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I have only three words to describe this month: Go, Go, Go.

On the plus side … I can’t wait to put together a bunch of posts about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. I <3 NZ.

This week’s links

Are you a ‘glasses person’? Yeah, me too. Nice to know I’m not alone in my feeling that glasses > face and my amazement when people I don’t see that often recognise me in contacts

I think there’s some solid advice here on building a career with stability

Leslie on balancing creation with consumption

An open letter to chaos. Beautiful

Here are 50 things to do instead of spending money

Moving away from your hometown: the gains and losses

And finally, how do you raise a multiracial child?

 

My favourite things about Wellington

Wellington Harbour
By: Sally

Wellington really is a cool little city (region population 500,000-ish), perched on a harbour at the tip of the North Island. (Plus, I got engaged there!) In fact, I reckon I’m due for another visit soon.

Must do: Wellington Waterfront

The revived waterfront is one of the best things about central Auckland these days … but it’s still got a way to go. Wellington’s waterfront, though hits all the right notes – effortlessly. Wander down past the skate park, sculptures and artwork, and of course, the many awesome museums and galleries.

 

Sunday at Wellington Harbour
By: Graeme Churchard

Must do: Te Papa Museum

Te Papa, our national museum, will keep you engrossed for hours. Get stuck into our cultural and natural history; arts and science; and any of the special exhibitions on display at any one time. Did I mention that it’s free?

Te Papa interactive
By: Samuel Mann

Must do: Cuba St

Cuba St is synonymous with bohemian cool – bursting with great eateries and bars, vintage boutiques and street performers. It’s a registered historic area, and you have to stop to watch the most colourful feature on the street: the landmark bucket fountain in Cuba Mall. Get close enough and you might just get splashed on.

Must do: Wellington Cable Car

Who can resist a ride up a hill in a historic cable car? This one is over a century old and rides are $4 one way or $7 return. Starting from downtown Lambton Quay and ascending to Kelburn and the Botanic Garden. At the top you’ll find the free Cable Car Museum as well as the Carter Observatory and Planetarium – and, obviously, some awesome views over the city.

wellington red cable car
By: Brett Taylor

Still on my bucket list

There’s a couple of Wellington spots I’m keen to check out! One is Zealandia, a wildlife-eco sanctuary not far from the city. And, no surprise, the other is the renowned Weta Cave, for a slice of movie magic.

Where to stay in Wellington

There’s a huge range of interesting places to stay in Wellington. One new option is the Setup Hotel on Manners St, with serviced apartments handy to the inner city hotspots. If you’re heading down there between 15 November 2014 to 31 January 2015, book your stay anytime before 1 January and use the promo code trysetupmanners for 10% off!

Landlord or slumlord? The downsides of private rentals

RENTING NIGHTMARES - NZ Muse

Much as I hate paying fees to rental property managers (here, rental agents do not do anything to help you as a renter, like assist you in finding somewhere to rent – they only serve the landlord) for the privilege of being allowed to rent a place, there is something to be said for dealing with professionals over the long term. Problems get fixed quickly and with minimal fuss.

For example, it would totally have been worth it to me to pay a damn fee to avoid these nightmares we’ve experienced:

Incompetent landlord #1: The Apartment

You might recall that we once spent a year in an apartment and hated it. Suburban apartments are usually kinda ghetto. Soundproofing sucked and it was impossible to have people over, ever, or you’d get in trouble for being too noisy. We were forced to use a certain utility company (one I’d never heard of) who charged stupid prices for electricity. There may have been a small roach problem. And like basically all new intensive construction, it had weathertightness issues – earlier this year the entire building basically disappeared under what looked like Gladwrap while they reclad it.

We also had a pretty crappy landlord. It was fine up until we left – then they withheld money from our bond. Why? We had been paying rent in arrears, they said, and thus owed the last week’s rent. Uh, HELL to the NO. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – ever pays rent in arrears. Rent is always paid in advance – at the start of the week, for the week ahead. Landlords and agents simply wouldn’t have it any other way. I was so stunned I couldn’t reply. I don’t know what they were playing at. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, the saying goes. Maybe this was their first time as landlords. Either way, once they ‘consulted’ their records they realised their mistake.

The other reason they withheld money came down to a handful of ridiculous complaints. Dust on the outdoor balcony. Lint in the dryer. Rangehood hadn’t been cleaned underneath (okay, that one was fair – I’d never lived anywhere with a rangehood before and it simply didn’t even occur to me).

