Gotta have goals

I don’t want to bumble along from year to year, going with the flow, not really moving in any particular direction, just drifting. I feel like I frittered away a good chunk of my 20s doing just that. Now, finally, I can see a clear path in front of me, and the distance between where I am now and where I want to be is still pretty big, but I can see the steps I need to take to get me there.

To that end, I’ve come up with a series of goals for the year that I’ve emblazoned around the edges of my wall planner for 2014. The wall planner allows me to see the whole year on one page, next to which is the calendar which shows each month, next to that is a whiteboard which I draw up each week, and next to that is my diary for the day-to-day stuff; how’s that for organisation? Seeing as we’re already into the second quarter of the year it’s about time I wrote about this. Below are my ten goals for the year, in the approximate order that they came to me.

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Do nutrition coaching course

In the (otherwise awesome) personal training course that I did in 2012 we spent all of half a day talking about nutrition. Since then I’ve completed a short diet and nutrition course by correspondence, but it still wasn’t enough. I have a brain that loves to learn, and I feel it starts to stagnate if I don’t throw new stuff at it on a regular basis.

In the pursuit of health, I believe that the way one eats is a more powerful tool than the way one exercises, and that exercise alone often isn’t enough – the nutrition has to be there as well. I also think that the way that I eat is generally excellent, but that doesn’t give me free license to push my eating habits on others. I want to back myself with science, not “Mum and Dad taught me to eat this way so it must be right”, even though they are both very switched on when it comes to nutrition, for which I am eternally grateful.

So, I’ve enrolled with Precision Nutrition, a Canadian company, to do a nutrition coaching course which is split between the science of nutrition and the art of coaching. My textbook has arrived and I’m keen to get stuck in and do some learning.

Find somewhere to live in Mot

I can tick this one off already as I’ve just moved from the wop wops of Mārahau, where I’ve been for the last year or so, to the big smoke of Motueka (population 7500). All my work is in Motueka, so it makes no sense to have to drive for half an hour to get to it, especially when I often have an hour here and an hour there with down time in between; I was starting to feel like a bit of a hobo.

Increase client base

I’m not putting much energy into this right now, as I’m waiting for a few things to happen first. But once I’m ready to take action I’m confident I’ll get the results I want.

Get a brain job – NO MORE HOSPO!

I could write an entire post on why working in hospitality sucks, but it would be an angry rant filled with bad language, which is not really my thing. Anyone who’s worked in hospitality knows how bad the conditions can be and how demeaning it is, and for someone who has loads of great skills (me) it’s particularly demoralising to not be realising my potential.

Over summer, where I fell into the hospo trap yet again, I reached my limit – I thought I’d already reached it several times, but this time I really reached it – I knew that if I didn’t leave I would break something, or someone, or internally combust. So I left. And as a result it freed up my time to pursue more meaningful work, work that inspires me rather than kills me a little bit more inside each day I do it. I’m currently in the process of securing a contract to do some research and writing for someone who’s writing a book, now that is exciting!

Save money for a house

With all the other things that are going on this year, this goal isn’t a high priority. However, I have finally joined Kiwisaver, so in a way I have started saving by doing that.

Take Christmas and New Year’s off

Over last year’s holiday period I ended up working a lot and only had about two days off in 14, which left me feeling pretty hard done by and like everyone else was having fun except me. I was stoked that my clients wanted to train right through but it occurred to me that I might need to take a break from them. This year I won’t be working in hospitality so it’ll be easier to take a decent break, from everything.

Learn about trigger points

I’m really excited about this goal. I’ve had a few massages from a friend who works with trigger points and have been amazed with the results. The basic premise is that pain is often referred from other muscles, so the place where you feel pain is not necessarily the source of the problem; you need to work backwards to find the muscle that is tight, and release the tension there. I’ve experienced this three times so far: my elbow joint hurt because a forearm muscle was tight, the inside of my knee hurt because a muscle in my inner thigh was tight, and my inner ankle hurt because my calf muscle was tight.

