We enter into the world a free spirit, most of us carrying this throughout childhood. Then we are gradually molded into permission-asking-beings raising our hands to use the bathroom, having to ask our parents or teachers if we can do this or that, and after consistently doing what we’re told, some of us enter into adulthood just the same - asking which direction to go, taking advice on what is the safest and most practical route we can take. Simultaneously, we try and shape ourselves into a self-sufficient individual with a unique voice who seeks to be truly seen, but is silently abiding by a cultural rulebook of what is acceptable, cool, or what success looks like in the eyes of others.
One of my favorite articles by author/blogger Mark Manson is called, “The Art of Not Giving a Fuck.” “Look at Tim,” the cartoon reads above of a stick figure of a guy holding a balloon flying away and flipping the bird, “Tim doesn’t give a fuck.” Wow. I absolutely love the idea of truly not GAF, it sounds so fucking liberating! I do remember a time in my rebellious youth when I really didn't give a fuck, but that feeling has faded with age. Currently, I am seeking the balance.
So I recently started contemplating this question; Why do I feel the need to ask for permission?
Diving deep, I guess it could stem from insecurity which also manifests into other things like the need to over think or consult with others before making a decision. I’ve literally felt paralyzed until I was given actual or subconscious permission from someone else to validate what I really wanted to do. I've completely ignored my own gut feeling, and waited for someone else to say it’s OK.
On a recent trip to South America, I had just parted ways from a friend who came down for a couple weeks and was now back on my own in a touristy village in Argentina with a world famous waterfall. Showed up at the hostel eager to meet new faces and delve into another adventure, but unlike my previous experiences I didn’t connect with anyone for the first 24 hours. Spent the day at the falls amongst thousands of tourists, nudging my way in front of the viewpoint to snap a few selfies and pushed on as it relentlessly poured. I came back exhausted, my fingers on the verge of frostbite, and could check the box A quiet dinner and an uneventful stroll around town left me anxious to get on my way.
Next morning I still felt uncomfortable, I was literally aching to talk to someone. Texted friends back home and some people from my travels. Tried calling my mom. What felt so unfamiliar was having to make a decision on my own. All I really wanted to do was go back to Brazil, where I had just spent a surreal month in the north but hadn’t yet really explored the south.
Over the past 2 months I had essentially traveled solo, but most decisions were made alongside my newfound travel buddies. It all had just flowed.
But this next move felt painstakingly huge and uncertain. I wasn’t allowing myself to trust what I really wanted to do for fear of it being the ‘wrong’ decision.
Let me break down the first world problem at stake: Do I go by bus for 40 + hours through Bolivia and then to everyone’s bucket list - Machu Picchu? Or, do I go back to Brazil? Thoughts of going back made my whole body relax. Warmth, sun, smiling and generous faces, beaches, and coconuts.
What will people think if I essentially only see 1 country in the 3 months in South America, and detour from my original plan?
“What will people think….?” Wait, who exactly are these people and more importantly, why do I care?
A German I had befriended in Brazil responded to my ‘can you talk?!’ text. I needed help! But what I really felt I needed was permission to go ahead with my gut. He dished the straight talk I always appreciated, and said I could always go back to Peru at some point and didn’t have to go everywhere just because it was on my trip hit list. Which by the way, I changed or just ditched every return ticket purchased ahead of time. *Lesson learned, thank you very much*
After hours of flipping back and forth both literally and figuratively in my Lonely Planet, I mapped my way back to Brazil by way of a 16 hour bus ride. Took a deep breath.
Next, Googled flights to Colombia - a country nearly everyone I’d met along the way said was their favorite overall. Shortly thereafter I had bought my ticket, 10 days from then out of Sao Paulo. Minutes later the gloomy skies that had been attempting to rain all day cleared, and as I looked up the sun blinded me. My mom called back. The gnawing anxiousness, mental paralysis, and feeling of wanting to jump out of my skin faded away.
Was it anxiety? Gateway to a panic attack? As someone who hasn’t necessarily experienced these sensations so acutely before, I don’t feel the need to diagnosis it but rather examine further and hopefully learn from it. Especially because now back home, those overwhelmingly uncomfortable sensations and thought patterns have resurfaced as I face another series of unknowns and decision making, that seem a bit more intense than making a choice of what country to visit next.
When I do start to feel myself sinking into that place, I try to become aware of my thoughts. How they start forming a negative spiral staircase, and if I’m not careful the drifting downwards can break into a sprint. Then the littlest thing like a phone call or text from a friend - can nudge me to turn around and start walking back up, because intuitively I know there’s nothing for me at the bottom except more darkness.
Over the past couple months I’ve also sought out a an intuitive counselor, one of the best astrologers in the city, and had a tarot card reading. All asking similar questions and again, subconsciously asking for permission.
Honestly, the best thing I've found and is also free (yay) is meditation. You hear it all the time, meditation is so important! Learning to quiet the pesky permission asking kid inside is KEY to letting the free spirit not giving a f*ck individual that you truly are.
What kinds of things are you waiting to get approval on before moving forward?