Why You Should Drop Everything, Move to a Different City and Start a New Life

Thursday, July 28, 2016


 "Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death." - Betty Bender

If you were intrigued by the title of this post it's because it appealed to a desire within you to change or get away from a particular situation in your life, be it a job or career path, the place you live, a relationship or lack thereof. Like you, I wanted change and I had always intended to pursue my Master's degree. Hence, off I went to Wellington, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with two large suitcases, to live by myself for the first time. This post isn't really about why I think you should quit your job or leave your partner and pack your bags to start a new life. It's about why facing your fears, going into the unknown and taking risks isn't only necessary but also inevitable if you want  a meaningful and fulfilling life. It's not that you shouldn't be grateful for what you already have. In fact, having more is rarely the solution. What I'm saying is, I understand the desire to do and be better.

Fearless. Confident. High-spirited. These words are often associated with extroverts like me. There's truth in it but we also have moments of self-doubt and we face a set of challenges unbeknownst to people around us. In the midst of writing my thesis I often thought to myself, "What did I get myself into? Can I really do this? I've invested so much time and money. Maybe I should have just stayed in KL." But being a big believer in not waiting for things to happen to me and trying my best to embrace challenges instead of running away from them is why I can say I have few regrets in life, if any at all (not because I don't make mistakes but I don't like to dwell on them).

My willingness to take risks is why I can reflect on the last 20 months of my life in Wellington and my postgraduate journey and take heed from the important lessons I've learned about myself and others. It's also the reason I can say I've discussed the Israeli government's rhetoric with prominent Palestinian activist Ali AbuNimah, rubbed shoulders with Oddisee (literally) and had Sonny Bill Williams take a selfie with my phone ;) In all seriousness, without risks, challenges and mistakes we might not get hurt, have regrets or endure hardships but we would also never grow as individuals as we would be missing out on life-changing and rewarding experiences and relationships. Maybe instead of thinking of what you want to do as something that is risky, why not perceive it as an opportunity of a lifetime?

Not convinced? Totally understandable! This is why I've compiled a list of things I hope you'll consider before making a bold decision.

1. Know your 'why?'. 
Because your intention and purpose is what will keep you steadfast and resilient and steer you in the right direction if you ever lose your way. The last thing you want is to be impulsive when it comes to a life-changing decision. So be honest with yourself: are you doing this for the right reason(s)? My advice is don't do it to pursue happiness because happiness is a state of mind and heart. The mind and heart fluctuate. You can run from your problems but you can't hide from yourself. Work on strengthening your heart and mind if you want to be happy. As the Qur'an says, "God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves..." (13:11). But if you want to make a significant decision, such as moving to a different country or marrying someone, do it for a greater purpose than satisfying your self and your ego because things are not always going to be smooth-sailing. I'm not saying you shouldn't choose to do what will benefit you in the long run. There's nothing wrong with self-love (the ability to look out for yourself). My point is, regardless of what or who you choose there are going to be moments you don't like, moments that will make you think, "I'm not happy and maybe I want out". Unless these moments involve mental and physical harm, you shouldn't quit easily. Hence, you're going to need a better reason or purpose than self-gratification.

2. Evaluate your options. 
Do I think anyone with a desire to risk everything, move to a new city and start a new life should do it? No. Not without considering your options, knowing what you're getting yourself into, discussing it with people you trust and have your best interest at heart, and understanding why it means a lot to you. Stay true to yourself and trust yourself. You don't need me to tell you how important it is to make decisions with a rational mind but I will say there's a risk with any decision because no one can completely know what they're getting themselves into. Who knows what the future holds? Yes, even inaction is a risk because you might lose a wonderful opportunity. My contention is that you should make a choice that allows you to someday say to yourself that you made the best decision according to what you knew at the time and you have to own that in order to take control of the situation should things become difficult later on.

3. Start before you're ready.
When I moved to Wellington (a city I had never lived in prior to 2014) and started my Master's studies I was in the right frame of mind but nothing could have prepared me for all the challenges I faced. However, I learned to rise to the challenge every single time because I knew what I wanted and I had purpose and a good intention. I was willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. There was a phase when I would go to sleep in tears and wake up in them as well but failure was not an option so I learned to push through the tough times. Therefore, sometimes it's okay to wait, especially when we're not in the right frame of mind, but we can't always be as prepared as we want to be in order to feel confident so we just have to go for it, have faith and trust that we have the ability to figure out things along the way.

4. Handle your sh*t but know when to seek help.
If you're like me, you can be hard on yourself because you take pride in being the strong one who has it together but like most people, we all lose our balance, stumble and sometimes need help to get back on our feet again. I know it can be hard to ask for help because it's seen as a sign of weakness but the truth is it takes a great amount of courage to admit you need help in order to move forward. Be strong, independent, and take responsibility for your well-being and success but remember, part of being strong and responsible is knowing when to let go of your pride and fear and when to be independent and when to allow yourself to be vulnerable. The mark of a strong and courageous person isn't his/her ability to go through life without ever stumbling but his/her choice and determination to get back up again when it happens. This is also known as self-efficacy, "the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations". By the way, you're not playing the victim role or being needy if you seek help (unless you're constantly creating these dramatic problems yourself). On this note, I'd like to adamantly emphasise: be very conscious of the story you tell yourself about your life and what has happened to you. It's okay to acknowledge you were victimised but you don't have to play this role all your life. 

