Running from my calling


The last two months have been one of the most stressful times of my life. Yet, things were heading the right direction for me. I was working on my PR application (filed at last!), applied for another job and got it, and I’m earning more money than before.

BUT I was unhappy. Desperately so.

Well, the first reason was pretty clear. I was working seven days a week, clocking over 90 hours per fortnight. But I told myself it was a necessary sacrifice to transition myself to the new company (I’m juggling two jobs right now).

Second reason was also clear: I was biting off more than I can chew. As always. Dealing with a 90-hour per fortnight, physically demanding job is hard enough, but also juggling a PR application and my studies (I’m learning how to write fiction and it’s more complicated than I thought!) with less than ideal sleep is a nightmare.

Sometimes, I found myself in tears at the end of a terrible work day. Hell, sometimes I was in tears at work!

So, outwardly, I have the appearance of a successful immigrant, but I was miserable.

Initially I thought it was the lack of life balance I was having. And yes, it plays a big part, but some migrants juggle more than what I have and are still content.

It took me a while to realise that I was unhappy because I was not pursuing my calling. Or, rather, I was too afraid to.

Running after, running away
I’ve always wanted to write. I started penning stories when I was 10. I drew comics of a girl with a fabulous life in New York. She had a cool job – she was an astronomer – and fabulous digs (a mansion with swimming pool, waterfalls etc). Penning that comic was a joy – I filled exercise books with her story.

Then, when I was 12, I discovered the joys of the written word. I penned my first non-fiction book (a book on astronomy, of course) when I was 12, and I remember tinkering with it one day and my tuition teacher saw me with it. She remarked, “I’ve never seen anything like this!” I remembered thinking how odd it was that she thought it was so remarkable. It’s just something I did, nothing fancy really.

By the time I was 15, I was penning my first novel. I lived for the days where I could be alone in the hot, stuffy study room where my barely-functioning computer was.

Then I grew up.

And I began listening to the naysayers (You can’t make a living from writing fiction! Why are you writing junk when you should be writing literary masterpieces?) and became afraid of my circumstances (it’s too difficult to publish a book! I’ll never be able feed myself!).

So I gave up writing fiction.

At first I flirted with the law. I had an uncanny way with the subject; I always had distinctions. (Basically I can bullshit my way out of a paper bag, and I think I would’ve made a great career at professional bullshitting). But at the 11th hour, just before I was to enrol in a UK Law degree programme, I did a U-turn and decided to chase after my passion somewhat.

I decided to be a journalist.

Now, don’t get me wrong, being a journalist was the best thing that happened to me. It opened up my world in unbelievable ways. I travelled the world, honed my writing, so no regrets. But it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I had become what Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way called a Shadow Artist. I did what Shadow Artists did: I tailed people who had the courage I didn’t have to pursue their writing dreams. I interviewed and worked with them but I didn’t want to jump into the rabbit hole myself.

Running to Oz
In a way, coming to Australia was my way of running away from my calling once more.

At the end of my 15-year career, I became disillusioned with the writing profession. I viewed it as an unstable, unprofitable profession. I felt that I didn’t learn any useful or valuable skills. I eventually regretted becoming one. I should’ve become a lawyer, I chided myself. Or worked in corporate. If I had stayed in advertising I would’ve been loaded and happy.

I came to Australia with the intention of pursuing a different career while making writing my side affair. I chose nursing because, well, nurses are in demand everywhere, and it kinda fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a doctor somewhat. (Nevermind that I discovered in college that I didn’t have the temperament to be one, nor the interest to lead a doctor’s demanding life.)

But the last few months, I discovered that nursing wasn’t for me. Sure, I can be technically capable but my head wasn’t going to be in it. Am I willing to spend years and money to retrain myself to be in a profession that I may come to loathe?

I realise the answer is NO. And again I’m at the crossroads. I feel like a kid asking God, “What should I be when I grow up?”

Two weeks ago I sat down and realised that I was running away from what I wanted to really do. So, tiredly, I told myself that I will stop running away and make writing my thing. My MAIN thing.

And my soul calmed down.

After I made that decision, I worked a 90-hour week as usual, but I was at peace because I had cut my hours from 90 to a mere 50, and promised myself that I’m willing to cut further to accommodate my new goals. I told myself that writing will be my “personal legend.” No more running away business. No more being a shadow artist.

For decades I tried to write another legend for myself. It was comfortable, but an ill-fit. I compromised a lot for the sake of practicality. Well, getting to Australia was one step in the right direction. It was part of my personal legend since I was a kid, but my TRUE legend was to be a writer whose words can inspire, entertain and impact others.

So September is a landmark month for me in many ways. I’ve lodged my PR application and finally embraced my “personal legend”. While failure may dot my way, there’s no better path to be on than the road to your dreams.


6 thoughts on “Running from my calling

  1. You know that author of Harry Potter? She had a lot of naysayers too. I wouldn’t ask you to drop your job and just chase your dreams recklessly, you still need money to survive. Just keep your dreams alive, even if you don’t write seriously now, you can write casually to hone your skills (like blogging for instance) and once you transitioned into your new job and got the PR stuff settled, you can pursue your dreams more effectively, again 😀

  2. No, definitely not a proponent of dropping my job and living the life of a starving artist. Worrying about when the nxt meal is going to come would totally tank my creative batteries. The thing is I tend to overpopulate my life with too many things to do – so much so that it eats into my writing time. Work is a big thing – I often use work to procrastinate! Also, I tend to hold on to something that’s not working for the sake of security, and that’s not great either.

  3. Pingback: Longing for home | Malaysia to Adelaide

  4. Awesome experience with good and bad times but it paid off your patience and passionate about writing. My and my wife thought of the same “let’s migrate” and I have a son aged 13 and little princess aged 17 months old. With a lot of negative thoughts in mind – what am I going to work as, how do I get a job and a decent living supporting two kids, insurance, medical and place to say etc? I still have debts to pay in Malaysia even though after migrating and besides Sydney or Melbourne, what other city that is most likely safe, better community, job opportunities, infrastructure etc.

    How did you overcome all above, being abroad is crucial and even the decision to migrate leaving everything behind.

    • Oh dear, that’s a complicated question with very complicated answer, William. I didn’t exactly overcome anything. But honestly, you must understand that going to Australia doesn’t mean your life will instantly be better. You will trade one trouble for another. You must also understand what you really, really want from life to be there.

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