Most of us raised with a Western, middle-class ethic are taught that failing is the biggest single thing to be afraid of. I was raised as a first generation American by successful Latin-American immigrants, where this was even more so the case. Failing a class, getting rejected from a college, not getting a job, losing a job, losing your money – these were to be avoided at all costs.
Over the last ten years, I have endured bullying, eating disorders, depression, and loss of a loved one. Failing is not what I am afraid of. The real villain we should be combatting in order to live our best lives, the insidious culprit I am most afraid of, is stagnation. I fight every day to make an incremental change to be slightly better, more aware, more educated, more compassionate. Of the dazzling peaks and hazy troughs of my life, it was indecision – and the paralysis it beckons – that kept me unhappy.
Sometimes, changes like therapy or drinking less are not enough to get us out of our slumps. In fact, I had to leave everything I knew – my friends, my job, my family, my lifestyle – to escape my mediocrity and build the life I knew I deserved. To fight unhappiness, we sometimes need radical change. And in order to exceed the happiness we think we are capable of, radical change is a requirement. I’m happy to let you know, based on my experience of moving abroad and quitting jobs that no longer served me several times, this ephemeral reset button very much exists…
Let me take you back a few years. Until the spring of 2014, St. Patrick’s Day was nothing more than a binge-drinking holiday to me. Living in New York, it just meant unbeatable happy hour deals, and messy drunk men in leprechaun suits overflowing from subway cars. And until then, Ireland was just another country on my list of places I vaguely wanted to go to. All that changed St. Patrick’s Day 2014.
To make a long story short, I wound up in Dublin for a one-week James Joyce course I was taking at NYU. My classmates and I landed in the middle of the folly that was St. Patrick’s Day and it consumed us whole. The week that ensued, between dimly lit pubs, the beaming, wet, cobblestones of Temple Bar, and studying Joyce’s Ulysses whilst painfully hungover, was one of the best of my life. I returned to New York stunned, trying to understand what had happened.
I had seen a city that had not lost its humanity or its humor, in a world of rapid urbanization and anonymity. I had seen history in the streets, in people’s faces, in the pints that were poured and the tea that was brewed. I caught the bug. It took me a while, but after several trips and Irish boyfriends later, in the summer of 2016, I moved to Ireland.
I moved to Dublin for a slower pace of life, the ability to travel to more countries and to spend more time outdoors. However, I had not addressed a lot of underlying issues that I was escaping from: low self-esteem, stress, feeling like an impostor at work, and the inability to manage my finances effectively. In my early 20s, I constantly felt like I wasn’t enough; I hadn’t saved enough, didn’t work out enough, spent too much time watching Netflix or at bars or on Tinder – you know the self-defeating drill. All this came to a screeching halt in Dublin. It felt effortless, and it stupefied me.
Having moved several times as a child between the US, Switzerland, and Argentina, I knew that by moving somewhere new I could reinvent who I was. But the older you get, the more cautious and guarded and steeped in your beliefs you get. I was not ready for what was about to happen in my life. I had set myself a crazy goal, to move abroad to a place none of my friends or family really understood, and I committed myself to it wholly. I knew I needed drastic measures to reset my habits and mindset.
Within four months of making my decision, I successfully saved up more than I had in my entire life and moved myself and my dog to Ireland with an internal company transfer. I lived in a small house near a river in the Dublin suburbs. I got a shiny new bike and cycled 20 minutes to work every day. I drank maybe two or three times a week compared to the New York standard, easily double that.
I started cooking almost daily. I joined a Rotary Club, a soccer club, I became a regular runner for the first time in my life. I dated people without taking it too seriously. I said yes to random excursions and adventures. I started a food Instagram I posted in every day, trying new city lunch spots. I stopped doubting myself at work and got promoted, managing three people at the age of 24. I was headhunted by Facebook and got the job – all within four months of landing in Ireland. Fast forward three years later and my experience from working at Facebook and rebuilding a life from scratch have empowered me to start my own business and leave my 9-5 job.
This was not a unique transformation. The people I’ve witnessed relocate from similar circumstances or take similar leaps have also achieved lifestyles and careers beyond their wildest dreams. Of course, habits can be difficult to change. This exact human weakness is what so many products and services are designed around solving: Nicotine patches, boot camp workout classes, low-carb diet programs, career coaches, financial advisors…these are all things we’re willing to pay for because we need help changing our habits. It’s no mystery that most of us would be happier if we were able to change some of our unhealthy habits or develop new ones that would bring us more joy in our lives.
Research has shown strong habits and systems are key to a purposeful, happy life. However, attacking even just one area in your life you want to change can prove incredibly difficult, so it’s no wonder people rarely try to change their entire lifestyles all in one go. It wouldn’t be easy to start waking up an hour earlier, cut sugar, workout more, step it up at work, and say no to toxic relationships all at the same time, without a large external force driving you.
Of course, some people can do this – and I commend them. However, for most people, our habits are so ingrained in our environment, the places and people we spend time with, that lasting change can be a struggle unless you have a lot of time, money and an excellent support system. Sometimes, to truly change your life you have to remove all that external noise and face your demons, which is exactly what I did and you can do. I moved cities and chose somewhere conducive to the habits I wanted to transform and transform my life they did.
So ask yourself: are you happy in the town or city you live in? Could moving abroad be your “shortcut” to resetting the aspects of your life you’ve struggled to change in the past?
The lifestyle reset has to be conscious, of course. A smoker won’t just magically move to Ireland and give up smoking overnight but a new city, job, and social network offers you the possibility to be the architect of your life and habits from scratch.
What you’ll find is that the mere act of making a big decision like moving, choosing a city that’s right for you and seeing it through will empower you to continue taking enormous strides in your life. I wish you all the best on your journey. It’s a wild one.
Written by Tanya Neufeld, Facebook Ad Strategist and Owner of The Strategiste
One For Women is honored to have Tanya Neufeld, Facebook Ad Strategist and Owner of The Strategiste, share her voice and her important message as part of our One Voice to Hear series.