Tag Archives: life

How to deal with a layoff gracefully: Advice for couples

how to deal with a layoff gracefully
Like I blogged just last week, sometimes I feel like we’re never going to get ahead financially.  Still, things are what they are and whinging never got anyone anywhere.

That said, I’m big on honesty and I’m not going to lie, being forced back into one-income land sucks. Of course, it’s even worse for T, but I’m not particularly enjoying things either. Selfish? Yes. True? Abso-frickin-lutely.

Rather than subject you all to a wave of self-pity, I thought I’d consult some other smart bloggers about coping in the aftermath of a layoff and dealing with all the feelings that follow – gracefully. Here is our collective wisdom.

Be mad, but then shake it off

You will resent being the only one bringing in an income (particularly if your partner is not a good housekeeper, on top of it all). Acknowledge it, but remember that nobody is winning in this situation and try to move past the anger. Definitely do not lash out!

As Gina Marie Rose sagely observes: “I know it’s hard not to feel resentful toward your partner when you’re the only one bringing in money, but do your best not to make them feel guilty about it. Trust me, your partner does not want to be unemployed, broke, and having someone else support them financially.

“But sometimes, shit happens and we have to face circumstances that are out of our control, like layoffs. Being unemployed and broke is one of the worst predicaments in the world; the last thing your partner needs is for the one person they love most to make them feel even worse about it.”

Michelle from Fit is the New Poor says: “I often reminded myself how much I loved him and how he was there for me financially and emotionally in the past. He did his part by understanding when I needed space or to blow off steam.”

Sally from Tiny Apartment Design, for one, has left several jobs during her relationship. “It’s tough when you feel like you are carrying the weight of two people, but I find it helps to talk about it, uncomfortable as it is,” she says.

Vent to someone else

Let it all out … but not just to your partner.

Gina suggests venting to people you trust and who you know won’t change their opinion of your partner as a result.

And find some stress relievers that work for you.

“During the whole time Chris was unemployed, I practiced yoga 3-4 times a week. Probably one of the best decisions I made during that time!”

Lend an ear

And of course, let your partner vent too.

Says Gina: “Listen to them vent about their recent job rejection. Ask how that networking event was that they recently attended. Let them cry on your shoulder when they feel hopeless and like they’ll never get a job. Being unemployed and broke sucks big time, so be supportive. You’d want the same from your partner if you were in their shoes.”

Focus on the silver linings

No job is perfect. So take the opportunity to remember all the downsides of that old job, and thank your lucky stars that you guys no longer have to deal with them!

According to  Michelle: “I would be mad at him for losing his job, but then I would remember all the times he would complain about his boss making him stay late or emotionally abusing him, and I would go back to thinking that this may be a better way!”

Be supportive on the job-hunting front

Not that this really needs stating, since you BOTH want to get back to the full-employment bandwagon…

Check your partner’s resume, edit cover letters, trawl your list of contacts for anyone who might be helpful to him, keep an eye out for interesting job listings, rehearse answers for interviews.

“I remember the first time Chris did an interview role play with me: it helped me memorise my answers better and feel more confident when it came to saying them out loud,” Gina says.

Michelle suggests asking the hard questions your partner might not consider, be it in regard to interviewing or to choosing jobs.

Keep a tight lid on your finances

Now, more than ever, is the time to keep on top of your money. I revisited our 2014 budget but the key is tracking our spending, especially with T’s habits.

“Since you’re now providing for two people, it’s probably a good idea to keep a close eye on your finances so you can save money where possible,” Gina says. “I didn’t do this while I supported Chris, and I regret it! I feel like my money went so fast during that time because I wasn’t keeping track of what was going in and what was going out, and I didn’t change my spending habits even when money got tight.”

Budget in little treats

Much as I would like to forbid T from spending a single dollar until he finds a job, that’s pretty cruel and also insanely unrealistic. We’ve settled on $20 a week, although in reality that’s creeping higher.

Gina’s advice? Treat your partner once in awhile.

“While I was unemployed, I was depressed because not only did it seem like no one would hire me, but I didn’t have any money to go out and do things or treat myself. Chris saw how depressed I was and decided to take me out to lunch/dinner/a movie every so often to help get my mind off my job search. He also spoiled me rotten for Christmas. (Being unemployed during the holidays is the worse because it’s a season of spending buy you have nothing to spend!)

