Who I Am In The Summer

I think I’ve been romanticising the person I am in summer compared to the one I am in winter.

Over the last few months, as winter has swelled and begun to ebb, I’ve been making grand proclamations (mostly to myself, occasionally to other people) about what I’m going to be like when warmer weather comes. I’m never going to sleep past 7:30am. I’m going to get my business up and running and have heaps of clients. I’m going to write all the time – in cafés, outside in the sun – and get published all the time. I’m going to exercise. I’m never going to be idle and I’m never going to waste a moment.

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But hold on a second.

Just who exactly is this wondrous-sounding Summer Claire? This person who gets up at dawn every day without ever sleeping in, who walks and does yoga and eats healthily 100% of the time, who kicks all kinds of personal and professional goals and blazes her trail with no setbacks in sight?

I can tell you now: that Claire has never existed – not last summer, or any before – and I doubt she will when summer comes this year.

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Both Nate and my mum often tell me I’m too hard on myself. That I don’t give myself enough credit sometimes (Mum), that it’s sometimes OK to eat chocolate and pizza and sleep after eight (Nate). I agree, begrudgingly, to a certain extent. (After all, what kind of life would it be if you never treated yourself, never rested, never enjoyed a moment of idle time?) However, I also know there are areas in which I could definitely practise more discipline and determination – times where I could set more goals, and work harder to achieve them.

I have had a fair few things going on lately, but if I’m honest with myself, I’ve occasionally been using the season as the basis of an excuse when I’m unmotivated to do certain things. ‘Oh, it’s cold and windy outside – I couldn’t possibly go for a walk.’ ‘It’s just the season that’s getting me down and making me unproductive today.’ ‘Well, it is winter – everyone eats comfort food/stays indoors a lot/slows their progress down a bit at this time of year.’

While these statements are sometimes true, the fact is that if I really want something – if I know the sort of person I want to be and the sort of life I want to lead – then the weather, or the way it makes me feel, should not play a part; not as hindrance nor as help. The goals and lifestyle I aspire towards are objective, concrete. They’re no harder to achieve in winter and no easier to attain in summer.

Having said that, though… I am looking forward to the months ahead.

Late last week, I went for a brisk afternoon walk, for the first time in a long while. It was nice – really nice. The sun was warm and encouraging; the sight of the sea was calming, as it always is. The air hinted at the salty scent of summer from the ocean and the fish and chip shop.

I walked close beside two magpies digging in the ground and paused to watch them (neither paid me any heed – I liked that). I came home and took off my shoes, letting my usually sock-bound feet feel the breeze and the sun-warmed concrete of my balcony. I filled up my new little watering can and gave my new little pot plants a drink. I felt peaceful and warm and content.

If the next few months have more afternoons like those, I definitely won’t be complaining.

When it comes down it, though… Instead of assuming or hoping some magical change will occur with the onset of spring and summer, I’m going to action that change of my own volition. And if the warmer weather helps me do so, all the better.

The magical Summer Claire may not really exist, but I can aspire to be like her all the same.

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On Redundancy.

As I start to write this, it’s a Friday morning in mid-April and I’m awake and dressed before the sun has even properly risen. You might think I’m very industrious, being up nice and early before a day of work; but the fact of the matter is that, as of this lovely autumn morning, I no longer have a job.

It’s a funny feeling, being ‘made redundant’. On the one hand, you’re assured that it’s nothing to do with you or the quality of your work – that it’s simply, and sadly, just not viable for your position to exist anymore. On the other hand, though, there’s no getting around that word: redundant. It means, literally, ‘no longer needed or useful’; and there are few less pleasant feelings than that of being useless.

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It’s true that of late I had been feeling a little uneasy with my job. Was this really what I wanted to be doing? Was I making any progress towards my eventual ‘dream career’? But these were just the musings of someone a year and a half into their first ‘real’ job after uni. When it came down to it, I really did like my job, I was good at it, and I never imagined I would lose it so suddenly and in a way so out of my own control.

