This old world is a new world and a bold world for me

It could be fairly said that I’m kind of terrified of new things. I’ve always been willing to go out of my way to avoid having to go into a store I’ve never been in before, finding an address I haven’t visited, meeting new people, trying a new restaurant. It’s a fairly constant low-level anxiety, made worse by the fact that it feels so stupid. All I’m really afraid of is making some sort of remarkably minor misstep, the kind other people wouldn’t even notice: not knowing where to park, not remembering a new acquaintance’s name, not knowing where to find the condiments or whether to bus my own table.

Stupid, like I said. And the only way I’ve ever found to tackle the issue is with constant practice. The more new experiences you get under your belt, the less unfamiliar and frightening each new thing becomes; you might not have done this particular thing before, but when you’ve done something like it, it tends to lose its anxiety-inducing qualities. Which is probably why I’ve overcompensated for my little idiosyncrasy by becoming a change-aholic.

Though a few of my friends have been veritable globe-trotters, I don’t think any of them have picked up their entire lives and relocated quite as many times as I have. It’s a sort of low-budget form of wanderlust where instead of doing expensive things like backpacking across Europe or taking a vacation in Paris, I just relocate myself from one plot of rural America to the next in search of… well, the mission changes with time, but suffice it to say I’ve never found what I’ve been looking for. My family and friends are hard-pressed to keep up with which state I’m living in today, and with each new situation I’ve jumped feet-first into something and somewhere completely new. Most of the towns I’ve lived in are places that I never even visited before I moved there. Sometimes that’s worked out for me, sometimes it hasn’t, but I’ve never landed in that perfect place that I’d never want to leave again. And despite my craving for the familiar, I never thought I’d find myself moving back to any place I’d lived before. It was an unaccustomed sensation when I left Northern California and found myself feeling almost immediately homesick for the place.

So when I found myself contemplating moving back to Salt Lake City — my hometown — even I was taken by surprise. Each time I’ve returned to Utah to visit my mom, I’ve been able to take about a week of the place before I was more than ready to move on. I’ve always said that being around family after a long absence can turn a person into a lesser version of themselves, but maybe that’s just me and my personal issues. One of the reasons I’ve changed so many things over the years — where I live, what I do, what I call myself, who I am — is because I haven’t always liked myself very much. There are parts of my life that, though they’re not exactly shameful, are embarrassing enough that I’d just as soon forget them.

This time though, for some reason, coming home felt like the right thing to do. I’d been living in small towns for so long that I was already looking forward to the idea of going to a play, a museum, a planetarium, or a Starbucks whenever I wanted. Still, my first few days in town all I did was worry — there’s another of my vices — about whether I’d done the right thing, where I was going to house my horse (I had her boarded at an overnight facility but needed to find a permanent boarding situation sooner rather than later) and whether I’d made the worst mistake of my life. I felt I was constantly teetering on the verge of a panic attack. I’d moved into my mother’s tiny spare bedroom, which only months ago I would’ve sworn I’d never do. (I love my mom and we get on great, but there’s something about being thirty and living with one’s mother that the independent soul tends to rebel at.) I’d quit a perfectly good job. I’d uprooted myself again, and for what? I had felt burnt out on my own life, and I’d done something to change it, but surely you can only turn your existence on its head so many times before something goes horribly awry. I felt sure that, like every other time I’d visited, I’d be ready to get out of Utah within the week, only this time I was stuck, with no money and no plan and no particular place to go.

So I found a place to keep my horse (an insanely gorgeous place, incidentally, where she’s happy as a clam and I go to work with her and ride her most every day), and I set about finding work. And for once, since I had a roof over my head and no immediate worry about losing it, I had the luxury of really sitting down and thinking about what exactly I wanted to do for a job. I contemplated the idea of finding the work I wanted to do instead of the work I was able to do. I decided to look for part-time jobs with flexible hours so I could devote some time to my own projects (you’ll be seeing more of those soon!) and to think for once about how I was going to live the rest of my life instead of just doing what I had to do to keep on getting by.

