Several hours before my flight my plan felt surreal. I went through the motions of packing and saying goodbyes, but I wondered when and how reality would hit me.
I thought the day would be a tearful struggle, but I was calm. I cried when I said goodbye to my brother Evan, and I choked up when my best friend Olivia sent me a text. It read, “Just remember you’re not alone. Everyone is always thinking of you.” But then I saw the rest of the message, “and if you feel lonely then get the **** out of your comfort zone and make new friends!” and I laughed.
This week I was reminded how quickly something unexpected could change your mindset. One week, so short but so capable of influencing your life.
I look at the calendar and count the 18 weeks ahead of me. Will they all be as intense? If I have 18 life-changing weeks, will I return a completely different person? I’m struggling with the answers, but I’m embracing the unplanned route this journey has in store for me. That’s the beauty of this year. It’s malleable and I don’t have full control of it – just like life.
I am in awe at the size of the support network that formed for me. During the last week I received over a hundred emails and phone calls full of love and encouragement. Family and friends gave me cards and made me CDs, which I opened and listened to during my flight from New York to Qatar. This made me feel safe and loved, and I can’t thank all of you enough.
I’m spending the night in the Doha airport, and I’ll be in Vietnam by Monday. When I stepped off the plane reality sunk in. I realized that to be happy for the next year I needed to make the entire world my comfort zone. I walked to the nearest coffee shop, sat down, and introduced my self to a family of women from Bahrain. After an hour of chatting about our lives, I thought: This feels right. I’m supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be doing this. And I’m not looking back!