I’m going to write another post soon about these as I think they’re really fascinating, but for now, suffice it to say I’ve bought the trigger point manual and I intend to read it from cover to cover and to learn as much as I can about trigger points because let’s face it, being in pain sucks, and you’ll never alleviate your pain if you’re missing the point, literally.

Make knees less saggy

Yeah, yeah I can hear you all laughing, this is a very shallow and vain goal, but it’s my goal and it’s important to me, nonetheless. I don’t know if it’s from the thousands of knees I’ve thrown with my Muay Thai practice, or if it’s just another sign of aging, along with the grey hairs that I endlessly pull out with tweezers but refuse to cover with dye, but my knees are saggy and I don’t like it. My skin, in general, seems to be eternally dry, so maybe if I make a concerted effort to rehydrate it my knees will hike themselves back up too.

Ditch shampoo

There’s enough pollution all around me that I can’t control, like radiation form cell phones and Wi-Fi, without me consciously putting chemicals on my head. I want to minimise the junk in and around me, but I also want to look good too – what a calamity! On a good hair day (these occurs rarely) my hair forms loose, frizz-free ringlets that look pretty cool. On a bad hair day (these occur frequently) my hair is an unruly mess – greasy at the top, dry at the bottom, and a tangle of frizz in between.

I’m getting married in just under two years and I want to absolutely have a very good hair day on my wedding day, and I want it to be a lot longer than it is now, so about now is the time frame I need to be working at to make sure this happens. Shampoo is shit. It strips all the natural oils out of your hair so that your scalp goes into overdrive creating more, which you then strip off with more shampoo, which you then send down the drain and, eventually, out to sea. Recently I’ve experimented with a rosemary and honey mixture but it was a lot of work and the result was less than ideal. For now, I’m using this product, which works very well, but unfortunately has a long list of dubious ingredients.

Type Mum’s book

This is more of a to-do than a goal, but I am keen to get it done this winter. Mum doesn’t own a cell phone or a computer or even have an email address, so I’m her main link with technology. Her ‘book’ is a thick wad of handwritten pages held together in a ring binder, decorated with arrows and stars and crossed out sentences. It’s the story of her life, from her arrival by boat from London at the age of three, growing up in the 50s and 60s in various parts of New Zealand, deaths, births, living in grass huts in the Hokianga… I’m not born yet so I’m yet to see what she writes about me. Her writing is descriptive and often flowery, and the way she lived is so different from the way people live these days. It’ll make a great read, and we hope to publish it eventually.

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How to move house without losing yourself

I’ve just moved house for the tenth time in the last two-and-a-quarter years. Anyone would think I was running away from something. I’m not. I’m running towards a better place, each and every time; that’s what I tell myself anyway.

The last place I felt really settled was the house in Dunedin where I lived for three years. I’d returned from a stint overseas and all I wanted was a kitchen and a garden and to stop living out of a backpack. I loved that house, I fantasised about buying it and doing it up and living there forever.

I replaced the missing panes of glass in the glasshouse and grew tomatoes and cucumbers and basil and chillies in there. Outside I grew beetroot and red onions and peas and carrots and coriander. When I first started contemplating leaving Dunedin for Auckland it was the coriander patch that yanked the most firmly on my heart strings: the few plants I’d initially bought had multiplied into a miniature forest that burst through the soil of its own accord early each spring, proving that it had survived yet another gruelling Dunedin winter.

Interestingly, the spring that I left Dunedin the coriander never came up.

I remember lying in my bed looking around at all my possessions and wondering what the hell I would do with them all. The bed itself, a dresser, sets of drawers, couches, tables and chairs, a TV, none of it was worth shipping to Auckland so it all had to go. The memories that had been created within the parameters of that house and garden also had to be dismantled and stored away in little boxes in the recesses of my mind.

