Settling down here hasn’t been easy – and that comes from someone who wasn’t expecting a fairytale to begin with. Still, I have to say I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be. A lot of the time it was like I was watching myself from a distance, with a growing sense of alarm as I floundered about in this new life, but unable to do anything to help myself out.
The first month was great: after months and months of waiting, I was finally here in Sydney. As with all new chapters, I felt awash with inspiration and hope, reveling in a fresh sense of freedom without all its worrying limitations. My parents were taking care of me until I got back on my feet, I had a great new apartment and after three long years, I was finally spending more time with my sisters. Summer was giving the weather its best shot before its imminent departure, so I spent many a morning rambling around either my neighbourhood or my sister’s in shorts and a tank top to stave off the heat (which actually reminded me a lot of home save for the lack of feeling like I’d be run out of town for wearing shorts anywhere other than the confines of my house or some remote beach). Life was good.
But soon, Summer waned, taking with it the warm security of the phrase “…but I just got here”. There was nothing for it but to start looking for work. And anyone who has been in my position (and by this I mean looking for that first job out of Sri Lanka) will sympathize because it is the single most demoralizing experience – ever. It is abominably cruel that we are meant to remain sprightly and brimming with self-esteem and worth when we’re met with rejection at every corner. So – being hideous at selling myself at the best of times – I had a truly ghastly time of it. I went from being headhunted in Sri Lanka to being at the bottom of the food-chain in Big Bad Corporate Sydney. Suddenly I felt like my experience amounted to nothing, that I was horribly unqualified and generally rubbish at everything. Applications got harder and harder to write, I started sending my CV out to places I wouldn’t have dreamed of applying to a month ago, and all the while alarm bells were going off in my head, accompanied by a voice that was telling me with brutal conviction that I was never going to find a job and would have to return to Sri Lanka with my tail between my legs come a month or two.
I listened to that voice too, with a growing sense of dread, shutting myself away and blowing off old friends who were anxious to reconnect and find out how I was doing. I didn’t have the energy to keep going out, meeting people and having to tell them I was unemployed and hopeless. If that wasn’t a conversation-killer, I didn’t know what was. So instead, I stayed indoors with my sisters and my TV shows (no Ally McBeal here, sadly), moping about, feeling abject and miserable.
Fortunately or unfortunately, it took just one friend refusing to put up with my nonsense to snap me out of the wallowing. It woke me up to how counter-productive I was being and from that point onwards I made a concerted effort to go out and meet these friends. And as I have found so often in the past, they saved me, swooping to the rescue with wonderful understanding, advice and help. They helped me to savvy up my resumé, sent it around to some of their friends and even recommended me to their own employers, all the while regaling me with their own war-stories of when they were going through a similar time. I realized that literally everyone goes through this process and that it was just a rather depressing rite of passage that we all had to go through in order to join the workforce over here. I’ve been told that once you get your first job, it gets easier and while I will not put this statement to the test for a while, let me just say God, I hope so.
I can’t really say that things were fine after that, but they definitely improved and hinted to me that the worst was over. But – I still had that elusive job to find. It took its time coming, but from the moment I got my first call-back, everything picked up pace and the offers finally started coming in. The relief was enormous and my rather wilted self-esteem drank it all in thirstily.
Today, Autumn has turned the days cold, rendering it impossible to wear anything other than trousers and jumpers, and I am almost exactly one month into my new job. Just as I did three years ago, when I started working in the media, I find myself in a totally new area with histories and trends to learn and new concepts to wrestle with. I’m loving it.
Tomorrow I turn 26, which feels frighteningly old, but I am thankful for many things. For my parents, whose love I feel as strongly here in my Sydney apartment as when I was living with them. For my beloved sisters, who for a while were my only company, but such wonderful company nevertheless. For my friends, who have been my tiny but formidable army of support. And for my life, which no longer feels as if it is waiting to start.