In mid-June, I started thinking about a trip to Africa. Africa had never been on my list of places I wanted to go, but as I thought about turning 40 and doing so alone, I knew I wanted to do something grand for my birthday. I also knew that I did not want to spend New Years at home alone, so I started looking at REI’s website for adventure trips in late December. Almost immediately, I felt drawn to the thought of hiking up the highest mountain in Africa.
So what if it takes forever to travel to Africa and I’ll be travelling alone? So what if the foreignness of Africa scares me? So what if I’ve never been in altitude? So what if I have to get injections or take drugs to keep from getting sick? So what if I’m sleeping in a tent and not showering every day? I can do this. More than that, I need to do this. I need to know that I can put myself in any unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable situation and, not just survive, but enjoy it.
Someone recently told me that I’m not capable of change, and I cannot let that be true.
It’s true that I’ve lived in the same town for more than twenty years, that I’ve been in one line of work, mostly with one firm, the entire time, and that I’m a person who takes comfort in routine and familiarity. It’s also true that I hold tight to my family and friends. I have friends I’ve had since elementary school, middle school, and high school because I value people. Once I love them, I don’t let go easily. I email. I phone. I reach out regularly. If I cause hurt, I ask forgiveness, even when walking away would be easier. If I am hurt, I offer forgiveness where I think forgiveness is genuinely sought. I have a history of dedication and commitment to my work and the people I love. I think all of that is good and that to reframe all of that as a condemnation of me as unable to adapt is a mistake.
Then I worry. Is it true that I can’t change? I talked for three or four years about moving out of Austin proper into the country before I actually did it. It took years of thinking about writing before I made any externally visible efforts to actually write for magazines or other people. It takes me months to move myself mentally from the I’m-getting-to-know-you phase into the we’re-dating phase. I’m slow to make decisions, whether the decisions involve a major life change or buying a blender. I consider and debate and coax myself into action, big and little. And sometimes that means long periods of uncertainty and what appears to be inaction to the outside observer. Does my slowness mean I’m not moving towards change or that I’m incapable of it? I don’t think so.
So this Africa thing is about climbing Kilimanjaro about as much as my Ironman thing is about earning the M-dot status. It’s really about my life, who I want to be, and what I need to know is true about me.
I bought my plane ticket today. It took me almost two months, but I did it. I’m in. The plans are made, and the money is spent. I’m going to Africa.