My friend and flatmate, Kate, and I had had some great times in that place; we were the hostesses with the mostess: we’d invite friends around for barbeques and everyone would always know that they could expect a mean spread to be laid on. Other times we’d get the fire blazing and play endless hours of cards or scrabble or poker, or do 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles, or watch episode after episode of Outrageous Fortune or Dexter.

The trick to moving house without your life completely coming apart at the seams is to pack up the stuff you use least first. Pictures can come off walls, books into boxes, linen and towels and other-season clothes can all be packed away. Leave out the things you use every day until the very last minute – you’ll need them again soon and you don’t want to be rummaging around in the bottom of a box searching for that elusive hairbrush/toothbrush/most comfortable pair of undies.

You’d think that with all this packing and moving and unpacking I’d have whittled down my possessions by now but I haven’t. I still have my jigsaw puzzle collection that I cart around with me – some of them I’ve had since I was little and they’re filled with memories of doing puzzles with Dad. I have Rupert the Bear books that Dad also used to read to me and I want to one day read to the children in my life. I have records and CDs and framed pictures and textbooks and clothes and exercise equipment and pots and pans and cups and bowls and teaspoons… And a great collection of cardboard boxes that I’ve learned to not throw away.

If I didn’t have all these material possessions I would still be me, but these things help me redefine myself whenever I move house. My coffee cup and frying pan and chopping board help me to feel at home in a new place. My memories and experiences and all the things that make me me are embedded in the nooks and crannies and creases of all these objects that I refuse to stop bringing with me.

I never moved house as a kid. I was born in the house where my mum still lives now and my roots run deep there. I think if I hadn’t had this foundation in life I would be finding all the moving around I’ve been doing over the last couple of years really hard. But moving around and trying different options has helped me to know who I am and where I come from, and, little by little, I’m figuring out where I want to be and what my purpose is. It’s kind of a process of elimination – each living arrangement that doesn’t work gives me a clearer idea of what my ideal is, I take the snippets that did work with me and I leave the rest behind.

One day (soon, I hope) I’ll be putting down a new coriander patch, and making much more permanent gestures too, like planting trees and arranging vegetable gardens and unrolling and framing that beautiful print I bought in Thailand 16 years ago. I might even get around to framing all my degrees and diplomas and certificates too and finally allowing myself to acknowledge how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved, even if it has been in a very higgledy-piggledy, roundabout kind of way.

The brain tells the body how to feel

This will be a life-long lesson for me, I think. There was a time in my life, a few years ago, when I felt so good that I seriously started to wonder if there were steroids in the Chinese potions I was drinking for a mysterious illness I was trying to fix (more on that soon).

I was living in Dunedin and winter was approaching, which is usually a time to batten down the hatches in preparation for the grim months ahead. Yet here I was, bursting with energy and enthusiasm. There was a spring in my step and all I could see was beauty all around me. I was waking up early feeling excited about each day, exercising more than usual, and doing weird things like switching off the TV in the evening to do the vacuuming because I was too hyperactive to sit still. It was such a deviation from where I’d been that I was pleasantly surprised, but with equal measures of suspicion at how good I felt, like when a friend is uncharacteristically kind and helpful just before they ask for a massive favour.

It was a boy, of course, who brought about this change in me. Meeting someone new allowed me to finally and fully extract myself from the dregs of a relationship that was well and truly dead. And had been for some time. It was no one’s fault but my own, but sometimes when you’re so deeply entrenched in a situation you cease to see the wood for the trees, right?

What I was experiencing was like waking up from a very deep and troubling sleep to find that the world is beautiful, after all. Unfortunately, things promptly went pear-shaped with my new love interest and what ensued culminated into what has been the most difficult year of my life to date. But that’s not the point. The point is that I freed myself from a bad situation and I felt bloody good for having done it. I also completed my thesis that year and healed myself of my mysterious illness. I guess sometimes a bit of adversity can actually do us some good, in the long run.