I was pretty pissed off and decided to take the matter to mediation – which was a complete waste of time. Within a couple of minutes it was suggested we split the difference 50/50 (literally, $50 and $50) and that was that. I’d taken the time to bus all the way out west and it was over in less than five minutes.

I would do things differently today, but 20-year-old me was young, naive and confrontation averse – I thought it would be worth taking the time to go to mediation with a third party.

Incompetent landlord #2: The House of Horrors

The house we moved into straight after that apartment was a nightmare. We lived with a couple of T’s friends, one of whom turned out to be the flatmate from hell and will never repay me the money he owes me. It was cold and damp and our bedroom, a converted garage, was the coldest and dampest room of all. For the first time, I had to deal with mould inside my wardrobe and on my clothes. Our front window had no security whatsoever; we had to secure it by jamming a piece of wood into the track so that it couldn’t slide open unless you removed it. It was also in a super ghetto area, but nobody would rent a decent place to us (students and entry level workers). After looking for months, this was as good as it got.

While we initially dealt with an agency  – not one of the big name companies, though, and weirdly it didn’t charge a letting fee – once the landlord lost his job he got rid of the property manager and took over the job himself. And it went downhill from there

He wanted to increase the rent approximately 25%, which I talked him down from. (My first ever negotiation!) And being out of work, he dragged his heels on fixing all the things that started going wrong with the house.

The floor of the shower cubicle cracked, which he tried to blame on us. It turned out the shower hadn’t been properly installed. Duh.

The power bills started going up…. and up… and up. We couldn’t figure out why. And then we lost hot water completely. Turned out these things were related. It wasn’t a quick fix, either. We had to deal with only cold water for a couple of weeks. I was too chicken to ask him to help out with the increased power bills, since they were due to the hot water cylinder and not anything we’d done – though I doubt he would’ve agreed, since he could barely afford to fix the water.

The wallpaper on the other side of the wall from the shower in the bathroom started flaking and peeling off in ever-larger chunks. Again, due to dampness stemming from issues with the bathroom installation. By the time we moved out, that wall in the living room was basically bare.

Finally, the roof sprung some sort of leak. Of course, he tried to blame us. Which was insane.

Given all these issues, we might have had cause to break our lease. But at the time, I was under huge pressure during my last year of uni, dealing with T’s unemployment, and working all hours. I simply didn’t have the mental capacity to take on that drama. Instead, I took showers at work and ignored what was happening around me at home.

Would you rather deal direct with landlords, or property managers?

When the darkness threatens to swallow you whole

When the darkness threatens to swallow you whole

It’s been well over 10 years since I first saw what real life cutting scars looked like.

I hadn’t known her all that long, but the one thing I did know was my friend, like me, was smart, thoughtful, mature and had a lot going on inside – it’s what drew me to her. I remember being shocked and feeling completely at a loss for the right thing to say.

They say that self-harm is usually about control. Taking back, or regaining a sense of power. I imagine the same is probably true of most other destructive behaviours, from domestic abuse to workplace bullying.

It’s something I’ve never been able to fully grasp. One of those things I got the concept of, on an intellectual level, but didn’t understand on a human level.

And then one day, not so long ago, I found myself sobbing in the car as storm winds outside buffeted the car. Gazing out from the marina over the harbour, where the sea changed from green to blue, as vehicles whizzed over the bridge to the right. As the gusts agitated the choppy waters, I thought about what it might be like to float away. As I gasped for breath, I felt unbearably hollow inside, like there was an empty, endless well of blackness where a beating heart should have been. With nothing there to anchor me in that moment, I suddenly got it. Feeling so utterly helpless and so overwhelmed by emotion, it dawned on me that this was what the kind of thing that would drive a person to turn those feelings inward.

It’s not an epiphany I ever counted on having. Not one I can say I am especially glad I reached, either. It scared the hell out of me.

This is probably where I pause to reiterate that no, I did not seriously contemplate hurting myself. I’m a wuss, I’m squeamish, and I’m vain. I cried like a baby the other day when I slipped and hurt my knee (which was one enormous mass of bruises for at least a week). I find all bodily fluids pretty revolting. I’m still bummed that my legs never fully recovered from all those bug bites in Asia.

