The what-ifs and might-have-beens: on choosing the right path

Spoiler alert - there's no such thing as the "right" way

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I don’t know about you guys, but I often feel pulled in different directions. Choosing the right path has been a constant source of pain for me.

My heart yearns for different paths at the same time. As you can imagine, this often leads to quite a bit of indecisiveness as I hang out in limbo, stuck and afraid of going in the wrong direction. Over the years, I believe my inclination for loitering in a place of uncertainty has led me towards a whole heap of anxiety.

But what if I do this and fail? What if I go in this direction and it’s the worst? What if I fail? What if I mess up and ruin my life? Isn’t it better to just play it safe and stay put? Then I can’t get hurt.

My wounded inner child just wanted to feel safe. And trust me, I get it. I imagine many of us are going through a similar crossroads at this time of total global uncertainty.

choosing the right path

Over the years, this niggling, anxious “what-if” voice in the back of my mind grew and grew, to the point, it began to cripple me. Only after I suffered loss, pain, heartache and hurt anyways, did I realize that it couldn’t kill me. 

I realized that there’s strength in risk and choice. Courage comes from feeling that fear, acknowledging it, and doing it anyways. Choosing the right path is irrelevant. 

Choices would overwhelm me. My to-do lists were so long I could never hope to complete them. My inbox pinged continuously I had to turn it off. Burnout was my constant state of being.

Often things would get so overwhelming for me that I couldn’t function. When these anxious feelings would overload me, I would just crawl back into bed no matter wherever I was in the world. I would make sure that whenever I was traveling, I would have a safe, quiet bed somewhere I could escape from the sensory overload to if needed.

Skilled in pretending I was okay. I managed to put on a brave face and get through precisely what I needed to do, and then I would run away to a dark room and hide in bed. For years and years, this was my safe space. I called them depression naps, and now I believe it was the most basic, fundamental way for my body to just recover from an impossible workload and being on high alert 24/7 for a decade. Fucking unhealthy, I know. 

Throughout the years, I would often be crippled by bouts of insomnia, incapable of turning my mind off at bedtime. Then I would go offline on expedition trips. I would often sleep for days at a time to recover while we were at sea. Usually, I would come home from a big overseas travel job and fall asleep on a Friday and get out of bed on a Monday. Where did the weekend go?

choosing the right path

For years I’ve felt like I was sleepwalking through my life. In many ways, I’ve been stuck in the crossroads for a long time, totally overwhelmed by choices I ended up not being able to do anything at all.

Over the past decade, dread instead of excitement ruled my choices. It seemed to me that no matter what path I went down, I would just be more overwhelmed. How ironic, the girl who became so well known for being “adventurous” is deep down, actually terrified. I understand her now, but also I’ve woken up too.

Choosing the right path is only an illusion. There’s no right or wrong.

We will always be presented with choices, this path or that path, that future or this one. Now is the time to lean in and chose and to learn to be content with that. Spoiler alert – whichever way you go is the right way. Unless it’s drugs, crime, or voting for Trump. Then I’m here to tell you, pull yourself together.

Be kind to yourself, greet your inner fears, and carry on down whichever path you picked, confident in your choice, and, I suppose, in yourself.

Have anything to add? Can you relate to this? Have you ever felt stuck in a place of uncertainty too? Share!

choosing the right path

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18 Comments on “The what-ifs and might-have-beens: on choosing the right path

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  1. I definitely feel in the same boat as you. Before this year started, I was looking at making some big career decisions next spring involving taking a huge leap towards my travel blogging goals. Things are looking crazy uncertain now, and I’ve thought about whether I should reconsider.

    However, it’s like you say. Things may be more uncertain than ever now, but they are never exactly “certain”. There will always be risks on both sides of a decision, and all we can do is make the best choice for who we are in that moment. You are never locked into any one decision, and it’s all part of the journey <3

  2. I think this sentence, “My wounded inner child just wanted to feel safe.” really sums up what’s driven 90% of the decision making in my life. Not always for the best. This really resonated with me. Thanks for writing and sharing it!

  3. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. I think a looooot of people can relate to this – at least I know I can :). It was in 2017 that I was at a point I hadn’t been at since 2006/07. I struggled to get out of bed on a daily basis, the thought of leaving the house would put me into a panic, I took time off from work, I lied to my family and friends and avoided seeing other people. It was rough. It was time for change.

    It’s exciting that you push yourself to explore and travel. Many people aren’t even self-aware enough to know that they’re stuck in a pattern of apathy. I broke down even the smallest task to more tasks that I could complete one at a time, and had goals to complete such-and-such each day. After some months, I flew to Germany on my own to a city I’d never been to for nearly 3 months. (My partner and I moved here a few months after that ;)).

    I hope you’re well and you’ve got that insomnia pushed away.

  4. Dear Liz,

    Im a little teary eyed because I’m about to be a college senior and the stress of decisions is definitely upon me! I’ve planned on moving to South Korea to teach for the longest time, but now I have an internship that will lead to a really good job. I just don’t know if I can stomach the thought of just 2 weeks of travel a year! I’m pretty torn so this article came around the perfect time.

    Fun fact: I’ve been reading your blog since 2013, and my mom actually banned me from reading it because it gave me “unrealistic expectations for my life” LOL! <3

    1. Dear young people!
      May your choices reflect your dreams, not your fears.
      Nelson Mandela

      No decision you make is unchangeable. (Barring the life and death decision.) As long as you are alive just make a choice, any choice and take a path. If you need, you can always correct your course later. Heck, you can even go back to the beginning and take the other fork. People change majors, professions, jobs, cities, continents, partners. People pick up the pieces and start all over.
      Live your life to the fullest by embracing what comes your way and putting a 100% in. Love by giving your whole heart, grieve by crying your eyes out. Look for moments of awe, small and big, every day. Remember the child in you and the wonder she felt.
      Happiness is not your right, but a byproduct of a life well lived. Kindness+Gratitude=Happiness

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