What to Do What To Do…

For a myriad of reasons, I decided after arriving in Doha that the office and I were going to have to have a break for awhile. I’d returned to a world of breakfast meetings, suits, and lunch and learns when the fourth little traveler was five months old in Canada – but here in Doha, I just couldn’t quite work out the logistics. I investigated drivers and nannies, but every time I looked at the schedule, the cost, and yet another request for twenty cupcakes tomorrow – it was easier to just reach for the gin and tell myself I’d find a job, tomorrow.

This wasn’t a gender equality issue, this was a G and Kirsty issue. We’d come here under G’s sponsorship, it was his job offer and the expectations from his employer were clear. We lived in a company compound, he drove a company car. I made the choice that I wanted to be around for the little travellers for those first few months of the move and get them settled. The situation I found myself in was of my own doing.

This is not new. It’s a situation expat women have faced for years. One of you has the original sponsorship, the work permit or the visa, the other (if you have children) is doing the initial school search, the settling, the hunt and the gather. And after a certain period of time, usually once the bath towels have been discovered and the can opener located, a realization is made. You haven’t been lost in over a week. Your children have friends and seem happy. You feel like you’re starting to understand how the city works. It no longer takes a full day to find a weeks worth of groceries. The idea of heading back to work is there in the back of your mind, but what. What will you do here? Could you work full-time? What would happen in the school holidays? When your parents came to visit you won’t be able to take time off, well, not if you want to go home for Christmas. Are your qualifications recognized? Do they even have what you do here?

I’ve watched so many friends change careers while on the move. The conversation circles around the same search – how to create a mobile and flexible career. I’ve listened while ideas have been thrashed around. An online business? Teaching? A yoga instructor or personal trainer? Consulting? Interior Design? More study? I’ve watched friends build businesses from the ground up. From importing jewelry, athletic wear and artwork, to creating a nursery school for children and dance classes for adults.

For me it was writing. I wanted more flexibility and I figured freelance work required a laptop and a desk. I could do it anywhere right? I just needed to learn how to do it.

What I hadn’t factored in was the constant self doubt, teamed with the fact that I am a relatively gregarious soul who loves to work as a team. I say this from my home, where I am currently perched at my computer, by myself. Again. For the fifth day this week.

I miss the office.

It’s not just the banter around the water cooler that I miss about the office. It’s the office. I miss the team, the group, the department. I miss the KPI’s, the follow up discussion to how the project is going. I miss the pat on the back. The top performer. The beginning, the middle and the celebratory end.


Just this week I was ecstatic about landing some freelance work. The very next day I was miserable because a certain magazine decided not to attach my byline. I’d worked really hard on those two articles, articles I could have shown other mags as examples of my work. Not now. I moved on. Moments later I was ecstatic again because about 30,000 people viewed and shared a post I’d written about moving. Then I was miserable because a sponsor didn’t get back to me when they said they would. We’ve been talking for six months now. Then I was happy when I was asked to write a sponsored post for someone else, but worried that it would be seen as selling out.

I have these conversations with myself constantly. Was that good? Was that crap? Yes, that was crap, that’s why they didn’t get back to you – because it was crap. You’re crap.

Oh, hello Ms Editor, oh you liked that? Oh, great! Oh, that was good. You’re okay, you’re good.

Welcome to the bipolar world of freelance writing. They like me, they don’t like me. Do I ask for this and have them never ask me to work again? Or do I put up with the fact that I wrote (and they published) 1200 words but they’re paying me for 800.

But it’s not just me. It’s any of us who have started something new. A new career requires the ego of Kanye West and the courage of William Wallace. My girlfriend has just begun a career in medicine at age 40, another girlfriend is starting an online business, another girlfriend has begun a career in real estate. They are all inspiring to me because they thought about something, decided on it, and then made it happen. They’re starting something new, knowing that there will probably be failure along the way.  That takes guts.

So, if you’re sitting at home (like I am) wondering what you can do. Here’s my answer.

You can do anything.

You may doubt yourself on a daily basis (like I do), but really, you can do anything.

Try it.

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