During my study-abroad semester in Rome, my friend and I traveled to Marrakech because, well, why not? We were two girls from New York, and the idea of a trip to Morocco felt positively magical. A few days into our stay, we were getting more comfortable navigating the souks, the maze-like stalls where vendors, shouting in French or Arabic, sold spices, sweets, rugs, and clay pottery in every color.
We must have gotten a little too comfortable because, at some point, we noticed we were lost. I could tell she was panicking, so I took her hand, and we kept walking, winding our way through the stalls, getting more desperate with each passing minute. After what felt like an eternity, I noticed the “landmark” (tiny numbers etched onto a tile) we had spotted on our first day directly outside the alley of our hotel. We had found our way.
At that moment, I let out a sigh of relief, clutching my chest and trying to still my racing heart. “Wait, you were freaking out, too?” my friend asked. “You were so calm. I thought you knew where we were going.”
In reality, I had been falling apart on the inside.
I’m incredibly claustrophobic, or maybe that’s not even the right word, but I fear being trapped. (I once was gripped with terror because I couldn’t find the exit to a parking lot). But I knew that if I had revealed my fear, it would have been worse for both of us, so I swallowed, breathed, and kept searching for our landmark until the tiny numbered tiles appeared before my eyes.
Now that I’m a mom, I think about this experience often. I have two sons, ages six and three. Motherhood is this beautiful winding maze of unknowns.
There are days when I feel terrified. Am I doing this right? Are they getting too much screen time? Will they be kind to other kids? Will they get hurt or sick or sad? And it takes everything I have to swallow, breathe, and search for the guideposts that remind me everything will be okay. Luckily I have lots of those–my husband, my parents, my sisters, and my friends.
It also helps to write about my worries. Writing has always been an outlet for me to explore my feelings and relationships and understand the world around me. When I reread the journal entry I wrote after that day, my heart instantly quickens. And when I reach the end, I feel so proud of that girl who stepped out of her comfort zone and found joy in the experience.
Having a child is taking the ultimate step out of your comfort zone. I don’t even have a comfort zone anymore—honestly when was the last time you went to the bathroom in peace?