Thursday, April 17, 2008

Q & A: "I met someone at my younger brother's wedding"

Name: Michele
City: Sacramento, CA
Question: In July I met someone at my younger brother's wedding. Simon is 2 years younger than me (I'm 31), a German national, and recently started his medical residency (GYN/ONC) in Germany. Simon has never taken the US medical exams so at this time, he does not have an opportunity to come to the US. I doubt he ever will .. He could need to repeat not only the exams but his residency (6 years). My dilemma: Simon asked me to marry him in May and I said "maybe." My background ... I graduated college in 1991 and went straight to work for a Blue-chip-stock company. I have been there a little over 10 years now and have established myself at work, in my personal life, & my community. I own my dream home and love the area I live in -- I always imagined I would settle here. Before I get too long winded -- I can't decide whether I want to move to Germany -- could be permanently. But, the thought of losing Simon makes me miserable -- I do think he's "the one" and at 31, I've spent a long time looking. I hate the thought of giving up my life, especially when Simon is just starting out -- he's not even sure he's doing the right career (how I think we all feel when we're just starting a job). Me, I'd be giving up a lot -- stock options, a good job, friends, etc., and stepping out into the UNKNOWN. FYI, I've been looking for jobs in Europe -- with my company -- but due to the tech industry biz environment, I have found nothing in 6 months. What is your advice? Give it all up and take the risk or stay in my comfort zone? PS Simon is an optimist -- he thinks no matter how much we struggle, how poor we are, no matter where we're located -- that we'll be happy and together. Me, I can't decide -- plus, I need sunshine! The thought of cold and rain and snow in Germany depresses me! Thanks ...

Hi Michele,

Thanks for writing...May I first remark how deeply I identify with your situation. I too graduated from college in 1991 and know how incredibly difficult it was to get a firm foothold employment wise when it was the worst job market in 27 years. If you remember, there were a lot of extremely bright and qualified individuals who ended up working for minimum wage as there wasn't any other options...The pure fact that you got involved in that company at that time (right before it took off) and have been there so long is very impressive, so I can understand your dilemma.

It sounds as though you two are coming from different angles in life. You share a great love, and that's secure and safe. But for your own personal goals/dreams, you have two different mindsets. You know what it took you to get this far, you know what you had to put up with and overcome to be successful, and you have already reached goals that in the beginning were seen as mere dreams. You are proud (rightly so) of your accomplishments and now that you have reached a relatively secure point in your career, you are able to begin to focus on more personal issues. Simon is just starting out, as you said. It is understandable that he has second doubts about his career choice, but this is not a "new" thing he started yesterday. He's been working on getting to this level for several years... That actually worries me a little bit as it makes me wonder what else he can be "iffy" about. However, I'm not a doctor, so I have no idea what they go through. I would just think that if someone dedicated their life for years to work on becoming something, that they would have that innate belief and conviction that what they are working towards is truly what they want to become... It seems to me that it all comes down to Romanticism versus Practicality. Simon's definitely a Romantic, and I can certainly relate to that. He truly does mean it when he's saying that as long as the two of you are together, then you'll be happy. He's not really focusing on the peripheral aspects of your relationship (like what your household income would be, work environment, living atmosphere) as he is focused on what the two of you share relationship wise. He's taking for granted that as long as you two are in love and face things together, all else will fall into place for you. In some ways he's right...But sometimes love is not enough and outside forces (mainly Money) can have a devastating toll on a relationship.

Relationships are somewhat like two boats that are tied together with a fairly long rope. When life is good and the water's calm, you two will focus on each other, communicate well, and always be in each other's sight. On days like these, you two can face anything because there's nothing between you...You can pull one boat closer in and really latch on to be closer. This is the way that Simon sees things... However, in Life, you do get some stormy seas...On rough days, the swells of life will separate your boats to the point of almost breaking your rope. You'll catch glimpses of each other when a wave goes down, but when it comes up again, you'll lose focus of each other and will have to deal with what's immediately around you. You will have to do whatever you can to ensure you survive, as well as doing all you can to not allow that rope to break. This is the kind of scenario that you can envision happening from time to time - You realize that you have to work at keeping a relationship strong and that there is always other external influences that can make the seas boil around you. You know that you have to do what you can to make sure the seas are as calm as possible, that the boats don't have any leaks (you both have to float on your own in order to be together), that the rope is as strong and supple as possible. In real terms this means that you realize you have to be happy where you are, that you both are happy in what you are doing individually (as well as with each other), and that there's sufficient income to ensure a quality of life the both of you can be comfortable with. (Hey - I just came up with this whole boat analogy thing...I think I'm going to have to remember it for the future!)

Now I can be statistically cold and remind you that no matter how great Simon is, there's some 6 billion people in this world, so it's very likely that there's someone else out there for you, and one that would be closer to home with requiring less to give up for. Remember, if you were in China and you think he's in a million, there's a thousand people just like him...However, let's not give up on Simon just yet. The way I see it is this - You love your job, you've looked at practical options of going to Europe (The most high-tech place in Europe that I've personally heard of was Ireland - Not exactly in Germany, but it IS closer - but your chance of Sunshine is still not very high) for work but they haven't panned out, you're established, you're accomplished, and financially you're pretty set. If you were to change companies, it would make most sense for you to change jobs in California as they will most likely pay you for what your expertise is (since that's where the market is) and you'll be able to use your experience to your greatest advantage. It sounds like you love your industry and have no desire to change, and California is certainly a good place to be if you want to work in the computer field (although I do keep hearing of other places around the U.S. that are building up their own Silicone Valleys). Simon's just starting out, but also he's ambivalent about his desire to be in that field anyway. To be honest, he has the greater opportunity to pick up and move... Realistically, he shouldn't as he's put so much time and effort into it. However, he should investigate fully the chances of his transferring some of that experience over to the States. Although he's put a lot of time into it, you are much more established and therefore have the larger and stronger foundation to support the both of you. You own a house, and I'm guessing he's living in a flat. If he wants to be fair and equal in the relationship, then he has to make sure to take a very hard look and exhaust all possibilities of his coming over here before he expects you to throw away your dreams and accomplishments. You've already proven you're willingness to change your life for him, and the numbers don't seem to add up in anyone's favor... Now he has to do the same for you. If he truly loves you, then he'll understand your position and want you to be happy. You have a lot more to give up (that's already established) than he does, and you happen to be perfectly happy in your field (which you might not be able to stay in if you move to Europe), where he is still having doubts. Besides, his Love can provide a lot of Sunshine, but if he's struggling with his own merits at his job, then he's not going to be able to light up your days as much as you might need if you are living in Germany...At least if you two are in California, you don't have to worry about the weather...To me, he has to be the one to make the larger sacrifice for this to work...In this situation, Practicality has to win over Romanticism based on the pure facts alone. I hope this helps, and please don't be a stranger...Good luck...

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