.On Life changes.

It has been years since I left my previous job, moved to Canada, decided to study and to raise my son. I wrote a lot about all these transitions that were sometimes rather tough than easy while encouraging others to follow suit. I don’t want to give advice, because I don’t know what I am doing 100%. I simply let you know what worked for me and what I learned from certain situations and hard curveballs life threw at me. All these things I did made total sense to me at the time. I followed my dreams and there is nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes I didn’t think things through all the way and then spent months pondering about why I did it. Was it a calling? Am I easily convincible? Was it the proverbial greener grass? Maybe I was too young? In hindsight, it does not matter. I finally mustered up the courage to do it and felt the wind in my hair and the swoop in my stomach which was my reality – this is where I needed to be. As I now skip through the streets of Vienna, while a bit of fear and thrill radiating off my skin, I felt like the leaping proof of a concept and I want others to feel it, too. Do what feels good. Go for it. I can see now that, beyond feeling fulfilled by my new life, I felt validated for my years of wanting exactly this life. It wasn’t until recently that I started pondering the difference. How would I have felt had it all gone wrong?

Every so often, the details of the last couple of months pass through me like a ghost. The beam of sunlight that settles in my heart when thinking about the good times while missing someone very special. The last hug, the warmth. The meditative train ride back “home” leaving a warm, familiar smell of my childhood home, back with my parents. How could it be that, although everything has changed, my mood is still the same? As the days move on since I left and stretch into the weekend, my perception of it all is still evolving. Why did I leave, really? What exactly did I leave behind? Was leaving brave? Fearful? Did it make sense? Honorable? Arbitrary? Should I have stayed? I may have followed my dreams and happiness, but I left another kind of dream, too. Maybe dreams can be vast and fickle like that. Maybe I can be, too. Maybe my dream back home will continue.

When I arrived in Germany this summer, it occurred to me that, despite uprooting my life in pursuit of more and finding it, too, I am not sure the emotional tenor of my life has changed all that much. These days, hard days and incredible days still punctuated the ones that transpire as expected; eagerness and trepidation still inform my perception of the future. Moments of insanity and insecurity still mix with feelings of self-assuredness. In a psychology magazine, I recently read the term “hedonic treadmill” which is coined by two psychologists in the 70s and refers to “the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.” In short, we adapt, regardless of the circumstances. Some research theorizes that our neurochemical processes actually prevent us from experiencing sustained positive or negative emotions at all. So, you can hide, stay, run, leap, cry, but you will still just be you.

My question then is: If not sustained happiness, what are all of us actually pursuing? Also, what is happiness but this is a different essay. If the details of our lives can drastically change without changing us, how do we identify what we truly want? All this lends new depth to an expression I love: Wherever you go, there you are. You can hide, stay, run, leap, cry, but you will still just be you: stupid jokes, worrying, impatience and all.

We know that our society idolizes the hustle for money, recognition, fame, dreams, wellness, and whatnot but we also have evidence in spades that none of these things in excess solve the happiness equation, right? The ones who seemingly have it all still fuck up, oversleep, cheat, get divorced, use drugs, relapse, are insecure while trying to mask it with expensive clothes and tons of makeup, feel lost, and choose wrong while acting cranky and bitchy. All this is just part of human existence. Many amass wealth and recognition because of capitalist ideas that are sold to them about the value of risking everything and going after what they really want. I don’t regret for one second that I followed my dreams and I have gratitude for the version of me that is not afraid to take a leap. I am also privileged that I had the resources to seek out a sense of fulfillment and purpose and of course the luck to find it all. At the same time, I am increasingly aware that there was plenty about my life before this step that made me feel grateful, too. People I met, the connections I made and of course my family who is always behind me. I know I could have found a sense of fulfillment and purpose in Germany, too. Just another kind. But I know that I will be connected with the people who matter no matter what. So, you want advice about leaving cities, careers, or relationships that don’t feel right? Simply listen to your gut feelings and become more open to the idea that conception can shift without seismic uprooting. That big life changes don’t always change us, and that more than anything else, we will always be ourselves. I think it is worth asking yourself: What makes you happiest as you are now? Because no matter where you go, that will most likely never change. Home is where your heart is anyway.

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