The Decision: An Afterword
The Decision was made a couple of weeks ago. For those who didn’t read my previous post, I was given a job offer in Shanghai that paid similarly to my current job but represented a position downgrade. I have wanted to move abroad for a very long time, and Shanghai has always occupied a soft spot in my heart. Though I gave the offer due consideration, I chose to remain in Canada. I’m still thinking about my decision. When I catch up with my fall friends who I haven’t seen in a while, I talk about it, even though it shouldn’t have bearing on my life anymore. Why should this untaken opportunity dominate my headspace for so long? Why does it merit not one, but two essays on my blog? The only answer is that I’m starting to regret my choice a little or remain at least a bit uncomfortable about its implications.
This past week, I had a friend who glibly told me that because I didn’t take it, I probably didn’t want it as much as I thought I did. I changed the topic, because she clearly didn’t understand me and my inner angst. In hindsight, that was what any rational person would think, and it would be blatantly unfair to blame her. Not everyone is expected to entertain my romantic delusions about moving abroad. But my immediate disdain, and near anger at her remark were telltale signs that I wasn’t quite through with my decision yet.
As I initially feared, the decision not to proceed with the opportunity in Shanghai stemmed not really from the uncertainty of the lockdown, the geopolitical risk, or the position downgrade. It came from a level of comfort with my current situation and employment. As discussed in an earlier essay, I not only like my job now, but find that it’s okay to do so. I also like my life right now, living in proximity to friends, family, and a city that I know well. Depending on where I’m standing, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s important to be happy with what I’m spending the majority of my waking hours doing, as well as with everything else. If I wasn’t happy, then the move would perhaps be an easy decision. But contentment and complacency are painted by the same brush.
Though I’m gainfully employed, I wish there was a little more gain and a little less employment, particularly as I look over to my friends in the tech industry. Mostly however, I wish my tidy little life in Toronto would be shaken up. I’m sure I want to spend the rest of my life here, but I don’t know if I want to start the rest of my life now. Though I’m happy now, am I forgoing future opportunities and memories because I’m too scared to lose the bird in my hand? Sometimes, it’s important to aim for the two in the bush. Am I really giving up that much by moving?
While I was making my decision, I had another friend who remarked that perhaps this would encourage me to look harder elsewhere for opportunities, for something better that would afford me the same international experience I so desired. I remember that last year around this time, I created an ultimatum for myself: if I couldn’t find a job abroad by the end of 2022, I would apply for an internal transfer to the Montreal office. That fell flat on its face after a promotion and a relationship; I had completely forgotten about this ultimatum until now. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider and give myself an extension until 2023. I’d be able to handily keep my current job, and stay near my friends and family, while experiencing a new city with a wholly different culture. I’m not committing to drastic actions just yet, but I’m toying with the idea.
After much reflection however, I’ve come to realize that my disappointment in my unwillingness to take the leap is a bit ludicrous; I’ve identified the reason not as a fear of the unknown and a reluctance to take risks, but a sense of fulfillment with my current position. My desire to move was in no small part driven by a dissatisfaction with my life at the time, and it’s undeniable that I’m happier now. Though the barrier to moving abroad is higher, the opportunity cost greater, that points equally to an improvement that should be celebrated as well as reviled. Though there remains much to be gained by a move abroad, my mental calculus has determined that I have more to gain by remaining precisely where I am, in a balance of probabilities.
Perhaps it’s still a fear of risk that’s holding me back. Perhaps I simply need an even better opportunity to dislodge me. Finding these opportunities will also prove challenging: this offer was so precious to me because I hadn’t been looking for any jobs abroad, and a headhunter had found me. To get something better, I’d actually have to put in work. Then whether I can find a better job or not is solely up to me. Do I want it badly enough to search, network, and recruit? Or will the inertia and satisfaction of my current position keep me squarely where I am?
In honesty, I might not end up searching hard for another job abroad, much less not being able to secure one. With the refusal of this opportunity, I am possibly rejecting all opportunities I have of moving abroad. Perhaps I’ll have to settle for an ultimatum for myself, and a short hop over to Montreal. Perhaps I’ll have to remain in Toronto for the rest of my life. Upon reflection, my denigration of my friends with high-flying careers who refused to consider opportunities in Europe or Asia is unfair and misplaced. At least they’ve lived in San Francisco or New York in their youth, while Toronto is all that I’ve known. I’ve since realized that there’s not much wrong with remaining in North America, or even Canada, and that there’s more to moving than a burning romanticism.
Let that be a lesson to my readers, old or young. Moving abroad is hard, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier with age. As you get older, you’ll find that the trappings of life slowly start encroaching your runway, assailing your sense of adventure, and suddenly, you’ve become a bird with clipped wings. If you want to experience the world, to expatriate or to get away from it all, there is no better time than now. Take that working holiday, that internship, that study program. Any mistakes you make will only be looked back upon in a haze of sweet reverie.