I was in my late 20s and living in Toronto. My life was on an upswing. I got a promotion with better pay, bought a house, and was in a stable relationship with someone for more than three years. I felt optimistic about life and already started to make plans for the next stage. That is until one winter day I received a letter that would change my plans, and eventually my life.
It’s the little things that often make the biggest impact
In general I found that big changes don’t happen overnight, they usually develop over time from what at first appears to be a simple decision or from a series of small decisions.
About eight years earlier I filled out an application for a U.S. “green card” and citizenship. At the time I figured that U.S. was the place to be if I wanted to make anything of myself. Therefore, when an opportunity came up to submit a form for U.S. citizenship, I though, what the heck, I have nothing to lose–so I applied. Several weeks after applying, the response I received from USCIS was not encouraging. And months–then years later–it didn’t even seem like my request was going anywhere. So, I forgot about the whole thing and kept moving my life forward in Canada–and it was definitely moving forward.
Careful what you wish for, or you just might get it
That is until years later I received a notice that my application was finally approved and that I had six months to pack up my stuff and move down south. What? I thought. Now you’re telling me to move? Just when things begun sailing so smoothly.
Life has an odd sense of timing.
I was faced with a choice: do I stay in Canada and continue my comfortable life here or do I risk it all for a chance to build a new life in the U.S.? I would be giving up a lot for an unpredictable dream. Was it worth the risk?
My boyfriend at the time certainly didn’t think it was a good idea to move. Also, many of my friends were getting married and some were even starting families. And here I was, contemplating to jeopardize a perfectly good relationship when instead I should have been seriously thinking about marriage and children. Not to mention the fact that I was also intending to walk away from a stable job for something totally unknown.
Give yourself a chance to find out what you want
There was a lot of pressure to stay and continue on my current path, but something inside kept telling me to give myself a chance and take the risk. If not now, when? And it’s not like my boyfriend was in a hurry to get hitched or have a family. Frankly, neither was I. After all, why rush something so important just because others were doing it? And if after three years we still weren’t ready to tie the knot, would another year or two make a difference? Having more time together wasn’t a guarantee. I even wondered if perhaps some force threw this twist into my life to test his and mine true intentions.
After months of debating in my head, I decided to make the leap and move to the U.S. Needless to say, it was not a popular decision. But I was happy with my choice and stuck to it.
Don’t get discouraged after the first fall
Starting a new life in the U.S. was not exactly easy. I faced many challenges with work, health insurance, housing, and adapting to the new culture. During my first months in America I felt very alone and I often considered turning back around. As I was crossing the U.S. border I remember hearing a jolly plump woman saying, “God helps those who help themselves”, and somehow that phrase cemented my first impression of the U.S. Hearing it upon entering this country made it clear to me that in America learning how to be independent is the key to survival. And if I was going to make it here, it would be primarily by relying on my own strengths and not to expect too many handouts.
But I certainly did not regret taking the risk. And as I settled into my new job, somewhat assimilated to the culture, and started developing friendships, life begun to look bright again. In fact, two years after my move, I built a new life that was better than I ever imagined back in Canada.
Learn to conquer your fears
It can feel scary to let go of something that has been a part of our lives for a long time. I know many people who hang on to mediocre jobs, stale relationships, or stifling routines, for fear of disturbing the status quo and possibly making things uncomfortable and even worse off for themselves and even others. So instead, they choose to accept the middle-of-the road deal, rather than aim for something higher. And for some, an ordinary life is exactly where they prefer to stay. After all, why stir the pot when all is good? But what if others are stirring the pot (someone has to) and one day they decide to stir it in such a way that ends up disturbing our own perfectly good life?
It’s naive to think that everything will remain the same as long as we don’t take any risks or make any radical changes, because we don’t live in a vacuum. Eventually change will happen and it is up to us whether we’re the catalyst behind that change or someone else dictates it for us. Chances are that if we initiate the change or embrace it rather than fight it, the results will be more appealing and easier to adapt.
And for individuals who need more out of life to feel fulfilled, somewhere along this path lies risk; risk in giving up a good paying job for one that might help you realize your passions; risk in losing a convenient relationship for one that may bring you true love; risk in forgoing popularity for a chance to maybe meet your greatest friend; and so on. And I use words such as ‘might’ or ‘may’ deliberately because the whole point of taking a risk is that you don’t have any assurances that the result you’re after will materialize. There is a possibility that the consequences of taking a risk might be less than desirable. But never knowing can be far worse.
Take risks, but avoid being reckless
Yes, risk is part of living, but I would like to add that there is a difference between taking risks and being reckless. We all carry certain responsibilities or have commitments that we adhere to for many good reasons. And risking something that would seriously affect these obligations, would most likely bare heavy consequences and lead to some kind of a loss or hurt–not just to ourselves, but others too. And risking someone else’s well being is reckless.
Some of my greatest experiences and lessons came from overcoming my fears and taking risks. And I don’t necessarily mean by uprooting my entire life or jumping off a cliff. Sometimes the risk was simply in asking questions or by taking initiative.
A girl swinging off a tree branch
On this picture I wanted to illustrate a girl who is not afraid to leap in. She wants to cross to the other side of the lake. She is curious and craves to discover what lies beyond the large body of water. She finds a good branch that she can hang on to and uses it to swing across. She feels excited about exploring something new and her mind is open. The dog watches his swinging friend and cheers her on. He wishes that he too could swing from a branch like she can. In fact he’s so excited that he tries to stretch as far as he can to be as close to his leaping friend as he possibly can without falling into the water. Even the fish is jumping out of the water to watch this girl as she’s suspended over the water and is about to make her jump. She’s not afraid.