January 2011 archive
My dad once asked me what I valued most in the world. He asked me to write it down and give it to him. (He’s odd like that.)
I never did. Not because I resented my parents (which was often true back then, let’s be honest) but because I really didn’t know.
His earlier question was easy enough to answer. What is the most important thing?
Love, of course.
My brother went for Truth, by the way.
But this one…I thought about it. And I could not come up with a definitive answer.
A while later, he called me out on it. You never gave me a reply, he said. But I think I know what it is. You value your independence, more than anything else.
The plan was always to leave home upon graduating from high school and starting university. I ended up leaving a year and a half before that. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t planned that way. It was messy, conspicuous and no doubt caused gossip among the neighbours. And a lot changed for me after that. To the casual observer, it might seem that I might as well just have moved back in.
But it went much deeper than that. Barring major catastrophe, I know that I will never again live with my parents. I will do whatever it takes to stand on my own two feet. Even accepting a graduation gift (cash) from them was very difficult to come to terms with. I never ask for help (and I am aware that is not always something to be proud of, by the way); I find ways to manage on my own. I have given a lot to BF, but never to the point of jeopardising my own stability. A little part of me has an irrational fear of ending up on the street (although I know it won’t happen). It’s why I’m so set on having a solid emergency fund in the bank.
Eventually, I realised he was right. The funny thing was, he knew me better than I knew myself. We may have very little in common, but some things, I suppose, are passed down.
Independence. Essentially, that was, I think, the root of all our problems. The result: I became fully independent earlier than I bargained. And I embraced it. I was born for it. To make my own decisions, to answer to myself.
Now I’m starting to wonder, can one ever be truly independent working for someone else? I love having a steady job, great colleagues, regular pay. I love not having to chase payments or seek out clients.
I read a lot of blogs. Some touch on, or even focus on, escaping the 9-5 and lifestyle design. I’m also following a lot of blogs about freelancing, particularly in the writing field. At this stage, that’s not for me. In fact, freelancing is slowly starting to take up more and more of my time…and I’m going to have to draw a line in the sand.
But increasingly I’m wondering: Should this be something I actively work towards? I’m not saying never, especially as I don’t know if I’d want to work full time when we have kids one day…but is putting most of my eggs in the employee basket going to hurt in the long run?
What are your thoughts? Is working for a corporation ever the best answer?
Tags: career, reflections, work
Reaction to Amy Chua’s excerpt from her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, continues to reverberate around the blogosphere. Sigh. Can we move on already? But I do feel like I have to share the below via Cactus Kate, which I think sums it up perfectly and explains why, despite many problems in the past with excessively strict parents, to say the least, I’m now at peace.
The true path to happiness is getting to a state where you are so independent financially and emotionally from your parents and others that you no longer care what they or other people think.
And as I type this, it’s 9.42 on Sunday night. I’ve just had two entire days of relaxing and sunning with the boy, and look forward to the same tomorrow (happy birthday Auckland!) It’s ridiculously nice having a weekend to myself; I look forward to the day when I can return to a more normal schedule.
It is blissful.
FruGal has some excellent tips for saving money on the run (hint: being organised is key).
Via Living Well on Less: How much is your laziness costing you?
Frugal Traveler gets burned by a rental scam (thing is, bank transfers are very common here; in fact, we paid for our last holiday by BT).
Financial Samurai reckons a lot of people make more money than you think.
Newlyweds on a Budget also has a separate fun money account just for her husband (holler!) and here she explains why and how.
Holland Banks guest posts on Ms Career Girl on how to be taken seriously as a young woman in the workplace.
A Lotta Lettuce contemplates a potential dream job, complete with nightmare paycut.
Serendipity gets the work day blues – every job is tough and it’s not as easy as it may look!
Carol Tice argues that what freelancers should really fear is having a job.
Kevin at Thousandaire explains how to tell if your position is expendable.
Kyla Roma shares a truly inspiring account of how she quit her day job and found her path.
Alexis Grant explains one great way for aspiring writers to get their foot in the door.
Aloysa always has great anecdotes – her latest is on doing business Mob-style.
Stonesoup’s 7 ways to enjoy your food more and lose weight.
Officially intrigued and want to make it: Soda bread, via the $120 Food Challenge. Oh, and here’s how to get velvety stirfry chicken!
Some sad truths about meat and cheese from Penelope Trunk.
Sing it loud. Hang On Little Tomato on the backlash we get for being young but not wanting to party it up all the time.
