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Walking The High Line in New York City.

New York. State of Mind.

On traveling to New York and dealing with anxiety.

It had been two years since I last took a vacation. Two years since I boarded a plane. Two years since I left Illinois, the Chicagoland area, at all.

I hardly believed it myself when I went to write that in an Instagram caption three weeks ago, but, it’s true: I didn’t take a vacation, travel anywhere, leave Chicago, in 2017.

The last place I traveled to was New Orleans, Louisiana, and that was for a conference in 2016. I just haven’t felt like traveling. Going. Leaving. Moving.

And then, this Fourth of July, 21 months after my last vacation, I went to New York.


 

Packing for my vacation in New York. My cat wanted to come with.

Packing for my vacation in New York. My cat wanted to come with.

 

It’s my tradition to go to New York for the Fourth of July. I started going in 2008 on a desperate mission to see the incomparable Takeru Kobayashi eat in the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest. As a competitive eating fan, it was one of those bucket list items I had to do just once in my lifetime.

But then I fell so in love with the contest, the experience, the atmosphere, the eaters, that once wasn’t enough.

Over the next eight years I went back six more times. Spent six more Fourth of Julys in New York City, only missing the other two years because I was traveling abroad at the time. Because it was something I couldn’t miss.

But then, last year, with no real excuse, I didn’t go.

I didn’t go to New York. I didn’t go to the contest. I didn’t go anywhere.

 

 

It’s not that I didn’t want to go to New York last year. It’s that I didn’t want to go anywhere last year.

I’ve made it no secret that I’ve been in a funk, a perpetual state of mind where I don’t know who I am or where I am or where I am going. Over the last couple of years it’s only gotten worse.

I’m not comfortable in my weight. I’m stressed over my career. My bank account is in the negative. And it all just keeps spiraling.

All I want to do is lie in bed with my cats and watch Netflix. And eat. And cry. And wallow.

And I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t want to use my vacation time for travel. I want to use it to catch up. Work on my blog. Clean. Watch Netflix. Eat. Cry. Wallow.

 

 

I didn’t want to go to New York this year either. I didn’t want to go anywhere for the Fourth of July.

My anxiety has been working on overdrive lately and so I made every excuse not to go. To New York. To anywhere.


“I’ve already been there so many times before.” “I can’t afford it.” “There’s so much I could work on at home instead.” “Nobody will care if I’m there or not.”

All of these thoughts repeated in my head. You don’t need to go. Stay home. Save your money. Save your sanity.

 

 

My inner voice does that sometimes. It tells me to forget about how much I love traveling. It focuses on the negatives. It tells me the world is scary. That people are scary. That if I go people will judge me. That if I go people will laugh at me. That if I go I will be making a mistake.

It tells me to stay safe at home where I don’t have to make decisions about what to do in a day, where I don’t have to decide where to eat dinner, where I don’t have to do anything but watch Netflix in bed, where I don’t have to talk to strangers, where I don’t have to talk to anyone.

 

Don't Be Afraid of Anyone - a sign on a trash bin in Times Square, New York City. Also, what I tell my cat. Also, what I try to tell myself. | New York. State of Mind.

Don’t Be Afraid of Anyone – a sign on a trash bin in Times Square, New York City. Also, what I tell my cat. Also, what I try to tell myself.

 

The longer you listen to that voice in your head the harder it gets to ignore.

You stop going to the gym because what does it matter if you’re fat. You stop going to guitar lessons and salsa lessons because it’s too much of a bother. You stop even trying at Tinder because you’re not going to meet that guy you matched with anyways. You subscribe to Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime all at once (when your previous position that was you only need one at a time because who can afford all three) so that there’s always something to watch on your laptop at home.

You stop taking vacations.

 

 

The longer you listen to that voice in your head the harder it gets to ignore.

But it’s not impossible.

I know that the only way to beat that fear, that fear of the unknown, that fear of the world, that fear of never being good enough, that fear of people judging you and laughing at you and talking to you, is to ignore that voice and do it anyways. I know this because all of the self help books I read on the constant tell me this. I know this because I’ve done it before.

Because that voice told me I wasn’t capable of traveling for three months and then I traveled for three years.

Because that voice told me I’m not good enough at what I do and then I started a freelance business.

Because that voice tells me not to go on dates but, when I do, they go fine.

Because that voice tells me, constantly, that I’m not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, worthy enough, and I’m still here.

 

 

So I ignored that voice. That voice telling me to stay home. That voice telling me to save my money. That voice telling me it wasn’t worth going. That voice telling me that nobody would care if I was there or not. And I booked a flight to New York.

Actually, no. I looked at flights to New York. I looked at hotels in New York. I put off booking anything. I finally booked a hotel, knowing I could cancel. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And then I booked a flight, last minute.


Sometimes that inner voice is strong.

So maybe I didn’t really ignore it. But I, kind of, pushed it to the side just enough.

But that was enough.

Because I didn’t cancel that hotel. And I did book that flight, eventually. And I went to New York. And I had a great time.

I walked the length of The High Line three times. I walked through Central Park in the sweltering heat. I ate pizza with Adam and Dani (who I hadn’t seen since we traveled together in India) at Domino Park. I met up with Amber for lunch. I saw the Statue of Liberty as a speck in the distance. I saw the Charging Bull statue for the first time (completely covered by tourists). I sat in Washington Square Park and people watched. I went to a BBQ. I ate doughnuts and pizza and meatballs and tapas and ice cream.

I saw Miki Sudo and Joey Chestnut win the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest live from the press box. And I hung out with them all at the after party.

Where I talked to people I knew.

And I talked to people I didn’t know.

And everything was OK.

Everything was OK.

 

 

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