By Sean Mckenna
Been a while since I decided to sit down and spit out a few thoughts, but I feel this one might strike a chord with some people. I’ve just finished a crazy 3-month stint living and working in a regional part of Australia. A compulsory stint that means I can stay in the country for another 12 months. The initial dread of having to pack up and leave a comfortable lifestyle in Sydney and relocate wasn’t a particularly appealing one in the beginning. I’d heard some toxic accounts from others about their experiences doing the same thing. Some people pick fruit for shit money for 3 months, others end up working on a farm. Either option may or may not have wielded positive results, but having spoke to another fella from Ireland and hearing how he would work a 12 hour shift every night for his 3-month period, I wasn’t looking forward to it. His only interaction with any other person came when it was time to changeover shifts with the other guy that done the day shift. For 3 months he essentially had no contact with anyone else. Fair play to him, he done it, but it sounded like mental torture. I’d seen a post online, looking workers on the east coast on a construction project building 155km of road along the whole east coast of Australia. The work was situated in a sleepy little holiday town, according to Youtube, by the name of Yamba. A slice of paradise, 1 hour from Byron Bay and 3 hours from the Gold Coast. That initial dread was indeed warranted but it turned out being the best few months of my life. Let me explain.
After finishing college last year, with no intention of using the degree anytime soon, I packed up and moved down under. My time in Australia like many expats has been spent on building sites. Anyone unfamiliar to the construction scene in Australia will be unaware of how ridiculously well paid it is. Without going into specific financial details, I make around 5x more on a building site here than I was making with my degree back home. All work is essentially the same when you think about it. You’re being paid to sacrifice precious free time, so if you must work, you might as well be well compensated for your time, regardless of the type of work. Money aside, I personally would rather be outside tipping away in the sun, picking up bits and pieces of different trades on a site every day than being stuck in an office doing the repetitive, menial shit I was doing back in Ireland.
Myself and another few Irish lads ended up stuck working literally the worst job on the entire project. 11 hours a day using a jackhammer to break down concrete piles in 30-degree heat. What the fuck had I got myself in for I was thinking, 2 hours into the first day. It was mental and physical torture. From day dot I was regretting the decision if I’m going to be honest about it. Fortunately, and I will always give praise where it’s due, I had plenty of weed to smoke up there. We were smoking a few cones after work and I got to thinking about the old clichés we hear time and again. “Mind over matter”, “you can do anything you put your mind to”. I kept that notion in mind and tried to convince myself that I could grind the 3 months of torture out. I’ll look back at the decision to grind it out as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for a number of reasons. Yamba turned out to be anything but a little sleepy holiday town. I’d go as far as saying that behind New York, it’s the second-best place I’ve had the pleasure of living in. It’s funny how no matter where you go in the world you’re never far away from the Irish. By the finish up we had a good squad of 12 or 13 Irish lads up there, so I’m sure you can imagine there was no shortage of drinking done. It’s always nice to be surrounded by a squad from back home, but we ended up getting to know a lot of the locals our age. Some absolute fucking legends. The town in insanely stacked with some incredibly talented people. On the sporting front and musicians. They thought we were crazy, we thought they were crazy. One Aussie we met there in particular made the working day a bit easier. A Yamba local that is known far and wide around that part of the country for his boxing ability. 5 foot 6, with a wired frame, you’d never think it, but we soon heard what an operator he was. He has a reputation for stripping down naked when fighting to get into his opponents’ head. He claims the worst beating he ever got, he gave to himself. The story goes that there were two men on the way to give him a beating at his house one evening, where instead he punched the fuck out of himself, before stripping naked and confronting them at the front when they pulled up. The two quickly jumped back in their car and swiftly left. We never got to see him scrap but he is one crazy, crazy character that I’ll never forget and will definitely keep in touch with. Another local by the name of Liam Foster was working with us as well. Just turned 18, insanely talented on the music front. I’ve no doubt he’ll make a name for himself over the next 12 months as he is starting to ramp up the effort he’s putting in to it. Remember the name because you heard it here first! Characters like that made it the 3 months even more enjoyable. A far cry from the pretentious Aussie natives in Sydney that wouldn’t look twice at anyone not rocking around with a couple of million in the bank.
