Relationships / Turkey / Work

The career girl and the fiancée

Usually, I resent articles with the sort of title that tells us women STILL can’t have “it all”, despite it being the 21st century and all. In general, I resent the idea that we have to choose between our careers and our families. And I particularly resent articles of this nature written by women at the height of their careers who feel it is their right to impart “advice” to my generation, often from the perspective of someone who has already had the luxury of having “it all.” Such pieces usually either tell us we could have “it all”, if only we weren’t so lazy/incompetent, or that we shouldn’t even try because it is actually impossible.

My own personal theory is that we should do whatever will fulfil us and allow us to lead lives that are true to who we are as individuals – and that, crucially, only we can determine what this means. Yes, it’s tough and there are lots of demands on our time and balancing the things we want with the things we have to do is really hard. But this idea of “it all” is surely just another social construct used to bully women and make them feel like what they do have still ain’t enough.

But before I digress to full-on rant territory, let me come back to my point. I recently faced a choice that made me reconsider this theory, and wonder whether, perhaps, it really is a choice and we really can’t have it all. Allow me to explain…

I was recently offered, in the space of a few days, two amazing jobs. One was based in Istanbul and would be fun, interesting and allow me to FINALLY relocate. The other was based in Oxford, a big step up in terms of responsibility and pay, and something I’ve had in my sights for a while but never dreamed I’d be able to do yet.

Naturally, the career girl inside of me, mouth salivating with ambition, wanted to seize option two with both hands and to hell with the consequences. But the girl who’s planning to get married later this year? Needless to say, she was rather less keen…

And, suddenly, there I was, facing the ultimate woman’s choice: personal life or career? My love or my ambition?

My feminist guard was up immediately. Would choosing E over my dream job undermine my status as an independent woman? Would making decisions for personal rather professional reasons negate my feminist beliefs?

I spent three full days writhing in an agony of indecision. E was fantastic. I knew of course which option he wanted me to pick, but he was very careful to say all the right things, telling me I had to do what I most wanted, to think about what was best for my career, that we’d make it work whatever happened.

And in the end? Try not to vomit as you read this, but in the end I listened to my heart.

Ultimately, I realised, I was struggling with this decision because I was choosing between one thing I want (to live with E and work in Istanbul) and one thing I think I ought to want (a big shiny promotion). The choosing was horrendous because in choosing what I actually want for myself, I felt like I was letting EVERYONE down: my parents who taught me my independence;  the director who was offering me the higher position; my colleagues in that team; even myself as a feminist and independent woman.

But as soon as it was decided I felt instantly lighter. Why? Because, I realise in hindsight, this was a decision I made for myself, which was true to myself and how I want to live my life.

So do we have to choose, or can we really have “it all”? I can’t say I have the answer, or I’d be a raging hypocrite, and no-one likes them. However, what this experience has taught me is that the only way to be happy is to be true to myself. When you’re brought up to please, as many women inevitably are, this is bloody hard. But it’s the only way to get remotely close to happiness, which is surely more important than this nebulous idea of “it all.”

Have you ever faced a choice between personal and professional lives? Have you grappled with the question of whether you can have it all? I’ve love to hear from you and how you dealt with the situation!

10 thoughts on “The career girl and the fiancée

    • Ah if only it was that easy! He’s not against leaving but the combination of visa obstacles plus not a very transferable career on his part make it more difficult… The job I’ve decided to take is also a great job, it’s just great in a different way, so I know I’m speaking from quite a luxurious position…

  1. I left my career to move to India but I didn’t really like my career, the only thing holding me back was the fact I worked so hard for it… I guess I was lucky in that respect. I just followed my passion.

    I don’t know what I would do if I had 2 passions in separate countries.

    Some people judged me for my decision saying that my self worth depended on my husbands love, I was quite offended… this was not the case, I was just following my happiness. Just do what YOU want to do and try not to listen if anyone says. People will always have their opinions.

    Lots of love x

    • Lauren, I’m so sorry I didn’t reply to this when you wrote it! Must have slipped through. Thank you, as ever, for your wise words. I think if we could just turn off the volume of other people and their expectations, all these big life decisions would be that much easier. I’ve faced a few critical voices in making this decision (not least from my dad!), but I’ve just had to keep on trucking.

      Hope you’re well!

      Big hugs xx

  2. I agree with Lauren. So much is expected from women nowadays, and it only adds pressure. If a woman makes a choice to follow her happiness, she should never be judged. Similarly, they shouldn’t be judged for pursuing their career. I agree about the importance of staying true to one’s self. After graduating from college, I received two job offers. I eventually decided to follow my FH and move to the state where he was accepted to graduate school. My choice was influenced by the fact that my job offers weren’t permanent, but one-year contracts. I would have a higher likelihood of finding a job and ultimately receiving a work visa in the same state if I moved right away. Without doubt, I was led by my heart. I wanted to be completely sure that he was indeed the man I wanted to share my life with. They say: “Men come and go, choose career.” I prefer to think that jobs come and go, and choose happiness.

    • I think you’re absolutely right about that! There’s a bit of a generational difference there I think, certainly between us and our parents’ generation. they’re all about making sure you’re independent and have a rewarding career… While all this is important, the world is a very different place now. There’s no such thing as job security anymore, so the choices we make will naturally be different to the choices they made…

  3. Like so many ideals in society, the phrase “having it all,” just like the word “success” implies that there is one common goal which we must all achieve. It’s wonderful that you came to the realization that your “success” is deeply personal, inherent to your outlook on life, and in no way should conform to anyone else’s version of the word.

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