Whenever I tune into foreign news channels like the BBC and NHK, it seems like the entire world is watching our political drama play out here in the U.S. It must look crazy-comical to others, but it feels pretty serious in my circle. When votes were first being tallied, for example, a friend of mine and her partner were ready to become ex-pats. In any major country that would accept them. As we talked about the challenges — jobs, healthcare, etc. — the idea wilted under the weight of challenges. It wasn’t just the mechanics of moving; it was the emotional strain of starting over. The choice to separate from what has been, surrender to that loss, and to learn to thrive in the unknown. In a span of about five minutes, my friend had concluded that she could never move country permanently. I could see the gloom clouds in her eyes (accentuated by her mask).

I can relate, as a creature of habit in comforting relationships and routines. I resist letting go of what what feels well-worn and predictable; even if I feel in my bones that I’m not thriving in my current situation. Confronted with certain risks, I’ve heard myself make excuses. “It’s too late. It’s too complicated. It’s too expensive. It’s too far. What if I (make the commitment and) don’t like it?” During my recent conversation, my friend spoke the words no woman should ever allow to linger, in heart or mind. The words that put our bodies and spirits in deep-freeze:  “I think I’m just too old to start over.” Besides: age is entirely irrelevant, when it comes to facing this fear (of beginning again) with any kind of confidence.

Starting over is rarely something I’ve deliberately chosen to do. A bad breakup; a divorce. Hearing my boss suggest that I “pursue other challenges, someplace else”. The death of a beloved and influential person in my life. Many people face other staggering restarts. Job loss and homelessness. A serious health lapse/addiction or disease. Just the thought of trying to begin anew brings messages of, “I’m just not strong enough, or brave enough. I don’t have what it takes.” In any life stage of my own, no matter how set I thought I was, starting over meant a series of stumbles. Anxiety, self-doubt and what-ifs stalled the action I knew I needed to take.  

In the present moment, I reflect. If I was facing the choice (or necessity of) starting over – an ex-pat in a new country (or some other radical change), would I still hesitate and make excuses? Or, would I be brave enough to see and confront an awkward, but important distinction. Something I’ve learned about listening to my own inner guidance. Do I Choose to Observe My Life, as the days unfold in safety and comfort; or, do I Choose to Actively Thrive — in the midst, and the risk, of unknown outcomes ?

Not all of the personal challenges and crossroads I’ve faced have had quick or obvious solutions. Not very many, actually. But with time and experience (and many mistakes), I’ve grown in awareness. I’ve realized that the fearful process I’m forced to go through — facing a new beginning or chapter of my life – defines why these choices matter. Any opportunity to start over feels precarious, for sure; but also deeply satisfying when I come out on the other side. I don’t want to be just an Observer in my life. I want to feel like I’m thriving, every day. Big difference.

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