For the past year I’ve been in limbo. Limbo between jobs, between countries, between pay cheques and houses. In every way possible way, things have been uncertain.
I haven’t really felt in control of much/anything, not even of what I eat or when I sleep.
To you at home it might look like my life is crazy — a complete and utter mess. A “stay clear of her”, kind of thing.
Or it might look like an epic adventure, void of responsibilities and the humdrum of the day-to-day.
I think it’s been a mixture of both.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have stayed with extraordinarily kind and generous people, literally across the world. I met my husband (say whatttttttt!) in what seems like a scene from a Rom-Com.
It really has been a year full of surprises. But, it has also been filled with considerable stress and anxiety.
I’ve been constantly questioning if I’m making good decisions or even the right decisions. (Because good decisions exist, right?)
And I’ve been worrying if I am going to regret my spontaneous choices.
I’ve also been wondering if people are judging me and my decisions. Does anybody think I’m insane or immature for “gallivanting”?
I’ve been battling with myself about whether I actually am being really irresponsible or not.
Thoughts that I need to “settle down” and “get a real job” have plagued me more times than I can count. When I listen to this and say it to myself, I feel like a failure.
Let me go back, and give you a bit more context …
Last year I moved to China to teach English. It was a huge decision and a big risk.
I had leads for two different steady professional jobs. Things that would keep me in England and help me craft a career.
But instead I decided to go and see more of the world before doing all those things. I decided I’d do the teaching option for a year, then I’d reevaluate.
In my mind then living abroad was a temporary decision. And it was, kind of.
I did the year and it was bloody difficult because I was lonely. I experienced a massive culture shock and was honestly quite depressed most of the time.
I would go to class, try and put on a brave face and get the students interested, then I’d go home and hide away.
At lunch I’d usually sit by myself because I was so drained from teaching such HUGE classes, that I had no energy left to engage with anyone else.
Sometimes even when my foreign friends invited me to hang out I’d say no; preferring to be alone and safe in my little bubble, where I didn’t have to deal with anything I didn’t know.
All of this you wouldn’t have known because I only posted the fun stuff then; the Instagram worthy things.
But despite this day-to-day feeling, the whole experience wasn’t bad.
Even though it was probably the most difficult year yet, I did have wonderful travel experiences and I made some real soul friends, (when I actually pushed myself to say yes to things!).
I was definitely elated though when my contract was over. I was sooo ready to leave the disorganized school and go adventure with my love in New York.
I packed and headed to the States. Although still abroad, the big plan was to finally “get a real job” in my dream field of writing. I was more than willing to work as many jobs as necessary to make this happen money-wise.
But I got stuck.
Why? Because of visas. I couldn’t get my dream job in my dream city because I didn’t have any “outstanding skills” which would entice an employer to fork out thousands of dollars for my visa. Yep, thousands.
Not only couldn’t I get my dream job, (I was being a tad naive there really, thinking I could just rock up and bag a whopping position) but … I couldn’t even get ANY job.
Being a receptionist, an assistant, a cleaner, a waitress, everything was off the table because I didn’t have a valid visa.
It was a huge stress on me financially and emotionally. I was burning through money. As dreamy as NYC is (and as savvy as I am at bargain hunting) it’s true just how difficult it is to live cheaply there.
It was hard on my relationship too. Because Jeff was working incredibly long hours, at a gym he didn’t click with professionally, for a little wage we were BOTH living off.
I felt like a burden for not being able to contribute financially. And this did weird things in my head. It made me feel unworthy and useless, I felt like I didn’t have a purpose.
Jeff would go to work and I’d just stay in the room we were subletting, applying for jobs and being rejected automatically.
After a few weeks of feeling guilty and worried we weren’t making wise decisions, we decided to move to San Francisco.
Being Jeff’s hometown, he had a ton of clients ready to start training with him as soon as he got back.
So it was a good move, because A) California weather is wayyyyyyyy better and B) money was now a little less of an issue.
We ended up living with Jeff’s friend, Tom, and his husband in San Francisco.
It was meant to be temporary, for only a month or so, until we had saved enough money to move into our own place. (I had started an online business by this point!)
Butttttttt after staying with them for almost 5 months, our plans changed again.
In our haste to get out of Tom and Gordon’s hair, (we felt bad for having stayed there for SO long) we were about to sign a lease for the cheapest place we had found.
But really, we couldn’t actually afford it, well … barely.
It was for one bedroom in a three bedroomed house. We’d join three other people, (sharing only one bathroom, eeeeeek) and living far out of the city -— the commute would have been a nightmare for Jeff.
All this and they were still asking for $1550 in rent, so … ￡1241, a month!
Just as we were about to sign the lease we realized we were letting the desire to feel like we were moving forward and no longer treading water, cloud our reality.
If we signed we’d only have had around $300 a month for everything else. After bills and rent, that just wasn’t enough.
Pretty shortly after the US election, (ahem … the same day actually) we decided to not sign the contract. Instead we decided to leave the US.
Sooooo, that’s how we ended up back in China …
It’s all of this to-ing and fro-ing that kept me questioning if I was making good decisions.
It seemed like I was all over the place. In China one minute, San Francisco the next, and not really building anything.
Even though I’d started an online business, I still didn’t have a career.
I didn’t feel like I was making the same kinds of progress as my friends in England. And on top of that, I didn’t even know what career I really wanted.
I was comparing myself and my choices to people at home … a lot. It’s really easy, especially with careers, to have that fear of missing out feeling.
It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap and wonder if you’re making bad decisions when you see what other people are doing and achieving.
Even if you’re super confident in where you’re at and what you’re doing, it’s still too easy to get bogged down in comparisons.
I mean, some of my friends have moved to London and are writing for really established companies. They were doing things I wanted to do.
But what I’ve realized, is that there are trade-offs no matter which option you choose.
If I went back home and worked super hard at writing and applied to similar positions, maybe I’d get to move to London too.
BUT I’d also be in England, in a culture I know. I’d probably have a lot of financial stress and a ton of work commitments, and I’d probably still not know what I wanted to do.
Whereas if I stay teaching abroad, while missing loved ones (a hugeee trade-off), I can continue traveling and experiencing new languages and cultures. While also being able to figure out in my own time, (and without financial pressure), what it actually is I want to pursue.
To me, right now, this option has more preferable trade-offs.
But it’s still way too easy to be envious of other people’s choices, even when you’ve knowingly made a decision to do something one particular way.
Because you only really see the other person’s highlights, their Insta worthy updates. You don’t necessarily get to see the day-to-day sacrifices their decisions come with.
So when I find myself comparing my “on the road, trying to figure out things” lifestyle to my friends’ who have steady jobs and are building homes, families and careers, I have to remind myself that we both have trade-offs.
Both choices are good. One isn’t any better than the other.
And really there isn’t one right way. Or even a right decision.
There are lots of options you can choose and you don’t have to stick with the same one either.