Reasons to Celebrate Fear

A week ago, I left Boulder, CO with one direction in mind: West.

Seven days in, I’ve let my hair get caked with mud and felt the lines on my face deepen. Not just from happiness or sadness, but from emotion that defies a category and changes often.

I’ve been watching bright orange sunsets, hiking in the desert, and wading through knee-deep water between massive canyon walls– my mind completely blown by the astounding beauty of all of it.

As wonderfully romantic as all of that is, I am scared shitless.

I’m writing this in a library in rural Utah, looking at my tanned and sandy hands and wondering where I’m going to sleep tonight. The desert is amazing, and something I can’t explain pulls me to it, but it’s got me very easily spooked. I flinch every time the wind blows. I’m by myself a lot of the time. It’s scary.

I feel a little guilty that I’m scared. Being scared in a situation like this is frankly, a huge luxury. I don’t have to be doing this and I feel lucky that I am able to. That being said, it’s okay to have feelings. This was never a “find myself” trip, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect to do a little of that.

There have been moments of crying inexplicably, of feeling hopeless, of feeling totally overwhelmed. I have felt like I’m exactly where I need to be, and at the same time, felt an insane longing for home. And I haven’t been totally alone– I have met up with people along the way, but for some reason I seek out the feeling that comes with being by myself. And I haven’t had a night yet where I’ve gone to bed without my heart pounding out of my chest.

I’ve always been hard on myself. I hate being “bad” at things, I can’t stand being “weak,” I really dislike not having a “direction.” And that is why I am doing this—to be bad at things, to allow fragility into my life and to celebrate it, to only know where I am in this moment, not a week or even an hour from now.

I feel like I’m trying to pry a lid off of myself that has been screwed on for a long, long time. All I did for the past month was assert and re-assert how strong I am, how capable I am, how “fine” I am. And all of that is true. But in reality, a lot of wounds are still pretty fresh for me. I’ve never really given myself the space to be fragile, to allow myself to be worn out and worn down, to be broken, and to heal.

The stuff I post about this trip won’t all be like this, I promise. But some of it will. I think it’s important to acknowledge that I’m looking for that space. Maybe we should look for that space, to sit with fragility and weakness, to come out with a better understanding. I’m celebrating my fear because I want to work with it, through it and past it. I am celebrating fear because I know I will come out of it better.

In the case that fear is stopping you from doing something, consider celebrating it instead. Consider making it part of your journey, not something that halts it. Let me know what you find.

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  • Reply
    November 26, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Erin – been following along for a little while but came across this post today. So, if I may ask, what drives or drove you to make these journeys by yourself? I kind of understand because I very much enjoy being aline when adventureing outside, but my desires for being aline are driven by something else. Most people would think there is something wrong with people who set out on adventures alone. Great read – thanks for sharing

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      November 29, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Jai! I think some part of it is just built into my DNA. I have always been so motivated by going and investigating things–– seeing things for myself and then telling those stories, encouraging people to explore other parts of their lives outside of their comfort zones.

  • Reply
    December 25, 2017 at 7:48 am

    This post made me think of our move to South Africa. Ever since I was little I dreamed of working with animals in Africa. 6 years ago I made the decision with my now fiancé to move to South Africa to become safari guides. We worked so hard to make it a reality. No one believed we really would do it but we were determined. Then on our first night in South Africa I broke down in tears and thought ‘ oh my god what have we done? We are crazy, we can’t do this.’ I was suddenly terrified. But I worked through the fear and today I am a professional safari guide and I know I can take on anything because I have already done the most terrifying thing I could have.
    Thank you for sharing your fears and showing we all have them, despite what the perfect social media lives might show us

    • Erin Sullivan
      Erin Sullivan
      December 29, 2017 at 11:40 am

      What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing. Isn’t it so funny how sometimes FEAR is our reaction to taking a big step toward our dreams? Great job at pushing through it!

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