Committing to Beating My Fear of Commitment

commitment phobias

©iStockphoto.com/robynmac

Time is a funny thing, and my fear of commitment and I obsess over it. 

I once thought that the eight months I spent stuck in LA, unemployed, waiting for my expensive lease to finish so I could flee that city that was never, ever good to me, were the longest of my life. I spent whole days watching the clock, waiting. In time, a solution would come.

It eventually did, the second I threw everything into storage and boarded a flight to Costa Rica, for what I thought would be a month or three.

There, time seemed to pass even more slowly than it did during my awful year in Los Angeles – but it was different. In the sleepy heat of the tropics, I was always busy, but time didn’t seem to fly by like it always did when I was in NYC or Las Vegas working the hours of a CEO yet barely scraping by. Yoga, running with the dogs, working four hours a day (not 12!), studying, watching the sunset with friends…

Every day counted.

Months turned into a year, almost to the day. Then it was time to come home.

Suddenly time was fast again, like it used to be, in the good ‘ol days: racing through every day, Monday through Friday, trying to beat the clock at the office all day, racing to events in the evenings, falling into bed at night. Every weekend passes by in a blur.

For so many years, life flew by in this whirlwind of commitments. Then I watched it slow down for 20 months, and for quite possibly the last time in my life. The recession gave me a gift that I’m not sure will be repeated.

First, time dragged because I was miserable. Then, because I wasn’t.

A few weeks ago, a strange thing happened. I looked at the date on my computer: August 18th. August 18th?! But August 17th was my year anniversary of coming back. How did an entire day fly by without my noticing the date? How could this blink of time back at work possibly be the same amount of time as that lazy year in the tropics?

So I had just had another year of adventure – this time in the blur that is Las Vegas. What now? I think about staying longer, and my heart, controlled by my fear of commitment, beats fast and I don’t think it’s possible. I want to leave! It’s time! Get me out of here! I don’t stay at jobs longer than a year! There are so many things out there that I want to do, and every day I spend at work is more time not doing those things. Historically, this is when I’d be gearing up for the next Big Change.

But I ended my sabbatical for a reason. I had lived as a career woman, and I had lived as an expat in a tiny town. One year ago, I was given a choice between the two, and while I enjoyed both lifestyles, I chose the long-term possibilities that I see as a career woman in a larger city. It was the right decision for me.

But that racing heart, those dreams of running off? Are they to be believed?

Are they my true self calling, or my fear of commitment and certain phobias rearing their ugly heads?

There are so many things that I’d love to see and do, and a huge part of me wants to quit now and get going. But the maturity that comes from being tested at work day after day, solving huge dilemmas, forming more long-term relationships, sticking to a growing magazine for an extended period of time… These are also things I want to learn or experience, things that will happen by my staying put.

The agony!

I haven’t been at a job for more than a year in almost a decade. Actually, it happened exactly once, when I stayed at my very first job for two years.

Some would say I have a fear or commitment. (I admit, my boyfriends have never lasted longer than my job stints, and I’ve moved ten times in five years.) And losing my job and living as an expat taught me how to conquer my fears and phobias head-on.

So for now, I’m going to ignore my fight-or-flight racing heart that is trying to trick me into running away – again. Because rushing off to the next adventure is something I’m already good at. Now it’s time to hone my skills at a longer-term undertaking and fight my fear of commitment, even if it breaks my heart in other ways.

So for now, I’m staying put. Because sometimes the only way to go after what you really want in life is to sit still and put in the time to learn.

I have never been one to sit around and let life pass me by. But in a way, by running that race, a few things on my proverbial bucket list have yet to be crossed off.

I commit to overcoming my fear of commitment. I choose to put the fast life on hold. I will stay here for a longer amount of time.

After all… life is short.

 

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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Comments

  1. Lovely post, Abby! So many people can relate to having these feelings… thanks for sharing :)

  2. Thanks, Margo! I know it’s the opposite of a lot of our travelers, but I hope some will relate!

  3. Adventures in another part of the world aren’t neccessarily better than adventures where you are. If life is exciting for you in Vegas, then you’re probably in the right place.
    Of course weekends and vacation time can be spent elsewhere!

