The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Lakefront runner

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.


16 thoughts on “The Grass Isn’t Always Greener”

  1. thex for sharing your expireance and your write time.It takes courage to come to this conclusion the same way it would have to take the chance and go the other way.
    Wishing you all the happiness!

  2. This resonates with me so much. I’m in a similar situation, where I’m happy enough with where I am and what I’ve got, but I always wonder if the grass really IS greener on the other side. This post made me realized I should probably take more time to appreciate what I have and focus on the now, instead of the “what if.” Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    1. Glad it resonates Candice! And yes, I know I definitely need to take more time to appreciate what I have and focus on the now – I have always been someone to keep looking ahead and I think I’ve missed out by doing so.

  3. Hi Katie, I just found your website/blog and was reading your all about your travels. I felt so envious reading about your adventures and wishing I could just see all those places too. Sadly, I have travelled quite a bit but it never seems to be quite enough. I arrived at this and it was like you were speaking to me. I am still in the phase of the “grass is greener”. I live too much in the future. It seems I am always trying to plan where I could go and visit or what place would be best to go and live instead of enjoying life in the here and now. Thank you for writing this and putting into words the feeling I have but cannot adequately express. I’m so happy to know I am not alone in these thoughts and struggles and that there is hope to actually be happy one day.

  4. Great post… Its always so hard to make such big life decisions, but I agree that deep down inside each of us, we make the best decision when we listen from within! Its the Instinct Power/Gene that we have let go of through time, yet animals still act on Instinct. I am 100% sure that you made the best choice!
    I hear so much of myself in your words about always looking for the greener grass, traveling is unsettling yet I am unsettled when I stay put! I look at it more as constantly challenging myself yet really being present in the Moment and living every second as if it might be the last!

  5. True. Nothing is perfect in life. Thus, we must recognize what really matters to us – what really brings ‘happiness’ to us and we must hold it dear. Nice post. 🙂

  6. It takes courage to come to this conclusion the same way it would have to take the chance and go the other way.

    Wishing you all the happiness!

  7. I always have a hard time figured out if it’s fear holding me back or my gut telling me no! I’m glad you made the right decision for yourself and it is always good once in awhile to be reminded that the grass is always greener (I like to tell that to my friends when they are at home in the snow and I’m on the beach… with a scorpion sting, the power and water out and the grocery store missing the veggie shipment for the second week in a row 🙂 )

    1. It’s tough, right? Like I just had this gut feeling it would be the wrong move to take the job, but then I wasn’t sure if that gut feeling came from fear or not. But I don’t regret it at all – I think I made the best decision.

  8. Good for you for being content–it’s easier said than done. This is a good reminder for me to hear because I always wish I could move and start a new life somewhere else. But when I stop to think about everything, I realize my life here is pretty amazing!

    1. Thanks Jenna. You’re right – it is much easier said than done to be content and I have rarely let myself be content. So it feels kind of nice now. 🙂

  9. What a great post. Congrats on making the decision that is best for you. I am the same way. When I was in Germany I thought it was the best thing ever. When I returned I longed to get out again but never did anything to make it happen and wondered why. I thought I wanted to travel full time but realized, that is not for me at all. I used to look at other long term blogs and say, yes, I wanted that until after I realized I did not want to do long term travel. The grass is not always greener.
    I did however run away from home to live in another city for 2 years in 2011. Although I was supremely unhappy, I toughed my decision out and made the most of it. When it was time to move back, I could not make it out of the temp city fast enough.
    I have finaly come to a place where I am almost happy – not to say that I am unhappy overall. My life is not bad at all and I realize could be crap. I feel my needs for what I want in life are basic. I want to a career that I love so that I can live in a nice condo and continue my travel passion before I am too old to do things in life (that is a long way off but time seems to fly!!). I am making myself happy now by changing my career (which will be painful for a while) but I am trying so hard to be happy and stay that way. Good luck as your happiness journey seems to be going well.

    1. You sound a lot like me! I read so many blogs pushing long-term/nomadic travel that I thought that was what I should want to do, but it’s really not me. If I have a career I love that gives me the money and freedom to travel quite a bit, I’m happy.

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