I recently received an email that made me smile. It was from Kairi, a Dutch girl living in Amsterdam who is dreaming of making a change in her life. She has a good job which she is grateful for and affords her a good lifestyle, but after visiting Mexico several times, she would love to move here. She wrote to me to ask how I made the decision to change my life, and if I have any regrets.
I responded to Kairi personally, but with her permission I wanted to share a response here. Although the details of Kairi’s dream is unique, this is a story about someone wanting to make a change, but who is unsure how to make the leap. I’ve not only experienced that scenario myself but feel many of you have too.
The first part of her email that struck me was this:
‘I’m working for a big clothing store doing management and merchandising. I love what I’m doing (or at least that’s what I’ve been saying to myself ) and I cannot be more grateful for it because of the opportunities it has given me.’
I can relate to this. I really loved my job as a flight attendant, until I didn’t anymore. Yet I found it difficult to ‘own up’ to that without feeling like I was being ungrateful for having a cruisy job (excuse the pun!) that paid well and gave me excellent perks. I got to travel and had plenty of time off, but the work itself was just not fun for me anymore. While I was once excited to board a flight, in the final few years I began to dread going to work.
We don’t have to wait to loathe what we do before making a change. We don’t need an excuse to change, and we are not ungrateful for wanting something different. I probably put in 2 more years at my old job than I wanted to, but it took me that long to get honest with myself and realise it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life anymore.
Basically, it’s okay to want something different, in fact, it’s healthy to want a life filled with different experiences and adventures.
Kairi went on to write about where her dream began:
‘It all started when we went on a holiday to Mexico and I completely fell in love with the place… It’s the happiest I’ve ever been.’
Tyrhone and I felt similarly about traveling, not about any particular destination, but about the feeling of discovering a new place and absorbing the sights and smells of somewhere we’d never been. To this day, it keeps us fulfilled and motivated. Sure I’ve had energy slumps, sicknesses and “I hate travel” days, but I still wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, for without those challenges, I wouldn’t have learned and grown.
I’m not sure why we feel that happiness is some sort of unrealistic, fantasy state of being that can’t possibly last, when actually, happiness is how we are supposed to feel. I’m not saying we’re meant to walk around with a silly grin on our face all day, every day and not experience the full gamete of our emotions, such as sadness or anger. I’m just saying that it took me a long time to give myself permission to live a life that makes me happy, and now that I have, I wonder what the hell I was worried about.
Being too happy? IT JUST SOUNDS CRAZY, because it is.
‘But why can’t I bring myself to make that decision, to cut that rope? Why is it so difficult to leave your comfort zone and dive into unknown?’
Honestly Kairi, I really don’t know why it’s so hard to make the leap, but I know for sure that it is. As most of you know, I had a huge amount of fear going into this ‘indefinite travel adventure’ and I have to say that ALL of it was unfounded. I guess we are creatures of habit; we stick with what we are familiar with, and that is just part of being human. Our survival instincts lead us to search for safety and comfort so we don’t starve to death, but in the developed world our instincts have gone into overdrive.
We don’t have to worry about feeding ourselves but we do seem to worry about having the latest cars, owning more than we need, preparing for retirement, and looking the best we can. We want to be financially secure, but we spend the money we earn on things that bring us no security and no long term happiness. We lose ourselves in this cycle of earning and buying, and often forget the things that truly bring us contentment.
It’s easy for that to happen, because it happened to me. I’m just glad I found a way out of that cycle (though the economy of Australia mightn’t be) of earning, then spending; borrowing then repaying; earning, then spending etc etc…
Earning a lot of money doesn’t equal freedom, financially or otherwise, and it certainly doesn’t equal happiness, at least it didn’t for me. I earn less money today than I ever have, and yet, I am financially free, due to the absence of debt and large expenses. By living simply, I can direct my time and money towards things that really bring me joy.
Living a life that seems to make other people happy won’t necessarily make you happy. You have to live your own story, and honor the person you are with your unique interests, talents and gifts, whatever they may be.
I’ll finish up with a final response to this part of Kairi’s email:
‘How did you make that decision and do you have any regrets?’
As you’ll read in my blog’s archives, which detail my journey from the beginning, it wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. I experienced a lot of fear and confusion, and connecting with other bloggers who were either doing the same thing or were planning to, helped a LOT. I cannot overstate the positive influence blogs like Almost Fearless, So Many Places and Wandering Earl had on my decision making process.
When you find your tribe, it makes taking the leap so much easier.
From having the idea, to saying it out loud (a big step), to taking concrete action and having a little faith, making a big change in your life is a process. Whilst the length of that process will be different for everyone, I think the basic steps are the same.
Once you take that first step towards a dream, you’ll be surprised by what is truly possible for you.
I am completely blown away by the direction my life has taken, and (dare I say it) I am the happiest I have ever been. It’s not an overt, chipper cheerfulness (ask Tyrhone!), but a deep sense of fulfillment, a feeling that I’m on the right path and that my external life matches who I am inside. That’s all I ever really dreamed of.
I don’t think this is something many people get to experience in their lifetime, and God knows there are many people in the world just struggling to feed themselves. That alone is enough to send my brain into a tailspin, but it is an unfortunate fact about the world. I might not be able to save the whole world, but I can save my own, because I do have that power.
I have saved and spent frugally, I have made sacrifices and choices. I have taken the risk to follow my dreams, even though conventional programming told me not to.
I walked the path of fear of failure, fear of regret and of ‘worst case scenarios’. Yet I’ve experienced none of the things I was so afraid of. I have, however, experienced joy, exhilaration, love, adventure and fulfillment on a deeper level than I ever thought possible for me.
I’ve lived more in the last year or so than I have in all my previous years put together, so no, I definitely have no regrets.
So, in answer to the title of this post, ‘How do you know if it’s right to make a change?’ my answer is, you won’t know until after you’ve made it. Until then, we can never be sure if it’s the right thing to do, but chances are, if the thought of that change makes your heart sing, and you’re willing to take the first step towards making it happen, then it is right. It’s normal to be afraid because change is uncertain, but that’s what makes it so exciting. And there’s never been a better time to take a step toward that change than right now.
*Thank you so much Kairi for allowing me to share your email, I hope it will inspire others to make a change and follow their own dreams!*
Are you on the precipice of making a change, large or small, or have you made one that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!