  4. Exactly!! It’s a change in mindset, but I can do it! Hope you and your family had a blast in Vegas. It looked like it!

  5. I’m a commitment phobe as well–my attention span usually lasts about six months! Not quite ready to settle down yet, but I’m sure the day will come eventually :) Enjoy your time in Vegas while it lasts–you never know where the next thing may take you!

  6. I’ve long thought you and I were made of the same ilk. ;-) Thank you, Christine!

  7. I feel like we have such parallel lives at times Abby! I can relate to this, even though I’ve only been in SF now 3 months. It was long ago that I found myself saying: “I’m not going to do any traveling over a week for a while”. And here it is and I’m planning a lengthy trip this winter back to Central America. My reasons being that I have few responsibilities and can/should do this while I can and want to. Always love following your adventures, and looking forward to continue to follow them. Loved the honesty here.

  8. Aww thank you, Spencer! Yes, you and I have often talked about our lengths of stay places. We definitely think on the same plane!

  9. Great post. Do you think keep stayin in Las Vegas and keep doing your present job is not an adventure? Commitment is a huge adventure! You’re right, life is short, and we should do what makes us feel good, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody, just enjoy :)

  10. Strange … reading your post made me feel as if I were reading something I myself had written! I too have a deeply embedded urge to pick up and leave a place (or a job, or person, just ask former boyfriends!) once familiarity sets in. But as I have aged and hopefully matured, this urge has been somewhat under control. I’ve been married – to the same man – for eight years, have been at the same job for over a year now with no plans to leave, and I lived in the same town for four consecutive years before making the move last year to Berlin.

    Interestingly, watching Mad Men recently reminded me of my weakness. It was in one of the last episodes of season four, when Don Draper had just told his girlfriend (the doctor who had worked with his agency) that he was breaking up with her to marry his secretary. She told him that he “only likes the beginnings of things,” and wow, did that strike a cord. I do tend to like the beginnings of things (ideas, creative projects, new places, etc.), but have thankfully learned that commitment can be a good thing. So yes – it is possible for a wandering soul to stay put, survive, and even be happy. ;)

  11. Thank you, Angela! I have to prove it to myself, that’s all. ;-)

    Talya, thank you so much for being an inspiration! That gives me so much hope! If I got married and such but still had a life of adventure like yours, I’d be so happy. I forgot that line of Roger’s. Brilliant. He must’ve seemed like a fool to both of us, knowing that is something you can work on like we did!

  12. Been home a month and days just grind into each other. Commitment is a tough fear to overcome, makes heights look like a joke ;)

  13. I can’t say that Vegas would ever be a place that I would call home. However, there is comfort and security staying in one place for a while. I guess the best thing that comes out of this is knowing that you are content where you are. And no matter where you live, that’s a good place to be!

  14. I can relate so much to this, though I’m just getting started traveling, and have an open-ended finish line. I keep wondering “Will I be able to settle back down, will I know when it’s time?” I love how you portrayed it here as a new adventure and learning experience. I’ll definitely keep that in mind when my time comes.

  15. No one’s more surprised than me, Jeremy! I even tried to leave and then came back… It was in the cards I guess — for now!

    Allison, oh, yes! I wrote that exact post after about a year and a half of traveling. I’d love to read your thoughts on it now!

  16. I get that itchy feeling at the 2 year mark of any job. It sounds like you are doing the right thing, you’ll know when it’s time to move on.

  17. Oh, Abby. I LOVE this post. I love how honest it is. How beautiful it is. I think many a person can relate to this. Lord knows, I do. xx from McDonalds at BKK. Yes, McDonalds.

  18. Stay put till we come visit at least :)

  19. I’m impressed chica! You can do it!!! Kick your fear in the ass!

  20. I have been going through a bit of the same emotions the last few months. We are staying put for the time being and even though some days I feel really good about this decision, I also have my days where I feel like I NEED to go! I have a fear of committing to things also. I have lived at my current place for 1.5 years and that is really long for me. I have been known to move 6 times in a year! Maybe we can be support for each other in this time of staying put! :)

  21. It’s good to hear that you’re staying at your job! I think if I had found the perfect job in Melbourne we would not be travelling this year because I’m such a workaholic. Not that I regret our travels, but in today’s economy I think investing in yourself via your career is really important. You have plenty of time to go off adventuring again! (and your job is so fabulous – why leave!)

