I’ve never been a fan of change. I tend to crave security and comfort, and I like to know what’s coming next. So, when I received a job offer that involved moving hundreds of miles away from everything that made me feel safe and secure, I was scared. I was scared to move to a big city. Scared to dive back into a competitive work environment. Scared to sell my car, my house, and move into an apartment the size of a shoebox. Scared that I wouldn’t make friends and scared that I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet financially.
At the same time, I was excited. Excited about the opportunity to do research on a topic that I’m passionate about (yoga). Excited to live in a city that holds space for culture and innovation. Excited to start fresh. Excited to travel and explore.
So, on December 7, 2012, my husband, our neurotic cat (along with most of our worldly possessions), and I hopped into a U-Haul and drove over 500 miles to our new home in Boston.
The photo above was taken of us just before we left.
One year later, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past twelve months.
1. Everything is Figure-Outable.
This is one of Marie Forleo’s favourite pieces of advice, and it definitely got me through many challenges over the past year. Living and working in another country (especially a country like the US, which tends to be very strict about immigration policies) can create a lot of red tape.
Before I moved, I had to figure out many things, such as how to navigate the rental market in Boston (which can be a nightmare!), how to get my cat across the border, and how to get a visa. Once I arrived in the US, simple things like applying for a credit card or a new driver’s license suddenly took weeks (or months). Trying to find my way through the work visa process, the American healthcare system, and renew my passport took even longer. Even getting a validation sticker to allow my husband to park his car on our street took seven months!
During these situations, I would often get nervous and aggravated. I would wait in one line and sign one form, only to be told to get into a different line across town and sign a pile of new forms. However, now that I’ve emerged on the other side of much of this “administrivia,” I’ve realized that a lot of my anxiety and aggravation were in vain. In the end, I was able to figure everything out, without any dire consequences. It just took a bit of patience.
My Advice: Don’t let your fears about not being able to figure things out keep you from following your heart.
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2. Self-Care Keeps You Sane.
Moving to a big city has definitely been a jolt to my system. I’m very sensitive, meaning that things like loud noises, bright lights, and crowds can be very energetically draining. When I first moved here, I felt like my senses were being assaulted. I couldn’t handle things like being squeezed into the subway like a sardine or the fact that my apartment overlooks a freeway that serves as a major artery to several hospitals (gifting me with the lovely sound of traffic and ambulance sirens at all hours).
This is when the importance of my yoga and meditation practice really hit home for me. I quickly realized that I felt seriously depleted if I didn’t meditate every morning and do yoga every evening. These practices became a sacred time that allowed my body and mind to refuel from the hustle and bustle of the city. Sometimes I only have ten to fifteen minutes to practice, but whatever time I have, I take it.
My Advice: Take a look at your life and notice the times of day when you feel particularly drained. See if you can implement a bit of self-care to recharge.
3. We Don’t Need So Much Stuff.
Moving from a house to a tiny apartment meant that I had to get rid of a lot of clutter. I went from a walk-in closet the size of an entire bedroom to a tiny hole in the wall where I’m supposed to fit all of my clothes. I went from tons of storage space to almost none.
Before we moved, I was scared that not only would my husband and I not have enough room for all of our possessions, but that we would kill each other from living in such close quarters. In the end, I was absolutely amazed at the amount of junk I’d been hoarding over the seven years that I lived in my house, simply because I had the space for it. I was also amazed that two small bedrooms and 800 square feet felt like more than enough space for my little family. In a way, I actually feel like I have more space now because I got rid of so many things that I no longer needed. Plus, it only takes me an hour to clean my entire home!
My Advice: Take a look at your life and notice where you might be holding onto things that no longer serve you. Make space.
4. True Friends and Family Stay with You No Matter Where You Go.
I have some really amazing friends and family back home. These are people with whom I’ve shared innumerable good times (and a few tears). One of the hardest things about moving was leaving these people behind and starting new in a city where I barely knew a soul.
At first, I was afraid that my friends would forget about me and that I’d be incapable of forging new bonds. But the past twelve months have taught me that the love that I share with my friends and family goes far beyond the limits of space and time. Our souls are connected in a way that allows us to jump right back into things every time we meet, even if it’s been months since we last saw each other. Plus, I’ve managed to make several great new friendships here.
My Advice: Don’t let your fear of loneliness keep you from following your dreams. And, if your family or friends happen to disagree with your decision to make big changes, don’t sweat it. This is your life, not theirs. As Wayne Dyer often says, “What other people think of you is none of your business.”
5. There Is No Destination.
Many people (myself included) fall into the trap of “I’ll be happy when.” You might think you’ll be happy when you finally land the right job or the right partner or reach your ideal body weight. But the truth is that none of these external things will sustain your happiness over the long-term.
The reason for this is that happiness is a choice. And true happiness comes from within.
This might sound like woo-woo hogwash, but you don’t have to look very far to realize that it’s true. There are more than a handful of unhappy millionaires in the world—and an equal number of happy people who live in extreme poverty. Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who was held in a concentration camp during World War II, is a shining example of this principle. Frankl maintained that, even though his captors had taken everything away from him (including his wife, family, possessions, and freedom), the one thing that they couldn’t take was his ability to choose how he felt in any given moment. He’s often quoted as saying that his captors “can make me do anything, but they cannot make me hate them.” In other words, his final remaining freedom was his choice to find happiness and meaning in his circumstances, no matter how dire.
My Advice: If concentration camp survivors and other people who have experienced horrendous tragedy can choose happiness, you can, too. In the end, there is no destination. Instead, life is about the journey. It’s been said that we don’t only listen to the last note of a symphony—the power of the last note is experienced by listening to the entire composition.
6. Tough Times = Growth.
Every difficult aspect of my journey has actually been a blessing in disguise. Every insecurity, every sense of frustration, and every moment of sadness has taught me more about myself than I ever learned during the more comfortable periods of my life.
My Advice: Ask yourself: What are my current circumstances trying to teach me? Then learn from the experience.
When friends and family ask me, “How are things in Boston?” My standard answer is that living here is both the easiest and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s easy because it feels like I’m serving the world in the way that I’m meant to serve, and my husband and I are happy here. It’s hard because it’s been a huge adjustment, and it’s pushed me to grow outside of my comfort zone. But, in the end, that’s what living an inspired life is all about. You push yourself, you grow, and you inspire others to do the same. You become the change you want to see in the world.
Tell me, has my journey over the past year inspired you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.