on finding your way

discovering the void in ourselves is just the start of the journey…

When I moved to Melbourne I planned to do a lot of writing. I imagined that this would be my biggest challenge and in a lot of ways it has been. For quite some time I found I couldn’t write. I’d get up in the mornings and sit at my desk ready and willing but no matter what I did, the words refused to join me. It was terribly distressing; I felt like a failure. It didn’t make sense. I knew what I wanted to say and was prepared to put in the hours, but it was as if the timing wasn’t right, as if the words weren’t ready. I didn’t just sit there of course, I did write some things. But everything I scribed seemed clumsy and jarred. Kind of like someone had taken a song I knew well and then played it back, slightly out of key.

And then poetry reared its pretty head. On the day it arrived, writing became easy. Now I can sit and pen two pieces over my muesli. It’s like whatever wind is blowing them in will not be stilled or quieted. Unfortunately, poetry takes a person nowhere but to the warm cave inside of themselves. It’s awfully snug, but it’s not the type of writing that can be rationalised; there’s no chance these words will prove in any way self sustaining.

And now I have a bigger problem. I am running out of money. Surprisingly, finding work in the city is difficult. Initially I’d imagined that supporting myself with casual teaching would be simple. I visited stacks of schools and was sure I’d soon begin to hear from them. I started waking at six am in anticipation for the phone call and I would iron my clothes in the evenings in readiness for a last minute rush. But no one rang. I sent follow up emails and heard nothing. I broadened my scope by venturing further afield and still the line remained silent.

The dwindling of finances has left me certain that contentment doesn’t come from opting out. Being poor is stressful. Jobs are necessary. The challenge isn’t in figuring out how to avoid work, but rather finding an occupation that will allow you to keep the actual fire burning while also fueling your spirit, making your insides warm. I miss working. I enjoy time spent writing but I miss the sharing. I miss other voices and the laughter. I miss making someone else a cup of tea and seeing the smile that thanks me. Truly, writing can be such a lonely pursuit.

So a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to begin to change some things. More than anything I suppose it was necessity that began to bump me outside of my box. I began applying for all types of jobs; not ones for which I’m acutely qualified, but ones I could imagine enjoying. This fortnight I have applied for upwards of ten non teaching jobs and I have grown unexpectedly excited by the prospect of being granted the opportunity to try something completely different.

This sudden feeling of hopefulness and exhilaration has led me to realise that somewhere along the line I’d lost track of what this year was about. To an extent, I’ve been waiting for fulfilment to kind of just rock up and join me while I go about the business of living. But I was being silly. If you want to be happy, you’ve got to bring it about for yourself. I don’t know why it’s taking me so long to realise that being passive doesn’t make things happen. I truly am the slowest of learners.

In the twenty first century it’s estimated that a person experiences an average of seven careers within their lifetime. These evolutions aren’t necessarily all radical; they may involve a promotion, for instance, or a change of duties within a profession. But the bottom line is that movement is an entirely normal element within the employment sphere. I’d come to this city searching for a change in scenery. It’s well and truly time to experiment with something new.

Some time after starting this journey, I forgot the point to it all. I’ve been dwelling on my need, rather than seeking my solution. This week I’ve come a little closer to synching with my purpose. And it feels good.

 

Have you undergone a career change during your working life? Were you glad that you did?

Peace and poetry, x

 

the stirring

Only The Elect Are Free

One of my many loathings is societal conditioning. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but admire the genius that devised the conspiracy. From day one we are programmed to contribute to the machine. When we are infants we are sent to school and the training begins. We’re taught maths and spelling and the position of America on the map, but most importantly we learn to do what we are told. Wear your uniform. Arrive on time. Follow the rules. Funnily, it takes only the most minimal and pathetic of recognitions to maintain these behaviours; a worthless commendation, a passing word of praise. In no time at all, we’re hooked.

We are indoctrinated so thoroughly that before long we begin to see those who do not entirely conform as pathetic failures. Those who take a day off here and there because they can’t be arsed doing something which seems to them utterly superfluous are frowned upon en mass. The guy who wears what in the hell he wants because he reckons the school administered blazer looks ridiculous is chastised and outcast. Why is he refusing to follow the rules?

