Moving to Spain in 2017 was a life-changing experience filled with beyond beautiful travel destinations, friendships that transcend time and borders and of course my least expected but most treasured experience thus far – my journey to self-discovery.
If you know me it might come as a surprise to you that the last year was a difficult year for me. I mean my Instagram painted the picture of a woman who was fulfilling her dream of traveling the world. I was bouncing around the globe and living a life that so many would love to experience but I spent most of the year feeling an unease I couldn’t place.
It’s so easy to get caught up in everything around you and forget to care for yourself. When I think about the state of my life over the last year it feels like for a long time I had been keeping up appearances for everyone else in the face of dealing with what was going on with me. If I’m being extremely honest with myself it was one of those situations where I didn’t even want to acknowledge that I might have been going through something that I could no longer mask and that was slowly spiralling out of control.
On the surface I know what it looked like. I made sure it looked like I was happy. Not to convince anyone but myself that I was in fact living my best life. It wasn’t depression. Or maybe not the traditional crying yourself to sleep at night, shutting yourself in and staying away from people and avoiding socialising at all costs. No. Instead for me, masking my pain looked like me keeping busy at all costs. I had scheduled myself to show up whether it was on a trip, to brunch, or just a night out with friends. I had to make it feel like I was happy, even if I wasn’t… because happiness somehow begets happiness. Wrong.
Looking back, it feels strange to admit this out loud (because I know better now) but in the moment I did truly feel happy. I felt grateful, or at least I made myself believe that …. despite the fact that I could still feel a conscious knowing that that was not the truth off in the distance. That’s the thing about me. I never allow myself the opportunity to be sad, or feel what I call “negative emotions”. I tell myself that sadness has no home here because look at all we have accomplished. I am young, black, and abroad. The epitome of living my best life in 2019 but still something inside was off.
For most of 2018 I struggled with the age old question, “Who Am I?”. I didn’t actively take on the work I felt like I needed to do until the end of October when podcasts entered my radar and I thought that was really me taking my journey seriously. It hits you like bricks when you start becoming more aware of yourself. The real you. The you that exists beyond the ego.
My ego is big, bold, and fearless. It tells me I have everything I have ever dreamt of and that that is enough. I am complete because this – living abroad and experiencing life the way I have over the last four years – is all 10 year old me has ever wanted. My ego couldn’t have envisaged, though, that something would shift in my universe causing the split within me to become as clear as day. I started to realise that although I had been able to manifest the life I had always wanted, my inner self would never truly find happiness because my ego was always asking, ‘what’s next?’.
It came down to this for me: when eating on time, doing yoga, reading more self-help books, and binging all the feel good podcasts I possibly could still left that knowing feeling tugging at all that I had convinced myself to be the “hard work” I needed to do on that journey to free myself from my own ego… I had to be honest and admit to myself it was never going to be enough. So I turned to God, the universe, and I humbly surrendered to the truth I was resisting. I did not know who I was but that did not make me any less of a person.
Now this is a post for another time but I would be doing a great disservice if I did not say that I have had help in teasing out everything that contributed to that feeling that threatened to consume me. I never thought I would have ever had need for a life coach or the therapy that comes with working with one but here I am better because of that experience of having someone’s unbiased opinion to force me to go deep and really answer the questions I was too often looking outside for answers to.
Here is where I had to let go of the narrative that travel would ultimately make me happy. Because here I am traveling but still feeling unhappy. I was forced to look within and admit that until I cultivated happiness within, I would never get it from the things of the world. Meeting myself, the whole me, and bridging the gap between the persona that everyone gets to meet and the me I “go home to” was the start of it. Tending to that part of me that I regularly push to the side because I am not one to be emotional or vulnerable has become a daily form of meditation. When I think about the state of my friendships, the people I consider my day ones don’t even know me because I have never really let them in. I perform friendship at a surface level. I always have. I’ve had to stop to ask myself countless times on this journey, “Who do you love besides yourself? And how do you show them love?”. I keep coming up short with answers but still I keep asking because I’ve heard it said before and I’m seeing it for myself that to love others you must love yourself. So here I am again asking myself the question I had been avoiding all along, “Do you love yourself? How do you show yourself love?”.
Over the last two months that has been my greatest struggle, allowing myself to be loved by me. Once I started accepting that there was work to be done within it all started changing. Because I was allowing myself to open up and be honest with myself I started opening up and being honest with others. I started checking in on myself regularly and that translated into me checking in with others. I started telling myself “I love you” daily and started being able to say it to others without the usual hesitation and uncomfortable tightness in my chest because I truly meant it now and could see and feel that it was a real reflection of a budding loving relationship with myself. Most importantly I started letting go of my expectations, past disappointments, and anger towards others because I am learning to forgive myself for not meeting myself before now.
My advice for anybody thinking about moving abroad is this – know yourself. It will come in handy if you start being honest with yourself the very moment you decide to step out of your comfort zone and explore a world of unknowns. If you’re like I was and you’re not exactly sure of your place in the world then my other piece of advice is not to resist the discomfort that comes with personal growth when it does meet you. Allow yourself to fully explore the range of emotions that comes with it and always remember to look for the lesson that any given situation is meant to teach you.
Are you a Caribbean Millennial Abroad? What has your experience been like as it relates to (re)discovering yourself?