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Career change in times of coronavirus

We are living strange and difficult times. Nothing is easy at the moment, and trying to change your career isn’t either.

I came to Italy just before the whole crisis started. My sister lives here with her family, and she needed someone to babysit the kids during their half-term holidays. I always enjoy coming to Italy, so I was happy to come and help out. But it turned out this wasn’t the best time to come to Italy. Or, was it?

As the time of the trip approached, I started to get quite anxious about it. I was going to the north of Italy, where the numbers of people infected with coronavirus was alarmingly increasing. But it wasn’t just that which worried me.

I had already been two months without getting any pay. Thankfully, I have a very supportive family and I had been able to move back to my parents after quitting my PhD, but not having an income was making me feel really stressed and anxious.

I had spent these last couple of months studying a translation course which I had finished just a couple of days before my trip to Italy, so I was finally ready and looking forward to giving all of my energies to the job hunting cause.

It just wasn’t the right moment for me to take a week off.

However, this trip had already been planned a long time ago, and it would only postpone my job hunt for one week…or at least, that’s what I thought. What I obviously didn’t expect that the coronavirus situation would escalate so quickly, preventing me from returning to Madrid when planned.

I remember the night we found out that Italy was going to close down its borders…I felt stuck, in every sense of the word. It was the moment I knew this was something serious, and I really needed to think about what I was going to do.

I didn’t really want to go back to my parents house, they are in the high-risk group so going back to live with them after having been in the north of Italy was not the most reasonable thing to do. Staying in Italy for a bit longer was.

But, at the time, I thought that staying in Italy was equal to having to press the pause button to my professional life, precisely at a time when all I wanted to do was to get a job so that I could get rid of that feeling of uncertainty that had become such an unpleasant part of my life since leaving my PhD.

But then, the situation changed. Soon, it wasn’t just Italy which stopped, but the whole world came to a sudden halt.

Sharing the crisis with everyone else created mixed feelings within me: I was really scared of the magnitude this situation was taking (the risks that this disease posed to close family members, added to the uncertainty of not knowing when it would come to an end, was really unsettling); however, knowing that I was not alone through this and that the whole world was going through the same, brought A LOT of peace to me.

I realised that the constant pressure that had pushed me to keep moving forward blindly, without properly thinking where I was going, was suddenly gone. Now that everything had stopped, that there were nowhere I needed to “rush off to”, I felt like I finally had the permission to stop and think about what I really wanted.

And, either for good or for bad, all of this happened while I was in Italy. I started to see this situation in a new light: I could either continue to worry about the difficulties of trying to find a job in Spain while being here, or I could try to accept my new reality and try to think about what good could come out of it.

The pieces started to fit together: I was not stuck here, this was the opportunity that I had been looking for. I had the opportunity to start a new chapter of my life from Italy.

Having lived in England for most of my adulthood, I knew that living abroad was something that I thrived with: I loved the challenge it meant learning a new language, I loved getting to know a new culture and to meet new people while learning new ways of living and doing things.

When I left England, I knew that I was not going to stay in Spain forever, although I never imagined I would leave so soon. However, I had just been given this new opportunity now, I just couldn’t waste it.

I started to see everything clearer: I would spend this quarantine learning Italian, with views of getting a job here once all this was over. I realised that now I also had more time to write, to meditate, to read, to study… all in all, to figure out what I wanted. This was the time that I had been waiting for, it just came in a strange format.

I can’t say that the anxiety has completely gone. We are living times of uncertainty, and I can’t help worrying about my parents and wondering when will we be able to live “normally” again.

But having a plan and being able to see this as an opportunity rather than as a problem, is definitely helping with confinement quite a lot.

We are living strange and difficult times. Nothing is easy at the moment, and trying to change your career isn’t either.

But adaptation is an indispensable part of change, and if this situation has caught us in the middle of a career change, we must accept it and adapt to it the best we can in order to get where we want to be once this is over.

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