Esham loves telling me about the day we first met and how it almost didn’t happen; about how he’d been tempted to blow off our initial meeting in a crowded shopping centre and drift off, anonymously, with the flow of people, forever being none-the-wiser about the tremendous transformations he’d make months later. Luckily, this fate didn’t transpire and Esham has embraced change and opportunity with admirable gusto.

When I met Esham back in March, I was struck by what a warm and open human being he is. He spoke frankly about his struggles and misfortunes and the holes in his life that needed filling. Before me was an astoundingly vibrant and personable young man with an outrageously infectious laugh, who was trashing his body with food, cigarettes and inactivity whilst creating a legacy of terrible financial decisions. Esham wound up bankrupt at the ripe young age of 22 and has since found himself overwhelmed by mounting doubts, driven in part by an obsession with cars and a lack of purpose.

Esham wasn’t sure how he wanted his life to change but knew that change was needed. He didn’t have any aspirations for his future or really see the big deal to this being-alive business. It was abundantly clear to me that within this young person was a world of possibility and opportunity waiting to be unleashed.

Fast-forward 5 months and Esham is still warm, inquisitive and compassionate at his core, but his outlook on life and aspirations have evolved rapidly. Physically, Esham is much smaller – losing an impressive 7kg in his first 7 weeks with Inclusion WA – with the downward trend continuing. He managed to quit smoking for 3 months and although he has lapsed, he smokes only a third of what he used to, with the intention of kicking the habit for good. In terms of Esham’s diet, he is far more knowledgeable and thoughtful about what and when he consumes. The physical stuff aside, the most beautiful part in watching Esham’s journey has been the transformation of a young person who went from perceiving his car as a temple to himself as the temple. This change has been underpinned by his newfound belief that life is a gift, not a chore or pointless. Accompanying this transformative perspective is the growth of Esham’s self-confidence and abilities, aspirations and goals, and a greater self-awareness about his place in his community and as a citizen of this lovely little planet.

These days Esham is a regular at the Perth Laughter Club (and star of the show) and the immensely popular and culturally diverse ultimate frisbee league in the Supreme Court Gardens. Esham has also taken to farmers’ markets like a duck to water and happily wanders through the various stalls, chatting to the sellers about food miles and excessive packaging with cloth shopping bags in tow. Amazingly, Esham drives his car far less and has purchased a road bicycle as a new means of transportation. Esham has completed workshops on food nutrition and bicycle maintenance and has even had his first taste of Perth’s exploding small bar and live music scene.

In terms of financial woes, many a tough conversation has been had and this month Esham has paid and closed his overdraft account of three years and has a very manageable plan in paying off his car loan; the end is in sight. Esham, for the first time, is now mindful of how impulse spending will impact upon his aspirations, which include holidays to his home country – Malaysia – and returning to TAFE next year. This new outlook on life has got Esham thinking that he’d like to leave the car industry as a means of employment and perhaps venture into the community and youth sector, either in aged care or as a youth worker. For anyone who knows Esham, this makes a lot of sense as he is remarkably patient and people-centred and an absolute joy to be around.

In the meantime, watch this space. A new journey is just beginning.