August 12, 2016

Life Changes (even if wanted) can be Heartbreaking.


As it it turns out, quitting one’s job to travel the world is heartbreaking.

Leaving your established life behind to travel full-time in your 20s or 30s has become so common these days, it’s almost cliché.

But I wasn’t worried about becoming a stereotype, I just knew I wasn’t happy, and I wanted to find some elusive “more” in life. So I left my practice as a successful attorney to write and travel the world.

I haven’t been at it too long—I prepared to leave for two months, and I only just left two weeks ago—but I’ve already learned an important lesson: we are never prepared for the biggest changes in life, and we’re also never quite sure if they’re worth it.

I thought my first few days on the road would be filled with excitement, happiness and lots of joyful text messages and calls to friends back home. I was wrong. My first few days have been filled with stress, loneliness, anxiety over whether I made the right decision, and a nagging sense of regret that I might not have given my old life a real chance.

When we talk about things like “traveling the world” or “quitting our jobs” or “winning the lottery,” the underlying assumption there is that those experiences would be better than the experiences we’re currently living. I’m no exception: I felt strongly that the work culture of “9 to 5” in the U.S. wasn’t the way we should be living, and that a different kind of life—one of personal design—would be a better option.

I still believe that, but what I failed to realize was that I also strongly believed (below the surface) that there had to be “more” to life out there. What that “more” could be, I didn’t know—I just knew that I wanted to try to find it.

And I know I’m not alone: more and more millennials these days are choosing to ditch the traditional “9 to 5” in favor of something else—something more personal, something more inherently worth it, something (hopefully) better.

But where is the line between searching for a better life and running away from what might already be a great life? And can we ever find that line without venturing out and trying new things that might (ultimately) fail? And if we do try something new, and we do realize that our old life wasn’t so bad, can we ever truly go back? Or do we just need to go forward?

Maybe there is truly something wrong with our “9 to 5” culture, and maybe we do need an overhaul of the way we live our lives. Maybe we should all be working to live and not living to work. Maybe our fellow millennials have it all right, and lots of things need to change.

Maybe too though, at some point we need to realize that we can only change so much about our lives before needing to confront that the thing that might be keeping us from being happy is…well, us.

So, here I am—at an Airbnb in some random state—wondering why I chose to leave my family, friends and career behind, and not coming up with a good reason.

The worst part is that old expression “you can’t go home again” rings truer and truer to me every day. I could always head back to my city or my friends and maybe even pick up my legal career if I wanted to—but unfortunately, this time, I may not feel that there’s some elusive “more” in life. Maybe I’ll realize there isn’t, and that a “9 to 5” job, happy hours with friends, and free time on the weekends is all there is.

Here then, is the question: when you’ve made a big change in your life (like quitting your job, or marriage, or moving to a new country) and you hate it immediately, do you stick it out and push through, hoping that you’re just “adjusting”—or do you cut your losses, realize you made a mistake, accept it, and try to move on?

I’m not quite sure.

For the moment, I’m choosing to stick it out—hopeful in the feeling that I may not have been wrong about everything, and that I may just be taking longer than anticipated to adjust to this big life change.

But then again, maybe the biggest life change isn’t the actual transition. Maybe the biggest change is the one I already made: the act of stepping out of my comfort zone, into a totally new and unfamiliar world, hoping that I may find happiness.


Author: Anjali Sareen

Image: Flickr/martinak15

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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