a happy guppy

We prepared documents, photos, and letters for over a year.  After two months of sifting through our application with a fine-tooth comb and seven months of painful waiting to hear the verdict, I’ve finally been granted an Australian Visa that allows me to live and work here indefinitely. 

It took a lot of hard work to get to this point, and there were many times when I worried what roads we’d have to take if it wasn’t approved. Through it all, I was grateful for a partner who told me that being apart wasn’t an option. And if Australia wouldn’t have me, we’d simply hop on a plane and move somewhere else that would. 

Sydney has been home for almost three years and as each day passes, it feels more and more like this is where I need to be for now. The love I have for my family and friends back home knows no limits, but life for me in Manila just wasn’t what my soul needed.

Having lived in the grey bustling capital of the Philippines for almost 20 years, I can confidently say that my life in its fish pond became too claustrophobic.

I might get a lot of flak for saying this, but I will anyway: It was too easy to become someone in the Philippines.

I’d been featured in magazines, newspapers, and TV shows for not doing very much. I had a glamorous job that offered me champagne lunches, invites to the swankiest events, and people pampered me from my pinky toes to the roots of my hair.

But in the end, I didn’t feel like I had worked hard enough to earn it all. 

When I first arrived off the plane from Manila with my portfolio in hand, nobody gave me a second glance. Any job I applied for in Sydney told me to come back when I had Aussie experience. It was a frustrating catch-22: how could I possibly get local experience if no one was going to hire me? 

To make ends meet while studying, I trained to become a barista and worked for six months making coffee and waiting tables at a small cafe in Glebe. I woke up at the crack of dawn and stood for over eight hours while I helped Sydney-siders get their caffeine fix.

When the cafe closed down and I was finishing up my Master’s degree, I decided to look for something long term and sent countless resumes out. Only a handful would take the time to call me in for an interview and when they found out I was on a student visa, they wouldn’t call back. 

I decided that if I was going to make it here, I would have to be more pro-active. For weeks, I walked around the city and handed out my resume with my biggest smile to companies I wanted to work for. And you know what? One day it paid off.

It just so happened that the boss of a small language school was handling the front desk when I walked in the door. She liked what she saw and asked the head teacher to give me an interview on the spot. Even though I had no formal teaching training, they decided to keep me on file and started by giving me part time slots when a real teacher couldn’t come in.  

I enjoyed teaching so much that I decided to study and learn how to do it properly. I remember walking into the reception of one of the most established language schools in Australia and thinking how awesome it would be to work there. I proceeded to study my ass off during my teacher training course and, thankfully, the school I dreamed of working for liked what they saw and offered me a job once I graduated. I was the first Filipino they’ve ever hired. Something I can proudly say, I worked hard to make happen. 

I pass no judgement on people who are content in little ponds. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a big shimmery fish.

But I don’t mind being a happy guppy, swimming through the challenges of a big wide lake for a while longer.