On Unpacking Stress
It’s almost 1am, and I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by box piles so high that I can no longer see out my windows. In two days, I’ll be moving cross country from Boston to San Francisco, leaving a job and a community that I adore to pursue what my heart is telling me to do. Between packing, figuring out how to haul my beloved plants to California (Oh, and my car. Priorities.), frantically putting things I can’t bring on Craigslist, scheming about where to sleep when my mattress is on a truck, and hammering out answers to not-so-minor details like “What should I do when my healthcare plan stops?” and “How long can I survive without a job?”, I proceed to lose it. I’m excited about building a future with my partner in a new city, but first I have to survive this ordeal.
Then, I reminded myself: I’ve been here before. Once, after a particularly bad breakup, I decided to leave a job I loved to travel around the world. I lived out of a camper van and circled New Zealand’s South Island. I hiked a glacier in Patagonia. I watched BASE jumpers leap off of cliffs in Switzerland, sipped rosé on a terrace in the South of France, walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and surfed a sand dune in Peru. I ate dinners in restaurants by myself, and, for the first time, was completely content in my own company.
Taking six months off to travel didn’t fit into the long list of “supposed to’s” that being a 28-year-old entails. I watched others my age nimbly move through their own life lists, setting career goals and filling their new homes with non-Ikea furniture. But my “list” has never looked like the linear paths I see on social media, or other women my age I know. I didn't give into the pressure then, I won't either now.
If I could find the courage to travel — to define my own unique path in the face of my late-20s — then I could certainly survive the challenges of this mind-numbing move. It’s not easy to tune out the noise, but when you do, the pieces of your life tend to fall into place on their own time. Life does not neatly fit into tiny, scrollable boxes. Life is raw, messy, and unpredictable. We are raw, messy, and unpredictable. There’s a richness that blooms when we allow ourselves to be our genuine selves, when we are brave enough to listen to who we are in our guts rather than the external narratives that tell us who we ought to be. You ought to be yourself.
Reminding ourselves to stay true to our instincts gives us the valor to face the unknown: everything from uprooting our lives and traveling alone to navigating the stress of the everyday like, ugh, unpacking.
Contributor Saskia Leggett is a Bay Area-based solo-traveler, occasional skydiver, and creative learning facilitator working at the intersection of technology, education, and design. You can find her work and projects at saskialeggett.com, or online as @sleggss.