About a month ago my husband and I moved to China. (Because people just decide things like that … and buy flights the same day).
We’re going to be foreign English teachers at this new training school which focuses on the Arts. And I’m so excited to start teaching again!
So fast forward (rewind?) to 2 weeks ago.
Our jobs were ready and our working visas in progress. The last hurdle was to find an apartment.
It’s worth mentioning that while we were house searching, we still weren’t entirely sure where our school would be.
Yep, you heard right. Our school was negotiating on a location, and we didn’t know where we’d actually be working.
So, two weeks ago …
We were sitting in a little coffee shop close to our hotel. I was simultaneously browsing apartments, messaging housing agents and talking with our school to see if they finally knew where we’d be.
The agent I was meant to meet with in two hours messaged me. He said he needed to show me the apartment now. Because two other people were also interested in it, and he wanted us to have first dibs.
Seconds later, our school replied. They said they still didn’t know the final location. Plus, they still didn’t know when they would know.
Then the agent messaged again to say he was waiting for me. And I had ten minutes to get to the apartment.
All of this happened within like 3 minutes.
3 minutes is plenty of time to freak out.
I’m sure the ethereal Pinterest woman would have an easy-breezy strategy to deal with all these factors, and with minimal stress.
But me, my approach was more like this:
As much as I would like to pretend I took it all in my stride, I actually had a minor (major?) meltdown right there and then.
I just fell apart. People were messaging me left, right and centre and no one was giving me any news I wanted.
I sat with my head in my hands stress sobbing. I could hear my pulse quickening as I tried to sift through the brain fog and figure out what to do. I felt trapped when all I wanted to do was fix it.
I was angry and frustrated with the school. I felt like it was taking them forever! And I was stressing too, because I really loved the look of this apartment and now I knew there was competition!
Being able to live in this wonderful apartment, in a happening area, and within walking distance to one of the school’s potential locations, became my measuring stick.
And visiting the apartment, (I made it in 10 minutes. Go me!) only solidified in my mind that this was the “perfect” outcome. It was the best option. It was the only option.
It was also unattainable because we couldn’t sign the dotted line. Rentals like that can’t sit around and wait for you. They get snapped up quick.
So I ended up letting my dream plan get in the way of actually getting stuff done. Because I compared all of our options against this “perfect” yet unattainable option.
Well, because I enjoy house hunting, so I started the process early. Which although sounds sensible, it actually isn’t. It only created more stress.
Because we weren’t in a position to make a decision. Remember, that time I said the school was negotiating to move locations?
Well, in my “everything-needs-to-be-perfect-brain”, the solution to getting us settled into a home quickly was to find the perfect home in both locations.
Then, as soon as we knew where the school would be, we could sign the lease for that perfect apartment. Makes sense, right?
No? You hear alarm bells ringing? You don’t? Oh… it’s just me then? Well, now this is awkward.
I realized there was a tiny problem with my tactic. I can’t control what everybody else will do. Duhhhhh.
The agent needs to make money, the landlord is eager to rent, and there are plenty of other people who think that apartment is their dream home too, (it had under floor heating, soooo dreamy).
So, we’d look at apartments, get attached to them, only to have to tell the agent we can’t make a final decision yet.
We’d ask our rehearsed line “can you wait a few more days for our answer?” and of course we’d always get the same, saddening reply.
I was setting myself up for disappointment over and over again. Not only did I feel disappointed though, I also kept putting myself into a stressful time-sensitive whirlwind.
Each time I’d find an apartment I felt an urgency to sign the dotted line. But I knew I couldn’t. Which only lead to more stress and anxiety. It was like a bad feedback loop.
My want to find the perfect home and get settled ASAP actually made my situation more stressful.
I was trying to control things I had no power over, which just made me frustrated at there being no changes.
The truth is though, as much as I’d like to think there’s a “perfect home”, or rather a “perfect scenario”, there isn’t. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.
If we caved and just signed for somewhere close to the current location, and then the school moved, we would have to commute. Not perfect. The traffic here is mental!
If the school stayed put and we got to live in our favourite area, maybe our new neighbours are tap-dancing pimps.
That’s not perfect either.
We can never know how things will turn out. So I decided to stop house-hunting and take my husband’s advice: “to not let perfect, get in the way of good enough.”
Here’s what I did to get out of my stress-funk:
Take a step-back
I removed myself from the pressurized time-sensitive environment I had put myself in. I accepted we couldn’t make any decisions about apartments at that time.
Remembered my priorities
Our main reason for moving to China was to learn Chinese, travel, and save money for our future. Having the “perfect” home, while being nice, wasn’t a priority. And I remembered, there were still plenty of places we could make our own haven.
Taking some time to do something completely unrelated to destress is valuable. Because it means when we come back to the stress’y situation later, we’ll be much more rational. (This time I went and got some really good Chinese food with friends).
So there you have it. The obvious message is that we all need to be reminded that sometimes things don’t go the way we want, think, or plan. But that’s okay.
It’s not a reflection on us. It’s the realization that we can’t control everything. But we can always make the best of things with the right perspective.