“Ding! Ding! Ding!” My alarm goes off like a pleasant bell, unlike the alarming and slightly irritating way it typically does. I look at my phone to check the time- 5:00 am.
I’ve barely slept all night, anticipating this moment. I jump out of my warm, safe bed and immediately start checking off my “to pack” list for the fifth time. Although I’m usually very thorough, I’m still afraid I might forget something.
As I drink coffee with my parents, I realize our charming morning ritual has come to an end, at least for a little while. We talk about all the adventures I’m about to have.
I hug my mom goodbye at Terminal B, feeling tears start to fill my eyes. I take a long look at her and my dad, realizing how grateful I am for how much they’ve allowed me to lean on them through my 21 years, how they’ve always supported my endless spontaneous and sometimes irrational decisions. I think about how much will have changed by the next time I see them. I walk away and manage my armfuls of luggage while trying to pay attention to the airport signs.
All at once I’m struck with a feeling I’ve never experienced before. There is no one to point the way. No one to wait up for me. No one to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. No one to look at when I’m feeling confused or scared or happy. At first I’m terrified. I shove this foreign feeling down and try not to face it. This sensation makes me feel like a speck of sand lost in a desert storm.
I board the plane and take my seat with a window view. Next to me sits a stranger and next to him, another stranger. They are everywhere. I look around for something familiar but my eyes only find the window.
Plane rides have always scared me in the past, I don’t like having so little control of my surroundings. I stop myself, I know better than to give into the fear that’s beginning to build inside me.
Instead, I think about how I’ve always wanted to do what I’m about to do. I’m headed to the island of Kauai, where I have never been before. I will be house sitting for a family friend while he is in California. The whole experience will be an adventure, I’ll get to know a whole new place very well. I’ve never enjoyed being a tourist, so this is perfect because I’ll feel much more like I really live on the island, rather than a quick visit at a 4-star resort.
I want to take it all in- every moment, every sound, every face. I want to wake up early and go on roadtrips up the coast and get lost in the jungle. I want to swim all day in the crystal clear waters that I’ve dreamed about for so long. I want to pick fruit right off the tree and eat as much of it as I can find. I want to walk into every local coffee shop and go on hikes that lead to waterfalls.
I notice a key similarity in every scenario I imagine. The main thing in common with all of these things is me. I’m the one I get to experience this new adventure with. I get to learn how to lean on myself now. No one else will know the way all of this will make me feel or the new things that I will encounter. No one else will see all the tiny details I see or the faces that I meet.
No one else will feel all of my struggles or face all the obstacles I may have to face. The fear fades away and is replaced by a sense of empowerment.
As the plane begins to take off, my instinct is to grab my mom’s hand but I’ve come up empty. I sit back, take a deep breath and surrender.
I feel brave now and strong. I’m able to see the reality of danger in my current situation, while still feeling full of curiosity and excitement. How is it possible for so much to have already changed? As I stare out the window at the city I call home, I feel as though my entire outlook has flip-flopped.
“What is this feeling?” I ask myself while knowing what the answer is. This answer, which would have normally terrified me, instead gives me comfort.
My window view is showing the city getting smaller and further away until it’s no longer in my line of sight.
I am on my own.