5. Differentiate between fear and intuition. 
Marie Forleo helped me with this. If I could add to her wisdom I'd say fear is caused by anxiety about the unknown and it's normal to feel scared when you don't know what's coming ahead. When you face a difficult and scary decision ask yourself, "Is this going to expand my life, contribute to my success and help me grow as a person even though it's possible that it won't be an easy road ahead?". If the answer is "yes", don't listen to your fear. But when your intuition tells you something is or isn't right you should listen to it because your instincts or your intuition is not some weird, mysterious force. Your intuition is a form of intelligence based on your whole life's collection of knowledge and experiences. If you have trouble listening to your intuition it's an indication that you need to learn to trust yourself. If you don't trust yourself, you've got some healing to do and self-esteem issues to work on.

6. Have clarity about what you want in life.
Is what you're thinking of doing really risky or does it feel that way because you are unsure about what you want? If it's the latter, here are 5 Steps for Getting Clarity About What You Want in Life


At the end of the day, all anyone truly wants is to achieve success and have a meaningful life, which in my book means to know who we are, be grateful for everything (the highs and the lows), love what we do as a living, possess mental and emotional stability, be physically healthy, and of course, have financial stability too. These things don't come easily and definitely not without some audaciousness, hardship or risk involved. In the words of the late Bassem Sabry,

"I have learned that every human being must think well before taking a decision, but that too much thinking could paralyse a human being as well, and that it is at times wiser to leap into the waters and attempt - in a magnitude of panic - to learn how to swim. And I have learned that there are among people who are masterful in seeing the negative in everything, in expecting failure." (Eleutheria - Almost Everything I Have Learned In My Life)

Don't be one of those people who choose to miss out on life by seeing the negative in everything and expecting failure. I've been that person before and it's not worth it. Not even for a minute. Joy, fulfillment, love and success is a paradigm shift away (plus a ton of hard work, of course). You don't have to quit your job or move to a different city in order to take risks and start a new life. Begin with small, feasible changes and see where they lead you. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum Sha, I would love to do this and boy oh boy do I have a few cities enlisted to start anew. Monetary issues would be sorted, in shaa Allah. I used to study in Europe and the fact of discovering new things everyday is truly enthralling and exciting. However I'd like to ask a few questions pertaining the Mahram issues. I've been told that it is impermissible for women to venture out of the country for a long period of time alone without the accompaniment of a Mahram. Are there any rulings that would give exemptions for women who are out to seek knowledge per se? I learnt that even the act of performing Hajj wouldn't be permissible if a woman was not with a Mahram. I used to travel loads with my girlfriends but I came to know that it wasn't something that Allah would be pleased with. I wish you would enlighten me on this. Jazakillahu khairan kathiran sister Sha :) <3

Shahirah Elaiza said...

@Anonymous: Wa'alaykummusalam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh :) I don't think I am the right person to answer your question as I wasn't even aware women aren't allowed to travel by themselves even in groups! Perhaps this is more of a cultural belief because as a Malaysian, it's common for Muslim women to travel with friends and in groups. I know the idea of having a mahram to accompany a woman / women is to keep them safe and protected from harm. I respect that. I can understand why it might be better for you to travel with a mahram, if that is an option for you. Perhaps this is something you should discuss carefully with your family and/or a trusted and knowledgeable scholar of Islam. Allahu'alam. I found this link: http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/2016/04/11/13617/. Maybe you'd like to submit a question on that site. I hope everything works out well for you, inshaaAllah :)

Anonymous said...

Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatuhu Sha,

Oh ma shaa Allah that's cool! Thanks so much for that :) I am currently taking a few courses on SeekersHub which entails direct Forum Q&A with the scholars. The courses are really great, it includes Essential Shaf'ie Jurispudence, Imam Ghazali's works and Tafseer. I will definitely ask them matters pertaining to this issue. Jazakillahu khairan kathira for such a refreshing write! I love reading your writings, you should come up with a modern Muslim women magazine ma shaa Allah ;)

Kai Darul said...

Salam Sha,

Ma sha Allah, this post of yours couldn't be any timely!!! I am currently having arguments in my mind as to whether I am going to pursue some other work outside my current town. I am getting minimal growth here. In fact, I want to go to bigger cities and try the life there. But, I always end up chickening out due to 'comfort zone' reasons. I've done several things you pointed out here, too. And getting out and risking a part of it will be worth it. I am just a bit scared. But, as they say, if it isnt scary, then it isnt worth it.

Much love,
Kai | www.lilpink.info

Kai Darul said...

PS: I shared this on my Facebook and a lot of my friends loved your post! Keep em coming!!!

Shahirah Elaiza said...

@Kai: Wa'alaykummusalam. Thank you for your sharing that with me. Perform the istikhara prayer and inshaaAllah you'll be given the strength to do what's best. And thank you for sharing the post :)

Fairuz Izman said...

JazakAllah khair sha. This was a good read and much needed one on my part. Although my dilemma is actually feeling like moving away and starting a new life is much like running away from all my problems here and really, it's not going to solve anything..cause I still have to solve them. I have to face my challenges here and overcome the fear of the unknown (which is the hardest thing to do). Until we are ready to take that leap and move on somewhere else, for a different and better purpose, then we have to stay strong in the meantime. Alhamdulilah for everything :)

Shahirah Elaiza said...

@Fairuz: Wa iyyaki. Thank you for sharing that with me. I honestly believe every experience - be it 'good' or 'bad' - can be beneficial for us. Wherever you are, whatever you do.. there is wisdom in it for you. We are not tested beyond our strength. Hang in there, do your part (ikhtiar) and a solution will turn up because surely God is with the patient. <3