On the day I was let go, I spent the evening absorbing the shock with mint choc-chip ice cream straight from the tub, occasionally bursting into teen-relationship-breakup-esque fits of tears and lamenting the fact that I was now effectively an unemployed hobo. Since the age of 15, I’ve always had a job! Even though most of that time was spent in retail (and even though there were times I thought I’d rather live on the street than fix another damn self-serve checkout), I was always appreciative of the fact that I had a payslip to rely on at the end of each week. Facing a redundancy in the face of today’s competitive job market, monetary concerns soon become far more pressing than mere feelings of disappointment and self-doubt…

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Luckily, I have an extremely supportive partner who is always very good at assuaging my worries, whatever they may be. ‘I actually think this is a really good thing,’ he said to me while I was probably getting snot and tears all over his shirt. ‘It means you can focus on what you really want to do now.’

And when I stopped to think about it, I realised he was completely right. I’m not really one to believe ‘everything happens for a reason’, but I do think that sometimes bad things like this happen at just the right time for us to turn them into good things. I’m treating this as the push I need to work hard on my own business and career opportunities – to focus on achieving the creative lifestyle I’ve been dreaming of.

There are plenty of wonderful things in the world that some people may define as redundant: bookshops, physical photo albums, semicolons. But I know in my heart that those things are not at all useless – and you know what? Neither am I.

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Tailor-Made Targets: How To Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! We’re now five days into 2014, and I bet you thought you’d seen the last of the ‘Here’s what I’m going to take up/give up/change/accomplish in the New Year’ posts. If you’re tired of reading about the same old resolutions everybody makes every year, though, read on – I’m about to consider why it’s important not to simply keep making those run-of-the-mill throwaway resolutions (especially if you want any chance of actually keeping them).

Resolutions are hard to keep. The first week of the year is always the best: you’re being a real, resolution-keeping grown-up, doing all sorts of responsible shit (and making sure to tell everyone what a responsible, resolution-keeping grown-up you are). Soon, though, things inevitably start to get in the way of your new goals, and it becomes much too easy to let everything slide. Often, this can also be due to the generalised nature of your resolutions; if you set yourself sweeping, commonplace goals without keeping focus on your individual reasoning for wanting to achieve them, there’s little to no chance that you’re going to maintain the motivation necessary to succeed.

So, this year, I’ve decided that I am going to set myself some pretty general, cliché-sounding resolutions – BUT: I’m going to make sure I tailor them specifically to my own lifestyle and motivational factors.

1. I will be super organised, using all the cute stationery and handy gadgets I have at my disposal.

This year, I’ll be working two part-time jobs while also completing a Graduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing. This is going to require a fair bit of organisation and some pretty good time management. Luckily, a few of my Christmas presents will really help me out: the super pretty 2014 Frankie diary and my new Galaxy Note tab!

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I’m so excited to start my postgrad study – firstly, because I genuinely love studying, and secondly, because it will bring me that next step closer to fulfilling my career goals. It’s going to be a challenge balancing study with enough hours at work to pay my way, so I’m going to try my best to up my productivity, kick all forms of procrastination to the curb, and work as hard as I can – and the only way I’ll be able to do it is by becoming my own little personal assistant!

2. I will actually, deliberately exercise.

I’m fortunate enough to be naturally quite slim – I must have a fast metabolism, because I can (and do) eat A LOT and exercise very little without stacking on the kilos. This year, though, I think it’s about time I paid attention to that old adage quoted by wise mums everywhere: ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. Now, I am never going to be a gym junkie – actually, to be honest, I am probably never even going to set foot in a gym. (I’m far too awkward and uncoordinated for all that.) All I want to do is make sure I try to do some form of exercise every day, no matter how small. I’m really keen to look into things like yoga and pilates soon, but to start with, my exercise staple will be walking.

