Earlier today I was thinking about where I was in the beginning of 2012, the thoughts that were running through my mind, and where I am now, at the end of 2014, and I started reflecting on all of the events (both little and not so little) that have happened over the short two and a half year timeframe. And the thing is, if I look at it like a backwards domino effect, I realized that it all started with one decision. One big decision. The question at hand was, ‘do I resign from my tech job in San Francisco and go on an adventure that I had been craving (and kind of “wing” things for a bit)?’, or ‘do I stay because it’s safe, secure, comfortable and lucrative?’
Decisions can be really hard, especially the big ones. Ultimately, I think we all naturally want to choose the “best” option with our future in mind, which is why making big life-changing decisions can be so difficult. Should we be an artist because we love art, or a lawyer for the financial stability? Was it smart to quit my job and start my adventure, or should I have stayed to play it safe? We can list out all the pros and cons of each choice, looking at the potential consequences vs. upside involved… one choice may not be necessarily “better” than the other – I think it just comes down to how we want to define ourselves and what we want our story to be. And quite honestly, there’s nothing wrong with either choice. Some would choose to stay with the secure job because maybe a stable income and material possessions are very important, whereas others would prefer to have the experiences, memories and perhaps just the knowledge that they tried and have no regrets looking back. The quote below is very real for me. Where do we feel we should be, and where do we actually want to be? What do we want for ourselves, versus what does society tend to make us believe? Just after university I started working for a tech start-up in San Francisco that soon became part of Cisco Systems, Inc., a huge multinational organization. It was a great company and I was part of a team that I really got along well with, not to mention it was pretty lucrative … I was close to my family and friends in the Bay Area, had a cute apartment in San Francisco and had just bought my dream car at the time (a sporty little 3-series BMW). But I had always imagined myself living abroad in Europe one day (a desire I had after returning from a semester abroad during university). It was like I knew it had to happen (and I am quite a determined person). I was getting antsy. Bored. After almost five and a half years with Cisco I was starting to dread the routine. I wanted more adventure. Sure, I was traveling around the world and taking my allotted annual holidays, but I knew I didn’t want to look back at my life in, say, 5-10 years and regret not having taken the chance. I knew that I wouldn’t be happy if I settled and played it ‘safe’ out of fear of taking risks. Our VP of Sales used to say in all of our team meetings, that if the day comes where you wake up in the morning and you dread what you’re doing, or dread going to work, it’s time for a change. Earlier that year I had attempted to relocate to London through Cisco (the plan was pulled three weeks before my potential move due to the Finance department’s decision to not take on any new headcount during the latter part of the economic crisis) – and when that fell through I knew in my heart it was time for a real change. The big leap of faith. And suddenly, I had complete peace about it. I had been waiting for the right timing, and wanted to reach my personal savings goal in order to be able to responsibly make the move (which I did), and I remember the moment so distinctly: It was February of 2012 and I was in my little San Francisco flat getting ready for work when I heard the lyrics:
“Come away with me, it’s never too late… I have a plan for you, it’s gonna be wild, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be full of me.”
It was like God had spoken to my heart that a big adventure was about to start, but I had no idea what it was going to look like, only that I had made the decision to do it: not because of what anyone said I should or shouldn’t do, but because it was how I wanted my life to be defined, and my story to be written. This quote. It’s my story. It all started with the decision to resign and the purchase of a one way ticket (and later lead to falling in love). I had also already told myself over and over that before getting into a new job, I would give myself six months to travel and research potential opportunities. So, I got a work visa for Australia and headed there first. I spent two months visiting friends, traveling up the coast, and considering various opportunities, however I decided that it wasn’t time to settle down, so I continued on with my adventures, visiting friends in the Bahamas, and other parts of the states. My research process lead me to look at volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations in South East Asia, specifically working with at-risk women and children, but the doors didn’t open. I continued to look at high-tech opportunities in London, but the UK had recently removed the highly skilled work visa due to high local unemployment rates, and so getting a work visa sponsorship and interviewing against all EU and UK candidates was not promising. Then in June someone suggested the idea of getting my MBA. Initially I felt… Not thrilled. I had always told myself that I would never go back to school again (weren’t we always warned to ‘never say never’ as a kid?!) but I decided to consider it on two accounts: (1) only if I found a good program in Europe and (2) if I found something that I could really be interested in. So, since it has always been my character to run with ideas, I immediately began researching MBA schools and programs in Europe, and to my surprise, I found a Fashion Business MBA program in Paris, France – applications were due five days from then. (Side note, I studied International Business & Global Marketing in university, but was always interested in fashion). Naturally, I wrote up a letter, sent an application, happened to have my university transcripts in a pile of documents at home, scheduled a Skype interview across the world and the following week I departed for Europe. NO, no … not for the program, not yet. I had already booked my six-week Europe trip prior to finding the MBA program and so I was on my way to visit friends in Greece, France, Switzerland and London. I had told myself that IF I got accepted, I would just go for it. Chances were probably slim, but if the door opened, I was going to walk through that open door and just wing it from there – because I believe that everything happens for a reason. While in London I received my letter of acceptance into the MBA program in Paris and part of me was surprised (because I actually thought there would be a pretty slim chance due to the late application and spots filling up, but wanted to at least be able to say that I had tried) – but the other half of me was super excited. It was now the end of July and…
“I WAS GOING TO BE MOVING TO PARIS IN TWO MONTHS.”
I wanted to shout if from the rooftops.
“I’m moving to Paris, I’m moving to Paris!!”
Now it was just a matter of sorting out the student visa, a ton of other paperwork, and paying for the program in advance… but it all had to wait, because the following week I was flying to Thailand (a ticket that was non-refundable) and meeting my sister there for the last “hurrah” of my six months of traveling.
We arrived in Bangkok on August 2nd, 2012 and couldn’t have been more excited for our girly time and sister bonding. The plan was to spend three weeks there, head back to San Francisco to take care of paperwork, consulate and visa visits, pack up my life, sell my car, empty out my apartment, and then move to Paris the following month, single, unattached, ready to be a ‘student’ again and take on the unknown adventure. And that decision was one that has changed the course of my life. I knew in my heart it was something I had to do. The whole future was unknown, but not taking the chance would have been something I would have regretted – and I couldn’t accept that.
Stay tuned for Life Abroad: Embracing New Chapters (Part 2).