Pushing Yourself to Do the Hard Stuff (AKA driving in a foreign country)

Many people do difficult things. They raise children, join the army, pass the bar exam, care for sick loved ones and run marathons, to name a few.

Though I’ve always loved a challenge, especially when it comes to school/studying/work/projects, I think I’ve forgotten how important—nay, critical—it is to do the hard stuff. The really hard stuff.

In a way, doing the hard stuff like crying. So many people, myself included, feel ten times better after a big cry. Not only are you letting out years of pent up frustration, anger, and sadness in each sob, but you’re also emptying out your emotions to create space for new, better ones. You start seeking happiness. You smile. Things don’t seem so bad anymore.

You get that same feeling after accomplishing some great feat. Even if you don’t have your scores back yet, you feel relieved finishing your exam. Even if you didn’t get the best time, you finished the race. You struggled, you panted, you panicked, you nearly shat yourself. But you did it. And now, you can smile.

Where am I going with this?

It’s nearly August, right? Seven months of memories have gone by this year. If you know me, you know I chase happiness and am in a constant state of reflection. Recently, I’ve been bored and a bit down and I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to lift my spirits. I’ve been trying to think back to the moments this year when I felt my happiest to see if I can replicate those feelings here and now. And of the seven months, I can think of one specific time when I felt pure euphoria.

It was the moment I parked my rental car at my hotel in Fort William, Scotland.

You see — (lmao, love that expression) in March, I had booked a tour that would take me from where I was staying in Glasgow via coach bus through the Scottish Highlands and drop off in Edinburgh the next day. I was beyond thrilled for this little trip because it was my mini vacation while I was working remotely, my chance for escape and enjoyment, and a chance to see the countryside.

But two days before the departure, I got a message that the trip was cancelled due to a shortage of attendees. I was super bummed. After thinking about it long and hard and conversing with a friend or two, I decided on a whim to take the situation into my own hands, rent a car, and make the trip myself. Why not?

It all seemed like good and fun, until I got to the rental car place in Glasgow the morning of my escapade. After inspecting my Nissan, the attendant handed me my keys, pointed to the exit, and said, “You’re good to go. Have a great day.”

Then, boom. It hit me.

I was all alone.
In a foreign country.
With a car I’d never driven.
A driver’s seat on the wrong side.
Street signs on the wrong side.
About to drive four hours in a direction I didn’t know.
Through land I didn’t know.
Without anyone on the continent to call if I got stuck.
I had to figure out how to get out of the garage.
And then through the crowd of pedestrians.
Then out of the city.
Then… Oh my gosh.

For the first time in a very long time, I was terrified.

But I had already spent $260 on the rental and booked my hotel in Fort William (my halfway point) that night. And I booked my hostel in Edinburgh the next day. Time and money were of the essence. There was no backing out.

So I did it. I told myself I could do it and drove that car out of the garage. I found my way to the highway after about six wrong turns and a speed well below the limit. I got to the countryside. I made it to see the rolling hills and greenery. (Absolutely breathtaking, btw.)

This photo does NOT do it justice.

Of course, the Scottish weather held up to its reputation and it was pouring on and off the entire trip. And get this— I even had to stop and fill up with petrol. That honestly made me more nervous than driving on the left! How do gas pumps work in a foreign country?

I was literally shaking the entire journey. My hands, trembling, were glued to the steering wheel. I was leaning forward and driving slow like a Grandma (sorry, Grandma). My eyes were peeled.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

By the time I got to my hotel a few hours later, I was physically exhausted. Stress, anxiety, and terror do that to the body, you know.

But seconds after pulling into the parking lot, I smiled. Really smiled.

Then I laughed. Then I squealed. Then I teared up. Then I laughed again. Another squeal.

I F*CKING DID IT!!!!!! (Again, sorry, Grandma.)

And that was the happiest I’ve felt all year. That utter bliss carried me through the next few weeks, with nothing but pure jubilation emanating from my body. The world was perfect. I was in love with it.

Okay, okay, so I know driving in a foreign country does not come close to the great challenges people face all the time. It wasn’t climbing Everest or being launched into space. Or getting my MBA (now that’s scary).

But it taught me an invaluable lesson. I’m happiest when I’m working really, really freaking hard, bitch-slapping my comfort zone, shaking in my boots, and just doing the damn thing.

And maybe I’ve been so bored lately because I’ve done so many things that I find few tasks daunting anymore. Work is challenging, but it’s not driving-in-a-foreign-country hard. Zumba is challenging, but it’s not racing-against-the-clock-to-find-a-gas-station-in-the-middle-of-nowhere hard.

So if you’re reading this—or if I’m just talking to myself here—challenge yourself MORE. Go do the hard stuff. The really hard stuff.

It is utterly, completely, unequivocally worth it.