Moving Abroad I: The art of juggling too much

You’d think moving abroad would be easier the third time round.

Well, I say that. If I’m completely honest, none of my previous moves held the significance this one does. For the first time ever, the decision, as well as the responsibility, preparation and outcome, are entirely my own.

Come to think of it, although it may have seemed like there was a lot to deal with at each given time, in retrospect, it wasn’t that much.

For what was meant to be a life-changing experience, I struggle to recall the finer details of that first move: a bit of crying, a new house and a language that sounded like something from The Muppets. I could suddenly walk everywhere instead of waiting for a lift. My family was around a lot more.

I also spent a lot of time in my bedroom alone, trying to imagine life and friends in the continent I’d left behind. I sometimes even looked out the window and imagined I could see them.

Although confusing, I ended up going along with it. I never truly resented my parents – the thought never crossed my mind. However strange life had become, I let myself be led through the transition without truly considering why we’d done so or the responsibility it involved. It was just what had happened, and we had to accept it.

I claim more responsibility for the decision behind my family’s second move. Bullied at school (back then there was no term, Buzzfeed article or GIF that could encapsulate it), the alienation from my fellow classmates got so bad that I went from being constantly on edge to not wanting to leave my bed. It reached its peak when, aged thirteen, I came crying home and, in between tears, said that I wanted to move to the United Kingdom (UK). In my mind, it was a country full of people like myself: a brilliant light at the end of a hellish Spanish tunnel.

Of course, nothing is ever that straightforward. Call it pride or stubbornness, but I was unwilling to admit that my dramatic decision had been a passing fancy. By the time I was 16, my confidence had grown and the bullying stopped, but that statement had still triggered future moving plans. There were a few discussions with my parents, who considered that my brother’s and my education and career prospects would improve tenfold if we moved to the UK (and, begrudgingly so before, gratefully now, I admit that they were right). I found myself weighing certain aspects I definitely wouldn’t have considered eight years ago: am I willing to leave a place I’ve just started to enjoy and settled down in?

Does the possibility of improved career options outweigh the uncertainty of what life could be like until that moment came?

With age, responsibility increases. Even if you’re still living at home or barely paying any bills, people become aware that decisions aren’t made for them anymore. If you decide to open a business with friends, or move away with your partner, the decision will be entirely your own. You might try and justify that external factors lead you to taking that path, but that final decision will always be yours and yours alone.

sideroutes-extended

So here I am now, fully aware that the decision to move to the Netherlands is entirely my own. Some people said that I had to be organised. Others said I shouldn’t get my hopes up. Most people said that I should still try to live a well-balanced life: attend to my current job and duties whilst still making the necessary arrangements. Oh, but that I should also make time to enjoy myself and not get overly stressed.

One taxi-driver said I should just settle down and have a kid. His opinion was discarded immediately.

I started wondering why I was taking so many people’s opinions into account. All the worries, fears and advice they’d had shared had already gone through my head a million times. I was more than aware that deciding to move abroad would change my career, relationships and lifestyle, but trying to make arrangements based on everyone else’s opinions and advice would only drive me mad.

In an ideal world, if someone asked why I’ve decided to move there, I’d regale them with well thought-out facts about Amsterdam’s stable economy, bustling media sector and affordable rent (well, more affordable than London, which isn’t saying much).

If they asked about preparations, I’d say that I have it all planned out: applying for jobs three months in advance to give plenty of notice at my current job, studying the language in question to enhance my CV, practicing writing in my spare time whilst still working five days a week. I would even say that I’ve allocated time for holidays, where I will relax and smell the roses before going back to looking at umlauts and property prices in Amstelveen.

That would be a carefree world, where all my plans succeed and Netflix is complimentary in every hotel room. The real world, however, goes a little more like this:

I am a twenty something girl who wants to move abroad. Most of the well-crafted plans I make may fall apart or change without notice. While I want to continue working in the same field, my career will probably suffer a setback until I improve my language skills. My UK job will become more of a chore, as I’ll need to divide my time between attending to my current responsibilities and writing applications.

Paperwork will delay nearly everything. Even if I find a place to live that is the right price and size, it will most likely be located 45 minutes away from anything deemed central. My friendships will become a mixture of UK Skype calls and meeting other foreigners who have just moved to Amsterdam, all just as (if not more) clueless as myself. Juggling all of the above will probably lead to temporary madness (or, at best, a loss of feeling in my left knee).

It may be a mistake. People could easily dismiss the idea due to any one of those complications: limited job prospects, a new language or even the poor Skype call quality. Everyone differs when it comes to considering what will make them happy, leading each one to offer contrasting advice and reactions when confronted with change. What you regard as an ideal life situation may be someone else’s personal nightmare.

As for moving abroad, I’ve already made up my mind: this is my mistake to make, and I’m going to do it anyway.

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