"Don't worry, dad is here!" but I worry
January 27, 2010 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Should I move to increase my chances at getting a job? Should I drop it all to help my parents? Should I stay where I'm happiest? [possibly long]

For the past year or so I have been simultaneously developing my creative/performance practice while also looking for jobs to sustain me. Asides from the occasional freelance gig and an 8-week contract mid-year, I haven't been successful. I've been doing all that I can, I've showed my enthusiasm and experience for jobs that I really like and have more than enough ability to do - but then my hopes burst when I fail to get an interview and get told "oh, we picked someone with more specific experience". (One time I was actually in a press release for said job. Then they decided not to pick me.)

My creative career is going pretty good for a relative beginner, but I've reached the point where the things that would bring me to the next level - mainly training/classes and travel to events - cost me more money than I have. I recently had to let go of a terrific opportunity for free circus training worth a few hundred dollars because I couldn't afford to head to the other side of the country. As I am a temporary resident on a Bridging visa (my permanent residency application is "in process") things such as grants, scholarships, welfare, cheap uni, and so on - stuff that would REALLY help - are out of bounds for me. I've sometimes contemplated lying about my residency, but I think that'd get me into more trouble than I need.

To top this all off: my dad has been under the weather for a month or so and doctors have just found a cyst in his thyroid. He's meant to get a biopsy, but I think he's looking for second/third/etc opinions before he goes under the knife. He's usually quite strong and confident but it breaks my heart to hear him resigned and sad. He was meant to be retired by now but he's taken on new roles instead! Dad beat cancer about 12 years ago and had been fine until now, but he's worried that it might be related. (And my dad doesn't usually worry about much).

My parents and I have had a tough relationship - basically I have never quite been the daughter they wanted, I found them overprotective and they found me ungrateful, and they've been quite against my creative work (whether it's due to personal taste or some fear that "people" will find my photos and go "OMG NUDE HORROR" for showing a bit of cleavage I'm not sure). They already think I'm some sort of sex worker, no matter how much I try to refute it, and my dad - having heard about my money woes - tried to get me to "just drop the performing altogether, it's just a hobby". I can't seem to get them to understand that creative things are what make my life worth living - they gave up their passions for their family, so they expect us to do the same. My sister is in England, I'm in Australia, and they're in Malaysia, and everytime we talk they keep asking why we're not all together, why aren't my sister and I in the same country, can't we just move back. To them, as long as we have our parents, we are set for life and shouldn't need anything more - never mind personal interests or needs or space!!

Some people (including parents) have suggested I move interstate, from Brisbane to possibly Sydney (where I have cousins) or Melbourne, since job prospects are better. I like Brisbane; it's relaxed, the weather's good, and I've made some close friends. It's the first place in the world where I've been reluctant to move - normally by this point in time I am raring to travel elsewhere. Sydney and Melbourne are too cold for me in more ways than one, but it's true that they probably have more job prospects. And a lot of the creative stuff I want to do is in either city. But I don't fancy jumping up and leaving for a city without any promise of life being better.

And then there's the obligation towards parents, especially now that Dad's ill. I'm prepared to fly back in case the worst happens, but I'm wondering if I should drop this "personal development" malarkey and just move back to Malaysia. There is nothing for me in my hometown (though Dad says his colleagues would like to hire me to do management or PR or something) - the whole place is full of shopping malls and the stuff I'm passionate about is illegal there. If we moved up to KL things might be marginally better, but I'd still feel trapped and resentful, not to mention all the issues I have with that country cropping up again! When I'm back in Malaysia all I do is rot at home.

When I've asked my friends for advice, most of them tell me "do what your heart tells you" or "do what makes you happy". I've tried the flip-a-coin thing. The thing is, when it comes to my parents, what makes me happy is irrelevant. Parents are first priority. Never mind that you feel bored or useless or that you've been in the house all day because you can't drive and you need a car to get out of the front door; you're here! And that's enough! Also, as much as I like Brisbane, the utter lack of luck I'm getting with jobhunting is making me bawl. (I can't even get employed as an actual stripper!) There's only so much of "we move your resume/energy/skills!...but we need someone with more -specific- experience" to make me wonder if my Bridging visa/ethnic last name is tripping up people (it's happened before) or if there's some conspiracy theory about me in the industry that I don't know about (happened to a friend/mentor).

Currently my parents are supporting me while I look for a job and use the freelance money for other random needs. I would much rather be financially independent, but that's stymieing me at the moment.

