Have you ever lived your life for someone else? Striving to be that version of yourself that you know is created by those around you, not by which you really are?
Normal seems to be the shell that everyone builds over their own personalities, the walls to keep out any skepticism that may be pointed their way. I tried for most of my childhood to be that version of myself, that was really just what my family had sculpted me into. But I was lost and confused – I never really felt like I could tell anyone that I was questioning their way of life. Why did I have to go to college, get married and have kids in that order?
As a kid, I had a habit of talking about my dreams before getting shut down with a laugh and an “Oh, Christina.” I wanted to join the Peace Corps, I wanted to teach English in Cambodia, go on a safari in Kenya and photograph penguins in Antarctica. Big dreams, right? At least, that’s what everyone told me.
I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut in fear of ridicule. I did what I was told and what was expected of me on the outside, and kept the rest of my life private as my lost soul started to emerge.
I went skydiving, flew a plane and skipped class to explore the mountains. I searched for something in those mountains, though I don’t know what I was searching for – maybe I still don’t. I faced more than my fair share of personal issues before I started to dig my way out, and did what I could to find that buried soul. I booked a trip to Reykjavik on a whim and completely terrified myself. Travelling solo was the first time I did anything important on my own. Picture the story of “Wild” or “Eat, Pray, Love,” I was that cliché.
I was lost. I needed to change my course, and unbury that girl inside me with the big dreams shut down by the “Oh, Christina’s.” I didn’t tell anyone that I was going alone, but I also didn’t invite anyone to come with me. I was on the verge of a panic attack the whole flight out there, was I doing something impulsive and reckless? I worried I would end up feeling more pitiful than empowered. But in all actuality, I felt strong, confident and proud. Being over there was the most exhilarating and freeing experience. I was finally in the driver’s seat of my own life and it felt good.
I erased some of the normal that was engrained in my brain, and the most surprising part of the entire trip was that I did it and I did it well. Not only did I survive and do what I never thought I could, but also I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would.
I spent a day getting lost driving the Golden Circle and another on a bus with random strangers exploring the South Coast and the magical Jökulsárlón. I met some incredible people, solo female travelers like myself and I heard their stories. I didn’t often tell my own but I listened and compared and realized that I wasn’t as wild as it seemed back home.
Yes, this life of mine may not be what is expected of theres, but the things I have in common with these fellow travelers seemed an almost eerie experience. I was someone different away from home, I didn’t have to be anyone else. Without the fear of fitting it, I felt more natural here. I talked with others when I wanted, but mostly I spent time by myself in café’s, museums and pools. I explored the Blue Lagoon and sat soaking in the warm water, Icelandic beer in hand and silica mask blanketing my scarred skin.
I stood on the frozen Kerið Crater Lake and rode a horse over a volcano. I walked behind waterfalls and climbed glaciers and I did all of it by myself. These dreams didn’t have to just be dreams anymore. This fairytale life could be my reality, and as I sat on my bed of my Airbnb my last night there, the northern lights shining outside my window, I cried. Not out of sadness, but out of fear. Fear of going home and losing myself again.
So I made a promise to myself to make my own dreams come true. A promise for myself to continue on this journey to heal that lost soul and find whatever it is that I have been looking for.
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