I could tell from his fast talking and darting eyes that he was in a state of panic. He came to a counselling session with me because life had it such that this 27 year old software engineer living in a suburban US city, had to choose between taking a flight to Canada that evening, or moving to India. “If it wasn’t for this visa issue, I’d stay in the US”, he said— the visa gods directly disagreeing with him.
NRIs abroad at different times in their lives, are living in varying states of mind about where they should live— some feel panicked, some go with the flow and some stop after nostalgia or dreams— Should they move to Canada, or a few years in Europe, or india— maybe Dubai? The feeling is sprung from living maximum timezones away from family, being on a restricting visa, working on a job they hate and all the other things that come with being an immigrant.
It’s a mental problem not just for them, but for their families- parents in india, spouses that might not want to move and, for those who have kids, their worry for the kids. The only zen state is when they’ve decided— any other state of mind is not fun. It’s a nagging feeling for these NRIs— only the intensity varies.—
What can an NRI do to get rid of the nagging feelings? We take a look into the states NRI an can be feeling right now— starting from mild, going up to hot states, about their current life— Because your state of mind will determine the outcome of which action to take, we have a few strategies on how to deal with it.
Table of contents
Are you just reflecting? “Wonder what it would feel to live in…”
I knew Preeti didi since I was a baby—we were family friends. I visited her mansion home in San Jose— a 4 bed with a fluffy lawn and a blue-green swimming pool, bought with her husbands high profile job income. Preeti was cleaning her kitchen counter, when she mentioned “It might be nice to move to Mumbai! I’ll get a lot of help there”. And then she spoke about dropping her kids off at soccer practice.
What to do if you are in a “Reflecting on it” state of mind?
No one ever came out of an “india move reflecting exercise” with a decision to move to india. So if you’re just casually thinking about it, I would say chill. Enjoy your chai, go buy that Audi or home you have your eye on, and then come back to this post when your future reflections move into the next state of being— which is confusion or nagging. It takes time to get there, so you might as well invest money and time in your current life abroad.
You have that Nagging feeling about where to live
One of my clients, a mother of a 1 year old working at a reputed software company in the Bay Area told me she was triggered by a Facebook post. Her friend from college was moving to India, and it coincided with an aquiantence moving back to the US for their US citizen sons undergrad education. “What will happen to my daughter in 18 years? She’s a citizen, but I’m not. Is this a good move?”. It got her to feel a bit heavy around the heart. “Why do you want to move?” She described how she has this nagging feeling— while holding the styrofoam plate at the diwali party at their friends place. “Will that be me? What if I moved to india next year? I don’t like the fake chai tea latte here anyway”.
A high % of NRI’s are in this zone— mild to strong forms of confusion. Manytimes, decision is so long off that they’re not actively thinking about it, but its nagging, because it’s something that they want to eventually decide. Maybe they feel “I don’t see myself retiring in the US”.
What to do if you “got this Nagging feeling” or confused state of mind?
Very grey area to be in — NRIs in this state of mind, might google around a bit — “salaries in india” or “will I regret moving to india”, maybe find their way to this post on my website.
Let me spare you the research time. There’s a sea of opinion out there and your inner voice gets drowned in the noise. Its so possible that you, the NRI, might want to start, gently, very gently considering what living back abroad in America looks like long term. I know. It’s hard, its a shocker, but maybe you’re in denial— think about the years you will spend thinking you should move out, but actually you hearts of hearts want to and should stay back abroad. Let that child in you take a rest, and embrace a decision of staying back. No one should spend a decade in confusion. If you do decide to move, you’re in no state of confusion, so the decision will eventually make itself.
You are Confused about where to live
More than 100,000 H1B visas are denied annually in the US. What happens to these rejected NRIs when they get the dreaded news? This is what their plan looks like
1. Plan A: Apply for a Canadian PR
2. Plan B: Move to India
3. Plan C: Apply to a university to change to an F1 visa
Is moving to india really a plan B ? Honestly, a move to Canada vs India is a debate between a plan B and a plan B. Both, are plan B’s. If this NRI were to discuss their options, the responses maybe confusing— friends in the US would say “India, can’t work there man!” and also say “Canada? It’s too cold!” or that“Canada doesn’t have so many opportunities”. With conflicting information, the choices don’t feel like they have a sequence— they are all contenders for the silver medal.
Confused people mostly seek opinions that confirm what they already think. A colleague at my ex-company was about to leave the company— he told me “I spoke to so many people here, and they are all unhappy with their job in this company`!”. Oh, I thought, but I could send 100 more your way who ARE happy with their jobs here!
What to do if you are in a confused state of mind?
The more you listen to opinions, the more you will be conflicted, and then any decision looks monsterous. India is a state of mind— so your friends are describing their feelings, but their feelings are so different from what you would feel. “I hate it here” or “ I love it here” will resonate with you because you’re validating your own thinking.
If you move in a confused state, its possible you will be unhappy. You might have regrets— I should have done that MBA, or I should have moved to Austin. Moves that are unplanned do workout, but when you are fully intune with your gut— which means you wouldn’t be confused in the first place.
