Wherever You Go, There You Are

I just came back from a long weekend in New York – celebrating the holiday, spending quality time with family and taking in every last drop of energy from “The City” that I could. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve spent most of my adult life grappling with the idea of moving to The Big Apple. Admittedly, sometimes I feel like I’m actually a New Yorker at heart – a bit of a fish out of water in the Midwest.

But, this time, while marveling at the posh new bars and restaurants, people having “important meetings” at cute independent neighborhood coffee shops, mobs of good looking men in suits grabbing lunch at corner bodegas, and celebrity sightings (i.e. Sarah Jessica Parker who was eating breakfast one room over from where I was having my coffee), I found that my grappling became overshadowed by a nagging thought that just wouldn’t leave me alone.  Wherever you go, there you are.

It’s a small, but very wise piece of advice a former boss once shared with me – one that comes in handy quite often, especially as I help people (and obviously myself, too) navigate through career and life changes. In this case, the more time I spent with my fellow NYCers, the more it became clear to me that their fears, challenges, hopes and ambitions weren’t so different from mine, or anyone else’s I know.  Would a move really be the answer to my prayers, or would I “wake up” one day in the city that never sleeps, realizing that I am still me – only now living in a shoebox apartment amongst thousands of strangers?  You see, for some reason, we are programmed to think that the grass must be greener anyplace else than where we are. Is it? Sometimes, yes. But, not always.

When jobseekers come to me, I always spend a lot of time with them on two things: WHY they are looking to make a move and WHAT their ideal next job would be. I probe until they really define why they are moving away from where they are, and what they are expecting to get from something new. Sometimes the line can appear blurry between actually being ready for a change, and assuming that things will be a million times better someplace else after having a bad week, taking heat from a tough manager or dealing with a demanding client.  Are they truly committed to taking on the ups and downs that come with a new role or company?  Because if they are just looking for a quick fix, they may find themselves in a very lonely place…maybe wishing they hadn’t even moved at all.

So, as I’ve spent quality time reflecting on the “grass is always greener syndrome” I’m reminded that some of the voids we feel might be filled more easily than we think. Maybe all you need is a good heart-to-heart with your boss, a move to a new neighborhood, a new hobby (or reviving an old one) or even a stop at a different Starbucks en route to work each day. Frankly speaking, things aren’t always what they seem from the outside looking in, and there really is clarity in making a change when you’re at peace with what’s behind you and ready for the uncertain stuff life has to throw at you. Because it’s true…. wherever you go, there you are.

  1. If you haven't acquainted yourself with his teachings or writings, check out UW-Madison Professor Emeritus, Yi Fu Tuan (Space and Place). He has spent his whole career on topics such as this.

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