“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ~Nelson Mandela
Ten months ago I found myself floating on my back in an outdoor pool somewhere in California. Overhead was a clear blue sky, leaves dancing in the breeze, and birds singing their morning song.
I felt more alive in that moment than I had in years. And so I made a promise to myself, right there and then, not to forget this feeling. I made a promise that I’d follow it. I made a promise that this feeling wouldn’t just be a three-month trip to a new country, but that I’d make it my entire life.
And that’s how I came to be selling the flat I’ve lived in in London, the UK’s capital, for the last eight years.
That’s how I came to be standing on the edge of something entirely new and uncertain and unknown.
That’s how I came to be on the verge of yet another adventure. By noticing something that made me feel alive and promising myself I’d do whatever it took to bring more of that feeling into my life, until that feeling was my life.
So here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, tapping out these words surrounded by the beginnings of packed up boxes, bags for the local charity shops, and the promise of a new life. The promise of a life made up of “that” feeling.
For me, “that” feeling is about nature, wide-open spaces and a large majority of my time spent outdoors.
And I’m excited, I am. There’s real excitement there. But layered up over that excitement?
Travel’s so exciting, right? It’s adventure and freedom and play and sun and ocean. It’s the romantic idea of exploring new places, meeting new people, and tasting new cultures.
Except, I don’t want to travel. I have no desire to travel the world. No desire to move from place to place. No desire to live out of a suitcase or a backpack. No desire to jump on the Bali bandwagon.
I want a home. A community. A base. I want to be around friends. I want some continuity. And I want a partner to share my life with.
And I have all of that. Right here in London I have it all. (Except the partner, that is.)
But what I also have is an environment that’s suffocating me. I feel hemmed in, limited, detached from my true nature. And I know it’s time to leave.
But leave for what? For where? I’m packing up my life and I don’t even know!
I’m afraid I’ll never find another place that feels like home. Afraid I’ll become a lonely drifter, never quite finding the place I fit in.
I’m afraid I’ll never meet my life partner because I’m unable to settle anywhere.
I’m afraid I’ll wake up one morning and find myself old and alone. I can’t tell you how afraid I am of being alone.
But you know what I know, amongst all that fear?
That without this next step I cannot pass Go, cannot collect $200, and cannot create the most beautiful vision I hold for my life.
The reason I wanted to share this story with you is this:
The beauty of your life is that you get to create it in any way you want. You can create the sort of life that feels truly fulfilling and deeply aligned in every way, but life will always require you to let go of something before the next thing is in sight.
If you find yourself stepping out onto that cliff edge right now, or making a decision to take that step, not knowing what the outcome will be or where you’ll end up, these are things I hope will help:
Sometimes you have to close a door before another will open.
I remember back in 2012 when I left my job to “figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” there was some confusion amongst the people I knew at how I could leave a well-paid, respectable job behind without any real idea of what I wanted to do next.
I didn’t have an answer for them.
The only thing I knew at the time was, “this isn’t it.”
Stepping into that uncertainty paid off. I wound up starting my own business, which I’m grateful for each and every day. And I know, without a shred of doubt, I wouldn’t be here today, doing work I love on my own terms, if I hadn’t made that leap.
And as much as I’m afraid right now, I know this is the same.
Sometimes there are ways to build a bridge between the life you have now and the life you want in the future. But even when that’s possible, at some point, you’re always going to have to make a final leap. And it’s that leap and the final letting go of what was, that opens the way for what will be.
To be reborn, you first have to die. To rise from the ashes, you first have to burn.
Closing doors is scary, yes. But I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are few doors in life that can’t be re-opened in some way, shape, or form. And the likelihood is you’ll never actually want to do that when you see all the new ones that open to you.
Other people’s fear is just that, theirs. Don’t take it with you.
To many people, selling property in London is equivalent to murdering your own child. It’s just not something any sane person does. Alongside my own natural worries and fears about my decision, I’ve had to cope with other people’s fear too.
I’ve had to untangle myself from other people’s thoughts about my life. I’ve had to step aside from the fear other people hold on my behalf.
After nearly four years out in the world carving my own path, this is something I know to be true:
Other people’s fear has nothing to do with you. Do not take it with you. People see life through the lens of their own experience and sometimes they find it difficult to see that their experience might not be the same as yours.
Don’t let other people’s fear hold you back.
Have courage and trust.
Like most people, I’ve lived through some significant, and often tough, life events in my thirty-three years on the planet.
In each of those moments it’s felt like I might not come through. Like the world might end, even. Heartbreak, most recently.
But every time I’ve come through, and I’m beginning to realize I can always handle it. That no matter what life brings, I will, in fact, always be okay.
As you leave the comfort of what you know, whether that’s a relationship, a job, a place or something else, know that you have the strength inside you to cope with every situation life might conjure up.
What happens if you remain where you are?
At the end of the day, I ask myself, what happens if I stay?
My own answer to this question right now is stagnation. And since I believe my ultimate purpose is to grow, I don’t really have much of a choice.
When faced with the fear of stepping into an unknown future, ask yourself, what happens if I don’t? And is that something I’m willing to accept?
Your answer might just give you that final little nudge you need to step into the void and find out what life has in store for you next.
And if all that fails? Well, just remember Oprah, who said there are no wrong paths in life. And Oprah never gets it wrong, right?