Who knew cornstarch was such a superstar? Here’s some handy household uses for it via DIY Life.
I’m trying to soak up all the wedding tips I can for future reference; this week Jessie shares how she saved on invitations.
Speaking of marriage: “Don’t try to find a person that’s perfect because you’ll always be disappointed. Don’t settle either, but do your best to find a person who has flaws you can live with.” Fabulous stuff from First Gen American.
Also love this post by Tall Brunette on femininity and identity.
Dating is hard. It’s even harder in a foreign country, as Jamie finds out.
This brought tears to my eyes – Molly at These Little Moments reflects on the power of a mother’s love.
A few months on, Chelsea Talks Smack looks back on her last relationship – so powerful, a must read, and I’m sure most of us can relate.
Image via Wikipedia
In the last year, I have:
- won tickets to the premiere of Tomorrow, When the War Began
- won tickets to the Seafood Festival (this last one I am particularly stoked about as you may have guessed)
Not only that, I was alerted to a second release of Metallica tickets last June, enabling me to snag general admission tickets and sell off my seated ones instead.
Thank you, social media.
Tech fails: Emails which don’t go through and thus make you look incompetent. Also closely tied in with circumstances outside your control which mean you can’t deliver on time. Freelancing this month has been a headache – I find it hard to compartmentalise, and the worry/stress has been eating into far too much of the rest of my time. Oh, and tech fails at Big Day Out which nearly had me in tears/sending increasingly bitchy texts which I’m not proud of.
Anti-gravity: Speaking of BDO…I have a pretty crippling fear of heights. Still, I was gung-ho enough to get on this contraption (free rides!)
And…I managed to open my eyes for a whopping split second once in the air. The rest I spent whimpering, face pressed into the boy’s arm. Nobody would ever mistake me for an adrenaline junkie.
I also wanted to go on this one, but I didn’t think my tummy could handle it, paired with the potential claustrophobia. It’s like a giant merrygoround, and each individual cylinder spins independently as well, like a wheel (The boys stumbled off after clutching their stomachs rather gingerly):
This one, I got the cold sweats just watching:
Musically, highlights were the Deftones playing Change live, Rammstein’s pyrotechnics (they’re far too death for me, but their projectile fireworks were insane), Tool and their laser light show, the Jim Jones Revue and classic Kiwi anthems live courtesy of Shihad and Steriogram.
Lowlights were missing Kids of 88 and the Naked and Famous, sitting shivering in the uncovered stands when it started raining, and being unable to move to the eastern stand – where there were still covered seats free – because another friend arrived late and hadn’t gotten the R18 wristband.
But I digress. Onwards!
Some ideas for those who sell products on their blog, via Design Sponge.
Finding Serenity’s adventures in telemarketing.
Inspiring words from Carol Tice on not giving in to fear.
Newlywed on a Budget says she’d rather have a job that pays than a job she loves.
Zen Habit has some tips on finding work-life balance.
Working Girl asks: Do you push through illness at work, or call in sick at the first sign?
I. Love. This. Post. Betty Ming Liu on four ways Confucius has conned us.
Allison at After Graduation on how negativity and ruts can sneak up on you.
Small Steps for Big Change wonders when to give up on a sibling.
Suburban Sweetheart reflects on her Jewish heritage and its place in her life.
My Money, My Life resolves to become more of a “yes” girl (something I too am doing)
Love this: Do you need a life realignment? Via Makeunder My Life.
If you need an example to help cure your procrastination, Cordelia will tell you why you shouldn’t put things off
Moving overseas is an easy decision to make when single – not so much as a couple, as Jane Yee writes.
23 To Life reflects on lessons learned from a year of renting and living alone.
Dumb Little Man on tips for keeping a conversation going.
Yeah yeah, we’ve beaten the separate/combined finances thing to death. But SS4BC has an interesting take in that she says it takes more trust to maintain individual finances.
Funny About Money shares what she learned in a year of penury.
Well Heeled shares some inspiring examples of great and frugal weddings.
Here’s a fresh combination: Guacamole Omelette, via Poor Girl Eats Well.
I finally found buttermilk at the supermarket, so I’ll be making cornbread and Rina’s buttermilk biscuits this week.
Sound of Silent shares a Polish recipe – Golumpki - which sounds a little bit like hard work but a lot like tasty.
And here’s a simple Asian inspired slow cooker soup thanks to Perks of Being a Jap.
