Two weeks before I left the states, I had an amazing Labor Day weekend getaway with some of my favorite people in what is becoming an annual tradition of heading into the mountains, renting a house, and getting sloppy. This year, it was a great way to say “see ya later” to Colorado. And during one of our many booze-and-such-fueled ridiculous late night conversations, I was trying to explain why I needed to take this trip RIGHT. NOW. And while it came out in a jumble of giggles, in the end it actually made sense to everyone in the room.
I was starting to feel like my life was one of those partnered-up slideshow presentations. You know the kind – where you’re standing at the front of the meeting, talking through the deck, but someone else is controlling the clicks from one slide to the next on your behalf. And it’s always a mess. Always. You stand there in a silent pause, as rehearsed, and…nothing. Then suddenly they’ve skipped ahead 3 slides and you quickly mumble, “No, go back…back…back…too far! So sorry about this. No, slow down,” and so on. That’s the way my life has felt over the last few years. Skipping ahead at the pace someone else was setting for me, then trying to go back to over-correct, all while never truly feeling in control of my path in life (despite my well-known and obviously obsessive ” Two-“, “Five-“, and “Ten-Year” Plans with a capital “P”).
So, I decided that if it was going to keep feeling like my life was a bit uncontrollable (because that’s what life is), I at least wanted to be the one manning the clicker. Instead of doing what was expected of me, what everyone else thought was best, what it seemed like I was supposed to do…I sat down to figure out what I expected of myself. What I thought was best. What I felt I was supposed to do. And it looked nothing like the path that I had found myself following. How did I get to be 30 and my life still didn’t feel like it was my own? I had to do something about it. And…I may have over-corrected. But at least it was me that clicked a few too many times this go-around.
As I made the journey from Sydney to Brisbane for the second leg of the Australian phase in my adventure, I found how important my Labor Day realization was to becoming more…me in life. Beginning with a 13 hour train ride in a car that had only occasionally functioning air conditioning while surrounded by 12 kids and 2 moms, my anxiety immediately started building. Hot, tired, and losing my mind because I was constantly on the verge of telling other people’s children to sit down and for the love of god shut up, I was too out of control of the entire situation. When we arrived in Brisbane, I had only a few minutes to spare to buy a ticket for another train that would take me 2 hours further north to the Sunshine Coast and my old school partner-in-crime Keri. Too bad I couldn’t find a ticket machine or any human being in the station at 4 am to help me…until I threw a minor (read: major) grownup temper tantrum at the unmanned gate. Am I proud of this? I suppose I shouldn’t be…but I made the train, didn’t I?
By the time I reached Landsborough Station a tad after 630 that morning, my phone had 3% battery, couldn’t figure out which bus to take, I hadn’t slept more than a few hours, and I had absolutely zero AUD left in my wallet…so I wandered down the strip after several panicked texts with Keri, and eventually found a laundromat that advertised “FREE PHONE CHARGING” which put me into fits of glee I haven’t felt since I received a Furby for Christmas in 1998. I would like to take this opportunity to note this Furby glee was short lived, as the thing would not freaking shut up, so my mom and I took the batteries out on Christmas night. Which was fine until I woke up in the middle of the night to a battery-less Furby that was STILL TALKING LIKE A POSSESSED ELECTRONIC GREMLIN. My mother and I, in a fit of sleep-deprived terror, placed said Furby in a small cooler, wrapped it in a towel, and duct-taped it shut before placing it somewhere in the garage. Ever wonder where I get my lovable nuttiness from? There ya go.
My glee at finding the free phone charging station in Landsborough was equally short-lived. Walking into the laundromat I smelled the faint, but distinct, scent of old malt liquor, and encountered a man (somewhere between 45 and 85 years old, tough to guess) who was quite obviously well past three sheets (at 7 am, I’d like to remind you). He also had approximately 4 teeth, give or take. That’s how many I could count when he smiled at me, at least. And I couldn’t freaking figure out the phone charging station because it was mostly broken. However, my new middle-aged to elderly drunken man friend was more than happy to help me figure it out. Oh well! I juiced up my phone enough to get me to Mooloolaba, and ran out to the ATM.
Aaaaaand I hit another problem. The ATM only dispensed fifties. Now, exchange rates aside, I’ve never encountered a bus ride that expensive, but I thought…hey, Maybe Australian buses are different and they have plenty of change!
Australian buses are not different.
The bus driver yelled at me because it seems that all bus drivers across all the world are angry and also because I was a shitty bus rider who was unprepared. Bright spot in this entire debacle? Another bus driver came to my defense and I ended up standing on the side of the road next to two bus drivers who were fighting over me as well as some clearly deeper, long-standing issues between the two of them, until my driver finally allowed me to ride for free so they could just stop screaming at each other. Win!
And when I finally, finally checked into my room at the hostel in Mooloolaba, I realized something. I’d done it, entirely on my own. It was messy…it involved a hellish train ride, a public temper tantrum, an old, drunk man and two very angry bus drivers. But I’d done it, by the seat of my pants and all on my own. I was finally manning the clicker for my own slideshow. It felt fucking fantastic.
Now I realize why life has constantly felt like that slideshow for years. Because I try to keep such a tight grasp on everything around me that things just have to start slipping through. And when things start slipping through, you want to go “No! No! Come back!” And then when you get it back, it’s already too late. Because you can’t control everything. And that’s perfectly, completely, messily okay.
It’s tough to confront that lesson at the age of 30. I think a lot of people learn that much earlier in life…and bully for them! But I’m someone who learns through the mess. I need the mess. The important thing is that I keep learning no matter what.
Deplaurable Lesson #2: Giving up control is uncomfortable and awkward and sometimes painful. But you don’t need to know everything, be the best at everything, or even understand everything. In fact, giving up on understanding everything will free you from your own outrageous expectations for yourself and you might actually…gasp…grow.