Tag Archives: reflections

What I learned from taking part in a study about Facebook

What I learned from taking part in a study about Facebook

 

I don’t like talking about myself very much IRL, but in the name of research? Sure.

The other day I took part in a study about Facebook usage by young women (for a Master’s project) – here’s what I came away thinking.

I don’t post very often

At least half of the posts on my page are by other people (mostly one of my best friends who is a power user, posting links multiple times a day). There’s a surprising proportion of posts and pictures from outings with people from work. I’m definitely closer to my workmates here than places I’ve worked before, plus there’ve been a few different work trips away.

Personally, I’ve only posted a few photos/photo albums, interesting links, asked a couple of questions and fed through a couple of Goodreads reviews. The past year in particular has been pretty quiet. I didn’t have much to share and just generally stepped back from socialising IRL and Facebook browsing. Avoiding other people across channels was a coping mechanism – their happy and successful lives only made me feel worse about mine.

And yet … it’s difficult to imagine life without Facebook

One question posed to me was: how do you think we would communicate today if Facebook wasn’t around? I couldn’t come up with a good answer – I really struggled to imagine.

It’s so pervasive – I take private messages, photos, events and more for granted. It’s the easiest way to share news enmasse, make announcements, communicate with people overseas (so glad my friends who once deleted their accounts are back on, especially now they live abroad). It’s how we organised our recent Tongariro Crossing trip. Cutting Facebook out and relying on phone and email (because none of my closest IRL/local friends use Twitter) would be nothing short of crippling.

What about life before Facebook?

Facebook for me basically coincided with university – that’s when I graduated from Bebo to Facebook. Life pre-uni isn’t really reflected at all.

Two of my very first friends ever (as in from the Kuala Lumpur days) found and added me, sure. But so many of my friends from my school years, I’m not connected to. Friends from my first primary school and friends from my intermediate school. My one-time best friend and technically first boyfriend. The random guy I once befriended at my call centre job who I think would have been a really awesome mate (that said, he had a crush on me so not sure we could have actually been friends). Various penpals and email pals from the early 2000s, even. All people I think about from time to time.

Achievement unlocked: Surviving a year of unemployment, setbacks and an unplanned move

Achievement unlocked: Surviving a year of unemployment, financial setbacks and an unplanned move

At the end of 2015 we’ll celebrate 10 years. But today it’s two years of being married. Year 2 has been fucking hard, thanks to all the curveballs life bowled at us. (If I hadn’t made those vows, I’m really not sure I could have stuck it out.)

Unemployment is the root of all evil. Financial stress is the worst. Everything builds on from there.

Is it sad that money (or lack of) could take such a toll on our relationship? Sure, but it’s not love that makes the world go round – it’s money.

Our opposite personalities normally complement each other, but during this time they put us at odds.

Emma Lincoln has it right. Fear is the problem. I was constantly stressed, and my body started coming to pieces in response. I was afraid, on a daily basis, for so long.

I’m still scared. Terrified that the curveballs are only going to come harder and faster in the future.

It would be cruel to have to endure another year like it. But anything can happen. More than one person has reminded me recently that ultimately much of your life is beyond your control, and grand plans are often going to be derailed. The rug could be pulled out from under us at any time, and I’m trying to be okay with that. (It so nearly was just the other week. The joys of temp life.)

I want to say that I feel hopeful about the future, but I’m reluctant to tempt fate (that is just asking for trouble) and thus, even though I’m feeling pretty happy on a day to day basis, that’s probably not going to be reflected in my writing. For now at least, as long as money’s coming in and I have a somewhat dry and warm house to live in, that can be enough.

On the plus side, I’ve finally got around to getting our wedding photos printed. Waiting on them to arrive. Hurrah!

Feelings, why you be so confusing?

i've been losing sleep dreaming about the things that we could be

Have you ever had to rethink something quite fundamental in your relationship? Had emotions/opinions you didn’t know you had start to reveal themselves?

Let me try and put some of these thoughts into a vaguely coherent order.

