How To Give Yourself Permission

I reached for my sauvignon blanc, wrapped my fingers around the stem and took a hefty swing. I rolled my eyes back into my head while I tipped the wine into my mouth. I knew that when I set the glass back on the table and my eyes realigned with my Father’s  I would have to tell the truth.

This was the moment and I could feel the words bubbling up inside me.

I spent the last year living and working in South Korea. I learned so many lessons while I was there and one of the biggest ones was you really can do anything you want. All it takes is time and planning. So I had to ask myself that very important question “you can do anything you want, what is it?”

Being in Korea I felt a strong pull in two directions. In one direction I realized I could reach for bigger dreams, longer trips, and more adventurous life chapters. But on the other hand, I felt like I finally found the confidence to pursue a career and begin on the path to do meaningful, purposeful work.

I knew in my heart I wanted to hike the AT but how could I possibly give myself this permission when it felt like it was finally, finally time to buckle down and harness some forward momentum. Eventually, I decided these weren’t mutually exclusive. Pursuing adventure doesn’t make me flaky, lazy or directionless. Pursuing meaningful work doesn’t mean I will never have another adventure.

I asked everyone for permission to hike, past thru-hikers, a woman who reminded me of my mom, my friends. I even wrote a letter to a popular you-tuber telling her about my existential struggle. She could not have possibly responded to my request, but she tried. None of these people were able to give me what I needed. Only I could give permission to myself. My reasons for wanting to hike were valid, I have the time and the money, I believe in myself and know that I can make it. So if this is the time, this is the time.

I knew it wasn’t my parent’s job to give permission to me, but I couldn’t possibly imagine standing in Georgia without their support. I was so nervous about what their reaction would be. I could hear their voices in my head

‘Are you sure?’

‘Why are you doing this?’

‘Haven’t you had enough adventures?’

‘I thought you were going to grad school?’

‘When are you going to make something of yourself?’

Well…when I set down that glass of sauvignon blanc and spit out the words “I am not starting grad school in January because I am hiking the Appalachian Trail. I will start in September.”

My parents laughed along good-naturedly and within 20 minutes were excitedly discussing aspects of my trip and even which sections they might come along for.

And that was it. Those voices in my head asking me mean, cutting questions were my own. Not my parents, not “society”. In fact, everyone I have told since has been nothing but supportive. Imagine if I had feared a 30-second conversation with my parents so much that I would have missed out on the adventure of a lifetime. Imagine that I asked everyone in the world to give me permission to pursue this adventure when I only needed it from one person, myself.

Those voices you hear telling you that you can’t are probably not your boss or parents or friends or “society”. They are probably you and that is the really great part, because if they belong to you, you can change them. You can make them scream YES! At the top of their lungs. You can rewrite that narrative.

So I want to tell you, you don’t need permission from anyone. No one is going to give it to you. You need to give it to yourself. It comes down to two very simple questions that you need to ask yourself; What is it that you want to do and how are you going to get there? It is just time and planning. You can start right now.

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Comments 3

  • Annie : Nov 29th

    Thank you. I needed this.

    • Leah : Nov 29th

      So glad it help! I needed it too.

  • Deven : Mar 27th

    Oh yay! I’m going to read all of these and I can tell I’m going to feel so inspired and my life is going to sky rocket!!! 🙂 I want piano, and music, and dancing and playing and time with my dog and trees and birds and plants and flowers; and to have all my responsibilities taken care of – that stuff, too! Yay!


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