“When Chris was unemployed, I treated us to a little getaway to Santa Cruz for a couple days. Do what you can afford and know that your partner REALLY appreciates the distraction.”

Michelle encouraged her husband to be active outside of the home while unemployed. “He was depressed, obviously, but we would still go out with friends or on (cheaper) dates. I would also put him in charge of dinner so he felt like he had a purpose and was “paying me back.” Our house was spotless for the time he was unemployed!”

And plan to celebrate when your partner finally lands that job.

“We ended up going on vacation with our travel miles. I think all of that kept a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ feeling going for us when we felt like our situation would never change.”

I’ll wrap up with this succinct summary from Michelle:

“Celebrate the good because there won’t be much of it, remind yourself that you love him despite his situation, give him tasks and jobs to do to keep him active, and try to think of an awesome celebration for when he does get a job!”

Do you have any pearls to add?

Women’s Money Week: Kids. Who’d have ‘em?

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

They say you tend to most regret the things you don’t do, rather the things you did. (That’s one of the things that convinced me I had to take time off to travel in 2013.)

Does that apply to having children?

(Potential TMI ahead in next paragraph)

I freaked myself out a while ago when I noticed I had unusually sore, full boobs (by my standards. I have NO idea how women with actual chests exercise comfortably. Going running that week was frickin’ agonising). It was coming up to that time of month, but not quite. Naturally, I was half-convinced I must be knocked up and went into minor panic mode.

That made me realise – with a jolt – that if I was, we would most probably have it. I guess you’d say I’m at the stage in life now where having a kid would only be slightly disastrous (say, 8/10) as opposed to deliriously disastrous (10/10). Two of my friends are apparently already in debate about who is going to be the better uncle to my future offspring. Bless their wacky little hearts.

But the one thing I really, truly want to accomplish before having kids is buying a house. I want the stability, I want the quality (if it’s a damp house, at least we can insulate it), and I know if we have a kid first it’s going to be virtually impossible to save what we need for a deposit.

And then there’s all the finances around actually having one – I’m not fussed about THINGS for a baby as such, like clothes and car seats and cots … but rather leave from work, childcare, etc. I’d really like for T to have a more established career. We can live off my income for now while he job hunts, but it’s certainly not the ideal, and neither of us earns enough that it would be easy for one of us to stay home with a kid.

Unlike a lot of people who grew up in a family where money was tight, who as adults are determined to be financially secure before they have a family, T thinks I’m overly conservative on this front. (It may also have something to do with the fact that he has worked with/socialised with so many less well off people who’ve had kids in their teens/early 20s – who certainly don’t have it easy, but get by nonetheless. His younger brother, for one, is about to join that club.)

Financial stress SUCKS. Been there, done that, with T right there alongside. And adding a tiny human being into that kind of toxic mix is one hot mess I never want any part of. Money buys peace of mind, and a LOT of things that bring happiness.

No, he’s generally more concerned with being too old to ‘enjoy’ our kids rather than being able to comfortably provide. I sympathise with this sentiment on the surface but try as I may, I just can’t empathise with it. My parents had me in their 30s, and their age never had any impact on my upbringing, which no doubt plays a large part in that.

As with a lot of things, there’s never a perfect time. There sure are some better and some worse times, though, and we haven’t gotten into the territory of the former yet.

How do you think your childhood/family environment shaped your thoughts and feelings about having kids of your own? Would you be ready to have one right now (if you found yourself in that situation?)

What Cards Against Humanity teaches us about our careers

Last week I played Cards Against Humanity for the first time with friends (oh, the dark hilarity). Surprisingly, the game also reminded me of a few important career lessons…

Excellence always speaks for itself

There are some cards that everyone immediately recognises as being head and shoulders above the rest awesome. I won’t list any here, because they’ll probably vary a little depending on the crowd of people, but trust me, you’ll know them when they’re played.

Just like in real life, truly great work speaks for itself.

But self-promotion is important

I’m not sure if this is how we’re actually meant to play, but our first game (and only game so far, though I hope that won’t be true for long!) was marked by a healthy dose of campaigning. I’m talking back-and-forth arguments over certain cards and their merit in the context of that particular round. Now, I’m not saying that players always argued in favour of their own answers, because  - as per point number one – excellence always stands out in the crowd.  But it definitely happened a lot.

In the workplace, being a rockstar will get you noticed, but it helps to have some PR behind that. Help yourself out and learn to self-promote – subtly, that is.

