In the pauses of music streaming through my headphones, I can hear dice being thrown. The man behind me raises his voice to make a point and someone starts coughing. I’m on a train headed to Scotland, the second part of a vacation that I’ve had planned since April, which started in London late last week. As I sit, watching the countryside fly past me, and an unreliable internet connection repeatedly kicking me off of service, I wonder how I’ve gotten here.

It was all a conscious choice, but with some huge changes in my future I sometimes wonder how the universe has aligned. At the beginning of next year I’ve decided to take a well earned break. Three years of back to back stress and life changes has worn me out, and stifled my creativity. I know I have so much to give, so much I love giving, but am too tired to dig deep enough to find it. I want to do work that is fulfilling and enjoyable. But first I need to decide where I’m headed.

So in an attempt to figure that out, I’ve decided to throw myself head on into the chaos by taking off about a year to travel. And when I made the decision, I had a sense of calm and peace that I’ve gotten to know well over the last few years. I know it’s the right choice, because I can feel it in every part of me. When I told my friends and family, they were overwhelmingly supportive, and not that surprised that I would choose this as a next step. They’ve come to terms with my brand of crazy. What hasn’t been so supportive is one small voice in the back of my head.

She’s the fearfully guilty one, always insisting that I do things the “right” way, although I’ve never really been interested in that. I’ve always been more concerned with doing what makes me happy. But on days like this, where I have little distraction other than drawing, music, and writing, her voice becomes clearer.

“What if this doesn’t go like you planned?”

“What if, in a year, you somehow become completely unemployable? You don’t want to be destitute.”

“It’s very irregular to take breaks like this. You are a hard worker. You should be working towards something.”

A few years ago, I would have sat with her, listened to her, attempted to assuage her with rationality. Sometimes I would win. And sometimes she did. But now, after years of her worrying inside my head I’ve finally learned how to shut her up. I hear that she’s scared, worried for my safety and well being, but I also know that a person never regrets an adventure. Life is the most beautiful adventure, and not taking action out of guilt or fear is the surest way to live a life of regret.

So I hear her, and I tell her, “No.” She doesn’t get an opinion in this conversation. Not anymore. I’m glad that she’s there. I’m cognizant of her fear, and I want it. I want to know where my limits are so that I can challenge and break through them. Without her, I am fearless, which I’m not interested in. In the absence of fear there is also an absence of courage. I welcome the opportunity to be scared, and to overcome it. So she can sit and whimper, wondering what will become of me, but she can’t stop me. And when I do go, it will be with courage.

We all have inner voices. How have yours hurt or helped you to find courage in your own life?


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