2015: A Year in Review

At this time every year there is always is a chorus of “I can’t believe its December next week!” or “I swear this year has gone quicker than last year!” I agree with both sentiments. So, with a new year almost upon us, and my 29th birthday less than three months away, I’ve begun reflecting on my 2015. As always, it’s been a mixed bag but a big year of accomplishments.

Work:

I pulled off two huge projects – a gala ball (I’ve coordinated hundreds of events but never a gala ball) and a video production that seemed to take 120 years to complete, but it got there in the end. Both projects received a lot of push back from certain areas of management, but one of my favourite things in life is proving people wrong. I got to do that for both of these projects! My work year hasn’t been without stress though. My boss thought it was a good idea to – twice – suggest that I’m “offensive”, “threatening” and “negative” and those characteristics were affecting the team (not actually true, my colleagues laughed when I asked them). She’s also showered me with compliments in between. Whatever. I’m lucky that I get to work in a team with the most incredible people who I can truly call friends. It makes the shitty days feel so much better.

I also reached my two year anniversary on 23 November. This milestone has prompted me to think about moving on, particularly onto a role that would pay me what I believe I’m worth. This time of year is typically slow on the job ad front, but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that comes up.

Writing:

I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve accomplished with my writing this year. I’ve written 24 blog posts (this is my 24th!) While consistency with timing isn’t there, I’m thrilled with the content I’ve produced. Earlier this year, I considered curating my blog to a certain theme or topic but in the end decided against it. I’m still green in the writing world, so I didn’t want to restrict my creative outlet in any way – it explains how my posts fit into wide-ranging topics including dating, football, favourite things, and travel!

I also completed my Graduate Diploma in Journalism.  Reflecting back on my accomplishments over the years, I’ve never been prouder than I have of this one. I received four high distinctions, two distinctions and two credits – which resulted in a distinction GPA. In fact, I missed a high distinction GPA by 1%. I worked incredibly hard during this course, so I definitely deserved the grade. The reason why I did this course was to study something I enjoyed as a hobby and to prove to myself that I’m a good writer. I achieved what I set out to do. I still have so much more to learn, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am now on my writing journey.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “what are you going to do now that you’ve graduated?” and my answer every time is that I have no idea. I didn’t do this course so I could automatically change everything I was doing the minute I graduated. I’m still figuring it out, but I’ll let everyone know when I do.

Travel:

I’ve travelled overseas every year since I was 21 – 2015 was the first year I didn’t. Unfortunately I didn’t get my annual leave approved. However, in March and April of next year one of my best friends and I will be travelling to Croatia and Turkey. We’ve been talking about this trip for years, so it’s a dream come true to be finally making it happen.

I had the opportunity to apply for a support role on a 2016 New York work trip. I never thought I’d say no to an opportunity to go to New York, but after careful consideration I decided against applying: I wasn’t sure that I would still be working there by the time the trip departed, so I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time; I’ve been to NYC several times and I thought I’d give others more of a chance to apply; and I plan on moving there in early 2017 anyway. As it turns out, one of my fabulous work friends got the spot, and I’m beyond excited for her!

By the time the year is out I would have travelled to Brisbane five times and Adelaide once, even though I don’t consider it real travel. It’s meant that this year has been a financial disaster – but that’s, literally, the price I’ve paid for moving away from Brisbane the minute all my friends and family decided to get married! A few months ago I boldly and naively declared that I wasn’t going back up to Brisbane in 2016 other than for Christmas and a friend’s wedding in January which I had committed to attending more than a year ago. I’ve since been told to expect invites for two more weddings (I’m sure there are more coming that I don’t know about yet). I would love nothing more than to be at both of them, but next year I need to be selfish and focus on my savings and working toward my own goals (and not feel guilty about it).

Dating:

A disaster as always. My dating life this year has featured: getting dumped by someone I quite liked, going on dates with two guys – one of which was with the most boring person on the planet and the other had such tiny man hands his name should be T-Rex. Plus, there was the train guy who appeared perfectly normal and then disappeared without a word. I also got asked by a friend if we could be friends with benefits (it sounds dodgy, but it wasn’t) – even though it caught me completely by surprise, I was extremely flattered but I declined in the interests of “preserving our friendship”.

A few months ago I deleted my dating apps. I was prompted to act after a constant stream of dick pics, explicit introductory messages, and absolute morons. It’s soul destroying stuff. But, after encouragement from friends I’ve decided to jump back on (just one) to see what happens. Now that I’ve finished studying, I have more time to explore Melbourne and go out more. I’m trying to be positive, but I’m not holding my breath either.

