Monday, September 3, 2012

Farewell Morning Tea. Hello Part-Time Work.

About a month ago, a lady that I knew who had returned to work from maternity leave wanted to work only two days a week and was looking for someone to job share with. I told her it was something that I would like to consider, but it didn’t take me very long to come to the conclusion that I wanted to work part-time. I have always dreamt of working less so that I could have more time to do things that I enjoy. This would be a perfect arrangement.

I had to resign from my job so that I could take up the part-time job share position which was in the same Department but in a different branch. I was nervous about telling my manager, especially since I had just taken the job three months ago and had been seconded on a six month contract. There was a lot of work to do and not enough staff. My manager had also been away from work due to some back problems and the day he returned to the office, I had to tell him…

I would like to terminate my contract here.


A part-time position has come up and I have always wanted to have more time to do things that I enjoy. 


I don’t see myself working in an office for the rest of my life. I would love to be able to do something food related. 

(…and then I sound like a babbling Masterchef contestant as I start talking about wanting to follow my passion and wanting to try doing something that makes me happy etc….)

Do you have a mortgage? How much less money will you be earning?

I pay rent…I have taken into account my lower wage and I can live on it.

We are really happy with your work here, we would love to have you continue. Your position will be advertised permanently soon and we hoped that you would apply for it.

I’m sorry, I’m not interested in working here long-term.

We would like you to complete your contract which will be till the end of October.


…so I spoke to the lady about the part-time position and was informed that they needed someone in the position soon. The most that they would be able to hold it for me was a month, otherwise they will find someone else…

I talked to my manager again and informed him that I needed to finish my contract in a month rather than three months. He told me that he would think about it and get back to me.


I went home that night feeling really bummed out. Resigning from my job was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’d given my manager my notice for termination but he was reluctant to let me go and I needed to leave in a month, not three months, in order to secure the part-time position. I wasn’t sure what I would do if I was told that I couldn’t leave. I could just throw in the towel and quit but I didn’t want to leave on bad terms. I felt a bit reckless. I have never done anything like this before. I have been working full-time since I left university 5 years ago. I began to question my decision and whether or not I was doing the right thing. In addition to that, I was giving up a good chance of getting a permanent level 6 position in the public sector, this is like the holy grail for anyone working in government. Something that a few months ago I would have thought that I would be crazy for giving up…

I was also a little scared as I was heading into the unknown. Working full-time makes my life very regular. I had a routine. I was secure. I knew what I would be doing week in, week out. I’m not sure what my life would be like post full-time work nor did I have a plan. “Making a big life change is scary. But you know what’s even scarier? Regret.”  (A quote that I often come across on the internet, source unknown).

It’s funny how quickly your outlook in life can change when you are given an opportunity to think about things differently. 

I suddenly began to think about all the things that I could be doing rather than what I should be doing. 

Job? In the end it’s only a job. I can always go back to full-time work or find another job. I have many years of working life ahead of me. 

Money? So I will be poorer but I can live on less. I will learn to live within my means. 

Time? Time is something that I value the most and I don’t have a lot of. Especially now, I want this time now. 

Work to me has always been a means to an end. But what’s the point of having money if I feel that I’m unable to do all the things that I would like to be doing. Working full-time, I try to jam a lot into my weekends and sometimes they go so quickly that I forget what I actually did on the weekend. I never accomplish as much as I would like to and I can’t commit myself to anything. I don’t want to just continue working as I always have, doing the 9-5 thing, five days a week and be wondering a few years later “What if” or  “Why didn’t I?” 

You only live once right? 

I know that I can do a lot more with my life if I put my mind to it.


Days later I would get the outcome that I was hoping for and my manager told me that I could leave in a month. I was so relieved, grateful and very happy. My manager became quite supportive of my decision and I felt bad about leaving after only a short time in the branch but I knew it was something that I had to do.

It took a while to sink in, sometimes I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. It all happened quite suddenly too, so that it surprised a lot of people and I surprise myself. If you had asked me at the beginning of July what I would be doing, I would not have been telling you that by the end of July I would be trying to resign from my job and then be finishing up full-time work in August. I was lucky that a part-time opportunity came up and I made the crazy decision to go with it.

