This week started badly. I spent the weekend trying to grapple with the numbers surrounding this venture – how much will it all cost, how much should we put into our contingency fund, how long will it take to sell the house and how many days notice should I give? It was all starting to sound like a complicated maths problem that I’d struggle to solve:
If Ellie has 5 months, 1 house to sell, 1000s of pounds to save and 0 clue of how to do any of this, will quitting her job and moving to Honduras be a viable decision?
I’ve never been much good at maths, and with impossible equations circling round my head my Monday cycle into work was proving to be the perfect hotbed for these problems to incubate and fester. Looking around, the miserable weather seemed to be mirroring my grey state of mind…
I arrived at work, soaked through and harried, and spent the day panicking about the risks and implications of my decision to start a new life and forge a new career. The moments of stress and doubt that have become a regular feature of the last few months have finally become overwhelming, and the titbits of uncertainty in my life at the moment have got together and bred a whole new monster of insecurity – should I even be doing this at all?
I was letting the nerves about the practicalities of leaving escalate into a full-blown panic about the risks of coming back and realising I’d made a stupid mistake, and once I let the floodgates down, I let in a torrent of unanswerable questions…
What if I get out there and hate it? What if we run out of money? What if I can’t support myself while I’m out there, or I can’t find a job when I get back? In essence, what if my future self will regret throwing in security and stability in the form of a steady job, a nice house, a great group of friends, for the unknown? Will all this be worth it?
These questions aren’t new – I’ve been mulling them over in various guises for months. But it’s dawning on me that this is the very root of the problem. I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking, but there hasn’t been much that I can actually do. I just don’t have any answers yet.
There’s an awful lot of uncertainty, and I’ve woken up today feeling stressed and out of control.
So this evening I’m taking the power back.
And something brilliant happened. The sun came out, the early afternoon pick-me-up soothed my addled brain, and I stumbled across nine magic words amidst all the chaos I’ve been feeling – How Quitting Your Job to Travel Enhances Your Career.
Reading this article was not only relieving, it was restorative. It reminded me of all the reasons why I’m doing this and fired me up to sort out my negative attitude and take charge of this decision again. Whilst there’s a huge amount that’s completely out of my hands, there are small, practical things I can do to put some of the ‘what the hell are you doing?’ demons to bed. After a bit of thinking time to myself (and another little gin) I’ve armed myself with a practical list of small but important mantras to live by when things feel bigger than I am…
1. Work hard
The label ‘career break’ conjures up images of bandana wearing drop outs smoking weed and working on the occasional conservation project (“I totally saved a turtle, man…”) to justify what is essentially an extended jolly. It doesn’t sit well with me – I’m a hard worker and I always have been. But I’m not leaving behind my job and lifestyle here in England to take a break. On the contrary, I’m fully expecting it to be hard work. Hauling heavy equipment, filling tanks, manning the shop and assisting on dives – 12 hour days, 6 days a week. Throw in trying to learn new languages and pass exams, as well as writing about the whole experience as and when it happens, and I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a holiday. But it’s the prospect of being challenged, of being tired in a good way, of feeling pride and satisfaction in what I do that gets me excited. This is what I’m prepared for.
There’s a Jessica Hische quote that I call upon when I feel like I’m not achieving much at the moment – it reminds me that even though day-to-day life can get slow, uninspiring or boring, I’m beavering away in the background right here on this blog. I’m still working hard, I’m still putting my all into something – it just happens to be procrastination at the moment…
2. Develop your skills
With all this hard work comes new skills learned. On a basic level, I’ll be improving my diving techniques and learning the new skills required to teach and practice diving professionally. But more than that I’ll be improving my communication skills, working with a wide range of people from all different backgrounds, learning new languages, learning to teach, exercising patience and demonstrating responsibility. It’s easy to forget that things that we find fun aren’t necessarily just a hobby.
3. Prepare for the ‘what next’
I don’t know yet when I’ll be coming back (wherever ‘back’ is) or settling back into a more conventional routine. Things might pan out differently altogether, and the memory of worrying about settling down again might seem comical. But for the if and when I do, there are small things I can do to make it easier on my future self. I can update my LinkedIn profile for example. I can keep doors open with contacts I’ve made over the last 5 years of work. I can use this blog as a space to both practice and showcase my writing if I need to, and I can update a rough CV as I go to make sure I keep a log of skills learned.
4. Remember that the present is just as important as the future.
It’s all well and good worrying about how my life will look in 1, 5, 10 years time, but if I’m not happy right here, right now, then something’s not right. The decision to up and leave is one that stemmed from feeling like my life wasn’t challenging me or making the most of what I’m good at. I was working hard and pushing myself to take on more and more, without really buying into the cause. It left me feeling undervalued, demotivated and I began to turn my back on the things that I’m good at, the things that make me happy. It’s normal to panic, but I should be proud that I’ve taken my happiness and my future into my own hands and made a conscious decision to make some changes. I’d never be able to forgive myself if I’d let the present slowly stretch out into an uninspiring future, all because I didn’t have the courage to try. Who knows what my future looks like, but if the adage that ‘you don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you don’t do’ is anything to go by, I’m sure I’ll muddle through somehow.
And with that, I feel like I’ve wrenched back a modicum of control. The abyss of uncertainty will always still be there, but I feel like I’m building a bridge over it, slat by rickety slat.