Friendships:

I miss my Brisbane friends more and more each day (although a few of them are here with me in Melbourne!), but my obsession with my Melbourne friends has taken on a new level this year. I continue to learn so much from them and their selflessness is with compassion and without agenda. Love to you all.

What’s next in 2016? More savings, writing opportunities, love, and travel!

As we all crawl toward Christmas and New Year for a much needed break, I wish everyone the most amazing festive season! I also hope that 2015 has been good to you, and if it hasn’t that there have been sparks along the way that encourage you toward better things in 2016.

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Guilty Pleasure

Greenwich Village, NYC. One of my favourite writing spots.
Greenwich Village, NYC. One of my favourite writing spots.
After a three month blog-break to focus on my final semester of uni – I’m now back! But I spent the entire past weekend feeling guilty. Guilty about the fact that I felt like I should have been writing an assignment, or editing one, or doing a unit module, or a reading. It was a wasted feeling, because on Friday 9 October I submitted my final assignments for my Graduate Diploma in Journalism. My official results are released in three weeks, and I’m on track for a distinction GPA.

Before I started in July 2013, I’d been talking about studying journalism for years. In the end it took one final prompt from my sister, “I’m sick of you talking about it, just enrol already”, so I did. I loved almost every second of the course. I enrolled with the intention of embarking on a passion for writing for personal benefit, rather than any professional benefit. I am, however, considering looking at new job options early next year. I still have a way to go, but I know that my writing has improved out of sight in the last two years and half years – and that’s all I wanted from the course.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been peppered with questions about what I’m going to do after I finished, as I approached graduation. I thought when I enrolled, that I’d have it figured out by now. I still don’t know for sure. I’ve chosen to study for the majority of my 20s so far. So I do know that it’s definitely time for a break. For real this time! I’m ready to try new things and projects. Everything from finally catching up on Mad Men (I’m a few episodes in and I’m obsessed already), to having time to explore Melbourne properly, writing more – on my blog, Weekend Notes, maybe a zine or some other form of self-publishing, and spending more time with my friends.

I’m a little nervous, but excited to see what the next few years hold. But for the short-term I have a few things to tick off. For years now one of my best friends and I have been talking about visiting Turkey. Next March, we will finally do it, with a visit to Croatia thrown in as well. Next year, I’m taking a break from Brisbane. Since moving to Melbourne in April 2013, I’ve returned (and will be returning) 12 times, plus a few flights to Adelaide and Sydney. These trips have mostly revolved around Christmas and weddings. I’ve started putting the hard word on family and friends to visit me in Melbourne next year! This means, what I’m not spending on domestic flights I can properly focus on putting money toward my ultimate life dream of living in New York. I hope to make this happen in the first half of 2017.

I will certainly keep you all updated with my results, and what I’ll get up to in the coming months and during 2016, but in the meantime I’d like to thank the following people: Ashley, Erin, Tim, James, Lesley, Lauren, Meg, Giselle, Tenneil, Mum and Dad. I never would have made it to the end of my course without these people helping me and guiding me through a few assignments and personal writings along the way. Thank you!

Following the Yellow Brick Road

Melbourne: On my first night, 14 April 2013.
Melbourne: On my first night, 14 April 2013.

On Friday I had dinner with two of my dearest and longest friends, Maggie and Sam. In April this year, I celebrated two years in Melbourne, and Maggie and Sam recently celebrated three. We’ve been friends for about 13 years and I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid at their wedding five years ago. Their move to Melbourne is the best thing they’ve done, and my move to Melbourne is the best thing I’ve done. At dinner, Maggie shared that she is helping a friend edit a magazine article about transitioning to a new city. She asked me a favour; to email her some advice that I would give to people transitioning to a new city. So it got me thinking about my transition experience from Brisbane to Melbourne.

In 2013, I was so ready to leave Brisbane. Although, like any shift into the new and unknown, I was initially met with challenges. After working with The Office Psychopath in my first short-lived role, I then had the horror of dealing with Centrelink for four months (cue blackout rage). Thankfully, I had the support and encouragement of my parents, a welcoming place to stay with my cousin and her boyfriend (until I found my own place) and my new journalism course to get me through this confronting and demoralising experience. What followed was a morale-boosting contract role which ended with a job offer from them, and a job offer from my current place of employment. I now work in a job that I enjoy and with people who I adore, and I’m maintaining an 81% GPA in a course that I love. The only other downside of my Melbourne experience was one year ago (almost to the day) getting my heart absolutely crushed by someone who I thought was going to be the love of my life. He turned out to be a sociopath instead. So it’s been back onto Tinder and OkCupid, and unlike my friendship circles in Brisbane, most of my girlfriends in Melbourne are single – so we’re all in it together and it’s been comforting to share the mostly disappointing experience with lots of laughs!

