I was happy in LA. Beautiful little place, beautiful friends, a jacaranda tree outside. Yoga and writing. Dance and boxing. I was going to live in Hollywood forever.
Only one thing was missing: a job. I’d gone two years without working, and my little nest egg was nearly spent. I’d tried everything I could think of, applied for every position that came up. I’d found work freelance translating, but nothing else showed up. I couldn’t even get a job temping. By the end of 2009, it was all starting to get kind of painful and surreal.
Then I got a note from an old boss, someone I’d worked for in Moscow. He was on a new job in Papua New Guinea (wherever that was), rotating out of Denver. That left him with a five-hour layover every time he passed through LAX. He’d gotten tired of the airport lounge; did I want to come down, the next time he flew through, and have a cup of coffee?
The oilfield is a collegiate place; I didn’t think twice. Got up at five in the morning and drove down to the airport, through the drowsy, half-empty LA streets. We went for coffee, and he told me stories about his new job: jungles and sinkholes, tribal wars and fly-in drilling, kids swimming in the shark-infested Coral Sea. It sounded fascinating, turbulent, and challenging as hell. I dropped him off at the airport, drove home, opened my latest script. That was nice, I thought. Now get back to work.
Six months later, it was me on the plane.
Every other option had failed. I needed a job - any job. It was that same old boss who came through. A short-term contract based at a remote camp in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. A place I had never dreamed of, a country I knew nothing about.
I’d left the oil industry in a cloud of cherry blossoms, thinking I’d be a free agent forever. Three years later, I was back in the oil business. Working in PNG, living out of a suitcase. Strange faces, long hours, hard work and scrambling. No time for pet projects, thinking, worrying, planning - no time for anything except work.
It was just what I needed. You see, I was a little too comfortable in LA. I didn’t want change; I had closed that door and locked it. I was lying in bed at night, whispering prayers, asking for a miracle. Trying to plan and limit and negotiate, anything to stay where I was.
God loves a closed door. He heard me out, of course. And then he sent the great hobnailed Boot of Fate to smash the thing down.
Three months turned to six, and then a full-time gig. The job kept getting bigger, forcing me to grow along with it. California was too far away, so I was taking my breaks in Sydney. I started making friends. Learning the beaches. Loving the golden stone and sun-dappled harbor, the warmth and the fig trees.
In the end it was too good to pass up. I kept the job, and gave up the return ticket. All those LA dreams - and some of them were sweet, and some were poison - would have to wait.
And that, my dears, is how I moved to Australia.