My boyfriend is pretty happy for me to do whatever I want, which is great. He has been idly considering moving too, mainly because most of his other close friends have moved too (I think I'm the only one in that group left in the city). He wants either Melbourne or Perth but has no definite plans. I an loath to leave him though - he's the other part of what makes my life worth living. (Don't suggest marriage though; we're both in early 20s and way too young.)

What the hell do I do?

Option 1: Stay in Brisbane.
Pros: Familiar, pleasant atmosphere; boyfriend is around; have good friends; don't need to change my life too much; good weather; option that makes me feel happier
Cons: Absolutely crappy job/money market; parents complain

Option 2: Move to Melbourne/Sydney
Pros: More likely to get jobs and further creative stuff; boyfriend MIGHT come but not sure; parents are semi-happy
Cons: No guarantee of job; terrible weather; religious cousins may snitch on me so hard to be totally public with what I do; cost of living may be higher; need to move and start anew

Option 3: Move back to Malaysia
Pros: Parents are happy; dad's connections may get me a job; at least the food is better; a couple of friends; don't feel so guilty
Cons: Feeling absolutely trapped; nothing to do except shop and sleep; can't do what I want to do due to lack of avenues/illegality; face more overt racism; not as mobile since I need a car to get around & I can't drive; resentment

Or is there some other option I haven't considered? (My parents did think about moving here to Australia, but it's not going to be anytime soon, and besides I don't want them to expect to keep tabs on me!)
posted by divabat to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My basic philosophy is to live life so that you have as few regrets as possible. A situation with parents/money/significant other is so specific to each individual that it's hard to give advice. Take money out of the question -- If your parents weren't supporting you, what would your decision be? If you would stay where you are, then you have another series of questions to ask yourself: Is there a way to support yourself? As a server, barista, house cleaner, dog walker, etc? Can you downsize your life in some way? Ultimately, which do you foresee regretting more later in life: not spending your parents' last years with them? or (possibly) losing the love of your life?
posted by melissasaurus at 3:04 PM on January 27, 2010

You want to perform, but you can't be a performer with Option 1 because there are no opportunities and you can't be a performer with Option 3 because it's illegal. So if it were me, I'd go where I could perform and try my hand at that. Give it a few years, see if you can make a living out of it. Bollocks to your religious cousins, if what you're doing isn't that big a deal let them snitch. It sounds like you've explained it to your parents and although they don't get it, it's not a big secret you're keeping from them.

Parents will get old. They'll also wish their kids were closer. That's not unusual, but moving back isn't going to stop the first one.
posted by IanMorr at 3:06 PM on January 27, 2010

As someone who made decisions based on a parent's emotional welfare (or blackmail if you like), I'd suggest to you not to move closer to your parents. Resentment builds and your life becomes about your matyrdom. Your father's medical choices are his own, and if he wishes to be non-proactive, you being there or not will not change this. My understanding is that cysts on the thyroid are not life threatening.

Do you look for (part-time) work outside of your field? I'm thinking that resting actors often are wait staff. It gives them an income in between gigs. Maybe do a $90 barista course. On preview, mostly what melissasaurus said.
posted by b33j at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, I don't have any specific advice to give you, but I was sorta kinda in your shoes when I was about your age, except in my case my home country is Japan and I was in Canada. In my case, going back to Japan was the final choice I made, and not that I regret my decision too much at this point in my life, I do think about what would have happened if I'd stuck it out a bit longer because I loved my life in Toronto and the people I knew there. In your case, going home to Malaysia seems to be a bigger setback in more ways than going home to Japan was for me. It's harder to find a job in another country once you're back in your home country, not to mention that what you want to do is illegal back home, so I'd stick with Option 1 or 2 and toss out 3 for the time being. Maybe you could set a time limit of sorts about finding your dream job in Australia? "I'll try every option, take every chance, do anything I can until I'm twenty-something (or thirty-something, your choice), and if I can't manage to do so by then, I'll go back home/stay in Australia but find another career/find a job in another country, etc." Parents will always want you nearby, and I do understand your being worried about your father, but it really sounds like going back to Malaysia at this point in your life is a bad idea.

You know, I've been to Brisbane, and although I've never lived there, I sympathize with your not wanting to leave. But if you're in this rut now, maybe you should try your luck in a bigger city, with or without boyfriend. Sorry if this sounds callous and irresponsible to you, but that's my third-person opinion based on what you laid out in your question. Good luck, divabat, hope things work out for the best.
posted by misozaki at 3:42 PM on January 27, 2010

This really is less about feelings and more about practicality. So if you want to stay in Australia, either change jobs in Brisbaine or move to Melbourne.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:05 PM on January 27, 2010

Me, I'd take advantage of you not having a job right now, and your father's health not yet deteriorating to a significant degree.

