Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

Adopting a cat and quitting my job

Edited by my beloved friend K.L

October 2020, I adopted a cat. October 2021, I quit my paid job.

As strange as it may sound, my cat is the reason why I left my previous job in railway safety. This decision allowed me to feel totally free, and totally “me”, for the first time.

Adopting a cat

In 2020, the effort to live the seemingly perfect life weighed on my conscience as it started to crush my back little by little, until it finally ended up sending me directly to the emergency room. I shared this story in the very first blog post. However, I did not tell you how this incident in particular and all other stories that made me decide to change my path.

No, I assure you, it was not the cat that whispered the idea in my ear, like Salem the cat from the TV series Sabrina, the little witch.

The opinion of intuition

In 2020, I felt like I had been falling into a bottomless pit for months. Everything was a blur in my head. The pandemic situation was making life more uncertain than ever. Yet, I was sure of one thing: it was time for me to adopt a cat.

I have always been labelled as a “cat person”, and me wanting to adopt a cat is definitely not an impulse because fostering a cat has been something I keep talking about since I was a teenager.

But it was exactly when I became most determined to adopt a cat that this intention triggered even more people around me to be more determined to warn me with loads of advice.

Some were worried about the practical side of the cat project:

“Are you sure? You won’t be able to go on a trip without worrying about finding a cat sitter!

“A cat in an apartment? The poor thing will be miserable…”

“You can’t even take care of yourself right now, how are you going to do it with a cat?”

Some others were just plainly completely against it:

“It’s a waste of time and money for the next 10 years!”

“A cat is useless! Why don’t you have a child? You’ve been with your partner for a while now, right?”

But people who are closest to me, the ones who were by my side during that dark time just asked me, “Is this what you want right now?”

And for the first time since I was a teenager, I hear that voice inside me that I have always been trying to suppress, the voice of intuition, speaking loud and proud: “Yes, this is exactly what I want!”

The opinion of an engineer’s brain

Even though I was certain of my desire. I was aware that adopting a cat would be a big responsibility.

So, I answered the following three questions sincerely:

  1. “By most objective judgement possible, do I have the necessary ability and resources (money, time, health, support…) to take on this responsibility?”
  2. “Am I aware of the problems that could arise?”
  3. “Am I able to manage these problems?

And to all three, my rational answer was “Yes!”

Romarin, the terror cat

October 2020, a friend came with me to pick up my Romarin (his name is literally “Rau Thơm” in Vietnamese, or “aromatic herbs”).

Romarin is a smart, playful, and an affectionate kitty who loves cuddles more than anything. Needless to say, my friends who are cat fans were overjoyed to have an extra ball of fur around to pet.

Although the decision was made, and no turning back would be possible (which, in all cases, is absolutely not my wish), some people keep discouraging me with more warnings: “You’ll regret it when you see the mess it makes!”

And as much as I would have loved to say that they were all wrong, I had to admit that they were right about one thing: My cat is a terror!

When he was three-month old, he destroyed all four dining room chairs in one afternoon. One month later, he managed to chase and kill a bird on the balcony. At his five-months old, he managed to jam his back paw finger in the slot of the heater by jumping on it…

To my great surprise, I was able to keep my composure way better than I thought I would.

The surprise gift

I was happy. I felt happy every day since Romarin came into my life, even when he pooped the bed at 4:30 in the morning while I had to leave for work at 4:45.

Romarin radiated happiness. He was the definition of being a healthy and happy cat, or just about any healthy and happy creature for that matter: he purred, he had his tail up, he showed his belly, he went hunting on daily basis…

But the most surprising thing was how my loved ones seem to change as well. They seemed to be happier, (maybe?) simply because they were able to feel less worried about me.  

Romarin, like many other cats, had this magical ability to detect stress in his owner. He would point his muzzle and force me to stop working and have an urgent purr-therapy session on the couch.

This made me more relaxed and less grouchy. Being able to deal with my down time thanks to Romarin instead of having to bother another human made me feel like less of a burden to my loved ones.

I loved my “cat lady” version. I love this calm, serious, and joyful “An”. And I began to want to love the other versions of me as well. Back then, I wanted the people I loved to be reassured and was finally able to see a way to do it.

I had to become happy, wholeheartedly happy.

Quitting my job

The missing dose of courage

I decided to be happy, but not by pushing recklessly with all my remaining energy just for the sake of being happy. I knew I did not fit in where I was working. If I kept pushing myself going on that same path and relying only on just luck to stay afloat, it would feel like watching my house burning down and feeling grateful for the light and fire it brings. In other words, I didn’t think it would make sense to burning myself for something that not only was not helpful for me but was also destroying me in the process.

I knew the solution for my problem was all in one simple decision, though it could sound as crazy yet obvious as adopting a cat: I had to quit this job to fulfil my lifelong dream: becoming an illustrator!

As what would happen at every big (or small) change in my life, comments from people (and their fear on my behalf) came piling up. The one that came up most often in my case was:

“You’ll soon get bored and miss your old life. You can’t imagine how hard the entrepreneurial life is! Everyone has problems in life. Be realistic and consider yourself lucky to have such stable situation.”

Yes, everyone has problems, so why don’t we pick the problems that we would like to solve, that we are willing to solve, or that we can find the way to solve it?

In the meantime, I have never gone tired of my cat. Almost a year passed but every time Romarin moved his ear, jumped on the counter, or put his head on my hand, I still felt grateful. My heart kept singing “I have a real cat! I have a real cat!” like the first day he ever came to me.

There are things that make us become closer to the person we feel we really are: a piece of clothing, a haircut, a way of speaking, … And in my case, the most important pieces that gave me the missing dose of courage is the newly acquired role of being a cat owner and the desire of holding a job that is meaningful for me which is to become an illustrator…

The relevant questions

When I let my intention be known, once again people who are closest to me asked the same question, “Is this what you want right now?”

This time, I realized that it was them who gave me a safe environment, enough for my intuitions to come through so I could hear the true voice inside me. Again I replied, “Yes, that’s exactly what I want!”

I then shared with them my response elements for the three pragmatic questions:

  1. “By most objective judgement possible, do I have the necessary ability and resources (money, time, health, support…) to take on this responsibility?”
  2. “Am I aware of the problems that could arise?”
  3. “Am I able to manage these problems?

Adopting a cat brought me closer to the version of myself that I love to be and gave me the missing dose of courage to take the climb to become such a person with my vocation for drawing.

October 2021, I quit my paid job.

Today is my birthday.

For my birthday, two years ago, I gave myself the life of a cat owner that I so much dreamed of.

For my birthday, one year ago, I gave myself freedom.

Even though I do not know what the next few years will be like, I am confident that I have made the right choices. I learned that, when you follow the path that is destined for you, you do not fight against things that come into your life just to secure a bit of serenity; you fight for what you believe in while being serene every day (or almost… it depends whether your cat would hide a spider under the bathroom carpet or not 😛)

Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

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