The other realisation I had was that maybe I’m not as emotionally resilient as I thought. Oh, I hold it together all right. I’m a hell of a lot better at being an adult than I am at anything else. I have my grownup shit together and I can maintain it pretty easily. But when things are turning to custard, if you crack my surface, you are tapping into an endless pit of tears and despair. It’s hard to judge, of course, but I feel a well-adjusted person would probably be a fair bit more … stable.

It’s a pattern that’s repeated itself over the years. Thinking back to other hard times, I was similarly able to cope day-to-day by withdrawing into myself, but when things really got to be too much, I crumbled like sandcastles. Today, those months are a blur – really, there’s nothing to redeem them, and so I prefer not to revisit those times. There’s no point. I survived, and moved on.

We tend to view the past with rose-tinted glasses. Who wants to look back on a long list of sad or horrifying memories? It’s a sanity mechanism, really; otherwise we’d probably never have more than one child by birth or go on to other relationships after a first heartbreak.

I don’t really think there is a way for me to not feel so acutely. It’s just how I’m wired. For this reason, I try not to dwell. It’s a tricky thing, giving yourself the space to acknowledge and just feel those big, heavy things – without letting them take over and succumbing to them. Generally they don’t tend to respect office hours – metaphorically speaking – so it’s about keeping them on a tight leash. Tucking them away into a little corner and ignoring them, for the most part. Occasionally it all bubbles to the top, and a proper meltdown is then required, but as a rule, fencing them off is what works for me. If I let them fly free all the time, I simply wouldn’t be able to function properly.

When it feels like you’ve hitched your wagon to a losing proposition and everything is coming up tails, there simply isn’t the time to roll over and be swallowed by the darkness.

Going through this in my 20s: hard enough. I simply can’t imagine dealing with this kind of thing at 11, 12, 13, like my friend must have. And my personal darkness is purely situational. The sources of my misery are beyond my control, but shouldn’t last forever. I know the same is not true for everyone else.

The one thing I do know is hurting yourself is not the best way to deal.  When the chips are down, I write. Maybe for you, it’s talking to someone. Whatever your outlet is, find it.

It feels like I’m starting (in the workforce) all over again

It feels like I'm starting (in the workforce) all over again

I’ve been at my job for six months, and as tends to happen, it feels like I’ve either been here all my life, or just a short time.

First and foremost, it’s really challenged me in new areas – particularly my soft skills – and encouraged me to consider what I want out of work.

I’ve also had a jolt of hope that maybe having kids isn’t going to be as bad as I fear. At my first job there were hardly any women, and none with kids – only the men had families. (After I left there was a spate of pregnancies – as far as I know at least one of the women went part time; I’m not sure about the others. News is a tough biz when it comes to work-life balance.) In my second job there were lots of women but they were mainly childless or with older, more self-sufficient kids. My new workplace is overwhelmingly female and mostly young. Initially I assumed most were childless but over the months I’ve come to realise a lot have babies/toddlers and are still really put together and awesome at work.

On top of that, I’ve really had to get used to a different industry and different ways of working.

Communication

I’m used to jobs that are largely self-contained, where communication with other people is fairly straightforward and transactional. Now I find myself working on more collaborative projects and interacting with people in ongoing liaisons.

Even in a flat organisation, projects can get complicated when there’s lots of players. Collaboration gets more difficult with every extra stakeholder.I have never spent so much time re-reading emails trying to decipher them and tease out meaning. (I don’t count the countless inane PR pitches I used to get in a former life – that’s a different ball game!)

I think I’ve become a better communicator since working here, and become really aware of any times when I’m not being as empathetic as I’d like to be. I firmly believe that the best way forward is understanding where everybody is coming from, but even I find myself forgetting that principle in the quest to get things done.

I’ve also come to see what a tough job it must be to run internal comms – keeping everyone in the loop and engaged within a company. This was the one aspect of PR that most interested me at uni, and should I ever move into PR that’s probably the way I’d go.

Culture

Working with people in overseas offices has its challenges. Time zones, for one. Language barriers, for another. Cultural differences. For once, those communication theory classes I sat through at uni have come in handy. (We also had a handy workshop on cross-cultural communication recently that was nothing short of fascinating.)