IMG_0188Bar Beach, NSW: my daily walk.

I’ll try to go for a solid walk every day, whether it be the few kilometres to and from the beach, the ten-minute walk to the shops for a few groceries, or simply the hike up and down the steep hill that lies between my bookshop and what seems to be the only free parking in town. (As a sidenote: thankyou, money-hungry city of Newcastle, for making parking in town both difficult and expensive; you’ve inspired [read: forced] me to keep this particular resolution every time I go to work.)

3. I will expand my very average cooking skills, little by little.

I am not a chef. It’s mainly a confidence thing: I don’t trust myself enough to try new things, and I worry that I’ll mess up even the most absurdly simple of dishes. Luckily, Nathan is excellent at cooking, so when he has a night off work he makes us delicious food (interspersed by a few simple pasta dishes from me, which are basically the only things I can make without fretting myself into a coma). But this year, I’ve decided that hey! I’m a grown-ass woman; I want to branch out from spag bol and become an (extremely) amateur chef of my own! I’ve started nice and simple: delicious Mediterranean stuffed capsicums, for which I found a great BBC Good Food recipe.

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The dish was, admittedly, pretty hard to mess up, but it turned out wonderfully and I was so pleased! I think the trick for me is going to be to start small, relish each little new achievement, and gradually work my way up in terms of complexity and range. Here’s to new culinary courage and plenty of lovely meals to try out and master!

4. I will read as many books as I can, and keep track of them all.

I have read a lot of books. I always daydream about there being some hidden counter in your brain that records every book you’ve ever read, showing you the final figure just before you’re about to check out of the big old Life Hotel. I like to think I’ve already racked up a pretty impressive count! But as an interesting way to actively keep track of my reading, tally up my total, and reflect on what I’ve read at the end of the year, I’m going to start keeping a list of all the books I read (as well as the books I want to read – working at a bookshop means that is a virtually never-ending list). 

IMG_0196My 2014 ‘To Read’ list so far.

5. I will think about getting back into creative writing.

During my Christmas shopping, I was on the hunt for books for Nathan’s 13-year-old sister. What an exciting age: the bigger, bolder world of youth fiction is just opening up to you, and you have literally thousands of new books to explore. Researching and recalling some of the titles I enjoyed in my primary and early high school years was such a lovely, nostalgic thing to do – I remembered so many that were such a joy to read and that helped to further my love of books at such an important time in my youth. Fantasy books were especially important to me; Harry Potter, of course, is pretty much the greatest love of my entire childhood, but there were also other fantasy series that really kindled my penchant for the genre. One in particular that I had completely forgotten about is the Deltora Quest series, written by Australian author Emily Rodda. Coincidentally, right after I rediscovered Deltora Quest and the myriad other fantasy books I loved as a kid, I stumbled across this Reddit post about a woman independently releasing her own children’s fantasy series. It inspired me even more and got me thinking that maybe, one day, I’d like to try my hand at writing some children’s fantasy of my own.

File:Forests of Silence Cover Version 1.png So badass.

Now, I’m not locking myself into anything concrete with this one. My resolution isn’t ‘I will write a book in 2014’. It’s very likely that I will have neither the time nor the necessary spark of inspiration to do anything more than simply think about the possibility of doing some creative writing. But I would like to make sure that I do at least think about it. I haven’t written any stories at all since I finished uni, and I really do miss writing them.

2014 Inspiration - Recyclart Image courtesy of Recyclart.

Looking back on my five main resolutions and the strong motivation behind them, I’m pretty confident that I will be able to keep all of them, and that each will help me live the hell out of the coming year! I hope everyone reading this has an amazing year ahead of them, full of dreams and lovely people.

