Should I stay or should I go now?

Do you like to move it, move it? I’m not a fan. My parents were near-radicals in their place and time in that they moved an hour’s drive away from their parents, but they stayed in the house where I grew up for 30 years, moving only after retirement. I haven’t managed that record, but it’s taken a major event — job change, layoff, job change, buying a house — to get me out of my comfort zone any time since.

I’m from what we Canadians call a “have-not” province, and because of that I’m more familiar than some (immigrants and emigrants not included) with the idea of leaving your home and family and everything you know in order to chase a dream — or at the very least a decent paychque — elsewhere. At one point in the recent past, my four brothers and I were spread from one end of the country to the other, and into the U.S. I used to feel bad for my parents — you’d think with five children they should have been able to guarantee at least one would be home for Christmas, but that wasn’t always the case.

So I have a little experience with moving away, and I’ll say honestly it has its pros and cons. The overwhelming pro is job opportunity. As a journalist, I had essentially four options for GOOD jobs in my home province. One of them laid me off, and I couldn’t get a look-in at the other three (because it has never been a good time to be a journalist since I entered the profession.) After the GOOD jobs, there were other places that hired journalists, to be sure, but none of them paid enough to live on and so weren’t an option for me. Once I was laid off, it was pretty much a given that I would have to move. So I did. But I’ll tell you right now that if I could find a job paying what my jobs in this province have paid, I’d move back in a minute to be with friends and family there. And I refuse to move farther away.  I’m no longer as homesick as I once was, but I miss the ocean and my favourite people on earth.

So increased job opportunities, money … personal growth is also a big one. If you never see anything but what you know, if the world-view you grew up with is constantly reinforced because your world never really changes, it doesn’t make you a bad person but it stunts you a little bit. Leaving your comfort zone exposes you to new people and experiences that may not change your life in any great way, but they all have a subtle impact.

The cons can be equally persuasive. I remember listening to one co-worker years ago question why all the recently unemployed fish-industry workers in Newfoundland didn’t just move to the then- and again-booming oilfields in Alberta instead of collecting pogey at home. It seemed perfectly obvious to him — he’d left his home province to go to school and was looking at his professional moves afterward as career-builders, no big deal. Reasons for not leaving, on the other hand, seemed perfectly obvious to me: in Newfoundland they may have owned their own homes, or had places to stay with friends and family; they had social safety nets; they had any number of things that could not be easily duplicated in a new place, certainly not without incurring a lot of start-up costs for which they might not have the funds. So there are two cons: leaving behind your people, your place and the environment you know how to operate in, and the money it takes to get started. Another con, depending on the field you’re in, is not having contacts to find work. That’s less important if you’ve got a ticket in skilled trade, the ticket is  your entree. You have to work harder to find work if you don’t have that kind of professional lubricant. If you have a job nailed down before you move, that’s a different kind of calculation.

I don’t know, I have had two careers and I chose both for their portability — I never intended to stay where I was. But moving because you HAVE to, and not because you WANT to, can be its own kind of hell.

I don’t have any answers. Sometimes you just have to do it — pick up sticks and move, make that leap of faith and/or desperation, hope for the best. Millions of people do it every day. Sometimes sticking to what you know is the best thing for you, sometimes it’s the worst. If you’re in a depressed job market, the choice can sometimes be between remaining unemployed, or underemployed, at home or finding professional success away. It’s essentially a deeply personal question of what you can bear.

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