  22. Yes, Christy, that’s exactly how I feel. Exactly!! I’m so happy you’re here!

    Aw, thanks, Andrea. I’m surprised to hear there are more workaholics out there then I thought in our travel circles. I guess when we do something, we go all out!

  23. I feel like we’re opposite. I’ve always committed. Quitting my first job to move on to a better consulting opportunity was so hard for me. Then quitting that job to travel for a year + … huge!

    Now I don’t even want to commit to 2 weeks in one place :-)

  24. Yes, I’ve watched many long-term travelers stay at the same job for years and then suddenly make the big break!

  25. I think that the online travel community, while great in so many ways, can make decisions like this harder. It seems like everyone is jetting off somewhere and like “following your passion” is synonymous with “buying a plan ticket.” Which yes, it sometimes is. But it’s not the only good choice, and right now it sounds like the best choice for you is exploring more with this job. Congrats on making a hard decision – I’m sure a year from now you’ll be looking back at all sorts of professional successes.

  26. Have to do what feels right, regardless of what others think we should do. Besides, it looks like you have a fun job. Best of luck :)

  27. You’re right, Emily, our online travel community are the only ones who might not approve of my decision! I used to be the only one in my group of friends moving around all the time. Then I joined Twitter…

    Thank you, Sophie! Yes, my job is fun. :)

  28. I can so relate to how you are feeling Abby.

  29. Thanks, Ryan. :)

  30. Like so many other people have already said, I also relate to that feeling. But like you are wise enough to realize, we can challenge ourselves in unexpected ways. For some people packing up and moving to another country would be so unexpected, so far out of their comfort zone. But for you, commitment is unexpected. It will bring you new challenges and you’ll grow from it. I’m sure of it.

  31. I’m in love with this post. It is so well-written and the message is something I’ll be thinking about for a few days.

  32. Thank you, Kyle!!

    Lauren, that is so sweet. :) :)

  33. You’ve put words to my feelings.

  34. Thank you, Amy. You have no idea how much that means!

  35. There comes a time in everyone’s life when they need to create their own little place in the world. Looks like you are starting to nest! At least for a little while…. :)

    Best of luck!!

  36. Couldn’t agree with your sentiments in this post more! Loved this: “rushing off to the next adventure is something I’m already good at” because it’s something I’ve been feeling quite a lot of myself recently.

  37. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate the kind words.

  38. I feel like this post deserves a personal email because I relate to this in so many ways. But I also agree with Emily when she says in the travel community, following your passion can be synonymous with purchasing a plane ticket. Yes, but sometimes staying put is a good thing and makes you really think about where you want to go next…or if you need to.

  39. Thank you, Natalie! Yes, email me!! Yes, there’s pressure from our world to not work full-time… I fit right in in the beginning, but now I think I’ll give working a try. Let’s see how it goes!

  40. Oh man! I can imagine this being so heartbreaking. I don’t even know what we’re going to do when we get back. I’ll just push that off for a while.

    You have been so successful Abby! We’re cheering you on!

  41. Not knowing what’s next has never scared me! I love the anticipation of what’s happening next, what opportunity will arise, where I’ll move… I can’t wait to find out what your future holds!

  42. We have more than our age in common than I thought. Commitment is hard for me, too. In the last decade, I’ve been in constant movement. I moved from job to job from relationship to relationship and from home to home. Some days I long for that stability that you now seem to desire as well. I think ultimately, if you feel something is right, then you naturally don’t want to let it go and commitment then is no longer a hurdle. I commend you for trying to conquer and commit to what you have now and I hope that it feels right for you, too.

  43. Aww thank you, Sherry! Yes, you and I are definitely two of a kind. Staying still doesn’t feel natural at all to me. But for once, I don’t want to move either. I’m too tired! We’ll see what happens.

  44. It sounds like you are doing the right thing for your Abby! I think that it’s okay to stay in a job, to stay in the fast lane if you are doing something you love (and I think you are?).

