I think when people say you have to be ready to work hard while living abroad, they are mostly referring to the culture shock that comes with earning per hour in contrast to the fixed monthly pay (sometimes commission based) obtainable in Nigeria. I was giving Musa a rundown of my experience working here compared to Nigeria and we both agreed the hourly rate pay encourages a productive system and also serves as a morale booster when one sees the returns in terms of earnings for work hours invested. But then, that’s where the trap lies. When I say trap, I mean the desire to max out hours so you can earn more.
When you earn per hour depending on your base rate, your income level is to a high percentage dependent on you. There’s a tendency to work more hours to increase your income and before you know it, you are looped in chasing the bag and all your pro-work-life balance arguments become non-existent (especially when you get paid higher rates during weekends and public holidays). Now I see it as a privilege to earn a fixed sum monthly, where you are sure even if you call in sick for a few days your full income is guaranteed.
I have become one of those people who juggle two jobs, (well, that became three in May but I dropped the least paying mid-June because I realized truly Sundays are best for rest – it’s mostly a mental thing for me). Having multiple jobs might seem regular for some people, but it holds depth for me being that I have always been that guy who sees ‘side hustles’ as peace stealers. I have always pushed for ease, never branded myself as ambitious, and was very contented with my sole job meeting my expenses and using after-office hours to explore my hobbies. It was easy doing that because my job paid well and it was also fixed monthly pay. I’m now navigating new realities in an industry where safety rules limit the total hours I can work, so the best way to go around this is to have multiple jobs to fill in the free days between shifts.
Luckily, my current jobs are in similar industries which makes it easy to manage. The pay from the various jobs complements each other, and also means I’m working almost all week; as I’m getting back from a shift at job A, I’m preparing to go for another shift at job B. I was becoming quite the hustler till I spent a lot of money furnishing my apartment and it didn’t feel wise spending only one night per week at home. Ivan had also earlier cautioned me at the start of the year when I was raving about how much I make in a fortnight compared to how much I was making relatively in Nigeria (relatively because both realities/economies are not the same, as well as living standards).
I remember how I used to preach work-life balance to Akin and Niyi before I started working, but then once I got into the system they had to call me out on my hypocrisy as I was the one now working more than they were.
Money is a drug.
Anyway, I recently broke out of the trap by being intentional about reducing my working hours. I’m grateful for the first half of the year where I worked hard and had crazy back-to-back shifts which helped me build a foundation financially. We had unlimited work hours for international students on-going, so I figured why not maximize it before it is stopped. Honestly, this was a blessing coupled with the soft landing I enjoyed as per free accommodation. I was able to stabilize and do a lot of things that needed to get done. I’d tell myself I will take a day off to rest but then I’d see a free shift and I won’t even know when I’d pick it. My conscience didn’t even allow me to enjoy a day off when shifts were available. I knew it was just a phase, the money was good but I knew it wasn’t sustainable. On days when I didn’t have a shift, I learned to accept them as gifts and enjoy my day off (well, they were mostly spent doubling down on completing my pending coursework). Life is fleeting, we need to enjoy the little moments because what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?
Now I have my desired reduced hours (even though it means less income) I will be spending more nights at home and hopefully be able to combine the two programs I am enrolled in with work.
I work as a disability support worker. It is not stressful or physically demanding compared to the physically exerting jobs I initially planned to do (I was looking for something entirely different from banking). Thank God for wise counsel, because I would have regretted doing a manual job from stories I have heard and also what I have seen so far. While my job doesn’t exactly require physical strength, I have prior knowledge of the mental toll being a caregiver demands, so it’s no surprise when I get home and my familiar space makes me realize how mentally drained I am from work.
Though it is a very soft job, it is easily the most meaningful job I have had. Being an empath, it gives me joy knowing that I am a source of support to someone who’s been through traumatic experiences and craves that bond a number of us take for granted. The good pay is just an icing and I love how this job is not as stressful as my banking career back then in Nigeria and also doesn’t come with pressure or anxiety.
Being on this job has helped me integrate faster, but mostly it has helped improve my driving right-hand vehicles and exposed me to various areas and places in this city I never would have known. I have had the privilege of connecting with people from diverse cultures, exploring different foods, and enjoying working under functional labour laws. When I started working, I was worried about declining shifts or turning down certain clients I was not comfortable working with, but over time I have realized no one gets witch hunted for this. Employers here care about your comfort with tasks.
I also love how flexible the working hours are. I used to dream about working on a shift basis where I’d have breaks in between work days or have the freedom of choosing not to work a whole week and still have my job intact (though I am yet to exercise this freedom). I always thought I was bad at networking but so far, I am impressed with the connections I have made on the job, especially with people from other nationalities. I have been able to get job referrals which I have shared with friends and co-workers. My job has helped push me out of my shell and I’m getting better at holding conversations with strangers on first encounter.
One downer though, is the high level of uncertainty on the job, especially regarding shifts. For someone big on planning and routines, it took me a while to make peace with the fact that rosters are not cast in stone, and the job comes with a lot of changes. Clients get moved around a lot, some get integrated back into society or some change providers and this could lead to distorted shift days. It also sucks that I get to bond with a client and then they are out of my life within months. I find myself randomly thinking of some past clients I became good friends with. These days I try to not get too attached and I’m always anticipating changes in my roster.
Do I miss the white-collar corporate jobs? Yes, I do. There have been times I miss the fast-paced working life, dressing up in a suit and tie looking formal and sharp. But I remind myself to enjoy this phase which is a needed break from that life. I sure do not miss appraisal season or the anxiety and pressure that comes with being in sales. This is also why I have chosen to explore two educational pathways to keep my options open, even though it is the metaphorical less traveled road. I was having this conversation with Odafi –
I want to have the qualifications that will enable me to get back into the corporate world if that’s what I desire in the future, or maybe continue with the slow-paced blue-collar jobs, or if I’m fortunate I’ll have a blend of both worlds.
I do not know what the future holds but I know it will all align. There’s so much I’m thankful for and getting this job and the privilege of working in this industry has been a major blessing in helping me enjoy my stay in Australia so far. I’m still holding on to what Eme told me when I told her I was leaving Access Bank; she said everything will align. In truth, everything has been falling into place at the right time, reinforcing my beliefs about the right timing and boosting my confidence that my path is being directed by God and my story is still being written.