Since leaving home to study in France and China – and probably in the weeks preceding that – I underwent a tremendous shift in my circumstances. The Brexit (that woefully cringeworthy portmanteau of “British” and “exit”) Referendum happened, and with the fallout suddenly raised a huge question mark over my future. The Pound has bombed, and is expected to continue falling, taking a colossal dump on what was once a comfortable nest egg of savings that should have been sufficient to cover my fees and living costs while studying. My right to work within the EU and wider EEA may suddenly vapourise in the next few years, not only affecting my long term career prospects but also calling into question my shorter term ability to secure a job after graduation (dues the current uncertainty mean am I now damaged goods in terms of employability should I decide I want to settle in continental Europe?). What’s more the UK (particularly most things south of the Scottish border) is no longer an attractive place for me to live or work whatsoever. I have given up on trying to make sense of this mess…
I really don’t know how things will work out over the next year or so, but it’s important to remember that personal and professional upheaval can come in many forms. Regardless of how much shit has hit the fan in your life, and who may or may not be responsible, and how much you may protest from your soap box, your life is probably going to remain a foul-smelling mess unless you – yes, YOU – do something about it. Look on the bright side – you get to redecorate in whichever way you want.
The gaping chasm that may have opened up is always daunting, especially when you feel like you have no control over the situation. It’s easy to stagnate where you are and continue hating life, or to take a blind leap of faith but find yourself getting overwhelmed and swept away by the current. A psychologist friend once explained this to me as having an external locus of control – letting outside factors such as other people or unplanned events dictate your current situation. For many people this can be a very dissatisfying and unhappy place. The opposite and ultimately more empowering mindset is the internal locus of control: this is when you decide that you are going to take responsibility for your current reality, and focus on the things that you can change instead. Even that small shift in focus can make all the difference.
Focusing on what you can change, requires you to be every deliberate in your actions. Think of it as building a bridge across a large river – engineers don’t just throw up a bridge in any old fashion; a lot of thought goes into the process. You need to start by forming a vision of where you want to go., and from there begin to ask whether it’s feasible. Probably at that point a (possibly not so) little voice in your head may tell you very quickly that it’s not possibly, to just give up already. It’s the part of your mind that encourages you to play it safe; that if you never try you will never fail. Don’t listen to it. Whatever your goal or vision for the future might be, do your research, find if it really is possible and what you can do to achieve it.
Of course, vision is great, but you’re not going to get very far with out a solid foundation. What are your core values? These ultimately drive you to make effective, satisfying decisions – if you are aware of them. If you have no clue what yours really are or ignore them completely, things get messy and you’ll drift away from your true self. Anchor yourself and your nascent vision to these values.
Building on top of your values, identify points of stability – people you can rely on as well as your own strengths. Build and build some more, piece by piece. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There is no quick fix for whatever upheaval comes along – it’s like stitching a hole in fabric; it’s something you have to concentrate on and be very deliberate in performing each individual action. With time you slowly begin to bridge the gap, and as you continue to persevere, soon you find yourself coming to the end of your toils. And as things begin to come together, you can begin to breathe more easily – the way ahead is more obvious, and the gaps become more manageable. You pave the way ahead and move on with your life.
My situation has been overwhelming on more than one occasion – numerous times I have lain awake after seeing the value of the pound fall for another consecutive day. I have to remind myself I’m on the other side of the world – stressing about the mess back home is not going to make it go away. The things I can focus on are obvious: doing well in my studies, being sensible with my finances, making the most of the opportunity to study abroad and securing my Master’s thesis internship (most importantly one that pays in Euros). Already I’m seeing some progress and I’ve had much fewer days of spiralling down through an endless whirlpool of negativity.
No I’m may not be exactly where I want right now, but I’m on the way to making it possible.