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I've been spending a lot of time outside lately.

So, I've been spending a lot of time outside lately. November has gifted Washington with some unusually mild-weathered days, which make the outdoors complete with gold and auburn autumn leaves that litter sidewalks the perfect visual to calm me. And I do need calming. In the last 4 weeks, I've moved my old life to a new town, taken a 180-degree career turn, and launched a health and wellness business. Even for a fairly free-spirited girl like me who moved through more than 60 foreign cities this year, that's a lot of change.

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Many of you have asked how I'm not scared. Well, here's my secret:

I am . In fact, on any given day, my fear factor is off the charts.

The whole concept of fear has been a significant focus of my attention lately. I've been meaning to explore and write about the feeling for a couple of weeks now but, well, I've been afraid. Fear is dark, ominous and, after about the age of 7, it becomes very private: I don't know about you, but not many people want to chat about what terrifies them over a coffee.

Fear also has the power to keep us from moving forward. We hesitate trying something new because we're so worried about it failing. We hold on to a relationship for too long, because we're so afraid to imagine another kind of life. We hide how we feel because we're scared of what others will do with that information. Fear screams stop!, a proverbial red light. But at the end of the day, I just don't think that paralysis is the point of it. Too easy, too limited.

Instead, I subscribe to the notion of fear as a flag, an indicator to examine and see what lies beneath. After all, it's one of the most basic, raw, unadulterated feelings we have, especially as grown ups; few other emotions make you freeze, or force you forward, in the same way. I love how David Swenson puts it:

" There's fear that keeps you alive. And there's fear that keeps you from living. Wisdom is knowing the difference ."

My trips earlier this year illustrate the distinction. While I was away, that primary, survival fear was insanely protective. It separated the shady fellow travelers from the nice ones, kept me from swimming towards sharks while diving in the Indonesian ocean, and helped me resist street vendors that may not have operated under the most sanitary conditions. But, that secondary, keep-you-from-living fear? Once overcome, that is what set my world on fire and made me feel most alive. It got me riding a 7,000-pound elephant into the forest as the sun set, connected me with beautiful strangers, and had me driving a motorbike through peaceful rice fields in the northern mountains of Thailand.

And now, at home, the principle is the same. I continue my dream chasing (mostly with my business, a challenging venture, for sure), and I try to see it through travelers eyes. When I'm afraid of something, it's a yellow light to pause. Pay attention. Proceed cautiously, consciously. Something is happening here. Something that might be little, or something that might be life-changing. That makes me curious.

So is it nerve wracking to travel alone through a foreign country? To leave job security behind and venture out on your own? No doubt. They're risks, and risks are scary, but knowing which kind of fear you're working with makes mitigation easier. The hope, of course, is that we use primary fear to prevent getting ourselves hit by buses, and use secondary fear to help create lives that fit who we truly are.

The alternative is looking ahead 20 years and, not having heeded your heart, seeing yourself devoted to the wrong job, married to the wrong partner, saying I wish I would have at least tried ________ when I had the chance. And for me, that's just too risky.

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Posted in Entertainment Post Date 03/27/2017


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