The stories we tell ourselves

The stories we tell ourselvesThis summer I did a lot of self-reflection – going through upheaval in your life tends to encourage that.

I’ve always considered myself quite self-aware, but a couple of different people forced me to re-examine that notion in the midst of this turmoil. As a result, I found myself totally rethinking the entire trajectory of certain aspects of my life. It’s really quite frightening to re-frame, say, an entire relationship, a career path, or any other key element of your identity. It was eye-opening.

As Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” But I think it’s important to realise that there are also many different ways to connect the dots in your life. Like people see different things in the clouds or in Rorschach inkblots, you can interpret different things from those dots. I’ve only lived one life, and like most (all?) of you I’ve crafted a narrative about it to suit, but I could so easily pull out different points to plot a very different story.

The truth is subjective, and humans are complicated. We talk about a ‘single source of truth’ when it comes to web analytics, but unfortunately there’s no such thing when it comes to life. There are several possible versions of any personal narrative, and I suppose we’ll usually choose the one that paints the best possible picture – as Annalise on How to Get Away With Murder put it, “say it and you’ll believe it”.

I don’t know that the story I tell myself is the truest one. But maybe accuracy isn’t the best measure for these things. What matters is that you can live with it.

The problem with intensification in Auckland

 

Quite simply, we stink at it.

A colleague mentioned to me the other day that she’d walked past a construction site in Ponsonby, where there used to be a row of townhouses – one of which she’d lived in for a few months.

“What’s happening here?” she asked one of the workers.

“The houses were leaky. They had to knock them all down,” was the reply.

My neighbourhood was one of the early pioneers of denser suburban living, with a few different apartment and townhouse developments. They’re flagships, really, and have been the subject of local housing studies.

I have lived in the two main complexes: in one of the apartments, and in two different townhouses – so three properties in total. All have had, or are going to be, reclad. Yep, leakers, or if you prefer, with “remedial issues”. None felt solidly constructed, built to last. Two out of three were cramped; all of them had a weird layout with bathrooms in the middle of the building, with no outside ventilation. And honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of the demographics they attracted.

I used to hope I could eventually buy around here. It ain’t happening. We have looooong since been priced out. Possibly we could afford a townhouse, but I wouldn’t want to buy a place that I wouldn’t be happy living in – and I already know what it would be like, having been there and done that. Plus, the body corps (and of course you have to take those fees into account!) have rules about everything from pets to hanging out laundry. It really would be the worst of both worlds.

Another new development, more or less around the corner, is in the works. I really hope they get it right. Plan the mixed-use aspects, don’t rush it, and for the love of god deliver quality residential construction and materials. We need to break the vicious cycle we’re in.

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February = one big fat fail.

Good riddance to you!

May March be healthier, wealthier and awesomer.

This week’s links

The dilettante’s approach to a career

An awesome guide to starting an Etsy business 

How to find out about work-life balance when interviewing

Smart observations on jealousy (timely for me)

How much do you really hate the thing you hate?

 Happy weekends!

Webstock 2015: Three takeaways on life, writing and equality

Webstock 2015 highlightsI don’t think I’ve ever attended a conference purely for the sake of attending. I’ve always gone wearing a media pass, keeping an ear cocked for tweetable quotes and story angles that might justify my presence, to be typed up furiously in the breaks in between.

Webstock – probably best described as the conference all the cool kids are at – was a pretty good intro to conference-going in regards to, y’know, being a regular member of the audience. I picked up some digital goodness that’ll be useful in my line of work, but also some nuggets of personal inspiration:

Elle Luna

There is dignity in all work. Doing something for money doesn’t make it dirty.

A job, a career, and a calling are all separate beasts.

I’m glad that we seem to have progressed past the simplistic DO WHAT YOU LOVE movement and toward something more realistic. Your passion may not be what you do for a living, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing –  or, conversely, that your 9-5 isn’t worthwhile, either.

