I’ve always known that I had some sort of anxiety problem.
It has an identity and a raging personality. One that demands my full attention and often times refuses to calm down.
Sometimes it will tiptoe silently into the room, glide across the floor, and grab me from behind. Other times I’ll watch it come charging at me screaming “full steam ahead!” until it collides and knocks me on my ass in an ungraceful flourish of limbs.
Anxiety wants to control anything it gets its grimy fingers to wrap around.
But there’s a force that it never tries to reckon with.
Anxiety cowers in the corner when Wanderlust comes knocking, clad in feathers and Chuck Taylor sneakers, a smile of adventure plastered upon its face.
Wanderlust rides in on the back of a sparrow, settles in on my shoulder, sparkles in the sunlight, and asks for nothing but a nod and a smile.
Wanderlust is the sound of change being dropped into the travel fund jar on my dresser, the smell of filthy subway cars, and tastes like a pint of Guinness poured just right.
Wanderlust whispers quietly that Ireland is calling. Murmurs that Boston needs a hand to hold. Explains that London feels lonely at two in the morning on a Tuesday.
In essence, Wanderlust takes me by the hand and tries to enrich my life with all things that are good in this world.
But there is a question that always seems to go unanswered here: Why do these two things never collide for more than a few seconds at a time?
Why do they merely stand in their own corners, glaring at each other through eyes flaming crimson with hatred for the other’s existence?
Why will I mentally shut down when pressed between too many people in a crowded place in Fargo, North Dakota, but thrive when stuck with little chance of escape from a jam-packed pub in the middle of Dublin?
Why does Wanderlust drive me to keep moving forward in a place that so many things could go wrong? Why does it urge me to see all, hear all, and know all? Why am I so willing to take its hand as it leads me down a dark alleyway?
Ireland may have given me the answers to each of these questions.
There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to go on the literary tour to Ireland in May of 2012. I had known since I was a baby dragon, taking my first college courses at a university I had only visited twice before moving in, that at some point I was going to travel with some department on campus. It may have taken three years, but it happened.
So that’s how I found myself meeting every couple Saturdays with a bunch of English majors who only ever sent Anxiety my way as I sat in class with them, preparing to go to a country 3,000 miles away.
I liked to sit in the corner and be as quiet as possible. I’d drink my orange juice from the waxy Dixie cup while nibbling on one of the assorted pastries that someone had generously offered for us. I didn’t speak unless spoken to.
I had half a mind to let Anxiety win and back out.
But Wanderlust held strong. It kept screaming that it was my duty as an Irish ginger to continue on with the trip.
I can’t say that I blame it.
The emails came in, each with new information in preparation for the upcoming trip, the signature different every time.
“102 days and not counting,” “68 days and not counting,” “3 days and definitely counting.”
Each day closer to our departure, the more Wanderlust wrapped itself around me. Anxiety was nowhere to be found in regards to the trip, and I was convinced that I had gotten the hell out of dodge.
Then I showed up to the Fargo Hector Field International Airport.
Anxiety was waiting for me at the head of the check-in line. It sat in the pages of my passport, and dangled from the wing of the tiny plane shipping the twenty-four of us to Chicago.
Sometimes people don’t understand the physical wear that anxiety can have on someone. They just assume that it’s a mental thing and that a person with anxiety can just “get over it.”
But I was drained by the time we loaded the plane to fly from Dublin. Something about wandering an airport in search of food, then trying to wait patiently for five hours surrounded by a whole mess of people that I don’t know really got me down.
When we loaded, I found myself stuck in the middle of two people from our group who I didn’t know, and watched Anxiety snuggle right in between us to buckle up for the ride.
Fortunately for me however, Wanderlust had floated in on our coattails and hung out just in time for my first can of Canada Dry. We were ready for the rolling hills of green and a chance of sun to peek out from behind the clouds.
Seven hours, two films, and a whole mess of terrible television shows later, we landed on the Emerald Isle.
It was raining. It was windy. It was cold.
We definitely weren’t in our humid Minnesota anymore.
But as I looked around at the city that was on the horizon from the airport, I decided that I was going to do anything I could to not say “no” while on the trip.
I wanted to bring the ideas I had in my head about the country to life, or abolish them only to replace them with the real thing.
I started with answering “yes” to wandering around the city of Dublin for three hours with three people that I had only met twenty hours previous to our new adventure.
We walked with no destination in mind.
We refused to do anything but see the city.
We got lost. Twice.
And yet, Anxiety decided to stay away.
I checked it off as a win.
I soon found that Wanderlust would rematerialize in the form of my roommate, April.
Full of spirit and adventure, April was the perfect roommate for me to have. Everything from the way she dressed to the music she listened to made us compatible. She just had a bit more courage than I did.
She and I would leave the hotel, decide either left or right, and walk until we found something of interest.
It was generally a pub.
We’re not ashamed.
We would go in and talk to perfect strangers who turned into the perfect people to teach us about the culture.
And with every new person we met, every new place we visited, every new thing we drank, ate, smelled, and touched, Anxiety inched farther and farther away from me.
But it wasn’t until the Cliffs of Moher that I realized just how adventurous I wanted to be.
I followed April and the others that I had come to call friends over the weeks up the hill. I climbed over the barricade composed of fallen stone and fencing that advised the less-adventurous folk to stay away from the cliffs. I trekked over the uneven ground until there was nothing keeping me from the edge but particles of dust floating in the breeze.
I had never seen anything like it with its green grass and purple flowers growing out of stone. It was a scene straight out of a picture book. It was a place giving me full control over the decisions that I may or may not want to make.
I walked to the edge, sat down, and hung my feet over the edge.
And that was it.
Something just clicked right then and there.
I found myself ignoring my friends around me, long forgotten in lieu of a sudden spark of thoughts flowing into me, desperate to be written down and remembered.
The thoughts liquefied, leaked out of my ears, and flowed down my arm. They pooled at my fingertips, soaked into my pen, and exploded onto my tiny, then-worn journal.
I found myself wondering what triggered Anxiety and what triggered the thought to begin with.
But in that instant while looking over the cliff, stiches from life and a single scar from death, it just didn’t matter.
I was alive.
I was free.
And I had so many adventures ahead of me.
Life didn’t seem so terrible anymore.
I watched Anxiety dive off of the cliff and plummet to the ocean below in an undignified mess.
I can’t say I was sad to see it go.
I left Ireland knowing that I needed to try harder to keep Anxiety secured in cement shoes at the bottom of the ocean. But I also knew that it wasn’t something that was just going to disappear.
I still deal with Anxiety now that I’m back Stateside, but I work harder at not shutting myself down and saying “Yes,” to adventure rather than “Nah, maybe next time.”
Who knew that all it would take was me sitting on the edge of a cliff?
Yeah…It’s been awhile. Sorry about that. I’m not making excuses for it. I just don’t have the internet. haha.
This piece was originally written as part of my homework for my Ireland trip. Did I write anything about my trip to Ireland? I don’t remember. No. I’m not going to go check either. Maybe later. I don’t have the care to do so.
But when I get the internet, I’ll write again. Hopefully. I dunno. I graduate this December. Is that something you want to know the progress of?
Does anyone have suggestions of something for me to write about? Send them my way. I’ll pick some topics to write about if they’re given to me.
Anyway! I’m just living as a broke college student these days. Nothing spectacular. Just the usual. Working at Kroll’s. Shmeh.
I’m rambling. As usual. Eh. Over it.
Hai. My name is Melynda and I don’t have anything else to talk about right at this moment.
So until next time!