The Real Question: Can you escape your circumstances?

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Lina Sandén.


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

~ Henry David Thoreau  


“A következö megálló, Király utca.”  
{Next stop, King Street.}

Cutting through the rumbling and metallic rustling of the tram, it hit me: I’m in Budapest. I’m on my own. Without expectations, without limitations.

I didn’t really know how to feel about it though.  
A part of me was liberated.  
A part of me lost.  

A part of me happy.  

A part of me devastated.  

Let’s back up the story to the spring of 2013.  
April: I’m on the living room floor. In a sobbing mess.  
I mustered up the strength to get Eat, Pray, Love from the bookshelf and turn to the pages where Elizabeth Gilbert is on her bathroom floor. Reading through the tears, I knew she’d understand.  
The dominating feeling I had was guilt.  
“I should be happy but I’m not.   
I should settle but I can’t.”
May: Relaxing in Palma de Majorca.  
The night before heading off to the airport, I’d been packing and suddenly my whole body was shaking.  
I thought it was just stress. That it would melt away during the trip.  

On the first day on the island, I got a text message from a colleague. The shaking came back.  
I turned my phone off and burrowed it deep in my bag for the rest of the week.  
Every question coming at me, even from well-meaning friends, felt like pressure. Like I had an anvil on my chest.  
But what was it that was bugging me so much?  

I felt trapped. Like people were expecting things of me that I couldn’t give.  

It took seconds for my calendar to fill up.  

With other people’s expectations. With other people’s agendas.

Now, nobody forced me.  

But I kept pushing myself away in favor of other peoples plans.  
I was giving up my power and it was chipping away at me day by day.  

My body was giving me signals. It had been for some time. Now they were growing stronger.  
The crying. The shaking. Finally I got the message.  

If I was ever to become who I was meant to be, I needed to change things.

The only solution I could come up with was to change my circumstances.  
I signed up for a Hungarian language course in Budapest. (The choice of language is another story).
I started planning for it in June. I was still on the fence about doing it in early August
Three weeks later I was on a plane.

Now I was free.  
Or so I thought.  

You see, even the best of changes can have you grieving what you had to leave behind.  

It wasn’t anything I expected, but those first days were more filled with tissues and confusion than curiosity and joy.  
I cried. And cried. Had coffee. Then I cried some more.  
I now know intimately how it is to have your feelings on public display.  

I cried in the grocery shop.

On the tram.

In church.

At cafés.  
Part of it was homesickness. But I was also coming out of something much deeper.  

It was cathartic.  
I went from having a very tight schedule at home (including nights and weekends) to suddenly…


I was in shock. I started to miss everything I had been trying to escape. I felt very lost and very lonely.  
I was having a breakdown because I didn’t really know who I was anymore.

Without the work, without the projects, the routines, the places that were familiar and people who saw me in a certain way.  
Who would I be now, when I had the freedom to create it?
It did take a little effort but I did finally come to terms with the city (that I adore) and my part in it.  

A question has been following me around during this process: Can you really escape your circumstances?   
Did things magically change for me by leaving the things that drained me behind?
This is what I’ve learned.  
The issues I had back home – following somebody else’s plan – was an internal problem.  
It just took a few days in Budapest before I caught myself falling back into the same pattern.
But here’s the good part: I did catch it.  

Putting myself in a new story has given my body room to react to what’s going on around it.  
If there’s any pressure on me to be someone I’m not, I have a very strong physical reaction. I say no as a reflex.   

You see. My body is tired of me pushing it into confining circumstances that it wasn’t meant for.  

My destiny is tired of having me pushing it away.  
Here I don’t have that much of a choice.  
I’m forced to move my own life forward because I can’t rely on work and other people’s projects to distract me from my life.

Because that’s what was happening.

I had the POWER within to stop it. I could carve out space for MY dreams but I didn’t.

Funny how things work isn’t it?
Having change in your life does mean changing your circumstances to some degree.

And yes, it’s you who has to do the work.

It doesn’t have to mean moving to another country.  

But it might mean changing who you hang out with, taking on another job and saying no more often.  

If you decide to take the plunge, I will be cheering you on even if nobody else understands.  

And yes, if you come to Budapest make sure to say Hi!

Lina SandenLina Sandén is a singer, performer and songwriter. She has a love affair with coffee, an obsession for traveling in eastern Europe and admires  strong women like J.K Rowling, Mary Portas, Oprah Winfrey & Caitlin Moran.  
You can download her latest release for free – “The Living Room Session”. (Maybe you can guess where those songs where recorded? 😉

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