More recently, I experienced the flip side. I felt so low that I was almost convinced I had hypothyroidism, or if not that then a brain tumour, or cancer. I wanted there to be a physical ailment which could explain why I felt so depleted. I was thirty-something, single, childless, career-less, penniless, and feeling like a complete failure, drifting aimlessly with no sense of place or purpose.

I was the same person as I had been before; I occupied the same body, I ate the same food, I exercised the same, yet my situation was completely different and that’s what was wearing me down. My mental happiness affects my physical sense of well-being one hundred per cent of the time, and yet so often I lose sight of this fact. Do you? It’s where my head is at that determines whether I wake up early feeling excited about life or whether I sleep late, unwilling to face the boring reality of my life. It’s my brain that puts the spring in my step, or makes my limbs feel like they’re made of lead. The brain tells the body how to feel. The brain is the master controller and the body is its vessel, to try and separate the two is folly.

 

people like people like themselves

When I was thinking about starting a blog, my rationale for doing so was based around a feeling of having a head full of knowledge and information and ideas and thoughts and experiences that I wanted to get out. I wanted an outlet for writing creatively, but I also liked the idea that my words might help or inspire or motivate other people. I guess, in a way, I was wanting to connect with other people like me.

I spent a fair amount of time browsing other people’s blogs before I found any that caught my interest. None of the blogs I currently follow have anything to do with health or fitness. The blog posts that really glue my eyes to the screen talk about the stuff under the surface: doubt, fear, self-analysis, self-acceptance (or lack of), sexuality, abuse, failure, relationships, friendships, and just how shit life sometimes is. This is the stuff that really gets me going. The blog I currently enjoy reading the most is written by someone of a different gender, generation, geographic location and sexual orientation than me. I have nothing in common with this person; yet his writing speaks to me in a language I understand: the language of a thoughtful introvert.

They say the sign of a true friendship is one where months or even years can go by with little to no contact, yet when you get together it seems as if no time has gone by since you last met, and there are no feelings of guilt for not keeping in touch or expectations around what you should have accomplished or achieved since last time.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending a few days with some people I did a year-long outdoor course with 13 years ago. Some of them I’d caught up with over the years and some I hadn’t, and the range of paths we’d each gone down was vast: from working in the outdoors to running businesses, raising families to working on farms. Yet there was no judgement whatsoever, nobody was better or worse than the next person because of what they had or hadn’t achieved. Mostly we just laughed a lot and reminisced about the good old days of pooing in the bush and wrapping canoes around rocks.

So much of life is about ambition and success. How much money we make, what car we drive, how nice our house is, what new gadgets we own; trying to project an air of success by pushing our successes on others. This isolates people. It doesn’t help people know that they’re not alone, it doesn’t tell people that it’s okay to feel like shit every now and then, and that feeling like shit is part of life and is equally as important as feeling awesome. It’s the shit that defines us more than the successes do. I think so anyway. It’s also reassuring to know that the people we perceive as being successful don’t always see themselves that way.

What is success anyway? I guess it depends on what your goals are. One of my benchmarks for success is waking up early, without an alarm, feeling rested and ready for the day. Whatever happens after that is of lesser importance, but it’s bound to be good. Waking up late, feeling tired and grumpy is usually the precursor to a shit day for me. So you can see, money and material gains aren’t necessarily measures of success in my book.

I’m not really that concerned with how much money you make, but I do want to know about the mettle of your character. I want to know if you treat other people the way you’d like to be treated even if it doesn’t seem to be paying off right now (trust me, give it time and it will). I want to know how you respond to adversity and hardship, not how many properties you own or how expensive your clothes are. I want to know whether you’re willing to address the unresolved stuff in your life, or if you’re pushing it back to the darkest recesses of your mind in the hope that if you ignore it for long enough it’ll go away. I want to know if you learn from your mistakes, or are you continually repeating the same behaviours expecting to get a different outcome.

