Julia recently returned home from living and working in Poland. She reflects on her challenging decision to move abroad. This was first posted on her site.
It’s almost strange referring to this as returning home, since I’d made a home in Warsaw for so long. A home filled with junk that I collected throughout my days, filled with the presence of friendships built from nothing, filled with mistakes and successes, and the lessons born from these. I’d lived what felt like a whole life there, only for it to become a closed chapter I can only look back on. Yet, although I may soon begin to forget some details, experiences like that never leave you. They shape who you are; from the way I now feel assured in myself to the way I now cook potatoes, my life there changed me – and here I am, the product of it all.
Coming full circle like this is hard, back to my family home, back to the room where I spent endless restless nights imagining travelling distant places, dreaming of possibilities that felt unattainable. It’s funny being here now, staring at the untouched stack of books on the shelf, the expired vouchers stuck on the cork board, the clothes shoved in the wardrobe, all just as I left them and yet me not as I was when I did. Suddenly, these walls don’t suffocate me the way they used to. The world outside them hasn’t changed all that much, but I have… and so I guess I learnt how to climb out a window when I couldn’t see a door. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Sometimes we don’t see a way out, a way forward. At least, not an easy one – sometimes the only option is hurling yourself up onto the windowsill, throwing your leg over the edge, and carefully climbing down the drain pipe hoping you don’t fall. Equally, sometimes it’s a less-than-strategic jump, possibly served alongside a few cuts and bruises. You don’t always come out the other end as you’d hope, but at least you come out of the other end – at least you’ve moved forward in one way or another. Try things, fail at them, learn from them, and then realise that that in itself is the success. It’s growth.
In no way do I think my time in Poland was a failure, in fact I never viewed it as that. I tried my best to cherish every lesson, every experience, every novelty. I decided right at the start that this could give me so much more than it could possibly take away. Adopting that approach in itself has been the greatest takeaway from this whole experience. It allowed me to become the happiest I have ever been in my whole life, and for someone who for the majority of her life lived with anxiety and depression, this was no small feat.
I wish I could tell you just how to overcome those fears, but I don’t think there is a straightforward formula. Even when you do finally throw yourself into the situation you feared, you’re suddenly inside of it, and that comes with its own set of new and unexpected challenges. Yet, moving forward in it brings familiarity, knowledge, comfort. Suddenly it’s not all so scary. If the unknown is at the root of our fears, then it’s logical that we must get to know them to overcome them.
Before I get off as sounding too preachy, I’ll admit that I know all of this and yet I’m still constantly withdrawing into old habits of avoidance and self-deprecation. But having everything that I know now just makes it that bit easier to snap out of it and keep moving forward. Sometimes you have to trust that moving forward will be just so much better than standing still. Trust yourself and jump out of that window.