On Monday, I start training to be a carriage driver. I probably won’t make much money, but I’m thrilled to death regardless; I’ve always loved draft horses and driving, and I’m overjoyed to get to do it on a regular basis. I’m looking for another part-time job where I’ll hopefully not to be stuck to a computer all day. I’m thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life and I’m coming up with answers where I haven’t had any before. And I’m finding that coming back to where I started may be the only way to see how much I’ve changed in the years and the spaces between then and now. I was afraid that coming home would make all my old insecurities and memories and anxieties come rushing back, but instead I’ve discovered that I’m just not that person anymore, and that it’s more important to keep working on becoming the best version of myself instead of hiding from the selves I didn’t like so much. And I’m proud to say that I seem to have practiced so much that new things don’t really bother me anymore. I’ve learned to see the opportunities and adventures in everything that’s new… and to see the beauty in my hometown that I was blind to before.

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela

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24 thoughts on “This old world is a new world and a bold world for me

  1. Wow. That’s some productive and touching introspection. A lot of the comments you make really resonate, too.

    This new direction sounds engaging and satisfying, which I think should really be the ultimate goal (where possible) in choosing a job. Can’t wait to hear about the carriage driving – I would love to try it (vicariously will suffice ;) ).

  2. I’m so glad you made the choices you did, and further heartened to read your reflections on the impact so far. I believed it would be good, but it’s uplifting to read–with nuance–what exactly that good (so far) has taken the form of.

    You are freakin’ awesome. You made some hard choices and I think that everything that most of what flows from them will be merry indeed. Even before you’re ready for visitors and Li’l D and I show up on your doorstep. ;)

    Love you, Mack. In Oregon, California, Colorado, Utah or Zimbabwe, love you. But I’m glad it’s Utah, for now. ♥

  3. Wow…I can totally relate to the fear of doing new things. Every time I have to do something new and unfamiliar, a knot of dread forms in my stomach and I worry obsessively about every last detail (like where to find the condiments…perfect example). But you’re right – practice helps. Great post! Good luck on your new adventure!

    • Yep, that’s exactly my experience too. It’s so weird… I always feel like I’m fretting over nothing, but realizing that intellectually doesn’t actually help much with addressing the problem. I’ve found it’s gotten a lot easier since I’ve become both more comfortable just with talking to people (I’m about a million times less shy now than I was as a teenager) and feeling comfortable with looking stupid. Now instead of worrying about committing a social faux pas or something I just give myself permission to ask people questions (“where can I find the ketchup?” is really a pretty simple phrase :D) and also permission to do things wrong. It also helps to realize that when you look stupid, most people are too wrapped up in their own insecurities to really notice you looking stupid anyway. ;D

  4. Wow! I know everyone else is saying that, but that was the 1st word that popped into my mind. Excellent post! You are an incredible person & I’m very glad to have met you, even though it is only on the internet. You inspire me to want to try to blog, but guess what? I’m worried I’ll sound stupid! I think you are very brave to keep searching for what you really want & who you want to be. The job sounds incredibly interesting. I’m looking forward to posts about that. Good luck with everything.

    • Thank you Melinda! I’ve met so many amazing people through the Internet, and you are certainly no exception!

      You should absolutely try blogging, if you feel like you have something to say and it would be a good experience for you. There are so many people blogging now, I don’t think you’ll have trouble finding others to talk to and share ideas with. And it can be really powerfully cathartic. Some of the stuff I talk about on here and am not ashamed to write about for all the world to see is stuff I have a *really* hard time talking about in person… but it helps me to get it out and it helps other people who’ve had similar experiences to know that they aren’t alone out there. Even if you’re blogging exclusively about something like horsemanship or knitting or whatever else interests you, there’s somebody else out there who’s having the same experiences or has solved some particular problem before and you can connect through blogging.