I think all each of us ever wants is just to be accepted for who we are, and to be comfortable with who that person is. We just want to be liked, by other people, like ourselves.

On being jobless

I’m ‘between jobs’ at the moment. By that I mean that I quit my last job because I didn’t like it, and I don’t yet know what my next job will be. This has been going on for almost two months now, and I’m managing to pay the bills in this ever-extending interim through a combination of seeing my few personal training clients, mowing my mum’s lawns and word processing her book which she wrote by hand, and working for my dad doing either fairly heavy manual labour or hours of mindless weeding in the garden.

With the money I make from doing this I pay my rent, power, phone and internet, put some petrol in my car and buy a bit of food. Not having any disposable income sure does simplify things: I’m financially limited by what I can do, but I do have plenty of time to think and reflect. I was talking to my brother on the phone a while ago and he was saying that his levels of stress and unhappiness with his job have risen in equal proportions alongside the increases in his salary.

Sure it’s great to have loads of money, but at what cost? What are all those dollars worth if your health or happiness or time or energy is overly compromised? I wonder if there is a critical point (which would be different for each person) at which the work/life balance is perfected. A point at which all the positive aspects of working – a feeling of contributing something of value, being part of a team or an expert in your field, having a sense of purpose, and being fairly remunerated for your time don’t detract from life outside of work – friends, family, hobbies, chores, and relaxation time.

If the work/life balance lies along a continuum, with the sweet spot somewhere in the middle, I think my brother would be pretty close to one end: he gets paid well doing something he loves, but, because of his position, can’t leave the job behind at the end of the day, to the point where it’s encroaching far too much into his personal life and compromising his happiness.

I, on the other hand, would sit at the opposite end of the continuum from my brother. I’ve got all the time in the world, but no money and no sense of purpose or direction. Work, to me, means physically travelling from home to my workplace, working with other people doing something I’m good at and enjoy and is beneficial or useful or helpful in some way, then when I’ve finished working I leave, mentally and physically, and do other stuff.

It’s the ‘doing something I’m good at and enjoy’ that’s the most important part for me. I could be working right now if my only criterion was ‘have a job’, but there are certain jobs that I’m simply not willing to do. Yeah that does make me a bit of a princess, but after all the study I’ve done, all the qualifications I hold, it would kill me inside to take a job at, say, a supermarket or a petrol station. I just can’t do it. Which brings me to where I am now: sitting on my bed in my onesie at 11:30 AM. I should be at work like all the other upstanding citizens of this country who work hard, pay their taxes, pay their bills, pay their mortgages, and pay for all the stuff they think they need.

To be honest, it is getting a bit depressing. I’m in a bit of a pickle because, on the one hand, I feel like I should be contributing more, doing more, being more, but on the other hand I really really really want to be doing something meaningful, that’s true to my values and makes me feel good about myself. So, yes, working too much can negatively affect your overall happiness, but so can working too little.

I wonder what the outcome of this will be. Will I crumble and take a hospo job even though I promised myself never again, or will I wait for something more meaningful?

Why do the goalposts keep moving?

When I was a kid I always wanted to be an architect. Well, once I realised that being a princess wasn’t an actual job anyway. I used to make Lego houses with flip-top roofs which revealed the layout of the rooms beneath. I took technical drawing as one of my optional classes at high school; I loved the precision of straight lines and perfect curves, of drawing in isometric view with vanishing points, perspective and foreshortening. Somewhere along the way technical drawing morphed into graphic design which I liked less – too much focus on the evolution of a design concept and not enough straight lines. Not clinical enough for me.

