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I was worried and confused about whether to pursue my career back in my hometown (Tawau, Sabah) or in West Malaysia. To some people, this isn’t even a real question since the answer is pretty clear, but for me, I have to take a lot of things into consideration. And also I have a very low self-esteem and I will keep on thinking that people will somehow look down on me because of where I’m from. There are so many stigmas surrounding Sabahans and Sarawakians and it baffles me sometimes. Somehow in my head, I keep on telling myself that my peers from West Malaysia have more advantages than I do. I am stigmatizing myself even, and it’s not fair. But through this job-seeking experience, I have learned a lot of things about myself, and also at the same time empowered myself.
What I am about to tell you is based on a real-life experience.
It was March and I was already panicking about what job should I take and also where should I work in? I am the only Sabahan in my friend group and honestly, most of their suggestions are pretty much useless to me. I am thankful for them for offering advice and opinions but they just simply didn’t consider a lot of things when they don’t know what I have to go through.
I have two choices, going back to my hometown to find work or staying in KL to find work.
Here’s the breakdown:
1. If I were to go back to my hometown
As you all know, the minimum wages in Sabah is much lower than that in the West (weird considering everything is much more expensive here) and there aren’t much career options here. I wouldn’t call it a career per se, more like a job. The most in-demand job here are accountants and teachers, and I have neither of those skills. Even if I do, the pay would be very low, I mean lower than market rate low. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t have to pay rent (since I will be living with my family), I wouldn’t have to cook my own meals (my family would have that taken care of), I would have a car to drive around (family car), I won’t have to get stuck in horrendous traffic jams like I would in KL, there are no tolls, I would have my family and friends, I would have my pets with me, I would just be a gigantic baby getting pampered with the basic necessities yet earning just enough for maintaining myself and nothing else.
2. If I were to stay in KL
While going back to my hometown would be super since everything is already taken care of, but staying in KL also has its benefits as well. The pay in KL is with market rate, or sometimes even higher, which means I have the ability to spend more. However, I do not have support here. I do not have a house, which means I have to rent one and to rent one I have to find one with a strategic location that is near to my place of work since I do not have the convenience of a car, and even if I have a car, I have to pay for the horrible tolls, the petrol (I still have to pay for petrol if I were back in my hometown), parking tickets, road tax, and all those horrible stuff.
But as a matter of fact I do not have a car, so I would have to either a) take public transport every day, or b) walk to work (provided that my place of work is in walking distance with the place I stay which is highly unlikely), but even if I were to take public transport every day, I doubt my place of work would be near the train station. I’d have to pay for rent (a good chunk of my salary gone), make my own food, buy my own groceries, clean my house, basically doing everything that one has to do.
So, these were the two scenarios that I have in my head for a very long time. I do not have much of a working experience so I tried applying to a lot of companies but failed, so I basically gave up on big companies and start looking for small businesses or start-ups. I was so stressed during that time my hair was falling out in chunks and I wasn’t even joking. I have a bald spot on my head. I was juggling with finding a job and a house and also writing my final year dissertation at the same time. It was a nightmare.
At the same time, my family was hit with a financial crisis and my grandmother was hospitalized. I was ready to give up everything at that point. But in the end, everything worked out. The crisis was solved, my grandmother was discharged and is healthier than ever, and I found a job as a translator/ content creator in a small company right before I graduate, which means I will have to stay in KL forever and not go back to my hometown for a long period of time. Not that it never happened before but just the thought of it makes me really sad because working life is not the same as university life where you can just play hooky and fly back to your hometown for a few days. And there are also times that everything is horrible and I just want to quit and go back home to just give in to the mundane life of working 9-5 in a small accounting firm and only earning barely above minimum wage, but when stop and think hard about it, I can’t do that to myself.
My parents have worked and fought hard just to get me this degree and to see my flourish and succeed in my life, what kind of daughter would I be if I were to just give up everything they have worked so hard for?
Yes, it is hard to have to work for everything while your peers have everything handed to them easily but I take that as an advantage. I take it as a lesson that makes me grow as a person. It makes me more independent and stronger, and that I can strive no matter what life throws at me. I used to take my background and where I come from as an excuse to not work as hard as other people, I used to blame people for having an advantage in life while I am just here with nothing. But now I learn that I shouldn’t let my own doubts and envy bring me down, in fact, I should be thankful that life has given me this challenge to help me grow and to know that I am stronger and smarter than I think.
And to all my fellow friends who are as lost as me, do not fret for this is just a phase and this too shall pass. You will graduate, you will get a job, and you will not be looked down just because of where you’re from.