2014, you are looking pretty gorgeous :)

Surviving The Dark World Of Job Hunting

At the start of this year, my boy and I moved into a cute little apartment in the beautiful suburb of Merewether, Newcastle. It’s all been so exciting: leaving home for the first time (for me), being actual proper grown-ups (kind of), starting our own little life together. Nathan got a job at a pub that’s a thirty-second walk around the corner; we made a new friend who lives just a few streets away; we took the ten-minute walk to the beach nearly every day; we had people over for housewarming celebrations. It began, very quickly, to feel like home.

Except for one thing. It’s only a little thing, and it probably won’t seem like much to you. But for me, it put a ten-month damper on my otherwise wonderful new life. It’s the fact that I was stuck in my job: a retail position (which I’d held since I started working at age 15) at a large chain store in Maitland – 45 minutes away from Merewether. Now, this job was not really a bad job. I was paid a fair hourly rate, I didn’t have absurd working hours (most of the time), and I worked with a lot of people I really love.

But.

I’d been there for seven straight years – my whole working life. My job often involved tasks that got boring or irritating after seven minutes; after seven YEARS, you can understand how mind-meltingly menial and eternally frustrating everything became. On top of that, I was stuck in the car for a total of an hour and a half every time I had to work, often driving all that way for a measly three-hour shift. I felt like I was living half my life back in Maitland – like I couldn’t truly call my new place home – and I hated it.

Now, I’m aware that the degree I completed (a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and Writing) is far from a one-way ticket to Job Land. I won’t get into the ridiculous stigma attached to humanities degrees here, though – that’s for another time and another blog post. All I’ll say about my choice of Bachelor’s degree is that it was a necessary stepping stone to the career in publishing I am pursuing, and that I enjoyed every minute of it. What I want to make especially clear is that I didn’t expect to find a relevant job floating around and flashing my name in neon as soon as I finished my degree; all I wanted was a different job – one that was actually in my new hometown, one that I could take up while pursuing other relevant jobs and further study, and one that I might actually enjoy.

Putting this out there is pretty uncomfortable for me, because obviously the first reaction most people will have is ‘well, why couldn’t you get another job? Are you such a bad worker/so stupid/that much of a failure as a human being in general that NOBODY would hire you?’ The answer to these is actually ‘no’. I am a good worker, and I’m good at my job; I’m not stupid – I graduated from uni with an overall Distinction grade; and, apart from my weakness for Doritos and my total lack of physical grace and coordination, I am not a complete fiasco of a person. My failure to escape my old job wasn’t for lack of trying, either; I’d completed dozens of cold-call resume drops, applied for countless advertised positions, and made it through to interviews, all to no avail.

But.

Just when I thought things were never going to change and that I was going to be stuck wrapping laybys and listening to the words ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ for the rest of my miserable days, I’ve managed to land myself not one, but two new jobs – and they are actually relevant to my career path and interests! One is at a cute little bookshop in Newcastle, and the other is a writing position, in which I create monthly newsletters and business documentation content for a Lake Macquarie company.

Can you believe it?! After all this time, I have finally escaped my chain-store prison and can now work with the two things I love most – books and words – while I complete postgraduate study in those very same areas! I consider it the final step in the establishment of my new little life. While before I loved everything about my life except my job, I feel like work is now going to be one of the things in my life I enjoy the most.

To sum up what has become a very long post, I simply want to extol the virtues of patience and fortitude when it comes to getting out of a job you hate. If you’re desperately applying for jobs you don’t even want and sinking into a depression when you don’t get them, know that you’re not alone. If you find yourself crying into your locker or eating fifteen cookies on your lunch break to get you through the day – don’t worry; others have been there. I’ve done it; thousands of other people have also done it; and guess what? We got through it. There is always something on the horizon, a bright little gold spot hidden among the shitty dishwater-grey – and, as living proof, I promise you: one day soon, the little gold spot will finally catch your eye.

What every day has the potential to look like in my sunny home suburb of Merewether. :)

Me as a happy little 2012 graduate. Bring on the rest of my study!
(P.S. Yes, that is a ridiculous photobombing boyfriend you see in the background…sigh.)