Despite the two hiccups along the way, my transition and subsequent immersion into my new city has been such a positive experience. I feel so much more independent living in Melbourne. I feel so comfortable here, I feel myself here. I’ve begun to recognise my potential as a writer, a person with eclectic interests – something I feel Melbourne’s culture really supports, challenge myself professionally and enjoy friendships with new, wonderful people I never would have met in Brisbane, and probably embrace my inner hipster! Since being in Melbourne, I’ve travelled overseas twice – to Japan and New York City. It’s been such a relief to return home to Melbourne after being to two of my most favourite places in the world. Melbourne, in its own little way is like New York City.

You are who you surround yourself with. All my Melbourne friends that I’ve made over the past two years have been nothing but kind and supportive, and I hope I’ve been the same to them. So I give a very special mention to Giselle, Tenneil, Bridget, Meg, Kyle, Peter, Dan, Jacqui, Lauren, James, Kayla, Fraser, Ashlee (bonus cousin point!), Nicole, Selina, James, Ashley, Tim, Kess, Adam, Erin, Susan, Jordan, Shalini and Luke. And of course to my Brisbane friends who are in Melbourne with me: Jess, Bre, Eric, Emma, Maggie and Sam.

Within two years, I hope to transition to another new city – New York City. I hope that I remember to take my own advice of trusting my gut, having some savings behind me, doing some research and making the most of the opportunities that come my way.

*Author’s note: The real yellow brick road is believed to be in New York (reference: Roadside America)

Unlocking My Protagonist and My Princess

Creative freedom...inspired by Boston
Creative freedom…inspired by Boston

I’m currently reading The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. It’s the tale of a young woman who asks her grandmother about how she became the woman she is today. I’m not sure that I like the writing style, but I’m enjoying the narrative, so I’ll persist. The idea of writing style failing to complement the narrative, got me thinking of the first and only tale I’ve written. With exception to a primary school creative writing competition, I’ve written just one written creative story when I was 11 years old. I visualise creativity or a creative person to be colourful, bubbly and energetic – the “jazz hands” of personal expression. Needless to say, I don’t believe creativity is a personal strength which is why I haven’t explored creative writing since.

My one creative story is called The Silver Key. It’s a tale set in 1930s Egypt of two 13-year-old girls forged in friendship, a love of poetry and romantic novels, aristocratic upbringings, exotic adventure and ancient legends. Despite its shortcomings, I love it. It was pragmatically written, but historical inaccuracies weave through the sometimes outlandishly out-of-context prose. I still have the original transcript, which was hand written on yellow lined paper. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.

I wrote my tale in the first person of my protagonist named Sarah. She is friends with Dianna, both of whom are from England. As an 11-year-old during the 1998 Christmas holidays, I can only imagine the name was inspired by the then recently late Princess Diana. Of course, I had to be different so my Dianna got two n’s. Sarah had long red hair (of course!), she was introverted and wise; Dianna had dark ringlets, she was brazen and foolish. Dianna moved to Egypt to be with her aunt following the death of her parents, so they maintained their friendship through a series of letters. Soon after her arrival, Dianna wrote to Sarah about what she learned of the legend of the silver key. The missing artifact opens the tomb of the most powerful and cursed pharaoh that ever lived.

Sarah travels to Egypt in the hopes of solving the mystery of the silver key with her best friend. Life in the 1930s meant that Sarah traveled by ship (with her mother of course), or at least that’s what I thought people did in the 1930s. But I probably just watched 1997’s Titanic, which would also explain the scrumptiously velvet (but 20 years too soon) clothing I envisioned my characters in. At the time I also had an obsession with ancient Egypt, which sadly didn’t continue as my passion shifted to modern history as I progressed through school. I remember sitting on the floor of my Uncle Joe and Aunty Kim’s library, cutting out pictures from travel magazines of the Great Pyramids and the Sahara. I imagined the girls running through spice bazaars and glittering sand dunes in their adventure to find the silver key. It’s an adventure which led to Dianna’s untimely demise. The tale concludes with the elderly Sarah living in Melbourne, reflecting on the loss of her girlhood friend.

