Some of you must think that I’m always happy as a clam here, never once having thoughts of returning home to Malaysia, FOR GOOD.
But I do. In fact, recently, I had a vivid dream where I cried out (to who, I’m not sure, but maybe to myself): “I want to go back to Malaysia! I want to go back to the job I had before! I want my life again!”
I woke up, both shaken and amazed by the power of the dream. Dream Me was almost desperate to reach me.
I am having what you can call career blues recently. Although I’m ever so grateful that my job gave me the financial security to pursue many of my dreams, there was a part of me that longed to be a white collar worker once more. I missed being Somebody. I missed feeling important. I miss having a title.
Back in Malaysia, people’s eyes would light up when I tell them what I did for a living. People took me seriously when I handed them my name card. They knew I meant business, and they knew my work would impact theirs.
It’s difficult to lose that, eventhough it was a deliberate act on my part. I didn’t want the baggage, so to speak. I wanted to focus on my dream – to be an authorpreneur (author and entrepreneur), I wanted to reforge my career (a nurse? though that seems more and more doubtful as the days pass) and build an entirely new way of living for myself. Yet, after a year or two of having people behave in ways that I’m not used to (mainly walk all over me, disrespect me etc), a part of me longed for that shield of prestige you get if you’re a white collar worker.
It shows that old habits die hard, and it also demonstrates how Malaysians (or perhaps people in general) are so hung up about status, titles and having careers to define their self worth. Because, really, that’s an illusion.
In Australia, I discovered that I’m definitely more than my career or status, the trouble is I needed to convince myself of that fact first. People in Australia don’t really care what you do. As long as you’re a good bloke they give you a thumbs up. So what if you’re a road sweeper (which, to be honest, I’ve not seen. I think they use machines for that)? That’s your business.
It’s not just the career insecurity that is bugging me, but it’s the fact that I have to make choices based on how much I earn (which isn’t fantastically much, but I’m frugal and I have decent savings). And one of the choices that bug the hell out of me right now is I want a place of my own but don’t think I want to do that just yet because of money concerns.
The gist of my long winded post is that I long for what I had before, the comfortable paycheck, the 1000sq-feet apartment, the yuppie-esque lifestyle, the witty colleagues and my name in print.
“You want to return to Egypt,” my friend said to me this morning. She told me to google the Keith Green song “So you wanna go back to Egypt“.
She and her husband faced tough times after moving from Canberra, and they used to sing the song to remind them why they had to perservere:
So you wanna go back to Egypt, where it’s warm and secure.
Are you sorry you bought the one-way ticket when you thought you were sure?
You wanted to live in the Land of Promise, but now it’s getting so hard.
Are you sorry you’re out here in the desert, instead of your own backyard?
You know the tale of how the Israelites were taken out of Egypt only to long for it once they were in the middle of the dessert? That’s what the song is about, and that’s me right there. I’m like the moaning and griping Israelites, longing for the ‘comforts’ of Egypt. And the only thing comfortable about Egypt was that it was familiar – you knew how things worked and you knew how to get what you wanted.
Life is uncomfortable in Australia now because I have to change. And change means discomfort. Discomfort means you are forced to learn new things, and learning new things are generally good for you. I have to learn these lessons first before I could reach the promised land.
Because of Australia, I learned how to order my time so that I could grow my writing.
Because of Australia, I was forced to be an entrepreneur, have an ABN number and work as my own boss.
Because of Australia, I am forced to live with other people and learn not to be so selfish and self-absorbed and to think about other people’s needs.
Because of Australia, I’m forced to deconstruct how I got my sense of worth. And I discovered that I got them from things outside myself, and therefore, out of my control, when I should learn how to validate and affirm myself. I have to get my sense of worth from inside myself, and from God.
And because of all these lessons I’m choosing to remain in Australia, because I’m not going to turn tail because it’s hard. It’s because it’s difficult that I should stay – how else am I to grow and learn? The years in the desert may not be fun, but one day I will reach the Promised Land.
So, fellow migrants and wannabe-migrants, there will be times when you wanna return to Egypt. You have to ask yourself: Why do you want to be in the Promised Land? Is staying on the desert road worth it?