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.

Advertisements

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)

The Path of Least Resistance

11102618_10205642665098604_786095143450417723_n
The Bride

I’m an independent woman (hear me roar?!). I like to pursue hobbies and activities on my own. I go to the pub, Shakespeare plays, footy games, markets, cafes and libraries on my own – and I love it. I do these things with friends and family too, but I immensely enjoy my own company. I consider hanging out with myself to be high on the priority list of an active social life. Does this make me sound like a selfish loner? Of course it does, and I don’t care.

I’ve also enjoyed pursuing said hobbies and activities with people I’ve dated over the past couple of years. But on reflection, while the enjoyment was there I think I found it mostly annoying and inconvenient. I’ve previously written about the horrors of dating, and I won’t repeat them here. However, in summary it’s expensive, tedious and full of expectation to compromise on pretty much everything. Sure, I go through phases of “wanting a boyfriend” (whatever that even means) or believing for a moment that something is going somewhere with some guy, but I truly love being single.

My lifelong dream is to live and work in New York City – even if it’s just for six months. I think about it daily and my hope is to achieve it in the early part of 2017. To achieve my dream I need to save money and keep the prospect exciting. It’s something I will not compromise for anyone, and by anyone I mean a guy. (It’s already been strongly suggested by my sister that I’m not to leave the country until she gives birth to her first future child. As the cool aunty I plan to be, I will happily oblige!) I’d hate to be in a position of dating someone right before I left to pursue my dream, because I’d have to dump the poor bastard. I would never ask a guy I was dating to uproot his life to come with me to New York City, my dream.  I can’t think of anything more selfish and I’d resent him if he asked me to uproot my life for his dream, especially if it was at the expense of mine. And that is no way to live: full of resentment and no dreams.

My sister got married last weekend. It was a spectacular day for so many reasons, least of which I got to witness one of the happiest days in my sister’s life, a day she shared with the man (my new brother-from-another-mother!) she deeply loves and respects. I wasn’t sure how I’d react on the day; perhaps with nerves or tears of joy. But I caught myself many times looking around at the ceremony and reception with absolute contentment. It was such a beautiful occasion, and I was bursting with happiness and pride for the newlyweds.

Leading up to The Big Day, and on the day itself, I had people ask me how I felt about my sister getting married before me. It was explained to me, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, that my sister jumped the queue because she is younger than me. Some of the people who asked me this had never met me before. I was dumbfounded, for two reasons: firstly, that people still actually believe in sibling marriage pecking order, and that I was surprised I was asked when I probably shouldn’t have been. Naturally, I had to hide that I was offended by such a disrespectful accusation and simply laugh it off. I had to convince these people I was happier than anyone that my younger sister was getting married. I’m not sure if they actually believed me.

I closed my co-maid of honour speech with admiration for my sister: “you’ve shown us all that you can lead a fun and meaningful life, not just as an individual, but with the love of your life”. I absolutely believe this to be true, I wouldn’t have said it otherwise. But I don’t think this is my path. I don’t foresee myself as a bride or a wife. Maybe “it” will happen one day…one day. But if it doesn’t my life is full: of dreams, of family and friends who I love with all my heart, and I couldn’t happier.

Going Solo

The TV Room at Elvis' Graceland (2011)
The TV Room at Elvis’ Graceland (2011)

The most liberating experiences I’ve ever had have been going solo overseas. I’ve travelled with friends, family and tour groups – some of my most treasured travel experiences have been in these arrangements. But there is something about going solo that offers that special something to me. I’ve travelled on my own in New York City, Memphis, Boston, London, Paris, Hiroshima and Tokyo, and I have loved every moment.

I’m not sure why people – family, friends and strangers – need to tell me I’m being “brave” for choosing to travel by myself. I’m not going off to war, I’m not saving lives nor am I risking my own. I find the sentiment condescending; that those around me don’t feel like I – a 27 year old, mature adult – can take care of myself and make smart choices along the way. It’s the ultimate back-hander: “it’s not that we don’t trust you, we don’t trust those around you”. I view travelling solo as simply enjoying life, like I would do in my current home town of Melbourne, but in another part of the world. Such is the concern for my wellbeing while overseas, my family thinks that I’m not particularly “street smart” or that I care much for my own safety. This is despite the fact I have never been in an unsafe or dangerous situation while travelling by myself – never.

