Most people usually take the path with the least amount of resistance, but not me fortunately or unfortunately. I like to live on the edge as they say *giggles*
I’m just kidding … but seriously I would love to always take the easy way and the most comfortable way, but I have come to learn that comfort and progress don’t live in harmony. Hence, I decided to take that leap of faith and move to one of the toughest cities in the world New York City (NYC). I was 28 at the time, had never been to the United States of America (USA) let alone NYC.
I started asking myself, self … are you equipped to make this move or take this giant leap of faith? Why not start with Johannesburg? I mean that’s what most sensible people do, right? Yes.
I started listing reasons why I wasn’t equipped to move to the USA let alone NYC *wheezes for air*
You have never been to America, all you know about America are movies, music and 9/11. And all you know about NYC is Sex and the City and 9/11.
What if they don’t like me?
What if I can’t do the work; I don’t know American consumers so how will I be able to do my job?
You grew up in a third world township called Khayelitsha let alone a third world country called South Africa, what do you know about first world things?
You have no support structure; all your family and friends are in South Africa and what will you do without your mom?
Your boyfriend is in South Africa – how’s that going to work?
How does the Dollar work?
I have my own car here, place here and earn good money. Oh, and I am on an upward trajectory in my career. Why would I leave all that?
What if I’m kidnapped at the airport and subjected to sex/drug trafficking?
OMG, it’s a no from me.
After listing all the reasons to say no to this opportunity (or challenge?) I began wondering what the benefits would be if I were to move to America. So I started listing the pros;
You’ve always wondered how people lived overseas, now you have an opportunity to see and learn first hand.
I am comfortable in South Africa, however, if I want to grow personally and professionally what better way to do that than to move to a different country? Do a 360 revolution, not a semi-revolution. Learn people’s cultures, food and how they conduct business.
You have an opportunity to meet new people and have completely new experiences, experiences you never even dreamt of.
You can always go home if you don’t like it – nothing is permanent except death
Worst case scenario if it doesn’t work out, you got a free trip to NYC.
But seriously, it was the best decision ever! I have met the most awesome people and I’ve had incredible experiences in the last four years; I don’t think I would have had all these experiences had I not taken the leap of faith.
Of course, it didn’t come without challenges or frustrations *yho!*
There were numerous times I thought about going home, the first time I thought about moving back home was the first day I landed in NYC. *ha ha ha*
I remember the plane landing at J.F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) and I was both excited and nervous at the possibilities of this new journey I had decided to embark on.
I had a driver waiting, a service provided by my company Diageo – the driver who was holding a sign with my name had completely butchered my name. The sign read Noampokamiso Hude instead of Nompakamiso Hude and I thought … oh, here we go! They won’t know how to say my name here.
Anyway, driving to my new home from the airport I was looking out the window and in awe of the homes, the buildings, roads signs, the yellow cabs … I mean it was exactly like the movies!
Then I arrived at my new home only to find out that my name wasn’t on the booking/check-in list. Mind you it’s a Sunday afternoon and obviously, no one is working at Diageo on a Sunday afternoon, therefore, I had no one to call or come to my rescue and for that matter, I had no Wi-Fi or US sim card so my phone wasn’t even working. So I just sat in the lobby with my three enormous suitcases (I was, after all, carrying 28yrs of my life), on the verge of a tearful breakdown and wondering why the hell I was there! Strike 1.
Time moved along and before I knew it, it had been a month living in NYC. I was on a high really, I was seeing and doing new things every single day. Work was full of learnings and my team was the best team ever! We were all foreigners living in NYC coming from around the world, my team members came from Spain, Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, etc all with a wealth of knowledge and I was a sponge. Weekends I explored NYC, walking around for hours or learning the subway system and also meeting up with people.
Two months in, I met this group of friends who suggested we go to Jamaica for a long weekend. I agreed, because it was the year of YES of course, since I am in a new country, I was saying yes to everything! *Ha Ha*
Anyway, we went to Jamaica and we had the time of our lives – I mean it was YOLO every day! I had even gotten a t-shirt that was written YOLO! So in my first two months of living in NYC, I had travelled to Jamaica – yup I did that and got the t-shirt.
The high was short lived because as I was driving to the Airport in Jamaica heading back to NYC I received a text from a neighbour saying “I am sorry to be the one telling you this but your NYC apartment building has burnt down” as you can imagine I was very confused and lost for words.
I got back to NYC with one carry on bag full of bikinis right in the middle of Nov in New York where temperatures were -3 degrees Celsius! I had lost everything. My clothes, my brand-new furniture, my documents, gifts from my friends & family from back home, sentimental items that reminded me of home when I felt lonely which are your life support when you are living away from home, I had lost everything. Not to mention the expense of setting up the place in the first place. (I’ll fill you in later on the costs of finding & renting an apartment in NYC, it’s exorbitant) This was a sign that I wasn’t meant to be here… Strike 2!
Through all that, I continued to stay in NYC because I reminded myself why I wanted to come here in the first place – I remembered the five reasons and I decided this wasn’t the end of the world, it was a setback, a major setback.
I cried and cried, allowing myself to feel the pain and frustration. After that, I woke up and went to work and dealt with this disastrous setback. Everyone was shocked I even came to work, but that was the only thing that kept me going.
After a few months, and me moving to my new apartment and started settling in … again; I had a new way of thinking. I realized all the expensive material stuff I bought when I moved to the US all went up in flames and the only thing I had after the fire were the memories I had built in this great, beautiful and complicated city as well as Jamaica. I then made a decision to invest in more experiences rather than items that could perish… difficult and a great personal lesson for me.
Since moving to New York, I had to get used to a few things. Not having the support of family or friends is tough and you have to find ways to beat the loneliness and keep yourself entertained. There are work pressures too – one is required to perform at one’s highest level because the pace is so fast and you working with the best around the world. I think my purpose here is to learn the soft skills that I can take back to my country. Skills such as believing in oneself, having self-confidence in the office or boardroom. I mean, Americans are the most confident human beings on the planet! Whether it’s warranted or not doesn’t really matter *giggle* but I love it!
Anyway, the moral of my story is that Comfort and Progress, don’t live together in harmony. If you want to make progress, then you need to put yourself in an uncomfortable and challenging space. This doesn’t mean you won’t fear, but you choose to continue despite the fear. If a girl who grew up in Khayelitsha can do it, so can you!
The problem is that we think we have time! Take that leap of faith and remember nothing is permanent, you can always change your mind!
Writer: Nompakamiso Hude