      The only pressure in blogging is the pressure we put on ourselves, which frankly can be kind of substantial. I’d probably post more blogs if I hadn’t put pressure on myself with the idea that every post I put up has to be really amazing. Whereas my friend Deborah posts a lot more and not necessarily about important or profound things all the time, but she really shares a lot of herself and is so open and awesome that she’s got readers galore. :D (You should check out her blog if you haven’t already… http://www.deborah-bryan.com. I think you guys would get on great. :))

      Anyway, I’m clearly on the blogging bandwagon, but if you ever do start one, let me know… I’ll be your first reader! :)

  5. Way to go Mack!
    I think back to that day i was admiring the beautiful strawberry roan mustang that was attending one of her first Parelli clinics and then i noticed her owner – someone i instantly connected with. I saw u again during lunch and made it a point to sit close by and was pleasantly surprised by whatever conversation we had and came away wishing that we could be friends. Little did i know that day that i would eventually become “friends” with you and get to watch ur incredible journeys, introspections and musings, as well as watch that beautiful horse who was so unsure of itself way back when become a gorgeous trail horse for the equally gorgeous, smart & creative person that u are – like i said . . . Way to go Mack!! I can’t wait to see & hear about ur adventures as a carriage driver in SLC. How FUN and quirky is that!! perhaps one day i can take a drive up there and be one of ur customers! until then – keep on keeping on!

    • Thank you Lisa! And I’m so glad you made the effort to talk to me… I have such a hard time sometimes initiating a conversation with people that it often ends up being that my friends are the people who made a point to make first contact, and I appreciate every last one of them for it! :D It was great to get to chat with you a few times and to keep up on Facebook and everything. I really hope you can come up one day for a ride… I’ll take you on a nice tour through Memory Grove, you’d love it! :)

  6. Ah, carriage driving…the perfect way to practice meeting new people and engaging them in conversation without having to remember their names! Just be super-pleasant, super-informative, give super customer service and the big tips should start rolling your way to make up for the maybe not-so-great pay!

    • I hope so! This is a bit of a slow time for the carriage company but it seems like a very good time to start, because it’ll help me learn the routes, rates and routine before the incredibly busy Christmas season arrives. I’m just looking forward to being out there driving. :) In the meantime I’ll probably pick up some local history books from the library so I can learn more about the downtown area in particular, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make a crazy-awesome carriage driver. Plus, I get to wear a bowler hat! :D

  7. Thanks for your honesty. I really am enjoying tagging along with you. Sure wish I’d met you when you lived in Northern CA. I’ve been living here in Eureka these past 16 years.

  8. Two pieces of advice from an old sleigh driving cowgirl.
    Worrying is just praying for what you don’t want, so knock it off. And
    No matter what happens hang on to the lines. As long as you have the lines you have hope, realistically and metaphorically.
    Good luck on you’re newest adventure and remember to point out to the tourist that Brigham Young has his back to the Church and his hand outstretched to the Bank…..: ) it always makes ’em giggle.

    • That’s all awesome advice, thank you! I wish I could just knock off the worrying, but for me it’s like trying to stop being brunette. :D I feel like I have a better handle on it than I ever have before… and my mom is all fired up about getting me to go see some shrink who’s also a hypnotist. Could be an interesting way to tackle it! :D

  9. This is so exciting for you, Mackenzie! You’re so very fortunate to be in a position where you can make a change when you feel that you need to. I’ve always likened myself to a cow, not in looks, but in the fact that I’ve spent my life tempted to take the same familiar path each day, only veering off if something is blocking my usual way. When I quit my teaching job to care for my daughter, I was terrified, and when I decided to stay home after she got well, I was even more terrified! But, change is good. Change is living! I wish you much luck today with your training and with your new future in Utah! :)

