Just over a week ago, I stood in front of a room of about fifty people talking about lessons I learned while I was traveling around the world for 13 months. The last lesson I mentioned, and the one that I emphasized as the most important, was that things have a way of working out.
At the time, I thought that I would soon be writing a new blog post to exemplify that. While I have plenty of other examples from my travels, an opportunity had just been presented to me that seemed too good to be true. It was the result of meeting someone more than a year ago who introduced me to someone else, which led to one thing and then another thing and then suddenly I was sitting in a coffee shop being invited to apply for a job with a nonprofit whose mission really resonates with me – a job that was what I had wanted to do when I first returned from my career break almost two years ago. I thought all the stars were aligning and the universe was conspiring to make everything come together for me. I thought that everything was finally working out.
Fast forward ten days and I just sent off an email turning down this opportunity.
I have learned to rely a lot on my gut instincts and my gut was just telling me no.
At first I thought it was just fear that was telling me no. I thought I was afraid of the new challenge, afraid of disappointing my current boss and colleagues and, as odd as it sounds, afraid of finally letting myself be happy. I asked friends on Facebook – how do you know if you don’t want to do something out of fear or if you just don’t want to do it anymore?
No one had any deeply insightful answers for me, but one friend told me to ask myself if I would look back in several years and regret not doing it. I thought that I might wonder “what if” but I didn’t think I would regret it.
The more I thought I about it, I realized that it wasn’t fear that was holding me back. I wasn’t scared of finally letting myself be happy because really, I already kind of am happy. It feels weird to say, but it’s been a while since I could really honestly say that. I certainly wasn’t happy before I took my career break – if I had been, I wouldn’t have left. While I had fleeting moments of happiness during my travels, being on the road long-term in itself didn’t make me happy – if it did, I would have done everything in my power to continue traveling. But I also wasn’t happy when I first came back. I struggled to adjust and felt unsettled. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to stay in Chicago and spent my first year back here with one foot in the city and the other foot somewhere else. In my mind, the grass was always greener on the other side.
But as I contemplated making a major change less than two years after returning, I realized it just didn’t make any sense because I am finally in a good place. While it isn’t something I am super-duper passionate about, I do enjoy my job and generally like the people I work with. It gives me confidence, yet challenges me. I get to travel a couple times a year for work to cities I enjoy and I get three weeks of vacation time, plus time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Sure, I might love to have an extra week or two (or three!) off, but I will still end 2014 having traveled to six different states and four different countries, which isn’t too shabby.
At the end of the day, I realized it is time to stop thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else. I have spent a good chunk of my adult life thinking that way, constantly lusting after something (or someone) better. As a result, I haven’t appreciated what is right in front of me and I haven’t let myself be happy. And the truth is, the grass isn’t always greener. At some point, you have to stop looking for perfection. Nothing in life is going to be 100% perfect – there are trade-offs to everything and it is just a matter of figuring out what matters the most to you. Not what you think should matter, and not what others tell you should matter, but what you really, truly, deep down feel is most important to you.