Sunday, November 24, 2019

Life in the US - 5 Year Reflection

24 November 2019 marks 5 years since I packed up my life in Malaysia and relocated to the US. It felt like 5 years flew by in the blink of an eye, but looking back, I realized that I've actually done and accomplished a lot over the last 5 years. Thanks to this blog, I've been able to document most of my experiences/life in this space. To commemorate this milestone, I decided to write this post to reflect on the highs, lows, and everything in between. =P 

The learning curve was pretty steep in the beginning, but overall, the first 3 years went well. I was able to progress in my career, earned a promotion and some good bonuses along the way. I also constantly remind myself to be thankful for having a good job

If you've been following my blog (i.e. nobody), you'd have noticed that I've had few rants about work this past year. As much as I try to stay positive, it got to a point where I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed-out, and burnt-out. As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours, then it floods, and I was paddling through piles of 'human-created sh*t'. In an environment where the ground was constantly shifting beneath my feet, and the bar kept being raised to an unrealistic level, I started doubting the sustainability of this path.

Just as I was feeling absolutely knackered, a great opportunity popped up internally at the perfect timing. The company was scaling up its Center of Excellence (CoE) and was looking for individuals to join the team. Best part of this role, it's completely remote! Thanks to the crappy busy season, it was a no-brainer for me to submit a self-nomination and try out something different. I've stuck it out long enough (about a year) through sh*t luck and adversities, putting my life and career on hold. It was time for a change. 

Perfect opportunity at the perfect timing

Now that I'm 2 months into this new role, I'm glad to report that work life has been pretty awesome! This work from home gig is perfect for a homebody like me. No more commutes, sleep-in every morning instead of wasting time making myself presentable to clients and co-workers, dress comfortably for work (read: pajamas), no need for face-to-face interactions, listen to music without using earbuds, have dinner with hubby every day, and work when I'm most productive (at night). Don't get me wrong, I'm still working a lot but I don't mind putting in more hours in exchange for the increased flexibility. I don't want to sound boastful, but I'm truly thankful for all these.

Quote to share: Adversity is like a strong wind. When things aren't going your way and backing out is not an option, you just gotta keep moving forward, even if it takes twice the effort and twice as long. 

Apart from routine health exams, dental cleaning/fillings, my wisdom tooth removal, and hubby's shingles, we've been able to stay away from the doctors. Food, exercise, and practicing gratitude are our three main pillars to stay healthy, physically and mentally. I'm totally guilty on the exercise part, especially after cancelling my gym membership 3 years ago. =P However, we've been doing pretty good with our food, and I take all credits for my cooking and meal-prep efforts every Sunday over the last 5 years. Tell me about discipline and consistency. =P

For the first 3 years, we were also gardening and growing our own food but we decided to put a halt to it because our low consumption is not worth the effort and time, for now.

Now that hubby and I have lived together for 5 years, we learnt that we are actually a lot more compatible than we initially thought! While things have remained stable and uneventful for the both of us, there have been a number of significant changes (i.e. marriages, divorce, new additions, deaths, illnesses, etc.) on both sides of our families.

These events are great reminders for us to cherish and spend time with our loved ones while we can. Life goes by fast and people aren't around forever. As such, we have been intentional about spending time and making memories with our families, and I'm glad that I've been able to travel back home at least once every year to spend time with my family.

I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to travel a pretty good bit for work and leisure over the past 5 years. No doubt, the lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses here in the US have definitely made my hobby a lot more affordable. We've used airline miles and hotel points to travel to 17 countries (including a Round-the-World adventure) and lowered our out-of-pocket expenses substantially. I'm also glad to be able to share these travel hacking perks and make wonderful memories with loved ones. =D

Coming from a developing country and living in a low cost of living area, I acknowledge the privilege and am cognizant of how one can build wealth exponentially quicker in the US as compared to the rest of the world, that's if you are smart and intentional about your money. The path to building wealth is simple (not necessarily easy). Spend "significantly" less than we earn, invest the difference, rinse and repeat. It takes years of patience, discipline, contentment, and intentionality to get to where we are. We're currently in the boring optimization stage of building our nest egg, and things are just chugging along. Thanks to years of being mindful and intentional about money, I'm officially in the MYR double comma club and own a paid off apartment.

Blog - I'm still blogging but it now comprises mainly of trip reports and quarterly updates. I created a new website in 2017 but haven't been inspired to write much this year. I blame it on work for sapping my creative energy, mental capacity and brain power. =P

Green card - The entire process took 4.5 years, but I'm sure glad and relieved to finally receive my employer-sponsored, employment-based green card this past June.

CPA - Spent a year studying while working full time and successfully completing 4 exams for CPA without failing. Glad to have that out of the way within 1.5 years since I moved here and I'm done with all exams. =)

All in all, the past 5 years in the US had been great and I look forward to accomplishing greater heights in both work and life in the next 5 years!

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