I have not published a blog post on this site in quite some time. It looks like two years now. I’d like to think I can make reasonable excuses such as, “I was busy pursuing my career,” or “I was busy reconnecting with who I was and who I ultimately wanted to be.”
It’s all water under the bridge.
I don’t feel bitter at all. If anything, I feel rejuvenated and renewed. What brings me to write this post is a way for measure and stay accountable from where I’ve come and where I’m going. A welcome addition would be to share this feeling of inspiration and renewal with anyone who reads this post. This is not a requirement or something that needs to happen for me to feel validated for writing this in the first place. It is simply a welcome “cherry on top.”
I recently returned from a solo trip over a three-day weekend along the California Coast, spanning from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo. It was something I’d thought and fantasized for a long time but never gave myself permission to do. I knew it was not going to be easy. I knew I was going to feel like a fish out of water. A lame duck. A lost puppy. It was going to be vulnerable and anxiety-provoking, and even distressing at times. It was all those things.
But I did it, and it was so worth it.
I did things I never had done before. I booked an Airbnb for myself for two nights and three days. I ate by myself. I had free reign over anything I wanted to do in a 72-hour span, but my only personal rules and requirements were that I could never sit still. Aside from sleeping, I could never sit in the Airbnb: the minute I woke up, I had an hour to get ready, get in my car, drive, and experience something new entirely on my own. Yes, feelings of shame came up for me, since I could have easily invited someone on the trip with me. Feelings of guilt as to why I had not invited a family member or close friend on the trip came up. Intermittent moments of anxiety came up when I realized how much freedom I really had to determine what I wanted to get out of my experience. There were many times I thought about turning back and going home. There were times when I worried about how others might perceive me as a lone traveler. The idea of scrapping my entire solo-travel plan felt enticing and a sure-safe bet to protect me from any self-perceived threats I might have experienced on this journey.
But I knew I had to keep going on.
I knew I had to grasp the sweetness of the opportunity presented before me, which overall was to grow. I knew I had to focus on making the company with myself the most important thing in the world.
It definitely wasn’t pretty at first and I felt a very low point early on when I attended a music concert in the San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza. I was terrified. I felt like one of the very few people who were attending the concert, let alone were likely from the area. I kept surveying all the people around me, thinking they were scrutinizing me as to a why a young guy in his twenties was at this concert alone. But, honestly, I basically said “screw you” to those thoughts I was having. I knew that my own company was more than enough. I enjoyed the concert, and I felt my heart open up. I began to connect with people. I felt uninhibited. My solo trip experience suddenly felt less like a measured experiment and more like a game or stress-less dance. Sure, feelings of inferiority and lack of knowing others came up in me, but this experience was a time for me to value my own company, to rejoice in the overall enjoyment without the expectation of needing someone with me there to validate my experience.
This feeling carried over when I drove to Cayucos and took a 5-mile hike from though grassy hills to the rocky Central Californian coastline. I passed couples, both local and from around the world, along with groups of friends made up of local university students. I could have walked past them mired in jealousy of the shared experience. But I did something I rarely do in such situations. I greeted them. Cracked jokes. Told them they were almost at the coastline, they just needed to go another couple hundred miles. Some of these jokes didn’t land. But I said them anyway.
I kept this mission going by attending a concert at a local venue the following night. Opening myself up to just living in the moment and resonating with everything around me allowed me to meaningfully connect with a handle of people at the concert, including the band members themselves, which included the closest manifestation of Dave Grohl (lead singer of the Foo Fighters) I have ever met in my life.
This transformed my inner experience from loneliness to connect with the other people on the hike, my connection with the nature and water around me, and most importantly, the inner connection I had with myself. This was a “Level Up” for me.
Now, by “Leveling Up,” I by far cannot say that my work is done here. A new obstacle for me is how to keep a sense of curiosity and inner drive continually thriving within myself. I think “Leveling Up,” in this sense is continually marking wading outside your comfort zone in uncomfortable territory, only to realize the fears you felt were mostly to entirely self-perceived, or what may have been an illusion entirely. Just like your favorite video game. comic-book hero, favorite athlete, or artist has had to overcome, which is very much embedded in getting out of your comfort zone, which sometimes means getting out of your own way through limiting thoughts and beliefs.
So, go ahead. Let’s all “Level Up” together. Do what is hard, but what you know what needs to be done. Your future self will thank you, as mine is right now. It’s all part of the “Hero’s Journey.” The question is, what are the next steps to take in this journey to keep growing? Feel free to comment about what you’re doing to “Level Up” and grow into a more confident and connected “YOU.” You only get one life or at least this unique reality. Might as well continually be “Leveling Up.”
-Funny Fearful Guy