And finally, you can’t control absolutely everything

As amazing as the ‘being a fucking sorcerer’ card is, you can never count your chickens before they hatch. Every round is decided by a different card ‘czar’ and their own biases and preferences might not mesh with your sense of humour. Ultimately, your fate is out of your hands.

No matter how well you know your boss, client, etc, people can surprise you at any time. Even master manipulator Frank Underwood (a different type of Cards reference there…) sometimes gets blindsided.

Have you played Cards Against Humanity? How much do you love it?!

Oh, to be a white man…

When you’re trying to break into a new industry, getting past the resume-screeners is vital. Without relevant education or experience, your best bet is to impress the pants off your interviewer – but you can’t charm an employer if you can’t even get to the meeting stage.

Someone I know I was recently job hunting in a new field, and true enough, the key to getting in was getting the in-person meeting. Phone calls led to a face-to-face; I don’t think a resume was ever involved. They clicked, the company culture turned out to be one where he felt right at home, and a contract was signed.

The culture, from what I hear, is pretty textbook ‘old boys’ club’. So when he relayed an anecdote recently about accidentally overhearing one manager being dismissive of an interviewee based on ethnicity, I wasn’t surprised. Even if that was meant jokingly (let it be noted that there are a lot of minorities employed there) I think it’s still quite telling.

Last summer I churned out a ton of content for a client, an HR blog that was about to launch. There were posts about recruiting, posts about job hunting, posts about interviewing, posts about negotiation, posts about career progression … SO many posts. And I would say at least a third referenced Zappos at some point – Zappos of the mythical corporate culture, held up as a shining example of the need for culture fit. Zappos, which offers new hires a cash payout to quit if they don’t feel it’s working out.

While I absolutely think cultural fit is vital to a harmonious workplace, diversity on staff is also crucial to any progressive and innovative company. There has got to be some kind of balance struck there.

Coming back to the situation at hand: I am glad my acquaintance got that job, though he’s now moved on.  I don’t doubt that he deserved it. (He’s not the only staffer who was hired with no experience; several others also got their start there the same way.)

I don’t blame him – at least in this instance – for the privilege he enjoys as a white male (particularly as he hails from the lower class and hasn’t had much else come easily to him in life).

But I’d hate to think that someone might be dismissed out of hand for no good reason – whether for this role, or other identical roles to be filled, in the past, in the future.

The system is what it is. As Don Cheadle’s character on House of Lies, Marty Kaan, advises a young black consultant: “We’re here to open wallets, not minds.”  But as to whether staying and playing along makes you complicit …

Have you been privy to prejudice of any sort in the workplace? Ever leveraged your own privilege, or benefited from it somehow?

Let me introduce you to my favourite romantic films of all time


best romance movies before midnight 2013
I have a problem with commitment. 

I also have a problem with choosing favourites. I’ve never been able to choose a favourite dish, book, band … name it and I will probably freeze up in trying to come up with an answer.

Take books. Look at my Goodreads bookshelf and you’ll find a somewhat jumbled collection of five star rated titles. The Book Thief (had me in rivers of tears, is the film any good?!), We Need To Talk About Kevin, Mystic River, the Jessica Darling books, almost anything by Isaac Asimov and basically anything ever written by Caitlin Moran.

(Speaking of books, I am kind of emotionally drained after recently finishing A Pale View of Hills … an incredibly affecting and creepy but ultimately ambiguous book that really needed a stronger editor. Anyone else up to discussing it?)

But over the Christmas break, I found what is undoubtedly my favourite movie of all time: Before Sunset. In fact, I gorged on the entire Before series - Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight -  not just the most romantic movies ever, but the best movie trilogy ever made.

Before Sunrise is romantic in a smart way – intelligent and articulate, the sort of love story that someone who adores Gilmore Girls (me!) would be enthralled by. But it’s decidedly un-Hollywood. There’s pauses, slightly awkward glances, silences, as we wind our way through the streets of Vienna alongside Celine and Jesse, almost in real time.

I loved Before Sunset even more, tinged as it is with the passage of time, ageing, regrets … there is not a single superfluous moment in the sequel. Utter perfection.

I wasn’t sure Before Midnight could top that, but I was wrong. WRONG. While I prefer Before Sunset as a film, purely on artistic merit, I love Midnight even more for its unflinching willingness to dive into the heart of a relationship. When you give that much of yourself to another person, you also open yourself up to a world of hurt – and even people who love each other claw and scratch and take blows at one another from time to time.

