The last article I wrote was all about my goal of moving to Japan next year as an English Teacher or ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). I wrote about how that goal has given me the impetus to set more short term goals in order to improve myself and my life. It’s given me the kick up the ass that I needed to really focus on something.
What I didn’t really talk about is how that decision has impacted my partner.
During the two weeks following the article quite a few things have happened; but the main thing that I want to talk to you about is what took place between my partner and I. It wasn’t unexpected and happened pretty organically, but it nonetheless highlighted a few key differences in the way we think and how we handle the idea of change, challenge and goal setting.
I’m an Optimist. I always have been.
I see no point in spending most of your life miserable and focussing on every little thing that could possibly go wrong…in order to prepare yourself for when things do go wrong. Yes you need a certain amount of knowledge and a little bit of thought must be given over to ‘what if this happens’ but after that? As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing to be gained from focussing on the worst possible outcome of the worst case scenario, that will likely never happen. You simply end up never living in the now and you spend the vast majority of your life upset. It makes no sense to me.
Why not focus on the positives? Why not look at everything that could go rightand plan, mainly, for that? Allot a certain amount of leeway for the possibility of things going wrong, sure. It’s inevitable that it will happen, but why not trust in your abilities? Why not know that you are capable of a lot more than you think you are and when things go wrong, face them head on. As humans, living on a vast planet full of people we are never alone. Why not take advantage of that and know that, if the shit hits the fan, you can ask for help?
Trust yourself, live your life looking towards the best possible outcome and know that when things do go wrong it will simply make for a great story once it’s all sorted and dealt with.
With that being said, my partner doesn’t think like I do. He’s pretty much a world weary, fully accomplished pessimist. It makes me sad to see when he finds himself dwelling on small things, that to me are so easily sorted. To him though, they aren’t small and so we tend to have quite a few conversations on a night that help him work through his worries [at this point I would like to add that our relationship isn’t a one way street. My partner is amazing at cutting through my own particular brand of crazy and helping me find solutions to my own issues. I will no doubt write about that at some point in the future as well]. I offer him my perspective, he smiles wistfully and tells me that he wishes it was that easy and I assure him that it is. He then sits back in his chair and processes what’s been said. More often than not, that’s the last that’s said on the subject, but the other day, something amazing happened.
The Freak Out
We both knew it would happen. My partner is a world class worrier. He learned from his parents, who in turn learned from theirs, how to worry.
The battle lines get drawn inside his mind and then it’s on. So you can only imagine what happened once the phrase “Why don’t we do it? Why don’t we move to Japan?” left my lips. The amazement and fear that crossed his features was a wonder to behold. The paradigm shift that took place was almost physical.
Over the next week the love of my life began to retreat into himself and it took every trick I had up my sleeve to get him to start talking to me.
The fear was digging it’s claws into him and the one phrase that he repeated over and over again was “but what if it goes wrong?” He was terrified of the idea that we’d somehow ‘waste’ the next few years of our life on something that would inevitably fail.
Changing the Picture
He couldn’t see past the idea that there was this magical ‘perfect’ way to do something. That unless you did it ‘exactly right’ it was somehow a complete failure. The fear of making a wrong move was paralysing him.
After a few long hugs I asked as gently as I could “How many people do you know that have lived abroad and come back to their home country, say that they regret everything?”
“None.” Was his answer.
“OK, so what makes you think that that will happen to us?”
“I don’t know, I just don’t want to spend all this money and not get anything in return I suppose.”
“Well, from where I’m sitting, what we would have gotten for our money is the chance of living and working in Japan. We will have experienced what it’s like to live, sleep, eat, work and be in a completely foreign country. We’ll have developed at least a working knowledge of a language that is completely different to our own and we will have gained some pretty unique skills that we would never have had the chance to if we just stayed here. To me that sounds pretty wonderful. If nothing else it’ll look brilliant on our CV’s. So what if come home after a few years? Is a trip to Japan only successful if we stay there forever?”
“I guess not.” He said and sat in silence for about ten minutes before deciding to go make himself a cup of tea.
The subject came up again a few times throughout the week. Each time we talked it over and I offered him a different way of looking at the issue we were discussing. I never told him how he saw things was wrong, I simply offered a series of questions that forced him to think in a different direction.
Then something magical happened.
I heard the key turning in the door and the cats jumped off the chairs to sit and sleepily await the arrival of their owner. As the door creaked open they darted forwards and began to weave themselves in between my partner’s legs and he laughed, leaning down to stroke them and return the hello.
“Someone’s in a good mood.” I said as I gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Yep.” He said happily. “I realised, going to Japan isn’t as scary if I think of it as a really long holiday that might never end.”
He’d done it. He’d found a way to change the picture in his mind, by himself, into something that could bring him joy and hope. He’d managed to blend my optimism with his pessimism and crated a new reality that was just right for him.
He could never be the same type of optimist as me but he managed to find a way to look at things that isn’t ‘pass or fail’. He allowed for the possibility of joy, learning and new experiences and let himself see that nothing we do is ever wasted. We are always moving forwards. Life will always come to a close, so why not take hold of the steering wheel and go on that never ending holiday?
After all, if everything will end, why not go out with a smile on your face after eating the best food, seeing the most beautiful things and speaking to as many different people as you can?
Thanks for reading! If you liked it, give it a clap or hit the share button. Feedback brightens my day. Maybe slightly more than coffee.
Also published on Medium.