It was a savage insight into a completely different part of the world that you don’t see living in cities like Sydney or back in Ireland. There are a lot more stories and some GoPro footage that I’ll save for another day, but they really took and shine to us and vice versa. It wasn’t just the Aussies but, we fell in with a group of Kiwis up there as well. I’d never met anyone from New Zealand before it. They’re as close to the Irish, personality wise as I’ve met so far. Easy going, always happy and always up for a beer. The stories, videos and photographs I’ve left Yamba with will have me laughing well into my senile years if I’m lucky enough to make it that far.
I went to work every day with the attitude that if I could convince myself to get up at 5 every morning to go torture myself on the jackhammer for the 3 months, what would stop me from doing anything else I wanted to do? 3 months ended up rolling into almost 5. Genuinely, that simple shift in mentality or attitude made every day an absolute breeze. I’m writing this article in a jacuzzi on the rooftop of an apartment that I’m renting in Bangkok at the minute. Another motivator I used to get me through the 88 days was an extended break away at the end. When the end did come, I reflected on the experience, particularly the so-called clichés that were floating around in my mind at the start. As per usual, there was a few joints on the go, so again I got to thinking. There’s a strange taboo about the notion of using a cliché. Almost as if the point of whatever you’re trying to get across is rendered obsolete just because it’s “cliché”. How many times have you heard those phrases before, mind over matter, that you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it? Countless, no doubt, but how often do you pay heed to the message? I wanted to finish the 3 months, get my 2nd year visa sorted, fuck off to Thailand, chill out, learn the guitar and try pick up Spanish. That short time of sacrifice has led to an extended period of doing exactly what I want without the need to be tied down in a full-time job. I have no intention of working construction forever. It just so happens to be an effective way of funding shit that I want to do right now and in the future. Truth be told I have no intention of working any kind of a job down the line. I’m working my way through a list of things at the minute that I want to do and a few things that might open a few doors eventually. That simple shift in mentality after 3 months of what I thought was torture at the time, has ended up being one of the best lessons I’ve learnt.
To those unfamiliar, Cole Cuchna is the creator of a fascinating, long-form music podcast called Dissect which analyses the musical composition, lyrical meanings and more of pop culture’s most significant albums. Now in his 30’s and with a small family, he spent several years working in a managerial role in a coffee shop, but started making Dissect in his garage after becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his working life. Just 2 seasons in the hours upon hours of sacrifices have paid dividends, as he has now been hired by Spotify to make Dissect full-time. Cole believes:
“Sacrifice, hard work, dedication, blind determination and most importantly belief in one’s self is the key to ongoing progress. It’s all those cliché’s you hear all the time, but that’s the danger of cliché’s: they tempt us to roll our eyes, words and concepts thrown around so often that they lose meaning, but we can’t let that happen. Sacrifice, hard work, blind persistence and belief in one’s self are the building blocks to progress, and if you take anything away from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or even this little podcast, let it be the inspiration of action in your own life, to pursue the things you love, to challenge yourself in pursuit of that goal when things inevitably become difficult, to resist the temptation of giving up because it’s easy or you’re tired or you failed more times than you succeed, to continually realign your life’s trajectory as many times as necessary to pursue spending as much time as possible with the things you love.”
On a personal note, for what it’s worth, I plan on continuing to work and travel around the world, working on that list I mentioned above. I’ve no way of knowing what predicament everyone else is in but I hope that this article resonates some way with anyone that reads it. If you want to do something, go somewhere, whatever, go for it kidddd, the only thing stopping you is yourself. How’s that for a cliché? If you have the time, I’d strongly recommend giving 8 minutes of your day absorbing a bit of Joe Rogan’s infinite wisdom by clicking on the following link also. Everyone is different. Some people will think I’m talking complete shit here. To be honest, I don’t care if you do. Someone, somewhere might be stuck working a dead-end job that they hate for no other reason than they have no other choice. There’s always another choice, it’s up to yourself to figure out what you want and then set about making it happen!