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When dreams come with a cost

By Maia Marquez Published Feb 10, 2023 5:00 am

Before 2022 came to a close, I let my friend do a tarot card reading for me for fun. While I know all too well to take these things with a grain of salt, one of her questions hit harder than the rest: “What will you let go of in 2022 to make space for what you want to let in in 2023?”

As I sit in my new home 6,600+ miles away from the place I called home for most of my life, I think about how I let go of a job I loved to follow my almost lifelong dream of pursuing graduate studies abroad.

Throughout the early years of my career, I’d always find myself thinking about where I’d end up in the world, and I’d look forward to the day I’d pack up my bags and leave for where I was destined to be. While the thought of it all was so thrilling, I never felt truly ready to just do it.

After a year and a half of freelancing, I looked for more stability in my career.

After freelancing for about a year and a half over the pandemic, I sought more stability in my career. I was told there were several copywriting positions at an esteemed company I’d heard nothing but good things about. I sent in my application even though I knew it was a long shot given the company’s rigorous selection process.

Around the same time was the right time to send in applications for grad school as well. It was my big “If not now, then when?” moment, as I’d been putting off grad school and blaming the lockdown as the cause for my delay.

As restrictions worldwide were loosening up, I applied for school abroad as well, thinking, “Who’d be lucky enough to land offers for both?” Fortunately or unfortunately, I was. I was offered a place in the school while I was already starting out at this job I instantly knew I’d love.

I felt like I belong in this new job after five years of working, but I knew I made the right decision to accept the master's program abroad.

Spoiler alert: I had the best time working there. For the first time in my five years of working, I felt I was at a place that very much aligned with my values. I could feel the impact of my work and I knew what I was working towards was much more than just making money.

I felt supported by my teammates, and that I was really being set up for success—that my professional and personal growth were goals in themselves. All of this, and of course all the friends I made there, made it seem like a foolish decision to leave.

Sure, it could be said that this was all my doing—that I chose to do two very different things at once. But a part of me can’t help but feel timing had screwed me over. Despite the seemingly hard decision I had to make, the choice was a no-brainer, even though it pained me to know I had to resign from my job.

When I broke the news to my work mentor about getting accepted into a master’s program, our call turned bittersweet, and he left me with words I won’t ever forget: “There’s never a right time to do anything.”

I knew I made the right decision.

In this experience, I learned to look forward.

So here I am, less than three months after that call, halfway across the world, about to embark on a new chapter that’s always been my dream. While it sounds so much simpler now than it actually was, I felt I was giving up so much—maybe even too much—just to get here.

They say dreams come at a cost, but after five long and agonizing years spent tirelessly working, I wonder: did pursuing my dream really have to come in the way of a job that finally made me happy?

I shared my uneasiness about my decision to leave with a colleague-turned-friend, and she pointed out, “It’s not growth if it doesn’t hurt a little.” Then, I realized my job wasn’t the only thing I would be parting with—friendships, as well.

In a conversation with friends about long-distance relationships quite some time ago, I was firm when I said it’s always easier on the one who leaves. It was only when I was put in this spot that I realized being the one leaving has its own hardships, too.

And you never realize how hard it actually is, until you’re living in these moments: the one where you try to fit your life into carry-ons and suitcases, hoping they don’t go over the weight limit; the ones where your friends try to keep their cool as they send you off, and you try your best to keep the mood light—despite the aching feeling of not knowing when you’d come home to them again; or the one where you force yourself to smile for what would be your last family photo for a while, even though you’re everything else but happy.

It took me long enough to learn to live in the moment, but it’s in times like these that I willed myself to look forward instead.

As I let myself be thrown into the unknown, I’m comforted knowing that maybe after years of waiting and working, of jobs that took a lot from me only to give me so much more, of meeting faces and finding spaces that feel like home, I have all I need to grow, to thrive, and to finally live out my dream.

In a way, maybe timing just did its thing to ensure I was ready—to not make me question “if not now, then when?” anymore. Maybe the timing of this is telling me I’m right where I need to be.

Not knowing what exactly the future holds is scary, but it’s also about time I take a leap of faith and find out what awaits me. No one could’ve put it better than Taylor Swift when she sang, “Everything you lose is a step you take.”