This morning, I had a “lie in”. I read a book “Until Tuesday” (a memoir if a service dog and his army vet human friend), then at 9am decided to take a ride around my neighbourhood. I hopped on my trusty but rusty bicycle which I bought two years ago from Gumtree, and headed to one of my favourite cafes in the neighbourhood. So here am I sitting with a up of strong, long black coffee, a muffin and a pizza and typing this.
So, yes, I’m happy to report that my mood isn’t as dour as before, and things have looked significantly better. It’s amazing what rest can do for you. From July to October, I worked seven days a week, sometimes clocking in 100 over hours per fortnight. You may argue that office workers in Kuala Lumpur worked more than that, but I was doing a physically and emotionally-exhausting job, and my body and mind was crying out for relief.
One of the ways I got relief was to stop working Sundays. My money-minded self balked at the idea (in Australia, you earn nearly double per hour on Sunday) but I took the leap anyway. A month into my new schedule and I’m loving it. It’s wonderful to be in step with everyone else; to have an off day with the rest of the population. And most of all, being an extrovert, I was being healed and energised by the presence of people around me. I loved watching people indulge in retail therapy at Rundle Mall, I adored eating bimimbap on a ramshackle table in the middle of busy Central Market with vendors yelling, “One dollar! One dollar! Grab them before they’re gone!” or sipping coffee with my laptop on my table in a cafe in a gentrified part of town where the leaves are heavy on trees and people talk in hushed tones over java and pastries.
When I landed in Oz two years ago, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work surviving almost immediately. I don’t think I quite rested during the two years I tried to fulfill my 35-hour-a-week requirement and it took me a while, even after I got my PR, to get myself out of that mindset of “work or else”.
Now I’m working only 40 to 60 hours per fortnight. I spend my free time writing, volunteering, socialising and nature worshipping.
As my head cleared and my angst dissipated, I realised that I was a blessed creature. In Malaysia I had prestige because of my job at a blue-chip company, money and a yuppie lifestyle but I also battled traffic jams, an obsession with materialism and climbing the corporate ladder, and the realisation that I was not pursuing my dream to write fiction and publish my own books.
I’m now actively pursuing what I used to dream about. Since landing in Australia in August 2012, a short story of mine was published in the book KL Noir. I have also published a children’s book and two of my e-books on Amazon are earning money (which still totally amazes me). In the meantime, I have also finished two more novels! Artistically, 2011-to present has been the most artistically fulfilling time of my life. I’m now even thinking about taking painting lessons!
But I realised one thing. Although you’re pursuing your dreams, it doesn’t mean that life becomes all roses and pansies. You still stuggle with problems, and a lot of times they are problems that you have never encountered before. Living in a new place, doing things you have never done before can stress the hell out of you. Sometimes it even breaks you. But if you do it wisely and with the right mindset, taking a career break and moving to another country can be one of the best things you could ever do for yourself.
If I do return to Malaysia (and that question is still up in the air), I would remember my time in Adelaide as being one of the most vivid, entrancing, stressful, amazing, awe-inspiring and memorable experiences of my life. Why? Because I dared to give my dreams a chance, and I believed in myself and in God enough to leap off the cliff not just because of the chance of succeeding, but to experience the journey, even if it’s for a brief moment in time.