Eventually we either drop out of school or graduate. Some are lucky enough to have fallen for the scam and actually celebrate the fact that they are finally free whilst arranging their ties and passively preparing to head off for another colourless day in the office. The less fortunate of us are more than aware that we are trapped. We are the ones that hate ourselves, because despite the most conscious of realisations, we do it anyway.

I hate the thought of dragging myself off to work every day, just because that’s what I’m expected to do. Last month I told my dad I’d been thinking of chucking in my job and trying something different. He almost had a stroke. The thought of four years training down the drain…

I just figure it would be better than the reality of a decade of life wasted when in ten years time, I’m still miserable. We only get to live once, right? Should our single aspiration really be to have a great big house, a dependable job and financial security..? I, for one would prefer to have a bloody good time.

And yet I haven’t quit yet. Go figure.

March, 2011

 

Last week I was quite ill. High on the dopey fuzz of cold and flu medication, I used the down time to restore some semblance of order to the many document files I’ve confused with obscure thoughts, unrealised ideas and the incomplete ponderings of my scattered mind over the past few years.

During the reading and deleting process, I stumbled upon the above rambling. I suspect that younger me would be both pleased and surprised to learn of the changes that have transpired since the moment when, in her hopelessness, she penned this piece. If the feelings of my present self are indicative, it’s a fair certainty.

 

what’s your number?

No one here needs reminding that life’s not a fairy tale; it’s a complicated, messy business. So unless your situation is altogether unique, chances are you’ve both enjoyed and endured a number of romantic relationships in your time.

According to a recent American study, the median number of sexual partners for a man in his life time is seven. For a woman, the median is four. Of course, this research included no data to illustrate the benefits gained from each relationship and the varied ways in which they enriched the lives of the participants; those would be things near impossible to quantify.

I think it is important to acknowledge that when it comes to love, it’s not the number with whom we’ve shared it that’s important but rather the nature of the beast; the way it inflates us, making us daring, eager, energised. Such is its potency and poignancy that even after a relationship has ended an echo of that former lover remains somewhere within our selves ever onward.

When I was younger, I naively believed that the number of sexual partners a person inadvertently accumulated was important; that it somehow reflected something about a person. My ignorance had me thinking that those with a larger number were careless. I thought love was special, and that by bandying it about they were lessening its value. Needless to say, I was missing the point.

As I matured and began accumulating the battle scars of life, I grew to recognise that the gradual accumulation of lovers is something we can’t always control. There is very little one can do about a relationship ending and furthermore, as ceaseless pursuers of the sublime, we’d be foolish to turn new love away when, bright eyed and bumbling, he finally comes calling.

If we could choose to meet our other the first time around (assuming there is such a one) I suppose there’d be many of us who would. For myself I’m not so sure. Because while the notion of feeling settled and at home with another is entirely appealing, the experiences I’ve been granted through my interactions with previous partners (desirable and otherwise) have stitched for me a vivid patchwork of a past.

For this reason, rather than pointlessly attempting to minimise our number of romantic experiences, we need simply to see the importance of carefully selecting partners we’d be happy to see woven into our personal history. After all, while there’s a chance there’ll come a day that our partners will leave us, our past never will.

Lovers are parasites; every one you take claims and keeps some many tiny parts of you. Likewise, when the time comes that you shake them off, wandering alone into the blue, you will have collected some of their colours, placing them among your pieces for the rest of your days. An eternal legacy of lovers lost.

 

This road can be rough but when you choose the scenic route there are so many wonderful things to see. Life is short and sights are all the more glorious when you’ve someone with whom to admire them. So go ahead and ask her: what’s your number?

 

‘Cause you can just never know; maybe the next one will be for the keeping.

 

What legacies have your lovers left with you?

Do you regret past partners, or see each as representing a chapter of your story?