I’m biting the bullet and posting these, subject to later change:
- Save 40 per cent of income.
- Keep eating out to $160 a month.
- Donate to charity every month.
- Learn to confidently use full manual settings on my dSLR.
- Read 100 books (I’ve set up a challenge on Goodreads; I know at the pace I read I can easily make this if I keep up momentum. But if I don’t I won’t be too sad.)
- Continue running at least once a week, and run a 10k
ONE OFFS (all travel related)
- Score a travel writing assignment.
- Take a trip somewhere warm on my birthday (thinking Vanuatu, Niue or similar).
- Take a big trip later in the year.
I’m also adding to this a few smaller things I really need to get done in the next couple of months (yep, that’s how lazily I roll):
- Take coats to drycleaners
- Arrange dentist appointments
- Book passports
And you may have seen my other post on the non-measurable things I want to implement more of, too.
Even if circumstances affect my travel goals and my savings goals, I still feel better for finally having posted this!
I’ve got to say, I’m a little tired of people advocating for us all to go out and find our dream jobs. Jobs that you wake up excited to go to. Jobs that you sit bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night grinning about at the sheer thought of. Jobs that you would happily pay to do. (Don’t you know that nothing less will do?!)
Surely I can’t be the only one who can’t think of a job that fits this description. No matter how awesome, ultimately a job is a job.
I get disproportionately excited over little things. Dessert. (Heck, almost anything to do with good food). The way the sky looks at sunset. A good hair day. And these bursts of excitement are sharp, yet short. But I don’t actually wake up excited for anything, barring a concert or maybe a trip away somewhere. Least of all, work (although there are days when I can actually gush “I love what I do”). And yet, my job is, more or less, my ideal job. Meanwhile, I freelance ultimately not so much for the love of writing but for the experience and money.
I “followed my passion”. So where is this soul-shaking, ear-to-ear grinning, electrifying feeling? Did I go wrong somewhere along the way? Or…is this increasingly popular concept simply setting the vast majority of us up for disappointment?
I know the mantra goes “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I always knew I would work with words; that was what I enjoyed, and what I excelled at. But sometimes, the sheer fact that you are doing what you supposedly love, eventually takes away something from it. (This hasn’t really happened, but I feel sure that this would be the case with any other path. Heck, I fell so out of love with guitar I stopped playing for three years, because I made it too much like work. I got frustrated with my lack of technical progress and lost sight of why I started in the first place).
Would I be happier doing something else on a day-to-day basis? No. And nobody would pay me for any of my hobbies either, be it amateurish baking or photography or travel. Sure, I could try to turn any one of those things into a job too, but why would I? That would suck the simple pleasure out of it. For example, I don’t want to rebrand myself as a travel writer; the places I want to go are, honestly, places other people have been to millions of times before and written about. Also, I wish to enjoy my travels, not spend time thinking about story angles and making pitch after pitch. And becoming a location-independent nomad isn’t a lifestyle I want to pursue.
It’s a little depressing when I talk to harried colleagues who are looking desperately forward to their next holiday (“As long as I’m not here!”). I’m not at that stage, THANKFULLY, and pray I never will be: but honestly, if I could choose to come into work only when I felt like it, you can bet I wouldn’t be there five days a week.
I’ve said plenty of times that I can’t imagine what people do in retirement. I mainly said those things while I was a stretched-thin student with no time for myself. No time to rediscover doing things just for me, just for the sake of enjoyment. Going to a 40-hour work week has enabled me to live a much more balanced, healthy and sane life. I do get professional satisfaction through my work, but equally (and perhaps more importantly) I get personal satisfaction through the interests and relationships I devote my spare time to.
I never thought I’d say this, but I think I could happily live the life of a lady of leisure, if such a lifestyle could be funded. I have so many books to read. Songs to learn. Movies to watch. Recipes to try. Places and friends to visit. I might work or volunteer a couple of days a week, and that would be enough for me. Doing exactly what I want, when I want. I don’t believe that’s in any job description, though
I may have veered a bit off topic here but I think you get the point I’m trying to make. Enjoying my work is important, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks that loving your job wholeheartedly is a bit of a myth. (And for those who might see fit to chime in with “why don’t you work for yourself instead?” I will point you here courtesy of Paranoid Asteroid.) I also value a job that I can mostly leave behind when I leave the office, stability, decent pay, low stress levels, autonomy and regular working hours. And if you’re one of the people like T, who hasn’t “found their passion” and have read Barbara Sher, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the “good enough” job, which pays well, doesn’t demand too much of you and allows you to pursue your interests in your spare time. And there is nothing wrong with that, either.
