Life is full of uncertainty – as much as we like to think we’re in control, you never really know what’s install for you. I was once was very comfortable with uncertainty and felt at ease knowing that at times I don’t have any say as to what happens in my world. Uncertainty was something I’d always kept it in the back of my mind, surfacing occasionally. However, my way of managing uncertainty all changed when I let it become the centre of my universe.
For several months I felt the overwhelming pressure of uncertainty – the reason I say pressure is because it wasn’t the type of uncertainty that affected a small aspect of my life – the type where there’s minor consequences i.e. wondering if I remembered to close the kitchen window before boarding a flight. Instead, I was losing control of a situation, where my day to day living was about to totally change.
My dream was to give up everything in Australia and move to Europe. While some people thought I was crazy and tried to talk me out of it, I knew it was something I had to do and persisted. As with any of my dreams I had to work very hard for it, taking years to get into a position where I was able to do it.
From the moment I arrived, I loved Europe and everything seemed to fall into place, but that quickly changed. The job I had lined up fell through and so did the place I was going to rent. I didn’t let these set backs spoil my arrival and quickly adapted to these circumstances. I found alternative accommodation in a small town far from the city and lived off my savings until securing a temp job.
The next 12 months were a struggle – I was living hand to mouth. I was spending 2 hours (one way) commuting to work and had exhausted my savings. I couldn’t afford to rent in the city, which is why I was doing the ridiculous commute. Even though I had been working, it was difficult to find a permanent job. The result? I got stuck working in low paying short term jobs.
The security I had in Australia was gone – there was no one to rely on, only myself. If one little thing had gone wrong, then I would have ended up in big trouble.
This was the beginning of pressure and uncertainty.
Knowing how fragile my circumstances were I started to think ‘what if work told me tomorrow they no longer needed me – how could I afford to pay rent or even buy food, where would I go? What would I do?’
I was literally broke.
I didn’t even have enough money to buy a plane ticket back to Australia. You can imagine some of the sleepless nights I had.
Finally I took a good hard look at my life and realised I had let myself down. Enough was enough, I had gotten myself into this situation and I knew I was the only one who could get myself out of it.
I changed my strategy and not long after, I got a permanent job that paid a good wage. I was able to get my life back on track – I stopped commuting, moved into the city, started to rebuild my savings and had time for a social life. Life started to get very exciting – all the sacrifices I made were starting to pay off. I now had enough time and money to travel, make friends and was lucky enough to meet someone special.
I thought to myself ‘how amazing is this?! everything is falling into place!’
But my joy was short lived.
My citizenship application had been stalled due to a technicality and I only had a matter of months for it to be resolved, otherwise I needed to leave the country. There were no second chances, I had already exhausted every legal avenue and visa possible – this was it. My fate was now in the hands of one Minister – a person I had never met, who knew nothing about my life or the impact their decision would have on it.
Coping with uncertainty
Once again I started to have many long sleepless nights – There were so many unknowns. I kept thinking would I still be in the country by the end of the year? What’s going to happen if my application doesn’t get approved? ‘Surely there must be another way to stay – how could I have exhausted all of my options?’.
It’s very sobering when you realise you’re on the verge of losing everything you’ve worked so hard for.
As each week passed, I knew I was getting closer to my deportation date. This situation caused an abundance of issues both at work and in my personal life. On top of my own thoughts, everyone had an opinion on what I should do and how I should handle the situation. It got to the point where there was so much noise going on in my head, I couldn’t even think rationally anymore.
I desperately needed to find a way to cope with the uncertainty. That’s when I came to realise I had been making a mistake the whole time – I was letting uncertainty play a bigger role in my life than what it should have. I realised I had always lived my life in the future and had not given too much thought to the present moment. My time and my thoughts were always looking at the ‘what if’s’.
What I can I do right now?
I soon learnt how to live in the present.
I started by asking myself is there anything I can do right now to change my circumstances to get rid of my worries? Since I knew my citizenship application was out of my control and I did everything I could to get it approved, I knew the answer to these questions was ‘no’. By asking myself these questions and answering them, it brought me back to reality and I started to accept the situation, even if it meant losing everything I worked so hard for.
A Worry Period is a MUST
In helping me filter my thoughts between what’s important now and something that may become important in the future – I created a worry period to deal with the uncertainty.
A worry period is about giving yourself permission to worry about everything for a certain amount of time and then once that time is over, getting on with your day.
My worry period was time I had set aside to worry about my future and everything else that was causing me stress. It was at the same time everyday and for the same duration – my morning commute became my worry period. While sitting on the bus I would worry about everything from ‘ What if I have to go back to Australia? What if I can’t find a job? to ‘What if World War 3 starts?
Once I got off the bus, my worried period was over for the day – I needed to live in the moment and focus on enjoying what was in front of me, no matter what was going to happen in the future. I made sure my worries stayed on the back burner until I was ready to give them more of my time.
If I ever felt my worries start to creep up on me outside of my worry period, I acknowledged these thoughts and again asked myself is there anything I can do right now to change them? If not, I postponed these stressful thoughts to my worry period.
The thing is, we’re all living in the constant unknown. A constant question mark. And in the constant wonderful and terrifying mystery of tomorrow.
You could have everything you’ve ever dreamed of today, and have it all gone by tomorrow.
You could be doing a wonderful job at work and then have to leave because the company is downsizing. You could be in a loving relationship and then it could suddenly end – but remember your time is precious and constantly worrying about what might happen isn’t the best use of your time.
We can only control our thoughts, our reactions and our way of thinking. This is why it’s important to have a ‘worry period’ – to cap the time spent on stressing about the unknowns.
There’s no right or wrong, do what works for you. Swap your worry period around, I first started in the morning and then changed it to the commute home.
My worry period helped me understand what I could change right now, rather than focusing on something that may never happen. Try it out, who know’s – you may come to the same realisation I did.
Closing the door
You’re probably wondering if all my sleepless nights were for nothing – well yes and no.
I always held onto a glimmer of hope that my citizenship would be approved in the 11th hour. I literally did everything I could, I spent all the time and money I could to stay, without any results. The Minister had no time limit in which to make a decision and despite my efforts, he chose to ignore me.
The 11th hour came and went and I knew it was over.
I was once told the three most stressful things you will experience in life are: divorce, death and disability. Funny how they all start with ‘D’, I’m going to create a fourth D called DEPORTATION.
I was forced to close the door on the life I once had. It was heartbreaking to dismantle everything I had struggled and fought to achieve – not to mention how difficult it was to walk away from something I didn’t want to leave.
I was forced to resign from a job I enjoyed. I had to move out of a place I loved living in, (I won’t go into the stress of having to move everything back to the other side of the world – moving neighbourhoods is stressful enough) and most of all I had to leave that special person behind.
Every aspect of my life changed, I was back living on the other side of the world trying to rebuild what I had. My worry period helped me get there as I was able to focus on what was important at that point in time and it helped me define the next steps, instead of believing everything needed to be fixed in a day.
It’s been 4 years since I applied for my citizenship and I’m still no closer to getting it – everyone in Europe has moved on.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking ‘what if’. What would my life be like if I was able to stay, but I guess I will never know. I’ve come to accept what’s happened and know that I did everything I could. I’m thankful for the experience and for learning how to appreciate time.
I’ve learnt that if the door keeps getting slammed in your face, not matter how hard you try to open it, maybe it’s not the right time or the right opportunity (as hard as that is to realise). Most importantly, I’ve learnt to take opportunities and say ‘yes’ more – I thought I would have more time to do all the things I kept delaying – but maybe that was my time and my chance.