It’s also made me realise how valuable face-to-face contact is. In so many cases, it’s just so much easier to have people in the same room. Email, phone, VoIP or video conferencing just isn’t the same. I’ve gotten a lot better at talking slowly, that is for sure. Even collaborating with people at our agency, who are less than a 10-minute walk away … sometimes it saves so much back forth when everyone sits down in a room together to hash things out. I’m all for remote working, but it’s certainly more suited to some types of work than others.

One thing I noticed when I came in for my initial interviews was that the super open plan layout had people even closer together than in any of my previous open plan offices – but that people were constantly breaking out and going off to tables and corners for chats and meetings. Having spaces to better facilitate these kinds of collaborations and watercooler chat is so important.

Coordination/Flexibility

I’m been used to having the same basic framework for my work days. It’s true that no two days are the same in news, but you generally know what you’ll be doing from day to day, even if the content is different. You’ve got a newsletter/broadcast deadline to work to, or you’ve simply got to keep a rolling homepage fresh over a shift.

In many ways my work is now more reactive. I often don’t know what the day might hold. And rather than essentially wiping the slate clean at the end of every day (except for when I was working on bigger feature stories), there’s no hitting the reset button now. Ongoing projects stretch out over weeks or months, with multiple timelines in play. I’m not a naturally organised person, but I’ve had to get a lot better at it.

Have you ever had to get used to a totally new field or style of workplace?

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nzmuse link love roundup

– Labour Weekend! Huzzah!

– Lopped off a bunch of my hair! As always, wish I’d done it way earlier. What do you do while you’re in the chair? I usually close my eyes (especially if I’m not wearing contacts and can’t really see anyway). I don’t have a regular hairdresser – I just go to a weird Asian salon where they don’t speak much English, but know how to handle Asian hair.

– November is shaping up to be crazy – two work related trips. Looking forward to it.

– I’m thinking about keeping a ‘health’ diary (though next month is probably not the month to do it in). Basically I just haven’t been feeling at my best, and I think keeping track of my sleep, what I eat and drink, what exercise I do, and any digestive woes I have might yield some insights.

This week’s links

A truly horrifying, spine-chilling story about living in a mouldy house

Giving up on dreaming big (and my previous take on that)

My fellow anti-social hermits, let us unite in our frugality

Good managers are indeed hard to find, and there’s so many variations on the bad kind

The ups and downs of working from home

I thought this take on the new era of non-job stability was interesting

What Sex and the City needed more of: introverts.

“Six seasons didn’t make me wish I had a life similar to the SATC characters. Instead, six seasons made me wish I wanted a life like theirs and question why I don’t. Shouldn’t I want to see my friends more? Shouldn’t I have three friends to complete me? “

Let’s talk about failure

… and success, and how we measure and perceive these things.

Every so often I see updates in my LinkedIn feed from someone I met through work a few years back. He’s reinvented himself a few times. Since I’ve known of him, there was a job that didn’t work out, a couple of entrepreneurial ventures (at least one of which folded) and he’s now landed in another different industry. It’s the type of job people don’t do for love and I realised that every time I see a post from him, I feel a little sorry for him.

On the most recent of these occasions, I paused and asked myself if he would want pity. Somehow I doubt it. He’s providing for his family. And ultimately, what is more noble than that?

Often, we don’t write about failure until we have moved past it and gone on to achieve great things. It makes everyone feel good – the writer can comfortably pat herself on the back and the reader gets a warm fuzzy shot of inspiration. It’s much rarer to read about from right there in the trenches, as it’s happening.

So far, T has failed to get back into sales (the kind he wants to do) – at this stage, odds are it’s just not going to happen – and massively expanded the job search parameters. I have to wonder… how many people (including myself) who say they would do any job, even at minimum wage, would actually be able to pull it off and get hired at such a job? You may not consider yourself above a low level job, but you’re not the one who gets to make the hiring decision.

I haven’t talked to people at work about the struggle I’m feeling. The panic of falling further financially behind every day. The mix of embarrassment and resentment of the current state of things. I listen to the struggles they discuss – their partners’ demanding jobs and stress levels – but it’s tough for me to sympathise. I’d hazard a good guess they’re running on around $150k household incomes (maybe more in some cases), both settled in their careers, not worrying about living in shoddy rentals forever. I know everyone has their own problems, and at least we are fortunate to have our health and some awesome travels under our belt.

The best pep talk I’ve read lately comes courtesy of Seth Godin:

Make two lists.

