I have put my comfortable life on hold. I have put my well-paying and interesting job on hold, left my cosmopolitan Australian city with its vibrant arts and education culture and left my friends, family and husband. I have swapped soy lattes for beaches, stressful deadlines for community change, my new car for a free rickety old bike. The pace is slower, warmer and friendlier. I hear roosters in the morning, and wave to little kids with gleeful abandon. The shops are emptier, the markets bountiful and the roads have way more potholes.
I am currently writing from a Pacific Island, where a tempting offer to work in gender and development for an international organisation for a year has taken me. At thirty, this was a different proposition than the last time I endeavored out, as a fresh graduate at 24. Receiving the offer, was one of those “oh #*$% what have I done?!” and this was a refrain I often repeated as I was gently encouraged along the path to making the decision to uproot myself.
Last year, I did three things that enabled me to step into the void more easily. The first was an exercise in developing value oriented goals with my Diploma of Leadership. What this exercise illuminated for me, was the underlying drivers for me in everything I did were giving back and empowering women to live happy, secure and empowered lives. The second, was doing three sessions with a career counselor, who pushed me to think outside of the box, to define my dream roles and pathways more clearly, and to seek and take up opportunities as they arose. The third, was streamlining my budget and putting effort in paying down debt and saving for the future. This looked like big and small changes. I now practice values based budgeting. I contribute to causes I believe in, invest in me and my husbands’ future and reduce needless consumption. Despite loving clothes, I’m switching to minimising shopping and reducing the size of my wardrobe over time. Where possible I’ve swapped to re-usable alternatives for consumables that are kinder to the environment and also improve the budget over the long term. For me, all three of these steps, was acting according to what I could see in the big picture and developing a stronger sense of the future.
I am a lover of Gretchen Rubin and Elisabeth Craft’s (their podcast is a shared one in my mind) Happier Podcast. I listened to episode 27 where they discussed about how to make decisions. The suggestion was to choose whichever alternative would give you the bigger life. In an article in Forbes, Gretchen further discussed this idea noting:
“People make different decisions about what the “bigger life” would be, but when I ask myself that question, it always helps me see the right answer, for myself.
This list might help answer questions such as:
- Should I join Facebook?
- Should I buy a tent?
- Should I throw a Labor Day party?
- Should I buy a new kitchen table?
- Should I sign up for Spanish lessons?
There’s no right answer or wrong answer — only the right answer for me.”
In so many ways, choosing this path has meant more doors will open, more experiences found and knowledge developed in my chosen field. Though it has come at some sacrifice, such as a significant pay cut and a year without my husband, I am positive about the prospects of this choice for my future, as a way to enrich my personal and professional life. It is also aligned with my values driven goals to give back and women’s empowerment. Having my budget and goals clearly connected and articulated, created an enabling environment to approach this decision.