Specifically: I'd temporarily (for say three months) go wherever the pickings (for jobs and creative outlets) are better, and get really, really intensive about succeeding at either of those things. If you make a go of it, then you can see if your boyfriend wants to join you, and if your father's health gets worse you'll have a better base of operations from which to support him -- and if you don't make a go of it, you're no worse off than you are now.
posted by davejay at 5:23 PM on January 27, 2010

I vote for Melbourne, especially if your boyfriend is up for moving as well. It is the closest to bringing everything together: boyfriend, work, creative outlet, family approval.

It may not be perfect, but it might really move you forward. Go, stay open, and I bet something good will come of it.
posted by Vaike at 5:27 PM on January 27, 2010

Don't move to Malaysia. You're young and as you get older moves get to be more difficult. Every time you go back to Malaysia to live you increase the likelihood of being there forever. Malaysia is out of the mix for you. Mom and Dad are going to need to suck that up.

You need to create financial independence from your parents. You can either find other work in Brisbane or go perform in Sydney or Melbourne. Your religious cousins may be horrified but assuming what you're doing isn't illegal, they are going to need to suck it up. You have to make a trade-off between making a living performing in a place you don't like versus making a living in a job you don't like in a place you do like. There's not a perfect solution and you need to suck that up.

The other thing is your Dad's illness - which I dearly hope will turn out to be nothing serious. You may need to travel back and forth to see your folks. You don't have to love the place to visit it and comfort your father.

If it was me I'd be packing for Melbourne.
posted by 26.2 at 5:51 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would take "no guarantee of job" off of your Melbourne con list- because you aren't getting work in Brisbane, either. I agree with 26.2- given these options, I would be halfway to Melbourne or Sydney by now.
posted by kro at 6:26 PM on January 27, 2010

This is tough, tough, tough. I would vote against moving back in with your parents - clearly, you don't want to and there's no prurient reason to do so except that you feel obligation to family and your parents value your companionship. Still, this is difficult because family has such a huge impact on your life.

I made a choice a couple of years ago not to move back near my family - I don't like the hometown that I'm from that much, it doesn't give me the same kind of joy as the place that I live within, and even when I'm struggling to get by a little bit because there is a serious lack of jobs in my rural area, I'm still happy to be here. To make a long story short, though, things didn't end up going well for my family - lots of troubles and hardships. So I visit and they stay on my mind and I do my best to love them from afar. I'm not sure that I could muster that same level of caring if I went back and felt trapped by family obligations.

You have the kind of mobility right now that makes all these choices plausible. I also think there's something strange about suddenly realizing that you have the ability to take care of your parents - like, they were always there for you growing up, isn't it selfish not to return the favor? It's darn scary to realize that your parents can grow old and ail and die... anytime, really, or be there for a long time. But regardless of what actually happens now, I think it's a realization that starts to hit you in your twenties (I'm 25, and by no means qualified to say that this will resolve itself) and that might be one of the things that makes this decision seem so urgent.

I would say... throw yourself into whatever you love as best you can, and try to get financial independence in whatever way. Stay in touch with your family, be there for them - but that does not necessarily require moving physically close to them.
posted by ajarbaday at 6:48 PM on January 27, 2010

Response by poster: re: part-time jobs - I've spent a lot of the past year looking for jobs ANYWHERE, not just performing (I'm pretty sure I'm not quite at the level where I can command a lot of money for creative arts, so I haven't worried about that aspect too much). NOTHING. It's like transferable skills don't matter, because the most common comment I get is "We love your resume, you obviously have very strong skills and talents, but we need someone with more specific experience." If that's the case then all I can do is do volunteer work for festivals that need people but have no money!

(Though in at least one case I was rejected for an interview from a job that I pretty much do on my own as a dedicated hobby for years; even the person whose job it was thought I'd be great but he didn't have a say in HR. I was told that I didn't have enough Social Work experience, but the person who got the job was a friend of mine whose background is in Journalism and otherwise has pretty similar experience to mine. Stuff like this just makes me wonder.)

Cafes, restaurants, admin work, babysitting, retail, grunt work: all of them want either a certificate in something (childcare/hospitality), at least 2 years of experience (er, I can make tea?), and/or a drivers license (never could afford one financially or timewise). But believe me, I have TRIED. I've worked past the feeling of "this job is beneath me" and just WENT for anything.

