May 2012 archive
T is big on ignoring pain and working through it nonetheless. When I’m attacked by bugs/struck by eczema, he keeps me in line, yelling at me when he notices me absentmindedly – or sneakily – reaching for an itch, and I’m often jostled out of sleep by him grabbing my hands to stop me scratching. When he manages to slice himself open, he simply carries on (no bandages, no dressings) and heals within a couple of days.
Sometimes, this doesn’t work out so well. But I have to admire the general philosophy. Self-control and perseverance are fine virtues.
Still, while I’m all for positive thinking, there are some things I can’t manifest away. My chronic sinus problems. The fact that I bruise at the merest brush up against another object. My digestive system’s dislike of Indian food. And even T can’t ignore his chronic back pain.
I’m a bit of a day dreamer, but ultimately, I consider myself a realist. That’s just how I like to operate.
But does that mean I sometimes sell myself short and give myself an out – using that as an excuse for not even trying?
At indoor rock climbing recently (my second time) I was really struggling. It was a serious struggle to belay T (probably doesn’t help that’s he’s nearly triple my body weight), and I wasn’t doing all that great with my own climbing thanks to insane foot cramps (most people worry about excessive sodium intake; I usually don’t get enough and don’t realise it till agonising cramps set in at inconvenient times), hand swelling and cramps, general fatigue and my own lack of physical strength. Oh, and my fear of heights doesn’t help either. I think I only made it to the top of two walls out of five.
I know that I didn’t have it in me. Nonetheless, watching the doggedness of my friends as they went all in, trying several times to scale a tricky part, couldn’t help wondering if I’d pushed hard enough. I’m sure to an outsider, it looked like I was giving up without really trying to push my own limits.
What do you think? Where’s the balance between realism and reaching for the stars?
Tags: life, reflections
Honesty is not always the best policy.
Or at least, full disclosure is not always the best way to go.
I watched a recent Big Bang Theory episode with mixed emotions – hilarity and horror – the one where Penny and Leonard get all scientific at his suggestion and decide to treat their relationship like a technical experiment. Check for bugs, list bugs, fix bugs. All very cool, calm and logical.
But logic has nothing to do with emotion. And human relations are all about emotion.
Nagging and ribbing is one thing - we all do it from time to time.
But listing your partner’s every fault on paper? Deliberately retrieving them from a dark corner of your mind and cataloguing them in the harsh light of the physical world for your beloved’s eyes? That is not kosher.
Complete honesty is overrated. Really, it’s up there with scorekeeping and grudge-holding in the ranks of very bad ideas.
I can imagine what T’s list for me would look like. Awful morning breath. Queen of hangriness. Never closes the curtains properly. Can’t cook a steak. And that’s just for starters.
And of course, I could go to town on him. Works a physical job, so never takes my end-of-day fatigue seriously. Doesn’t take cleaning seriously (we’re always quibbling about the state of the house). Has lame friends who always need rides/crash on our couch/park their cars on our driveway, which then leak oil and fluids (that’s happened at three separate houses now)/constantly text to see what he’s doing, because they have nothing else in their lives…
You get my point. I know my flaws. He knows his. I feel confident in saying we’ve both pointed out each other’s faults out multiple times over the years, usually one or two at a time. In my grumpier moments I run through most of them in my head and then stalk off to take a calming shower. But rattling off a comprehensive master list of personal bugbears, say, in the middle of a heated fight, would be nothing short of ugly and destructive. Yes, sometimes I’m petty, and mean, and bitchy, but thankfully I can clamp down on those fruitless thoughts before they’re followed by an urge to be verbalised.
Are you secretly petty? How long do you reckon your list might run to?
Tags: reflections, relationships
Excellent video. (No? Might just be a Kiwi thing…)
Would you ever? Are there any companies or industries you would never consider working for?
When it comes to earning a crust … I’ll admit I once entertained the thought of joining the armed forces for about a millisecond, mainly thanks to T’s suggestion. It’s not a bad lifestyle for some people, and it’s definitely one that’s enjoying a resurgence. And if you’ve got a degree, you get to go in at a decent level.
That would be all well and good, as long as you’re not on the frontline. Because infantry = weaponry.
And that’s something I have a problem with. Guns.
T has used pretty much the most lethal ones you can get (during his army stint) and since he’s been back, he’s owned a rifle and a couple of airguns. And yes, I’ll give you that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. (Using guns.)
