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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Life in a Nutshell

Today I reconnected with a friend from my youth.  One of only a handful of people I actually want to re-connect with and would bother looking up and even then, it is but recently that I would even have bothered to make the effort.  Can't explain it but it is like more people connections are coming into my life of late despite having a preference for reclusivity.

On her site, I read what she had written about her life in the intervening 30+ years since we last saw each other.  And I knew that inevitably, as she has, she would ask about mine.  And at 4:14am this morning, instead of being tightly asleep, my brain was squeaking as its wheels churned and my eyes were wide and awake, awash with memories ~ pondering how to compress these last 30 years into a few short paragraphs.  And not sound pathetic.

Apart from the last decade, I have been a proficient practitioner of self-sabotage.



Early Years in Australia
The freedom from family and from the perceived censorious mindset of  the Eastern culture made me giddy with new irresponsibilities when I first arrived here in Sydney, Australia.  My matriculation year where my attendance at Randwick Technical College was more rare than dependable.  To my wicked glee and to the chagrin of one hardworking friend in particular, who I suspect didn't think too highly of female intelligence and wanted only to see me in some weird version of Chinese Playboy magazine, I got pretty good results.  Enough to get me easily into my first preference university (Sydney Uni) as well as my first preference course (double degree in Accountancy and Law).  However, forever the unconventional rebel, I rejected Sydney Uni because I didn't think I would be able to get up in time every morning and travel all that way. So I happily settled for my second choice university - UNSW (University of New South Wales) - which was practically on my doorstep.

Completed my first year at UNSW while continuing my practice of as little attendance as possible.  Again to my surprise and those of my friends and even my lecturers, I ended each term with mostly Distinctions or High Distinctions.

For my second year, I dutifully appeared for enrollment at the start of the academic year and then didn't set foot in the uni campus again for the next 5 years.

My Other Life
In between the end of year 1 and beginning of year 2, I got my first job as a Franklins checkout girl,  my dad passed away, and I met some interesting men.

After the enrollment, I perversely decided I was going to be free from self-imposed responsibilities to a family who didn't love me anyway.  Well, to be more accurate, a family who didn't appreciate me as much as I thought they should have. I was going to be "free" and prompty became some sort of hobo hippy.  My partner and I opened a Bric-a-Brac shop in Petersham and I learnt the pleasure of going to auctions and the headiness of making bids.  On looking back, I am both appalled and amused.  And the shop was a large run-down warehouse that became a huge freezer in winter.

In my 25th year, I fell in love.  The Barbara Cartland, I-don't-believe-it-is-real kind of love that apart from when you were some silly teenager, you know it does not exist.  You know, where bells ring and fireworks go off.  However he broke my heart but I am grateful for that experience because if not for it, I would never have known that bells do go off and fireworks can happen.

Somehow that was connected to me getting a job as a waitress originally, then as a maitre 'd at Miyako, one of the best Japanese restaurants (at the time) in Sydney. And for reasons I cannot remember exactly, that is also connected to me going back to uni.

Back to Uni Again
So after 5 years, I went back to university - full time and working at the restaurant by night.  And thanks to the inexplicable excellence of my results from the first year, the university gave me credit for subjects taken - thereby shortening my return visit by 1 year.  Which was both a blessing and a curse.

My second trip into the academic world of universities also saw a change in my course work. Instead of continuing with Accountancy and Law, I decided to major in Econometrics.  From some unremembered source, I got the impression that doing that would land me with plum, super well-paying jobs.  It should have. It was certainly hard enough.  There were maybe like 8 of us doing this specialty at the end of the course.  Statistically speaking, most people do not cope well with statistics. ;)

The "curse" of having been given credit for my first year work was that I was immediately thrown into second year Statistics with students who had just completed year one.  And the amount of formulae I was supposed to know and remember from year one was horrendously frightening given that I had exercised my mind in this direction almost not at all for 5 years!

Anyway, once again I came away with a bunch of Distinctions and High Distinctions and was even mightily surprised when the University sent me an award for Best Performance in Statistics in New South Wales.

I don't know if having an Econometrics major, and one with Honours, would or would not have landed me with plum, cash-rich positions.  True to form, I never looked for a job in that line.

And  I didn't attended my graduation as I was homeless at the time.

My one big regret with regards to  my decision to change my major was I didn't carry on with my Law degree.  Criminal Law was intellectually, immensely satisfying - but only when we got a good lecturer.  And that was by chance more than by design.  Our original Criminal Law lecturer was a numbskull and he was the one appointed by the university and assigned to us.  He was a waffler, talked alot, taught nothing and basically just wanted to be mates with the students.  He was taken ill or for some other reason, could not complete the term.  We then got the perfect lecturer (and I am so sorry I cannot remember his name).  A practising barrister if I remember correctly.  He was sharp and to the point.  He didn't suffer wafflers nor fools gladly. In fact, not at all. He could appreciate and pick out the subtle nuances that made the dull legalese turn into amazing, hitherto unseen brilliance. I miss it still. And I had a ball of a time and came away with one of only two distinctions for the entire student body that term.

