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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tian

Stepping Into the Unknown: How to Embrace a Big Life Change


I have a big life update... I'm moving back!


I'm on the brink of a significant life change, preparing to move back to Hungary where I grew up. This decision has been in the works since April, following an unsuccessful attempt at the work visa lottery. After weighing my options, the best course was clear – continuing my work remotely from Hungary.


From studying psychology to working in corporate, my 11-year journey has been marked by both setbacks and growth. Now, as I stand at the crossroads, poised to return to Hungary, join me in exploring the emotional landscape of this transition. This is not just a story of relocation; it's a narrative of resilience and the unexpected gifts that change can bring. Let's rewind to where it all began and trace the steps that have led me to this pivotal moment.


 

The Tapestry of Reactions


When I first broke the news to my family and friends, I received a mix of responses.


Most reacted along the lines of "I'm so sorry to hear that!", "Are you going to be living with your parents!? You'll need to set some boundaries!".


Others were optimistic and even quite excited for me: "That's amazing! You will be able to travel around Europe!"


Surprised by the varied responses, it became clear that my journey back to Hungary is anything but black-and-white.



So How Did I Feel?


In the initial months, I felt all the mix of negative emotions you can imagine: stressed, angry, sad, etc. and broke down into tears several times.


I felt I was the unlucky one. I felt it's unfair that after all my hard work in the past 11 years in the U.S., I was still unable to stay here! I also went through catastrophic thinking that there's a chance that I will never come back and grieved the beautiful life I have built here...


I felt like a terminal cancer patient, condemned to the death penalty of my current life, with the clock counting down the days dangling in front of my nose...


I hope that by sharing my journey on how I coped with this change, it will help you face your next life change as well!


How I Coped and Started to Embrace This Change


💡 Acknowledge that this is supposed to be stressful!


When I was my rational self again, with my psychologist hat on, I realized I had to be kinder to myself and should acknowledge that this experience is supposed to be stressful. I took the stress test (a measure of experienced stress based on life events), and I got:

This result suggested to me that feeling stressed was normal given the life changes I was anticipating! I was not going crazy and I was determined to do all I can to prevent "becoming ill in the near future".


💡 Seek support from others!


I gradually started to tell my family and my closest friends as they came up in our conversations, and finally, my coworkers. The encouragement I received has helped me gain the confidence that I will be okay and hope for our reunion upon my return.

💡 Cultivate gratefulness!


While I was sick with bronchitis a few months ago, with little energy to do anything "productive" but also not sick enough to sleep, I discovered Maddie's journey with colon cancer at age 27 and Jenny's journey with lung cancer at age 33. I was instantly captivated by their stories and felt deeply inspired by them.


Even though what I'm dealing with is incomparable to what they were dealing with, what I shared in common with their experience was that my current era of my life was also being cut short by circumstances beyond my control. Their stories inspired me and continue to remind me each day to be grateful to be healthy and alive. Their bravery, optimism, and ultimately their ability to be at peace with what's to come give me the courage to face this big life change with peace as well.


💡 Focus on the positive & get excited!


I then started to focus on all the positive sides of my move to Hungary, which turned out to be a much longer list than I imagined! This includes:

  • I will get to spend a greatest amount of time with my parents since I left for college 11 years ago.

  • I will be able to reconnect with my friends in Europe.

  • I will have lots of free time to focus on some projects I've been putting off.

  • I will get to travel in Europe, visit my brother in the Netherlands, and also go back to China next year.

  • I will experience what it's like to work and live in Hungary as an adult!

  • I will have lots of new inspirations to write more articles!

  • ....


What I Did Not Expect


There was another unexpected bright side I experienced as I was anticipating my move this past year: I was able to savor and be present in my daily life in the U.S. more than ever! As a result, I felt a level of inner happiness and peace that I haven't felt before!


It felt like I was wearing a pair of "rose-colored glasses"! I treasured my in-person interactions with friends and coworkers more, the sky looked more beautiful and even the grass looked greener in our backyard! I was also more open to trying new experiences (since I don't know when I will have the chance to do it again!). This is again, very similar to the "gift from cancer" that many terminal cancer patients experience: the ability to live more presently, savor every moment and to live every day more meaningfully!


Over time, as I started to let in feelings of gratefulness, appreciation, and joy in the time I have here, there was less room for stress, anger, anxiety and sadness.


Now, as I embark onto the next chapter of my life, I feel ready, excited, and filled with hope for what the next era holds. As I journey back to Hungary, the lessons learned from navigating this significant change have become invaluable.


So, as we approach the new year, I challenge you to embrace change, savor each moment, and live with the courage to face the unknown.


May you have a delightful holiday and the fortitude to welcome all the changes that 2024 brings!


Best wishes,


Sarah

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