Overcoming My Fears

I named this blog, “The Confined Nomad” for a reason. My heart thirsts for adventure but there was a part of me which was afraid of venturing beyond the confines of my comfort zone. I use the past tense because although I haven’t been completely cured of my fear, I’ve improved a lot. And I’ve improved due to my own hard work and initiative.

When I decided that I was definitely going to travel one day, I realized that I’d have to go through a number of changes. I could save the money and plan the itinerary but all that would just go to waste if I bailed out on myself at the last minute, something which I have a tendency of doing when the going gets tough and I know that I’m the only person depending on myself. Who cares if I let myself down? I did apparently. I was tired of letting myself down. I had a lot of issues to overcome which I ranted about over here.

I was frustrated with myself and my parents for raising me to be this way. I agonized about my inability to navigate the streets of my hometown and to use public transportation.

I’m 21 years old and can barely navigate the streets of my own borough without some guidance. I don’t understand how public transportation works in this country but anytime I ask my parents or anyone else for that matter, they just give me an incredulous look and a complicated though poorly detailed explanation of how it all works. I’ve resorted to searching online for information, but again, there’s nothing suitable for my inexperienced mind. Of course the assumption probably is that there aren’t stupid people like me out there who don’t even know how to take a taxi or a bus so why make a site outlining how these things are done?

I am happy to report that after spending my vacation working at the heart of my hometown, I now have a grasp of the streets and public transportation. The key to learning is exploring, observing and paying attention to where you are going. Anytime me and one of my co-workers ventured out into the streets I tried to pay attention to where we were going and I am proud to say that I can now manipulate my way through those backroads and even if I do get lost I know for a fact that I won’t get into a panic and start experiencing heart palpitations. I’ll just keep walking and keep track of where I am going until I see something familiar and figure it all out. However, I know how to get to the most important places and where the most important taxi stands are. As for taxis, they aren’t hard to get. You just have to be a pedestrian and taxis will stop next to you to find out if you want a ride. They want your money so they aren’t going to play hard to get. Taking a bus isn’t rocket science either. In an emergency I can do these things!

I know I’m 21 and if I want to go out, I should damn well just go. But I’m scared about what’s out there. Sheltering your kids from all apparent dangers is only a good idea up to a point. The world outside their protective bubble becomes an unknown creature to them, one who with time becomes gradually scarier anytime you insist that the world outside the bubble must not be explored without guidance. Because they are never forced to face the unknown, the myth is never disproved and lives on as a source of much fear. I’m scared of just getting dressed one day and taking a taxi to the mall and just walking around and checking out the stores. I’m scared of exploring alone. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid and that everyone will know that I’ve never been out alone when they see that look of cluelessness about me. Hell, I’m afraid of just taking the taxi. Now that I’ve outlined all my fears they don’t seem so very unconquerable to me. Still, it will be a while yet before I suddenly decide that I’ve had enough and march out into the unknown regardless of the obstacles that wait in store for me. At the moment, I feel myself brimming with frustration and the need to escape, but I’m still not at the “I’ve had enough!” stage. I can still satiate my needs with some angry writing. But there’ll surely come a point when writing or reading, or any of the other shit I do to make myself feel better, won’t help anymore. Hopefully it will be soon.

This semester when school started, I ventured to parts of campus where I’d never gone before because I was too intimidated to go to these places due to the people I might encounter there. A lot of my former classmates hang out in these parts of campus and I preferred not seeing any of them. Well I barely encountered any of them and I shouldn’t be afraid of bumping into any of them. I am as human as they are and I have every right to go wherever I want to. Social anxiety can be such a crippling thing.

I also started hanging out by myself in the library and in a few of these student places and it was great. I thought I’d never be able to do something like that outside of my home but I was wrong. I can do it and it does wonders for your soul. It’s a truly liberating thing to know that people aren’t judging your every move and if there are people doing that, so what? It isn’t going to kill you. You just don’t have to care. You also have to not be afraid of looking stupid. If you’re going to avoid leaving your comfort zone because you’re afraid of looking stupid, then you’re going to be stuck in your shell twiddling your thumbs until a sympathetic soul comes along and asks you if you’re alright. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to do the thing that you’re afraid of doing to prove to yourself that it isn’t so bad after all.

Speaking of which, I did another thing which I didn’t think I was capable of doing. A kind blogger read my post about being afraid of everything and she advised me to find my wings in small ways.

I decided that going to a big supermarket about a mile away from campus would be a nice way to find my wings. The city in which my campus is located is really not a place I thought I’d explore in a million years but I made up my mind to do it. I’d go that supermarket and buy some cookies. I had some misgivings about going there. I documented the whole thing, hahaha.

Expedition tomorrow. The objective is to buy some nice pastries. Will I get hit by a bus? It is likely. Will someone yell at me? Most definitely. But a sheltered girl has got to learn somehow! I haven’t thought this through enough. Sure I’ve been on google maps perusing the streets adjacent to campus. Sure I’ve been planning this for months. But it still feels like an unattainable goal and as if though I haven’t planned enough for this moment when I venture out into the world by myself. I have never crossed a busy street by myself. This is all kinds of pathetic, I know, you don’t have to tell me. Tomorrow will be my first time. Hope I don’t get lost. Fingers crossed.

As you can see, I was very close to not going after all but that Thursday morning I locked my bag in my locker and took off on a determined path outside the gates of my campus.