We’ve had joint finances to one degree or another for years. I’m not gonna lie; when I was benefiting from that arrangement – me studying and T working full time – it was great. He clocked a lot of hours and earned a good wage. I didn’t give it a second thought, though I was aware in the back of my mind that I’d be in a slightly tight spot if we broke up.

NOT that I would want to return to that state of affairs by any means, but right now the situation is reversed and it has been for a long time. While I’ve progressed steadily, he’s basically been treading water – particularly accounting for inflation. Highlights: A job that was meant to lead to apprenticeship and qualification, and even better money, evaporated in the GFC. Another job promised advancement and promotion but failed to deliver, so he quit outright when we went travelling. Upon our return, two jobs turned toxic and fizzed out suddenly. (The first of those could have seen him pulling in six figures…)

For the first time in awhile, there is no longer the shimmer of a high(er) income around the corner. The current state of affairs is not totally settled, so I won’t go into any detail, but it is not lucrative, nor is it likely to be. I’m cool with that – right now I just want consistency over everything else.

While I do consider all money ‘ours’, that hasn’t sat all that well with me lately, as I’ve had to support us both through months and months of unemployment – for the better part of a year, in fact. Over time I became quietly, seethingly resentful, and that’s an uncomfortable feeling to have.

We are a team. We’re married. I am well aware of this. As a work buddy wisely pointed out, the pendulum swings back and forwards at different times. Her relationship balance is about to swing as she stares down the barrel of maternity leave, and leaning on her fiance for financial support.

I’d always expected T to eventually return to outearning me, but the way things have panned out, it looks like I’m going to continue to be the main earner forever. Which is fine, since I’m also the more career-driven one. But I can’t honestly say this sits completely well with me either, and that’s a feeling I’m struggling to come to grips with.

One astute commenter on this fantastic post at A Practical Wedding, On Marrying Down, really nails this dilemma. I can’t put it any more succinctly than this:

I’m also the more career-oriented partner and I’ve struggled with the idea of “marrying down” in some ways. It’s hard for me not to judge my husband according to those social standards of how men are “supposed” to think about work. But the truth is that if he was as ambitious as I am it would probably produce a lot of strain navigating it. I just don’t know how to let go of my preconceptions about what I should want as a woman and make space for both of us to just be who we are.

It’s not like I grew up in a household that fell strictly along gender lines; as far as I know,  my mum has been the main earner for years, at least recently. Also, while I (consciously and unconsciously) chose a partner who is the opposite of my dad in every way, another weird way I’ve wound up emulating my parents is that our financial roles seem to be the same – the wife being the go-to money person. (The one difference is my dad spends nothing while T definitely like stuff.)

On the other hand, out in the working world I seem to be surrounded by women with higher earning partners – and in the spirit of full disclosure, the bitter half of me silently snarks ‘that must be nice’.

I guess I have a strongly ingrained sense of fairness geared towards total equality that runs deeper than I thought.

Here’s a silly yet telling anecdote. Our house always had a well stocked biscuit tin. When I was about 9 years old, it came to my attention that my little brother had been eating more biscuits than me. I started keeping count, my eagle eye trained on him and that cupboard. Let me tell you, he absolutely ripped through them. He got up into the  double digits within a few days. At that point, I complained to my mother, who told me to drop it and get over it. Sulkily, I complied – but that always stuck in my craw.

Well, in the words of Coldplay… Nobody said it was easy. Heck, even Farnoosh Torabi (author of When She Makes More) has said she’d love for her husband to be the breadwinner. It’s something I’ll have to work through and process this year, as the trauma of the past year hopefully fades.

More reading on this topic:

I make six figures, my boyfriend is a poet (Reddit)

How income disparity affects our relationship  (LearnVest)

The weaker sex (The Atlantic)

When love crosses class lines (The Billfold)

Will our class differences tear us apart? (The Awl)

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)

Will you be better off than your parents?

