I’m sitting in the Boston airport trying to process all that’s happened in the last 9 weeks.  The bustle of the airport, the smells of the food court, the nauseating pit in my stomach – I just don’t have the mental capacity to tell you what Belfast has meant to me.  I might not have that fully sorted out for a few weeks or even months.  Maybe in a year, I’ll know for sure how the Belfast experience has changed me.  But for now, here’s what I’ve got:

I knew before I left that this would be a significant event in my life, but I could not have predicted how proud I would feel at the end of it.  Do you remember when I said that this was my year to be fearless?  I really took that to heart.  I did things that truly scared me, not the least of which was living in a foreign country for 2 months.

I walked across a high rope bridge in high winds – TWICE.

I sang karaoke in front of a sassy tranny and a room full of strangers.

I paid for things with an American credit card (everyone in the UK hates that, FYI).

I actively volunteered to do things that I was scared of just to challenge myself – and I was fine!  I even had fun!

But there was a sense of fearlessness that was subconscious as well.  I have long considered myself “not good at making friends.”  I’m afraid to approach people and I feel like I’m socially awkward.  I have an imposter complex and I always feel like I’m the odd one out.  So I don’t put myself out there, at least not all the way.  I’m not always authentic is what I’m saying.

But on this trip, I was authentic.  I couldn’t be anything else – we worked long hours and were so stressed, I didn’t have energy to keep my boundaries up.  I was just – me.  Though it may not sound like it, that was fearlessness at work!  And I was fine!

I made friends.  Good friends, people who I can’t wait to see again, who genuinely liked me.  I’m kind of blown away by that.  And I caught up with an old friend at the end of my trip, someone who REALLY knows me and knows all the things I’ve been through.  She knew me when I was the worst version of myself – it doesn’t get much more authentic than that.  And she still likes me anyway.

The most important take away for me from this trip is that I was, ultimately, just fine.  I could leave everyone I know and everything I love with just a backpack and a suitcase and I would be just fine.  I could start a new job in a new place where I don’t know anyone, I could live on my own again, I could start over – and I would be just fine.

That’s an incredibly powerful thing to learn about myself.  Now I just have to remember it.