Stay true to yourself, ha?

Bang og Jensen (Denmark, 2013)
Bang og Jensen | Denmark, 2013

The “plan” had always been to work as a consultant at a big four.

But the spontaneous creative soul in me was a bigger force.

It was February 2007 — days before I turned twenty-two and setting off to Great Britain for a gap year — being from the Commonwealth made me an Anglophile (only to have London underwhelmed me — more on that later).

I was crashing at one of my best friend’s place in Melbourne musing on what do I do with my Arts degree. (K was a Law student, though creative writing has her heart.) We have just come home from catching Damien Rice’s gig in Melbourne. I was profoundly impacted by his artist story.

“People ask me do I want to be successful. For me success is, as a friend of mine said to me, getting up in the morning and going ‘Yes! Another day’. You know, if you can do that every morning then you’ve really made it.

I had this dream years ago of playing the Olympia in Dublin, it was always my dream in childhood and if I did that I used to think that would mean I was successful and then I could be happy. And we did that in the band I used to be in and I came on stage and I was like ‘ha?’

I actually missed the gig ‘cause I was so focussed on the end. I missed the experience and it was a real let down. So now I’m really happy to just keep playing, and enjoy every moment of it.

If you think about what you do too much, make projections or plans whatever, it just sterilizes the magic. I just like to hang out and see what life kind of lands and feel my way through that wherever I end up. — Damien Rice


I remember being sold the myth of working hard in your younger days then retire and “enjoy life”. I don’t know. I don’t have a problem with working hard but I have a big problem with how work seems to be something to be “endured” so that we can later “enjoy”. I don’t like the word ‘retire’ either.

If what I do at work is who I am made to do then, I can’t retire from being me. So using my savings, the youthful courage I had set me off to find out what I’m made of, what makes me ‘tick’, that getting up every morning going ‘Yes! Another day!’ Funny enough, my journey of finding out started off with what would appear like a premonition as I arrived in London, and right away I was like ‘ha?’

Perhaps it was my own doing — I had dreamt up London as a ‘destination’ over the years of following the Premier League, and I missed the “magic”.

(Aside: Liverpool was nothing short of magical, though. I suppose the magic was in following the club through a decade of highs and lows that arriving in Scouse city, and certainly, Anfield was more like a homecoming — and wow there is a magic in that. I would later return to Liverpool yearly, almost.)

It was my maiden trip to the other side of the world. For the “traveling guru” people label of me today, I had actually not gone beyond South East Asia and Australian borders until the year I turned twenty-two. But I knew what the “magic” tasted like — that slow burning passion — I felt it in Thailand and later in my maiden visit to Cambodia just before I turned twenty-one.

They were back-to-back mission trips, and I would never ever have identified myself a missionary until the year I turned twenty. But we all are. My world was flip upside down or should I say downside up — I have never felt more alive as a believer or as a person. January 2006 set me on path to alleviate poverty and its surrounding issues in global politics.

It was easier to – in my twenties – take the plunge to see more of the world, to understand and discover my role in meeting the needs of the world. So it was for me to take a gap year in Europe instead of entering the corporate rat race and climbing it without locating my heart for the greater purpose.

While I did arrive in Heathrow Airport in 2007 with no idea where I was going in life, or with my degree so they say, but I knew through my final undergraduate year in 2006 that I have a professional passion in sports entertainment and a lifelong love to usher in hope for a world searching for hope.

Going back to K’s living room after being convinced to stay true to myself thanks to Damien Rice, K could have been the first person whom I mused off my spaghetti-ed head that I would give it a shot entering the world of sports entertainment as a journalist traveling to events all over the world.

Frankly, I didn’t quite know what it was about being a sports journalist, it just sounded legit given my supposed education and athletic background. With a Liberal Arts education, you can basically see it as fully capable of doing nothing professional or wildly open to everything anything possible.

Braving London as a starving artist at twenty-two, I chose the latter.


This story is part of the #livebig series here.