During a recent layover in Atlanta, I walked into an airport restaurant in Terminal F. After I looked over a menu and decided to eat there, the hostess asked me if I wanted to sit at the bar or at a table.
“Table,” I said, wanting some space to relax and write before my overnight flight to Buenos Aires.
As the hostess walked me to a table, she asked me where I was headed.
“Argentina,” I said.
“What are you doing there?”
“I actually live there,” I said with a small smile, “so I’m going back.”
Her face lit up. “Do you like it? How long have you been there? What were you doing here in the U.S.?” She said it all in one breath.
My smile grew bigger. There was a sparkle and energy to this woman that made me happy and eager to chat with her. Her curiosity told me she “got” it. We might be living different lives in far different places, but she understood why I was doing what I was doing. She was genuinely interested in what I was doing, why I was doing it and how I did and was doing it.
So as she sat me at a corner table overlooking the terminal, I told her about my motivation — to live internationally and learn Spanish. She said she wants to do the same in France, Belgium or Morocco and learn French.
Her interest in my journey made sense, and even though she was working, I could tell she wanted to sit and talk, to soak up as much as she could. So we kept talking. I like talking with fellow dreamers and adventurers. There’s something about like-minded folks that makes me feel at home, that makes for a warm, inspiring conversation.
Within a few minutes, I’d learned that this young woman is from Jamaica and has lived in Antigua, NYC and now Atlanta. Something told me she was itching to chase this dream of living abroad and learning French. I saw a part of myself in her, and while I knew nothing about her life and current situation — and admitted this to her — I told her, “You should go for it. You really should. You have nothing to lose.”
It’s funny. I was encouraging her, but something also clicked for me when I said this. You see, in this moment, there are dreams and desires I’m not acting upon. I think it’s important to say that, to share that with you. For as much as I’m doing, there are also things I’m not doing. However, I also know that I’m seeing through some big ones right now. This dream of living abroad — my desire to live internationally — was a big one for me. It was an idea that took shape in my mind for years. The fact that I made it down here, that I took the leap to live in Argentina was one step of seeing this dream through. For so many reasons, that alone was a major jump for me. Deciding to stay and embrace, or sometimes simply work through, the challenges and the triumphs has been another hurdle, another leap. Those challenges and triumphs come with the territory. Heck, they were part of the reason for making this jump.
So as I spoke with this woman in Atlanta and spoke these words of encouragement to her, I realized that not only am I seeing a dream through — I’m able to tell other people about it, hear their dreams and desires in response and then I am surprising myself when I’m able to offer support based on my own experiences.
So as much as I was speaking to this hostess, I was also speaking to myself. It’s really a good reminder to me that my dreams are within my grasp — if only I have the guts to embrace everything that simultaneously excites and terrifies me about the potential of my dreams. If only I have the courage to take a step off the ledge that values safety and complacency over (calculated) risk and growth.
“You should go for it. You have nothing to lose.”
The hostess agreed and asked more questions. I gave her a few practical tips. I told her to utilize social media to land on her feet and find housing. I told her about my work. I told her that, at the end of the day, “ready” just isn’t a reality. I’ve heard this idea a lot throughout the past year, and I believe in it deeply. Sure, we can wait until we’re “ready,” but we’re never really ready. “Ready” is a lie; it’s an excuse. “Ready” is the fear that keeps us from pursuing a happier, more fulfilling life.
So with a smile and a warm knowingness in my eyes, I told her once more, “Just go for it. You have nothing to lose.”
I like to imagine this woman will make the leap sometime in the next year — not because of our conversation or what I said but because it’s something she can’t not do. Because she won’t let her fear overcome her excitement of what could be. I hope she makes the leap and watches as the world unravels around her in unexpected, challenging and simultaneously beautiful ways. I hope she embraces the unknown because the magic of adventure and life often reveals itself when we least expect it to.
So let this be a reminder to you and me to pursue our dreams, to pursue the things that keep us up at night, the things we can’t not do — for all the ways they excite and terrify us.
I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert right now. At the start of the book, she writes about another Gilbert — with no relation to her — named Jack Gilbert. While they never met, she and Jack both taught in the creative writing department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Students told me he was the most extraordinary man they’d ever encountered,” Elizabeth writes.
In questioning her students further, she learned the following: “Most of all, though, [Jack] asked his students to be brave. Without bravery, he instructed, they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small — far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.”
Be brave. Live a big life. Pursue the dreams that matter to you. Go for it. You have nothing to lose.