I know that it seems like Joey Jetsets hasn’t really taken off and I know how long you’ve been buckled in for, but the flight is NOT cancelled – it’s just been delayed! I do apologise for how quiet I’ve been. The first post was for my marketing assessment at school and after the semester ended I decided to work as much as I could to save up money for a new adventure. That left very little time for my blog, but now that I am back on my normal schedule I am aiming to have a new post up every week. Please hold me accountable! This blog project has been so fun to start and I am really excited to continue to share my stories with all of you – so let’s get to it!
As you read in my last post, I decided that I needed to change my life on a complete whim and move to Australia over two years ago. “Mate,” you’re probably thinking, “how in the bloody hell did you wind up there?” Yes, how in the world did I wind up across the planet from the United States of America? What could have possibly brought me to Melbourne, Australia? Why would I ever move when I lived right across the bay from New York City – arguably the most incredible metropolis on Earth? I guess this story starts right after I made it through my final exams at college (or as we say in Australia, “uni”) by the skin of my teeth.
I had just graduated Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. After (unhappily) living in ‘The Hub’ for three years, I decided to move back home to my Jersey Shore town. Boston has so much to celebrate, but Boston never celebrated me. I got too lost in the Patriots Superbowl Parades and the blinding blizzards of New England to ever really find my footing in Boston. My footprints got covered in the dust of a new superstorm every week, and after drunkenly stumbling around in circles at 2 a.m. through cobblestoned alleys and lines at the front doors of clubs that were longer than the patience I’ve had trying to complete my degree, I eventually found the breadcrumbs I had dropped to find my way back home to Middletown, New Jersey. I clumsily gathered all five of my suitcases, boarded the train back home and slipped back into my old position…at my old job…in my old town…and in return, into my old habits.
…but it was nice to be home. Actually, I should probably use the word comfortable. It was nice not having to spend money on organic groceries or mountains of beer-stained laundry, and it was nice being back at the old supermarket I worked at surrounded by friends who were more than happy staying cashiers at the supermarket and gossipy, menopausal ladies with electric fans at their registers in the middle of January. They were my family and it was a comfortable feeling to be home. I was a Customer Service Manager – probably the youngest in the supermarket chain’s history – and it was nice being seen as the “golden boy” again after some serious blows to my self-esteem in college that expectedly come with love and life in a big city. However, I knew student loan payments would kick in and I knew an $11 an hour position at a supermarket was never going to cut it, so I asked to step it up and become a Human Resource Manager for the company. Now that would set me up nicely for a future career. I had a few interviews, got the job and started Human Resource training, but had to wait to be placed into a position.
I waited a month…then two…and heard nothing. I asked my HR manager what was happening. She told me not to worry. After waiting four months, I decided that I should start looking elsewhere. While sorting through my old university email, I found an advertisement for an “International Student Advisor” for one of their study abroad programs. “That could be fun,” I said to myself. I never had the opportunity to study abroad as I had to work three jobs just to put food on my table in college. Studying abroad was a luxury I could never have as a first-generation college student, so I thought it would be great to see a different country and get paid to do it. I applied and I got a second interview. “You’ll never get it,” said my friend Jimmy, who had the same position in Greece a year prior. “You haven’t really travelled internationally, and you hate Northeastern.”
He had a point. Besides not having many warm and fuzzy feelings towards my old university, my old travel experience was a cruise with my best friend Cristhal and her family. I purchased a passport for the first time in my life, set sail to sea and had the time of my life. We explored the ocean, the land and the deepest parts of our friendship. Afterwards, I made it a point to travel to as many states as I could before graduation (I went from 5 states to nearly HALF of the country!) but knew after graduating I would need to focus on landing a stable job. I applied anyway and decided that the best approach to success was to be myself – something I struggled with throughout college, but had recently been giving a shot.
