‘I quit finance for a simpler life in the sun. But with no friends, should I go home?’

Tell Me About It: ‘My Mediterranean life sounds idyllic, but I have seen no family’

PROBLEM: Five years ago, I changed my life completely. I had been working in the financial sector and living in the fast lane for about 15 years. Unlike many of my female friends, I never wanted children or any sort of lifelong relationship. I worked extremely hard and my main commitment was to a hectic, hedonistic lifestyle.

But I eventually felt tired and the pace of my life started to take its toll on both my physical and mental health. I impulsively left the city life behind me to live in a ramshackle but beautiful, rural Mediterranean farmhouse. I started exercising and eating well, and by taking advantage of my business acumen I have just started a small business, selling local farm produce and craftware to shops and supermarkets in nearby large towns.

So far it all sounds like an idyllic existence. But for more than 18 months during Covid restrictions, I did not get to see any of my Irish friends and family in person. While the locals here have eventually accepted me into their community, I have not formed any meaningful friendships or intimate relationships.

About a month ago and out of the blue a former colleague from my old firm reached out to me by offering a senior and lucrative role in the organisation. I had previously applied for similar positions on many occasions without any success and I have started to wonder if this offer is a sign telling me that it would be better if I just sold up and returned to my previous life.

When I originally left home to live abroad my siblings and friends tried to convince me to stay in Ireland. Now each one of them thinks that I have built up a better life abroad. They all think that I fear commitment and that once I start to feel under pressure I act impulsively without any thought for the consequences. In many ways they are right: I do have a good life here and while I am somewhat lonely, I have always been fairly self-sufficient.

Although I miss the active social life I had in Dublin, all of my former social buddies have moved out of the city to live in the countryside with their young families, so it probably would not be the same anymore. I need to make a decision about this job soon, and I think I am being realistic by saying it is highly unlikely that such an opportunity will come my way again. There is a lot for me to consider. This could be my last chance to return to Ireland to a better situation than what I left. But it would mean turning my back on my new life.

ADVICE: The choices you face are all good ones. If you stay where you are you will need to focus on making real and lasting friendships. This would have been difficult during Covid but should be much easier now. If you decide to come back to Dublin it will be to a very busy working life and you will still need to create new and strong close relationships as your old cohort have moved on. Creating new friendships and connections is something most of us have to do at some stage in our lives and as this is difficult, we often go into avoidance mode until it is forced upon us. You have lots of experience of a demanding career so you know what is in store if you take this option, and it should be clear that you would need to commit to a change in old habits and to prioritise a social life that is healthy for you.

Your friends and family have watched you in both situations so their observations and advice should be listened to carefully. You say they worry about your inability to commit and your impulsiveness, so both of these things could do with some attention if you are to make good choices for yourself. Being undecided leaves you in a state of agitation and ‘what if’s’.

Take on the chance to address your issue with commitment, with the knowledge that it will keep presenting itself until you face it fully

As both of your options seem positive, you can find yourself swinging from one future to another very easily. The important thing to do is to make a choice (with the guidance of those that love you) and then follow that decision physically, mentally and emotionally. This means that your body lives fully in the place you have decided, that your mind does not go to ‘I should or I shouldn’t have chosen differently’, and you commit wholeheartedly to the decision you make. Whatever you need to address will then turn up in front of you and you will find that you have the resources to deal with it.

You have been lonely during Covid and this is an understandable response – it is telling you that you have a need for companionship and deep connection, and this will be true regardless of where you live. Loneliness pushes us into taking risks with others and in letting them know our inner selves. It comes with the possibility of rejection so requires courage and confidence, both of which you seem to have.

In some ways it will be easier at home because you have family and connections that you can click into, but that intimate piece will still be a challenge. If you stay in your Mediterranean home, you will have some extra barriers to get through (language and culture) but ultimately you can do this if the people in question trust that you are committed to a life there. So your family and friends are right: commitment is the issue and you are getting another chance to address this in your life, so take it on with the knowledge that it will keep presenting itself until you face it fully.