Open mind: Choices, challenges and change

Have you ever wanted your life to change? To take a different path? 

Sometimes we encounter barriers or challenges that seem insurmountable so we just keep things the same, retreating back to what we know instead of what we want, never taking action to change the things that are in our power to change. Wishing not doing.

Once you identify that you want change in your life, you must recognize the challenges you may face in implementing the change, and make the choices necessary.  It sounds easy, but life change is never easy. 

My story reflects some of these struggles and identifies the rewards that can happen when we take ownership to make change in our lives.

In January 2022, while still completing my Master’s degree, my New Year’s resolution was to get my Canadian visa. I needed a change. Any time I showed any hesitation, my mom would remind me that she and my father didn’t raise me just to stay home. So I left.

“What would possess you to do that?”

Some version of this phrase has been directed my way more times than I can count since I touched down in Toronto at Pearson airport. 

One of around 30,000 people to leave their homes in Ireland in 2022, I packed up in September, saying goodbye to the most important people in my life, and telling my dog to behave himself. I didn’t know what I should expect. Should I be excited about leaving home to go somewhere new? Should I be terrified at the seeming impossibility of making friends in your 20s? Should I just hope for the best?

Personal strength does not need to be something grand and intense. Personal strength can be as seemingly small as speaking up in a work meeting, or something that keeps you on the path you need to be on. I never considered myself brave or adventurous in any form, balking at the idea of taking any big risks. I believed that personal strength wasn’t in the cards for me. I have been reminded in my time here, however, that making a decision, despite how correct it felt, took significant strength.

Often, the path we put ourselves on seems so natural that it doesn’t even cross our minds that it’s brave or strong. However, making that choice to enact change takes a personal strength that is so ingrained in all of us we don’t even realize we have tapped into it. 

Oftentimes, our day-to-day feels repetitive and stifling. We want change to happen, for something extraordinary to happen that will upend our daily lives. It is so easy to be content waiting for things to happen, that we forget that we can take initiative. Many times, I felt as though I was in a rut at home. I loved my home, I just was struggling with the sameness of everything. When faced with this repetitiveness, I longed for change. My strength came from whether or not I could tolerate the uncomfortable part of this change.

Since I arrived and came to terms with the fact that this is a long-term move, I have experienced so much. In my head I was out, and I didn’t have anything to really look back on. When you live somewhere for that long, you miss out on the parts that deserve to be romanticized. Sometimes it is important to take that step back and see where you’ve come from.

When you seek change, the struggle is not necessarily the change itself, but coping with new challenges. The highs can be very high, and that personal strength stems from how you manage when the lows get very low. 

Fear of discomfort may stop anyone from enacting change. Discomfort is temporary, like a shift in the seasons. After every winter of change, there may be a summer of opportunity.

* * *

Sarah Duggan, a recent immigrant to Canada, graduated from the University of Limerick with a Master’s degree in psychology.

The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit or call 1-844-HERE247.

Sarah Duggan