When what you live to do, becomes what you do for a living

“Imagine if you will be on your death bed, and standing around your bed – the ghosts of the ideas, the dreams, the abilities, the talents given to you by life and that you for whatever reason, you never acted on those ideas, you never pursued that dream, you never used those talents, we never saw your leadership, you never used your voice, you never wrote that book. And there they are standing around your bed, looking at you with large, angry eyes, saying ‘We came to YOU. And only YOU could have given us life! Now we must die with you forever.’ The questions is: if you die today, what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts, would die with you?” -Les Brown

It all started about a week ago on Wednesday. By then, I had just recovered from a rather annoying case of candida infection (I’m using the scientific name here because it is far less embarrassing than the common term. And if you do research it, let me just say it, it’s not what you think, and leave it at that). The infection grounded me physically for quite awhile (fatigue and stress are symptoms and effects of it) and by the time I’d recovered, I’d gained some weight and generally felt sluggish.

Feeling the need to get back to my best, I decided to workout and start eating clean again (fitness junkies will know what I’m talking about generally). On Tuesday, I had worked on my core and legs, so not surprisingly, on Wednesday, I felt like crap. In addition to my below-par physical health, last Wednesday marked a month since I first joined Upwork, a freelance job-hunting platform where, supposedly, anyone can get a job.

A month and countless cover letters and project proposals later, I received 3 rejections and a whole lot more of ‘you’re not even worth the time to respond to’.  To say that I felt dejected and bereft of motivation would have been an understatement. I also had my dissertation which I was supposed to edit with my lecturer for publishing sitting on my table gathering dust with no intention of getting to it anytime soon.

That day (Wednesday), it was raining heavily, a perfect time for a nap. And nap I did. At around 5 p.m., my dog, sensing that it was time for his walk, jumped onto my bed and nudged me awake. The rain had stopped but the weather was still chilly and my body was aching and sore from the workout the previous day. A thousand voices commanded my body to go back to bed and just order pizza for the night. The one voice which disagreed was my dog’s whose continuous barking forced me out of bed. IMG_5918

Unable to bear it any longer, I fastened my dog’s belt and took it out for his walk. That’s when it all fell into place.

If I could get out of bed, when every fiber of my body protested, then I can take my dog out for a walk.
If I can take my dog out for a walk, then I can prepare and cook my own dinner.
If I can prepare and cook my own dinner, then I can do some basic stretches for exercise.
If I can do some basic stretches, I can do some resistance (weight) training as long as I avoid the parts which were recovering.
If I can put my body through a tough exercise and eating regime on a day when I had so nearly chosen to crawl into bed and stay there, I can work on that article.
If I can work on that article, I can gather myself together again and start submitting more proposals and cover letters on Upwork.


That night, before going to bed, I checked my email one more time. And there was an email from Indeed, another freelance job-hunting platform. There was a freelance job opening for a travel writer with a new and upcoming online travel review website. I thought, ‘Nice, I should apply tomorrow.’ Just as soon as I said that, some voice from the deepest corner of my mind, almost in the same tone that my late mother used to use, screamed, ‘The hell do you mean ‘tomorrow’? Do it NOW!’ And I did. Though I did not expect much from it. After all, I’d been rejected by so many different clients before. Why should this be any different?

The next morning, I decided to check my email: nothing. ‘Ah, I knew it,’ I said. But a few hours later, I received an email from a contact I’ve never seen before and upon opening it, it read:

Dear Zhijian,
Thank you for the sample article. It was really well written…

As I read on, I started to tear a little bit in spite of myself. All the rejection and days of feeling like a bum were suddenly quickly fading away. For so long, I had felt desperate to the point of exploding. To feel like you have so much energy, so much enthusiasm, so much to share, so much passion, so much potential within you, but not being able to express any of it because you were not being afforded a chance. All that, gone in an instant.

This morning, I put pen to paper (well, metaphorically because it was all online) on my first ever long-term freelancer contract with the company.

One week, it all changed within one week. From feeling like a bum struggling at the very bottom of a dirt-filled ravine to turning the things I live to do (writing and traveling) to the things I do for a living. I wouldn’t say that I’ve achieved my lifelong dream just yet, but it is indeed a step in the right direction. A massive one. And to think, all of this happened as a result of a domino effect started when I made the decision to get out of bed.

The point of this article: Don’t give up on a dream just because it’s rough right now. Don’t give up because you’re surrounded by darkness. Don’t become accustomed to it no matter how comfortable it might be. Take your chances, fail, and take them again. Work hard. And if people don’t appreciate you, work even harder and force them to recognise you. All will be well in the end. And for those who dare hold on to their dream in a society and a time where more dreams are shattered than realised, a new horizon lies beyond the night.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I’ll be abandoning Transcendence! In fact, I owe it to this blog for the opportunity I have now. (Dr. Joanne, if for some reason you’re reading this, I just want to say: thank you, for everything) I’m still going to update this blog regularly as I continue to travel. In fact, once I start getting off my feet, I might even privatise this domain (I would have done it a long time ago if it weren’t for the Ringgit falling harder than I do when I meet a beautiful girl)! So until next time, signing off,


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