And I loved her tip for tapping into your ‘must': Think back to what you loved to do as a child. Ask your parents, if you can’t remember!

Kate Kiefer Lee

Say what you mean, and say it nicely.

Words to live by. As she pointed out, Maya Angelous famously said that the one thing people will never forget is how you made them feel. I am definitely guilty of letting my moods spill over into curtness in emails from time to time.

A handy tip for getting started writing when you’re stuck: Pose the topic to yourself as a question. Think of it as a conversation with someone. Write out what you would say as an answer. And then you’ve got a first draft!

And one for editing: Take out the boring parts, and the lies (courtesy of writer Anne Lamott).

Janet Crawford

A study found that mothers overestimate the crawling ability of male infants, and vice versa for female infants.

Talk about a punch to the gut – gender bias runs so deep in our society. Hers was a rousing call to action, a reminder that simply believing in gender equity isn’t enough – and women are fucking tired of carrying that mantle.

Tips? Check your job descriptions for gendered language – you might be surprised what you find upon closer inspection. Consider the types of social activities your workplace does. And think about your office setup/decor – this too can be pretty exclusionary.

Overall, I appreciated the mix of male and female speakers, and the fact that there were a few local as well as international talks. Designer Kris Sowersby’s self-effacing presentation (I still don’t quite get the technical, optical stuff, but I learned something about typography!) had us all in stitches, while  architect Nat Cheshire’s quietly devastating prose sent chills down many a spine and brought tears to my eyes (now we just need that kind of obsessive creative nature turned toward fixing the housing crisis). Oh, and learning about Banqer, a new startup that’s all about financial literacy – founded by a woman, to boot! May they be crazy successful.

What was the last conference you went to? Is there one you dream of attending? (Mine’s probably SxSW)

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nzmuse link love roundupI’m curious: Among the couples out there, do you both always get sick when one of you does? How do you cope?

If you don’t always both get sick … how?! Is having a spare bedroom the answer?

As I write this, it’s the middle of the week and I’m still not over whatever it is that’s had me sick for nearly 2 weeks. Guh. By the time you read this, hopefully I will have been to Webstock in Wellington and had a blast and learned lots – it’s a conference I’ve always dreamed of going to. Yeah?

This week’s links

It’s okay not to be okay – we’re all broken sometimes

Thoughts about the comparison game

How lifestyle design blogs can stop you making a living online

What you wanna do ain’t always what you wanna be – so what are you willing to do in order to be what you want to be?

The trouble with copying successful people

The privileges that some of us start with

When you’re done with travelling

Musings on love

The 12 commandments of marriage

When you’re not the marrying kind

The show that sucked me back into reality TV

What’s a gal to do when tucked up in bed sick in the middle of summer?

Start watching TV – reality TV, even – again.

Normally I can’t stand reality shows, which is one of the reasons I’ve never watched The Block (despite my thing for houses). But I have been a little curious about Our First Home, as it’s something new…

The basic premise is this: Three families (one set of parents, one kid + partner) compete against each other. They have to buy a house in Auckland – bankrolled by the parents, obviously – live in it, renovate it, and sell it. Profits will go to the kids to use toward their own first home. The family that makes the most out of it, percentage wise, gets another $100k – a nice sum to go towards that down payment.

If they do well, they could come out sitting pretty, although in this case their profit might be taxed. (It’s all about the intention you have while buying, and this is a pretty clear cut example of intent to flip a property for profit, one being televised nationwide! NZ has no capital gains tax, however.)

To be perfectly honest, a part of me hates the privileged premise of this show. How many families can afford to take 10 weeks out of their lives to do something like this? And do we really need more people fueling the market by flicking on houses solely for profit? (All 3 families have a dad in the construction industry, to boot.)

But hey, at least this is an honest reality show – most first time buyers in Auckland need help from their parents. And they’re out there competing with everyone else for the same houses.