When you have temp agencies, stripclubs, and supermarkets rejecting you outright, when your peers and friends who have ethnic names / Bridging visas have all reported immense difficulty with jobhunting until either their PR got approved or they used a Western name - stuff like this makes me wonder if moving interstate would actually make any sort of a difference. Will I still have issues jobhunting while I get depressed from freezing weather? (I'm kinda temperature-sensitive; chilly weather plays havoc with my emotions.) Once I get PR I know things will get a zillion times easier, more options open to me, but until then I'm in this weird no-mans land where I have to prove that I can support myself but that condition makes it hard to make it possible.

I don't hate my parents. I really want my dad to get better (he's getting the cyst checked out as I speak to make sure it's nothing serious. He's doing what he can, he's just exhausted) and I don't know what I'll do if he gets worse for wear. But I do know that after about a week or two with the family, it'll all get too much, and we'll just get stuck in the same patterns. I'm fine with spending even up to a month to help with practical stuff (our house needs packing up), but dread the moment I go back to Australia; my sister came by from England the last time Dad was ill, had to go back after two weeks, and even 12 years later still has the feeling Dad has never forgiven her for "abandoning" her. Dad being so stoic never really tells you how he feels until ages later, but hey.

Thanks though. I've just been in such a funk (two job rejections in two days for things I thought I was a shoo-in) and it doesn't help that some of my friends are going "you're not thinking positively enough!!" and "the moment you doubt your self-belief, of course everything will not work!". I had been so positive about those two (and about some others) and they didn't work out. And it's my fault I didn't do enough positive thinking or manifesting? ARGH. /rant
posted by divabat at 7:38 PM on January 27, 2010

Response by poster: oh yeah and it doesn't help that Indian students are being bashed in Melbourne and I look like one (when really I am a Bangladeshi graduate, but it's not like attackers will interview me beforehand). Having recently been assaulted (different reason, different method, still upsetting) I'm not sure I want to go to a place that's already shown hostility to people like me.
posted by divabat at 7:44 PM on January 27, 2010

Response by poster: One last anecdote I wanted to share: when talking to my dad two days ago he asked me to go check with his Australian bank (he and mum had opened an account here) so that they can automatically transfer the money I need for my monthly expenses to my account every month. He had previously given me money after seeing me struggle with jobs, after reviewing our budget, but it was a challenge when it came to creative development - stuff I had budgeted for but was reluctant to ask my dad for support in the past. Now he's willing to cover what I had budgeted, until I get jobs that can cover me.

When he made that request about the bank, I cried. The last thing my dad wants me to be is penniless, hungry, and having to choose between rent or meds or dance class because I don't have a paycheck coming for weeks. Even with mixed feelings about my creative work he still wants me to be able to support myself with it. I had been quite angry and frustrated at him for years for using money as a means of emotional control, but I know it's also the only way he knows to show that he loves me, by making sure he can provide for me even if it means working past retirement and even past illness.

I miss my daddy. I want him to feel better and sound more perky about life. I just wish it wasn't such an emotional drain to be with my parents 70% of the time. Our relationship's much MUCH better with distance, but they're lonely and it kills me. Yet what makes them happy would drive me mad. Self-sacrifice or hurt others by protecting myself?
posted by divabat at 8:09 PM on January 27, 2010

Do not, whatever you do, move home to Mom and Dad. Do not do it. You will be dying inside, and everyone will be miserable. And once you go back home, you may never leave. Especially since whatever kid is closest geographically to your parents once someone gets seriously sick is going to be the 100% caregiver by default, and that'll make you even more crazy.

Don't self-sacrifice. It'll hurt them in the long run to have you around 24-7 to yell at too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:12 PM on January 27, 2010

You need to focus on your career, and you need to focus on making more money. The choice is simple: move to Sydney.

On the other hand, you could also move back to Malaysia to be with family, too, and then resume your career in Australia in a year.

However, staying in Brisbane is a cop out. It's in your comfort zone, but you're not moving ahead with your career, and you're not emotionally supporting your family.

Remaining in Brisbane is preventing you from making the tough choice between career and family.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:20 PM on January 27, 2010

I'm not sure I want to go to a place that's already shown hostility to people like me.

