Why the hell are you going, then?

It is three weeks til I leave my job now (I was avoiding counting down but a colleague pointed it out to me – queue sinking feeling).

Today was an emotional day for me. All of a sudden everyone is asking me about my future move, and I just want to hide away and cry. I don’t want to talk about it.

People keep asking me all the time, are you excited? How do you feel about leaving?

And they always act shocked when I answer,

No I am not excited right now, because I am sad.

It is very painful for me to be leaving people and places I have been in for a long time. Is that really such a strange thing?

I am truly feeling abnormal right now. Everyone I talk to is so puzzled. Shocked even, by my response.

But why are you doing this if you are sad? Oh so you don’t actually want to go? Is your boyfriend forcing you to go? If you have so many reservations, why are you going?

The thing is, to me it is puzzling that people need to ask these questions.

I knew last year when we decided to actually do this move, that it would be damn hard and painful and sad. That is just the way it is when you leave people and places you love. It hurts and hurts and hurts some more. It can cause depression and stress and anxiety. But because it is something we want to do, we are going for it, and we know that if we keep trying to survive the sadness and the missing people and the fear and the depression, then we will be ok and happy to have done it.

I estimated it would take me about a year to get over the sadness and the unsettledness and the missing people stuff. So speak to me again this time next year.

What I am saying is that I knew exactly how this would be for me from the start. I knew how sad I would feel to leave my friends and co-workers, my family and even my town. And I was prepared to try and cope with all the emotional yuckiness. Just ride it out. What more can I do?

And because of this, it is impossible for me to feel sad about leaving, and excited at the same time. Those emotions do not co-exist easily in my body. I know I am doing this move because it is something I want to try, but right now it just hurts.  I am not excited at all, because all I want to do is say, nooooooooo this was a mistake, I love you guys, I will never be so lucky at a workplace ever again, I don’t think you realise how much I actually love you, I’ll staaaaaaaaaay.

Also I have reservations about moving back to South Africa. Reservations, you say? Yes. I have always had reservations. I am not dumb. I know what things are like there and also I know that things have changed vastly since I left and I may find those changes difficult to adapt to.

I had these reservations when I decided to do this, years ago. To not have reservations is to be misinformed.

My main reservation is how the BFG and I will survive financially. I have good reasons for these reservations. Both his and my parents left South Africa because they could not survive financially in South Africa.

By that I mean, survive in a middle class South Africa dominated by white people. I don’t mean survive on or below the breadline without drinking water or food or the bare needs of survival, which is how many South Africans live. I do not even dream of comparing my family’s situation to people who are truly living in poverty.

But yes, the BFG’s parents left him and his sister while he was still at school because of money and work problems. My parents left while I was at varsity. I can never ever claim that my family was poor, would never dare to claim such a thing in the wake of Apartheid and the fact of my white skin, but my family really struggled to live like other white people at the time, let’s put it that way.  And the scary thing is, things have gotten much much harder since then.  The cost of living has risen vastly and salary rises have not matched that rise.

So yes, I do have reservations about the BFG and I “making” it in a country where we will have to pay for healthcare and schooling and everything – everything comes at a great cost. Neither of our families have set a good precedent for survival in a country where money really talks, where it says everything.

But I want so badly to try. To try and fail or try and succeed. Who knows? We have saved up some money. If after a year or so we cannot find work or are struggling and destitute, well we will come up with another plan. But we want to try.

We have reservations, I have doubts  about my own ability to be savvy and sharp and figure out ways to earn money (uh, okay with my self-esteem in the gutter, I am convinced I will be homeless and on the streets after a month, but am trying to ignore the dark voices in my head). I don’t have great role models in that regard. But I want to live in SA for reasons other than money.

I have a good job here that pays well. The BFG and I never have to worry for money as things are now. He is (was) set up with a job for life. We certainly don’t need to leave.

But there is more to life than financial security, and I want to give it a try!

Yes, that makes me scared and I will struggle for some time with the transition, but I truly want to try.

This is all so obvious, right? RIGHT?

I guess not. When I spoke to the last two people at my work who left, they were both super excited to start their new lives. Will you miss this place (and us, I wanted to say, but I did not)?

No, no, they don’t want to waste energy on looking back, they want to move forward.

OK, yes, I am abnormal. I am getting tired of people’s shocked responses to my answers. But I am too far gone to say anything other than the truth. I thought everyone would feel this way.

Haha.  Still very slowly learning that my way of viewing life is seen as a bit odd.  Am mostly cool with that.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. helen
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 20:44:23

    *ahem* yes I am alive. Just not blogging.

    I don’t really know how you feel, I considered leaving south africa for ages, it was always the master-plan until I realised that doing post-doc after post-doc would mean me packing up and moving countries every 2-3 years and I am not prepared to do that. At the same time, I am sad that I have chosen to live the adventure of building a life for myself here. I have friends who have done the moving around thing and love it, and a part of me will always wonder.

    I guess it’s all about trying to live a life with no regrets, no bitterness about ‘what if’ and resenting where you are for where you can be. I say go for it, move back here, even if just to know that you tried, whether it goes well or badly.

    Sometimes the costs of doing something means regretting giving up the alternative – the other possible decision. And I think life is about choosing the regrets that won’t eat us away.

    Doesn’t mean it isn’t hard though.