The Silver Key is unashamedly young adult fiction (YA) – a literary genre that is not critically favoured, and it’s typically written by women for young girls. Ironically, of the six subjects I’ve completed so far in my journalism course, YA was the subject I struggled with most – in my defence the course focused on literary theories which were new concepts to me. The rules of YA suggest that the protagonist should be written in the first person – think the series of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, Divergent, and The Hunger Games, and the stand alone The Book Thief. Rules are made for a reason, but they are also made to be broken.

In 2011, I tried in vain to re-imagine the story as a either a novella or a novel, by researching the historical references, and considering a swap to a third person narrative. I wasn’t ready to revisit it then, and it showed because I didn’t progress far. I tried too hard to honour the original narrative which restricted me from taking it where it needed to go.

I graduate from my journalism course in October this year. I feel like this is the perfect time to take on this project again. Despite knowing what I know about YA fiction, I still want to explore the option of shifting the narrative to the third person, therefore shifting my writing style. I like the idea of breaking the rules, but I like the idea of being Sarah’s guardian, advocate and challenger even more. I think I’ll be able to add more depth to her in the third, as opposed to trapping her into my projection and perception of myself in the first. Despite having big, creative decisions to make, I’m excited to think of the possibilities of her back story and character development. I’m especially curious to learn how she will project herself in her friendship with Dianna as well as how she will perceive herself in the friendship. I’m yet to consider whether the story will still conclude with Sarah as an elderly Melburnian. But regardless of her age and locale, I can’t wait to find out who she becomes.

17 Tonnes of Sunshine

“What am I going to do with my 17 tonnes of sunshine?” Apparently I said this in my sleep the last night, or something like it.

I naturally concluded that I had no idea what this dream reference could mean. It’s ridiculous, amusing and makes no sense! But, I wondered today, if this out of context statement has a real meaning.

I just turned 28, so that’s two years before I turn the big 3-0 and one year before my scheduled midlife crisis at 29. (I say scheduled, as I feel like 30 would be The Best, but I have to have a midlife sometime right?) Speaking with so many of my friends across the New Year period, the general consensus was that 2015 seems to be the year to “get your ducks in a row”. In other words, “get your shit in order, you’re no longer in your mid-20s”.

I’m acutely aware I’m in the enviable position of having so much choice and potential paths to take. Yet this can sometimes feel overwhelming. Even though these choices and paths are filled with hope and “sunshine”, 17 tonnes is a heavy load to carry.

I don’t believe in luck, I believe you make the most of the opportunities presented to you through hard work and preparation. Though I do feel grateful for my current circumstance. I’m currently living in one of the best cities in the world (approaching my two year anniversary in less than two months) with eclectic and gorgeous friends, enjoying a stable job (but frankly I’m struggling for motivation this year), keeping the New York City dream alive, embarking in my final year of the most rewarding education endeavour I’ve ever done, feeling as confident as ever to write more and more, and dating a lovely new guy (which is a refreshing alternative to dealing with the cesspool that is online dating).

What I lack in “grown up” material possessions (i.e. car, house, investment property) I make up for in a divine Kate Spade hand bag, and a few irreplaceable antique furniture pieces. I’ve had the incredible freedom to near continually educate myself since graduating high school in 2003 (with only a two and half year break) and travel to some of the most breathtaking places in the world.

But I have a lot on my mind at the moment. I’m saving like mad for regular domestic flights for weddings and various related activities, for my New York City dream….of which, to my sudden realisation, my ideal timeframe of achievement is approaching with pace, and for a long overdue trip to Turkey with one of my best friends. My rent is also stretching my limits, and I’m weighing up my career options post-graduation. Am I making the right choices for me personally?

I’m not complaining, and I certainly have no reason to. Understandably this could be coming across as self-indulgent and lacking perspective, but maybe this is my 17 Tonnes of Sunshine? I have so many wonderful things going on. But what do I do with it all and what are my next steps as I approach 30?

The only other thing I can think of as to the meaning of this midnight awakening, is that it was unbearably hot yesterday and I was simply lamenting that fact in an odd numbered, imperial system measurement!

A Nightmare Dressed like a Daydream

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Blank Space

Dating is like getting a pap smear: uncomfortable, invasive, and for the modern woman; unfortunately necessary. I hate the performance of it all. The attempt at the Baywatch like hair flick, only to look like I have nits, laughing at all his mostly stupid jokes – but hey, it least that means I have a sense of humour and it’s not because I’ve said anything witty and hilarious, wearing stupidly high heels that give me blisters, and pretending to be the “cool girl”. (You know those “down to earth” girls that wear midriff tops, drink cider and don’t mind where they go?)

