Fear of change is a natural human instinct. In a way, it’s how humans have managed to survive this long. We find what works, what keeps us safe and we stick to it. Generation after generation, children have followed in their parents’ footsteps, or abided by societal expectations. A few decades ago, stepping out of our comfort zone and exploring new paths was not as acceptable in the Gulf Region. Millennials today find themselves in a unique position because they have the freedom to pursue new opportunities and embrace the changes that accompany them with less societal restrictions.
Ever since my brother Abdulla was a boy, he saw the world in a different way. Everything was an adventure, and every chance to cause mischief was another learning experience. His boyish ways stayed with him into adulthood, and where people once saw childhood innocence in exploring the world, they now saw chaos and instability. Yet, what many of them couldn’t see was that there was a pattern to his chaos, and that the many changes he underwent have led him exactly where he is meant to be.
The past ten years of his life have been a long and unpredictable rollercoaster. When he was 21, he dropped out of university in the United States because he realised that studying abroad wasn’t suited for him. He came home to a judgmental and unforgiving society, so he pushed himself to pursue a new degree in a local university, and found a good stable government job with a reasonable income. He did what was expected of him, but he knew in his gut that he was not satisfied.
He traveled frequently to escape the routine his life had fallen into. He trekked the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal, meeting villagers and learning their ways. He went on safari in Kenya, met the indigenous people and stayed with them for a few nights observing the migration season of the animals. On his most recent journey he went on a trip of self-reflection to the mountains of Thailand and trained at a boxing camp, where he met strangers from all over the world. These people inspired him to take a leap and do what a lot of people think about doing but fear they will regret: he quit his job and decided to start over again at the age of 30.
Everyone had doubts, everyone had an opinion, but now, a year later, he has proved that he has made the right decision.
When I asked him what pushed him to take this step he said:
‘After a few years of soul searching, taking any chance I can get to try new things and to travel to new places, I realised it was time to make a change. Deciding to reboot my life and find a life that offered me greater satisfaction was the best decision I ever made.’
He now wakes up every morning filled with excitement for the day ahead. He took a leap of faith and started a new career. He works long hours and his pay is lower than that of his previous job, but these factors don’t hinder him. He takes every day at a time and he makes the most out of it. He spends any vacation he has exploring new cities and meeting new people. What he has learned throughout the years and the experiences he’s been through is that you won’t know if change will be good for you until you try it.
Abdulla made an extreme change, but change can come in many different forms. Changing where we get our morning coffee, the genre of books we read, or even the destinations we travel to, can offer us a new and refreshing insight into our lives. For some people changing things up comes naturally, but for others it can be a struggle. Small steps, small changes can give us the courage to make the more impactful changes our lives need. The key to accepting change is to simply be willing to adapt to whatever life throws our way.
Mariam Al Hosani is an Emirati storyteller living in between the UAE and Germany.