Stay The Course or Abort Mission?

There were tears, whispered conversations, coin-flipping, bribery-fuelled negotiations, even a few break-ups. Nothing could spark drama among my friends and coworkers during my time in Japan like this one word: Recontracting.

Once a year, in the darkest, coldest and most depressing time of year, I had to sign my name on one of two lines: “I wish to accept reappointment” or “I DO NOT wish to accept reappointment.” Everyone in my position had to do the same. A year is just a year, but at the same time when you’re talking about living on the other side of the planet it’s AN ENTIRE YEAR. These were some of the hardest decisions to make, and to help others make, and to helplessly watch others make.

Sometimes, though, I wonder what it would be like if everyone did this.

How different would life be if every year you had to agonize over whether to continue your current course of action for another year, or cease all operations and do something completely different? If you had to make lists of pros and cons and consult with your loved ones, friends and coworkers about a decision that ultimately only you could make?

Yes, once a year people often reflect on their lives and set goals for the coming year. But this isn’t some new year’s half-assed dieting resolution. It’s all or nothing, and once you sign that line, there’s no turning back for a whole year. The process of deciding takes you through the fire, and when you come out, you’re committed to your chosen direction, whether you want to be or not.


...The choice is easier for some than others. And sometimes, when you know, you know.  Image source: Kai Saito
…The choice is easier for some than others. And sometimes, when you know, you know.
Image credit: Kai Saito

Today I looked through my old blog posts to see where my mind was at each year as I made those decisions. You can pretty clearly see the progression:

Winter 2011: “On Snow Days, Sickness, and Another Year In Japan”

We had originally planned to stay at least two years, as long as we liked it enough, and we did, so we are. There’s a lot we still want to do here, that we definitely can’t all do in one year. Plus, going through all the trouble to learn Japanese seems futile if we’re only here for a year. Of course, there’s many more reasons, but I won’t bore you with all the pros and cons.

Winter 2012: “Another Year, Another Yen”

The best news this week is that I have finally paid off all of my student debt, within two years of graduating!

Winter 2013: “Off The Fence At Last”

Whether we’ve made the right decision or not I don’t even really care anymore, I’m just glad to be off that fence.

Winter 2014: “10 Signs You’ve Been In Japan Too Long” 

While we have enjoyed our time in Japan, and it has given us the opportunity to, among other things, be the “exotic” people that couldn’t attend our high school reunions because we’re “abroad” (and we are both much more popular at high school this time around, by the way), we are more than ready to move on.

These were hard decisions. The first two years less so, but year three (2013) was the hardest in terms of actually deciding – it involved all kinds of complicated measurement systems as my husband and I attempted to allow science to lessen the decision-making burden on us. Year four (2014) was the hardest in terms of living with the decision afterwards – leaving was damn hard and a huge part of me didn’t really want to.

Each year’s decision was a milestone, though, due to the way it caused me to examine everything about my life and decide if I wanted to stay the course or move on. How would I make that decision now if I was given a clear-cut binding choice to “Continue your life in its present form” or “Cease all aspects of your current job/residence/life and move on to something new?”

If I decided to stay, what plans would I make to make the most of my time?

If I decide to move on, what steps would I take to prepare for the next year doing something new?

If you were forced to make such a choice, what would you do?

13 thoughts on “Stay The Course or Abort Mission?

  1. I recently hit stop on my life course and redirected it to something different. It’s hard doing something new, but I think ultimately it’ll give me more purpose in life. It’s just over a year since I came back to the UK and I guess it took me a whole year to figure things out.

  2. I’ve completely uprooted my life and moved to a different time zone twice with less than a month’s notice. I wouldn’t want to do it again that spur of the moment, but I am a big fan of the coin toss and not planning. 🙂

    1. Wow! The coin toss does give a certain amount of freedom if you commit yourself to it. It’s also a good way to know what you really think (how your heart reacts to the coin’s decision).

  3. I think it would be hard to be locked into something for a year, but really, I guess that’s kind of the way life works whether its spelled out for you or not. As for my vote, I voted to stay the course for now with the option to abort the mission should a better opportunity arise. How’s that for decision making!!

  4. I just made this decision and I decided to abort my mission. So by the end of the week I’ll be packed up and moving – I’m glad I aborted the mission and moved on 🙂

  5. I voted abort mission! I like the work in doing now, but in another 6 months…I don’t see myself still enjoying it. At the same time, I hate the feeling of temporary-ness that I can’t seem to shake as I keep searching for the new thing I want to be when I grow up!!

    1. Good luck as you set out in search of new things! I think I’ve come to terms with the permanent feeling of temporaryness (ironic, heh), but it’s hard when society constantly tells us we must “settle down” eventually. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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