Charmaine Tobermory

After a whole year of full time work and part-time school, I was at the edge of burnout. I knew that Hong Kong lifestyle of being busy all the time was too much for me, and I had to give it up. This is coming from someone who never gives in no matter how tough the situation is. When I was in Alma, I barely talked for a year and I stayed. In France, I sprained my ankle and couldn’t walk for a week, followed by an elbow fracture, and still, I didn’t leave. So how bad could Hong Kong be that I decided to take a long break?

Well, even the strongest have to break down sometimes, and it was just a matter of time. It is important to recognise when that is and when to give yourself a break. My body was sending signals to me all year long. I was constantly sick, being in the doctors office, from a simple cold to losing my voice to eye infections to stomach issues. In addition, my skin and health was deeply impacted by the humidity, hot weather and pollution. It was really difficult getting by each day. It wasn’t healthy and I knew it.

It was May and school for the semester was wrapping up. I was in the midst of the horrible writing essay period and I was exhausted. I knew that I wouldn’t pull through to July-August, which was the busiest season for work. If I keep holding on and pushing myself to pull through, my body will definitely give up comes September when school starts again. This was the only time I can take a full break and recuperate from a whole year of stress.

Leaving Hong Kong for a good 2.5 months was proven to be the best decision I had ever made. I needed to detach from Hong Kong completely. I packed all my bags to move out of the house I was living in, moved it into a new one with a friend, organised all my work files to give to my manager, finished up my essays for school and then said goodbye to Hong Kong and all of this crazy hustle-and-bustle life.

Physically and spiritually, it was closure. I needed to get away and to refresh. I even deleted my phone number and cancelled my phone contract. I wanted to be better, and to give this city that I will return to, in ten weeks time, a second chance.

In a city where success is defined by what you do and your educational qualifications, I was often questioned for my (ir)rational decisions. People asked what triggered me to make such a brave move, and to leave with such uncertainties. But what they don’t understand is that this is what I needed and it is not a sign of quitting or giving up. It is a matter of taking a break to reassess my life and giving myself the freedom for ‘change’ so that I can become even stronger upon my return.

You can only pull a string for however long before it breaks. When you feel that you can no longer hang on, don’t forget to let go and to give yourself a chance to live again.

Written by Charmaine | The Canadian Wanderer
Charmaine Yip is a Canadian who has lived abroad since 2012. She is currently working in the education industry in-between Toronto and Hong Kong. Prior to that, she has lived in Canada, Singapore and France.