Fear of the Unknown

Well, here it goes: in exactly three weeks I will be on a plane to Amsterdam. Where I’m moving. Alone. For one year. To be thousands of miles from anyone I know. In a city with a lot of rain. I sound excited, don’t I?

Now the news is on the internet for public view and has become official. I keep thinking that new developments in the planning process make it more officially official – first it was the job offer in mid-July, then it was sharing the information with friends and family, then it was the flight reservation, and now it’s the debut on my blog. When the news hits Facebook, there’s really no turning back.

If I sound at all like I’m staring doomsday (or, as I like to call it, September 5th when I depart from SFO) in the face, I apologize and ask that you withhold judgement. Exactly one year ago as I was preparing for my semester in Italy, I felt and behaved in precisely this way – except worse. I was depressed and cried for several weeks, imagining a new possible catastrophe every day and assuming all the worst. People probably thought I was getting ready to jump into a fiery volcano rather than spend three and a half months in one of the most popular destinations in the world doing nothing but eating and learning and exploring. But this is simply how I am.

When I graduated and moved away from college (see post: “Coming Full Circle”), I told a few people that I felt like I’d been given a death sentence and was being forced to say my final farewells in the time I had left. I believed I’d never see most of the people there again and kept saying things like “have a nice life” and “nice knowin’ ya,” with only partial sarcasm. In other words, I’m a little bit crazy. But come on, who isn’t? It’s just that I am very nostalgic and get very attached (see post: “Hold for a few breaths”) and have an exceptionally difficult time leaving people and things behind.

But I know it’s what I’m supposed to do right now. And I know it will be great. Every rational molecule of my little-bit-crazy being says that this is the best thing for me, that nothing but good will come from it, and that I will change and grow in positive ways that I can only begin to imagine now. Despite this, I am sad and scared and irritable as my departure date approaches.

This is rooted in my intense love for the life I’ve had thus far, and for an almost debilitating fear of the unknown (though it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything yet). At the end of my time in Italy I thought I’d moved past this silly habit of freaking out every time I experience a positive transition in my life. In December I wrote this in the last post of my travel blog:

…when I’m reading a book, at the start of a new chapter I always flip to the end to see how many pages it is, to see just what exactly I’m getting myself into. But, while I still do that with every book I read, I no longer feel that I have to know how something in my life is going to happen, no longer submit to the anxious need of a clear picture and understanding of what I’m about to do.

Yet, here I am – sad to say goodbye to what I know, and afraid to say hello to what I don’t. My only comfort (and it is enormously comforting) is the knowledge that I am going to live with what I can already tell is a wonderful, loving and interesting family in a place with everything to offer and that I’ll have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their lives (and my own, of course) as an au pair. Just as my trip to Italy turned out to be pretty much nonstop bliss and allowed me to grow and mature unlike anything else had before, I know that this year will surprise and delight me in ways I can’t even predict, that it will certainly be my greatest adventure yet.

Plus, I’ll learn a few things, which is always solid incentive. The other night I went to Barnes and Noble in search of a phrase book to begin learning my Dutch. I couldn’t find anything on the shelves, so I approached the info desk to ask a helpful and knowledgeable employee. The conversation went like this:

“Hi. I’m looking for a Dutch phrase book.”

“OK. So…Danish?”

“No, Dutch. Ya know, the Netherlands?”

“Right, but in terms of the language, you want Danish?”

“Um, no. Dutch, like I said. Dutch is the language.”

They didn’t have anything; next time I’ll take my business to Borders. So, if I get absolutely nothing else out of this experience (which I know won’t be the case), at least I can be happy with the knowledge that I will never, ever be a stupid girl working in a bookstore who doesn’t know that Dutch is a language and that it is spoken by people who are Dutch.

And that will soon, with a little courage and a lot of practice, be spoken by me.


Check back often for posts on my adventures; I’m more than happy to help anyone live vicariously. Look under the Amsterdam category and by all means, leave me a comment.


1 Response to “Fear of the Unknown”

  1. September 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Shannon! This is so great! Keep your head up, when you become sad or nostalgic make sure to tell yourself that in one year from now you will appreciate every moment of your experience and in fact wish that you were back in the very same moment you are living right now.

    I wish you all the luck in the world; this is a fantastic opportunity! Congrats!

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"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!" -Henry James, The Art of Fiction
August 2008
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