I talked to a family friend who’s an architect about what I needed to study to go down this career path. She informed me that maths and physics were integral components of architecture. But I wasn’t interested in maths or physics by then. In my last year at high school I studied English, P.E., graphics, painting, and photography – no maths or science to be seen. I had no intention of going to university after high school, I’d already been at school for 12 years and I wanted a break. When I was awarded runner-up to dux at the prize giving ceremony that I almost didn’t bother attending they announced I was taking a year off before I continued my studies. I never said that! I probably said that I couldn’t wait to be free from the institution of school and all I planned on doing was riding my bike and going to the beach, but that wouldn’t have sounded very good would it?

That’s pretty much what I did though. I relished my freedom and made the most of it. I was still living at home so I had pretty much no expenses, only my car (I learned to drive when I was 15, and have owned a vehicle ever since). In the year after I finished high school I completed a herbalism course, I did shows on the local community radio station, Fresh FM, I worked for my dad and saved enough money to go on a two month holiday to Thailand with a friend, and I attended an outdoor course at Whenua Iti – the local outdoor pursuits centre.

The next year I went to Australia with three friends and we worked and travelled our way around the eastern half of the country, it was great! Then I went back to Whenua Iti and completed a year-long outdoor course where we did almost every outdoor pursuit you could think of – sea kayaking, river kayaking, canoeing, rafting, rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, tramping… I came away from the course knowing that I wanted to work in the outdoors but not in tourism, so working for the Department of Conservation (DoC) seemed like a good avenue to go down. I started by volunteering with DoC to get some experience and to let them know I was keen. The voluntary work took me to some pretty cool places – helicopter rides to the tops of mountains to survey for threatened plant species, or into the remote wilderness of Fiordland to survey for the Fiordland crested penguin.

Eventually the volunteering paid off and I got some paid work, but it was a contract which eventually came to an end. It was around this time that it started to dawn on me that if I wanted to get anywhere in life I may need to get a better education. The people I was working with all had at least one degree, and I kept getting asked if I had one.

Within a few weeks of starting to look into it I was enrolled to study for a Bachelor of Science at the University of Otago in Dunedin. I’d been to Dunedin once before but I essentially knew no one. I chose Otago for its favourable reputation, especially in the sciences, and because I wanted to live in a university town rather than a town that also happened to have a university. I was 23 when I started uni and I’d been out of high school for five years, whereas most of my fellow first-years were fresh out of high school. I felt particularly old and out of place, but I was there to study and I was serious about it. Making friends wasn’t a priority, although I did make some really good friends, and also got my first boyfriend.

I completed my BSc in three years, took a year off, then came back for a Postgraduate Diploma in Science, took a couple of years off, then came back to write a thesis (on the topic of air pollution and climatology), and now have a Master of Science degree. During my studies I wrote two articles that have been published in academic journals, and I managed to make it all the way through university without getting a single C; As and Bs only. I should be more proud of this than I am. I’m almost embarrassed to write about it and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel that I’ve used these qualifications to their full potential. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a 9-5 job with a salary. Maybe it’s because after five years of tertiary study where I worked bloody hard I did an about turn and decided I didn’t want to be chained to a desk for 40 hours a week and that I wanted to be a personal trainer instead.

I’m smart enough that I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to, but I’ve never committed to anything for long enough to really bring it into fruition. I can be so sure about something that I’m willing to devote all my time and energy to pursuing it, then when it’s just within my grasp I lose interest. Why am I like this? Why can’t I just choose one thing and stick with it? Is this the human condition or is it just me? Maybe it’s because I’m Pisces – a fish in water flitting from one interest to another without ever settling on anything. Maybe I’m just good at making excuses.

I’m at a stage in my life now where I’m really starting to wonder what my purpose is. I know it’s not to procreate. All I really want is just to be me. If there was a job titled ‘Being Amber’ I could do that better than anyone, but who would pay me? It’s a bit of a dilemma really; I’m not willing to do a job that’s not fulfilling just so I can have money in the bank. I do want to work, but only if I feel I’m contributing something of value and am able to really help people. Most of the time I just want to be a kept woman, a home maker. I love the idea of staying home most of the time, growing a garden, preparing delicious meals for the people I care about. But I know it won’t be enough on its own, I’ve got a brain that needs to be stimulated, I’ll be doing myself a disservice not to honour that.

