I flew into Amsterdam mid-week, a quick flight from Berlin. There’s nothing better than exploring Europe in the summer. As I walked down the streets mid-day, taking in all the (new to me) sights, the words tumbled out. I said,”I never thought I’d have the chance to visit Holland” to Kat and Gala without much thought.
But, on our winding walk home down the cobblestone streets, the significance hit me: I’d been dreaming of traveling the world since my early 20s and now, it was finally happening. At the time though, I still remember how it felt very much out of reach. I was always in school or working full time and I never had the time off or the budget. I still quietly dreamed, even though the life I wanted felt very far away.
All those years ago, I dreamed of a lifestyle melded together with various freedoms which to me, were very specific. This lifestyle meant choosing the clients I wanted to work with (instead of spending 6 months on a corporate campaign I was assigned to), traveling the world with friends (even if it meant mixing business with pleasure), buying a home that I could decorate however I wanted (with no beige walls or carpet in sight like my rental) and feeling confident enough to just be myself (which can be more challenging than it seems).
I’d stand at the cash register or sit at the desk of whichever job I was working and read the blogs of people I thought had “made it” based on my internalized ideal lifestyle list. I wanted what they had but the truth was, there was a wall of fear holding me back from that life. I just hadn’t quite figured that part out yet.
I knew it wasn’t impossible to get that life — people were already hiring me for the design work I wanted to do and I was slowly finding ways to travel more, even if it was just a state away. But, the fear always crept up like a sneaky road block. What if I quit all of my outside work and didn’t make enough money to pay my mortgage? What if I was traveling the world but got lost and my cell phone didn’t work? What if the clients I wanted stopped coming to me and I had to go back to office life? What if…? There were so many excuses and they were like a broken recordâ€¦they never seemed to stop. There was so much fear.
What was the tipping point? It wasn’t any one day or moment. It was more of a feeling that the clock was ticking and it was up to me to create the life I wanted — nobody else was going to show up and do it for me. After talking with friends and peers I admired, I realized that everyone feels that same fear when faced with big changes. It wasn’t unusual; they just didn’t let it get in the way like I did.
Once I affirmed that I was going to give it my all and find a way to do my own thing, I knew there was no turning back. Failure wasn’t an option. By dedicating myself to the path I knew was right, I became infinitely happier and felt more free. A year into fully committing to doing things my way, I’ve never felt better. My life is far from perfect — even when I’m visiting a cool city like Amsterdam, what you don’t see is that I’m taking Skype calls with clients at 9 pm and waking up at 6 am to finish off a round of work before exploring the city.
In retrospect, I actually work harder now but as clichÃ© as it sounds, it’s work I love so much that it never feels that way. That’s the difference. When you let go of fear and people’s expectations of how you should live your life, you feel happier: you’re more in line with your ideal purpose, and in turn, are probably more at peace and kinder to those around you. It has a ripple effect in your life.
My advice to you is to fight that fear. We all have it.
It’s just a matter of letting go and seeing what happens.