I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.

I am giving you my whole life, okay? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Okay? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.

You are the fucking mayor of Crazytown, do you know that?

Somehow, Before Midnight also manages to be the funniest of the three films.

Who wants to be Joan of Arc? Forget France, she was burnt at the stake and a virgin, okay. Nothing I aspired to. What a great achievement.

One of the perks of being over 35 is that you don’t get raped as much.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke swear they have no spark in real life, though it’s a pleasure to watch them bounce off each other in interviews. Yet onscreen they have such incredible chemistry (I even found him somewhat sexy and I normally can’t stand the sight of him) and the dialogue is just so fucking real. I am in love with how they swear, talk about sex, fight and make up. It scared me how much of my own relationship I saw in there. Before Midnight seriously screwed me up, but not in a bad way. Not at all.

[SEMI SPOILER]

Ultimately, I find Before Midnight even more romantic because they’ve chosen each other, and I mean REALLY chosen each other, flaws and all, knowing each other as much as any two people can – at least this time around.

[END SPOILER]

Director Richard Linklater says they break all the rules of screenwriting, and how magnificently so. I could watch all these films over and over and over again.

What is your favourite fictional romance?

I need your advice

One thing I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of years is just what the heck is going to happen to T’s nieces.

They’re charming and reasonably bright, but they’ve got a tough cycle to break out of. This decade will be the one that determines whether they bypass young pregnancy and getting sucked into the welfare lifestyle. Having a kid at 16 isn’t the end of the world of course, but it’s a very difficult thing to work around, especially with a background like theirs. (And I get the overwhelming feeling that abortion is frowned upon in their family.)

Now the older one is in high school, T agrees it’s time to really keep an eye on her and try to set her up on a good path. I told him I’m totally happy to do whatever I can – I’m just not sure what that is.

The main concern is making sure she doesn’t fall through the cracks; that’s not to say she has a bad home life, because she is loved and cared for, but she is certainly lacking in a certain type of role model, surrounded by adults who don’t work and haven’t worked for years.

What do I do?

What do I talk to her about?

How do I talk to her about those things?

I guess the end goal is in getting her to think beyond school and about actual career paths – university even – and how to get there, and the importance of taking her studies seriously. This is so alien to me, because I grew up in the kind of environment where thinking about what you might want to be when you grew up was like thinking about what kind of guy you might marry. And I worked hard at school for the sake of achieving, if nothing else.

She and I are about 10 years apart, but things are so different. I grew up pre-Facebook and Snapchat, before even the most basic of cellphones had colour screens and cameras, when MSN and open internet chatrooms (do they still exist?) were the cutting edge. I was nerdy and academic, and while she’s not dumb, she’s certainly not a nerd. I was gawky and mousy and she’s cute, if not model material, and knows it. And our family environments are POLES apart – you can’t even imagine.

I’ve been considering joining a mentoring scheme for teenage girls (though I haven’t signed on yet – am unsure about the logistics involved and how difficult it would be to meet my commitment). And now I’m definitely in two minds about it. Maybe I should just be focusing my time/effort on her. Take care of business on your home patch first, and all that. But maybe mentoring someone else will also help me with her?

When they were younger they always came to me, were all over me everytime I visited, yammering away about anything and everything going on in their lives. Now they’re older and more self absorbed, I have to make the effort myself to connect with them.

But I’m totally out of my depth here. Help?

What it’s like to settle down after travelling the world

coming from from a rtw trip nzmuse
You know, I was really worried it would be difficult to return to normal life overnight. But just as I learned on the road, I’m surprisingly adaptable, and so maybe it’s not surprising that I also slipped back into the folds of our old life fairly quickly.

I think we’re both still revelling in coming home to the same bed every night, being able to see friends on a whim, marathon TV shows … I’m even enjoying the leisure of lingering over the stove.

T threw out the idea in passing the other day that we should do another RTW trip when we have kids. I can’t even begin to contemplate such an undertaking … but that sure would be an adventure.

It’s a little scary, actually, how fast those memories fade. I’m glad I kept a diary, and blogged, and took photos, because those essentially all we have as proof now.

Except for the remaining bug bite scars (are smooth unblemished legs a small price to pay for six months of RTW travel?) as a daily reminder, in some ways it’s like we never left.