But you cannot tell me that guns are a neutral thing. They are designed and manufactured to kill, or at least injure.
I see cigarettes in the same light. They do not serve any positive purpose whatsoever.
I’d have to be in dire straits, quite honestly, to consider applying for a job at a tobacco company. Or a company that dealt in arms. (Richard Branson, in Like a Virgin, states that despite Virgin’s famed diversification strategy, he has never considered entering either of those sectors.)
Where does that stop, though? Would you not work for McDonald’s, because no matter how many healthy menu options they introduce, their core business is in flogging artery-clogging excuses for food? Would you not work for an oil company? Would you not work for an alcohol brand? Would you not work in an industry perpetuating harmful body image – in cosmetic surgery, or modelling?
Tags: reflections, work
Know what I hate? Smug posts about the two months where you get an “extra paycheck” and all the things you can do with that money.
It so doesn’t apply to me – or most Kiwis.
I pay rent weekly, as do the vast majority of people. I get the worst of both worlds – paying my biggest single expense weekly, while getting paid monthly. Thus, every so often – like in March – rent takes up an unusually big portion of our spending pie.
(That said, at least this way I actually noticed our most recent tax cut – which amounted to something like $15 a month – whereas I probably wouldn’t have with a weekly or fortnightly paycheck.)
It wasn’t always this way. Both pay day and rent used to happen weekly. Then that changed to income fortnightly/ rent weekly. Then it evened out to both being fortnightly (albeit on alternating cycles, which was hella annoying). And finally, to monthly/weekly.
The higher up you get, the less frequently you get paid, AMIRIGHT?
To the links, then…
If you haven’t already seen this graduation speech by Neil Gaiman, watch.
Is 8 really the peak age of US girls’ leadership ambitions?
Kiwi Jack Tame ruminates on the shock of encountering the antiquated US financial system (limited Eftpos? Chequebooks? Five days to clear a transfer?)
One kick-ass graduation pep talk, at Brazen Careerist.
Krystal lists some signs that it might be time to look for a new job.
A Big Life on jealousy – the thief of joy.
Sense to Dollars on some extremely overhyped travel destinations.
Daisy shares some simple ways to simplify.
Obsessions of a Workaholic on the things that make her feel like a writer.
Starting over isn’t so bad, says Shiftless and Lazy.
Stephany Writes learns a few lessons about herself while on holiday.
Cordelia is no longer whoring out her dream.
Untemplater has a great interview with entrepreneur Ryan Ferrier.
Emily Jane opens up about anxiety.
Caitlin at Stratejoy blogs about perfectly imperfect marriage.
As does Sheryl Paul at the Huffington Post in What Is Love?
Tags: blogging, money
Y’know, I may not ever have gotten myself into proper debt, but I have made some less than choices moneywise. For example…
My plan was to move into the student apartments once I got to uni. But in that interim year, I needed a bed. And hiring one seemed the easiest move at the time – it would get delivered, and I wouldn’t need to worry about getting rid of it at the end.
For about six months back in 07, I had a bunch of different accounts at various banks (when they throw themselves at you during O-week, it’s rude to say no, right? Student accounts FTW!). And for awhile, T used one of these because it was free and handy. Only this was right back when he was truly awful with money, and he ran up the (thankfully interest-free, although National Bank kept trying to charge, and I had to keep calling them to sort it out. Also, their internet banking was shitola. Avoid) overdraft on it.
Not getting contents insurance earlier
This, along with Kiwisaver, was one of those things I kept putting off because things were tight – I was studying full-time, T got laid off, things were not great on the financial front. Then we got burgled. Yep.
Contents insurance is cheap, and protects renters in case you accidentally burn down the house or something. Do it. (We also got robbed a handful more times after that, so a good investment all round.)
Being the head tenant
All the headache, all the responsibility. The only good thing was rounding up everyone else’s share of the bills so I could pay a little less, which I considered my cut for all the rest of the crap I dealt with. Nightmare flatmate from that house still owes me nearly $1k.
And … I’m out, actually. I can’t come up with a fifth. Maybe choosing a higher-paying industry? Nah. I’m not a proponent of starving for passion’s sake but neither do I believe in staying in a lucrative job that makes you miserable. What I do challenges, excites and interests me and pays decently enough. And that does me just fine right now. Yes, I’ve chosen a fairly flat industry with low starting salaries and a similarly modest long-term pay trajectory. No doubt I could find enjoyment and meaning elsewhere and make more money, but I know that would not make me happier.
