If someone had told me, when I was in high school, I’d be successful one day, I would have laughed at them. If anyone told me, “Michelle, you’ll be a brave and headstrong woman, who’ll marry your soulmate – a Burmese immigrant, named Valentine – raise six children and write a book,” I definitely would’ve choked on my bubblegum!
I’m from Balga; “underprivileged” was a word I remember being used to describe the area I lived in. Government housing, low income families and government funded schools were all I really knew of my home in Balga. My mum was a single parent and we did it tough at times, but, everyone I knew had a similar life to me and similar futures planned. It was the 80’s, so we didn’t have social media or smart phones, which I guess made being poor a little easier. I grew up believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, but not in myself. I was awkward, shy and completely convinced I’d marry my high school sweetheart (when I met him), and be a mum; something simple. Sure, I had fleeting, silly dreams of being a lawyer or teacher, with minimal resources and even less encouragement, a mum was a more suitable career choice. I’d have at least two kids and live in a house with a white picket fence, and have a marriage where we didn’t fight or divorce like my parents. I’d be a mum. Yes, a safe and simple plan.
I can confirm The Girl From Balga succeeded in becoming a mum. I can also confirm I’ve had my house with a white picket fence and have a marriage without divorce (although there have been plenty of fights). But, The Girl From Balga didn’t stop there.
The girl from an “underprivileged” area with minimal resources and even less encouragement graduated Balga Senior High School and kept climbing; my fear of heights stopped me from looking down.
At the ripe old age of forty, I completed a diploma in Library Technician Studies and had helped my Burmese immigrant soulmate raise six gorgeous, socially aware kids. I had grasped the idea of succeeding with both hands – I was addicted to achieving goals! While I was constantly encouraging my children to use their talents and chase their dreams, I was pushing myself to lead by example. My love of the arts, literature and our beautiful world, unleashed my long dormant imagination and passion to travel; I wanted to to learn about different cultures and help people to smile. I bit the bullet and booked a family holiday to Bali. Absolutely petrified of flying (I kept my bible firmly grasped on my lap during the flight) we submerged ourselves in the beautiful “underprivileged” island of Bali and it’s humble people. We met Balinese people who appeared to have so little, but were rich beyond measure, with the most generous hearts and widest smiles. On returning from this island paradise, I soon after took an even bigger leap of faith. My mum and I had spoken of travelling to Europe for years, but I couldn’t see around all the obstacles; my fear of flying being the biggest one. With some convincing from my husband and kids, I booked the trip of a lifetime. Mum and I set off to London, Paris, Belgium, Amsterdam, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, through Tuscany and the Vatican and larger-than-life Rome. All the places I’d visited in the books I’d read, and I was there! It sparked a flame of passion and eagerness I had no idea I had. My studies showed me I could be a mum and have a career; so, I applied for and achieved a job in one of Perth’s largest hospitals. My heart had been broken more times than I could count, but my soul was on fire! With my imagination running wild, my travel experience growing and my family feeding me immeasurable encouragement, I began to write.
I wrote of love, of magic, of wonderous places and broken hearts. I wrote like a girl who had come from an “underprivileged area” and made it her strength. When I’d written two manuscripts, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and joined a local writer’s group, where I found more people just like me. I wasn’t alone in being totally and utterly captivated by literature. I wasn’t alone in being passionate about words and learning. And when I stopped doubting myself and where I’d come from, I realised I’d made it. I’d become successful.
The Girl From Balga had grown into that brave and headstrong woman. I’d married my soulmate – the Burmese immigrant, named, Valentine – raised six children and written a book. Being underprivileged didn’t hold me back, it pushed me forward. Success isn’t about being wealthy or famous, and it doesn’t have an expiry date. Success is what you want it to be. With every battle I face and overcome, I succeed.