    I am lucky in that I’ve seen someone do what I could have done. And I’ve seen what she’s gained and what she’s lost. And I know she wouldn’t have it any other way, but I know that what she’s gained wouldn’t mean enough to me to offset the losses, because what is important to everyone is slightly different.

    Sorry, rambling. Hope it makes sense…


  2. poseamonkey
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 20:51:40

    Helen, of course you make sense! You are a wise lady indeed. I think we have to make a choice and then stick to it, at least give that choice a fair go. Or end up living limbo all the time.

    I miss your blog! I have a feeling that by not using Twitter I am not in touch with most bloggers any more. I hate Twitter though. Are you doing a post-doc right now?

    People here are convinced I don’t actually want to leave at all. Crazy people, I don’t see how I am confusing?! Ok maybe I do. But some people seem to really oversimplify life and emotions, in my opinion. Life is hard and feelings are complicated, yesno?


    • helen
      Jun 07, 2012 @ 21:08:25

      I miss my blog too, I don’t know, just handed in the thesis and lost all interest in the internet.

      And no, no post-doc. I felt that as a 27-year-old teenager (ie studentstudentstudent) imy biggest regret was watching the people I car ed about building lives and being grown up. Plus I have a good thing going, the family, the friends, the P1 were all too much to give up for research I didn’t love anymore. So when a friend got me an interview I grabbed the opportunity and am now working a Real Job. I am loving having money to save and budgets to make and medical aid of my own (not so much).

      I think being sad to leave is a good thing, it means you have a home there, you’re not running home tail between legs etc. Just because we have sunshine and awesomeness doesn’t mean the uk is a bad place, far from it.

      I guess we all somehow believe that by choosing to do something hard and accepting that it won’t be easy is the hard part. Then when it’s difficult we’re all wtf? about it.

      I know I do that.


  3. poseamonkey
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 21:12:22

    Congrats on the real job! And the medical aid! Am so impressed. This is my great worry, finding a job and affording medical aid. You are living my dream :)


  4. poseamonkey
    Jun 07, 2012 @ 21:21:56

    Are you sure you want to meet someone so nuts?? Hahaha no seriously I want to come to Joburg. The BFG may actually end up in Joburg quite a lot for work so maybe I can tag along.
    Joburg is another country to me. Do I need special vaccinations or something?



  5. tiah
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 06:43:02

    Four years ago I was feeling the same. First six months were blood hard after we got here, too. But so glad I did it. Wishing you the best.


  6. poseamonkey
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 08:01:29

    Thank you Tiah, I really appreciate your comment as I know you have done all this more than once. And you have done it with kids too. Only 6 months?!You are tough, I think. I need to give myself longer than that, I know myself well and I always get the urge to run away from everything in the first year or so of something new. It really takes that long!


  7. Roz
    Jun 13, 2012 @ 17:53:53

    I want to move back to South Africa too! In my case it’s much more difficult since my husband is American and not very adventurous, so it’s hard to convince him (he would definitely put moving to SA in the “being adventurous” category!)

    But I can share the two very different experiences of my brothers moving back to SA from the UK. The elder of the two had been in the UK for 10 years when he left, and was married to an English girl. He had been in touch with recruitment agencies for several years already and when they approached him with a decent job offer in Durban (he didn’t want to move to Jhb), he took the chance. His wife was able to stop working to look after the kids and now they have a house in Ballito, and are very happy. My younger brother, however, moved back in my with parents, struggled to find work and eventually settled for a job selling insurance (he has an MA in English). Not surprisingly, he was depressed and moved back to the UK after 6 months.

    Anyway, I worked in SA for many years so I can tell you that getting a job there can be a lot about knowing people. However, I have got job offers just from e-mailing my CV to places where I thought I’d like to work. Don’t sell yourself short or think you have nothing to offer or you don’t have the right profile; this is the mistake my youngest brother made. You could also think about studying further to get your Masters degree; that would open a lot of doors for you in terms of jobs.

    Also, I grew up in the Durban area like you and I can tell you that Jo’burg is an awesome place to live, in my opinion anyway! Why? The weather, the openness of the people, and so much that happens in SA happens there…

    Sorry for the long essay! I really do hope that things work out for you in SA and I look forward to reading about it–hope you keep blogging from there!


  8. poseamonkey
    Jun 13, 2012 @ 20:03:27

    Roz, thank you, your comment is awesome! I feel upbeat just reading it.

    I have strongly believed that knowing people and having the guts to approach people will make all the difference when finding a job in SA.

    It’s all about confidence, I think, and I don’t have any, possibly like your brother. I feel like I will need to contact my old professors who I last saw 9 years ago and because I haven’t communicated with them since then it feels awkward and self-serving. Also I have thought about just sending my CV to some companies I would like to work for, but some of them don’t have a CV-addition option, so it would mean just bluntly sending my CV out, and that feels bold… basically I am trying to force myself to grow some balls and do some things that scare me a lot. But I do think it could help me!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, have you gotten your husband to go on holiday to SA with you at least?


  9. Roz
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 14:36:25

    He has been, yes, twice. Unfortunately because of family obligations we have mostly been staying in the boring Durban suburbs; he’s also seen a bit of Jo’burg and we’ve been to Hluhluwe. He liked it but can’t see a compelling reason to move thereI have a feeling he may like CT and be okay with moving there. And since our last visit he now says “ja” instead of yes!

    I HATE doing things like you described above! But I’m sure professors like hearing from old students and also companies are always on the look out for good people to hire …


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