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When The Work Abroad Adventure Has Lost Its Spark

Cork City, Ireland

What happens when living abroad isn't rewarding anymore—and how do you know when to call it quits? 

Those who work abroad are often embarking on a journey seeking new opportunities and to redefine ourselves. Our goals are usually focused on three things: opportunities, discovery and happiness. However, we can sometimes end up in a routine or a job where we're stagnant, and that process of growth is lost. 

I stayed with my job in Ireland for two and a half years, even though I intended to stay for one. Most of that that time was fruitful, but towards the end it was painful because I was nowhere near the person I wanted to be. My growth was stunted and I saw opportunities pass me by so quickly without a fair trial.

Working abroad is glorious in its own way, but tough times still exist. From my experiences in constantly juggling my bad and good days, I’ve come to accept that bad days are a form of reality checks. It’s a silver lining in its own way; it keeps you grounded and conscious. However, a problem exists when the bad days outweigh the good. 

So how can you tell when it's time to pack it in?

Identify the problem

Like all issues, the first step is to find the root of it. Think really hard about it: Is it the work itself, the management, the office politics or maybe even just your social life that’s lacking in making your experience abroad worthwhile?

We can’t have it all, but we should be able to work through some of it. At the end of the day, it’s what we control and what effort we put into making things happen. So don’t give up quickly. Find a way around it, and if what’s broken is unfixable even if it’s been glued together many times, you’ll know that it’s time to let go.

What I did was to give myself a deadline to work things through. I fought for opportunities and I had my spirits broken many times before I realized that it was time to call it quits.

Do I feel like I’ve lost? Definitely. But I’ve also gained so much along the way. I learnt what it’s like to fight insufferably for what I deserved and what I believed in. Standing up for myself was the most important part of it all.

Gather a consensus

If you’re not certain that what you feel is accurate, it helps to talk to a few people to see if it checks out. When you work in a place long enough, you slowly start to understand the energy that navigates through the desks and the general movement of people. Talk to a few co-workers to see how you fare, or maybe even a trusted person in the management.

It's hard to admit "defeat" to your friends, family or partners, particularly if you don’t want to worry them unnecessarily, but they may be able to offer you a different perspective. 

It’s through talking about the issues at hand and the frequency of those chats, that you come to realize that you might not be alone after all. That’s how you evaluate your plight and take actions to the next few steps.

Confide in others

Talking to co-workers in the same plight might bring out an unwarranted, biased view so cross-check it by opening up to other people in your life. Broaden your thoughts and seek as many opinions as possible.

It's hard to admit "defeat" to your friends, family or partners, particularly if you don’t want to worry them unnecessarily, but they may be able to offer you a different perspective. You might be assured of your decision, or realize that it’s something you could work workaround with a few lifestyle changes.  

Pluck up courage

Once you realize that there’s no way forward that could provide you the growth you need, the only way is out—and that’s when the hard part sets in.

I had to make a tough call, but I didn’t do it alone. I had the support of everyone around me, who agreed I was doing the right thing by leaving, and that reiteration served as a comfort.

At the end of the day, it’s not about giving up what you have: the life that you’ve built; the time and effort that you’ve invested into the job or the friendships you’ve made. It’s about taking a step back, having a breather and putting yourself first. I took a month off to travel before coming back to Ireland. Once back at work, I realized I was still taking steps backwards.

Chances are, your job is easily replaceable, but your self-esteem and state of mind aren't. 

Right now, the future is uncertain and scary. At the same time, I believe that when one door closes, it’s time to lock it up and move on. I just have to seek my way into the right one now, and eventually accept that this is the right decision.

After all, isn’t that what growth is all about?

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Durrah Taqiah

Stemming from Singapore, Durrah is a feisty graduate who is a freelance content writer. Her move to the west for a UK degree, then a career, was inevitably fuelled by a zealous diet of writing, culture and cheap biscuits.

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