The Privilege of the Reset Button
This past Monday, a crew of men showed up to my house and packed up ~40% of my stuff. As I write this, the stuff is being shipped to Singapore. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like. Based on my (limited) understanding of the costs involved in modern shipping and logistics, I could just as easily be convinced that it will be loaded on to a boat in the greater NYC harbor area OR that it will be transported across the country before it embarks somewhere on the West Coast. Either way, it’s going to take somewhere around 8 weeks for 4/10ths of my worldly possessions to meet us in Singapore. Of the remaining 60%, I figure approximately half is going into longterm stateside storage, and the remainder is going to find new homes.
None of it is going to cost me a cent.
With the move to Singapore, I am coming as close as I probably ever will to being able to hit a giant ‘Reset’ button on many parts of my life, and it’s costing me nothing. I’m selling a house, and have no plans to carry a mortgage ever again. We are not going to keep a car. Even my new job transitions me back to the classroom. These are all big deal things. The most surprising thing about all of them so far is how easy they have been to achieve on the practical level (the emotional level is an entirely different animal).
Here’s a brief conversation that I have had quite a few times recently:
Person: Wow, you are really brave to be moving to Singapore.
Me: Do you really think so?
Person: Yes. I can’t imagine what it’s like to do everything that you have to do to make a move like that.
Me: It’s nowhere near as hard as you think it is.
This isn’t me being self-effacing or minimizing the magnitude of this life change. It’s a big one. In many ways, it’s the biggest one that I’ve ever been through. Marriage, or having kids are both up there, but for me, both of those events really didn’t shift the circumstances of life in significant ways. Life afterward was not all that different from life before. With the Singapore thing, a pattern of life that has mainly been the same for 37 years is being substantially interrupted. For both my wife and me, we’re moving from a situation where our immediate family has always been within a day’s drive (if not an hour’s, in my case) to one where it is not really possible to be any further away from them while still being on the planet. Emotionally, this is big deal stuff.
But that’s not what people mean when we have that conversation. They mean that the thought of moving the physical structure of their life 10,000 miles away is a daunting proposition.
It’s really not. At least if you are me. And there’s nothing special about me here. It would be just as easy for anyone entertaining a similar type of move in similar circumstances. It is a function of nothing more significant than my privileged status. Anyone similarly privileged would have a similar experience to mine. In as much as there is such a thing in the education space, I’m a “high powered professional.” I teach relatively elite subjects, and I’m in demand. This all means that in order to move to Singapore, I’ve needed to make sure that I fill out a series of paperwork in a timely fashion, and schedule all of the necessary appointments. I haven’t had to pay for anything that wasn’t strictly elective. I’m not going to make some great fortune from the sale of my house, but I’m going to make a profit. Assuming everything works out the way it seems like it is going to, I’m actually going to make money from this career change.
This is what I mean when I say that it is not materially difficult to make a change like this if you are in a situation similar to my own. It’s almost convenient. Which is…odd…and not something that maps against most people’s internal model of what it means to move to another country, far away. Most people around me have not really been exposed to this type of thing during their lifetime. In their own family history, their ancestors made a similar type of migration, but it was one that was likely quite different from my own in terms of prospects, and security, and modern technology, and all of the other things that my privilege affords me. It’s a bit like comparing carriages to Teslas, except even then for the analogy to hold up you would probably need to build the carriage yourself.
Is this move a massive change and a giant do-over? Absolutely. But the fact that I get to do the way that I am says a lot more about my station in life than it does my tenacity or anything else about my character. It’s really not that hard. Just make sure you sign the papers and keep your appointments.
How did this one strike you? Have I missed the mark? Hit the target? Veered a bit off at the end? Drop me a line or leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
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