#NaNonFicWriMo: Inflection Points

Photo by Gianpaolo La Paglia on Unsplash

Any view outside of the window in the Bay Area looks apocalyptic outside. After eight years on the East Coast, I never thought I’d experience cabin fever without snow on the ground. I’m feeling a bit creatively stifled now that I’m locked in place. But I’ve had time this evening to stay inside and reflect on major life choices.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could” — Robert Frost

Ok got that obvious cliche out the way. Whew! That said, I’m super hyped to dive into Michelle Obama’s auto-biography Becoming. I love reading the life stories of other people both for the juicy gossip as well as the sage wisdom that emerges when you reflect on your life.

If you’ve ever done a variation of the timeline exercise, you’re familiar with your life’s milestones and inflection points. The milestones are achievements that seemed impossible until they were done: graduations, winning competitions or auditions, launching a business or creative endeavor. Inflection points are situations where you could either level up, remain the same, or face some seriously negative consequences: deciding whether or not to quit a job, a relationship, or identity or deciding to move to an unknown place. These points mark a fork in the road of your life. It’s a time for you to choose and live with the ups and downs of it.

Right after college, I moved to DC. Like many other bright-eyed hopeful recent grads, I thought I would find a job that would help change the world with my plucky optimism and dedication to hard work. As you can imagine, the world of work did not react well to my plans. I encountered entrenched bureaucracy and antiquated thinking that wouldn’t let me be great. Luckily, I maneuvered to triple the size of the member organizations in the community-based program that I worked on.

Outside of work, I loved my life. DC’s legendary happy hour culture meant I had plenty of opportunities to hang out with old college friends and all of the other young hopefuls working on the Hill and at government contractors. My first adult apartment was a renovated rowhouse with plenty of space for dinners, game nights and parties. I never wanted for anything materially even with the peanuts that hope and change paid.

But do you know the unease that comes in the stillness? It’s that twinge that tells you something that isn’t right. Now with plush tech jobs, there’s conversation about golden handcuffs: the great pay and benefits as well as conveniences that keep you distracted from the discomfort that comes from not pursuing your true passions. My true passion lay with working in global health. I tried to find opportunities within my company and didn’t make any headway.

So there was the fork in the road. I could stay in my comfortable life in DC. Or I could make my own opportunity. I studied abroad in Brazil in college, so I decided to follow that thread. Most global health work centered in Africa at that time. I made a list of Portuguese speaking countries in the world, and saw that Mozambique was the place for me to be. With a location in hand, I asked myself the question that I was surprised I was bold enough to ask: Would I move to Mozambique to work?

It felt crazy to entertain the idea. So I reached out to alumni and even a blogger I found through a Google search and learned that it wasn’t quite as off the wall as I thought. The lure of working in a foreign country was hard to resist despite all the perceived irresponsibility that came with making the move.

At the end of the day, I realized the greatest detractor was not me. Rather, the people closest to be told me all of the reasons that it could be a bad decisions. And maybe because I’m stubborn, their naysaying didn’t really land. I made my plans and covered all of my bases. And I chose the option that worked for me. Because at the end of the day, the only voice that mattered was that discomfort I felt living a life that didn’t feel right. And moving to Mozambique was the best risk for me to take at that time in my life. I needed to test my boundaries. I needed to trust my judgment. I needed to proactively choose to build a life and a career that aligned with the vision of myself rather than what others.