I have come to understand that the “brave” label (or is it an accusation?) comes from the fact that I chose to approach my solo travel with a contradictory mix of brazen confidence and a laissez-faire attitude. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how else to approach amazing adventures. I am a deeply risk-averse and structured person in my daily life, but when it comes to travel – the pull to immerse myself in a different city or culture is too great to ignore, and it brings out the fun and carefree side of me. I didn’t know that was ever a bad thing, to explore all sides of who I am. And I certainly don’t believe that being carefree and fun automatically means becoming less responsible.

Though this concerned (and concerning) position is not just from people that know me and obviously love and care for me deeply – their intentions are well-placed. It’s also that I don’t especially appreciate the US customs officer looking at me like I had three heads when I told him I wasn’t meeting friends or family on my most recent trip to New York City. Or when casually chatting to fellow tourists (usually in couples, single males or groups of friends) about the city we’re both exploring that I get genuine confusion as to why I’m there on my own without a boyfriend or travel buddy. Or the wait staff at restaurants asking me where my date is when I ask for a table. I make no apologies for not having a boyfriend to escort me on my travels, I don’t know any different…but if it makes anyone feel better I can have Ryan Reynolds escort me in an imaginary-boyfriend kind of way.

Travelling solo also gives me the chance to be unashamedly selfish about my experiences. I don’t believe that selfishness is always a deadly sin, albeit contrary to popular belief. I do quite well in being selfish every other day of the week in terms of dictating how I spend my time, but travelling selfishly is the best. For me it is about appreciation. For example, when I travelled to Memphis in 2011 I visited Graceland. Even now, after travelling overseas for 6 years, being in the home of Elvis – seeing The Jungle Room, The TV Room, his tombstone was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I think I cried a little bit – amongst a crowd of senior citizen tour groups – I was so overwhelmed. I was living a childhood dream. The reason why I loved doing this on my own is because this was my dream, my experience. At the time, I didn’t know anyone that would have appreciated being there the same way I did. Certainly, any one of my friends or family who could have been with me would have appreciated that I appreciated it, the feeling you get from witnessing a happy moment in someone’s life, but that is not the same as having those feelings for the actual experience. I choose to have these often once-in-a-lifetime experiences the way that I want them: without having them diminished by a well-meaning “yeah, this is so exciting…for you”.

Travelling, in any capacity, is about making the most of the adventure without regrets. I felt I did that in Memphis, and every other time I’ve travelled solo. And I will continue to do so; with friends and family or in a tour but especially on my own.

The gift of New York City

2014-11-22 21.25.06
A keepsake, like the city itself

While I was preparing for a Saturday night in, with a gin & tonic and An Affair to Remember – one of the great films with New York as a central character – I found a wonderful gift on the kitchen bench from my housemate, Gemma. A book named New York – photographs by Bernd Obermann (2002) with a post-it note reading, “Hi Mel, saw this and thought of you. Enjoy!”

I’ve only been living with Gemma for a few months, and already my obsession with New York is clear to her, as it is with almost everyone I know. Thank you Gemma for noticing something I’m in love with and for your thoughtful gift.

What makes this book – and city – such a magnificent gift, is what it means to people who have been, and for those who wish to go there. Upon opening the book to peruse the black and white photographs, I was pleasantly surprised to find a handwritten message from a Luke to his friend Eliza.*

Dear Eliza

When I saw this book in the Guggenheim I immediately thought of you, simply because when I looked at the photos I sensed what this city is, and I know how clearly you want to feel that for yourself.

New York is a place like no other. Like most cities it is what your make it – you can throw yourself into the bohemian ghetto or relax in the false security of Park Avenue – but whichever life you choose to lead, you have to be prepared to let it expose itself to you in all its overwhelming glory and despicable darkness.

Of all things, New York is a place I trust you’ll visit one day if only to say you’ve been, but perhaps you’ll go there one day and understand that of the people you left behind before you boarded Noah’s Ark, there were some you’ll forever entrust your friendship to.

There are 7 million in this city. Funny how, at night, you think of the few you left behind.

Forever your friend, Luke

New York is a place like no other – one of the greatest clichés, but one of the greatest truths in the world. I hope that Eliza got to experience what her friend Luke hoped for her. I have, in my own way of course, and will again.

*Message copied verbatim with exception to amending minor spelling errors.