‘Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did’. H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Stepping out into the unknown and doing something new can be daunting. Whether it’s moving to a new place, starting a business or applying for a job, fears will always be present. It’s easy to focus on what may go wrong, deliberate too much and then not go through with it at all. However, studies actually show that the biggest regrets that many people have when they get to the end of their lives are not the things that they did do, but the things they didn’t. Many people regret the words they didn’t say, the chances they didn’t take and the dreams they didn’t chase.
I was recently faced with a situation that taught me how important it is in life to not let fear hold us back from stepping out and going for things.
I study Russian and German at university and in the third year, students go abroad for around a year to practice the languages they study. We can go to two countries to practice both languages or just pick one and spend a year there. I wanted to go to both Russia and Germany but I was slightly hesitant to go to Russia. Of course, it’s an interesting country with a rich history and culture but at the same time, it sometimes gets quite a bad rep in the media. I had often heard terms such as ‘racist’, ‘xenophobic’, ‘politically-corrupt’, ‘anti-West’ to describe Russia and these words created a negative picture in my head. I had seen documentary films about this and had even read some articles online advising people of colour against going to Russia. I spoke to one of my teachers about this and she said I probably will experience some racial abuse but nothing extreme. She advised me against going to St Petersburg as it could be slightly more dangerous there as opposed to a more multicultural city like Kazan. However, St Petersburg is a city with amazing sights and out of all the cities in Russia, this was a city I wanted to visit. I knew it could be slightly dangerous and uncomfortable at times but I didn’t see why I should let these fears hold me back from seeing a city I wanted to see. Instead of focussing too much on the things that could go wrong, I decided to be bold and go for it. I planned to spend 3 months in St Petersburg Russia.
In Russia I stayed with a hostess in a small flat in the centre of St Petersburg. From the minute I arrived I felt very welcomed and my fears for the next 3 months quickly vanished. My hostess was warm and kind, always put effort into the meals she made for me and genuinely cared about me. Another student from my course was living in the same flat and we quickly realised that we were both Christians and interested in the same church in St Petersburg. I quickly settled into this church, got used to studying, was able to volunteer in the Hermitage museum and enjoyed exploring the amazing sights in St Petersburg. I didn’t feel unsafe or scared when walking down the streets and I didn’t have any significant problems. Some people were simply intrigued to meet a foreign person and maybe wanted to talk to me or take pictures, but they were super polite. I was also able to develop friendships with some Russian people such as my pen-pals and students at church. I found that once Russians get to know you, they really show their love and affection for you- more so than we do in the UK. They give really warm hugs and you can tell that they are doing it out of sincerity, not just politeness. I loved having the opportunity to live amongst Russian people and therefore get to know them in a way I couldn’t simply by studying the language at university.
If I had listened to my fears and decided against going to Russia, I wouldn’t have made the memories I made and met the people I met and therefore would have missed out on a lot! I’m not saying that every time we do something daunting it will go perfectly but life is too short to let fear hold you back from doing something you genuinely want to do. If you’re a Christian pray about the decisions that you make too – this definitely helped me to have courage to go to Russia. I knew God would be with me wherever I went.
What are you deliberating doing? What is holding you back? Maybe you should take a leap of faith and go for it. Even if you go for it and it doesn’t end well, you can still learn from your experience and your future self will probably not regret having tried.