Got any financial regrets to share?
Tags: money, personal finance
A few months ago, my mother asked me if I was pregnant.
This is precisely why I do not wear ANYTHING empire waisted. That particular dress, I normally wear belted. But good to know it can double as maternity wear when the time comes, huh?
I can’t remember a more awkward moment in this vein since, back in high school, she persuaded my cousin to email me a long diatribe about boys, girls, and getting the milk for free. Or however that goes. (I know Mum was behind this. Trust me.)
Seriously. I was probably 15 at the time. Guess she hoped to get me early.
That whole thing about cows and milk? Words can’t express how much I despise this trope. It essentially implies that men only want women for sex. Like there’s no other reason a guy would ever want to marry a woman. (While no doubt this is true for some, it would be a huge mistake to tar all mankind with the same brush. Those are definitely not the kind of dudes you want to be marrying.)
While the intent is all well and good – protecting the honour of your sisters and daughters – this is incredibly demeaning to women. And actually, it’s rather harsh on men, too. Let’s give them some credit. Not all of them think with their junk 24/7.
It’s also obviously patently untrue. How many couples do you know that have lived together then gone on to tie the knot?
Oh, and I was at a comedy show just the other night where another audience in a couple turned out to be newlyweds (2 years) but had been living together for 16 years before that. (I haven’t exactly been lighting a firecracker under our wedding plans, but we won’t be getting to that kind of ballpark, at least.)
Course, cohabiting is not always all it’s cracked up to be. I wouldn’t swap it for anything, but it’s definitely not a painless thing for us. Our story is much more like this than it is this.
There’ve been a couple of good pieces in the NY Times recently on this exact topic: this one points out that more and more professional types are maintaining separate dwellings and this one the fact that often we drift into cohabiting rather than making a clear-cut, conscious decision to. And as a result, “couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not”.
While we kind of slid into moving in together for practical reasons (in fact, before I was really ready), thankfully, it’s worked out (after all, disentangling your relationship is infinitely more difficult when you physically live together and have mingled other aspects of your lives). Given how different we are, I think moving in together for the first time as newlyweds would have been disastrous.
There’s the argument that cohabiting makes getting married less special. I can understand that. As it relates to us, I don’t buy it, but marriage means different things to different people (to me, it’s a new level of emotional reaffirmation/commitment).
Was I going somewhere with this?
Basically: live together or don’t – whatever. It’s not a one size fits all kind of thing. But the sooner that ‘buying the cow’ phrase disappears, the better.
Do you hate that saying? Or think it stands true? (I have friends who don’t support gay marriage; I can deal with differences of opinion. Outwardly, at least.)
Tags: rant, reflections, relationships
I have been writing as long as I can remember being alive.
Starting from when I could pick up a pen, I wrote. I wrote stories. I wrote diaries. I wrote songs. I wrote drafts of novels. I wrote blog posts. I wrote news articles and features and profiles.
But I’ve never really learned to take criticism all that well.
When faced with criticism, my heart and stomach sink. I flush red. It’s a little bit, I imagine, like that film camera technique where they track in and zoom out at the same (the dolly zoom?). The world skips a beat and fades away, the blood pounding in my ears quickens and grows louder.
I am my own biggest fan
In my second year of high school, I got a group of muso friends together and we performed one of my songs for the annual talent quest. It was a fabulous song. Short, tight, catchy, poppy. I got compliments from two people that I remember: one of my girlfriends and my music teacher.
I was expecting more of my friends to be impressed, frankly. It’s darn hard to write a catchy pop song (though Gaga seems to churn them out no problem). I am still really proud of my amateur effort (which I reckon is on par with some of the Kiwi music that makes it out there) even if hardly anybody else appreciated it.
And also, my own worst critic
I actually can’t bear to read stuff that I’ve had published in print. Despite all the time spent agonising over every word choice, every paragraph, I just lose all perspective on the story. I flip to the page, cast a quick eye over, then quickly slam it shut. Once it’s out of my hands, I don’t really want anything to do with it.
