We each have unique personalities that shape our life’s journey. I’ve always been vocal, outspoken and action-oriented. I dream big and jump quickly. Sometimes it gracefully works out the way I hoped; most times, however, the journey takes a few loop-the-loops and crazy spins before I reorient and remember life is a roller coaster and it’s my responsibility to enjoy the ride.
I’ve been in limbo since returning to the States from Italy in October. Life threw me a curve ball and I was feeling through my next move. After “city shopping” for the next place I’d call home, the thought crossed my mind to stay in Texas and settle back into my old life in Austin. It was a safe bet so I moved in with one of my best girlfriends and started doing just that.
It only lasted a few months before I really started feeling the urge to explore, live somewhere new and continue to challenge myself. As a result, a few weeks ago I packed up my car and set out on a 2,211-mile journey west.
Along the way, I dropped in to say my good-byes to family members in west Texas, explored Santa Fe, and hiked along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. All of them were beautiful, therapeutic experiences. I was really feeling the effects of the huge life decision I’d made and this solo road trip was my opportunity to reset and visualize what was on the horizon.
I’ve found the answers are always in the silence, if you aren’t too scared to listen.
Personal growth requires fearlessness.
People tell me I’m a “fucking bad ass” with “the most gigantic balls of anyone they know”. Some say I’m inspirational. Others claim to live vicariously through me. My family and friends tell me how proud they are of me. Truth is, the leaps I take in my life scare my face off most of the time. I never know exactly what I’m getting myself into, but the cocktail of excitement, opportunity and fear fuels me.
I’ve learned to surf the wave of fear like a pro and have one helluva ride discovering the opportunities as they unfold. The excellent stories I get to share at parties are my favorite residual effects of my lifestyle – I aim to entertain while sharing my life experience. (If you don’t know me and are curious, you can do some recon here.)
How do you become fearless?
So, back to that road trip story. I woke up on day four, primed to drive through the Mohave Desert en route to visit the lovely Sanregret’s in the quaint, Danish town of Solvang, California. I picked up my phone at 6am to find a slew of missed calls and text messages – John Mudge, one of my best guy friends was dead. I pulled the scratchy, cheap motel sheets up over my face and sobbed. Alone, shocked, powerless – I’d never felt it all so deeply.
I peeled out of the Terrible’s (in)convenient store in Kingman, Arizona at 9am. I thought I’d listen to the Steve Jobs biography to keep my mind occupied, but my CD player strangely stopped working temporarily. The available radio stations were intermittent, and shitty at best, so I gave up on distraction and relaxed into being alone in the desert – just my thoughts, the open road and me. I drove in silence focusing on the beauty around me and reflecting on my last moments with Mudge. I thought about our over-share session at the tattoo studio on Valentine’s Day where I gave him some tips on “doing the little things” to show Marsha how much he loves her. The first tip I gave him: “Don’t schedule a tattoo on Valentine’s Day.”
I could see in my mind’s eye Mudge’s mini-me, Jackson, sitting on his daddy’s lap rocking his sunshades and matching baldhead. I remembered our last hug – it was at my “good-bye bbq” and I was jumping on the trampoline with the girls. I’d yelled for him to get outside. I’m really glad I did that. “Don’t you dare leave without hugging me! I’m moving to California,” I squealed as I jumped and threw my arms in the air.
I couldn’t open the damn trampoline safety net so Mudge came over, freed me and gave me a signature bear hug and wished me well on my new adventure. Mudge always gave a warm hug that would stick with you for days.
He also gave great “penis-perspective” to his female friends. That man knew my fears and secrets and was loyal to the core. He was the person I had called to talk out this gravitational pull I was feeling to head west to California. He told me life is short and unpredictable and that me following my dreams was a good look on me. “You’re a ballsy bitch and I’m thankful you’re in my life.”
The road blurred and flooded with my tears. I’d noticed a rest area sign a ways back so I knew one was coming up soon. Thank you! I needed to stop driving.
I pulled into the rest side park as the heaving, noisy bawling began. My chest ached. My throat burned. I cried for John Mudge and felt the ache swell in my chest. I cried for Marsha losing her young husband and for those sweet little boys losing their Daddy before they ever entered Kindergarten. I cried for the uncertainty I was feeling in my own life. I cried for my poor, sweet soul going through this alone. I cried for the people and relationships I’d just left behind and for the new one’s I’d have to create. In an instant, it felt like more than I could handle.
My crying reached a crescendo and I began to hyperventilate. I rolled down my windows and noticed an old, big-bellied trucker eyeing me with a look of concern. Bless his heart – he couldn’t help me. I covered my face and tried to focus on slowing my breathing. It was clear the crying was now completely out of my control. I flipped down the visor, locked eyes with myself in the mirror and began to soothe myself. “You’re okay. You are not alone, Johanna. I am here and everything’s okay. I promise you’re going to be okay.”
I picked up the phone and called my best friend who’d broken the devastating news about Mudge to me earlier that morning. Struggling to get my words out through the tears I pleaded with Shanda. “Please just talk to me. I’m feeling so sad and alone. I’m literally all alone in the middle of the desert, and I can’t stop crying. I need a hug. I need you to talk to me so I can calm down.”
Shanda did as I asked and began talking me off the ledge. Thirty minutes later we were giggling about what the trucker must be thinking about me. He’d been pacing the length of the sidewalk the entire time I’d had my hot mess meltdown. I smiled and waived good-bye to him as I got back out on the highway – rollin’ through the desert, kicking up sand, listening to iTunes and talking to John Mudge. It was our first over share in the afterlife – I vocalized and felt through everything I was afraid of in my latest life change. By the time the California landscape turned from brown to green to blue, I was okay.
So back to that question… How do you become fearless? You don’t.
None of us will ever have a life void of fear, but the great news is we can choose to live fearlessly.
By acknowledging and pushing past the old, haunting fears, worries and regrets that have plagued our lives, we open big, beautiful doors of possibility.
The moment we let go and delight in possibility is the instant we are primed to allow those things we really want into our lives.
Before you go to bed tonight, stand in front of the bathroom mirror and gently look at yourself – full of love and free of judgment. Lock eyes with the soul looking back at you and listen through the silence. What is your larger-self whispering to you? Where do you want to go from here?
Promise that you’ll no longer be crippled by fear. Don’t distract yourself with worry and miss the miraculous life you were meant to live. Don’t drown your life’s desires in bad habits and unsatisfying monotony now that you know there’s an alternative. If I can do it, you can do it. We are powerful creators.
Wherever you are right now – at the beginning, lost in the middle, or nearing the end – take control and own it. It’s your life. Live it fearlessly. Make it count.
Next time you’re outside, on the open road or sitting in rush hour traffic, acknowledge your own power and strength by throwing your fist up in the air and giving my friend, John Mudge your best rebel yell. It’ll feel great and he’ll give you two thumbs up from whatever rad cloud he’s pimped out in the heavens.