No doubt there are plenty of people out there who loathe their work, and are stuck for one reason or another. I just wish the propaganda machine would tone down the selling of a somewhat unrealistic myth – Gen Y rhetoric, IMO, overstates expectations of the “perfect” job, which I find hard to swallow. (Don’t we already face enough pressures to create the ultimate existence – great friends, great love life, great sex life, great body, etc?) By all means, PURSUE THE DREAM, but don’t feel like a failure if it doesn’t actually have you leaping out of bed in the mornings and screaming from the rooftops every day.
Tags: career, life, reflections, work
A snapshot of some of our super expensive grocery shopping this week (no generic options, except on the butter, and that was only a 10c difference):
- $4 for 200g hummus (can’t wait to get a food mixer and make my own, but not happening while we’re here with our claustrophobic, zero-storage space kitchen)
- $4.90 for 500g butter (on special)
- $5.20 for cracked pepper
- $10 for 500g mozzarella (on special)
- $3.20 for 600ml plain yoghurt (on special)
- $3 for 125g fresh blueberries
Also, this was the second week in a row that they were out of couscous and asparagus. Budget supermarket or not, that’s just not acceptable! Also also, how can canned veggies (even tomatoes) be closer to $2 than $1? Gah.
Image by simpologist via Flickr
Boredom is a foreign – even alien – concept for me. I honestly don’t think I can say I have been bored since early high school.
(Okay, that may not be strictly true. I do get bored when things are slow at work, for example. But I’m still technically at work, so I class that as being occupied.)
BF, on the other hand, is bored far too often. I ascribe this to two things: he doesn’t really like being alone, and doesn’t really have any hobbies.
Me? I have far too many and not enough time. At least, that’s how it feels. Hence why I decided to keep a time log last week.
Freelancing - 3 hours
Work - 41 hours
Commuting - 4.5 hours (includes actual time on the bus, waiting at the bus stop, walking to and from it; some also doubles as reading time)
Chores - 4 hours (includes laundry, floors, bathroom, kitchen and the like – and of course a lot of dishwashing. We like to cook, we like to eat, and we don’t have a lot of kitchenware or space for it to pile up in).
Cooking/baking – 4 hours (T was on dinner duty for three nights as well. Doesn’t include time spent waiting for stuff in the oven!)
Internet - 6 hours (email, blogging, news, social networking)
Guitar - 3 hours
Social - 2.5 hours
Exercise - 2 hours 15 min
TV and movies/DVDs – 12 hours
Reading - 2 hours
Date night – 4.5 hours
Sleep – 61.5 hours
As for the rest, I’m guessing I spent about 5 hours on showers, etc, and getting ready in the mornings. And as for the other lost hours…well, we spent an hour grocery shopping, but the rest probably fell to general lounging around. Disappointing, as I thought I did a pretty good job of tracking, but I do feel like I wasted less time just being more aware. After all, I’ve been known to fritter away most of a day off online, between house cleaning, cooking and a run if I’m lucky.
Still, we spent a hell of a lot of time watching TV this week, most of that being movies. No kidding, we literally watched one basically every night. (Highlights were Short Circuit, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and catching up on Boardwalk Empire). And as much as I’d like to say our couple time consists of, I don’t know, working out together? It doesn’t. We did go on one evening walk, but he’s generally knackered after a day’s hard work (while I on the other hand often want to get active after a day on my butt). No, our cuddling and couple time revolves around food and film…and TV also sometimes doubles as exercise/guitar time.
I would like to have got more guitar time in, and to have gotten out to the park to play around with my camera. And that means not succumbing to screen time with T so often – I don’t tend to watch anything by myself, where he turns on the TV once he gets home and falls asleep to it.
And that is apparently a week in the life of me. What would yours look like?
Image via Wikipedia
It doesn’t feel that long ago I blogged about not knowing what goals to set.
Last year was very much about making progress. Getting a firm footing financially and career wise. Sure, there was running and cooking and baking in there, but they were very much secondary concerns.
I’m still cooking up concrete goals to replace my 2010 goals (which I’m pleased to say went swimmingly now that our anniversary is over) and am debating whether to post them now and edit them later, for reasons that will also be revealed later, but I’ve also realised something.
