If you had you told me, one year ago, that I was going to quit my promising career and move to Spain this year – I would have laughed.
Yet here I am doing exactly that. Or planning to anyways. I’m still teetering at the edge of my decision – feeling a stimulating mix of excitement, anxiety, hopefulness and disbelief. All at the same time.
I’m no newcomer to moving. I have lived in seven countries already and moved within them countless times too. This time it feels different though.
This time it feels like an adventure with no certain outcome. It’s the first time I am taking full responsibility for every single one of my actions… and I’m finding that can be quite petrifying!
Whenever I moved in the past, it was because of something specific. Sometimes it was a family choice, other times a job opportunity came knocking. Frequently I chose to work or study elsewhere to further my career.
This time is different though. This time the move is not being driver by external factors. It’s not a decision dictated by others. It’s also not a decision I’m taking to increase any material gains.
No, this time the move is very much motivated by internal forces. An impulse and desire for change, I can not quite explain.
How it started
Four years ago I started a leadership development program at the company I currently work for. It was a fantastic opportunity and I was really looking forward to it.
It was also the first time I was committing to anything other than study for the long term. I couldn’t wait to see where my career would take me.
When I accepted that job I remember telling myself at one point:
Claudia – when you’ve finished with these 4.5 years and you’ve achieved your goals. When you’ve gone as high as you can go, by giving the best you have to give. At that point, you’re going to reward yourself. You’re going to reward yourself… with a break.
3 months of volunteering and focusing on something other than just work. That’s what I had in mind.
I’ve always been a fan of a winning effort/output ratio. That seemed like a fitting reward for 4.5 years of focused performance management. Would you agree?
Reality at play
Fast forward just over 4 years and I did what I set out to do. I went as high as I could go and gave the best I had to give of myself. The reality of how I was getting to my desired break wasn’t quite as I had pictured though.
You see… when I first planned my break it was with the intention of taking a sabbatical. I imagined zooming off somewhere exotic and then coming back to my wonderfully stimulating and challenging workplace.
I imagined feeling refreshed and renewed after my break. Brimming with ideas to keep me going for the next x number of years before repeating the exercise. I never even considered quitting to be part of the plan.
After a pretty tough final year on the program, things changed though.
The Work Breakup
In this final year on the program I was rotated out of a job I loved into a position I could barely tolerate. Not because the job was bad, but because of larger organisational changes, which rendered my position pretty much redundant.
My work was no longer value added and the team was downsized and separated. Support was no longer available and my position was not needed for the time being.
My working hours dropped from 45+ to 10 hours, and so not being a person to sit idly, I requested to be moved to a new role. The request was declined.
Following that request, I asked if a sabbatical or unpaid time off was a viable option until the reorganisation was finished. Apparently it was not.
I did manage to find myself a side project to keep myself busy, but I couldn’t help thinking:
Meaning in my day job – goodbye.
The Relationship Breakup
Shortly after moving into my new role, I experienced unexpected shifts in my personal life too.
My favourite person and the man I was deeply in love with. The man I was looking forward to getting to know more and more as the days passed. The man who made me smile every day. Yes that wonderful man. Well… he broke up with me.
It came as a blow. I wasn’t expecting it. In one single moment the reality hit:
Building the relationship of my dreams with the man I love – goodbye!
The Mental Breakdown
After my relationship breakdown I felt broken.
I cried every day for three months straight. Every week for months thereafter. I could not eat, I could not sleep and I lost 10% of my body weight as I went through the process of mourning.
I swam miles and miles in the hopes of escaping my negative thoughts. Trying to escape the reality of what had happened.
I went to see a therapist and joined online support groups. I gathered my friends and family around me for help. It all helped a little, but it was not enough.
After six months of turmoil, my body weakened and my mind went into a depression. It was the first major depression I battled in 15 years.
It’s at that point that I realised: My relationship breakdown was not the only thing causing me pain. My work, my life and the future I was working towards. It simply no longer fit me.
I was not happy in my job and definitely not happy being single. I was no longer enjoying the city I was living in and I saw no future there. My mind and body were also hurting – a lot.
I recognised at this point that reality looked different now. My priority needed to be getting my life back on track.
I may have wanted a break when the thought first crossed my mind all those years ago, but now… now reality was showing me that it was no longer a matter of want.
Now it was a matter of needing a break – a break to heal myself.
Since my company did not approve of me moving to a new role and would not support time off, I had two (initially unappealing) choices:
- Deny my need for a break – Continue working in a job I simply tolerated, indefinitely or until I could find something better.
- Accept my need for a break – Stop working for a while via whatever means possible. This would mean going on extended sick leave or leaving the company
Considering my position and good standing in the company, I did not wish to jeopardise this by going on extended sick leave. Since the reorganisation was going to take some time, I also felt it would not help staying any longer than I already had.
I needed to correct the path that was not serving me. Leaving my company, though not an ideal or preferred outcome, had the potential to help me do that.
Making a decision
Making the final decision to leave my company, was by far one of the hardest and scariest decisions I have taken in my life so far.
When I first joined my company, I sincerely thought I was going to stay with them for 20+ years. It was why I had chosen the company in the first place. For its size, opportunities and (I thought) flexibility to support different life stages and changes.
I went through many iterations of back and forward action. Trying to make it work with the company, rallying support for different ideas. Then I would question over and over whether I was doing the right thing.
My mind was bargaining with me and then secretly hoping some other option would present itself. It was quietly hoping for an ‘ideal situation’ to present itself. Something to prevent me from having to take a big plunge.
That didn’t happen though.
In the end, at the most basic level, life is always about making choices. It’s about making choices and then rolling with the consequences.
Nobody said it would be easy, but I’m pretty sure it also wouldn’t be half as enriching if that were not the case. We learn a lot by making choices – whether we like them or not.
Interestingly, the final choice came to me as I stood in a cold church. I had just scarfed down a cheeky bacon poutine before entering and was watching my friend and colleague singing in the choir. She was singing with such passion and at the top of her voice. It was beautiful to watch.
My thoughts still wrapped in what I would do with work, a sudden calm came over me. I finally knew what to do. I knew that the right thing to do was to leave.
Leave the company and leave the country. Whatever would happen would turn out ok. I suddenly had complete faith in that decision.
Taking a Chance
As for where I would go and what I would do next. It seems life has been setting me up for those decisions for some time already.
My ex-boyfriend is from Mexico, you see, and though I originally started learning Spanish so I could communicate with his parents, I’ve learned to really love the language itself. It’s super useful for meeting some amazing people!
I’ve been looking for roles in Mexico and Spain since the beginning of the year too, so I’ve become very comfortable with the idea that a Spanish speaking country is next.
I don’t know exactly what’s in store for me next, but the one thing that’s now certain is that I will be taking a break. I will be taking a break, learning a new language (fluently) and then re-building an extraordinary and personally inspiring life.
Something tells me there are far worse places than Spain to make a start on that journey. And with that said:
Viva España – Here I come! 😉
Do you know how many people on this planet speak Spanish?
Answer: Over 577 million. It’s an official language in 21 countries!