“You go where the opportunity takes you.”

Today’s a good day.

So good, in fact, that I thought I’d try again in writing this out – I carry with me news of a potential change.

To be honest, I hesitated many times about sharing this here because nothing’s confirmed yet; the details are coming in bits and pieces. The latest update is that everything will come together, in paper finally, for my perusal, by the end of the month or at the earliest, early next month. We’re talking maybe 2-3 weeks from now. I can hold it in until then, it’s really not a problem. Besides, the last thing I want to do is count my eggs before they hatch, you know?

But I’ve decided to share it here, primarily because I want to remember this clarity that I feel about the decision I will very likely make about this. Like I said, the information is coming in bits and pieces, so to be completely honest, I’m going by only what I know – okay admittedly, more what I feel than what I know – but I think it’s important to remember this clarity.

I think I am close to signing and agreeing to a job with the sponsor.

In a way, strictly speaking, it’s not ideal. Job-scope wise, at least. It’s a job that will require me to actually be an engineer – project engineer, to be specific – and little to do with being an environmental engineer. I’m afraid I might have to hang that hard-earned title and carefully keep it for at minimum, two years. Whenever I read stuff about water resources – my professional niche – I admit, I feel a little sad …but I also realize that the honest truth is, maybe I actually don’t love it enough to fight to stay and grow in the niche. I’m okay with trying new things and tasks, so long as I feel that I’m able to do what’s expected of me. Even though I know jack, I hope my willingness to learn will carry me through. Also okay, reality makes the decision simple: I need a job, period. I need to start somewhere. Beggars can’t be senseless, spoiled choosers.

There’s something else of equal importance, aside from job scope: location.

Specifically, this job will take me out of the big city and into a small town, 2 hours away by flight. It’s the small town that I lived in back in summer 2012 for an internship with the sponsor. It’s also the same small town that changed me, in mere 10 weeks, more than 3.5 years in Philly ever did. This was the small town that successfully challenged my perspectives, more than 6 years of escapism and self-discovery in a land that’s ironically, all about freedom and dreams, did.

“You go where the opportunity takes you.”

“Even if it’s back to a small town?”

To be completely honest, I don’t know how okay I am about this. The longer I am back in my hometown, the more I feel reluctant to leave. I’ll be honest: I live a comfortable life here, with access to resources and enough to meet my needs. I have loved ones all living nearby, and my close friends are here, too. My entire life, basically, is here. I keep asking myself, “Do I really need to work out of state?” …even though it’s silly, to be asking this over and over – I’ve always known the answer. Because it matters less that I am not a small-town person, and more – if not all about – what would keep me here.

Some people have no qualms about where they’re placed or sent to. I’ll be frank: I’m not one of those. To me, location matters. A great fucking deal. My basing an entire childhood/teenage dream on studying Stateside, no exaggeration, is one of the main reasons – if not the main reason – I am the person that I am today; functioning and not emotionally unstable. My six years away were, in my own way, an act of rebellion …but also sound, valid escapism.

I love my hometown – I love it too fucking much, honestly – but choosing to stay in the capital, my hometown, Malaysia’s urban hub and lungs, also automatically, no-questions-asked means I will live in the family home. I love my family to death and I absolutely love the house – I’m extremely grateful for its size and strategic location, as well as my fellow occupants – but there’s a lot of emotional instability in choosing to stay here. At least in my first two years of building a career and surviving the Big Bad, I don’t want to have to deal with this. This will be my second act of rebellion …but also sound, valid escapism. It’s the only way to be home but live away from home, you know? This job meets this option.

I have little details to go by right now, but I wanted to share this much. I think it’s now okay to share what I know with – essentially – the rest of the(my) world. The job won’t start immediately – I was quoted a February 2016 start date, so we’ve got plenty of time to get used to the idea of N relocating to a small, random Malaysian town and more importantly, plenty of time to keep traveling. Hell, the offer letter isn’t even out yet so I don’t know what I’m going to have to agree in order to attain what I want. I don’t know if I’m up to the task either, if I’ll be okay with everything that comes part and parcel with the job – like having to go on boat or chopper to oil platforms, my god – but I keep reminding myself, “Cross that bridge when you get there.” With the pathetic state of the Malaysian economy right now, I also realize how extremely fortunate I am that an offer from a still-reputable international company (a personal preference) fell smack on my lap. Because I am-now-was their scholar and have done an internship (where I passed the assessment) with them three years ago, I need not go through the interview process whatnot. So yes, in essence – this offer literally fell smack on my lap.

