I’ve joked before in posts about living my entire life outside my comfort zone, but it’s true. It’s where I’ve found the most rewarding, unexpected experiences to happen that, in some cases, have changed a part of my person that would not have otherwise been affected. A few years ago, I decided to begin to say yes even when I really wanted to say no. Sometimes, that means considerable angst and anxiety, and my poor friends and family take the brunt of it as I try to work through what seems to be a complete inability to take things as they come.
When I was asked to go to China for an international forum and to visit schools in order to see if there could be the possibility of student exchanges, I was more than apprehensive. China was never a country I considered visiting, and I was concerned about some of the stories I had heard about others’ experiences. However, in the true spirit of trying to say yes instead of no, I agreed to go and, in turn, began my months worth of worrying and concern about what everything would be like, and if I would do something wrong no matter how hard I tried to control my Americanism and end up tragically offending someone. My good friend, Dave Gundlach, was convinced I would cause an international incident. Possibly end up in prison. I didn’t really think he was that far off.
The plan was to travel with our high school principal, Randy Hatlen, and his wife Mary. But while they had each other, I would be going alone. Alone. Another thing I don’t do well at. I was concerned about this constantly. I have traveled alone many times before, so that wasn’t the issue. The issue was the part of being alone in a foreign country in which I would stick out like a sore thumb. We didn’t have a clear itinerary. I didn’t know what to pack. I didn’t know what the hotel would be like. I didn’t know if my curling iron would work (gasp!). All in all, this trip would be the opposite of everything that I need in my life to feel comfortable. Lists. Plans. Checkboxes. And we were missing all of them. Then, to top it off, the first change came instantly when we arrived in China. First thing, I was separated from Randy and Mary to go to a different hotel because our itineraries changed, and I was to go alone. Alone. By myself. In China. I cried for an hour when I got to the hotel. I’m not proud of that, but I was literally past my anxiety point and had no idea what to expect next. I was trying to tell myself that I had an opportunity that I might never have again. It didn’t matter. I was distraught. It was pathetic.
I’m more sure than ever that the choice to say yes when my whole being is shouting no is one of my better life choices. It’s not easy. It’s difficult to consistently choose to go against your gut, especially when everyone tells you to follow it. However, had I said no to this China trip, I would have been passing up an opportunity and friendships that I now wouldn’t give up for anything.