It occurs to me that my entire life has been a series of images. For those of you that don’t live inside the walls of my brain, let me explain. With every step I take in my life, every adventure I embark on, every experience I have, every goal I strive to achieve, and every aspiration I set out to make a reality, I begin by envisioning myself doing it. Quite literally, I approach every situation by imagining myself in it, what it would be like, and what it would mean to and for me. Once I have that image, I take a mental snapshot of it and tuck it away. I do this so that later, if and when I come to a crossroads in a path I have chosen for myself, experience doubt about the choices I have made or my ability to achieve my dreams, struggle with moving forward, feel excitement or success about what is ahead, or encounter unexpected obstacles or gratifying surprises, I can revisit that picture and look at it to remind myself that I will be the woman in that image one day, and soon that mental snapshot will be a concrete picture.
Still confused? Let me give you an example. When I set out to get my college degree, I visualized myself at graduation. While my college experience evolved and changed with time, I always held on to that image. I could see myself walking across the stage, similar to what a friend or family member might see from the audience. I also imagined what it would look like to be handed a degree and look out across a see of graduation caps. In this picture, I could feel every emotion I thought I would experience: excitement, joy, catharsis, sentimentality. I could see and experience something that had not even happened yet, and on my lightest and darkest days I could think back to that image and remember just what it would be like to reach my destination and accomplish my dreams. In a way, I have a futuristic photo album filled with pictures of things that haven’t happened just yet.
But sometimes it isn’t that easy. It’s hard to visualize yourself doing something you never thought you would actually do. At least for me it is. I have always wanted to travel, but somewhere along the way my dreams of exploring the world seemed to grow further away until they all but dissolved. Despite receiving the life-changing opportunity to be a Lumos Traveler, I’ve struggled to imagine myself actually living, working, and being in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil because I was previously uncertain I would ever get the chance to trek across the globe.
But here I am. One day away from venturing out of my home in Nashville to a place I will call home for the next six months. And then I remembered an important message that a very special person in my life taught me: “You’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I think all along I’ve been not only holding doubt that my dreams are about to become a reality, but also trying to package my entire time in Brazil into a singular box, and ergo, I can’t visualize myself in Rio. But by allowing myself to “get comfortable with” and embrace my own discomfort and uncertainty about the multitude of experiences that lie ahead for me, I realized that that beautiful thing about traveling the world is that there is no such thing as a singular story or experience. Certainly, there is no way that a single perception of myself in Brazil would suffice for the thousands of moments I will have there.
So tonight, as I am surrounded by those I love and adore and who love me back, I sit here thinking about what lies ahead for me in Brazil. And while I might not have all the details, what I can imagine will not even begin to scratch the surface of the pilgrimage I am about to embark on. And I’ll tell you what – I couldn’t feel more captivated, confident, and excited.