One list highlights the lucky breaks, the advantages, the good feedback, your trusted network. It talks about the accident of being born in the right time and the right place, your health, your freedom. It features your education, your connection to the marketplace and just about every nice thing someone has said about you in the last week or month.

The other list is the flipside. It contains the obstacles you’ve got to deal with regularly, the defects in your family situation, the criticisms your work has received lately. It is a list of people who have better luck than you and moments you’ve been shafted and misunderstood.

The thing is, at every juncture, during every crisis, in every moment of doubt, you have a choice. You will pull out one (virtual) list or the other. You’ll read and reread it, and rely on it to decide how to proceed.

We recently had a death on his side of the family, quickly followed by a birth just a fortnight later. Both incidents really helped me get some perspective (though I must confess, they also induced a teensy bit of panic too on the finance side).

Sometimes, though, it really seems like everyone else has managed to ride a straight path to success and we’re still mired in the squiggly line.

 

 

Have you ever ‘just known’ something was the right thing to do?

Have you ever 'just known' something was the right thing to do?

I’m curious.

Because I haven’t.

When people get engaged after just meeting each other, or decide to move to a city after spending a few hours or a few days there, I just shake my head.

As a chronically indecisive overthinker, I cannot truly understand that kind of certainty.

I can’t think of any decision I’ve ever made that I was 100% sure about, from choosing a job to choosing a house to rent, from getting married to going travelling for an extended time.

Sometimes I think it must be nice to ‘just know’.

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nzmuse link love roundup

This week’s high was … I should say that it was meeting my new niece (and that was cool) but really it was hearing that she was inheriting her mother’s surname.

This week’s low was … Being knocked on my ass by a terrible cold for days.

Search term of the week…Getting sick from living in rundown rentals.” Yup, that’s what happens. I can tell you almost without a doubt that my health has suffered over the past years and I would attribute no small part of that to renting.

This time last year… We were in Chicago and New Orleans.

This week’s links

Okay, so not surprisingly, I’ve got kids on the brain (and all you guys who left comments on my recent post expanded on points that have occurred to me too). Here’s a bunch of related links…

This week I came across Ann Friedman’s piece, What if you just don’t know if you want kids? which made me thankful that we are not both truly on the fence, because how agonising would that be? 

There’s also Laura June’s I dressed a girl and I liked it (I too always planned on opting for gender neutral colours – I really doubt I will find joy in dressing a little girl in nothing but pinks, so I hereby resign myself to having strangers assume her a boy. It’s okay, apparently the same happened when I was a baby)

At A Practical Wedding, the helpless rage and frustration one feels about bringing a girl into this world. I totally, totally relate. It’s terrifying. ALL the feelings.

A kiwi dude who doesn’t consider himself a feminist took his wife’s name and so did their kid, unprompted. Be still my heart.

Okay, onto a few other bits and bobs…

What if you just hate making dinner? *raises hand*

Surprise: life coaching can be kind of a scam

How do you handle the mental load of partnered life? (Not as well as I’d like)

Finally, Melanie at Dear Debt basically wrote the ultimate post on work I wish I’d written

“If you LIKE your job or even are lucky enough to LOVE your job, don’t buy this be-your-own-boss and live happily ever after crap. Because if you like or love your job, that is a damn near fairy tale in this day and age. Enjoy it! …  Focus on what your heart and body are telling you. Not what some freelance guru is selling or some 9-5 prisoner who wants everyone else to hate their job is selling too.”

 

Four crazy things to do in NZ

wacky-nz-activities

I’ve learned a LOT about New Zealand over the past few months in the course of work. Here’s a few zany experiences you can have here:

A luxury tent lodge in the mountains

Accessible only by helicopter. In a glacial valley. Insulated safari tents with ensuites and heated floors. THE MIND BOGGLES. Can I move there for next winter?

Flyboarding

In all honesty, this sounds like one of those things I would only do under duress (like skydiving). Swim like a dolphin, fly like a superhero?

Hydro Attack

On a similar note, apparently you can go skimming across Lake Wakatipu in what is basically a gigantic shark. Who comes up with this stuff?

Zorbing

Slight cheat on this one, as I actually have known about zorbing for years… but it deserves a mention, especially since I failed to include zorbing on this list of quintessentially NZ activities! Again, not really my thing, but I’ll happily come along to laugh at you as you bounce/roll down a hill in a giant ball.