“This is not how I imagined our first years of marriage.”
This is what Thomas told me late one night while talking about the distance between us over the past two years and our uncertain future. When he told me this, his voice was filled with sadness, pain, and a hint of frustration. I’ve written before on this blog about how lucky I am to be in a marriage that has traveled globally and accepted my decision to live in Taiwan for nine months, but that does not mean that my time here has always been smooth sailing.
The hardest period, to my surprise, was when Thomas went to Canada over Christmas. I thought that while he was at home with his family and friends he would not miss me so much. However, surrounded by all of our friends, he could see how their relationships had progressed, some buying a house and some thinking of having kids. I chuckled when he emphasised that some even had a fireplace! It was not that he desperately wanted a house, kids, or even a fireplace, but rather that he envied their stability. He envied their ability to plan ahead with decent certainty, while we are currently separated by a continent. People naively assumed when we got married that we were starting a stable and predictable life. Little did they know…
Thomas supported me in my decision to study in London and now in Taipei, but that does not mean that deep down he is not saddened but the fact that over the past two years and therefore most of our married life, we have not been able to live under the same roof, save for two months last summer. I know that if he could, he would meet me in whatever city I chose to live in, but currently neither of us have that kind of flexibility.
Now, how does this affect my career path? I’m a logistically oriented gal. I like understanding how things are organised and how plans are made feasible. Sitting at an event organised by the Swiss Office in Taiwan, I couldn’t help but get distracted and think about how the Swiss diplomats got there. What were their families doing? How did they accommodate the various postings of their husband/wife? It’s because of such concerns that I’m having to really question any aspiration of going into the diplomatic service or working for large aid agencies. Both of these career paths would require me to spend more time abroad in areas that would be very hard for Thomas career wise. In no way do I regret my decision to come to Taiwan, however I know that I will not do this again. It would be unfair for Thomas and unpleasant for me to pack my things again and move to another country.
Before moving abroad two years ago, I chatted with family about Thomas and I’s respective fields and our career goals. At that time, several people told me that Thomas or I would have to accommodate the other’s career by sacrificing some of our ideals and that we would not both be able to reach our goals. It was harsh advice and I didn’t really pay attention to it. You always think that you are the exception to the rule. However, I’m finding now that I’ve started to make alterations to my career goals. I’ve taken my aspirations down a notch. There are things that I don’t strive for anymore. One could argue that those things were never really attainable, but it is more the process of choosing to delete these options from my possible career paths which is important here.
I’m therefore re-evaluating my career aspirations based on my relationship, something I promised myself I wouldn’t do. When I naively made myself that promise I thought that my career was the most important thing and that my relationship would always accommodate my choices. Although I know that it would and that Thomas would always support my decisions, I’m now realising that it’s not necessarily what I want. Yes I want a cool job in an area that is interesting, but really the most important thing to me is my relationship. I’m still a strong independent woman, but I’m also recognising what really makes me happy.