I changed my life with $136. That was the cost of my one-way plane ticket to Puerto Rico two years ago.
I think my boss remained silent on the phone for at least 30 seconds before responding to my resignation. I would be ending my six-year stint with the public relations firm that gave me my start. I suppose it was my heart that made me do it.
During my last year with the company, I noticed my life becoming consumed by my work. I lived to serve my boss as I remained under her shadow. I slept with my phone under my pillow listening for the “ding” of an email hitting my inbox. My nine to five quickly became a seven to seven. I developed excessive anxiety and my health began to suffer. I took a look at myself – then only twenty-five years old – and became fearful of the life I would lead if I continued down this path. So when I met someone who opened my eyes to an alternative way to look at daily life, my heart followed.
Thinking about it today, perhaps cashing out my 401k and moving to a Caribbean island with my now husband whom I had known for six months was a bit brash. But I didn’t see the point of a pro and con list at the time. I had been blessed with a number of opportunities and accomplished more than most at my age. I concluded there was no better time than the present to take a leap into the unknown.
I wouldn’t say that my life has necessarily changed for the worse or the better since following my heart and moving to Puerto Rico. I would say that it has grown. I have been given the opportunity to learn more about myself, about life and about why we should be finding joy in each day that we are here.
1. Change your outlook on life. Each morning I used to get up, take a shower, drive my new car to the coffee drive thru, go to work, go to a dinner or an event, go home, go to sleep. I lived with tunnel vision focusing only on what pertained to my work or myself. I flipped through fashion magazines finding out what trends I should buy for the Fall. I indulged in expensive spa treatments. I would spend any extra time I had working instead of taking a yoga class or discovering a new hobby. Most importantly, I took far too much for granted by not seeing what was in front of me.
Living in a small town in Puerto Rico isn’t always life on a beach with piña coladas. We lose power frequently. We run out of water for days at a time. The nearest department store is 40 minutes away – and it’s K-Mart. But there is a reason people choose to live here. Life is simple. Material items are not of as much importance. You find joy in the sunrise. You are appreciative of the blue ocean that surrounds you. You fall asleep listening to the sounds of nature. Your priorities change
My outlook since living here has allowed me to breathe deeper each day. To experience the beauty of the surrounding environment without concrete skyscrapers. To appreciate each smile on my face. There are far more important things in daily life than what is on an iPhone, you just have to put it down once in a while.
2. Discover what makes you happy. NowI’m not saying that followed my heart and found happiness. But I did find the opportunity for the first time in a long time to step back, look at myself and my life and ask myself what things make me happy each day.
I finally had time for me. I never could have fathomed how much joy being in the ocean would give me. I never would have guessed I could become certified to teach Pilates. I had no idea I liked to cook. Making the move to Puerto Rico has opened my life up to focus more on myself and on happiness and begin to scratch at the surface of finding what it is that makes me enjoy life each day.
3. Learn what fear feels like. Having no plan has always been my biggest fear. Since leaving the financial security and daily routine of my job, I have taken up freelancing for myself. I have been given a number of opportunities of which I am incredibly grateful, but it is still unnerving to wonder where the next paycheck will come from or when.
Rather than look at this as a downside to following my heart, I see it as a blessing. I have always worked for a larger company. Working for myself is an incredible opportunity that not everyone has the ability to try. It is something I needed to experience to know how it feels. It takes a lot of courage to take a leap to start something new and embrace the fear that accompanies it. Small business owners and entrepreneurs have guts. I know that now.
4. See the world. I’ve come to believe that the average nine-to-five worker spends much of their time working day after day only to dream about their 14 cherished days of vacation time. When I chose to make my own hours, my “vacation days” were my own to determine – not to mention the incredible deal on last minute plane tickets.
In 2013, I took the trip of my lifetime. I toured the entire country of Morocco and the southern coast of Spain with a backpack on my back and my love by my side. The cultural, eye-opening experiences of that trip have come to mean more than any paycheck or job security ever did.
5. Appreciate authentic relationships. Because of the industry I was in, I learned to take people at face value. Many relationships, lets face it, were based solely on what one person could provide for the other. After ending my job with my public relations firm, I began to notice that even the people I worked alongside for six years had lost interest in me. Out of sight, out of mind.
Since living life outside of a corporate world, I have come to appreciate the important relationships in my life whether old colleagues, family or friends – the ones who matter and the ones who care.