I turned 26 years old and moved to Australia.
As I look back on 2018, I ask myself if I have accomplished anything this year. Even though I draw blanks on the career front, a lot of big things happened for me in the past twelve months. I turned 26 years old and moved to Australia. In the throes of an oncoming quarter-life crisis, I exiled myself down under where I would be thousands of miles away from everyone I knew. And it was the best decision I made for my emotional health during this precarious phase of my life.
Back home, I was undergoing all of the existential anxieties that ruthlessly grip young adults as soon as they turn 25. I continually felt like all of my friends were far-exceeding me in their professional lives, to the point where I always felt like the least successful person in the room. Everyone around me had creative passions to which they sacrificed all of their free time, day and night. I was proud and simultaneously jealous of them for having something inspiring to wholeheartedly throw themselves into. I didn’t have powerful aspirations getting me out of bed in the morning. Living in a city where everybody was a hard-hustling young creative made me feel unproductive and unoriginal.
On top of all that, there was so much noise. Noise from outside of myself, constantly invading my thoughts and senses. Messages from all directions telling me to succeed at all costs, what success is and how to motivate myself to get there. Voices, loud and soft, narrating the experience of their best lives and the path they were on to achieving their dreams. I felt like I was constantly drowning in thoughts that weren’t mine. After absorbing a certain amount of white noise, I felt an unnatural and compelling desire to change; to change my priorities, my passions, my goals and aspirations. Things I never would’ve even considered altering if I had had the space to reflect calmly about who I was.
There’s a reason Liz Gilbert flings herself far away to reboot her life in Eat, Pray, Love. Being in a completely new environment forces you to rebuild every part of your life from scratch. Rebuilding your life is the rare opportunity to find out everything you’re made of. You discover things you didn’t know you were capable of because you never had the chance to apply those parts of yourself. Go to a place where nobody knows or cares about who you were, only who you are in the present moment, and you’ll find out exactly what kind of person you are.
Out here, there’s no noise. Most of my days stretch out in silence, alone. And it’s only in silence that you hear the one voice that matters—the only one which you can fully trust and follow—that reveals everything which you already know as your truth. There are no opinions from well-meaning loved ones prodding my life to go in a certain direction. There’s nobody to compare myself to in order to measure my success. There’s no propaganda about how I can keep changing to achieve my full potential. There’s just me, going through the motions of feeding myself and sustaining my livelihood, sorting out what I really need and don’t need to be happy.
Australia has been good to me, and good for my soul. I feel like I can relax in my exile. Even though I still grapple with the same anxieties and self-doubts, I have all of the space I need to work through them and consider what I really want. I don’t have to think about whether I’m truly happy with where I am in life, because I know I’m always capable of building a new one where everything is exactly how I want it to be. I’m living and building on who I am and thriving.
Reinvention is therapeutic. Reinventing yourself as many times as you need to give you the power to feel like you’ve lived nine lives instead of the one that made you feel incomplete and lost. Realizing that you can survive on your own no matter where you are is the ultimate empowerment. If you can start over in one unknown place, you can start everything over again anywhere anytime. And as long as you have unwavering self-love, you will always have love in your life.
So if you find yourself in a dark, difficult time in your life, the formula is simple. Remove yourself from the crisis and go somewhere far away to find out what you’re made of and who you are at your core. Rebuild your life from scratch and I promise you will come out on the other side of this crisis alive.
Photos: Nadia Cho
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