Career Vs Love: What's The Right Answer In Your 20s?
The Debrief: Your meant to pick your career, right? Because that’s what independent, smart twenty-somethings do. But what if you don’t want to?
You’ve got two options: accept the offer of a fashion PR internship in New York City for 12 months (minimum) or find a job, move to London and live with your boyfriend of three-and-a-half years.
No brainer, right?
While the career versus love decision is usually reserved for new mums trying to decide whether to return to work or not, what about those of us that aren’t bound to the ones we love by DNA or marriage? Does that mean that these love versus career conundrums (particularly those that involve putting an ocean between two people) should be infinitely easier because ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ and if he/she is the one they will wait?
As someone who had to make this decision at the beginning of the year, I can tell you the short answer: no.
Big decisions are difficult no matter your age, but feel more poignant and life defining when you’re young. Every sentence is prefaced with ‘what if’ and it sucks that we can’t have a quick peek into the future to see which choice will lead us where. What if I go to New York and I have the chance to stay there for the foreseeable future – then what? What if I stay in the UK and my relationship doesn’t work out? If I don’t go to New York now, will I have passed up a one-time only offer and regret it for the rest of my life?
Having so many options in your early twenties is a wonderful thing, but it also makes choosing just one path to tread extremely difficult. On the one hand my brain was telling me, ‘Move to New York! You have no family, mortgage or serious responsibilities!’ But my heart was finding it more difficult to get on board.
Big decisions are difficult no matter your age, but feel more poignant and life defining when you’re young
A recent survey carried out by PwC on 1,400 female millennials in the UK (women born between 1980-1995) revealed that 62% of us rank opportunity for career progression as the most important employer trait, making us more career confident than ever before. We’re so determined in fact, that not only do 70% of us feel anxious about taking a career break, but we’re also increasingly willing to postpone starting a family. A 2014 YouGov study showed that 35% of female 18-24 year olds plan on postponing motherhood in order to build a career.
Those stats are enough to make anyone think that choosing love as priority in modern Britain is taking a step backwards – especially when you’re 22 years old. Women are chasing opportunities in the workplace at home and abroad more than ever, and here I was being presented one on a silver platter. I had spent three wonderful months at the end of 2014 in the Big Apple and was offered a PR internship starting this spring. Returning to New York meant taking a chance and seeing where the year led, with no promises of a permanent job offer at the end.
While the decision wasn’t strictly between career and love – fashion PR wasn’t the plan – it was about the opportunity to work in a city that I have loved for ten years. In many ways it seemed crazy that I wasn’t jumping at the chance to spend another year there.
Friends and family didn’t urge me to do one thing over another. It boiled down to whether I was ready to go to New York for a year, possibly more. Yes I could come back, but I was worried that after starting a life over there and forming relationships, I wouldn’t want to return. My boyfriend remained selflessly neutral about the whole thing – it was me shedding tears over the privileged decision of choosing which fantastic city to live in.
I finally made my decision one grey January day walking with my Mum across the park near our house. It was raining lightly and, as I turned to her and asked for the 15th time that day what she thought I should do, she replied matter-of-factly, ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat. If you really want to be in New York, you will find a way – and a way that means you can both be together.’ I let that sit for a few moments, before saying, ‘But I can’t have it all, Mum.’ She looked at me, puzzled. ‘Why not?’
In the midst of worrying I had forgotten that it is possible to have it all, it just may not be possible to have it all right at this very moment. While I’m lucky enough to be part of a generation that really can make its dreams come true, the downside of that is this insatiable expectation that we can and should get everything we want instantaneously. It doesn’t help that social media makes it seem as if people are following their dreams and making their lives an Instagram-able success at the tender age of 18. To me, 22 felt positively ancient and I beat myself up for not grabbing this big opportunity and thinking only of number one. I would have done that had I been single, but I wasn’t and rightly or wrongly that changed everything.
In the midst of worrying I had forgotten that it is possible to have it all, it just may not be possible to have it all right at this very moment
Mum’s words were the proverbial shake I needed; if New York was my dream, I could make it happen – again. It would take patience, hard work and my commitment to the cause, but if I wanted it then why the hell couldn’t I have it?
Spring came and I remained firmly on British soil. I got a job and moved into a flat in Vauxhall with my boyfriend in March.
It’s been seven months since I returned from New York and the million-dollar question remains: do I regret not going back? Ask me in a few years’ time. My relationship is great, I have a job in an exciting industry and I feel as ambitious and career-driven as every one of those female millennials surveyed.
In the end, I assuaged my inner turmoil by consoling myself with the fact that if what everyone’s been telling me is true – that real love lasts a lifetime, and more importantly, will wait – then I have nothing to worry about. New York has a large piece of my heart and I know that when I do return, it will be just as wonderful as when I left.
We’ll pick up right where we left off.
Like this? Then you might also be interested in:
Follow Isabella on Twitter @bellsfoxwell
Picture: Eugenia Loli
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating