The Panic Years: Entering Your Mid-Late Twenties

Everyone refers to their twenties as the selfish years. The years in which you travel, make mistakes, fall in love, get your heart broken, party, make more mistakes and ‘create yourself.’ And while my early twenties certainly consisted of all of the above (more than I’d like to admit), referring blindly to your twenties as the same decade misses the mark of the complex, confusing and chaotic period which is your twenties.

In my first few years of uni, I would stay up until 5am partying, drinking, talking D+M’ing, going for nudie swims under the cover of dark, go clubbing, dancing and sleep in until 1pm. Now I don’t think that’s physically possible. I’ve somehow transformed into a morning peson who gets up at 5:30 to go to yoga or for a run.

What does this change mean? Is it biological (my body screaming at me to please please please have babies), is it societal (watching my friends get married, buy a house and have gorgeous kids), is it economic (thinking about how much super I will need to retire), or is it a natural progression of getting old and boring?

I recently picked up Nell Frizell’s debut book ‘The Panic Years,’ where she explores this overarching period of a woman’s life that ultimately results in panic. Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties or even fourties, most decisions are made in a state of panic. Frantically looking around and comparing yourself to your peers and friends, driven by the underlying question of ‘do I want children and if so, when do I have them?’

There’s a myriad of reasons why this simple question is so loaded and not so simple. And as someone who feels well and truly in her panic years, in the flux, at any given time I’m likely considering the following;

  • How will I know when I’m ready?
  • How much money do I need to have a baby?
  • Will my employer be flexible and will I have enought support for maternity leave?
  • How many more jobs do I want to have before I’m ready to plateau for a little while?
  • Where do I want to live? Where can I afford to live?
  • Am I ok with renting or do I want to buy something – how the hell does anyone afford to buy something?
  • How much do those cute little baby socks cost?
  • Do I need health insurance? What if something goes wrong?
  • Will my scoliosis worsen during pregnancy leaving me with a Quasimodo hunchback?
  • Am I fertile, can my body physically even have kids?
  • Is my womb even a nice little uterus where a baby could make a home for nine months?
  • Could I deal with the possibility of miscarriage – after all it happens in 1 in 4 pregnancys?
  • Do I really want to bring a child into the world that is arguably burning?

I understand that these are all privileged thoughts, many women don’t have the space, choice or freedom to have children on their own terms.

Lying under all of these questions is the dilema of career progression, personal goals and ambitions (can you raise a baby in Mongolia? I still really want to go there!), personal relationships, family… no wonder it’s called the panic years.

To me it’s insane the comparison and contrast between my early twenties, someone who was quite opposed to having children and was very present-focused. Within the past 12 months I feel I’ve undergone a total transformation of my outlook on life and what’s important to me. I’m so much more future focused and thinking about all of the things (see above), my family (which I’ve always loved and thought was important) have become even more significant in my life and play a much larger part in my life. I’m careful with how I spend my money and time, and following up at the doctors with all these little health concerns to make sure I can live a long and happy life. Maybe a positive take from the pandemic was making us quickly realise what’s important and not to put faith in the future just happening because we all know it can change in the blink of an eye.

This transformation has caught me completely off guard as I grapple with the loss of my early twenties Adelaide but a quiet confidence as I navigate my mid-late twenties. It’s a privilege growing older, I just can’t believe how much you can grow, change and learn in such a short amount of time.

This post isn’t just about when I can have an adorable little red headed baby… but about trying to understand this period of time that I see a lot of my friends move into and navigate. The time where once in a blue moon you can stay out til 5am partying, but where you’re also researching investing in stocks and getting your skin checked regularly. So when I picked up Nell’s book, I knew immediately what it was about – this. The future-focused, somewhat responsible, somewhat decisive, somewhat confused mid-late twenty woman riding the panic and embracing the flux.

End of an era: Goodbye UOW

When I was about 16 years old, I wandered through a careers fair in a non-descript gymnasium in Newcastle. I was the kind of high school student who loved everything. English, French, Geography, Music, Science… what kind of career involved all of those? And better yet, what kind of career did I want to have, where did I want to work, what did it all mean? So like any 16 year old at a careers fair, I took my share of booklets, free pens and magnets and thought I’d deal with all of those big questions at a later date, after all, I already had my one-way ticket to London booked.

When I got home, I looked through some of the booklets with my parents, flicking through the similar glossy pages and scanning course guides trying to find the one with my name written all over it. That’s when I picked up the University of Wollongong’s booklet. I was immediately drawn to this thing known as a double degree (I’d always been one to try and over achieve). It was perfect. International Studies with Communications and Media. I hadn’t seen another university offer the same kind of degree and something about their prospectus seemed edgy and authentic (nice job marketing)- plus it was basically ON THE BEACH! After only ever visiting Wollongong once, I put it as my first preference in UAC, sat the HSC and headed off to London, more of less forgetting about school and uni all together.

My best friend Charline and I exploring Camden Markets, 2013

When I arrived back in Australia, and the reality of trying to figure out my life hit me, I was overwhelmed by where I actually wanted to go. I had offers from multiple university’s and it was really my choice. Then I got a call from the infamous Stephen Brown who was then the Head of Students for the Faculty. He rang me to congratulate me on my ATAR and offered me a Dean’s Scholar program. I was pretty delighted that a professor had called up little old Adelaide and thought about what my life in Wollongong, as a Dean’s Scholar might look like.

After a year in London, I was pretty over cities. They’re crowded, expensive and noisy, so Sydney was off the cards. I considered Newcastle but that meant I’d only be a 45 minute drive from home (not far away enough). A lot of my friends went to the party destination of Armidale but thought I couldn’t handle the cold. And Melbourne seemed a bit too far away, plus the dreaded 4 seasons in one day thing. So back to the idea of Wollongong I went. I was overjoyed when I found out that one of my best friends from high school would be studying there too and with that my decision was made – Wollongong I was coming for you!

My first day on campus when I moved into International House

International House

In my first year in Wollongong, I lived in International House. Having just come back from travelling around Europe, I was pretty excited to be living with people from all over the world and all over Australia. We had dorm parties, discovered Wednesday night schnitty night at North Gong hotel and learnt that having dinner at 5:30pm was completely acceptable (you wanted to get the best food you could). I’m still friends with people I met at iHouse and I’m incredibly lucky I got to call it home for my first year of 2014.

My first job

I landed my first job on campus as a Student Rep, which hardly felt like a job at all. I got to visit local high schools and talk to students about their study options. As someone who loves talking and is passionate about education and pursuing your dreams, I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do this. I attended career fairs (I got to hand out those course books and magnets) and work at big events like Open Day and Discovery Days. It was my first taste of the inner workings of UOW and university. I loved it because I was sharing my experiences, my observations and connecting with my teachers and peers. It set me up in a way I couldn’t have imagined at the time.

Uni friends are a different kind of friend

Moving to a new place and starting university can be pretty overwhelming, but I was determined to make as many friends as I could. Before we event started, I sat a French placement test (which I actually failed) and met my now best friend Erica. While buying my French textbook I met my friend Anna. And in my first French class I met my mate Pete. OK maybe it was French that set me up with some amazing friends but I knew it was more than that. Connecting with people over a common interest in French, careers or travel at university was like nothing I had experienced before. We had all committed and chosen to spend our time (and money) here. In my lectures, tutorials and in the corridors of building 19 I met so many incredible people that I would continue to cross paths with and forge friendships with. These moments certainly set me up for years of expanding my network and knowing I always had someone to go to the UniBar with. They say the people you meet at uni will be friends forever and I couldn’t believe it more.

Kooloobong Village and LHA Central

In my second year of uni I moved to Kooloobong Village (also known as KB). I lived in Unit 10 with people I’m lucky to still call friends. I turned 21 that year and was diving deep into uni, expanding my friend group, and apparently bought a selfie stick (remember those things?!) It’s also the year I really started to invest in my blog, not just as a personal reflection but as a professional tool to connect with people around the world. I’m lucky I’ve had people support me throughout my journey to push me to keep creating and keep writing.

In 2015 I started working at LHA Central, a job I absolutely loved! I became great friends with Mark and Lauren and I learnt the art of admin, customer service and relationship management. I loved that I worked in an office, had an email signature and my own personal phone extension. I worked there for 4 years and was lucky to balance work with my studies throughout that time.

The ‘Carrie Bradshaw moment’

If you’ve set foot onto the UOW campus, I apologise, you’ve likely seen my face on promotional posters. While yes you’ll find me on the website, course guides, flyers, posters and videos… nothing can top the moment my face was blown up on a bus!

Exchange and travel

If it wasn’t already apparent, travel is something I absolutely love. So when the opportunity to study AND travel arose I jumped at it. 2016 was a big year for that. I completed a short course at the University of La Rochelle through AIM Overseas studying French language, history and gastronomy (hello beautiful wine!). You can read about my time in France here. Living with a French host family, and speaking French non-stop, my French improved drastically (you’d hope wouldn’t you). I befriended a group of students from America (which I later visited in D.C) and was just so happy to live out my dream of eating baguettes all day long. This experience later inspired me to change my French minor to a major with the support from the best French teacher you’ll meet, Anu.

After my time in France, I headed to Montreal for 6 months to complete a semester abroad at Concordia University. I thought I’d be able to apply my newly acquired confidence with French but Quebecois French is something else entirely! It was here that I met incredible friends, studied Canadian history, politics and geography and survived -28degrees. I was lucky to study abroad with some fellow UOW students and had friends come to visit as well. Even on the other side of the world, people manage to connect and be present in your life.

Finishing uni, research assistant and more travel

After nearly 8 months overseas, it was time to come back to Australia and get back into finishing my degree and working at LHA Central. I was asked by one of my Politics teachers, Nori, to be his Research Assistant for his work on the 457 visa in Australia. This was a time I felt that my research, writing and curiosity skills could actually take me in an interesting direction (more on that later).

It was 2017 and I was due to complete my degree early at the end of the year. Because I was eligible for another Overseas Help Loan from the Government, I thought why not study abroad one more time. I found a short course in Mexico City that was all about human rights, immigrants,Mexican culture and history. I had taken an interest in immigration through my classes and thought this would be an incredible way to learn about this issue in a country that was facing a border crisis in the US, with Trump only recently being elected.

You can read about my experience here but it was certainly one of the most profound experiences of my life. It inspired me to trust and follow my curiosity to understand how the world works. I later contributed towards the UOW student magazine about immigration and it also gave me the confidence to undertake my Honours year.

Honours and Digital Marketing

2018 was a wild year. I was enrolled in my Honours course with Nori as my supervisor. As no surprise to anyone, chose to do my thesis on the topic of the ‘everyday experience of “illegality” in the US’ and examined the historical development of US immigration policy. It was by far one of the most challenging things I have ever done.

In the same year, I was approached by the LHA Marketing team to help out with managing their social media channels and website project. I worked with the dream team several times a week and fell in love with all things digital, marketing and communications. It’s here that I found what I loved to do. Create engaging content and bring people joy.

Professional Adelaide coming through

After finishing my studies I really wasn’t sure where I was going or what I wanted to do. I landed a casual position with the Advancement Division supporting their social media, websites and events. I was lucky to work with them on a casual basis until mid 2020. Through this I met incredible people and was able to pitch stories, conduct interviews, contribute and support with editing of the Outlook magazine… the list is endless and I loved every second. A highlight was certainly the 2019 Alumni Awards where I took to social media to provide live updates throughout the night which was so much fun!

I was over the moon when I landed a permanent roll in the LHA International Unit supporting international student recruitment, mobility and fostering a sense of community for our international student community. I have learned so much in this role under the incredible leadership of Kate and Lily and wouldn’t be where I am without the support of incredible colleagues like Rosheen, Ian and Simone. In 2019 I travelled to India to represent UOW which was such a pinch me moment I’m still in disbelief it happened.

So we know that COVID drastically changes our lives in every aspect. Though I felt incredibly priviledged and lucky to have had my job, apartment and family close by, my heart broke for those international students who have been separated from their families with no end in sight. Particularly as COVID cases around the world continue to worsen, we are truly living through a traumatic global event, the effects of which may not be felt for some time to come.

Unfortunately for myself and my colleagues at UOW, Australian universities got quite comfortable with getting their revenue from international students. With borders firmly closed, it put enormous finanical pressure on univerisities across the country. This meant money saving initiatives had to be introduced which ultimately resulted in jobs being cut.

I waded out a very rocky 2020. Working from home for 12 months, a restructure, huge proposed job cuts and navigating uncertainty in the international student space. At the beginning of 2020 I had planned to move and work overseas in Mongolia (of all places, yes… but that’s a story for another time). So with the promise of a new year, in 2021 I was committed to finding a new job that would spark joy, push me out of my comfort zone and take me in a new direction.

In February I found out that I had landed a communications role at a Women’s Health organisation in Canberra – not quite Mongolia but it does get cold – and I knew my time was up.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Leaving certainly was bittersweet. UOW was the place I grew up, personally, professionally, academically. It was the place I came to understand the world around me, meet people that have shaped me, overcome challenges and adversity and figure out what I want to do with my life.

People might say ‘it’s just a job,’ but my time at UOW was far more than that. It was pivotal in figuring out who I am. While universities across Australia continue to face many cultural and financial challenges, and it’s certainly not over yet, I choose to look back on my time at UOW with pride, joy and accomplishment.

The friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime (I got a tattoo with my boss – that friendship is indestructalbe!), the skills I’ve gained will propel me forward and most importantly I’ve learnt what kind of leader I want to be and how one person really can make a difference in a big organisation. Be authentically you and you will inspire people to do the same.

Only time will tell what the future holds, but one thing is for sure, I’ll be back. Whether it’s as a student (again), as a staff member, an academic or the Vice Chancellor, UOW will always have a special place in my heart, and one that I’m incredibly grateful for.

Get Excited About Ageing And Other Life Lessons I’ve Learned

It’s my Nan’s 80th birthday today, and it was my Pop’s 86th birthday the other day. So this weekend we’re getting together to celebrate in style with champagne, food and family. Something I’ve heard since Nan’s 79th birthday has been “Aw I just can’t wait to be 80!” and “I will have finally made it when I’m 80” followed by “all my friends are in their 80’s and I just want to be able to say I’m 80 too!” (spoken in Nan’s iconic voice – if you know you know).

You could mistake my Patricia for a 17 year old anxiously and eagerly awaiting their 18th birthday. Her energy and excitement is infectious and it’s become a running theme in my day to day discussions – Nan’s anticipation for her 80th. My Nan is one of the kindest, most excitable and technologically savvy people I know. She’s renowned for many things: her caramel slice, her iconic voice, and when we drive out of the driveway, she won’t stop waving until it’s physically impossible to see each other – the best kind of send off you could imagine.

My Pop, often referred to as Jack or John – you get to choose, enjoys life’s simple pleasures. A good book, a good TV show, a good cuppa, a good biccie and a good cat or dog to pat and talk to. Pop is a man of few words, but when he does open up, it’s always surprising what kind of things he says. Despite having another woman’s name tattooed on his forearm (I think you inspired my interest in tattoos Pop – sorry I’m going to blame that one on you), Nan and Pop are gorgeous people who have taught me so much.

They have lived most of their lives in the same house in Toronto and I have the most vivid and precious memories of exploring the house, the backyard and the depths of ‘under the house,’ from when we were kids. Nan and Pop’s place was always a meeting place for Dad’s family so see my cousins and Aunties and Uncle. So I always look forward to going there and feel flooded with amazing memories.

I recently wrote a post about 26 things I’ve learned from my Grandma and Grandad (my Mum’s parents), and with a milestone birthday like 80 and 86, I thought it was the perfect occasion to share 26 things I’ve learned from my Nan and Pop – because I’ve known them for my 26 years on earth.

26 Things I’ve Learned From and Love About My Nan and Pop

  1. Get excited about ageing, not everyone has the privilege of turning another year older. If my Nan can be giddy with excitement about turning 80, then you can get excited about whatever age you’re turning
  2. Ask and you might just receive. We were at the shops with Nan once and we asked for a tray of mangoes (far too many mangoes for three little kids). Nan bought the tray and it was one of the happiest days of my life
  3. Trains are awesome
  4. So are tattoos
  5. Reach out to the people you love. You can always rely on Nan to leave a supportive comment on a Facebook photo of yours
  6. It doesn’t matter how tall you are, Nan will find a way to wrap her arms around you
  7. You’re never too old to pop a bottle of champagne and get cut off at the bar
  8. There’s nothing like snuggling up next to a fireplace in winter
  9. Nothing will ever come close to Nan’s caramel slice
  10. You don’t need a car, you can get anywhere you need with kind people around you, determination and patience
  11. You can smoke your whole life and still make it to 86 (though it’s probably not advised, it’s still a fun fact I like to remember)
  12. There’s nothing like sitting in the sun on your balcony reading a book
  13. Ordering stuff off the internet is addictive
  14. Knitting is witchcraft and I don’t know how you do it so quickly
  15. There’s nothing quite like one of Nan’s knitted creations
  16. There’s no one quite like the Haynes’
  17. Nothing beats hot chippies
  18. Piggybacks are an effective form of transportation, though it might break your back
  19. You can never have too many dogs
  20. iToy is a form of cardio
  21. There’s nothing Pop can’t fix
  22. There’s nothing Nan can’t cook
  23. A coffee down by the lake is one of the best things you can do
  24. If I won the lotto I would buy an apartment on the lake for you (THEN you will have really made it)
  25. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best
  26. We’re so lucky to have the family we have, and thank you for being the leaders of our crazy Haynes bunch – we love you

Nan and Pop, thank you for your love, support and wisdom. I’m lucky to have benefited from 26 years of your influence. Pop, 86 is incredible. You have defied all the odds which just goes to show how truly stubborn us Haynes’ can be. And Nan, you’ve finally made it to 80! We love you and can’t wait to celebrate all the milestones coming your way (81, 82, 83). I’ll order the wine now!

Stories from my grandad: PART I

For those of you who know the famous Peter Thompson, he hardly needs an introduction. But in case you haven’t had the pleasure, let me set the scene for you. My Grandad is many things, but in my mind he is first and foremost a storyteller. A great storyteller. And the key to a great storyteller is a fact checker – enter my gorgeous Grandma. Grandma has kept him accountable and kept him in line when he felt the need to take creative license with his stories.

Some of the other hats Grandad has worn is Dad, Grandad, Greatgrandad, entrepreneur, manager, public speaker, wood turner, friend, traveller, fixer-upper… the list is actually endless. Through these many hats, he has taught me a lot. As my Dad pointed out, he instilled an immense sense of pride in each of us and allowed us to strive and work towards excellence. I think this is where I developed crazy high standards of myself, because my Grandad believes I can do anything I set my mind to. I’m very grateful for this gift.

Memories of my Grandad when we were young include sitting and listening to his wild and crazy stories from his boarding school days in the Blue Mountains and being terrorised by Brother Malackey, to growing up in Corrimal, to driving a wooden caravan across the Nullarbor plain and getting stuck in a sandstorm.

Born in 1936, my Grandad has seen a lot, been through a lot and created a lot. And he’s created, well completed, a book of writing prompts. Towards the end of 2019, Grandad was diagnosed with cancer, an awful disease which he is bravely and strongly fighting. I knew I needed to capture some of his famous stories so I gifted him a book of writing prompts which he kindly gifted back to me for Christmas.

A few years ago, my Grandad wrote a blog post for a uni assignment, so I thought it was time to bring him back to the blog with some snippets of his stories, and his life.

Grandad… you’ve got too many stories to fit in one blog post. So while I busily type them up and craft them in a way that captures your adventures, cheekiness and energy, I thought I’d begin by sharing some of my favourite things about you and Grandma. I’m lucky I’ve had 26 years of knowing you both, though I don’t think anyone could have predicted my first beer would be before I learnt how to talk (see image above).

Here are 26 things I’ve learned from and love about you.

  1. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink wine that comes from a cask
  2. You can get by with just one eye (though using a gun made by yourself and your brother is not advised)
  3. Learning is fun and cool
  4. So is running fast and looking after your health (I’m still waiting on my pair of golden spikes for winning the 100m dash in my age group)
  5. No matter how far or wide you move, your parents will always track you down and come for an extended visit
  6. It’s important to stay on top of technological advancements so you can Facetime and avoid email scams
  7. October Sky is the best movie ever made
  8. Little Beach and Shoal Bay Beach are the best on earth
  9. Marry someone you’re still obsessed with 65 years later, and deeply, madly, truly in love with
  10. Being a storyteller is a great thing to be known for – it brings people together
  11. Master the art of listening, especially if you end up with a storyteller (see point number 10)
  12. There’s nothing quite like a nice cup of tea and a biccie
  13. Be careful helping someone off the couch, you might just pull them onto the floor (I still can’t stop laughing about that one Grandma)
  14. You can’t get rich off of spock found in the depths of Cooper Pedy
  15. Something as iconic as the Warrnambool kiss can never be forgotton
  16. Travel far and wide, take lots of pictures
  17. The most traumatic thing you will go through is being stuck at preschool ‘All Day Mumma, All Day’
  18. Gifting someone one of your pens is possibly the best gift I could give
  19. Pickles belong on burgers – even though Grandma is willing to dive across the room to pull it off
  20. No one has a better memory than Grandma (except maybe Elly)
  21. Travelling around Australia in a caravan is the ultimate adventure
  22. There’s nothing Grandad can’t fix
  23. Shepard’s Pie is the ultimate comfort food
  24. Asking questions and being curious is a great asset to have
  25. It doesn’t matter how many days or months, you’re always there for a cuddle and to listen to my stories
  26. That above all else, family is love and love is forever

So, Grandma and Grandad, thank you for taking the time to write down some of your stories, I know you’re still busily one-finger-typing the rest of your memoir, just as I’m busily typing out your stories (watch this space). You’ve been so generous with your storytelling so I thought it was my turn to remind you of how much you mean to me.

Navigating Uncertainty and Workplace Insecurity

I recently found out that I’m losing my job. Which honestly didn’t come as a surprise given the economic impact that has hit higher education institutions across Australia. And whilst I am so grateful to have maintained my job throughout the pandemic, and realise how fortunate and lucky I have been to have a consistent income throughout this time – especially when millennials have been disproportionately impacted by job loss across Australia – it still sucks.

I’ve been working at UOW for almost 7 years, which is crazy to say. I studied there, worked there, created a network, friendships and a second family there. So it’s pretty crushing when you hear that the rug is being pulled out from under you. At this time, we’re still figuring out what this all means, and logistically what it will look like. One thing is for certain, there will be job cuts and our little work family is being broken up.

So how do you navigate times of immense stress, especially when your job and associated income is on the line? With so many questions, and little to no answers, how do you know which way is up? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers, but here are a few things that have helped me over the past few months navigate job insecurity and shifting uncertaintly.

Talk, rant, express yourself

Keeping all of these thoughts, feelings and emotions in, no matter how big or small they may seem, will not help you. If you have a colleague or friend that you trust and know that you can be completely open with, this is the person to call.

It’s important to do this because once you’ve said everything you need to say on the topic – you can move on. You’ve released it into the universe, let the universe take that stress from you now.

Control what you can

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot in the world out of our control. And whilst decisions are being made around you and it feels like you have no control over your career, life and path, realise that you do have control over what you do next and how you react.

I won’t lie, I spent several days being incredibly upset and in shock processing these changes. But after speaking to a friend, she reminded me that all we can do is control how we respond and carry ourselves forward. By shifting my attitude and perspective slightly, to look at opportunities available, it completely re-framed how I felt about the change.

Support your colleagues

While it might seem overwhelming being bombarded with Webex messages or emails with ‘are you ok?’ it’s nice to know that I have not only colleagues, but friends out there who care about me. It makes me feel like what I have contributed and what I bring to the organisation matters and hasn’t gone unnoticed.

So reach out, even if you’re not sure what to say, just knowing that someone is there to listen and is going through it with you is sometimes enough to not feel alone.

Have a day or two off

Sick leave and mental health days exist for a reason. When you experience change and an overwhelming sense of what feels like rejection or ‘not-good-enough-itis’ the emotional response results in physical responses. After I was told the news I was absolutely exhausted for several days afterwards. My body flooded with adrenaline and then crashed. I took a few days to feel it all, put things in perspective, and think about what was important to me.

This meant I could come back to work feeling more positive and inspired and actually motivated me to bring my best self to work.

Get sweaty

Go for a run, walk, swim, anything to get your heart pumping. I’m always surprised at how good I feel after a run and how I’m actually not able to think about all the stresses in life because I’m too busy concentrating on breathing.

Plus, channeling your energy into moving your body, physically releasing that stress that’s built up is hugely beneficial.

It’s shit and it’s ok

I’ve come to realise that anxiety, stress and shit times aren’t an Olympic sport. There’s no ‘winner’ (or in this case, loser). While yes, I can realise and acknowledge my luck and privileged position within society and be grateful for that, it doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to complain, cry or be affected by such a significant change in my life.

Change + challenges = growth

While it might be hard to see at the time, challenges and change we go through make us stronger, more resilient and help us grow. I know that it can sometimes feel like you’re running uphill, not making any progress, but maybe this hill will be even bigger and better than the last one.

*

At the end of the day, when all of this is said and done, I am more than my job. I am a whole, complex person with interests, hobbies, friends that actually define me.

There’s always a time to dig deep, work hard and hustle, but during times of stress and change, your own goal should be prioritising your health and wellbeing. Take time to reset, focus on what’s important to you, think about your next move, control what you can and let go of what you can’t.

To all my friends and colleagues who have been through, and are going through change, we’ve got this.

Chasing dreams and wanting different things

There’s certainly no such thing as a perfect break up. As the name suggests, when something breaks it often hurts. Something shatters and you have to be careful not to cut yourself as you pick up the fragments of broken glass. Perhaps it’s called a break ‘up’ because afterwards, everything is up in the air. You question everything. Your future, your beliefs, what you really want in life. You’re looking at all these pieces that have delicately been interconnected for several years hurtling through the air and all you can do is watch and hope you don’t get too hurt.

Sometimes break ups are defined by betrayal, anger or deceit (I’ve been there). Sometimes it’s moving, taking up that dream job interstate or having to return home once your visa expires (also been there). But what happens if there’s no catalyst for your break up? What if, one day you look at each other and you realise, you just want different things?

This is the situation I found myself in a few months ago. And let me tell you, it was extremely difficult. Rewind a few months before that and I was actually planning on packing up my life and moving to Mongolia to work (it’s a long story – basically I found myself a dream opportunity and it happened to be in Ulaanbaatar). Balancing these two desires – the desire to maintain your relationship and follow your dreams – is challenging enough under normal circumstances. It’s even harder when you admit and accept the path you’re on could take you somewhere like Mongolia (and honestly if not Mongolia, Vietnam, Japan, Canada or France). What’s even harder than that, is the moment your partner looks at you and says ‘that’s not what I want.’

When COVID-19 happened and the world went into lockdown, suddenly everything I believed in, was working for, and deeply cared about -travel, adventure, curiosity, connection – felt torn away. My whole life I’d been told that my life was mine to control (ha how naive). That if you worked hard, you could achieve anything (ha how privileged). From a young age, I came to realise that my love of travel was something more than a two-week holiday to the Gold Coast or Bali. It was an identity, a badge that I wore with pride. It was something that I felt defined me, down to my core belief systems.

I’ve been doing this for the majority of my life. From a young age, we moved around Australia (NSW > South Australia > Queensland > NSW), I turned 16 in New Zealand on exchange (my first ever overseas trip over 10 years ago!). I’ve been lucky enough to live around the world, London, France, Canada, Mexico, and I hope there’s many more opportunities like that to come. Mongolia was nearly added to the list.

I always wondered why it was that I was so drawn to travel and living overseas. After all, when your partner doesn’t want the same thing as you, it inherently makes you question why you want those things. Is it just to take photos for Instagram? Is it to spend drunk nights bar hopping around foreign cities? Is it to escape the stress of ‘reality’ in Australia? It wasn’t really until travel was off the table that I reflected on why it was so important to me.

For me, it aligns to deeply with my values of connection, adventure, living a life of purpose, curiosity and constantly learning. Of course, there are always other ways to seek out these things – all of which are equally exciting and valid in their own right. But for me I have never felt more ‘me’ than when I’ve been in a foreign country. When I’ve been fiercely independent, lost in new streets and knew that it was entirely up to me to navigate and shape the life I wanted in this new place.

I am so fortunate that I’ve been able to have the opportunities I’ve had. I’m so lucky and I’ve done nothing to deserve it. Once you get a taste for chasing your dreams, it’s hard to let go.

Which brings me to the moment when we looked at each other late one night, the ghost of my near move to Mongolia, the growing inevitability of a move to Sydney to be closer to work, and the realisation that Sydney and Mongolia meant more than just different living situations. She said the words first. I fought it. I blinked back tears. I didn’t want to accept it. But she had so simply and sweetly voiced what we had both obviously been thinking. Our paths were taking us in different directions, and we realised it was more than just wanting to live in different places.

It’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. But I tell you, loss fucking sucks. There’s not much worse than coming to terms with the fact that your romantic relationship is coming to an end. But I think something that would be worse is staying in a relationship, not chasing your dreams and end up regretting it – or even worse – resenting the other person. There’s no right or wrong choice, it’s just the choices you have in front of you at any given time.

COVID and the huge shift the world has felt has made me realise what is deeply important to me. My non negotiables. The dreams that are so big they scare me. It was an overdue reminder that life is so fucking short. We’re only on this earth for such a limited amount of time, and I honestly couldn’t bare it if I didn’t at least pursue or explore what is deeply burning within me.

What just might be the hardest part of this breakup is the question of love. Where does it go? Just because you want different things, doesn’t mean that you suddenly don’t love the other person. In fact, I think by accepting the fact that you’re on different paths, and actively choosing to navigate this tricky space with respect, shows how much you love them. Is the hardest breakup, not one filled with hate and betrayal, but one filled with love?

In these times, where things feel uncertain, overwhelming and just plain crazy, know what your values are, explore what your dreams are and hold on tight. Sometimes the hardest thing you’ll have to do is put all of your faith in yourself, but honestly, what if you actually get what you dreamed of? Again, it’s better to chase a dream and not reach it, than have no dream at all.

Of course, I am saddened by the end of this beautiful relationship. But I am delighted that the relationship continues as a caring and respectful friendship, and I am so grateful for all of the memories and experiences we shared together. No one knows what’s coming next, heck I don’t even know if 2020 knows what’s coming next, but I truly believe it will be great. I am determined and I’m chasing that dream.

6 Things I’ve Learnt From Seeing A Psychologist

Last year I started seeing a psychologist. And before you think ‘big deal,’ ‘why should I care,’ ‘what,’ – it is a big deal and I’m damn proud of it. It takes courage to ask for help. It takes commitment, it takes money, it takes a generous mental health care plan to make it affordable, it takes vulnerability and it takes a leap of faith. It requires the thinking ‘maybe this could work.’

I started seeing my psychologist about 12 months ago for a whole range of reasons that I won’t go into. But I must admit, I was very skeptical at first. I always thought I was tough enough to get through anything myself or didn’t need help. But I’ve come to realise that everyone needs support every now and then. That life can be tricky and sometimes you need a roadmap and the tools to get you through it. That sometimes you need an outsider to see you clearly, and help you understand more about yourself.

So, a few sessions, a few breakdowns and a few lessons later, here are a few things I’ve learnt from my psychologist.

Understanding my values

I’d say the biggest takeaway from my psych was coming to understand my values. To identify them can be challenging, and sometimes it’s not until you’re grappling with things that you know are not your values. I narrowed mine down to 8.

  1. having a sense of accomplishment
  2. being honest
  3. being courageous
  4. being loyal
  5. feeling good about myself
  6. striving to be a better person
  7. relationships filled with love and affection
  8. living a life filled with purpose

By knowing what your values are, it helps guides your decisions and helps you live in accordance to your values. And to keep you centred.

Self compassion is key

I’ve learnt that I have this habit of putting everyone else’s needs before mine. And whilst I pride myself on being kind and generous, learning to put my own needs first is something I’m trying to learn and implement.

Whenever I was struggling or feeling upset, I would always downplay what I was going through and say it wasn’t a big deal, or that other people had it worse than me. It’s a skill to be able to acknowledge and respect the feelings I’m going through, whilst also acknowledging my privilege. But mental health is not a pain Olympics. There is not a ‘worse than’ winner, there is simply a spectrum which fluctuates immensely.

Learning how to be self compassionate has been a huge learning curve and is something I’m still working on. My takeaway is this – however you feel – greet it, acknowledge it, act on it and simply let it exist. It doesn’t need to be compared or devalued, just simply felt.

Make time for yourself

Sure, I may have only committed a few hours to these appointments across the year, but I feel that this left a bigger mark and highlighted the importance of taking time out to look after yourself. Whether it’s a mental health day (or a wellbeing day – as I like to call it), spending a Friday night in, calling your family just to say hello, buying some pizza, getting your nails done, spending a day reading a book – you don’t owe anyone anything, and it’s completely OK to put yourself first.

Balancing being present and looking forward to the future

If anyone knows me, they know that I always have something planned, something in the works to look forward, and that’s usually a holiday or adventure (thanks COVID). Sometimes I get too caught up with planning and organising, that I overlook what I have right now.

But saying that, during COVID I’ve been Miss Present. Taking it one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time, because thinking about the future was too daunting. But now it’s July? And whilst I’ve appreciated the slower pace and more meaningful engagement of being present, I’ve failed to look forward and set goals for what I want to achieve. My worst nightmare would literally be waking up and I’m 90 years old thinking, ‘where did my life go?’

So it’s all a balancing act. Being able to accept the now and run with it, but also to make small goals that are aligned to your values, so that when the going gets tough, you’re on a path that you’re happy with.

Being real and vulnerable is hard

Let’s be honest, opening up old wounds is pretty traumatic. The way my psychologist put it was my thoughts and experiences have kind of been shoved into a linen closet. You know when you’re pushing to get that towel in and you shut the door, put your back against it and hope it stays in there? Yea that was my mind.

When you start digging deep and opening up, the doors smash open and the towels, sheets and random tennis balls all flood out, creating a huge mess all over the floor. It hurts, it’s emotional, it’s hard and it feels like you’re getting nowhere. When you start talking about it, you’re slowly folding it up and putting it back in with kindness and care.

Go slow

I somehow got into a bad habit of being busy. Weekends booked out months in advance, running from one thing to the next, feeling pressured to do things, see people and omg it’s exhausting. From working out what my values are and recognising that quality time, self-development and living a fulfilled life does not equate to ‘busy.’

Take the time to go slow, balance the now with the future, say no if you don’t feel like it, get in the ocean, make no plans and go easy on yourself.

***

I’m incredibly lucky to be able to access a psychologist to look after my mental health. It’s something I never thought I would do, it was something I was scared to do, but it’s also one of the bravest things I’ve done. Make sure to look after yourself, especially during these hard times. Reach out to your mates and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This is not business as usual

So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that ‘the disease that shall not be named’ is posing a much bigger threat to society than initially anticipated. COVID-19 has shown us how connected our world is and has shown that borders, policies or political leaders, cannot stop it.

And while we’ve been stumbling our way through it all, panic buying toilet paper and pasta, we’ve all been acting like business as usual, with a side of panic. The stats and data are there, this thing is dangerous and threatens the vulnerable. THIS IS NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL.

This means that we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done. We need to be critical, creative and caring. We need to think outside the box, make sacrifices and ultimately adopt a level of discomfort and uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

So I’m interrupting business as usual with some ideas and tips on how to navigate this difficult time without losing your mind, with realising there’s enough toilet paper for everyone, and holding on to what’s left of our humanity.

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats it’s most vulnerable members

Gandhi

There are many people around the world who are doing it tough in this difficult time. Everyone is struggling to adjust and adapt to this new reality, no one was prepared.

Be kind and patient. Assume that everyone is doing their best. Talk to loved ones and reach out, even if they seem fine, remember, this is not business as usual.

It’s OK to turn off news notifications and block alerts from social media. This doesn’t mean you’re being ignorant, it means that you’re trying to preserve yourself. This is a marathon.

Take care of yourself and the people around you. Wash your hands. Drink plenty of water. Invent a new way to give your housemate a hug.

Practice gratitude for the things you do have. Internet, access to information, clear blue skies (for the first time in months), a community, clean water, Netflix.

Remember that your inconveniences and hurdles, could be saving lives. Though I must admit, stressing about toilet paper is extremely inconvenient, I’m reminding myself that the world will not fall apart without it. Yes it sucks that your travel plans are affected, that party, festival, wedding is cancelled, but it will come when the time is right.

It’s normal to be anxious and concerned. Whilst no one knows what the next few months will bring, we all need to realise that we’re in this together. We will figure it out, we will respond, we will learn and we will grow.

We will get through this, but let’s keep our kindness and humanity in tact.

Finding your voice and racing to learn

There’s not many people who can get me panicked that I’ll miss a train at 6:30 in the morning, except for my friends. And on Sunday 8th March, International Women’s Day, I spent some quality time with some strong women that I’m lucky enough to call my friends.

Zina and I had tickets to the All About Women Festival in Sydney. It was our second year attending so I think this is the start of a new and exciting tradition for us.

Race to learn

We attended a session featuring the deity Flex Mami and iconic Clementine Ford all about ‘finding your voice,’ especially in the digital sphere. Just two seats away was my amazing colleague and I knew we’d have a lot to talk about when we returned to the office.

The conversation ebbed and flowed between why we may or may not need to find a strong online voice for ourselves, where our voices develop from and what drives us to voice our opinions and experiences.

“We always race to speak, but we don’t always race to learn and understand.”

Flex Mami

I thought that the biggest take away for me was that some of us are lucky to have a platform, my blog is one of mine. And that with a platform comes a responsibility.

My colleague asked me yesterday at work what was my purpose in life – I know, just small talk.

After thinking about it for some time, now, in the stage of my life I’m currently in, I replied, ‘to learn all that I can.’

I believe, what Clementine and Flex showed was vulnerability in not knowing things, in making mistakes and growing and evolving their ideas and values.

“No one finds their voice or comes into this world as a perfectly politically correct person.”

Clementine Ford

We’re all on this journey together, and this International Women’s Day, with the theme being Each for Equal, is really resonated that we’re all trying to do our best and understand this crazy world and our position in it.

So, what about my voice?

At 25 I know that I’ve got a voice. I know how to use it. I’ve perhaps used it irrationally before. And I’ve said things that I perhaps regret or shouldn’t have said.

But I’m aware of this. I feel so aware of my views, values and voice and I’m always questioning why I think, react and behave this way. I think what’s next for me is refining my voice. Cutting out all the shit, all the nonsense, all of the stuff that does not spark joy, and use my voice wisely.

I want to race to learn, rather than race to speak. Because I think when we learn and take our time, is when we grow and create magic.


A huge shoutout to the incredible women in my life who have shown me the way, and played a pivotal part in me finding more voice. To my family, friends, colleagues, role models, acquaintances… to the people who listen to me, support me and lift me… thank you.

This world is a better place with you in it.

Seeking discomfort

Maybe it’s Mercury in Retrograde, but maybe it means that something exciting is coming… I just have to find my way through it all.

I think it started at the turn on the new year. Entering a new year, a new decade, I felt myself starting to yearn for something big. I am very happy in my life right now don’t get me wrong – I guess it was more of a realisation that if I don’t do all of the things I want to do now, then when will I do it?

For example, I have said I’ve wanted to go to Tasmania for the last three years. I keep talking about it, imagining it, researching it, making plans, and guess what… I still haven’t gone to Tasmania. And if I don’t make my wants and needs a priority, maybe I’ll never go.

I feel like 2020 is a big year and that it’s the year for saying yes to something that scares the shit out of you. I feel that I’m in a great spot, a comfortable spot. I’ve created an amazing environment in my workplace, I’m friends with my colleagues, I’m good at what I do and I’ve been getting coffee from the same guy nearly everyday for 6 years, I live in a nice place with amazing people, I know all the good coffee spots around town… but I am afraid.

I am afraid of becoming too comfortable. I never want to take this comfort for granted, but I’m also not ready for my ‘once in a life time’ comfortable life. I’m 25 years old. Yes I could be engaged, saving to buy a house, heck, even popping out a kid or two. And while maybe that’s coming for me one day, I am currently seeking discomfort.

So this year I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Well, in several different rings. In several different locations, and industries, and positions… let’s just say there’s a lot of hats floating around with my name out there.

And maybe it’s asking too much to expect those hats to land perfectly aligned, perfectly timed, and in preference of where I would like to wear those hats… yep – I know I’m dreaming.

I guess in my current quest for discomfort, I’m bloody uncomfortable. I have to make hard decisions to make and need to dig deep to think about what I really want in life. Seeking discomfort doesn’t mean I’m not grateful and completely in love with my life as it currently stands. It just means that I’m ready for the next challenge, and maybe it’s time for me to step up.

Sometimes, all you can do is throw your hat in the ring and bask in the discomfort of not knowing where it will land.


In the spirit of seeking discomfort, this is the first in a new blogging series. I want to write more, be more open and connect with people who might be experiencing similar challenges, experiences in life.

So make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out on an update.


Recommendations

🎧She’s On The Money
Their latest episode ‘I see it, I like it, I want it, I got (credit card) debt,’ is a brilliant and important conversation about our society’s view of credit cards. It was a bit scary because they said several things that I have explicitly thought myself like ‘I’ll pay it off,’ ‘I only put necessary items on credit,’ etc. but the truth is, personal debt in Australia is crazy. We have one of the highest rates in the world and I have one. I don’t know if it’s me just trying to justify my use, but…. they’re not evil, I think it’s just a wake up call for me to reflect on my spending habits and think about what I buy on credit and how I could navigate my spending in a smarter way.

📺Liar
Whislt this TV series isn’t the most gripping, best acted show I’ve seen, the framing of this show is incredible. It will make you think about your biases, and turn them on their head. In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein verdict, I think this is incredibly important. The end of Episode 3 will have your mouth wide open in disbelief.