Job Changes
While uni was going on, and I had been made maitre 'd of the restaurant I was working at, I was offered another job by a customer at the restaurant. He was an executive head-hunter with a head hunter's firm - John Clements. I left the restaurant and went to work with them for a while in York Street.  And I got my IQ tested. Which was fun. (I know. Shallow! Shallow!)

From there, they got me another position and I moved on to Westpac.  I entered via the Accountancy door and was in their Accountancy department for about a year, in their main headquarters in Martin Place.  And fortuitously for me, due to some vague corporate power struggle, my request for transfer to an IT department was accepted.  The head of the receiving department saw it as a coup for her that I would leave her "enemy's" camp and move over to her department.  For whatever reason, it helped me slide smoothly into the IT world.

Till then, I had had almost no contact with computers.  With that move, I got my foot into one of  the data research arms of Westpac.  The work that they were trying to accomplish was, at that time, said to be cutting edge and I was happily thrown into the world of data and entity modelling.

Masters Degree
Thanks to the Westpac corporate culture and focus on training, I applied to do my Masters (in Information Systems) which they would pay for as long as I passed each and every subject.  So back I went to UNSW, part time, to do my Masters.  This time I worked by day and did my uni by night.

It was intimidating when I went back to complete my Bachelors degree after 5 years away because all my classmates were babies compared to me.  And I didn't bother telling them my age.  The trip back to uni for my Masters was intimidating because all my classmates were established IT professionals - from IT consultants, to IT managers and even a lecturer from Queensland University. And I was only an IT baby.

However once again, by the grace of something beyond my puny self, I walked away with a bunch of Distinctions and High Distinctions.  And this time I got to attend my graduation with my mom who was visiting at the time.

So What Went Wrong?
I can honestly say I haven't ended up where I thought I would when I was young and untested, cocky and believed that youth and chances would never end.  Now I confess to vague feelings of murky doubts when I look at some of my old classmates (and their friends) and they who seemed to have had much less academic pointers to future successes, now possess lands, multiple houses, shares, and lotsa money in the bank.  And I am still counting my pennies and cents.  How did I manage to do this?

I Left My Job and then ..
When I completed my Masters degree, the bank gave me an immense jump in salary.  That was delightful.  But in my youthful idealism and arrogance, I conducted my life's course on the high-faluting precept of "I am a good person so money is not important to me."

Not long after, the economy went into a recession which saw Westpac and most big companies cut back on staff and non-essentials.  One of those deemed non-essentials was our data research department.

P., one of our senior data IT engineers was most distressed. I knew he had a family. I knew he must be worried. I remember the weeks following the announcement where we all noted how P.would go for his lunch breaks and we knew he was going for job interviews.  And always, on his return, he looked more defeated and despondent than before.   He must have been mid to late forties then and jobs could not have been  plentiful, especially in that climate.

Then we had Westpac internal interviews.  Heads and managers from other departments would interview us to see if they could use us in their departments.  I went for my interview, another IT department.  I remember I enjoyed that interview.  The manager who interviewed me looked harried and overworked but with a grounded Aussie sense of humour and even humanity.  The kind of guy you could go to a bar with for a drink and be treated like one of the lads.

He told me that his department was considering either taking me and another girl, or taking P.  On being questioned, he said that if I didn't take the job (which he had not yet offered), then he could afford to take P and the other girl (R).  P had the highest pay packet of us three.

A day or so later, I was offered the job.  Partly because of P (and his worry about his future and family) and partly because I was either arrogant, bored, or just a self-saboteur, I refused the job.  I even felt pretty smug and happy with myself that I had sacrificed my job so that P. could have one.

Then when I was offered the job again with the assurance that both P. and R. would also be placed, I still refused it.  And so my life took yet another turn and I moved away from financial security and the paths best trodden.

Life as a Unsuccessful Artist
For the next couple of years I was happy.  Except for the failures.  I went into home cottage industry of knitwear production and design.  I sold a few items and it is very possible my designs might have been  flops anyway.  But I will never really know coz what I did discover was that  I am useless as a sales person - especially if what I have to sell is myself or my own work.  And that I would rather starve and crawl over broken glass than have to sell myself in a face-to-face situation.

So for those years I happily stayed home doing my thing, designing my designs, and futilely thinking that courage to go out and sell would somehow descend upon me.

... Led to My Worst Relationship
One can only enjoy and endure failure for so long before it infects everything else and even the little self-belief that one started with can get eroded away into fear and stagnation.  And it must have been in large part due to this inner knowledge that I had to break free from what can only be loosely called my life at that point and that the energy to break that pattern had to come from outside myself (as the resources I had within were insufficient for the job), that when I met someone who was blatantly unsuitable from the start, I still managed to deceive myself to this truth and I left Australia for Belfast to be with him.

I was in Belfast for 18 months and another 18 months in England (half hour outside of London).

If falling in love gave me the joyous experience of ringing bells and fireworks, this most unsuitable relationship taught me the gut-wrenching misery that made me literally yearn to howl at the moon.

