I spent the better part of this evening researching how to prevent an outdoor hose from freezing in extreme conditions with the intention of making it safely through my first winter as a full-time Airstreamer. This topic was quickly followed up by the Google searches “what is the best space heater for a travel trailer” and “how to skirt my Airstream.” Three hours into the interwebs and $427 later, I have gained an inkling of confidence that I might be able to make it out alive. Hear me when I say that “might” is the key word in that sentence.

Dramatic? Maybe. But, with each place I go – this silver bullet strapped in tightly behind me – I learn something new about this life. Which, in turn, allows for me to learn something new about myself. Ultimately, I chose to call an Airstream my home because I was searching for both the former and the latter. I’d spent the last two years imprisoned by insecurities that bound me to a relationship that was nothing short of toxic. Leaving that relationship was the catalyst for an unparalleled sense of freedom. Not because I was single, but because I was safe. Finally. I regained ownership of my life, and I began to chip away at those aforementioned insecurities by exercising my newfound right to choose people, places, and things that would rebuild the broken pieces nested deep inside my soul.

Needless to say, it didn’t happen overnight. But, it happened. It is still happening.

Buying the Airstream was an objective declaration of my perceived freedom. It was, or is, the material embodiment to my liberated heart. I lay out the logistical details of how I became a full-time Airstreamer here, but at the epicenter of that choice lies the Phoenix, my metaphorical arousal from the ash into something beautiful.

Only, it’s not that glamorous. I have yet to find the mythical bird on the other side. Because, yes, I rose. But, I picture that tale weighing in the favor of the bird ten times out of ten. I, on the other hand, feel more comfortable comparing myself to the featherless chick who’s just broken free of the ashes. And, by that I mean, I have no idea what I am doing. Hence, my evening spent on the interwebs buying heated hoses and studying Airstream YouTube videos. Maybe I’m still sifting through the ash or maybe I have managed to become the bird whose beauty lies in her ability to humbly carry her brokenness (sans feathers). Or maybe, just maybe, there is a purgatory that exists somewhere between the two. Whatever the case may be, ask me tomorrow, and I’ll most certainly have a different answer.

The most real answer – today, right now – is that I’m scared. I’ve been stationary for the last three months, and I created a life that is defined by the first-person possessive pronoun: my. My street. My Whole Foods. My friends. My person. I allowed myself to get comfortable. I attached. I inserted myself into someone else’s story. Because he seemed to be letting me in, too. And not because he wanted to use my body to satiate any carnal cravings (seriously). Because I was emotionally available. Because the soft spaces inside of me yearned for domesticated partnership: to cook for someone, to travel with someone, to pick out a Christmas tree with someone. Because the soft spaces inside of him yearned for female caretaking companionship: someone to cook for him, someone to travel with him, someone to pick out a Christmas tree with him. We matched. And my awareness of both my intrinsic character qualities and my exterior life’s desires allowed me to sit in that space of matching with unencumbered vulnerability.

Confession. My heart rests openly on my sleeve, and I refuse to rip it off and shove it inside some dark crevice of my being under the guise that I am therefore keeping it safe. It is safer on my sleeve than it will ever be imprisoned by my often-confused conscience or my ill-advised fears.

So, I bet on the ending, my ending. And, for months, I forfeited to my own vulnerability with the awareness that it was entirely possible to get nothing in return. For months, I chose my character qualities and my life’s desires. Because, me. Because, I don’t have time to figure out how to do dating or relationships or life under someone else’s rules of engagement.

The love language that I speak: service. These acts are easily poured out from every last one of my fingertips.

The love languages that I hear: words of affirmation and physical touch. Without hesitation, I know that these two things are the sources for me to stand beside someone, anyone, and feel confidently whole.

So, I gave. And I gave. And I gave. I gave until I was forced to have an honest conversation with myself about how much more I could possibly give without my needs being met in return. I gave until I realized that too much would be sacrificed inside the time and the energy and the geography of my continuous waiting for an answer – an answer that I wanted to hear – instead of listening to his lack of an answer that was already screaming in my bones.

We were comfortable. We were living inside of habit. And, I’d like to imagine, for the sake of my own pride, that our friendship was rooted in something much deeper than simple comfort. But, I’m not so naïve to think that it was anything more than a season. A season that we both needed to feel grounded, healthy, happy. Maybe, just maybe, we were both using each other – not as parasites, but rather inside some state of symbiotic mutualism that our grade school biology books would have deemed magical.

And so, the moral of the story here is that the old me would have stayed. Sleeping on my side of the bed. Making him scrambled eggs in the morning. And buying him Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups on my frequent trips to Whole Foods. Because it would feel good. And, I’d be scared to start over. I would be absolutely terrified. So, I’d hold on. I would clench my fists so tightly around false hope with an unwavering confidence that I could, with enough effort, force my desired outcome. I’d relish in the comfort, and I’d abandon me. Not as a means of choosing him. But rather, as a means of choosing my ending.

