New Year is a time of resolutions for many of us. It’s the time of the year when gyms become full, lettuce hits record sales and DuoLingo app crashes because suddenly everyone and their mama feels the need to learn a new language.
It’s also the time when we think of “big” changes, related to our career and long-term goals. And I know how hard it can be for those of us who are stuck in boring jobs, annoying day routines and who feel that their life did not go at all the way they planned it, but have no idea how to change things.
It’s much more common than you may think; actually, few of us make career choices early and pursue their goals consequently all of their life. Not many people decide they want to be a vet after they watch their first episode of Doc Mc Stuffins and then keep up with their resolution 20 years afterwards.
There are many more of us who decide to be princesses or rock stars and soon afterwards realize that Disney gave us not only unrealistic expectations about our hair, but also about life in general. Actually, most of us are on the “I don’t know what to do with my hair, how should I know what I should do with my life” team.
Guess how I know all that? Me, who seems to have it alltogether with a good job, volunteering projects and happy family life?
Because a few years ago it was me. I felt identified with the song from “Friends”, although my hair will never be even close to Rachel’s hair;”it hasn’t been my day, my week, my month and even my year” in ages.
I got pregnant with my youngest and made redundant from my job in a hotel; I was an etertainer and you can’t really do zumba and dance and mini discos with a huge baby bump, right?
Not that I was enthusiastic about my job, but with economic crisis in Spain you picked anything that was available.
I sat at home with my huge bumb and a hyperactive toddler, thinking of my career goals before kids (translating/teaching English/ a corporate job that involved languges) and how little they had to do with my jobs last year (shop keeper/hotel entertainer/teaching private classes at 8 euros per hour in a remote village; when I paid for the bus to get there, I had just enough left to get a coffee and a sandwich).
I couldn’t believe how come with all my ambitions and international work experience my life was reduced to that; low-paid jobs, boredom, loneliness.
My husband was working low-paid summer jobs, he left the house at 6am and got back at 9pm, so we didn’t have quality time as a couple, either. However, we knew that in winter he would struggle to get any job, so we had to make the most of the summer.
I had little money, little energy to take care of my toddler and no friends around to talk about the whole thing. Yes, you read it right; yes, me, the leader of a playgroup for expat mums, the one who’s always out with friends, colleagues from work, friends from university, friends I met volunteering….had no expat friends when I was actually an expat. I had no idea that expat groups existed and how to approach people. Moreover, I had always worked very long hours (10 am to 12 pm with two ridiculous breaks) in a hotel, so it left me very little time for socializing.
My social life was reduced to e-mailing and Facebooking my old friends from home and friends I had met travelling. I finally had time to write e-mails. Very long e-mails. I didn’t want to share my problems, though; I used to post many pictures from our beautiful coastal town. Pictures of my son on the beach. I didn’t want to look unhappy or frustrated next to my friends who had all brilliant careers, who were travelling and lived happy lives.
Or maybe their happy lives also mainly existed on Facebook?
Once I wrote an e-mail to a friend, who was struggling to get his first job after graduating from a prestigious law school. I mentioned that I wanted to get a good job, too, altough it was really hard in Spain. I wrote down in my e-mail a few ideas I had relating my career change. I didn’t want to sound negative; I wished him all the best for his job quest, I wrote a few funny anecdotes about my son and life in our town.
When I read his e-mail, I had to hold back my tears…
“(….) Thanks for all your wishes and for everything you have told me. It’s funny because just when I read your e-mail….I got a phone call to sign my job contract! Finally!
I must tell you something; never stop believing in yourself and in your dreams. Right, you’re blonde, but you’re not silly at all! Since the first time I met you, I knew that you’re smart and all the time we spent together made me realize that you’re an amazing person. Not only you’re intelligent and hard-working, but you also have amazing interpersonal skills. You are bright, funny, you’re a good friend, and you can find the bright side even in the hardest times. I all loved spending time with you and laughing together. Your guts, your open-minded personality and your optimism will make you thrive whenever you go! I have learned a lot from your strength and I believe you can achieve anything you want to, even if things in Spain are not easy right now…”
I closed my eyes for a moment and thought of his words.
On how I had always been corageous, applying for jobs abroad and making new friends whenever I went.
On how I stayed positive and enjoyed myself even when I struggled with money.
And I thought; if my personal qualities helped me so much when I was studying or working abroad, why not now, in my “real” adult life?
If once I was open-minded and I wasn’t afraid of challenges, why did it change just because things got harder?
I was worth it. I was worth living the life I wanted.
That e-mail was a kick in the butt I needed.
I took a piece of paper and wrote down a list of resolutions.
I decided to work on French and Italian, my weakest languages back then.
I went to a neighbourhood pool and chatted away to some neighbours. Even though not everyone was keen on socializing with “guiris”, at the end of the summer my son finally had a few playmates and I had a few mums to talk with.
I kept reviewing local job sites, both in Spanish and expat sites in English. I read lots of career advice sites and rewrote my CV.
4 months after my son was born, I got my first proper office job in Spain at a British company. I was speaking French and Italian on a daily basis. I went on business trips. I gained back all the confidence I had lost.
Things didn’t turn out well in Spain, my company closed down and 2 years later we moved to Poland. However, I didn’t let life take away my optimism and self-esteem again.
I got a good job right after we arrived in Poland and a year later, I got my dream job as an executive assistant and translator. I started blogging and I developed my own volunteering project, aimed at teaching children about world cultures.
5 years back in Spain, my friend didn’t tell me WHAT to do.
He told me that I was worth it. He helped me to see my personal qualities that helped me to thrive.
Sometimes it’s just about one e-mail, one conversation, a few words that help you to get back your faith and self-esteem.
If you are stuck in a situation that doesn’t make you happy, surround yourself with positive people. People, who can help you to see that you’re worth it. Who motivate you to set your goals.
It’s normal that you may feel lost, that you don’t know what you want to do. Try out different things. Learn about opportunities. Read job sites. Work on different skills.
Maybe you won’t find your dream job around the corner, but you’ll make the first step.
May 2017 be the year of “first steps” for all those of you who want to make changes.
Happy New Year.