So I’m probably always not the best judge of my own work…
Sometimes I know I’m hot shit. I look back on stuff I had published in high school and am kind of surprised at how mature I was on paper. That song was pretty rad. I have a fond spot for my favourite blog posts (here, here, here and here). And usually, I find my best work happens when it just flows out of me. Writing that I labour over is sometimes up there, but it’s never on the same level.
Learning to take criticism
All my life I was one of those high achievers – a big fish in a small school pond. Then I got myself a pretty practical degree. Unlike friends who did more creative courses, I never learned to get ripped apart and take heat at uni. I’ve definitely never had anyone “shit all over my work”, as a designer I know once put it. I’ve never had my creative work criticised by peers in classes or workshops. The peer review part of every tutorial was kind of a joke; straightforward news stories don’t take much creativity, and writing clean copy was never a problem.
Sometimes I fear news writing has drained me of my creativity. Even writing short, simple reviews sometimes proves an agonising exercise. (I’d be a terrible columnist – I’m a die-hard fence sitter and can never make my mind up on issues, paralysed as I am by both the pros and cons.) And so although I started this old blog completely on the spur of the moment, I’m very grateful I did, because it gives me a space to write freely.
One thing I don’t think I’ll ever forget is my ex telling me that his mother didn’t think I would make it in media, because I couldn’t hack the pressure, the criticism, the pace. And granted, criticism hasn’t featured often in my life. I’ve been spoiled.
Criticism is part of the creative life. If you’re going to create art and put it out there, there will be haters. No creative work is going to appeal to everyone.
Slowly, very slowly, I’m becoming better at receiving it. I’d like to think I get better at dealing every time it happens. My initial reaction is still a defensive one, I won’t lie (psychology dictates that we tend to hold others wholly responsible for their own actions, but play up external factors when the focus is on ourselves and our own faults). I can recognise criticism as being constructive and given in good faith, and appreciate the end result when pushed further.
You need a bit of both, ultimately – the self-belief that keeps you going through those dark periods of creative despair, and the ability to accept and act on feedback.
How are you with accepting – or giving – criticism?
Tags: reflections, writing
A little while ago, we drove out to the Clevedon farmer’s market for the first time. (I highly recommend it if you haven’t been before. There were llamas. And donkeys, one of whom we christened Graham.)
There was a pie stand. It’s darn hard to find a good pie these days; bakeries aren’t what they used to be. It was also close to lunch time. T wanted a pie, so it was settled. I marched on up to the counter and ordered without pause. I didn’t even ask how much it cost ($6, by the way). I never do that. But it was what he wanted; at most they couldn’t possibly have charged more than $8 or $9; and it didn’t matter because we were buying one anyway, and knowing the price wouldn’t have changed anything. (There was no sign with prices, obvs.)
Then a few weeks ago, we made a rare outing to the cinema when The Avengers came out. I had movie vouchers in my Entertainment Book, but for a different cinema chain; we’d have to drive all the way to Sylvia Park to get the deal, when there’s another movie theatre less than 5 minutes’ drive from home. I decided the extra long drive didn’t warrant the savings, so scotched that idea, and we headed to our local and paid full price. We were in a rush to make the next screening, so again, I didn’t stop to actually confirm the price of a Saturday daytime ticket (which has gone up). In hindsight, it might have been worth it to make the drive …
Have you ever bought something without knowing how much it cost?
Tags: money, personal finance
I am always astounded by the sheer number of mechanics in the city. They are EVERYWHERE. Surely they can’t all have enough business to get by? Still, we are a city of a couple million; many of us have cars – and we also tend to drive older cars here – that need warrants and repairs and tuneups.
Likewise, the proliferation of creative agencies also baffles me. But business is business, right? Some of these guys are doing seriously stupendous work, be it for up-and-coming challenger brands or refreshing the likes of Nike and Fila. I wish I was more visually creative… I’d love to be doing work like that (although not working those crazy hours). Outstanding advertising is art in its own right.
To the point: I was lucky enough to be at Semi-Permanent this weekend, a creative and design conference featuring ad types, illustrators, artists, designers, filmmakers. (I was stoked to see a lot of Asian faces in the audience – too many of us still get stuck following our parents’ dreams, and it doesn’t always go the Glee way with the kid standing up for their artistic dream and the parent coming around.)