Because that is my tragic flaw: holding on to people for the fear of starting over.

Ironically, this fear is displaced when it comes to moving to new physical locations. Yes, I get anxious about finding new favorite spots, building new routines, and creating new schedules. But, there is always something exhilarating to me about walking out the front door to a new view with new energy and new geography to explore (I also really enjoy restocking my refrigerator).

But, start over with a person? Like, really start over? Like, differentiate which side of the bed belongs to you? Like, learn how you like your eggs in the morning? Like, grab your favorite treats on autopilot every time I go to the grocery store? Whole new ballgame, folks. Starting over with a person means listening so deep that the words satiate every synapse of my brain. Starting over with a person means memorizing every type of laugh that escapes from that person’s lips. Starting over with a person means explaining my story to another human who might not approve of my plot twists.

So, yes, I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I’m not such a fan of beginnings.

And that is why I’m trolling through Amazon in the wee hours of a Friday night trying to find the perfect heated hose. Because I know that I need to leave, and going back to Colorado feels like the most logical next step. It’s the same reason I bought a snowboard pass to Breckenridge at 11:58pm last Sunday when the deadline for purchase was midnight. Because I know. I have known. So, while I have zero qualms calling Houston home, I am hyperaware of the gravity of what I’m sacrificing to stay here. Christmas is coming. The mountains are calling. And, I must go.

In July, I dedicated a post to the pressure I put on myself to move when faced with discomfort. At the time, I had been living in Denver for far longer than I had originally intended, and I recognized that my ability to stay physically stationary was actually providing me an opportunity for emotional growth. I was being forced to work through things that are easily escaped in the chaos of constant transition. In the spirit of true honesty, I’m still unpacking whether or not I’m doing that here. Because, yes, maybe I’m drowning my fear of starting over with a person inside my exhilaration of starting over in a place. And, if I am, then I’m also unpacking that maybe that’s okay.

Because I know that the person for me will not be satisfied with comfortable. He will not question whether my commitment to knowing him is right. He will kiss my forehead when he rolls over every morning and grab my butt in line at the movie theater. He will stare at my silhouette when we walk the dogs at dusk and tell his friends that my being rotates his entire world. He will choose unencumbered vulnerability because, with love, there is no other way.

So, I’m leaving. And I’m sad and excited and anxious and happy and overwhelmed. Because maybe my hose water will freeze. Or maybe I’ll run out of propane. Or maybe I’ll get 500 miles away and he’ll realize I was so much more than comfortable.

Just maybe.

Or maybe my hose water will be fine and I’ll master what it means to trailer camp in the winter and I’ll snowboard my face off and the mountain air, as always, will heal the inevitable burgeoning hole inside my heart.

Just maybe.

Whatever happens, Texas, I want to tell you that my love for you is tattooed on my veins. My doubt in my decision-making abilities is fueled by my connections to people here who I am deeply honored to call my friends. For the last three months, I have been nothing less than transformed to be consistently part of something that is so much bigger than myself. So, yes, I’m leaving. But, I’m leaving so incredibly full.

If I am meant to be here, or anywhere, I need to feel the weight of missing this place. I need to re-ground myself in the geography that is a manifestation of my spirit. I need clarity. I cannot consciously live inside of habits that are out of integrity with the life that I am preaching for others to seek. I cannot settle.

So, to go is not to leave him. To go is to choose me. The relationships that are meant to exist in my life will continue to exist despite any number of miles (I’ve moved around enough to know this to be true). And, even in the confidence of that choice, I can let it hurt. I can be scared. I can cry (Lord knows I’ll cry).

Simultaneously, I can remind myself that nothing is permanent (especially when living in a travel trailer). So, yes, the mountains may be calling, Texas, but I know that there is always a space here for me to call my home.

Stephanie is a road warrior, adventure seeker, and brand builder. She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and after spending nearly a decade between the PNW and the east coast, she’s proud to once again be calling Colorado home. Well, home for now. Stephanie recently bought an Airstream with the intention of living a more minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle. After logging over 20k miles in her car last year, chasing rock faces in the summer and powder days in the winter, she realized that life could be a hell of a lot simpler if she could carry her house with her on these adventures. In 2017, she started her own marketing agency, Sleigh Creative, to take control of her freedom. As a freelance creative director and brand strategist, she spends a lot of days playing and even more nights working. In all things, be it work or play, she seeks to inspire people to the life of never settling. You can follow along with her journey on Instagram, @by.stephanieleigh, and through her self-titled personal blog.