This is a post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago when I was still in Perth. Having arrived in Australia one month ago the other day I thought this might be a good occasion to reflect on my learning curve so far. Bear with me, it’s a long one!

December 1. The sky is cloudy, but it’s nice and warm – not too hot, but not too cold, either. I just sat down in another cafe that I came across last week when I was biking around East Victoria Park. We’re heading down to Margaret River tomorrow, so this is my last full day in Perth. Thus, although I just had breakfast with Rob, I decided to stop by here for an hour or two to do some writing.

There’s only so many coffees that one can have in a day, so instead of my usual cappuccino I ordered a savory muffin with chorizo, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and chives, just to be able to take a seat, you know. While taking my order, the guy behind the counter asked me if it was my day off, after all it was Thursday. “Yes, although at the moment every day kind of is”, I said and explained to him that I’m here on a working holiday visa. And nope, I haven’t started working yet. Do I already know what I want to do? Well I’d like to work in a cafe but I’m not (yet) very well acquainted with the world of coffee, so we’ll see. Is there anything in particular that he would say is crucial for me to think about?

”Willingness to learn.”

Willingness to learn – really?!

”It’s a super competitive place to be, but an opportunity is often given to the right person when they’re found. There are so many people out there who just sit on their bums all day and do the very minimum that’s required of them, so as long as you’re the right type of person and willing to learn, which you seem to be, you’ll be fine.

Just take your resume to every place you come to think of. Be persistent, don’t give up. Keep sending those emails, because some places might check as few as the first five emails that drop in a day, so you’ll want yours to be one of the five most recent ones.”

Check! That doesn’t sound too bad. 

He told me the story of how he’d ended up working in the cafe. Australian-born but Malaysian by origin, he used to be an engineer. Two years and a bit into his career he’d found himself debating whether that was what he wanted to be doing for the rest of his life. When he’s 50 and looks back on the first half century of his life, is that a place where he’ll feel good about having spent the past 25 years? The answer is quite evident.

When he’d first started working there he’d had no experience from the world of coffee, which quite surprised me. He’d landed the job thanks to one of his friends who connected him and his current boss, who’d decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as he was intrigued by the fact that someone wanted to transfer from engineering to coffee. Apparently you don’t see that every day. What was his story?

What was his story. So it actually is the person, it actually is the story?

My mind was blown. Having always known (of course!) but never really believed in that, at least not for my own part, I was astonished.

What’s your story?

What’s mine?

Having hung out with Dylan for almost three weeks, one thing I’ve learned (although, again, I’ve always known) and really, truly understood (I guess I just never had one) is the crucial role of goal setting in order to achieve your dreams and desires (which, for my part, have been rather unclear), not to mention the meaning of hard work and persistence. No pain, no gain; if you never try, you’ll never fly; do it over and over again until it becomes part of who you are. Fall seven times, stand up eight, and so on, you know? Just never stop trying. Never, ever quit.

But what, then, if you have no idea of what it is that you should be working for? That makes it just a tiny bit trickier.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been struggling with finding my ’thing’. No matter how hard I’ve tried it’s always seemed like there is no such thing for me as, say, playing an instrument for one, drawing for another and running for a third. Ever since I quit swimming at the age of 15 I’ve been looking for that something, but as I haven’t managed to find anything close to as intense as swimming I’ve taken it as if I have nothing: no thing. No new hobby, no new life (that was what it was; my life). Thus, I’ve felt like I’ve had no choice but to go with the flow, year after year after year, all the while wondering and pondering and asking myself the same question, over and over again: What’s my thing? What am I supposed to be doing and, more importantly, what would I enjoy doing?

