When I met my husband we were both working in the same company in Barcelona. After dating for about 2 weeks, he said he was thinking about going back to his hometown (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) to start his own business. I took that as an invitation, and we started planning our departure straight away.
Once in Las Palmas, I had access to about 15 months of unemployment benefits, as well as free education to re-train for a new career. I also had access to a rooftop terrace with views of the Atlantic, a home to furnish, a beach nearby, and a couple dozen novels that demanded my attention. In other words, the first 6 months passed quickly. Eventually, I took advantage of the employment-agency-sponsored course "How to be an Editor".
That's when hubby decided to apply for jobs again.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I was annoyed, confused, and annoyed. Hadn't I just settled in here? Started my course? Began to make some connections? WTF! Well, if we're going to move again anyway, I might as well go back to reading novels. And start researching Mexico, because that's where we were headed.
As I've learned through Type awareness, having a dominant Judging function means I tend to like to make decisions quickly. Whatever it is, tick it off the list, move on to the next thing. Making decisions gives me a sense of closure and certainty, which us Germans also tend to value highly. What this meant for my life in Las Palmas was that I effectively checked out and stopped making an effort about 5 months before we actually moved to Mexico.
Apparently, checking out before leaving is also a phenomenon among women in the workplace. As Sheryl Sandberg notes in her book, "Lean In - Women, Work, and the Will to Lead", many women are limiting their own career trajectory, sometimes years in advance. She describes the case of one colleague who started worrying about juggling a family and a career before she even had a boyfriend. She cites statistics and research that shows women are less likely to take a promotion or go for an opportunity if there's a family plan on the horizon.
On the one hand, women expect to have to bear the majority of child caring responsibility. Unfortunately, they're not mistaken; traditional gender roles still persist. It makes sense to want to plan and make space for having a family.
On the other, Sheryl argues, if you don't take that promotion today because in two or three years you want to have children - you'll come back after your maternity leave to a job you're not challenged by, and you'll probably be working for a guy who may even have less experience than you. She supports women to make the choice that makes sense to them, and urges us not to lean back and prematurely limit our options.
Leaning in and staying present in your career is
(...) the only way to ensure that when the day comes, there will be a real decision to make.
For expats, checking out is an easy attitude to take. "I won't be here that long anyway." or "Why bother, I don't have a work permit so what difference does it make whether I volunteer or not?" It makes a difference. Don't wait to hang up your pictures or paint the wall in the color you want, either, because believe me - you'll be that much happier when you've got something nice to look at. Even if you have to take it down again in a few months.
Looking back, I wish I had finished my Editing course. Today it's great practice for my Perceiving function to stay open to what's emerging around me, instead of deciding and closing options - and myself - off. Trading my sense of closure for a higher level of uncertainty is a challenge, but the rewards are worth it: I'm more present in my relationships, and more flexible to take projects that really challenge me. "I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it" has become one of my favorite phrases.
So - what's a decision that you have already taken today that won't really affect your life until further down the line?
What would it take to reopen and keep questioning that situation?