But you were recently assaulted in Brisbane, too, right? I'm sorry it happened and I hope it never happens again, but from one Asian woman to another, if you're going to live outside your home country in the "West," you're going to stick out as "a minority" and no matter what country you're from, you're going to meet some form of prejudice in differing degrees at some point or another. It's sad, but it's true, and it's unavoidable. There are assholes anywhere, just as there are wonderful people anywhere. You shouldn't let these assholes who apparently do exist in Melbourne prevent you from choosing that city for practical reasons. I think you're using that particular piece of news as an excuse to stay put in Brisbane.

Reading your follow up, I can see you're feeling really ambivalent about all this, but I still think your answer for the time being is to leave Brisbane and try your luck in a bigger city. Oh, and the weather thing... I thought I could never live in a climate like Toronto, but I did all right. Learn to embrace the sub-zero weathers and short short summers!
posted by misozaki at 11:26 PM on January 27, 2010

I agree with earlier posters -- don't move back to Malaysia. Women from South Asian cultures often have a very strong pressure coming simply from the atmosphere in which they grew up, not anything that is actually said to them by their parents, which makes them feel a duty to be with their parents even if it means to give up their dreams. I did pretty much the same thing - even though my parents urged me to stay in the US, I went back to them because I personally felt obliged to during difficult times. It was a mistake, and for them, watching me wilt was in the end more painful than my being away. And I've seen this in others in my age group.

So keep a little stash of cash, plan a holiday at home, but don't return permanently to Malaysia. If you do go home for a holiday, make sure you have commitments in Australia which you must return to.

As for Brisbane vs. places with jobs: the sensible thing would be to go to places where you can pursue the work and creativity - that, after all, is a large part of why you're defying your parents to stay in Australia.
posted by tavegyl at 1:52 AM on January 28, 2010

Response by poster: misozaki: My assault had nothing to do with my race. I don't want to get too much into it here, but it was in a situation where my naivety and curiosity were abused by someone too drunk to understand reluctance and refusal. But race didn't come into it; it wasn't an attack on the street, but an attack in a small highly-charged space.


YAY: Dad just did a biopsy. We'll only know the results tomorrow but the prognosis is good. He sounds happier too. So there's less of a pressing need to go back unless I want to. I still have to deal with "we'd be much better if you came back!!" but at least it's closer to status quo now.

BOO: 3rd rejection in 3 days! For an ensemble I auditioned for. Bah!

HMM: I was just at a pitching night hosted by a youth space run by the City Council. They have office space up for tenancy and they're also offering access to rooms, resources, computers, etc for young people with projects. If I get a space I'll be able to run some projects. I still need to figure out the money equation but at least I've got something to count on for a year.

If I move it won't be for a long while yet. I don't think I can even afford to move at this stage, especially not in a new city where I don't know enough and where my prospects for employment are still unstable and uncertain. Unless someone wants to offer me an awesome gig? :P
posted by divabat at 5:05 AM on January 28, 2010

Sorry about my assuming that, then. Glad to hear your father's prognosis is good.
posted by misozaki at 5:38 AM on January 28, 2010

Glad to hear your father is doing well. I don't think you should move back with them though. Wanting their children to live close is the natural state of parents - I live 10 minutes away from my Mum and she still lets me know when a house in her suburb comes up for sale. But seriously, if you go there and pine away, they won't be happy about it either.

Go where the work is. A career you find satisfying is so valuable, and a boring job that gives you time to work obsessively on more creative things is also pretty good as far as happiness goes.

I think you do burlesque, among other things? There's a burlesque group here in Perth, and the weather here isn't usually too much of a shock for people from Brisbane. But I've got no idea what the opportunities are in Sydney or Melbourne, I'm just being parochial :)

Another idea might be to see if you can get one of those services that help with resumes to give yours a once-over. See if it's not your name or visa situation, but something else that's letting you get as far as the shortlist without getting the actual job. I wouldn't be surprised if it did turn out to be the name/visa thing, they've done studies about that kind of influence. *But* if it's something in the formatting or approach, then it's fixable and worth finding out about.
posted by harriet vane at 6:55 AM on January 28, 2010

Are they the only options? Would your parents be happier if you and your sister were in the same country (albeit on the other side of he world? I'm just thinking that England has a pretty good burlesque scene. You could come out here for three months on a tourist visa and pick up some contacts in the scene that might bode well for employ back in Australia.
posted by freya_lamb at 7:42 AM on January 28, 2010

Response by poster: freya_lamb: Considering how difficult it is to get a visa to ANYWHERE, international migration might be a bit difficult! Also man is England expensive.

Harriet vane: I did get my resume a do-over, and it's ok by their standards. I do get rave reviews for it. So I'm not so sure.
posted by divabat at 12:52 PM on January 28, 2010

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