There’s been lots of talk about how our generation may be the first to be worse off than that of our parents. I’m fairly certain it’s going to be true in my case, and Christmas really cemented for me how huge that gap is.

I swear, I am going to lose it if I hear one more thing along the lines of how we should just buy a house. For the love of god. Anyone who keeps up with the news knows what’s going on, and the latest round of updated council valuations backs that up. My parents’ property is now worth more than 3x what they paid for it – and that’s just the council valuation, which around here is always less than actual market reality. Have incomes also tripled/quadrupled/etc? No, no they have not. I’m not saying it was easy back then, but it is a hell of a lot harder now. There is no way I will have a paid-off house by my 40s in Auckland.

It was a hard year for me and T, and while our family are experts in Not Talking About Things, it doesn’t take a genius or a mind reader to figure out that we’re still nowhere near a down payment, particularly when I VERY OBVIOUSLY shut down the idea of affording a house every time the topic comes up (which has been constantly since we got back to NZ).

Look, there are some things my parents went through that I will never understand. Leaving home and going to university in a strange new country. Being denied promotion outright because of my skin colour, in the country of my birth. Reaching the point of frustration in my marriage where I’m making inappropriate disclosures to my teenage daughter (that’s what professional therapists are for, guys).

Likewise, they won’t understand the lack of job security today, or what it’s like to enter the workforce during a global financial meltdown. And to be fair, I’m not immune either. A growing part of me sometimes just wants to scream ‘how have you gone on that many interviews yet still don’t have a job? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?’

Really, I only feel comfortable discussing successes with them, and there haven’t been any of those to report on in a long time. Maybe it’s a terrible reason to avoid my family, but it’s a sanity-saving defence mechanism.

Rethinking how I see myself

‘Traveller, writer, dreamer.’

That’s the sum of my Instagram account bio.

But I’m starting to wonder if I can rightfully claim that last word.

I was definitely a kid who had her head in the clouds. A bookworm, a day dreamer, with one foot in fantasy land.

One year I came home with my report card, and one of my teachers’ comments was that I was ‘very practical’. We laughed about it, because how far off base was that?!

While we often laugh at dreamers for being off in their own world, on the flipside, I think we also frequently put them on a pedestal. Especially among creative types, we think practical = staid and boring.

But the older I get the more ruthlessly practical I become. I struck out on my own early and I’ve been fending for myself since.

The most surprising thing I learned about myself while travelling was how adaptable I can be. When I don’t have strict plans, I’m more than happy to go with the flow and not freak out no matter what happens.

That said, in my day to day life I am nowhere near as flexible. Normal life dictates planning, and when my plans are derailed I cannot pivot – I find it extremely hard to cope.

Where is this introspection going? I’m not too sure. I guess all I’m trying to say is I’m adjusting to a new perception of who I am (years late?) and how that makes me feel. My inner dreamer still lives, but she’s firmly encased in a thick armoured shell of pragmatism.

You know you’re getting old when…

You know you're getting old when...Your partner points out that you’re now closer to 30 than 20

You’re no longer the ‘baby’ at work – that title goes to someone who is all of 23 years old

You want to run out and throw rocks at loud cars passing by (and at people letting off fireworks nearby)

You seek out greenery to relax in, away from city life

You crave vegetables because your body will revolt if you don’t eat healthily enough

My tag line is ‘on the quest for health, wealth and happiness’. To be fair, it does qualify that with ‘not necessarily in that order’. But health has never been first on my list, in reality. And I think maybe that needs to change a little bit. I consider myself pretty in tune with my body. It’s thankfully always been pretty low maintenance, but is definitely demanding to be heard more and more lately. Some of that is no doubt stress related, but I suspect some is simply an age thing.

On accepting ambiguity: Black, white and all the yawning grey space in between

Crying in the bathroom then walking out like nothing happenedI made it through more than half a year of shouldering the entire burden of supporting our household, alone, without breaking down at work.

