I have to confess that until a week ago I was terrified. It was my natural state of being, constantly afraid and anxious. Always wondering what might happen and letting all the things out of my control affect me more than they should. One of my biggest character flaws is my lack of confidence in my own abilities. A good friend told me recently that I need to have a lot more, and she was right…as usual.
Last week I took the second greatest leap of faith in my life (the first one I took last year). I was coming to London for a job interview. I was a nervous wreck for days before I left, scared and worried about landing in this country without support, without a place to stay, with very little money and everything hanging on an interview. I even badgered my friends and acquaintances to see if I could stay with them, the take some of the concern off my mind. No luck on that front and now I’m glad that was the case.
In the end I managed. I booked a room for a good chunk of time (which I now regret to be honest as it’s going to make me lose a lot of money) and I got everything sorted.
When I landed I was calm, focused on what I had to do though I could feel the anxiety bubbling in me and it burst when I got to the room I had booked. Where I had thought I’d booked a private room, it turned out it was a shared one.
For everyone who’s left Venezuela, the country has left some mark on them, something good or bad and in my case that was Paranoia. Maybe it’s not the right word for it, but sleeping in the same room as strangers—or people I don’t trust—and the thought of leaving my stuff alone with them fills me with an enormous amount of anxiety.
For the past week I’ve barely slept, maybe an hour or two each night, all because of this Venezuelan-born anxiety. It’s made worse by the fact that I discovered I had clearly fallen for false advertising. The spacious bedroom and living room were clearly photoshopped to add more space than is actually there and nowhere was it mentioned you had to pump the toilet for it to work or that the shower barely trickled.
My roommate is a nice guy, another Venezuelan in fact and I get along wonderfully with him. Yet when the lights go out and it’s time for bed my mind still tags him as “stranger” and the paranoid anxiety takes over once more.
Still, I’m proud that I haven’t lashed out to him or made him feel ill at ease. It’s not his fault and I certainly don’t want him to feel like it is.
The most interesting part of it all is that after I freaked out over the accommodations the anxiety went away and I managed to make cool-head decisions over my plans, over what would happen over the following days.
And the more days passed and I managed my finances, my very limited finances since I only came with a fraction of my money, and did everything I had to for the coming interview as well as live in London just as anyone else would, the fear I’d been carrying around for so long—that fear that I wouldn’t be able to deal, to cope and wouldn’t be fine on my own—vanished completely.
Now I’m only confident and certain that no matter where I go, where I end up, I can deal with it and I can not only come out on top but also prosper and find my place.
It might seem silly to many of you, but this is the first time I’ve actually been on my own, without any safety net of family or friends. I was afraid of it but my sister kept insisting it would be for my own good and you know what, she was right (it’s the thing with the women in my life, they’re always right…it’s frankly annoying).
While most of you go on your own to university dorms, or find jobs and get your own flats, that just wasn’t possible in Venezuela. Property and rent prices were insanely high. My best friend had to work her job and a few on the side just to be able to afford a room in someone else’s place.
My dad died when I graduated and my first day of work was the day after the funeral. I was now the man of the house (though I hate that phrase), and it took my mother and I working together, my salary and her pension, for us to make it from month to month. So I didn’t have the experience of living on my own, though I did have the experience of managing a household and expenses. I now find it strange that I didn’t have more confidence in myself after all that.
I’ve even lost my fear of loneliness. For the longest time it was the fear of dying alone, of reaching a very old age to find myself with no friends or people there by my side. It’s a bit morbid, but I honestly feared that. But since last year I don’t fear that anymore.
The fear that remains is simply of being on my own, with no one around me, for example, living alone. I fear I’ll go crazy with just my thoughts to keep me company or that I will once again feel that uncomfortable and unnerving emptiness I felt in our home when my dad died.
While I still don’t have an apartment for myself, I find that I don’t fear living alone. The simple notion doesn’t fill me with anxiety anymore.
I still prefer having company, though. I like to have the presence of other people, even when I want to be alone. I like having them there in case I need them and I’ve always had more fun with people than with myself.
It’s just been a week and while I fretted over the decision to come here I now know it was the right call. I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t, nor would I be smiling while doing so. I’ve learned so much about myself and grown as a person in the space of these short seven days.
Who knows what will happen next, where the world will take me. The only thing I know is that no matter what, I’ll survive and thrive. Set up a business in Timbuktu? Open a pub in Dublin? Eat once per day to save money (which I’ve been doing this week)? It doesn’t matter, bring it on!
NOTE: The title is from Frank Herbert’s Dune, it’s part of the Bene Gesserit litany. I always found it ridiculous before, but now I realise it’s true.