However two great things happened because I was over there.  One, I reconnected with my sister who was kinder and more loving towards me than I have ever known her to be in my entire life.  Second: while in England, I became certified first as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner and then later as NLP Master Practitioner.


Suffice to say with respect to the relationship, it ended and I spent a year in Malaysia after that, being a mess.


While there I learnt about the web, some JavaScript coding, and HTML.  Which was going to be a useful platform for so many unforseen future activities.


Back in Australia
As I am no longer a Malaysian citizen, I could not bury my head over there forever.  Eventually they had to kick me out and I came home to this land of blue skies.


Not long back and I got a job as a (MS Access) database consultant with an Interior Decorating firm that was linked to a construction company that was in the midst of exciting and hectic times of building Avillion Hotel in World Square, Sydney.


The work was hectic and exacting, required long hours and I met the best man in my life, Peter.  And since I met him, apart from little hiccups, I have been blessed.  This is my longest relationship and the best.


Other Jobs Leading to Now
I didn't stay with that company. They did make me an offer but I was bored. And I really wasn't interested.  Self-sabotage still at work maybe?  Who knows.  I don't seem to be able to stay long, remain interested, and most of all, I seem to be the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no moss whereby the moss I refer to is money or just any form of wealth!!!


I moved on, wanting to have my own web-design consultancy.  Just a one man show.  But I still had not learnt my lesson well enough it seemed.  I am not able to sell myself.  So after languishing at home with me and my computer, I went out and got another job.

As a web designer for a internet estate company.  I rather enjoyed that.  But it didn't last - about 2 years and then the company went belly up and went back to Thailand.

Nothing much inbetween till a few years ago I discovered selling on the internet.  First on ebay (which is not as easy as most imagine) then my own site which became sites ... and now I have an Etsy store as well as my own ecommerce store. (I closed my ebay stores - 4 of them - when ebay became greedy feebay.)

I have always loved bling so now being an authorized Swarovski outlet is very satisfying on many levels.  Having and writing for my informational sites is also satisfying.  Pity in the last two years the shop outlets have not been doing so well financially.

But it is precisely because of this that in recent months, I have had the time to indulge in jewelry making, knitting, crochet, and general crafts that I love but have pushed aside for all these years.  I don't know where this is leading or even why I make things. I only know I feel compelled to and it satisfies something inside me that nothing else can.  And I am very lucky and fortunate that I am in a situation that allows me to do this.

My Current Sites

My To-Be-Expired Sites




10 comments:

  1. Just finished reading your story, Hel, and feel like I've known you for a long time, although we've never even met! You write very well and have a great sense of humour. I really enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good work!

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  2. Hi Caroline, me very talented buddy! Thanks - for words and for reading. What you mean "sense of humour"?!!!! ;)

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  3. Hahaha, Hel, I meant "humor". I make typos all the time. One time I sent someone a message, and I actually misspelled my own name! That person thought it was the funniest thing she'd seen for a long time. :)

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  4. No Caroline buddy - nothing wrong with your spelilng at all :)
    I meant that there was no "humour" in my story. It was meant to be pathetic (hahaha) ... so I was just razzing you when you said I had a sense of humour ;)

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  5. I am so glad you allowed me to enter this part of your life!!! Your writing skills are beautiful and your life story to this date is amazing. You have learned so much and been through so many exciting and sometime scary things. Traveling, changing jobs, feeling secure and yet so unsure so often....Very young at heart and very mature in scholastic skills. I am very happy that GOD has allowed us to become fast friends even tho' we are thousands of miles apart. I am happy that you have found your old girl mate and hope you get to really see each other a lot. Peter is a joy in your life and for that I am happy too. God bless you my earth angel friend. BJ

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  6. waaah .. you made me tear up again. You are always making me so happy I have to cry. Thank you Bev Angel. Big BIG Hugs.

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  7. Tonight I re-read your up-to-date story. Still I marvel at your writing skills and your love of everything that is an enormous challenging, adventure. You have remained my earth angel and my very close friend for which I am eternally grateful. GOD does indeed work in mysterious ways. Thousands of miles apart and I feel like I have always known you. You are like my own child. Your Mom has done an amazing job of raising you and I know that you are aware of that love now. God Bless you my Angel Girl.

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  8. Hi Beverly, thank you so much for dropping by :) However I must say that the "My Life in a Nutshell" has not been updated in a while. Guess when something really really exciting happens, I will get round to updating it.
    THANK YOU for being in my life. You are one of my most precious and Biggest Gems! xoxoxo

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  9. After reading your life story, I think I might have to go and update my profile! Lol Thank you for sharing!! :)

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  10. Hello Tavia, thank you for reading "My Life in a Nutshell". This is a rather timely and funny in a way. I was just thinking, as soon as I have time, I was going to do a re-write. So many things have changed since I wrote that ... so thank you for your comment. It is my reminder that I need to attend to this soon. Meanwhile I have started another more focussed blog on Jewelry Making and crafts at http://www.ClearlyHelena.com I hope I will have the pleasure of seeing you there. Thanks again Tavia.

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