Carry-on Baggage

January 29th, 2008
When I was very very young, my mother used to put me on a train to visit my grandparents in the country, a hundred miles away from our town. She pinned a tag to my shirt with my name and destination written on it and asked the conductor to keep an eye on me. I can’t remember feeling afraid or unsafe or worried about psycho child molesters or getting lost or not being met at the station. Traveling as an adult is much more fraught. My carry-on baggage includes fear of taking off, fear of mid-air collisions, fear of landing, fear of super bugs and bed bugs. Put a tag on my fear of failure because it slows me down. Tag my self-doubt because it weighs on me more than the extra books and shoes I’m always dragging on trips. Tag my envy of the bright young book editor I met today who was wearing 3-inch high heels, an Audrey-Hepburnish black coat and cheap-chic accessories that on me would have just looked cheap. Add to that mix some setbacks that came bam bam bam, all at once, and the emotional baggage on my flight from New York tonight should have been over the weight limit. But instead of obsessing on what had gone wrong, I realized that I felt more free than I had in months, because my fear of failure has kept me from being free to fail. I’d always given a nod to that self-help concept, but I suddenly “got it” in a visceral way. If I can let go of the rigid, yet small, expectations I’ve had for myself lately, maybe some more exciting alternatives might appear. Or maybe not–but I need to hold onto the certainty I’m feeling right now that the unpredictability will be worth the risk.