Last week was my final week of full-time work. This week I begin part-time work, working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, I have Mondays and Friday off!

So what I will I be doing now? People are always asking me this question. What are my plans? My answer is…I don’t now yet…

When I think about my situation I recall something that I read in the Momofuku cookbook a while ago. When David Chang talks about figuring out what he wanted to do with his life he says:

I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want. I couldn’t stand wearing a suit or navigating office politics. I wouldn’t have to deal with either in a kitchen. I couldn’t imagine striving to get promoted to associate regional manager. I could imagine that learning to cook and striving to be a better at it would be rewarding…so maybe I could pour myself into cooking, to see how far it would take me…” 

Rather than having an answer for what you wanted to do in life, you can look at it in terms of what you didn’t want to do and would you could imagine yourself enjoying doing. 

I liked this way of thinking. I knew that I didn't want to be working in an office for the rest of my life, I remember finishing my degree in politics and economics, and coming out of university ready to change the world. How quickly was my idealism quashed when I started working in government, it can be such a frustrating environment to be working in when you realize why things never get done and there’s little you can do about it…I know that I really enjoy cooking and it’s something that I want to learn more about, get better at and be creative with. I also want to take my blogging to the next level – trying to do more innovative blog posts, developing my writing and photography, and creating more concept dishes. I want to learn how to make stop motion videos which I think would be cool for my apocalyse inspired dishes and then play my own music over the top of it (yeah I’m gonna dust off my guitar which has been hiding underneath my bed one day).

So I don’t know what exactly I will be doing yet but I’m excited about engaging in more creative pursuits and exploring different possibilities. I hope that if I just continue doing things that I enjoy, one day I will make something of it.

Right now I am just going to enjoy having some more free time to do things that I used to wish that I could do more of but never had the time to, like reading books and watching movies. I will have more time to devote to cooking and blogging. I have an ongoing list of dishes that I want to learn to cook and drafts of blog entries that I need to finish. I also want to create more apocalypse inspired dishes before we all die on 21.12.2012.

My new motto in life is this -

“Even if the apocalypse does not occur on 21.12.2012 we should live like is it and make a change in our lives to make us happier.”

I’m sure that everyone would love to be able to work part-time but it’s not an easy decision to make. There’s always the expectation that you are supposed to work full-time, that’s the norm, unless of course you have kids, than it’s a different story. There are many things you have to weigh up and consider. I have definitely become more thrifty, having one less drink than what I normally would when I’m out because it all adds up you know, and I’ve decided to stop buying clothes (well maybe just occasionally). But more importantly, I have this beautiful feeling of liberation, I’m looking forward to my post full-time work life.

Last Friday I had my goodbye morning tea. I was a bit sad to leave but also very thankful. I catered for my own morning tea even though I was told that it’s against the rules to supply food for your own morning tea, other people are supposed to bring food for you. But I wanted to cook for my colleagues to thank them for all their kind words of support for my decision to leave full-time work and in the end they happily obliged.

But one of my colleagues insisted on bringing in some sausages which he called little red hot boys. He told me that they are always a hit, every time he brings them they always get eaten. Everyone agreed that they are bad for you but ate one because it’s one of those things that you don’t often get the chance to eat, it’s a guilty pleasure.

(Little Red Hot Boys)

I baked one of my favourite cakes – the carrot cake from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook (recipe here)

I wanted to make something savoury so I did some mini Vietnamese rolls which were a bit hit. A simple and quick version where I filled in some soft buns that I bought from the bakery in the morning with kewpie mayonnaise, pickled carrot, cucumber, coriander, spring onion and Vietnamese pan-fried chicken (recipe for chicken here).

By popular demand (because I had brought these in for morning tea previously and everyone loved it) I baked chocolate peanut butter brownies. I made these after seeing the recipe in SBS Feast magazine but I have tweaked it significantly now, adapting the recipe with some elements of Nigel Slatter's very good chocolate brownie recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies 

(Adapted from SBS Feast magazine and Nigel Slatter)

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200g butter, chopped into cubes
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 60g plain flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Peanut Butter Mixture
  • 300g smooth peanut butter (I used Kraft)
  • 75g butter, softened (can zap in microwave for 10-20 seconds)
  • 25g icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm square cake pan with greaseproof paper.