Home

After nearly three weeks at my parents’ house, moving into our new place definitely came at just the right time. It’s maybe two-thirds the size of our last place, not to mention much closer to the neighbours and minus a front and back yard, but downsizing hasn’t been too hard, since we’ve spent the months in between living out of backpacks, in dorms, motel rooms, living rooms and guest rooms.

Best of all, I could finally wear clothes to work beyond the approximately three outfits I had in my pack!

But we had to buy SO MUCH STUFF. Pillows (which have desperately needed replacing for years, but I was too cheap to do so. After six months in a garage, though, they were definitely beyond salvage). A new frypan (same sad story. Our new one is amazing – corn fritters, pancakes and eggs come out heart-achingly perfect). A good knife (again, turned out to be worth its weight in gold). All the small things – oils, spices, cleaning products….

I quickly found myself nesting, organising the house, finding places for everything, relishing the simple joy of having a place to call home.

The two biggest changes are the fact that we have a dryer in our new place, and no garden. These things combined make me feel like a bad global citizen. I can’t compost as there’s no earth to bury our scraps in (and I’m not going to buy a crazy expensive composting bin system). It’s ridiculous how smelly your kitchen bin gets when you’re putting food scraps into it! We do have one very small clothesline that doesn’t get much sun attached to the side of our house under the eaves, so I’m going to make more of an effort to line dry items like towels and sheets.  But for general use, the dryer is just so handy, especially in Auckland’s climate, and because our stove and water run on gas, our electricity bills are crazy low (around $30-40), even with occasional/regular dryer use.

We’re still working on getting into something of a groove in regards to keeping the house running. Cleaning has always been a source of friction for us. Lots of bloggers brag about how equally they share cleaning duties, so it’s kind of shameful to admit that we don’t (though I would be interested to know if they also split cooking equally).

At first, he did all the cooking and I did most of the cleaning while he was job hunting. Now he’s working 10-20 hours a week more than I am (earnings are another matter; he’s commission based so he definitely has the potential to outearn me). Taking on the lion’s share of household tasks given his schedule has proved the easiest solution thus far.

I don’t like cleaning by any means, but having a clean house is much more important to me than it is to him, unfortunately. Despite being anal about a few select things, like crumbs in bed, he has an insanely high tolerance for filth (and from what I’ve seen it’s a family thing – they occasionally go on cleaning binges but generally exist in a state that I  find  disagreeable). I’m also the one with all the dust/pollen/etc sensitivities. I’d love for us to see eye to eye on cleaning … but I honestly don’t think this will ever happen.

Work

Naturally, I feared this might be the hardest readjustment to make. Not so! It’s like I never left. Afraid I have no real advice for other RTWers coming home on this front. That said, I was able to do a little freelancing while travelling (and of course blogged the whole time) so it’s not like I was totally out of the game for six months. I imagine if you were, say, an accountant, cop, or engineer, things would be different. The first couple weeks were a bit of a shock to the system, but now all is gravy. And when things get frustrating, I remind myself that it’s ridiculous to expect work to be unicorns and rainbows 100% of the time.

Adjusting to work has been harder for T. This is possibly the least physical job he’s ever done, but he’s still on his feet all day, and coming home looking like a limp rag. We’ll see how this goes.

We’re back to working quite different schedules, so our time together is mainly limited to evenings. It’s lucky that we now live within easy walking distance of multiple supermarkets and grocers, or this whole one-car thing would be a huge pain in the ass.

Physical

One negative side effect of travelling, which obviously messed with our routines and eating/sleeping patterns to some extent, is that I no longer seem to know when I’m full. My calibration button is broken. Even when I’m insanely stuffed, I don’t feel the heavy bloat I used to, so I’ve learned to stop and check myself in case I overdo it. Related: my appetite overall seems to have shrunk. I still need decent sized meals at frequent intervals, but I can’t do all-you-can-eats justice anymore.

My palate has totally changed. I can no longer tolerate even the thought of eating a kebab wrap (had way too many of those in certain, less culinary parts of Europe while trying to save dosh). I actually want to eat healthy, because I really feel the difference, physically, when I don’t. I’ve become a lot more sensitive to sugar in my food – for example, I used to adore Patak’s curry, but now it’s painfully sweet and downright inedible to me. I still like to indulge in the odd piece of rich cheesecake, mud cake, brownie, etc, but I no longer want any middling/substandard baked goods to pass my lips. Go hard or go home.