    You have your experience in Costa Rica and it changed your life, and now you are onto the next chapter. There is always another chance to head off again if one day you wake up unhappy.

    BTW that makes me feel better because I haven’t had a job longer than a year since I was in high school and I was starting to worry employers would think I was unstable when really I just move a lot!

  45. Thanks, Annie! Most of my friends have been at the same job for years and years. It’s another world!

  46. Great write Abby. For some, life moves in the fast lane while others may take life a little slower. Whatever you do, just make sure you are doing it for the love and not for the money. You go girl!

  47. Thank you, David. So good to hear from you!

  48. A beautiful post – I love the way you’ve described how time feels. For me, this last year has passed in a blur. I has been exciting but I know I need to slow down…A great read – cheers.

  49. Thank you so much, Abi. Your life looks so exciting from the outside — it doesn’t surprise me that it seems fast!

  50. I am really in awe of this, and congratulations on making what had to be a terribly hard decision. I worry for Pete and I in this regard – that we are both so addicted to the travel and the freedom that we will never settle down. Or that one of us will want to settle down and “commit”, and the other won’t be ready to…

    It works for us, for now. Although someday I imagine we will be faced with a tough decision like this too…

  51. Thank you for understanding how tough it is! Either way I feel like I’m mourning something. But I’ve got to get the “where am I off to next?” subject out of my head — at least for a little while. ;-)

  52. I totally hear you. I moved all my life (starting in early childhood because my dad was in the Navy). I finally settled here in Sacramento 9 years ago. The time has gone by so fast. I can’t believe I’ve been here that long! And now that I have 2 kids, the time really flies. I find that having a stable home is good in so many ways, especially friends and community. Good luck with the next year in Vegas!

  53. Thank you, Jenna! Wow nine years… that’s four past my record, including growing up. My family moved a lot, too. Interesting that we both did it awhile and then are interested in staying put!

  54. Sounds like we have a lot more in common than Costa Rica. I have moved every year since I was 18 and out of my parent’s house. I can hold down a job, but after that 1st year mark, I lose all interest in what I’m doing and might as well not be there. It’s kind of like conquering things. I move somewhere, when I’m comfortable and all projects are complete, it’s time to move on. Or when I have the job down pat, it’s time to move on.
    Or maybe it’s like you said, and it’s a fear of commitment. We’ll see.
    This stint in Costa Rica is nearing the 2-year mark. Record!!

  55. Two years is a long time!! Commitmentphobes/adrenaline junkies… who knows why we love adventure and new things! Wouldn’t have it any other way…

  56. I remember your big decision to move back quite clearly. :) I remember thinking, “It’s awesome seeing someone revert BACK to the 9-5 life, and not scorn it entirely.” I think it’s possible to have both, though. I think there are ways to make it all work.

    I’ll let ya know when I figure that part out.

  57. Oh, Candice, thank you so much!! Coming from someone who is perceived to have it all, that’s a huge compliment. I do what’s best for me, but I still totally thought that a lot of people thought I was selling out!

  58. Beautiful.

  59. I feel exactly the same way. I’ve moved 29 times in the last 11 years, and I’ve never had a job that lasted more than a year (and only one that lasted that long!). I hate the idea of doing one thing for so long, but at the same time, I feel oddly compelled to give it a shot, like you do. So many travel folks feel that sticking around in one place, pursuing a career, is the “easy” or “default” choice, when really, that’s not true for everyone; you and I are great examples. It it far scarier for me to consider staying in one place with one job than it is for me to consider traveling the world or working overseas. Like you, having a career is actually on my bucket list, in a way!

    My boyfriend, bless him, has the hardest time understanding why I am so hesitant about my potential move into the world of professional carpentry. I think it would be a great fit for me, it provides a lot of flexibility, it pays well, and it’s still a creative field, and yet the fact that I have to sign on for at least 3 years to complete my apprenticeship (or pay heavy fines if I withdraw early) is terrifying to me. What if I hate it? What if I suddenly decide to go live in Vietnam? The idea of being in one place is something of an abomination to me, but at the same time, I really kind of want to give it a try. Like you, I think that getting over my fear of commitment would be good for me.

    I think I may write a bit about this myself, if that’s okay!

  60. Yes, please do!!!

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