If you had known me a year ago, you wouldn't recognize me now. A year ago I was attending a top-ranked business school, in a serious relationship with someone who loved me, had a stable part-time job and was living in my sorority house.
Today, I am living in Ireland, studying journalism, working odd jobs here and there and... don’t even ask me about my romantic life.
A year ago, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing. Though there wasn't really anything wrong with my life, I just knew I wasn't on the right track.
So, in January, I hopped on a plane to Ireland with the intention of being an au pair for six months. Now, here I am, indefinitely living in Ireland and attending school. I left behind my family, business school, my boyfriend, my best friend, my home and basically everything that has made me who I am.
Every time I tell someone my story, I am met with reactions ranging of praise and jealousy to doubt and judgment over my motives. It’s a complicated life to choose, and a lot of people can’t really wrap their heads around the concept of doing something so extreme.
So, here is the truth for anyone who’s wanted to jump face-first into a new life without the safety net of familiarity to fall back on:
Uncertainty Becomes Constant
If you need to be certain about the direction in which your life is going, then this is not the lifestyle for you. Not a day goes by where I am not met with moments of overwhelming doubt. Did I make a mistake? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Should I make pasta again for dinner?
The decisions you make become yours and yours alone. You learn to embrace the freedom of not knowing because at the end of the day, you’re the one who chose this; no one else did.
It’s a life that forces you to trust yourself because there is no one else around on whom to fall back. If I had never left home, I know exactly where I would be right now and where my life would be going. Now, I couldn't even tell you where I’ll be tomorrow.
It is like throwing your life into free-fall mode; maybe you don’t know exactly where you’ll land, but you know you’ll be just fine once you get there.
Home Means Something Different
When you leave behind the home you grew up in to live and grow roots somewhere else, "home" will never be the same once you go back. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t go back; I knew what I always thought of as “home” wouldn’t be there for me anymore.
Home becomes more of a feeling than a place. Home is having a cup of tea by the fire with your closest friends after a long week. Home is a letter from your grandmother, or an unexpected text from your best friend telling you he or she misses you.
Home is dancing around your room in the middle of the night just because you can. It’s little moments with yourself and the people you care about.
Once you realize you don’t need a place called “home” to give you comfort, you will be able to find a home just about anywhere in the world.
You Realize The Importance Of Family
I absolutely love my family; however, I never really understood how much until I left them. Family is the craziest kind of love because I know that no matter where I am or what I do, they will always be there for me when I need them.
Living 3,000 miles away, it became so easy to drift apart from friends and classmates, but it is impossible to drift apart from your family. When I came to Ireland, I wanted to find myself, but I never really knew how much of myself is my family.
I find my brother every time I break it down on the dance floor in a club; I think of how my sister would laugh anytime something horrifyingly embarrassing happens. A little bit of my dad is in any corny joke I try to pull off, and, of course, my mother is in my head anytime my temper starts to boil.
You never realize how much your family has molded you into the person you are until you’re not around them. It’s many little things, but they make you realize what a lucky person you are to have that kind of unconditional support from so far away.
You Learn To Live Your Life For You
Stripping yourself free of everything you've ever known allows you to become the rawest version of yourself. There is no longer anyone around to tell you what he or she thinks you should do, and you no longer worry about what other people will think of you and how you’re living.
You become the only person who dictates your life, and you can do whatever it is that makes you happy. You’re not living your life to please anyone else but yourself.
It is the most independent, fearless and selfish thing you can do, and at this stage, it’s okay to be selfish to an extent if it means you are happy. It’s true that you only get one shot at living, so you better live for yourself without the influences of other people getting in the way of who you are.
A year ago, I basically had all my ducks in a row, but something was still missing. So I said, “Screw the ducks!” and created chaos. And a chaotic life it is. It is messy, lonely, adventurous, funny, happy, emotional and scary, but it’s all mine.
You Will Love Bigger
In becoming the rawest version of yourself, you open up this whole world of deep emotions you didn’t know were possible. And trust me, I was a fairly emotional person to begin with.
I used to think there were two types of love in the world: the love reserved for family and your closest friends, and romantic love. Now, after forcing myself to open up to new things and people and places, I find love everywhere.
There are millions of different types of love. No two things in this world were meant to be loved the same. There’s love in meeting kind strangers in a new city, in tasting a new flavor and in watching the sunrise.
Love no longer becomes a selective process, but a natural occurrence in seeing the beauty in everywhere you go and every person you meet. Everything you love in your life should be loved uniquely and individually, so let go of the instincts that keep you from being happy, and make the choice to love, instead.
Even when you have those moments of doubt and fear, just embrace them; find love in them. Those are the moments you realize how capable you are and how much stronger you are as a person for taking the risks you needed to take.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It