I desperately miss fresh Italian ingredients, Mexican joints, New York delis, and sloppy BBQ. But I am glad to once again have humble Kiwi suburban bakeries in my life (mince and cheese pies! butter chicken pies! custard pies! pizza bread) and real coleslaw (not the creepy sweet stuff that passes for coleslaw in America). Also – unrelated – I miss the amazing, nature-defying, non-sticky sand of Santorini.

On the upside, it’s nice to be back to eating a full variety of foods – while the main allure of travel for me is dining local, eventually you need to mix it up, hence our eating Indian food in Las Vegas, Chinese food in Rome (a city that blew me away in regard to multiculturalism) and Western food in Ho Chi Minh.

I’m back to living inside a hayfeverish hell – such is the price I pay for living in the land of the long white cloud. My sinuses hate this country. Along with the occasional pill, steaming and exercising seem to help – the first time I tried steaming it was like opening up a whole new world. I could breathe through my nose effortlessly, feel the air in the back of my throat, all those connections inside as it circulated, down to my grateful lungs. It’s funny how quickly you get used to things and forget how they’re really meant to work. I haven’t been able to breathe freely like this since 2011. Only wish I’d tried it sooner.

But I AM loving the mild summer and looking forward to an equally mild winter. I don’t own a hat or gloves and I can still wear ballet flats during winter. It won’t be like Iceland, or even summer in London/Scotland, or Canada (guys, stop trying to convince me that Canadian winters are not that bad, I know how low temperatures go there). Just ignore me when I start bitching about the rain, okay?

Life in general

At first, everything seemed so small. All our buildings, so short – the towers, the one-storey houses. Our hills (volcanoes) looked almost low enough to leap over. From Tamaki Drive, the North Shore felt stiflingly close – like we could swim over to Devonport with just a few strokes, or pop over to Rangitoto in a kayak (which I believe you can actually do, but it would be pretty arduous going in reality). 

Yet in the relative absence of terraced houses and streets of apartments, it almost felt like we had more room to breathe somehow. What would previously have felt like a long distance is nothing now; anything within Auckland seems nearby and traffic is pretty dreamy. Drivers are still sometimes rude and erratic but better than anywhere else in the world we’ve been. Tap water here is amazing, and free – it’s nice to dine out without having to think twice about ordering water, or whether it’s worth eating in once we factor in tipping.

Everything is crazy expensive but we’ve learned to grit our teeth – it’s all about tradeoffs.

Auckland is home. On sunny days, as Sense points out, it’s downright stunning. Just this week we headed out to Piha for a post-work swim and chillout session on the beach – it’s afternoons like those that remind me what’s great about living here.

“That’s the problem with only having one real city,” a friend remarked recently as we bemoaned the state of the property market in Auckland.  While that isn’t really true, in some ways it feels like it is. We have a third of the population, after all. And there isn’t anywhere else in NZ I’d live. Beyond the deep ties (our family is here, all the job opportunities are here, the roots of familiarity in general), we have the best variety of food and culture, and in order to find better weather or public transport we’d have to move to a tiny town or out of the country altogether. And from what I’ve seen, there’s nowhere else in the world that would be our perfect city, either.

Even if we criticise it nonstop, we do it out of love (is this a uniquely Auckland thing? Because I noticed that not a single commenter on my post about tradeoffs deigned to voice a complaint about their own city).

Simon Pound sums it up perfectly in his opening letter in Aortica #2:

Ah, Auckland. You immature doe of a city. Nowhere else in the world are inhabitants of a place at once so disparaging about their hometown yet so worried about what a visitor thinks. “There’s not much to do here,” locals will say apologetically, before asking with great pride if you liked the West Coast beaches, Kaurak Gulf, island escapes, coffee, fresh food, mountain landscape, Pacific flavour, Chinese restaurants and so on and so on…

…Auckland is a city where people smile at you on the street and then avoid eye contact on the trains. It’s a small big city with the spread and scope of a metropolis, but often the horizons of a province…

…I love Auckland like any true Aucklander: equivocally. The truth is that you have to work at having a great life here. You can’t simply step out of the door and get caught up in activity. You have to spark it yourself.”

Truer words were never spoken; it’s enough to make you laugh and weep simultaneously.