 

the new black: you and your quarter life crisis

When I decided to run away at the end of last year, throwing in my job to commence a desperate search for contentment and meaning, I had never felt so alone. At the time I was convinced I was the only person to have ever experienced the poignant feelings of failure and inadequacy that were undermining my identity. Yet from the moment I began writing about my journey, I became aware of an entire generation of people in the same position; feeling despondent and confused. Believing, as I did, they were lonely islands. Since the commencement of this year, I’ve received many emails and messages from people who’ve been where I am. Sadly, due to commitments and responsibilities, many find themselves in a state of stuckness, unable to break from the blue. But others answered the call for change and have shared stories of wonderfully positive personal outcomes.

There’s no shortage of research on the subject of the quarter life crisis. In fact, scientists and psychologists agree that the condition is nearing epidemic standards in the western world. Growth in levels of insecurity and depression are now affecting approximately one third of people in their mid twenties to early thirties, with educated professionals deemed most likely to suffer.

Author and expert Damian Barr suggests that in the twenty first century, people in this age bracket are experiencing pressures not previously endured until our forties. “Our 20s are not, as they were for our parents, a decade of tie-dyed fun and quality ‘me’ time,” Barr explains. “Being twenty something now is scary – fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and finding time to juggle all your relationships.”

As well, we’ve been raised by a media obsessed with granting us the empty promise of limitless possibilities. From the youngest of ages we’ve passively received the message that success means achieving everything. All at once we crave celebrity, yearn travel, strive to look excellent, desire to be experts in our field, attempt to develop and maintain quality relationships. This perception of what it means to be successful inevitably leads to a period of radical disillusionment when the superman mentality proves impossible. At this point, we’re either broken by our inability to do it all and are left feeling like failures, or else we’re torn by our seemingly unnatural and ungrateful lack of whim to have everything and seek things we don’t necessarily want for fear of being left behind.

Thankfully, there are some positive trends for quarter life crisis sufferers. Wonderfully, research suggests that these transitional dilemmas, which typically last around two years, often lead to individuals building and concreting for themselves greatly improved lives.

Researcher Doctor Oliver Robinson from the University of Greenwich in London posed four stages for the quarter life crisis. The first is characterised by an illusory feeling of being trapped within a job or a relationship; logically you know you can leave, but emotionally you feel that you can’t. The second begins with the realisation that change is possible, leading to emotional conflict and upheaval; a difficulty which proves a vital catalyst for positive change. The crisis then shifts into its third stage; the structuring of a new, alternate life and seeking broader personal clarity. The fourth and final stage consists of cementing fresh commitments which more closely reflect your inherent interests, aspirations and values.

Experts suggest that the way to emerge from the crux of a quarter life crisis is to plan for success and make clear goals. If you feel you don’t have enough direction to make long term goals, they suggest you start with shorter termed ones and work your way up. Having a creative pursuit has been found to help people through quarter life crises, providing an emotional outlet as well as a medium through which to explore and expose thoughts and feelings. Experts propose using this time of transition to pursue interests and the things you’ve always wanted to do. And of course, if you feel you need professional guidance, don’t hesitate; seek it. In life, we only ever get that for which we ask.

Though I currently feel no less lost than I was four months ago, I’m beginning to feel much more hopeful and certainly less alone. I truly think we’re going to be okay, guys. When I’m feeling particularly confused, I find it helpful to remember some words an old friend once gifted me. She said that nothing that is for you will ever go past you. So que sera, sera; what will be, will be. Just make sure your eyes and palms are ever open, quietly waiting.

 

 

If you’re interested in reading more, here are a couple of the articles I read while perusing the subject.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/05/quarterlife-crisis-young-insecure-depressed

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/surviving-the-quarterlife-crisis-20100405-rmat.html

 

all women are fickle

“all women are fickle” or

Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night.

 

fick-le

1. Marked by erratic changeableness in affections or attachments

2. Erratic: liable to sudden and unpredictable change

3. Insincere; not loyal or reliable

4. Faithlessness: unfaithful by virtue of being unreliable or treacherous

5. Unstable, especially with regard to affections or attachments

 

Yesterday evening I was enjoying the company of a typically lovely male companion, when he casually dropped this statement. Initially I was convinced that he was simply baiting me, so I humoured him somewhat, feigning insult and injury whilst generally playing along with what I had thought was a rouse. However, it wasn’t long before I realised that he had in fact meant exactly what he said; he truly believed that, collectively, women can be described using the term above defined.