And there were so many great quotes shared by Florian of design agency Hi Res I just had to share here with you:
Be passionate about your work but remember there are other things in life
Learn to separate sense from nonsense
Learn to question, but don’t question as a reflex
You learn balance by losing it
Life is trying new things to see if they work
Experience is something you get just after you need it
Other highlights – Kelli Anderson (you might know her for her stunt creating a paper record player), cute as a button, doing amazing graphic design work for huge brands like JC Penney and infographics for Wired and Fast Company to things like Google Maps hacks and mapping income equality over a map of NYC; and Wallpaper magazine in London – I had to marvel at the creativity of their covers (letting 22,000 subscribers design their own; printing every issue with a unique range of hues) and how they’re pushing both analogue and digital boundaries, integrating their print and online properties.
Tell me, what’s inspired you lately?
And in meantime, peruse this jumbo edition of links:
The topic of passion and work continues to intrigue me. Following your passion – it’s easier said than done. Try asking these questions to get to the heart of yours, via Grow.
The real secret to making money by following your passion, via Get Rich Slowly.
Kyla Roma on what she wishes she had known about finding/following her passion.
And Sense to Dollars expounds on how passion always pulls her through at work.
A nice post for freelancers on cracking online business markets. Wise words. I often see blogs advising freelancers to get their sales calls out of the way early in the day. NOOO. We do not have the time to deal with pitches in the morning – yours will likely get ignored or lost.
Sean Ogle blogs about how to extract more enjoyment from your day job.
Rachel Hills on getting started in the world of writing (something I touched on this week)
Freelancing isn’t for everyone, says Krystal.
Don’t assume you need a prestigious career, at Afford Anything.
A Cat of Impossible Colour has some fantastic quotes to reinspire the writers among us.
Two stories from the Billfold also caught my eye: insights into the life of a professional cellist and an interview with a Wall St journalist. Favourite quote: “Really high finance has very little to do with personal finance. The things that companies do, we would all get arrested if we tried.”
Erika ponders what happens when the recipe for successful 21st century life fails.
Penelope Trunk argues that more than anything, we’re in the age of personal responsibility.
Diary of Why explains why she’s better off alone.
Suburban Sweetheart has a lovely post on family, heritage and identity.
Also at Grow, a reminder about being social – and genuine – on the social web (pretty much what I was trying to say here)
20 and Engaged reflects on her first year of being a wife, and loving to the maximum of your capability.
How to get the respect you deserve, by Betsy at Married with Luggage.
Amelia Pontes on the things she’s learned about time.
I loved this post from Zen Habits on finding contentment in small things.
A Wandering Food Lover shares her recipe for afghan biscuits.
Love this! 15 sorta-truths about dinner, at Dinner: A Love Story
A fresh take on asparagus by Not Eating Out in New York.
And finally, Iowa Girl Eats whips up some open faced chicken caprese sandwiches
A blazer is your best friend.
It instantly makes you look that much more polished and professional. Everybody needs a basic black blazer in their wardrobe.
How to use email.
Sure, you know how to hit reply and send, but did anybody ever teach you when to use reply-all and cc appropriately? What makes a good subject line? How do you phrase a request for something? Should you forward praise emails to your boss? When are emoticons okay?!
That everything is about selling.
Even if you’re in a non-revenue generating department – IT, admin, HR, editorial – you still need to know how to present yourself in the best possible light. You’ll need to make it through many job interviews in a lifetime. You’ll need to represent your company to outsiders from time to time. You’ll need to pitch ideas. And if you choose to strike out on your own eventually, you’ll sure as hell need to know how to sell your independent services.
Bring solutions, not problems.
Or rather, it’s fine to highlight problems – but it’s infinitely better if you can present the fix at the same time. Bosses like to know that things are working, not that they’re broken. At the same time, be aware not all your brilliant ideas will be used – or worse, they’ll take forever to implement or be warped as they go through many hands in the name of bureaucracy.
The need to toot your own horn.
You can do great work, but if nobody knows about it, why bother? (Kind of like that old riddle – if a tree falls in the middle of the woods but nobody is around, does is make a sound?) Self-promotion, like networking, is an occasional necessity (natural for some, nasty for others). Your bosses probably pass on good feedback down the chain to you, but are you doing the same – forwarding on praise, keeping them in the loop on milestones and important updates?
And thus ends my spurt of wisdom for today.
What do you wish they would teach at university?