I have now been in Moldova for a week and a half, and I’m loving it. I was greeted almost immediately by an inch or less of snow, something not unheard-of in Nashville, but it didn’t melt right away like it would back home. And then this past Thursday and Friday a significant winter system came through and dumped six inches or more of snow.
I’ve only encountered that much snow a few times in my life: in Montana where I lived until age five, a time or two on trips to the Northeast U.S. in the winter, a few times in college, and on my first solo travel post-stroke when I joined a tourist excursion out onto the Columbia Icefield in Alberta. It was unfamiliar enough to me that I could still see the magic in it all, even though I knew full well what a nuisance it could all be, too.
By this point, I was starting to get a bit stir-crazy. Aside from near-daily strolls to the grocery store a half-block away, I’d been cooped up in the apartment since I arrived, partly because of work and partly because winter and jet lag made me want to sleep late every day. Also, I’m basically a cat in human form. But this weekend I started to venture out into the neighborhood.
Now, I’m accustomed to the Nashville approach to snow: if the forecast calls for temps below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and a possibility of precipitation, schools shut down and people swarm the stores like there’s a hurricane coming. Here? Nothing. No panic. It seemed to be life as usual even as the snow drifted down, and then afterward when it was all piled up. Kids, the elderly…everyone was out and about like normal. Strollers were traded for sleds, and trails were shoveled or simply worn down by passersby in the approximate locations of the sidewalks, and no one seemed fazed by it.
I didn’t go very far, but it was an opportunity to stretch my legs and practice walking on snow and slush. After all, when you’ve lived in Tennessee and Florida for three-quarters of your life, you haven’t really had much experience at walking on stuff that seems intent on making you bust a tailbone. And when you’re carrying extra weight around, you hit the ground harder. Falling down can hurt a lot more.
Don’t worry; I recognize that my observations are hilarious to anyone who has lived in snowy regions. I know how silly it sounds. And I’m sure the people around me here in Chișinău were amused by this foreigner gingerly picking his way down the street like he was negotiating a minefield. But you know what? If I let unfamiliar and potentially embarrassing situations keep me from pursuing what I want or need, then I might as well get comfortable with regret and mediocrity. I might as well accept a life that is nothing more than a series of timecards and tax forms, followed by death.
But I don’t want that. I want to keep learning, keep growing, keep maturing, keep exploring. I want to keep risking embarrassing myself if it means that I’m in a process of conquering my fears or chasing that thing that makes me most alive. What this looks like for me might be different from what it looks like for you. But I think it’s a decision we all need to make every day if we want to really LIVE. Accept that you will make mistakes, or embarrass yourself, or experience rejection. Learn to be okay with that, because when you come to the end of your one and only life, you won’t regret making a fool of yourself–you’ll regret being so afraid of falling that you never stepped foot out your front door.