It was February and the Greek house was still listed. I had been wrestling with making a decision about the job in Chile for months, and for whatever reason, I felt that I needed to see the house in order to make a decision.
This wasn’t an easy tasks though, since it involved crossing a border into a country that was in complete lockdown. Greeks hadn’t been able to travel out of their towns for months. Just to get across the border, I would need a negative PCR tests, my German passport, plus I would have to register online with the Greek authorities. That was all doable. Technically, however, I also was supposed to have a special permit to travel within Greece. When Greek residents wanted to leave their houses for essential trips they had to register with the local authorities, who would then send them a text. If they were stopped by authorities and didn’t have the text, they received a heavy fine. What would happen if I—some middle-aged English-speaking woman with a German passport and not a lick of Greek-speaking skills—got stopped? It was a huge risk, but one I felt that I had to take in order to make a decision.
So I got a PCR test, rented a car, downloaded a dozen podcasts, stocked a cooler and was ready to go, but then I spoke with a Greek woman living in Sofia, who travels frequently between the two countries. She told me that I was sure to be stopped by the police, which wouldn’t end well. I knew I couldn’t go.
Jonathan and friends had repeatedly implored me to base my decision regarding my contract with Chile on sound reasons, not just because of the potential availability of a dirt-cheap house in Greece. I really prefer to let my big life decisions be made for me by exterior forces rather than doing all that work myself. But it didn’t seem like it was destined to happen like that this time around. Jonathan was maddeningly pliable about it all—or maybe he just knew I had to go through the process without external interference. I had to make this decision on my own.
A week later the contract arrived from Chile via UPS and I opened the envelope anxiously. I knew what was in it, but there was something about the physicality of the contract that gave it more weight. I scanned through it and stopped at a number: 40+ hours per week. That’s how long I was expected to be on campus for the job. I thought of the 30 minutes commute on both ends. I thought of the weekends during which I would be grading the work of 80+ students. And I realized I’d have very few waking hours at home, and what little time I did have would be spent preparing or grading.
Teaching from home during Covid provided the flexibility that I didn’t know how much I needed. Sure, I missed the energy of the classroom, and my students weren’t getting through nearly as much economic content as standards required, but every morning I wasn’t getting up and rushing off to class. Instead I had time to take our new puppy for a walk, do a bit of yoga, and actually taste my breakfast. I had more mental bandwidth to connect with family and friends, and my migraines decreased.
The following morning, in tears, I realized that I couldn’t say yes to the job in Chile, I couldn’t ignore what my inner voice and body were telling me. The email came easy, it was honest and clear. Once it was sent, I felt the layers of stress and anxiety begin to fade away. I felt adrift in a positive away, surrendering to uncertainty, trusting in a new way.