The Art of Leaving: Running away means running towards

Leaving something behind usually brings about feelings of failure.

Think about it. When we hear that relationship doesn’t work out—we politely give our “awws” and then, in the small dark alleyways of our mind, feel pity for the person as if they couldn’t match with someone successfully. The same can be applied for work, for friendships, and most other things.

In my case, my feelings of failure came from leaving my home city. A place where I was born and raised, where the economy was blossoming, where the basis of my good friends are, where my family lies, and where opportunity is as open as the sky. Yet, despite all of these notions, I felt stuck in a rut—not just a small rut you can drive out of with perseverance, but a Mariana’s Trench of listlessness and depression (In hindsight I should have taken that time to write emo music).

It was 2013 when I realized this. To be exact, it was February 1, 2013 when I woke up and thought, “what happened to my life? Why am I absolutely miserable ALL the time?” while eating breakfast (because nothing says “epiphany” like a morning cry and some Cheerios).

And that’s when it hit me. I failed my young adult life. I was unhappy with my work, in an industry I couldn’t care less about, in a city I was all too familiar with. I felt this even translate into the relationships I had with my friends and family.

So, the only way I knew how to absolve myself from the above, was to press life’s ctrl+alt+del and move to a different city. I decided the best way to do this was to apply to a Masters program in Amsterdam and see where it would take me. Although the process of leaving only took 5 months, it was a long process of self (and other’s) pity for not being able to be successful in the career path I started out in, failure for not being interested in the city’s main industry, and failure for leaving my friends and family in search for something new.

amsterdam art museum coloursNow, fast forward two years later: I am writing this blog post in a cafe I managed to stumble upon while biking down a side-street next to a canal. Amsterdam is confusing, the language is confusing, and my life at the moment is confusing — and I love it. I feel the thrill of uncertainty, and the challenge in navigating what has become life. I found myself with a renewed sense of wanderlust about life.

Although moving overseas presents its own sets of challenges, I can’t express the gratitude for past-self for taking the leap and leaving in search of something new. I won’t get into all of the personal reasons as to why moving has changed my life for the better—but I will say that moving allows one to reflect upon their previous relationships (to anyone or anything) with a new perspective, and make improvements they see fit.

In the past year I’ve taken the time to do a lot of self-reflection, especially when it comes to my personal relationship at what I deem to be “success” and “failure”. A lot of guilt and harmful thought patterns came from my previous expectations of what success means, my fear of failure (moreover, the fear of being perceived as a failure), and I realized I sacrificed my happiness and well-being in order to meet unrealistic expectations. Yet at its core, life is about this quest for happiness.

Whether we are leaving relationships, jobs, friendships, or cities, we do so to pursue what makes us happy. Thus, we aren’t failing—we’re actually succeeding.

In retrospect, whenever I look back upon February 1, 2013, I realize that it’s not the day I decided to run away from life, it was the day I chose to run towards it.



Rob is a current quarter-life survivor, with a penchant for cats, coffee, and cynical humor. By day he studies the effects of materialism, and by night he dances for dollars behind the red-lights of Amsterdam.

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