I somehow got the job. I’m still not entirely sure what the advisors were thinking when hiring me – apparently it had to do with my “genuineness” and my management experience (thanks ShopRite!) – but I’ve learned at that point not to question The Universe when it drops something as incredible as a position working abroad into your lap, so I said I’d take it. They wanted to send me to London. It wasn’t Sydney, Australia, but I figured it would be a good experience anyway. I was humbled to go to any of the study abroad sites. A week later, I still hadn’t told my HR manager I was leaving, as I still wasn’t sure if I’d actually have the balls to go, but my phone rang at work and I ran to Aisle 10. I hid between a few rows of Captain Crunch and Honey-Nut Cheerios and answered the call.
“Hey Joey, this is the N.U.in Study Abroad Program calling. We know we told you you’d go to London and I know we told you that wouldn’t change but…it’s changing. You wanted to go to Australia…would you still want to go? It would be Melbourne, not Sydney.”
I jumped higher than a fucking kangaroo. “AH YES OF COURSE I WOULD!? Thank you so much!” After listening to ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls on loop for a week, I had finally come to terms with being placed in London but being placed in Australia was certainly enough to erase any recent goodwill I had towards my placement there. Sure, it wasn’t Sydney, but how different could two Australian cities really be? (Plot Twist: they can and I was blessed to be placed in Melbourne, but more on that later!)
After a few more kangaroo hops and a few odd stares from my cashiers, I simply blurted “I, uh…am moving to Australia! I think? BE RIGHT BACK!” I tugged at my pinky finger (something I do for comfort when I am nervous because it makes me think of my baby sister Angelina holding onto my pinky with her entire little hand as an infant) while making my way upstairs to Cara the HR Manager’s office contemplating whether or not this was the right decision. It certainly wouldn’t be the smart decision and I always made the smart decision up to that point, but maybe it was time to follow my heart for a change. I waited a few seconds and knocked on her door.
“I’m really busy,” Cara said.
“It’s Joey. This is kind of important.”
“What Joe?” she sighed. Not because she didn’t want to talk to me – we had a great relationship – but she was always stressed out. Her job was really important, she had a lot of responsibility and the store managers were constantly breathing down her back.
“I don’t really know how to say this, but I was just offered a temporary job in Australia and I think that I want to take it.”
“WHAT?! Australia!? You can’t! What about the human resource job?” she questioned.
“Cara, I’ve been waiting four months. How much longer am I going to have to wait for this?”
Why was I even entertaining the thought of staying by asking this!?
“I…I…I can get you the job tomorrow if you stay,” Cara blurted out.
And that, my friends, is when the switch in me flipped. The lights turned on and they were brighter than I ever could imagined they would be. Who would have thought that 10 words strung together was enough to light a fire in me that had been dormant for the past 25 years of my life? All it needed was a spark and that sentence was it.
“I’m sorry, Cara. This is my months’ notice. I need to do this.”
She sighed, and while she expressed how disappointed she was, she hugged me and told me that if this was what I needed to do then I should do it. Cara, if you are reading this, I don’t think you realise that you unintentionally changed my entire life for the better. Things have a funny way of working themselves out and I’ll forever be grateful to you. Not to mention the HR training you did with me has helped wonders in navigating a career for me here in Melbourne – so thank you.
So just like that, I quit my job, turned down an incredible new position, ended my relationship and said goodbye to my loved ones. Let’s say they weren’t (and still aren’t) thrilled with my life choices, but the one thing I have learned from all of this is that you only have one life and you need to make it count for something. You need to make it count for yourself.
I have already gone on long enough, but in order to tell the rest of my story you needed to start from the beginning. Since leaving New Jersey on July 4th, 2016, I have learned so much about myself and about others through travel and from working abroad. I have met people from nearly every country in the world. Each person has taught me something new about life.
I grabbed pizza after class with two classmates this week, one from Milan, Italy and the other from Colombia. We laughed so hard talking about differences between our homes and Australia, about Italian food (something my Italian friend Veronica and I have a passion for) and about how crazy life is. The pizzas came out, and as massive (and tasty!) as they were, our smiles were even bigger. Sitting at that table sharing stories with new friends from around the world made me realise that coming here was easily the best life decision I have made yet. I have met people of different cultures, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and social classes because of this move. These people are the rainbow after the thunderstorm that was my early 20s. I am so happy. I am so blessed. I am so alive…and I am so ready to see what comes next.
Joey Jetsets x