30 March 2014

Discovering Courage

There they are. Two phone numbers. Surname 'Wellington' with an initial of 'J'. Could 'J' stand for 'Joe'? Let me back up...

While conducting another online search to track down 'Joe Wellington', I scour the LinkedIn profiles that pop up. I can tell they aren't the Joe Wellington I'm looking for. Frustrated, dreading that it might finally be time to make a few calls.

Tap, tap, return: "wellington nz white pages" in google, my heart racing and ears ringing. After navigating through the search engine, sixteen options in the Wellington City region pop up. Extending the search north, twenty-nine phone numbers appear on the screen. Among the Wellington Badminton Association and the Wellington Chinese Baptist Church, I find the two most promising leads. High on alert from adrenaline, I set my phone aside to take a deep breath.

You'd think it'd be easy to just call, right? What's stopping me? This is it. All I have to do is punch in the digits and ask for Joe. Simple. Where's my courage?

The past few years, I've become in tune to what my body is telling me. And in this moment, my heart racing, blood rushing, my anxiety peaks. My conscience not wanting to miss the fun, it decides it's time to start with the self-doubt: What's the point of this? Do I really want to find him? He won't remember me. Will I be able to explain well enough who I'm looking for? They're going to think I'm silly. 

In my life, there's been plenty of anxious situations that at times were paralyzing. I've had to fight my way through it one way or another. Often, in my early twenties, I dealt with it by using drugs or alcohol. Luckily, I realized that wasn't the lifestyle I wanted to have anymore and got healthy. Pretty much overnight. As if a light bulb went off in my head that said it had ENOUGH. It's not that easy for a lot of people, and I don't know how I was able to stop almost effortlessly except to say that I began to give myself the life I knew I wanted... and I discovered my worth. That's a story in itself.

When I met Joe "Wellington" in San Francisco it was 1998. I was just a baby (19) having a "gap year". That was probably the start of my anxiety. Joe helped me through it. He was a sweet soul to hang out with, respectful, also a baby in similar ways even though he was older than me by a few years.

Killian, Joe, me, and two others from Australia (I think)

One particular incident from San Francisco was when my friend (I really didn't know him but was connected to a family friend from Minnesota, so we hung out), Killian and I decided to find tickets to a Black Crowes concert. I worshipped their song, "She Talks To Angels." It was sure to be a fun adventure. My homesickness severe, having never really left the comfort of my Minnesota box. I was full of fear about to be unbearable, almost developing into a full-blown panic attack. So, before we left the motel, a few cocktails for "liquid courage" helped (this was a defining moment for me in my awareness of how one might develop an addiction). At the concert venue, Killian stood on one end of the street while I stood on another. Long queues of people waited to get in. It was my job to stand on the corner and ask the passersby, "got an extra ticket?" A nineteen-year-old blondie from the Midwest, standing on the street corner asking for an extra ticket is bound to receive a mouthful of (disgusting) comebacks: "I already gave mine away to another pretty girl" and "No, baby, but how desperate are you?" (anxiety!!). I was grateful my friend came to the rescue with two tickets and we were allowed inside (wall to wall people=more anxiety!). Obviously, the night ended well. The concert incredible. A life-changing night.

But the anxiety is still there at times. And I accept it. I don't try to fight my way through it anymore. I used to get into trouble when I tried to push the anxiety away or got upset with myself for having anxiety. Reality is it's there to help me. Everyone has anxiety- it is the body's fight or flight response to a situation- it's there to tell you to pay attention. It's a good thing.

Now, while dialing a phone number doesn't create as much panic as being a young kid in an unknown city far away from home, as I call the first "Wellington" on my list, the anxiety creeps up. It can hit any time.

Try not to internalize other people's judgments of you, I tell myself. I breathe into it and accept that what I might really be feeling is excitement. They're very similar feelings.

The phone rang and rang and rang while my heart pounded, pounded, pounded.

Answering machine. Based on their outgoing message, 'J' does not stand for 'Joe'. Whew.

Next call. The phone rang and rang and rang and I breathed, breathed, breathed. No answer... I guess I'll have to try that one later.

And I'll have to breathe through it again, accept the emotions that come with the memories, and continue to believe not only may I discover Joe Wellington... I may discover the courage I thought I lost.