How many people can say and admit that out loud and know it as the truth?

But you know, to be completely honest and despite being a scientist – at the end of the day, I’m a person of faith.

During the month of Ramadan, whenever I conversed with God, I’d tell Him that if He could, please, let things work out with the sponsor. If it wasn’t gonna work out, I’d asked for ease in the job hunting process. One night about three weeks ago when anxiety and reality finally collided about my state of unemployment and possible employment options — that same night, I told myself, “From tomorrow onward I’ll start job hunting proper.” And then the call came in the morning.

A few days later, just when I worried whether the job would keep me in the capital – and what this meant, majorly for my sanity’s sake – another call from the recruiter came in. “I’ve found out for you,” she began, “the job will be in the upstream office. You’re okay with that, right?” For an entire week following that, I stressed over the elusive, yet-unknown job scope. The recruiter had asked, on behalf of the team, questions about my exposure and background in civil engineering. Crap, I thought to myself. Am I expected to full-on wear an engineer’s hat? More importantly, can I do this?

It turned out that I needn’t worry.

This Monday, I spoke to my maybe-supervisor who sat in place of her boss, the person who decided to take me in. I’d thought it would be a quick chat over the phone, totally low-key and brief, but it ended up going for an hour. “I was surprised when I found out you’re an environmental engineer,” she said. “I’d thought — why did they send an environmental engineer to me? But from our conversation this hour, I think you’re someone to maximize your time and meet your career development goals, in the duration you’re with us.” I thanked her for saying that and internally responded, I think so too.

I’m reminded of my mother’s words, clear as day, “Bravery isn’t choosing to do what you want to do, but in deciding to opt for the next best thing. How many people end up with exactly what they want? The real question is, are you brave enough to take on the next best thing – do what you need to do before you can do what you want to do?”

Right now, lest you forget – nothing’s concrete. An offer letter isn’t even out. But I trust my gut feeling a lot… you know? And I don’t know how to explain it, other than this that I told my cousin when I filled her in about this news, “I’m trying not to settle so easily just because I’m desperate. Okay, I kinda am, but if I try harder, I’m sure there’ll be other offers, you know? But before I am anything else, I’m a person of faith. The way things have played out… how this offer materialized… at one point in this trickling information period, the point where it’s mere coincidence blurs, you know? I remember my conversations with God during the fasting month and the way things are falling into place … why do I keep feeling like my prayers are being answered?” And if the answer’s a solid yes, maybe it’s not in my place to resist or reject, you know?

I’m still on wait-and-see mode because I need to read the fine prints when the offer letter finally arrives anytime between now and the first week of September, but I am writing this here; decided to share the news now. I might be eating my words in a few weeks time, I don’t know – and I’ll be the first to admit how embarrassed I’d be if this offer doesn’t actually work out – but strange as this may sound, I want to remember this particular moment when it occurred to me that the point where turn-of-events aren’t mere coincidences… I just… I don’t think that’s insignificant.

And I’ll be totally honest: I haven’t forgotten.

Not once have I forgotten the promise I made to myself two years ago, when I received news that funding was approved for me to complete my masters at Stanford. It was all I wanted then. I was ready to gamble everything I had, was, for the experience. At the time, I’d never been so desperate in my life, which is why I don’t allow myself to forget how things transpired. You don’t forget that small but significant moment, thankfully brief, when your future felt pitch-black.

I’d promised to return to the small town following this “two-year detour”.

And I guess… the time is now?

Epilogue

“You’re overthinking this.” 

“Oh?” I quieted down immediately, shocked that she noticed and even more so at her expression. “You think?”

“Just go where the opportunity takes you.”

“Even if it’s back to a small town?”

“Even if it’s back to a small town.” 

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