I was pleasantly surprised when one family, looking around a house that they really liked and was due to go to auction that afternoon, bowed out. After being filmed on the phone to the bank, they decided it was too much of a financial stretch. Shockingly sensible.

We see another family missing out by miles at an auction (a budget in the $500,000s gets you nowhere around here). We see mould and damp. Kitchens and bathrooms, untouched since the 50s or whatever. Features that don’t have council consent.

So far they’ve all managed to buy a house – a small one in a leafy setting, a big one on a busy road, a do-up in every sense of the word in a reasonably central area – and now the rest of the work begins. Guess what I’m doing tonight?

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Based on purely anecdotal evidence, I’ve reached the conclusion that Kiwis tend to find it easy to adjust to coming home after an extended trip.

Basically every single RTW blog I’ve read (mainly by North Americans) has bemoaned the impossibility of re-acclimatising.

Aside from finding the city really SMALL at first, we felt like we slotted right back in. And I just keep hearing the same kind of thing. I guess we’re lucky to live in a relatively awesome place, expensive though it may be.

This week’s links

It’s time to forgive yourself

Chasing that sweet travel high

The tools at your financial disposal

Have those big conversations in the car

What a decade of earnings actually adds up to

 Happy weekends!

Would you tell your boss you were looking for a new job?

Should you tell your boss you're looking for a new jobLife’s biggest transitions, I’ve found, are usually conducted with an air of secrecy.

Take moving house, for example. You’ve got to find your next place to live, wait to go through the approval process, then give notice and line up the dates. Last time was relatively easy as we were crashing at my parents’ and could move immediately; the time before that we had to give notice, and balance this with getting a reference from the current landlord, who obviously didn’t know we were looking to leave. (I’m always paranoid that things can fall through at the last minute, and being homeless is my biggest fear. Like this, but without the happy ending.)

It’s a similarly delicate dance with changing jobs. Again, you never know how long it will take to find a job, and for all the processing to be done at the hiring end. Plus, that balancing of references is even more crucial here.

When I came across a blog post discussing whether you should inform your boss that you’re looking for a new job, I did a double take.

I’ve always had great bosses – but I have never had that kind of open relationship with them. Perhaps general chat in broad terms about career paths, ambitions, next steps … but I would never come right out and say I was actively looking elsewhere.

And yet, people do. I was recently chatting to someone who’s been in the same company for nearly 7 years. There were a few times, she said, when she was proactively interviewing elsewhere. Feeling stuck with nowhere to go, she’d voiced her frustrations to her boss – only nothing was happening. He was willing to act as a reference for external jobs, even. (In the end, she had leverage enough to get what she wanted, and accepted a counter offer to stay.)

Would you ever tell your boss you were job hunting outside your workplace?

Ridiculously beautiful New Zealand spots I want to hike

I love west Auckland’s bush and coast, but staring at epic landscape imagery all day at work has convinced me I really am missing out on other parts of the country.

Active is not a word you’d use to describe me – but there’s so much natural beauty here, and the best way to experience it is just to get out amongst it. And the best thing is our national parks are free to visit. Here are a few New Zealand hikes I’m pretty sure will be worth the walking.

Tongariro Crossing

Tongariro Crossing - Places I want to hike in NZ
By: Harry Lund

Aka the greatest one-day walk in New Zealand. Just look at the colour of those lakes. Middle-earth in real life. Just a few years ago I would’ve been all ‘Go walking for a full day? Are you nuts?!’ but here I am.

Mt Aspiring

Mt Aspiring - Places I want to hike in NZ
By: oh_jojojo

Glaciers! Valleys! Tussock! Boulders! This region really has it all.

Mt Cook

Lake Pukaki - Places I want to hike in NZ
By: Andrea Schaffer

I just reeeeeally want to see Lake Pukaki with my own two eyes.  Oh yeah, and the tallest mountain in NZ.