In recent times, I have found comfort in written articles about migrants who have gone back to their countries (migrants in this context are those who have moved on their own volition and are not forced by circumstance). I came across this article about a girl who was in Australia in 2012 and unexpectedly moved back to Malaysia in 2015 (read this) and realised it is a possibility still for myself. Before I hopped around and found myself in as many as 6 cities in under 8 years, I would be as guilty as those around her asking why did she leave the Australian dream when so many have tried and failed to attain it. I know better now.
Migration is a tricky issue. You grow up and live most of your useful lives in a country that has all your support system and things you are familiar with. One fine day, you pack up, leave all that you know and head to the unknown. It might be just a little easier going over somewhere when you are in your mere teenage years trying to build a foundation in college or university, but I wouldn’t know for sure.
I do know that when you are mid career, having carved your network so carefully over the past decade and having your closest friends and family surround you within a three hour drive, migrating is painful and difficult. There are those who migrate only when they are offered an expatriate job or an existing opportunity that would enable them to bring their families and start up a little easier over in a new country but that was not the case for me.
I came to Australia with no job offer and no family (except for a baby sister who is still studying in Canberra) based here. I came on the basis that we were granted visas and subsequently the right to work in Australia unrestricted. Trying to get noticed by recruiters and employers alike when you have no studied or work in Australia can be a lengthy, frustrating and depressing process. Having no one to physically call out for a cuppa can be more crippling (emotionally and mentally). A loving shoutout to my closest buddies who were always so reliable to be called upon in times of mental anguish.
Coming over definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was made to talk more to strangers, be friendlier and be more outgoing. I was also “forced” to make friends at work, something I don’t naturally do at a workplace until I have been there for a while. In the pursuit of employment opportunities, networking was incredibly important. It took a lot of strength to attend networking functions not knowing anyone in those events. It took even more resilience to walk into recruiters’ offices to get them to see me as a person worthy enough to be represented in the world of recruitment.
While in Melbourne, my only respite was my Saturday Korean class in a language school that had almost 200 people running around during school session. I was also in a beginner’s class which had amazing people who eventually became my good friends there. Friends who I was very reluctant to leave when I was leaving Melbourne for Brisbane. Nonetheless, it had to happen.
Although there are a lot of discussions on how you migrate, i.e. the administrative aspects of it, very few concentrate on the toll taken on your own wellbeing in the process of migrating. Sure, your photos may look better on Instagram and Facebook because you’re in a foreign country and everyone looking at it may be wishing they could be where you were but in actual fact, it could be a lonely transition to something that might or might not be better.
People tend to take out the emotional wellbeing out of the conversations and I think it is quite important to draw links to it. You’ve got to be mentally prepared for the kind of situations that might hamper your journey to settling down. Understand that if you have it easy in one aspect, it may not be the same in everything else you need to do. Take time for yourself to wallow in disappointments because you don’t need to be 100% positive all the time, it is okay to crumble and fall to the ground.
For an overachiever, it is difficult when things won’t go your way in your time. One has to step back and understand that it isn’t beneath you and being relaxed and open to new and strange opportunities may be the only way to keep sane. One also can’t be too picky with new friends because now you’re the new kid in school when everyone else have been with their group for the past ten years. Don’t be too critical of people and their actions, embrace new challenges and experiences whenever you can and give yourself a break, really. It’s not all over if you fail in one thing, or two or three or quite a few. Migration is difficult and we’re allowed to tear up sometimes, we’re allowed to be sad and we’re allowed to be angry. The key is just not to drag it out and let it take over your entire being.
I’m barely quarter way to finding my footing here in Brisbane but I am hopeful that I will finally be comfortable in time.