Learning to listen to myself

Learning to listen and pay attention to the emotions and physical sensations of my body has been an interesting journey. I am by no means saying that I haven’t felt emotions or physical sensations, quite the contrary, but now I am trying to listen to the signals my body is giving me and interpreting them for myself.

For the past three summers, I have been trying to convince myself that I enjoy traveling for months at a time for work; though it is true that I enjoy what I do while traveling for work, I do not like being gone for months at a time, living out of hotels, motels, and a truck.

As someone who thrives on stability and consistency, not being able to establish a routine or even having a consistent place to sleep is not good for my physical or mental health. I have come to recognize that prior to my “busy season” where I am gone for 2 – 4 months almost consistently, my anxiety increases drastically and I find myself in a combination of “waiting mode” as they describe with ADHD (where your brain won’t let you do anything but wait before a meeting or obligation likely because you’re scared that you’ll forget and miss the appointment) and full-on panic trying to make sure that I fit it time to:

  • spend time with as many people that I care about as I can;
  • enjoy being home (sleeping in my own bed, cooking, and spending time with my cat-she has people who check on her while I’m gone);
  • scheduling and meeting necessary medical or otherwise appointments;
  • ensuring that all financial obligations are accounted for; and
  • simply enjoying spending time alone.

But as I swing back and forth between waiting and panic modes, my departure date continues to move, so I not only know that I’m going to be gone for an undisclosed amount of time but I am also not sure exactly when I’m leaving or coming home. So I end up overextending and exhausting myself from trying to meet so many obligations and being nervous about a looming but never conclusive start date.

I have tried so hard to convince myself that I enjoy what I do because I absolutely love traveling, I love the “all or nothing” environment where when I’m working I am completely encompassed in the topic, and I love my boss and my small team. But the truth is that I am a homebody, I enjoy routine, and the life that I want to create for myself does not include being gone for months at a time living out of motels and a truck.

Although I appreciate the idea behind the “enjoy traveling while you can” sentiment, what they don’t realize is that simply being away from home is not the same as traveling. Traveling, to me (and what I think people mean), is to set aside time to explore, to take adventures, to go outside of your everyday routine, and enjoy the beauty of the world we live in because life is short and you may not always have that opportunity; but that is not the same as driving highways for hours on end to sleep in a hotel, do a day or two’s worth of work, then repeat again somewhere new.

have finally realized that I am burning myself out by trying to force myself into liking this variation of my career. I need to listen to the signals my body is giving me and adjust to find a different career variation that allows for me to create a life that I want to live. Although it is incredibly important to push yourself into new and uncomfortable situations (because otherwise, you won’t give yourself the opportunity to grow) it is equally important to listen to your emotions and physical sensations over time as they can help you learn when your actions do not align with who you are.

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