Without Fear there Cannot be Courage.
“I can’t believe I did not pack sunglasses” I whispered to myself.
I had just landed in San Diego. The land of sunshine.
But the sunglasses I needed had nothing to do with the sun.
I couldn’t stop crying. In the middle of the airport. Waiting for my bags.
I would have done anything for a pair of sunglasses.
Two years ago I hung a canvas over my bed.
The canvas was a picture of a sunset. It was a sun that was 30 seconds away from tucking itself behind the horizon, and the colors spanned the entire spectrum. Purples and blues and pinks and oranges. I took that picture standing on the cliffs in La Jolla, San Diego. It was magic. And I looked at that picture every night for two years. And it called to me.
Five years ago I moved to Nashua, New Hampshire.
What started out as a place to spend time with my brother unwillingly became home base. First, it was a growing wedding photography and film business that my brother and I decided to start together. Brides book a year in advance and I was embracing and enjoying the challenges of starting a business with him. I found a passion I didn’t know I had!
Every fall and summer I would take pictures of love and document the day two stories became one. I have a beating romantic heart and every vow, every daddy-daughter dance would light me up behind my camera. “Just one more year,” I would say, “then I’ll move to California.” I would say this. Every year. For five years.
And then, love happened. Did I mention I am a hopeless romantic? A love story between a wanderlust heart and a Nashua townie. On date one two things happened. One: I told him there was no way I would still be in Nashua in a year. Two: Every person that walked through the door of that coffee shop knew him. He was a small town celebrity, and he was not going to leave Nashua. Only I didn’t know that yet. And his big laugh and kind heart grew ties to mine.
Three years ago I found myself living with him.
In a huge house. In Nashua. And I found myself doing everything I could to tell myself I could be happy there. I told myself “He will travel with me. Soon. He will. Be patient. He promised we would travel together one day. Be patient.”
We never once got on a plane together.
I started losing myself.
When you say something enough times.
And it doesn’t happen.
You lose faith in yourself.
I became a joke.
In my head.
And to my friends that lived there.
“I thought you were moving a year ago” people would laugh.
“You’re still here?” they would ask.
I would break on the inside and laugh with them on the outside.
“Would you leave already?” is all I heard.
“You don’t belong here!” is all I heard.
“You smile too much”.
A bartender told me this very early in my Nashua days.
What might have been a careless sentence from that bartender became words I would never forget.
“If she is that happy, she must be fake,” he joked with his friend.
“Laura, if you want to fit in here, be less… of you.” is all I heard.
And I heard it in a hundred different ways throughout my years there.
I didn’t know how to fit in.
I didn’t know how to make friends for the first time in my life.
And my life became pretend.
For five years, excluding family, I could count my true friends in the town I was living in on one finger.
The world of people that really knew me were all far away.
Oh but did I try.
I started meetup groups, went to events, tried my hand at prayer.
I tried so hard to fit into the box of Nashua. To fit in with my boyfriend’s family who adamantly rejected me. To be someone. Anyone. Worth something. Anything. In this town.
And I would leave Nashua.
Sometimes for six months at a time.
Have an adventure. Give my heart a boost.
But somehow. I would wake up. And there I would be. Year after year.
Back in Nashua.
I was scared.
I was ashamed of not giving my heart a home.
Ashamed of being lonely.
Of living in a place where I didn’t feel alive.
For making up the narrative that I was not enough because my serious boyfriend would not leave Nashua with me.
I was telling myself something was deeply wrong with me for not being able to find a tribe there.
Embarrassed for not leaving sooner. Embarrassed for being unhappy. Embarrassed for finding reasons to stay.
For giving in.
I did, in fact, become a person who smiled less, felt less, was less… worth less.
I was less Laura. And I don’t know whose life I was living, but it wasn’t mine.
May 12th, 2018.
I saw palm trees outside the window of the airport.
I saw a welcome to San Diego sign.
My heart knew there was no turning back.
That I had no home to go back to.
And I was alone.
It was just me.
So overwhelmingly just me.
Will I be enough?
A leap of faith.
I was terrified.
All the feels.
All of them.
All at once.
And so I cry.
Tears of all the feels.
Tears of hope and joy and sadness and anger.
And the tears flow.
And I have no sunglasses.
Right in the middle of the airport.
The Uber driver told me about all the best neighborhoods and gave me the contact details of a landlord that owns 34 units in town.
My Airbnb has a balcony that overlooks the ocean. I walk into a welcome letter and a bottle of rosé with a big bow on it. I cheers myself for being brave.
I walk to the beach. It is perfect. I walk down the street with all the restaurants and coffee shops and life. I pass bikes that you can ride with a click of an app. And electric scooters. I touch all the palm trees. I feel the sun. I smile at everyone who passes me. They smile back.
I look to the right.
The sun. It is setting.
So I run. I run as fast as I can.
I run right to the view of the sunset.
It was 30 seconds away from tucking itself behind the horizon. The colors spanned the entire spectrum. Purples and blues and pinks and oranges.
I take this moment in with every piece of me.
“Laura, you made it to your canvas!” my soul says in delight.
My heart smiles. My face smiles.
And a person walks up to me.
“Hey,” they say.
"Hi” I say.
“Something just told me to tell you. You have the most wonderful smile”.
And just like that.