    • I think we’re all tempted to do what’s familiar or expected… although there’s a lot of “follow your dreams!” sentiment on the surface, I think there’s also an undercurrent in our society of this idea that you shouldn’t rock the boat or take chances. (And certainly in a society with less and less of a social safety net, taking chances can leave you not just broke but out on the street.) Making a big change doesn’t always pay off — right now I’m a bit terrified about how I’m going to make my bills for the next month and how I’m going to continue to afford my horse and how I’m going to manage to acquire new tires before winter hits — but there are only very rare occasions where I regret it. Sounds to me like it worked out great for you, despite the terror! :D

  10. So often people try to escape their problems or themselves by moving – all the while their problems follow them. Sounds like coming home may be a good way for you to reset and really get in touch with what you really want. Being in familiar surroundings can free up some of your attention to be able to focus on what your intuition is telling you and take some time to be present. Once you stop looking for happiness, you can find it within you – it was always there waiting for you to notice it. Enjoy training to be a carriage driver! When you follow your bliss, the money usually follows or better opportunities present themselves. Cheers!

    • Thanks Sherri! Definitely wherever you got the common factor is yourself… I learned that lesson the hard way. :D But the way I look at it, all of the mistakes and missteps are sometimes necessary to help you figure out just what it is you want and to help give you the experience to make a success of where you’re going. I could’ve tried to do what I’m doing now years ago, and it probably wouldn’t have worked out because the person I was then wouldn’t have been happy. I’m not really a believer in a higher power but it often seems to me that things tend to unfold exactly the way they should… and that even the painful things in our lives are necessary to bring us to the place we eventually need to be, if we listen to ourselves and keep moving forward.

  11. i love this post – you write with such honesty and self-awareness. i would love to learn carriage driving and i have the horse for it! thank you for lightening my day with something to dream about. x

    • Thanks for reading!

      Passengers often ask me whether the horses I drive are my own — which they’re not, though I think of them as colleagues — and I always tell them it takes an incredibly special horse to deal with everything that we ask from our horses on a daily basis. They have to deal with trains, cars, sirens, buses, bikes, skateboards… a million things that would probably drive a lot of horses absolutely mad. My own horse would be a nervous wreck out there. ;D

      If you do want to learn to drive though, there may be somebody in your area willing to teach you. I’ve had the good fortune of learning about driving and acquiring some driving skills from working teamsters, and if you look on the Rural Heritage website you can often find people in your area who are using horses to transport people or do farm work, and some of them are willing to pass their skills on. I’ve always loved driving and I really feel lucky to be in a position to do it as a job.

  12. I can’t tell you how many times I read through this thinking, “That’s me!” I was a shy perfectionist hesitant (fine, often terrified) regarding situations where I wouldn’t know how to behave properly (which often meant doing what was necessary to remain semi-invisible) . . . and then ended up putting myself through lots of moves and schools and situations where I’d have to deal with it, think on my feet, face the unknown . . . perhaps to prove to myself/others that in fact I was not a shy little girl inhibited by my own self! And yet there is always this pull towards home. For me, though, I’m not quite sure where that is. I think it will end up being a place I make, and a place I am able to draw friends and family to.

    Thanks for sharing this new transition, the steps/thoughts/needs/wants that took you there, and where you’re headed now. i hope all goes well. I am facing another transition myself soon . . . part “new place” and the other part (hopefully) “back home” in the sense that I hope to have my family involved. Much luck to both of us!

    • I honestly think there are most of us out there than most are willing to admit… though it’s definitely nice to know I’m not alone either. :D I hear you about home being a place you make, though. I feel the same way about family… you have the option to build your own, some assembly required. ;D Salt Lake will definitely not be my final destination and I often feel pulled back toward the sea… I hope to settle one day on Vancouver Island, but for now I feel like this is the right place for me to be at the right time. Sometimes things don’t go quite the way we plan, but I find things tend to turn out as they should when you listen to yourself and always strive to be reaching for the life you want.

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