I’ll leave  you today with a quote from artist Dan Arp’s passage in the magazine:

“After travelling around a bit and coming back here, I realise that Auckland is a city that is made up of lots of little bits that feel very much like a lot of other places, so if you know where to go, it can feel like the place you might want to be in at that moment, but you can always change your mind and go somewhere else, and there is always the beach or the forest or somewhere that couldn’t be anywhere else.”

 

My 2014 goals: Two small resolutions for a happier life

nzmuse goals for 2014 2013 was a biggie. I got married (though I still can’t bring myself to use the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. They leave a gross aftertaste in my mouth). Took six months off work. Backpacked around the world. In short, it was a year of YOLO.

They say nobody ever wishes on their deathbed they’d spent more time at the office. Sure, but I would definitely feel bummed if I didn’t achieve some sort of professional satisfaction, some measure of happiness in work and my achievements, over a lifetime. I’ve written some things I’m proud of, for myself and for wider public consumption, and came very close last year to being able to plonk “award-winning” in front of my name (alas, an almost-award doesn’t really afford me that luxury. Highly commended is all well and good, but nobody ever remembers the runner up). A small change at work should make my job even more awesome starting from day one back (though raises the stakes for sure), so I’m amped to see what 2014 brings.

As much as my work matters to me, people and experiences absolutely come first. It blows my mind how much we did in 2013. The places we saw, the people we met, the meals we ate… I whimper a little to think what it cost (full tally coming up VERY SHORTLY) but it was truly a priceless adventure. How could I ever forget biking through the fiery forests of Vermont (nearly falling asleep and falling off the back post-lunch)? Feasting on lamb and wine at sunset in Santorini? Gliding through Venice’s waterways, blotting sweat from my face, mesmerised by every new alleyway? Marvelling at the raw thunderstorms pounding down on the plains of Cambodia? Being enthralled by the sheer scale of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Gulfoss?

For all that, I’m glad to be home. I’m reminded of the beauty that’s all around me everytime I go hiking out west with them (Mokoroa Falls is heartstoppingly fabulous, and I can’t believe I’d never seen it before). We may not be going abroad again anytime soon, but there’s plenty to explore in our own backyard.

This year, I resolve to get out more – on weekends, after work - even if petrol costs are insane and our crappy car chews gas. 

I’ve also realised how amazing my friends and family are. I was terrible about keeping in touch with them while we were away, but after all, I knew we were coming back in November. But we’re all getting older, time is passing quicker, some are moving away, and some of us are moving into the next logical phase of our adult lives. And for all my past grievances with my parents, none are egregious enough to hold a grudge about forever – Buzzfeed is right, I’ve come full circle to realise how awesome they are in many ways and embrace all the traits they’ve passed down to me.

I’ve been aware for a long time that I’m basically never the instigator when it comes to these things – I’ll always respond, but I never initiate contact. I often find a text an annoying interruption to the workday, which is kinda messed up. My last day at work, I noticed a text and went to unlock my phone – yet somehow between that and actually opening up my inbox, I got totally distracted with something and wound up entirely forgetting to go back to my phone. T wound up calling me an hour later instead.

This year, I resolve to make more of an effort – to reach out to at least one person a week – by text, email, or (shudder) Facebook chat/message. I emailed a dear friend overseas just before Christmas for a long overdue catchup on our lives, and I can’t tell you how freaking GOOD that felt.

going to die doing the things i love nzmuse

I’m not going to set any financial goals since that side of things is still uncertain. I’m naturally a saver anyway, so I’m going to be trying to bank as much as possible. The long-term play is still to save up for a house. Overall, 2014 is about the small things – balancing work and play, finding a happy medium in life. What more could one ask for?

A mantra for 2014 (and beyond)

Here’s my formula for happiness this year. It’s pretty simple. Heck, make this my mantra for life overall.
a mantra for 2014 nzmuse

Eat real food.

Exercise once in a while.

Sleep as much as you need to.

Earn more than you spend.

Save as much as you can.

Be honest with yourself, and with others.

Make time for your loved ones.

These basic principles aside, you can do whatever you want.

You don’t have to start your own business.

You don’t have to be a corporate cog.

You don’t have to give up sugar, or gluten, or meat.

You don’t have to train for a marathon.

You don’t have to quit your job and travel the world.

You don’t have to avoid all the tourist spots, or stick only to tourist spots.

You don’t have to say yes if you don’t want to.

This year, make your happiness a priority. Never apologise for it. Just be you. Loudly, quietly, colourfully, unashamedly, grumpily, you.