During wedding planning, it was flowers that tipped me over the edge. This time, it was waiting on some much needed money because T sent it to the wrong account number – not once but TWICE. The first money he’s earned in months, and it’s stuck in banking no man’s land. *insert every curse word that exists*

If I’m being totally honest with myself, I feel like I lost most of last year to depression and stress. I feel stuck.

There are always choices, even if they’re unpalatable. I have thought about how to get unstuck – separating at least temporarily, or even running away overseas. I’ve considered the options and decided continuing the status quo is the best one.

But I just want to be able to plan. I want to be able to make progress. I cannot set goals or progress towards them the way things currently stand.

I dislike ambiguity at work, too, but in many ways it’s baked into the nature of the job. I can handle it, I’ve learned to cope – but I hate dealing with ambiguity in my personal life.

So, no goals for me this year. Just stay sane and, to quote Dory, keep on swimming.

Three big money lessons I learned this year

I’ve been back in full-time employment for a whole year now, and I’ve been thinking about the place work occupies in my life.

I do not want my life to revolve entirely around work … but that said, I would much rather focus on work than the domestic front. Paid work can be frustrating (and a whole bunch of other adjectives) but I find it so much more personally fulfilling than doing household type work.

If money were no object, I would literally never cook or clean. I would pay to have all that done. Not because I think my time is super valuable, but because I simply don’t enjoy those tasks and I am not very good at them. Eating good food made by others = one of my biggest joys.

On a macro level, here’s what else I’ve been contemplating, more  generally.

Your pay does not always reflect your worth

It’s common sense, and we all know this. You are more than your paycheck. But this REALLY hit home for me this year, having moved out of a field that is notorious for underpaying and overworking.

It seems crazy to me that people like the Starbucks barista profiled by the NY Times work so hard and get paid so much less than I do. Or that some construction foremen can earn less than me when that is objectively a much harder and more important job. And don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly rolling in it; I’m only now making the equivalent of a starting salary in many other fields. Yes, sometimes it’s because the higher-paying role genuinely creates more value/ROI for the business – but not always.

There is a LOT of money floating around out there

I have written about countless funded startups and interviewed both investors and entrepreneurs. T has sold stuff to people with (in my humble opinion) way too much money.

It’s clear to me that there is money to be made – if you can tap into it. That means getting into the right industries in the right kinds of roles.

Money affords happiness

There’s no such thing as ‘broke yet happy’ in my world. Never has been, never will be.

I earn more now. That reduces my stress levels. It enables me to live a more enjoyable life.

I hate scrimping. Don’t get me wrong, I am really frugal by nature, and I suppose that’s why I hate to have to cut back beyond that.

For years I thought T would outearn me – but that’s not how life has worked out.

Strangely enough, an unexpected benefit of what I do these days is that the things I struggled with previously – the external/outward facing stuff, coming up with story ideas – aren’t factors anymore. And for the first time I feel like I have the means to support (financially speaking)  the creative things I love – bands, publications.

New Zealand can offer a great lifestyle, but it’s not a cheap place to live, particularly in Auckland. If I have the opportunity to earn more to fund a better life, then that’s not a route I’m going to turn my nose up at.

Also: at some point, I would like to work someplace that pays bonuses. Just to see what it’s like.

For the sins of our ancestors

All parents damage their children.

One of my earliest memories is being a helpless bystander to an argument between my parents. In particular, at the end of it, being told to choose which of them I wanted to live with.

It didn’t happen. For better or worse, they’re still together, decades on.

In some ways I’m not very good at being in a relationship. I guess I just am not all that good at partnerly communication. In my very first relationship, I became acutely aware of some of the ways in which I behaved and how those habits echoed those of my parents. Years on, I still struggle with those same issues.

Like it or not, I inherited that emotional tempestuousness. It’s probably a blessing in disguise that I struggle to get words out, because honestly, some of the ugly thoughts in my head in my worst moments should never be uttered. I know, even as they occur to me, how hurtful they are, and that they’re not necessarily fair. Succumbing to the heat of the moment would be awful. I don’t want to play that game.

Do you struggle with any particular traits you’ve inherited from your parents?