Subdued in a long-lasting melancholy of how to move forward in life post-university, my extended summer holiday break had got me thinking seriously about my future, for the first time since everything well, stopped.
Caught up in a series of extracurricular projects, my last year of university passed in a blur of poverty, homelessness and volunteering. I don’t even know how I fit study in, it certainly wasn’t a priority by then – survival was. I remember one week realising I didn’t have enough money to get to class on the bus past Monday’s classes, and borrowing university financial aid for bus fare. I was so sure all the volunteering would give me those amazing ‘transferable skills’ employers look for, that I was one step away from my marvellous future. I just needed to survive the year. Lightening my load was never an option.
One of these projects, an event, carried over into the months after my undergraduate study finished. By the time the event was done I had started my post-grad degree, and a second short course, and found myself caught up in study plus seeking work and working in temporary jobs that would maybe lead to something more interesting. I had a career direction in mind that I was sure was the future I wanted – job security, interesting work, great salary; my future stitched up. Talk about a minimalist life – when I had my graduation ceremony in 2014, I was living in a hostel, had no computer after the robbery, then two donated, old heavy laptops, but no place to study, was surviving on unemployment benefits half eaten by credit card debt repayments, credit that had been spent originally on day to day living when money was tight. All my things were stuck in storage around the corner, but life was just, survival. Certainly not living.
I grew to hate my circumstances. Full time job offers came but never materialised. Temporary work didn’t let me break even. I didn’t get any job satisfaction and by the year’s end, one year after completing my Bachelor degree, having finished the short course and put the post-grad study on hold, I was at an all-time low. I’d moved closer to work in the suburbs, away from my much loved city life, but was spending a ton more on taxis and share hire cars and food because I didn’t have the same access to public transport and healthy food I was used to. I wasn’t that much better off financially. I hated my job, I could feel the effects of the stress on my heart and lungs, could see what my mental frustration was doing to my relationships when it was all I could talk about. I’d never been so unhappy.
Somewhere deep down, through that year-long journey I’d begun to revisit the idea of returning to my overseas life. To travel. Accommodation, food, transport, and luxury holidays paid for as perks of my job. To my previous career as an international nanny, on a very high salary, to skills I had developed over two decades, to children, love, laughter, to a simpler life. I had that unshakeable feeling that in an Australian society that doesn’t value graduates, that doesn’t offer jobs easily, and full-time jobs being rarer than hen’s teeth, I was a lucky gem who had a previous career I could go back to, this time for financial gain. This time, with an older, wiser mental state of mind, with renewed energy and differing goals. With plans to practice sustainable, tiny living, out of my suitcase, without further accumulation beyond the necessities. Although my break had determined my clarity for a better life in Melbourne, it all depended on getting a job there. But the jobs I wanted most, even with my best applications, I still wasn’t getting. By then that new career direction I was so sure of had been cast aside. Serious deliberation with friends had determined it was not the best personality fit and would soon make me unhappy.
So when the other job applications weren’t even being selected to take me to interview, my fate was sealed. Networks abroad had revealed new job offers overseas, and with only a couple of weeks’ decision making, I headed back to Melbourne to pack up life and return to my comfort zone.