Next week is my birthday: my own personal new year. For my birthday last year, I decided to do something I hadn’t done before: travel abroad on my own. The experience was beautiful and oh so delicious and also gave me anxiety, before, during, and sadly, even after.
Ever heard that what you do on New Year’s is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the year? Well, if my birthday was the start of my New Year, then it has pretty accurately predicted the last twelve months.
Last year, after deplaning at Charles de Gaulle airport, I was afraid, unsure of where exactly I was going, and questioning what the hell I was even doing.
Have I been afraid? Check.
Unsure of exactly where I was going? Double check.
Questioning what the hell I was doing? Checks all over the place.
But a few weeks ago, I read a quote that helped me rethink all that anxiety.
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote in his essay “The Concept of Anxiety”: “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
I read the quote again trying to understand it. How could anxiety be the dizziness of freedom?
But then I thought about freelance writing. I now had the freedom to choose the work I wanted to do and the assignments I wanted to take or didn’t. That felt amazing, but it had also produced all kinds of anxiety for me about being a good enough writer, being disciplined enough to be my own boss, and being able to make enough money.
I thought about those writing projects. I had come to both of them with an idea, but not much else. I had the freedom to create, but also sat and stared at the screen some days scared that I wasn’t skilled enough to complete the projects.
I thought about living with my boyfriend, of the freedom of being in love and making the decision to deepen our relationship. But along with that was the anxiety of being really known if we were living in the same place and not being accepted for who I am.
So, maybe Kierkegaard had been onto something. Freedom and anxiety did seem to go together.
I don’t know what my New Year will hold, but I’m hoping for even more freedom, more exploration, more daring. And I’ll expect the head-spinning dizziness that comes along with every new experience.