Disney songs, blogs and podcasts that compare Disney movies to their source material—I'm swimming happily along in the magic right now. I've been wanting to watch The Little Mermaid for weeks now, which I finally did last week.

It's always been one of my Disney favorites. It captures that feeling we all get at least once in our lives—the deep yearning for something that you just have to have. Even as a small child, I felt the power of Ariel having a dream and pursuing it. I, too, wanted to say to the world: "Watch, and you'll see. Some day I'll be part of your world."

The trouble with dreams, though, is that when you're a kid, you have to grow up to get them. And then when you're old enough to understand what you'll have to go through to achieve your dreams, sometimes it's better to just forget about them and save yourself the stress and anxiety.

For instance, I've always wanted to travel. Settle down in a quiet corner of Utah, yes, but get out occasionally and see some exotic places with my own eyes. New York. Australia. Japan. England. Kansas. It didn't matter where it was, I just wanted to see a lot of things.

But as a teenager, the minutiae of travel scared me so much that I was content with the thought that I just wouldn't travel without the aid of an adult who had a clue, and if said adult wasn't available to take care of me on foreign soil, then so be it, I'd just stay home for the rest of my life.

My teenage vision for my future was simple, because I just couldn't fathom being brave enough to do anything unfamiliar. Overcoming my adolescent fears has been a slow process, but it's by far the most liberating part of being an adult. Eventually I decided that being scared was better than being safe, which has led to 10 years of checking item after item on my "No Way, Not Happening" list.

As the list got shorter, travel—one of the Great Fears—kept trying to get my attention. And as the years went by, the thought of traveling on my own scared me less and less, which is one reason I joined ACES last year. In addition to some word nerdery and sight seeing, the annual conference would be the trial run I needed to prove to myself that I can handle adulting when airplanes and hotels are involved.

I planned my trip down to the minute. For days leading up to my departure, I would run through my itinerary when I was supposed to be falling asleep. The fear and panic I expected to hit never came; instead, my overpreparedness had me raring go on an adventure, despite the many things that could go wrong.

One of the things that surprised me most about the trip was how routine all that stuff my dad usually handles felt—checking my bag at the airport, figuring out what time to catch the train and getting off at the right stop, how to best fit something fun and different into each day, finding the best places to eat, etc. Little things that were once childhood fears turned out to be not a big deal (although still tiring—I have new respect for what my dad goes through every time we went on vacation), and the routine-ness of it all was thrilling in a way. Any time I turn a dependent experience into something I can do on my own is a significant victory. It means I'm more in control over how I live my life and the color and variety I bring into it.

After seeing a new part of the world, I was more than happy to return home to normalcy, where I knew the lay of the land and didn't need to rely on my phone for everything. I've still got a lot to learn about traveling, but taking that first step toward something I had previously written off as impossible is exciting in a Disney-magic sort of way.

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