Naturally I got serious very quickly, and had it not been for him backing down (he lives with a woman after all, and isn’t a silly fellow), things could have become messy quite quickly. As a self confessed feminist (let’s leave that one alone for another time) and a lady who prides herself on possessing strong and unwavering convictions, I found it difficult to hear such sweeping generalisations about what is obviously the fairer sex. (That’s a joke. Or is it?) As well as this, I was indignant; how can a person (regardless of gender) truly believe that all women can be characterised as insincere, unreliable beings who are unable to form lasting attachments to others, or even their own perspectives?

Thankfully we were able to bury the issue and enjoyed a perfectly amiable evening of wine and music, but the conversation got me thinking about the merits of saying the things that we think. Is honesty the best policy, or are there times when we should stifle our thoughts for the sake of the feelings of our significant (and insignificant) others?

 

For the most part, we all censure ourselves to some extent. This happens naturally in social discourse and is considered a necessary way of keeping the peace and maintaining pleasantries, whilst also ensuring the feelings of others are respected. Biting our tongue is something we are trained to do at a very young age; observe any toddler in a social setting with their parent and you can watch the conditioning taking place. I remember my sister telling me a while back about a time she’d been in a Doctor’s surgery with my niece, who was two and a half at the time. Turning to an older lady sitting on a chair nearby, she had stated as a matter of fact, ‘you’re very fat.’ Of course, this was followed by much embarrassment and flustered apologising on my sister’s behalf, who then proceeded to explain to my niece in no uncertain terms that you aren’t supposed to ever say such things out loud, regardless of whether they are true. In the given context, this lesson was clearly necessary; there is little to be gained by pointing out to a lady in a doctor’s surgery that she’s eaten too many doughnuts, after all. But having said this, are there times when speaking the truth and being blunt with our beliefs could prove beneficial?

Some people, as a result of the wiring of their minds, are unable to refrain from expressing their thoughts honestly and without inhibition. While this can occasionally be hurtful, it is often charming and refreshing. A perfect example comes to mind regarding a young man I used to teach (for the benefit of this anecdote, let’s call him James). James has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a condition that impairs one’s ability to understand and respond to social cues and conventions. A gangly fourteen year old with awkward mannerisms and a perpetual smile dwelling on the edge of his lips, this young fellow is a joy. However, on one occasion I happened to have a particularly nasty looking sore on my top lip, and while most people had been subtle enough not to mention it, James barrelled up to me whilst entering the classroom and exclaimed loudly ‘Geez, Miss what happened to your face?! It’s not very pretty today!’ To which I replied, ‘yeah, thanks dude. I hadn’t noticed.’ To which he responded (remembering that he has Asperger’s and comprehends purely on a literal level) ‘Oh. Well there’s a huge sore on your face. Go and have a look in the mirror, it’s gross!’ Thanks, James. Big up, man.

I think that possibly, there simply aren’t enough James’ in this world. Because whilst I clearly didn’t need to be reminded about the throbbing, oozing sore on my face (don’t worry, I’m exaggerating), it takes a certain strength and courage to stand proudly and with a big loud voice, state what everyone else is pretending not to see. I guess what I’m saying is that having an opinion and expressing it with passion cannot be a bad thing. After all, if you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.

Just make sure when you’re voicing your opinions that they’re something for which you’re willing to fall, fighting.

To end where we began, I am sure that when he accused my gender of being fickle, my gentleman friend wasn’t considering the extent of the negative connotations that the word implies, but rather simply meant that generally, women have the tendency to be more indecisive when making decisions and are typically more likely to weigh and consider multiple perspectives in comparison to our male counterparts. I suppose that if nothing else, this is a lesson in selecting our words so that what we say is in direct correlation to what we mean.

 

Because whilst we women may not be fickle, we can be terribly touchy when scorned.