This is where you might have to approach it with a ‘what is right for me, only I will be able to figure out’. My book has described this in detail, you could read it too. Any sentence that starts with “What if” is making you try to a cross that bridge 2 miles before it comes. You can’t cross it 2 miles before because its not there. Hello. Stop restlessness by deciding that you will make a decision when it comes to a point when you’re thinking about this everyday. Then, Like I mention in my book, go rent a cabin in a remote place, on a beach or a quiet resort and just keep yourself alone. Remember, your body knows the answer.
You are Conflicted!
Conflict is so much harder to resolve— and one stands out like a shining star— which is the parents conflict. Some NRI’s have parents that tell them “Beta, please come here, we need your help”, and a spouse that has declared “I’m not moving” — what should they do? Who is their duty towards— Parents in india or the spouse that wants to stay?
“I really should be in india right now with my parents, what am I doing here?”. Feeling guilty? Feeling like you’re about to make a bad decision? You’re not alone. Right now, many NRIs are conflicted on their dut, wondering if they should help ageing parents or continue their lives abroad— maybe the job isn’t even going that well, or it even if it is, why are they unable to make that decision to move?
What to do when you’re in such a dharma conflict?
First of all, lets put it out there that any decision you take is right— it’s the result that may not work out for you. So what is crucial, is timing. The answer to WHEN is key to most cases. Do you make things happen to you, or do you wait for things to happen to you? Should you wait around for a feeling to bubble up. before you plunge into a decision? You have to make sure you’re timing it right. Timing is not about summer vs winter, or age— its about how you’re feeling, and if you’ve explored all your options.
Duty is a tough subject and a topic that’s been around for eons. In fact, we have a whole book written on what your duty and dharm is, way back in 5000 BC. Guess! There are two things to do here. Stop looking for answers in others. Gather facts, gather yourself, gather your feelings, your thoughts. Second, read about duty. Is your duty to your spouse or parents— only you can decide, and whatever you decide, is right.
Highly annoyed or restless?
It was a Sunday morning and me, still propped up on my pillows, read this email that made its way into my inbox. “Nupur, I came to Canada, and I am so sad, I can’t stand it here! Should I leave everything and move back tomorrow? Why did I leave my friends, my family behind. I am not enjoying living here. This is not what I imagined it to be”.
Poor chap! Students and some folks new to the immigrant life would know how this feels. I was once that sobbing student too. At one point in the day I wanted to just leave everything and go home, and another point in the day I desperately wanted some means to earn money. I hated it— I was restless, uneasy or annoyed at many times!
What to do when you’re annoyed or restless?
This “I want to go back now!” state goes away eventually. Yes it does! There is hope. (Unless you’re chronically depressed, then any state you’re in will require professional help). Otherwise, it passes. Calm down. Yea, I know how annoying someone telling you to “calm down” is. But if you’re reading this and are in the “I want to move back now” state of mind – you did so much to get to come this far, figuratively and literally far. Stick it through. As they say ”You didn’t come this far, to just come this far”. Everyone goes through this phase and its not related to immigration— you probably felt this way on your first day at undergraduate collage or even KG 🙂 . Life isn’t easy for anyone— lots of NRIs get annoyed and upset too— you don’t see it because no one ever post their post-crying-puffed-eye selfie on Instagram. This “NOW” feeling will settle itself out— its got to! You will find what matters to you- cheaper food, more friends, a better job- direct or contract. Hang in there! It’s better to work this phase out— get that degree if you’re a student, or if you’re working, give it one year for the feeling to settle itself out.
Are you FREAKING OUT?
“Nupur, what should I do? I have to decide to take up this new job or move to india by tomorrow 11am!”.
You’d think a move to india is a non-urgent decision, but no. There are many NRIs who are in the unfortunate position of deciding their future in a small time frame. Like I mentioned before, I had a client who had to decide to take a flight to Canada that evening. Another client, poor girl, had a panic attack triggered from talking to her ex-husband, and wanted to make up her mind about moving to india, NOW. Not a moment later.
What will happen if you move with this state of mind?
At the core of it, if you’re freaking out, you need more help on another kind of problem— and packing up and shipping out immediately will put you in a position of future regret. If you feel cornered against a wall “But but, Microsoft gave me this offer, and I’ll never get another chance again and I need to make a decision by 10:59 am tomorrow!”, it’s best to stick to status quo— which is, don’t change anything, unless of course, your gut has already made up your mind, in which case, are you sure you’re not freaking out for something else?
Ok, if you’re still freaking out, listen up: Even if you decide to move, what is the worst? You will lose some or lots of money. Or a job. Or a career. All of these points are re-earn-able. You’ll just need a longer time to recover it. So even the worst case is not that bad— which ever the worst case is for you. Nothing in life is so irreversible if you try hard enough.
You know, maybe there isn’t even a worst case—What if I tell you, anything you decide is good enough for your situation and the data they have right now?
The best way to calm your freak-outness? You’ve got to listen to your body. Take a long walk. Got to a park. Yes— Assuming you’re not in india while you’re reading this, take your car to the nearest park, or book a cabin in Yosemite and sit in the cabin porch alone, without internet and just let your body do the talking. Still freaking out? Talk to me and we can figure it out together. I’m here exactly for this!