Reclaiming My Own Power Through Travel
Guest Post by Ashley Greenway
Since I was a young girl, I always dreamed I would travel the world. I learned from books and the movie Beauty and the Beast that there must be more than this provincial life.
Growing up, my family wasn’t exactly the travel type of family. In fact, my first experience on a plane wasn't until I was 22. At that time, my job required me to fly to Dallas. This trip wasn't a vacation, but I would have a chance to see a new city.
It was my first taste of the travel life, and I had dreamed about this day forever!
As the trip approached, doubt and fear began to creep into my mind. Most of the stories I had heard about heavier people flying were terrifying. We’ve all heard them. . . the stories of heavier people having to purchase two seats just so they can fit, or of average-sized people getting angry because they feel too crowded sitting next to a heavier person.
Panic set in and the initial joy I felt about flying for the first time was gone. Instead of being excited about my new adventure, I was terrified and just wanted to cancel my trip.
But the day finally came, and I had to face my fears.
As I boarded the plane to Dallas, I remember my stomach being in knots. I held my breath as I walked to my assigned seat and I put on a brave face. When I sat down, I was pleasantly surprised to find my seat was fine and my seat belt had no trouble fastening. As my anxiety subsided, I was able to breathe again!
I wish that was the end of my anxiety, but the relief was short-lived. We had a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. As I boarded the connecting flight to Dallas, I semi-confidently made my way back to my seat because I assumed seats and seat belts were the same size. Unfortunately, I discovered this isn’t always the case. My seat was noticeable tighter and the seat belt a lot smaller.
Sitting next to some random strangers, I worked hard to control my panic.
My silent freak-out continued as I had to draw attention to myself by raising my hand and asking the flight attendant for a seat-belt extender. If I could have sunk into my chair and disappeared, I would have.
Thinking everyone must be talking about the overweight passenger in 12D, I stared out the window and quietly cried to myself. But I dried my tears and looked around the plane.
No one was staring at me. No one was whispering about me. No one was even paying attention to me.
In my mind I was being ridiculed, but the exact opposite was the case. No one on that flight cared that I was heavy or that I had raised my hand for an extender. My existence was the last thing on the other passengers’ minds because they were busy settling themselves into their seats and preparing for the flight. I took a deep breath.
The person sitting next to me started to make conversation. He wanted to know where I was from and what my plans were in Dallas. We had a pleasant conversation all the way to our destination, and not once did he mention anything about not having enough room.
It was so evident to me in that moment that I gave way too much power over to strangers.
My problems and anxiety were the furthest thing from their minds. That's not to say there aren't jerks out there that thrive off ridiculing people or making themselves feel better at someone else's expense, but thankfully those people are few and far between in my life. Most people don’t get joy out of hurting others.
In fact, most people don’t even know you exist. I am not trying to be cruel by any means, but especially as women, we have a tendency to hand over our power and confidence to other people. We allow the jerks of the world to dictate our every move when we are robbing ourselves of experiencing everything that life has to offer.
The truth is most people are too concerned with their own anxiety and their desire to be accepted to be worried about me and what I am anxious about.
Once I realized this fact, it was incredible how free I felt to try new things. I would be lying if I said that on occasion when trying a new restaurant I don't get a little anxious about the seating. But now, instead of depriving myself of a new and probably wonderful experience. I take a moment to scan the restaurant. If I am concerned the booth is too tight, I ask for a table. If I am concerned about the arms on a chair, I see what the other options are. I have learned to take some precautions when trying something new.
Now, when I fly, I bring my own seat-belt extender just in case. I don’t always have to use it, but if I do, I simply reach in my purse and grab it. I can be discreet and private. No one needs to know.
When I go to fairs or amusements parks, I look at the line of people getting on and off. If no one is remotely close to my size, I stay away. This prevents me from potentially embarrassing myself in front of everyone. Plus, there are always plenty of other things to do and see at those experiences.
Now that I am finally over my fear, all I want to do was travel.
I have been to some amazing places and have had no issues with my size. I love to experience new things. When I sit back and think about all the things I would have missed out on had I been too afraid to try or push myself, my life story would not be as exciting and wonderful as it is.
We allow the thoughts we believe others are thinking to control us. Take back your control. You are the only person holding you back.
Get out of your head and stop trying to get into everyone else’s. Leave fear behind and embrace the excitement that lies ahead!