Expedition was successful. I got myself some cookies and chicken puffs and diet coke for my mum who must never know about my reckless adventure into the unknown. It was a bit scary but once you start, you just keep going and don’t turn back until the mission is complete. I saw lots of things, and people were nice to me. The world isn’t as horrible as I once thought it was! I only almost got hit by a car once which is great considering the number of times it could have happened. When crossing the street, there are so many variables to consider that it can be quite bewildering at times. But let me get back to the people are nice part – a couple of truck drivers stopped for me to cross the road, truck drivers who I had come to believe were all obnoxious assholes.

You grow up thinking the world is a scary place and you grow up being afraid of looking stupid. But the truth is that while there ARE mean people in the world, there are also nice people and mostly people who just don’t care. Did I look stupid to the cute trucker guy? Sure I did, maybe that’s why he stopped for me to cross when he really didn’t have to. Sometimes the stupid, bewildered expression on your face can work in your favour. I looked stupid many other times and people didn’t really notice for the most part because they were just carrying on with their lives as usual. When I had left the grocery, my destination, and was ready to cross the street again, a nice old man noticed I had stepped up close to him to see when would be a good time to cross. He thus instructed me when would be a good time to cross the street. He didn’t have to do that. He was just being nice. He didn’t even wait for me to say thanks properly.

Aside from all that street crossing craziness, I noticed my surroundings a lot. It was nice. Lots of pet shops. A plant place with gorgeous orchids. An art store. People are polite. They tell you good morning. This shouldn’t be a surprise but it was nice to be greeted with good morning instead of catcalls. I should have been more responsive to the people but I don’t think it mattered much to them and my mind was focused on how I was going to cross that street close to the university.

Thankfully it all worked out. I made it back. The cookies were delicious although the chicken puffs made me a bit nauseous. I have my period today and yesterday I was feeling so tired so maybe that had something to do with it.

I’m glad I pushed myself to do this because I don’t think I’ll ever be afraid of venturing outside the confines of my comfort zone again.

I’m probably in the top ten most sheltered people in the world but slowly and surely I’m overcoming those fears.

Advertisements

So why do I want to escape, anyway?

I’m 21 years old and can barely navigate the streets of my own borough without some guidance. I don’t understand how public transportation works in this country but anytime I ask my parents or anyone else for that matter, they just give me an incredulous look and a complicated though poorly detailed explanation of how it all works. I’ve resorted to searching online for information, but again, there’s nothing suitable for my inexperienced mind. Of course the assumption probably is that there aren’t stupid people like me out there who don’t even know how to take a taxi or a bus so why make a site outlining how these things are done?

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty sheltered. My parents have handled or at least assisted me in handling all of my shit since I was a very little girl. I forced myself to start taking responsibility for my life when I was about 16 though and have faced a lot of tough situations alone even though my parents offered to stick by me through it all and I’ve strictly handled all of my university issues from the day I started (which is pretty normal for most people, I know, but it was a big step for me). But when it comes to going places, I’ve never had to depend on public transportation. My father has always driven me to any place that I’ve needed to go. Note the word “needed”. If I want to go somewhere, there’s a 90% chance that my desires will be ignored. With these odds in mind, I simply don’t ask anymore. Also, it should be noted that I can’t drive, although I’m halfway to finally getting my license. It’s really fucking frustrating knowing that each weekend I spend at home in my room, a world out there rushes on in all its glory with opportunities for adventure at every corner while I sit on my bed in front of my laptop.

I know I’m 21 and if I want to go out, I should damn well just go. But despite my frustration, I’m scared about what’s out there. Sheltering your kids from all apparent dangers is only a good idea up to a point. The world outside their protective bubble becomes an unknown creature to them, one who with time becomes gradually scarier anytime you insist that the world outside the bubble must not be explored without guidance. Because they are never forced to face the unknown, the myth is never disproved and lives on as a source of much fear. I’m scared of just getting dressed one day and taking a taxi to the mall and just walking around and checking out the stores. I’m scared of exploring alone. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid and that everyone will know that I’ve never been out alone when they see that look of cluelessness about me. Hell, I’m afraid of just taking the taxi. Now that I’ve outlined all my fears they don’t seem so very unconquerable to me. Still, it will be a while yet before I suddenly decide that I’ve had enough and march out into the unknown regardless of the obstacles that wait in store for me. At the moment, I feel myself brimming with frustration and the need to escape, but I’m still not at the “I’ve had enough!” stage. I can still satiate my needs with some angry writing. But there’ll surely come a point when writing or reading, or any of the other shit I do to make myself feel better, won’t help anymore. Hopefully it will be soon.

This is part of the reason why I want to do something extreme, why I just want to hop on a plane to the middle of nowhere and to explore and have drinks and nice discussions with the people that live there. I have some serious compensating to do for the experiences I missed while being protected from whateverthefuck is out there. But it’s not a good enough reason to want to travel alone. There are other ways I can fix myself and help myself develop into a person who, if placed in the middle of the capital city, can survive. Backpacking through South America and South Asia are still very much a part of my life’s “to do” list but I want to make sure that I do these things for the right reasons and not as an antidote for my fear. I don’t want to spend my time in these places conquering my fear. There are a hell of a lot of other things I want to do instead of that and not in addition to that since the conquering of fear is pretty much a full time objective. I have to fix my fear while I’m here.

I was just looking for an image to add to this post but instead found this nice quote,

The cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek – Joseph Campbell

That’s something for me to keep in mind.