* *Ummm, yes I do mind because I don’t want to walk very far in these heels, I want to go somewhere where I can actually eat something and I’m highly organised, so more than a few hours’ notice would be super. Thanks.

But I can’t actually choose a location or text back straight away…god forbid if I come across as forward or demanding or the worst mortal sin in the dating world: high maintenance. I like to keep an up-to-date diary, sue me. It’s the constant up and downs that are exhausting: the ego boost of securing said date, to the “ugh, why did I say yes?” a few days before, to finally working myself up to a point of being so nervous that all my “nice clothes” are on my bed in a panicked fit of “I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR”. (I’m actually quite capable of dressing myself in a tidy fashion for any other occasion, so I don’t know where this comes from). And not forgetting after the date has finished; the feeling of being, well… whelmed. Not overwhelmed or underwhelmed, just whelmed. Like you feel in Europe. (If a guy said that on a date, I’d have to laugh at his hilarious 10 Things I Hate About You joke).

We’re always told to “just be yourself” on dates, “what can go wrong!” Getting friend zoned, that’s what can go wrong. So I thought I’d give this “just be yourself” shtick a go on a recent date. I was friend zoned quicker than I could say, “my social life revolves around the footy season”. Another point on this passion of mine which I like to talk about a little on dates, because you know it’s a passion of mine…If I have to explain one more god damn time the difference between rugby league and rugby, or what rugby league even is – I’m starting change.org petition for government funded tutorial sessions. You’re an AUSTRALIAN MAN. Pull yourself together, you’re embarrassing yourself. I don’t expect you to be passionate about it, or even like it, just know what it is. Please.

The Rules of The Dating Game are next level. However, my biggest gripe is that I don’t understand the idea behind not messaging back straight away (well I do, see earlier point about being perceived as desperate), but we all know that we all keep our phones on us like another limb. So, respond to my message in a timely fashion, thank you. Shockingly, I don’t have time to wait around for three days for a generic “yeah good, what did you get up to this weekend?” I also don’t think it’s too much to ask for a simple “great meeting you, I hope you got home ok” message the next day after a date. I feel it’s the polite and gentlemanly thing to do. Or is the done thing not be polite and gentlemanly? I’m obviously in fantasy land.

It wasn’t my intention to come across as all Blank Space or Fatal Attraction (pick your pop culture reference) but good intentions always seem to be misplaced. I just find the whole Game cumbersome, boring and largely a waste of time. But I have been told that dating can be fun, so I’d love to hear any fun stories….or horror stories! I invite you to comment below.

Home is where the heart is

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I heart Japan! (photo credit: the oyster blogger)

Brisbane can be described as many things – idyllic, a great place to raise a family, big city look – small town feel, centre of the Sunshine State, a new world city – “Brisvegas”, fun, colourful and casual.

Brisvegeans (Brisbanites?) are incredibly proud of their city (and State), as most people are of their home town, often at the expense of their nationality: Queenslander first, Australian second. I admire those who have this passion, but also find it embarrassing; screaming inside my head “BUT, WHY?!” In fact, I’ve not-so-accidently said it out loud on numerous occasions.

Your home needs to make you feel comfortable but also inspire you to go outside your comfort zone. There is no worse a feeling than the one of suffocation. I describe Brisbane as suffocating – and not just because it’s hot and humid 10 months of the year. It’s a place that I find to be uninspiring, and quite honestly, boring. In the 16 years I lived in Brisbane I never once felt inspired or excited by or for the city. The best thing I have ever done in my life is move from Brisbane to a place that is, in my experience, the complete opposite of where I have come from. Melbourne is exactly what I need right now. However, it will eventually run its course before I go looking for my next home, adventure and inspiration: New York City, or maybe Tokyo, Sydney or somewhere in Europe.

“Home is where the heart is” is a phrase that is commonly implied to mean that your home is where your family is, which is true to a point. I will always find my way back to Brisbane as long as my parents, sister and her husband-to-be and their future children will be there (although I do hold out desperate hope that one day they’ll move!). But you need more than the foundation of family to complete your home – your home is where you find it, where your heart feels its best.

So for all my Brisbane friends and family whose heart feels its best in Brisbane – from now on, I will try harder to respect that even if I don’t like it, in the same way you have all respected my choice and my heart to be where I am – even though most of you don’t like it (Mum! xx)