I'm noticing an interesting trend amongst friends my age. Despite being in our mid to late-thirties, between one-third and one-half of us left well-paying careers or were laid-off. We're taking classes, or have enrolled in university or a training school. In addition, we're (mostly) single women, with no kids, dramatically changing our lives at an age that traditionally sees people set within their career, relationship, or family.
Despite mortgages or rent, these friends of mine have decided to take time to search for work that has meaning for them, and/or re-educate themselves. Those that worked in television are now looking at social media, film, book editing, or international health careers. One friend who was a nurse is looking at moving into the world of esthetics. And a dental assistant I know is extremely interested in private investigation. The common thread: all of these women made very decent money but weren't into their jobs. Being happy is what counts more now. They take the risk of not having a lot of money while in school or starting a new career, but the urge to pursue their dreams is a bigger draw. Some of them have commented:
"I'm pursuing a new trajectory...more in line with my long-term objectives i.e. the ability to work anywhere; the ability to earn more income in the hopes of retiring early; the chance to pursue meaningful work."
"Why not have a wealth of knowledge in something that you are passionate about! Secret weapon for a happy and successful life."
In my case, three years ago I looked towards Europe and said to myself, "I want to try that." I gave up a a 5-figure salary as a video editor, sold 90% of my belongings including my car, and moved to Spain with a suitcase, a backpack, a cat, and not knowing anyone in the entire region. Cut to the present, where in a few weeks I'll be corraling little kids at an elementary school, trying to inject a bit of English into their lives. In Canada, my colleagues and I feverishly worked to piece together stories about war, the health system, politics, and crime. Here in Jaén, my 10-year old student laughed while I showed her how to boogie down to “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce. When I edited at the t.v. station, I never worried about cash. Now, I make less than 800E a month. In addition, contracts run from October to May, so during the summer money is scarce. Last week I was so low on funds, I couldn't attend a birthday because an emergency came up and I had to buy medz. My choices were: eat ramen for a week, or buy real food but stay home a few nights. Real food won.
Spain has won my heart, too. I'm happy living here because 1) the money stress is short-term and in the summer, I learn to survive and have fun on little cash. Plus, 2) I wasn't happy in Canada. I had lots of money but felt bored in my city, having lived there my whole life. I worked weekends, so I couldn't do a lot with my friends.
Here, people place a big priority on personal happiness. I used to be confused and frustrated when students didn't want to study during the summer for exams. Now I understand: who wants to work or study when the days are long and hot, and the only solution is a cold drink and the beach? Who wants to stay rooted in one city when there are so many summer festivals and interesting places to visit a few hours away? These days, the girl who worked almost every weekend in Canada for thirteen years does NOT teach English on weekends in Spain. I've found time to achieve a few goals, such as writing a short ebook and visiting places I'd only dreamt of while in Canada. Just by living in Spain, which is such a different country, I enjoy learning new things and being a student.