By Meghan Nayyar
Small-minded college seniors fraught with job-seeking anxiety love to say, “Going abroad after grad is for people who don’t know what they want to do with their lives,” rolling their eyes with condescension. In a few months, these graduates giddily pack up their belongings into dad’s SUV, move to a three bed and one bath apartment in lower Manhattan with their college roommates and turn into corporate zombies, living and re-living the same uninspired day in front of a cluttered desk under fluorescent lights.
We pretend that we want this, that living in New York is glamorous and trendy. That work isn’t as bad as it could be, and most people hate their first jobs out of college anyway. We’re just paying our dues for now. We convince ourselves that living near our friends and throwing our earnings away on overpriced drinks and bar covers is “living the dream.” We mistakenly believe that the rest of the world is envious of us, because the only thing making our lives seem worthwhile is the idea that everyone wants it, but we were the lucky few who managed to achieve it.
Going abroad is for people who don’t know what they want to do with their lives.
But what if going abroad is precisely what I want to do with my life?
Going abroad isn’t a backup plan. It isn’t a “I-don’t-know-what-I-want-to-do-and-I-didn’t-get-a-job-during-the-semester” last resort. Going abroad is an intentional choice, an explicit rejection of the normal, the expected, the tried and true. It’s not the easy way out for those who shirk responsibility and aren’t ready to grow up. Moving to a big city with a corporate job where all of your friends live is the easy choice, the choice with no resistance, the stable and safe choice, requiring little growth or adjustment from cushioned university life.
Going abroad is the brave choice. Going abroad is the hard choice. The choice you have to explain to people. The choice that invites intruding questions instead of approving nods. Telling your family, your friends, your hairdresser, your doctor, your boss, strangers you meet in a bar that you’re leaving America requires strength and confidence in your choice, unlike the exciting announcement that you’ve “accepted an entry-level position at a mid-size marketing firm in Midtown!”
I made a choice. To quit my stable job with benefits and perks in a desirable industry. To sublet my Brooklyn apartment to move back in with my parents in suburban Connecticut. To fly to Southeast Asia for an indefinite period of time with no game plan but to create a life that I could be proud of. I have had to answer invasive and impolite questions about my choices, my finances, my mother’s parenting ability.
In all honesty, I don’t know if going abroad is the right choice for me yet. At this point, it feels right. It feels more right than anything I’ve done before, but I’m still in the sheltered first-world, daydreaming about adventure. But either way, the choice to reject a safe but mundane life in favor of an uncertain but impassioned life is a choice worth making.