Life is fickle. Last year I was drowning in the “I don’t knows” and the ”whys” trying to survive every day, reminding myself that life is good and that I am lucky to have what I had: a house, a job, a university degree, a family. The past two years emphasized how vulnerable we all are. If we were not careful, we could have easily lost everything. Covid made that visible to everyone. But Covid also emphasized how much life was changing for everyone, and I was no exemption. This year, however, life was generous, but it was hard not to worry.

I had just finished University and I had just entered the work force just like many graduates. I found a cool job at the company I liked. I was there for a year. I got along with the team and made friends with them. We cried, stressed, laughed and gone crazy together. This was in the middle of the Covid pandemic, at a time each country was slowly opening up to the world. But something changed in the New Zealand the second time it closed down. People were more reserved, angry, tired and unsure. There were protests just a walk away from work, and, for the first time, I had a customer who got mad at me for, well, basically doing my job.

This was my biggest push to the edge out of retail. No salary could keep me where I was. On top of that, I was learning nothing anymore and I was becoming less impressive to my bosses. Suddenly, I started feeling what I thought I was: useless and unqualified. When my manager left, I felt it even more. I never felt like I was trusted to run the store even after handling some of the biggest days of our store, breaking records and such. Those efforts, although was recognized by my manager, was not recognized beyond her. It was, to them, my manager’s and it was business as usual.

Everyday I looked at job opportunities. I had my share of retail experience and in management. So now I focused my attention in searching for fashion production roles. I lacked the inside experience in the pre-production process of a fashion business, which made starting my own business a far away reality. Unfortunately, either there were no jobs in Wellington or the jobs I liked to apply for required experiences. Two to six years of experience! How would I get it when the most number of experiences I had was serving coffees, way beyond the fashion industry. I continued my search while I slowly deteriorate where I was. Then I found a sewing job in the middle of the city.

A little factory nestled on Willis Street had just opened a position for a sewing machinist. I wasn’t sure at first because my ideal was head office work doing samples and buying. It was, however, a starter experience, a way out of retail, a production role that I didn’t have to leave Wellington for. I looked up the company and the more I read, the more it aligned with the vision I had for a business. Nisa was founded to give women of refugee and migrant backgrounds a job experience in New Zealand. I fit the bill, and the bill fit me. It was an experience in fashion, well, somewhat. We make underwears that were comfortably beautiful. It had a message and purpose, but it also made great products. I once hesitated applying for it not sure I could leave the salary I was getting. But my need for production experience weighed more than the salary I needed. So I applied, and got the job.

I didn’t realize how vast the sewing skills I had lost and don’t know yet. Stretch fabric was my least favorite to use. It took a while for me to feel comfortable using some of the sewing machines, and I still am not at a level of comfort where I could be left alone making. Nonetheless, my manager and the team were understanding. A month into the job, I found myself talking about the personal content I was making on Instagram relating to my days at work with our communications assistant. I made a few suggestions, and the next thing I know, I now create social content for work. Now I have been offered an all-round experience of the business.

When I promised myself I would grab opportunities to experience the office side of the business someday, I was preparing for a year of waiting. I didn’t realize I could open the opportunity up myself. The team offered that I could stay in production and work in marketing if I worked Saturdays in the shop. I hesitated because of retail and Saturdays, but I understood that I would be able to work in marketing if I worked at the shop (I wonder if the part-timer we had was leaving.) I never asked why I needed to work Saturdays, but to me, I get to work in production, marketing, and retail all at once. It was the most experience I could ever ask for. All in just three months into the job!

It was exciting! I was moving forward. I was given experiences. I was recognized. My ideas get approved. I am making my own work. I have revisited old skills I thought were gone and I am learning new ones. It was all somehow everything I hoped to experience and I was experiencing it all. It was scarily good. Scary because nothing good lasts long, especially when something becomes your everyday reality. But while it’s good, I learned that I will take it all in and enjoy the ride. I learned not to question the good things and just be happy that life had finally opened up brighter than it was. There is still more, and now I need to really impress the bosses with hard work, dedication and improvement. I now need to show why they chose me and why I was given the opportunities. I need to not stay in the clouds and really ground down and work hard. But, ain’t life not all bad?