Fill a small saucepan one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Place the chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl, place over pan and stir until chocolate is melted (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Allow to cool slightly. 

Whisk/beat eggs and sugar for 3-4 minutes until thick and pale. Stir in chocolate-butter mixture and vanilla extract. Then fold in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until combined. Pour mixture into cake pan. Set aside to slightly thicken.

To make peanut butter mixture, beat the peanut butter, butter, icing sugar, salt and vanilla extract together until combined. 

Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter mixture into chocolate mixture and lightly swirl with a skewer or knife. 

Bake for 35 minutes at 180C, then turn down the heat to 170C and bake for another 10 minutes (total baking time about 45 minutes). Turn off the heat and leave in the oven with the door slightly ajar for half an hour before removing from oven and allowing to cool completely in pan. The top would have risen and it will appear slightly softer in the middle than around the edges but as it cools it will sink and the residual heat will finish cooking the brownies. The end result is a thin, crisp crust with a soft fudgy centre.

When the brownies have cooled, cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in single layers separated by baking paper for up to 1 week.


  1. Souds like it is the right move for wishes for greater happiness and time to do the things you love

  2. With Spring here and Summer on it's way I couldn't think of a better time to go part-time.

    1. Thanks :) I'm gonna enjoy getting out more during the weekdays and being able to enjoy all the brunch spots without the weekend crowds!

  3. I asked if I could drop my job down to 4 days a week - was told NO. Man, I was very're so lucky! Enjoy your new work-life with more'll be grand I bet.

    1. Thank you :) I was lucky that a part-time opportunity came up, I doubt that I would have been able to go part-time at the job I was in. Unfortunately, workplaces may be family friendly but they are not life friendly.

  4. Congrats on taking the leap, Ai Ling. This is where your new life begins and I wish you all the best!

    1. Thanks Christina :) Look forward to catching up with you in November for Eat Drink Blog!

  5. Yay congratulations on the big change Ai-ling! Looking forward to seeing the cool things you get up to with the free time! ^_^

  6. Whoo!! Congrats Miss Apocalypse. I too am looking forward to finishing work and having more time to focus on my passions and what I love doing! Well done and I'll be looking forward to reading about your new apocalyptic adventures :)

  7. Congrats on the Part-Time change. It was funny reading this, I'm currently doing degrees in Politics and Economics, and can see myself in exactly this position in about 7 years! Maybe I should be considering a change now..

    But, more important right now, I think I need to make those brownies.

    1. Thanks JC :)

      I really enjoyed studying politics and economics at university but the reality is different from the theory. I have a love-hate relationship with working in government, sometimes I have a good day and feel like I have done something that has made a difference but a lot of the time the bureaucracy gets to me. It depends on what Department you get into, maybe you'll find an area that suits you :)

      Nowadays people often have a number of career changes in their life so if you have any interests/hobbies make sure you continue them as you might want to go down that path later on in life.

  8. Ai,

    Good for you. I envy the sense of freedom you have just grasped and the sense you have in waiting and letting the next thing come to you. Plus you will have more time to prepare for the end of the world this way :)



    1. Thanks Ed :)

      I am building my bunker right now!


  9. Good on you! As you say, you only live once and a job isn't everything. Money is often the thing that stands in the way but it sounds like you've considered that too :)

  10. Congrats for you decision! Enjoy the time you just got and cook a lot, if that's what you enjoy the most. I look forward to your future posts!

  11. bring on the life without stresses. of course..... you could always move down here!

  12. I have always dreamt of working less so that I could have more time to do things that I enjoy. This would be a perfect arrangement.healthy tea melbourne

  13. So I don’t know what exactly I will be doing yet but I’m excited about engaging in more creative pursuits and exploring different possibilities. I hope that if I just continue doing things that I enjoy, one day I will make something of it. powder green tea perth