This year I want to focus more on balance. You know how my tagline reads “Just trying to get some balance, and get ahead”? Yeah, it’s time to pay more attention to the former. And these are things I can’t measure.
First, I want to rediscover my love of music. It was such a huge part of my life in my teens. When I could spend hours literally just lying back listening to a CD. When I had the radio on day and night, and literally would put on a playlist fo fall asleep to. When, instead of blogging, I wrote songs and book chapters. Then, you know, GROWN UP LIFE happened. I had other priorities and a hell of a lot less time.
I want to devote more time to simply playing guitar. Not just learning songs, but also practising scales, strengthening exercises and other annoying riffs that must drive other people insane…and having headphones definitely extends the hours available to me, and eliminates the self-consciousness. I want to learn Incubus songs. Hendrix songs. Rage songs. Chilis songs. I wouldn’t mind finally being able to play standing up, but that’s unlikely to happen, and it’s not a priority for me. Although come to think of it, maybe I should just make it a rule that I can’t play sitting down; my posture would thank me.
I also want to discover new bands. I feel like musically, I’m stuck in the mid-2000s, when I stopped watching music TV or listening to the radio. While my most favourite bands will most likely remain classic rockers and grungers, I always have room for new discoveries. (And they can come from anywhere – I’ll sing along to Fall Out Boy, Toni Braxton, Michael Jackson, Paramore, Mariah Carey…)
So I talked about New Year’s. But I can’t pretend it was all perfect. What is it that compels seriously decent guys to pair up with spoiled bratty girls? Which leads to me think I really need to work on expanding my social circle, or being a little less judgemental of those I hold dear. I don’t mean not being smart and selective about those in my life; sometime ago I pledged to let go of bad seeds. But even good friends sometimes make choices I don’t like and don’t agree with. Nobody is perfect. Friendships take work. I need to simply accept what is, if I truly value the relationship.
Oh, we’ve come a long way. These days we rarely buy premade sauces and gone are the days of rushed dinners of sausages and chips (shudder). I try to make sure there are always veggies at dinner. I actually care about the textures and colours of our meals, when I can be bothered.
I want to bake more, learn more about spices, make more from scratch, eat even more veggies. Unlike what seems like half the blogsophere, I’m not setting an actual goal to eat less meat, or to go/stay vegetarian. I love me some juicy steak, bacon and a bit of chicken in my stir fries. But life is too short to eat dry or fatty roasts. More and more I find myself gravitating toward the vegetable components of certain dishes, and I’m embracing that.
I want to get closer toward making every meal a pleasure, be it through the addition of a simple thing like lemon, like cheese or even chopped nuts (which lifted a recent spaghetti diner OUT OF THIS WORLD). Plus, if I can get my A into G, I might even post food pics from time to time.
So, there you have it. These are the unmeasurable pleasures I want to make more of, for a happier, healthier, more-rounded me this year.
Tags: goals, reflections
Image by atypically_me via Flickr
A while ago I read a fascinating piece in Vogue Australia by Tony Parsons. He posits that men are torn between two essentially conflicting desires, neatly identified as “stay” vs “stray”.
Poor men stray because of opportunity, he reckons, while rich men stray due to a sense of entitlement. Greed. Like Tiger Woods, they seem to have everything, but aren’t satisfied. They have a fabulous family, great wife and great kids – yet their mistresses are never in the same league. Think porn stars and strippers.
Parsons himself had a failed marriage. Ideally you would get the straying out of your system before getting married, but he didn’t.
Almost all the male friends I’ve ever had, oddly, have been the committed type. They’re good guys, which I suppose is why we’re friends in the first place. On the other hand, I’ve had some hellish flatmates who can’t seem to keep it in their pants. Like the one who had two girls at once – who apparently even knew about each other. If an opportunity presented itself, well…after all, it’s not like they really had much going for them aside from being semi-good looking.
As someone who’s only been in two real relationships, and has been spoken for almost constantly since the age of about 16, occasionally I wonder what it would be like to be in the dating pool. Exciting, perhaps. But probably also exhausting more than anything else. I never know what to say to single girlfriends who wonder if they’re ever going to find someone (but you’re still so young! Give it time is true, but not much comfort.). And even then, how does one know – with no experience – how to spot a good one? How do you avoid becoming one of the victims – the sad hearts – discarded by a compulsive strayer?
Tags: life, relationships