It’s Okay To Be Scared Shitless

Photo Credit: Tyler Babin

Any time I tell my therapist a story that involved me being vulnerable, I always add in, “and that’s about the moment when my stomach did turns and I wanted to throw up from fear.”

Her reply, every time, is, “that’s how you know it’s important.”

On my desk right now rests a passport that I’ve used only once before — last September when I went to Switzerland to give my second UN speech.

Days before I got on the plane to Geneva I promised myself that my time there was mine and mine alone. I’d been in therapy for close to three years at that point. I’d lost and I’d learned how to gain. I’d pieced together a life I didn’t know I could have and I did it by shoveling away, day by day, at the weight of wishing I was either 15 steps ahead or that I’d go back to a version of myself I’d already known.

Because the truth is that there’s comfort in the known. There’s an even bigger comfort in knowing what you’re searching for.

For every single trip I took last year I knew that my goals were twofold — to enjoy the time away and to find my own roots. There are couches in Austin and Chicago, shared rooms in Florida and Rhode Island, that could tell you stories of who I’ve been and who I wanted so badly to become.

But none speak more than the apartment in Brooklyn where I was seen and found. Four walls, one boy and dreams I didn’t even know I had, all parts of a jigsaw puzzle in the process of being built.

This next trip I’m taking is the first trip in my life that I’m leaving New York already found.

I get on a plane to Rome this afternoon and I’m afraid.

The girl who looks at me in the mirror now, she’s happy. She knows where she belongs and it’s next to the guy in Brooklyn who looks like he’s playing a game of Dance, Dance Revolution anytime a rap song comes on.

There’s the little girl who had so many open wounds that are now being healed because he helps her see the worth in where she’s been.

He reminds her that where she’s going next is up for grabs. The world is hers.

And the world, she’s starting to realize, is a really big place that can make us feel very tiny.

There are small towns, big cities, rivers next to hotels that lend themselves to moments of clarity.

Your claim on those places starts with accepting that you can take up space in them. For me, taking up space in places that I belong started with taking up space next to him. It was learning to not feel guilty to saying “yes” when I knew that I wanted to say “yes.”

I have the permanent place in Brooklyn that I’d been searching for every time I got on a plane away from New York. So now that I’m getting on another plane, what I’m looking for is what I’m trying to figure out.

I sat staring at the passport for as long as it was on my desk, before it made its way to my bag. I thought about how far I’ve come, how far I have left to go.

I’m going to Rome and then taking a train to Turin. On Thursday, I’ll look out onto the audience of UN staff members and when I sweep the room I’ll share a look with a friend who hasn’t let go of my hand since the moment we met.

I’m standing in the light now. I’m scared because if I managed to do justice to my dreams while standing in the dark, how will this play out now that I’m in the light?

Standing in the light, taking up all the space that’s rightfully yours, it’s intimidating. There’s nothing about pursuing your dreams that doesn’t make you want to crawl in the corner, or throw up, every so often. And if you’re not scared shitless then maybe you’re not doing the person in the mirror justice.

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I’m the founder of toodamnyoung.com. You can find me talking about mental health, grief and work-life on Living Vulnerably: https://medium.com/living-vulnerably

I also host Creating Espacios, podcast for the next generation of Latina trailblazers.

Follow along as I condense essays into 140 characters: https://twitter.com/vivnunez

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