Hand-Me-Downs

I’m the eldest of two children; my younger brother is three years younger than me. Though the difference in years isn’t stark, the difference in experiences growing up certainly is.

Case in point can be seen with the ever infamous “hand-me-downs.” As the older sibling you’re always giving things away and as the younger sibling you’re always receiving them. The funny thing about hand-me-downs is that neither party is entirely pleased with the process.

The older sibling never really wants to completely relinquish that item they’ve grown attached to even though they know they have no more use for it. The younger sibling would prefer something new rather than worn. Being the elder in this scenario, I was always told when it was time to give that sweater to my brother; when it doesn’t fit anymore it’s time to move on. Seems fairly obvious.

In adult life the hand-me-down concept becomes more difficult. Once we’ve stopped growing, how can we tell when that sweater no longer fits? Just like that cute Christmas sweater, which lights up, that your mom bought you when you were eight didn’t do anything for you at age ten, things in our life naturally run their course. The trick is to determine when that point is.

I’ve been searching for an “elevator pitch” answer to my leaving Costa Rica. I’ve discovered that I know why I’m leaving but I’m awful at explaining it to others; the more explanation I give, the greater confusion I cause. For better or worse I’ve settled on outgrowing my glow in the dark Christmas sweater.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that sweater. It’s just that I’ve worn it for three Christmases in a row and I’d like to try another one this year.

Costa Rica is an amazing country. Much of what I’ve accomplished in my life – both personally and professionally – and hope to accomplish in the years to come have been and will be because of the foundation I had the privilege of establishing here. The trick is the word foundation. I feel I have a great professional base but am now limited in growth opportunities.

Staying in Costa Rica would be easy. The job will always be here. The people will always be nice. Life will never be stressful. Let’s not even start on the beaches.

It’s not about Costa Rica the country. It’s not that it’s limiting in and of itself; it’s only limiting for me at this point in my life just as Canada was limiting for me three and a half years ago. I don’t have promotional opportunities at work – I’m already at the top, so there’s nowhere to go. In terms of company growth, it’s a great business model and a very successful program, but in a very niche market which doesn’t allow for large expansion.

Under different circumstances that would be perfect. The teachers that I train – of all different ages – come to Costa Rica looking for just that. If I were still living in Canada, and lacking an experience abroad, I would jump at that opportunity just like I did when I first made the move.

Given the experiences already gained here I now realize it’s time to move on.

This is the hard part. When a sweater you like still fits it’s awfully difficult to trade it in for another one. It’s comfortable and you feel confident when you wear it. You see it through a biased set of eyes because you’ve been through so much together. And when there’s no one to tell you of its limitations, it’s hard to see them.

Now that both my brother and I are adults, I don’t give him clothes anymore – and especially not this sweater. In fact I’m not giving it to anyone. I’m keeping it in case I want to bring it out at a future Christmas. All I’m doing now is going shopping.

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