It’s time…

What does the rest of 2020 look like?

What a freaking year! And we’ve still got 3 months to go. On the eve of my 1 year anniversary of returning to Australia, I reflect on the cement mixer it feels like my life has been through and that since March, the rest of the world has been in the cement mixer too – it hasn’t been that fun. But I hope, like me, you’re now (or already) seeing the sun glimmer through the clouds again as we invite renewed hope for the future.

This is my story of the last year, and why I’m now ready to come back to PFSEA – my dream, my inspiration and my future.

In the beginning…

On October 5, 2019 I landed back in Australia for only the second time in 5 years. My visa for Cambodia expired on the 4th of October and that had seemed like a clean line in the sand for me to make the next step, which I felt was to take place in Sydney. Those luscious coastlines were calling me, the accessibility to coastal walks is fantastic. The rest, I figured, I’d work out along the way but I knew (ha!) that it was time, I was ready, I felt like Australia was also ready for what I offer.

It’s not often that my gut instincts are off…. For the first month I was staying with friends and I threw myself into everything! Professional development, meeting new people and searching for somewhere to live. When I say threw, I mean I put everything into it, I was pushing hard to achieve everything. By early November I’d found a place and was moving “over the bridge” as it’s locally known, with daily walks facing the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. I set up a home office, I set out to keep meeting people, going to any events I could find… this is when my first bout of total aloneness hit.

I was working from home in my new office, talking a walk by the harbour each morning, then hanging out by myself in the evenings. I’d been told about reverse culture shock (the feeling that perhaps Cambodian culture had become my norm, so Australian culture would seem strange) but that wasn’t what affected me, it was the loneliness. It took me a few months to navigate this and around December/January I was starting to feel more settled.

meeting new people…

By late January/early February I had filled up my calendar with conferences, networking events, I’d joined a business women’s program and they were holding events… I was starting to meet people and it was feeling good. The response to what I do was positive. Everyone seemed to think that with the devastating bushfires that were still smouldering, people and companies would be ready to act for environment.

Early March I was lined up for my first speaking gig at a conference! I was excited, a bit scared but mostly hopeful as this has always been a good platform for me in Southeast Asia. But things were beginning to unravel as Covid-19 crept onto Australian shores. Another speaker couldn’t make it from interstate, so I was offered a second slot – I grabbed it. Sadly the speaker before me went over their allocated time and by the time I was in, there was no tech support, a locked computer where I couldn’t display my presentation and one solitary audience member. Bummer. The next day was my original time slot and I made sure I arrived early and got tech support in the room – of course the computer was already unlocked this time (!)… I waited anxiously for people to arrive… there were about a dozen people in a room that could hold 60+. It went really well but I have to admit I was pretty disheartened by the numbers. It was also my birthday. And the day that the pandemic was declared in Australia.

Locked down

A week later the lockdown began.

As I’m sure we all experienced, it took me a little moment to get my head around lockdown, that because other people were hoarding food, I had to be sensible too. That plastic-free was not totally out the window but definitely relaxed. Once the dust settled, I thought, I know, I have a huge amount of experience in online marketing… I’ll just put my courses online; break them down into smaller topics and we’ll be going great. We made the decision in Cambodia not to directly promote online workshops.. the team agreed it wasn’t easy for most people.

For 4 months, I pushed hard to cut through the noise that had erupted as everyone shifted their businesses online. I was on video every day (I had been since November anyway), I talked to my audience (maybe you in you’re on Instagram?) and let everyone know it was okay to just do our best during this time. I worked hard and was met with what felt like resounding silence. This is not to say that I’m not immensely grateful to the amazing, consistent or random comments, likes and support I did get. But the cash register was silent. I fooled myself for those entire 4 months that it wasn’t the pandemic and if I just kept trying everything would work out, it had for others, why not me?

I planned an epic schedule for July – Plastic Free July – of online events; a kick off party, education sessions, virtual coffee catch ups, happy hour debrief sessions and the annual awards and wrap up party. It was with this mix of paid and free events that I realised it wasn’t me, it was the pandemic, or at the very least… I couldn’t keep going. And if you saw my heartbreaking Instagram TV clip, you’ll know it wasn’t easy for me. (also, i’m not linking it because I still feel so vulnerable about it, but it’s there on IGTV if you want to watch it).

…and now

And I professionally wrapped up July and went into hibernation. 

For the past 2 months I’ve focused on me, on taking care of myself and most importantly on moving out of my shitty apartment. You see, when i declared my break from PFSEA, I really expected to feel relief… but I didn’t because I was experiencing the constant grating of noise from upstairs neighbours with a baby in an uninsulated apartment building that had left me stressed and frayed (still recovering now, one month after leaving).

A new home to heal was exactly what I needed. I’ve been working on projects for me – clearing out a ridiculous amount of “stuff” that I’d stored before I went to Cambodia and clearing out my mind and also doing a healthy detox for my body.

I’m grateful I’m doing the clearing out now. I feel as though a lot of stuff I would have previously just dumped in the bin, I’m now taking the time to re-home by selling or giving it away online, or donating to my local charity shop. It’s very satisfying, especially to see the next person so happy!

I’m gradually getting my sleep back under control – though that’s been a bit of a roller coaster and I’m yet to figure out if there is a reason…. and I am feeling more alive, happy and settled than I have in nearly a year.

…and that’s why it’s time to come back

I’m ready to start doing this a little more again. I’m keeping my focus to Cambodia and Southeast Asia for now. But the doors are open again. I’m ready to talk, engage, turn up to webinars, answer questions and help my team teach workshops again! Sai did one last week – I bloody love that guy – we spoke after.

Me: Hi, how was it?
Sai: So amazing! (I can almost feel him bouncing in his step) 

And this is the conversation we have nearly every time he runs a workshop. This makes my heart smile. This is the best.

So, whilst I don’t have a plan right now… I am going to start stepping forward again. And if you’ve read this far – thank you – and please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what would help you on your plastic-free journey.

Much love,
Sarah x 


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