Don’t be a victim

Mum first talked to me about this during my first year at university in Dunedin. I was living on a student allowance of $220 a week. I flatted with four other students in a run-down villa opposite the house from the movie Scarfies and paid $50 a week for my room. I paid another $30 a week for food and bills, which left me with $140 a week for everything else. I had a crapped out van but I chose to walk most of the time, and I wasn’t much of a drinker, but sometimes there’d be a very lean few days before pay day, and sometimes things felt pretty grim.

Anyone who’s experienced a Dunedin winter will know that they’re pretty trying, and the standard of housing is also quite poor. Double glazing and central heating don’t really exist – if they do, they’re the exception rather than the norm and won’t be found in any student flat that I know of. It’s not uncommon to see doors and windows left open on the coldest of days, as it’s colder inside these dwellings than it is outside, and that’s saying something. I remember one day when the low was -3 °C, and the high was 3 °C. That’s fine if you live in a warm comfortable house, but when you live in a draughty old place with little or no insulation where the curtains move in the breeze even when the windows are closed, well that’s a bit rough don’t you think?

So I was talking to my Mum about how hard done by I was feeling. I’d just walked home from uni on a particularly cold evening and couldn’t help but look around at all the other people with their nice warm clothes, and their nice fancy cars, and imagining them going home to their nice warm houses and their delicious dinners. The staple in our flat was ‘shit on rice’ which consisted of rice (obviously), some vegetables, and maybe some meat if we were lucky – not bad really considering we had a weekly food budget of $80.

So here’s where Mum told me that I needed to turn my thought process around and stop allowing myself to feel victimised.

Feeling like a victim is a state of mind. No one can make you feel like a victim without your permission; it’s your choice. Just like no one can give you happiness, nor can they take it away from you. True happiness comes from within.

So if I was to turn this around and try to put a positive spin on my situation, it would go something like this: I’m incredibly fortunate to even have the opportunity to attend a university. There are a lot of people out there who haven’t had the chance at a primary or secondary education, let alone a tertiary one. The student allowance I was receiving was covering all of my basic expenses and was a government grant that I didn’t have to pay back. Plus I’d paid my fees that year with money my Grandma had given me. And as far as all those other people go, well I have no way of knowing how hard they’ve had to work in order to get to where they are now. I have no idea about what kind of sacrifices they’ve had to make. I really have no right to stand here and say ‘poor me, why haven’t I got what they’ve got’.

Lately, I’ve allowed myself to feel like a victim again. Fast forward my life 10 years and I’ve studied my brains out, travelled a bit, had my epiphany, studied some more, moved house about 10 billion times and come back to the neck of the woods that I grew up in.

It’s finding fulfilling work that’s been a challenge for me lately. I have so many skills, and loads of qualifications, why doesn’t the perfect job come and present itself to me on a silver platter? And therein lies the flaw in my logic. First of all I need to be really clear about what it is I actually want. What is my idea of fulfilling work? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How does it make me feel? How does it make others feel? What’s my motivation to do it? Once I can answer all these questions then the path to getting me there will become clearer and clearer.

Again, instead of focusing on all the negatives – why is it so hard for me, why don’t I have what the next person has… I need to concentrate on what I do have: my brain, my body, my health, my education, all of my life experiences, supportive friends and family, a beautiful place to live… I have a lot. If it was just about money I could’ve moved to a city and gotten a job using my university degrees. But I don’t want to live in a city, and having a lot of money isn’t really that high on my list of priorities.

I can generate an income in a small town doing something that I love. It may not be easy, but the success will be that much sweeter knowing that I’ve done it all off my own back. I can and I will, just you watch me!