Each day that comes brings with it the nearness of summer and our dreams of moving abroad. I love doing research about moving to Spain, finding beautiful pictures from all over Andalusia, and I’ve even begun collecting Spanish recipes I want to try out (like yummy churros and dipping chocolate). I get so excited just thinking about our life that is to come.
With that excitement, there is fear that sometimes accompanies it. I’m typically quite calm and relaxed and thankfully, I’ve never been plagued with constant anxiety and fear like so many friends and family members I know. However, I do find myself at times wondering and worrying about the what ifs… What if it takes so long to make enough to move? What if we run out of money? What if I get pregnant overseas? What if we have consistent bad experiences and we find traveling the world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Luckily, I have a lot of practice listening to others play the what if game and validating their fears, but then eventually directing them to a more balanced mindset instead of being trampled by their emotions. Before I had all this practice, I made some pretty big errors in my own thinking when I was the one who was fearful. Because I’m pretty chill and logical, as soon as I would have the what if thoughts, I would immediately dismiss them as silly, unproductive thoughts, and would move on to the solutions. I thought it actually worked pretty well for 25+ years. What I didn’t realize the emotional damage I was doing by not validating my fears and just skipping that part and moving on to the solutions.
Because I’m not having fears of elaborate, catastrophic what ifs like apocalyptic zombies or Godzilla or things like that, it’s easy for me to be dismissive about things that really are important to me. Now that I have more practice, I realize that it’s perfectly reasonable for me to wonder and worry about what if I get pregnant in another country, away from my family, unable to speak the language? Feelings of fear, apprehension, confusion, and worry are actually just intended to prompt us to seek more information so we can make decisions, but too often we get stuck and unable to move past the fear. The easiest way for me to replace fear with curiosity is to answer the what if questions. What if something terrible happens in Spain and we use up all our money to get out of trouble? Well, depending on the rest of our plans at the moment, we might get a loan from the bank or family, or maybe we’d just come home. Not that scary after all, right? Even what ifs that end in death and dismemberment, those are usually pretty improbable and I’d rather those calculated risks than the risk of cowering in the suburbs for all my days. In the end, I always find that the immobilizing fear of the what ifs is far worse than if those fears were actually realized. So here’s to adventure and discovery, to living instead of just existing, and above all, to love and peace and curiosity instead of fear.