Business trips. Big industry conferences. Lots of public transportation, people gathering from all around the place to meet and greet, travel expenses. Your day scheduled from morning to evening with presentations, workshops and other social events. Any introvert’s dream right? NOT.
I was so anxious about this trip to Quebec City. All the government’s communications advisors were to be finally reunited for a full-day in our national capital. I knew I would have very little time by myself throughout the whole thing: we were to leave on Monday afternoon, start the day early on Tuesday, attend all four talks until 4:30pm then leave after for our 3-hour drive back to Montreal.
I thought about it over the holidays. Already, attending family gatherings, complete days spent with my loved ones, was a challenge for me. I’m always divided between how much I want to enjoy every minute since I don’t get to see them often, and the fact that after about two to three hours I need some fresh air and a break by myself.
Imagine now having to juggle with a similar necessity with (almost) strangers, in a professional context. The struggle was real.
I tried to avoid it in as many ways as possible. I could’ve pretended not to be able to go, or simply ask not to. But when it comes to anxiety, I know better. The more you push away, the bigger it gets. The only way to overcome anxiety is to move through it. As apprehensive as I was, I still wanted to go to prove myself I had nothing to be afraid of.
Once the decision was made, why not make the most out of it? Instead of dreading a painful experience, I would see the bright side of being offered a gateway in a lovely princess-like town. And since my meals were graciously covered by my employer, I was determined to savor every penny of my $10 breakfast, $14 lunch and $21 dinner (don’t worry folks, with that budget, drinks are not on your tab).
I never plan where I’ll eat before a trip, I’m more of a go-with-the-flow ***freak-out-in-the-moment-because-I-can’t-find-anything-that-fits-my-healthy-requirements*** type. I’ve been enough in Quebec City though to know I had to do some digging beforehand if I wanted to delight my inner foodie. So I did, and find a cute poke bowl place and a juice bar with smoothie bowls.
I was on the right track: getting almost excited. Things would be well.
We finally arrived in Quebec after a few changes to the schedule due to the weather. Walked around to shake off the adrenaline built on on the bus ride (five years prepping road safety campaigns can make it difficult to travel in bad winter conditions), then found my poke place and ordered my bowl. Back to the hotel, after a Kundalini practice, ate the whole thing. It was surprisingly delicious. First meal checked off.
Breakfast was a bit trickier. First test: I didn’t know if I’d be hungry so early in the morning, since I usually get breakfast around 9 or 10, and food was not allowed in any of the hotel’s public spaces where the conference was presented. Then there was also the fact we were supposed to show up at 7:45am to sign up and be ready for the first conference at 8:30am, and my smoothie place was only opening at 8, which left me with very little time to eat the thing and show up in time. If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s having to be rushed to eat.
I could’ve pushed through. I just got tired of my own pickiness. I decided to stop being so difficult and do what everyone else was doing, choosing the easy path: go to the freaking St-Hubert’s breakfast buffet in the hotel.
And you know what? It was delicious. I had way too much filter coffee (to the point of still shaking mid-afternoon), ate all the insipid melons offered and enjoyed every bite of my plain regular smooshy toasts (the kind that cannot hold anything heavy on it without getting crushed) with lots of butter and outrageously sugary fruitless strawberry jam. With a side of raspberry yogurt in an individual and def not eco-friendly pack and some Philadelphia to top it all.
It was perfect. Comforting even, to eat in such an ordinary way, because I’m a plain Mary myself. #proudsuburbangirl
The tone was set. At lunch time, I went out, got a Subway salad and treated myself with a fountain Diet cherry Pepsi. Then found a very cute coffee shop and manifested a tall matcha latte with almond milk (I had only $4 left for my lunch expense, and this matcha was the special of the day for exactly $4), prepared by the cutest ginger-haired barista.
FYI: In my perfectionist mind, this would usually be a complete nonsense. You can’t have a crappy meal followed by a delicious fancy beverage. It’s either all or nothing.
I finished this quite unusual day with some takeout sushi from the Sushi Shop, to be eaten on the bus. My structured, obsessive mind stil has trouble rationalizing all these disruptive meals put together.
Surprisingly though, in another way, it makes perfect sense. Once I’ve let go of any expectations regarding how my experience was supposed to be, let go of what I thought I like and didn’t like, it became much simpler. Fully in, one bite at a time, I enjoyed as much as I could whatever was in front of me.
I strongly recommend you try it. You can be surprised by how tasty iceberg lettuce and commercial sushi can be once your past beliefs stop tainting your present reality.
My life has made a 180° turn since I started applying the same principle in all areas. It’s so easy to get into a pattern of thinking we live the same day over and over, that our job is dull, the food being served insipid, our relationship blah, when in fact, we’re never the same person. Every 72 hours, we get a full turn around on our cells. We get a completely new self, to explore this second we never got to live.
Nothing is ever the same. Once I started really paying attention, exploring with a sense of curiosity, it all became so much more enjoyable. Those toasts were flat, yet very nourishing to my soul (butter always helps). Matched with the sweet strawberry jam and flooded with regular coffee, it was exactly what I needed in a morning away from home.
Who would’ve thought I’d finally get a grasp of what it meant to let go in a St-Hubert on a Tuesday morning? I’m telling you, life becomes magical when you stop being so rigid and embrace your love for the classic restaurant chains.