Although it’s been almost 12 years (crazy!) I’ve spent so many hours swimming back and forth in a pool, counting the tiles at the bottom, that it’s come to play a defining role for the way I think. Once I’d quit I spent years trying to get back into sports, forcing myself to go to the gym not so much for the fact that I would’ve enjoyed it, which I didn’t, but, quite literally, to not get fat. The more I’d sweat, the better: the more calories I was likely to burn. The more exhausted I’d be once I was finished, which sometimes meant pushing myself to the verge of throwing up, the more efficient a workout it was. The same goes for if I was unable to get out of bed the next morning because of my sore muscles.

That’s not the point, however. Like so many other girls, I suffered through a period of eating disorders, which I was lucky enough to overcome. I spent a year as an au pair in the US and remember thinking to myself before leaving Finland that I’m not going to gain weight like all the others, I’m not going to get fat, because that’s what you do, right? And so I decided to prove people (whom exactly?) wrong by doing the opposite.

As sad as it sounds (I now realize), I used to think that things were not worth going for, not even worth trying, unless I could be the best. If I couldn’t become world champion, which I most likely couldn’t, I wouldn’t even try. It didn’t have to be sports, but as that was what was familiar to me from my childhood it was some sort of a starting point. I remember reasoning that for something to be called a ‘hobby’ it surely had to be sports, right? As a result of that I’ve tried running, golf, tennis, diving, group workouts, the gym… but no, none of it’s been for me.

In the meanwhile, I’ve always played with the idea of getting into art: drawing, painting, why not pottery, but I’ve never done anything about it, and why is that? Because:

Would I like it? Maybe, but where would I go? Where would I be able to learn it all at once?

How about money, would it be worth it? In fact, would it be worth trying in the first place as I’m already X years old?

Would it–? 

Nah, maybe next year.

I now realize that so many times I’ve ended up not giving some random potentially, even likely fun and enjoyable thing a shot just out of comfort, just out of fear of the unknown. Fear of failure, fear of making a fool out of myself. Of getting exposed, of risking to let people know that I, too, am only human. Fear of not being the best, fear of not being …perfect?

Yup, that’s it: perfectionism. What a party pooper!

When I first started taking yoga classes in January 2016 I remember thinking this is not a sport, this is not a workout, I don’t even sweat. Surprisingly enough, though, by the end of summer I realized that I’d kind of started liking it. It was no longer a 60/90-minute struggle, but I was actually enjoying it. I had finally found the patience to do it and even come to value it to the extent that I found it worthwhile to invest my time in, especially during my travels, which has been so good. Who would’ve known?

To actually start feeling the benefits of it took its time, though, not to mention seeing progress. For those of you who are familiar with the different asanas, the first time that I felt comfortable in downward facing dog was after an intense 3-4 days of yoga at the retreat I did in Koh Yao Noi at the end of October, almost a full year after I’d started. The first time I managed to do a proper wheel was in my first week in Perth, while it took me until last week to even get my feet off the floor when giving crow pose a go.

Yesterday when I joined Dylan at his gymnastics class I found myself standing on my forearms for the first time ever, and I almost couldn’t believe it. With limited flexibility in my upper back thanks to two pieces of metal that were put in place 8 years ago because of my scoliosis, that’s something I never thought I would do, ever. No big deal for you, for sure, but for me that’s one GIANT leap. What an achievement!

What’s best of all, though, is that it hit me that I no longer give a crap about where I rank on a scale from 1 to 10. I still count myself as a beginner, but beginner or professional, world champion or a complete amateur, who cares? What matters now is my practice, my life, what I do. How revolutionary is that?!

What a feeling!

So, no more throwing up on the poolside, no more workouts that I really don’t want to do. No more of what everyone else does just because they do. What’s instead is a reasonable work/play ratio, some serious goal-setting, an open mind and a curiosity for all things new. Wanting to find a job in a cafe has made me realize that I need to put my perfectionism aside, get into those beginner’s shoes and work my ass – or, in this case, taste buds – off to prove them that I’m worth hiring, because I am.

Because you know what?

The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, but where you water it.

Peace out, my friends!

x Anna