When I decided to move to Australia, my dad told me he was worried I was running away and warned me that “the grass isn’t always greener”. This warning haunted me my whole first year in the land down under. I found myself always waiting for the other shoe to drop and constantly questioning my choices. What if I was just escaping “reality”? What if I was just being unrealistic? I may have left Toronto behind, but I made sure to take my anxiety with me…
While working on a farm in Australia (see why here), I met my Swedish friend Emma whilst packing cucumbers. We were talking about the differences between Australia and where we came from and if we would go home or stay. I still clearly remember when she said: “Alex, just because you were born somewhere doesn’t mean you’re meant to stay there.” Then she proceeded to list off all the reasons why Australia suited who she was: from allowing her to be outside all year long to abundant sunshine to the fitness-first, active culture. Something about the way she stated it so matter of factly, struck me deeply because it rang so true. Just like ‘1+1=2’, Emma was saying that ‘you’ + ’where you live’ should also = something. It should add up.
There’s the place you were born and then…there’s the place you were meant to be. For those who were born in a place that has always felt like home – you may not get this sentiment, but for those who have always felt a little off, this could be for you.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, but something never felt quite right. Growing up I didn’t know how much of that was attributed to my place of residence, but looking back the signs were all there.
Here is my very non-scientific, very personal “Are you living in the wrong place?” checklist.
When at ‘home’ do you:
- Feel like an outsider for no obvious reason?
- Fantasize and/or find yourself living your whole life for your next vacation?
- Find it hard to be motivated by what’s ‘”supposed to be” important in your life, but your friends/coworkers/family seem to have no issue doing so?
- Feel like your outlook, emotions, opinions, etc. are often different than the general sentiment?
- Feel like you’re limited in the ability to do the things you want to do based on your surroundings?
- Feel like the way people go about things is unnecessarily difficult?
- Feel like the way you’ve been living doesn’t make sense to you?
Obviously these questions can apply to a wide spectrum of things and should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt (and context), but bear with me and let’s continue with this exercise…
Have you ever been somewhere else and:
- Felt immediately at home (and not just because you were sipping a daiquiri/lounging in a luxe hotel room/etc.)
- Met people who you have more in common with (and not just other travellers, but locals)
- Felt like the way people live life there makes sense
- Felt like you could see yourself living there beyond the honeymoon period of travel
- Felt like your values were finally being met
If this all sounds too familiar then you probably also have a home away from wherever you grew up. I carried around a lot of guilt about leaving Toronto – “Why did I have to move across the world when I lived somewhere so great?” was a question directed at me many times by many people.
But it wasn’t great – not for me.
And just because something’s not outright awful doesn’t mean you have to stay and spend all your energy trying to make it work. I was always taking on new projects, activities, etc. (sewing classes, running groups, soccer…to name a few) to try and turn things around. I kept thinking that if I just found the right thing somehow life would start to make sense. I thought if I found that thing I would all of a sudden “get” what everyone else seemed to – the invisible force that kept them motivated and excited about their lives. And yes – contentment is found within and equanimity is the goal, but if you have to spend more than 20% of your day just dealing with your circumstances (-30 degrees outside with a nice icy slush to shuffle through/horrible transit/a very serious corporate culture) then maybe it might serve you better to be in an environment where you can free up that energy to be spent on more positive and productive pursuits. Have you ever heard that quote about how you need to fill up your cup first before you can fill up anyone else’s?
In this day and age, especially if you’re born in a first world country with the means and resources to choose your fate, make sure you honour that privilege by making a choice. Remembering to choose consciously and with purpose.
So one year into my Australian journey, my parents finally came to visit. We took a ferry across the water from Circular Quay to Manly (sidenote: best public transit commute in the world). The water was sparkling, the sun was shining – Sydney was turning it on. My dad stood at the front of the boat, very still and quiet as he watched the cliffs fly past. He turned to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said: “I can’t believe it. The grass is ACTUALLY greener here…I wish I had moved to Australia when I had the chance.’’
Are you where you were meant to be? If not, where is that place for you and why?