Moving abroad won't fix everything, but it gives you a new perspective
By Jasmine Brady
Jasmine moved to Canada to escape the monotony of grad scheme life, but her overseas experience was not what she'd expected.
I write this from my local branch of the Toronto Public Library. I’m wearing snow boots that come up to my knees and a winter coat that was approximately seven times the price of any item clothing I’ve ever bought back home in London. Outside, the fresh snow on the main road is already a muddy brown and the consistency of playdough. After five months of life here, I’m not quite used to the Canadian winter, but it’s all starting to become more manageable.
Like many of my friends, after university I drifted from my degree into a grad scheme that didn’t feel like completely the right fit for me, but sounded bearable and paid enough to allow me to move out. For me it was teaching. I got lucky because, more often than not, I enjoyed it. But after three years in the classroom, I started to feel a new kind of anxiety. I didn’t want to do the same job for my whole life but also didn’t know how to go about making a change. Somehow, at the age of 24, I felt like I’d signed my life away and was trapped in a job I’d only taken on in the first place because it was the first offer I had.
Moving across the world might be an overreaction to feeling anxious about how to make a career transition, but it seemed a good idea at the time.
I handed in my notice, organised a huge pub goodbye with my friends in London, and relocated to Toronto. Naively, I thought the move itself would fix all my uncertainties about my career and life choices. I was lucky enough to have some financial security from savings and by moving with a partner, and that gave me some freedom to try a different lifestyle for a while, but beyond that I didn’t have much of a plan. I signed up for a creative writing course and optimistically assumed I would get a job with a start-up or some kind of creative agency, despite having no relevant prior experience. I’d taken the leap and made the move, which was surely the difficult bit, and everything else would quickly fall into place.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. In my rush to escape the world I was used to, full of anxious twenty-somethings struggling to find their place in the city, I’d forgotten that Toronto would have its own recent graduates with the same worries, fighting the same fight and battling for the same jobs. I can’t count how many applications I sent out that went unanswered, and still haven’t found work that pays nearly as well as the teaching job I left behind in England.
But I realised something wonderful.
Although arguably I was worse off than I’d been in London, where I’d had a full-time job and a close circle of friends, I didn’t feel worried.
So much of my anxiety at home had been rooted in this horrible feeling of entrapment. I’d ended up very much in a “career” and with a life plan I wasn’t sure I’d ever signed up for. And now I’d found a way to completely escape this trap and there was nobody here to stop me! Nobody even minded that I had no clue what I was doing!
Of course, you don’t have to move across the world to reassure yourself that you can change life paths and career paths when you want to do so.
But the move to Toronto was, for me, the jolt of electricity I needed to get me up and off of the track I was on, and over onto a completely different one, headed for a very different destination.
As the months have passed, I’ve picked up bits and pieces of work and have liked some jobs more than others. After a year, I plan to move back home and will probably go back into teaching. I miss the children and taking some time out has reminded me of all the things I loved about the job. But this time, it feels like I’m doing it on my terms. Adulting is still scary and I’m not ready to sign up for a job for the rest of my life, but that’s okay. We impose these strange rules and structures on our own lives and it’s easy to forget that the only ones stopping us from making changes are ourselves. If we do decide to completely change everything, and make a career move or learn a new skill or run away to some far-off (very cold) place, then that’s our choice and it’s fine.
Moving abroad hasn’t fixed my problems and hasn’t made my general terror of the future disappear. Graduate life can be hard. But the reality is, we’re never as stuck as we feel. I was utterly privileged to have the option of moving abroad, but what I’ve actually taken from the experience is the knowledge that we are always capable of change and that horrible trapped feeling only exists inside our heads. And if you can’t move across the world or don’t want to, then I want to give to you that fact, as it was the most valuable piece of truth, reassurance and knowledge I took from my move.
To quote a friend who also made a big move recently: “we are capable of change, as long as we’re brave enough to forego monotony in favour of the complete unknown”.
Image by author.