Life

I come from a land down under

Posted by on Jul 7, 2016 in Australia, Life, Travel | 3 comments

I come from a land down under

I recently returned to Australia after two years living in China.

It’s fair to say it’s a big change in environment.

I’m loving the feeling of ‘home’, a mix of comforting familiarity and nostalgia.

I grew up in rural New South Wales and home for me is bright blue skies, animals and wide open spaces.

Peeling back layers of paperbark gum trees.

Breathing crisp morning air.

The sound of kookaburras laughing.

Kangaroos watching.

Soft pine crunching underfoot.

The scent of eucalyptus.

Pink skies at night, shepherds delight.

It’s good to be home.

 

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Choose your words carefully

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Life | 0 comments

Choose your words carefully

We underestimate the power of our words.

Our words manifest our intentions and our thoughts.

Words are how we communicate, how we express ourselves, how we think.

But we must be careful, because our words can create joy and happiness, or they can cause destruction and misery.

You may not realise it, but your words plant seeds in the minds of others.

Hearing someone’s opinion and believing it gives it power, it changes our mindset.

You might comment on something and then forget about it completely, but the person you said it to has had a seed planted in their mind.

We grow the seeds planted by others without even realising it.

Growing up I was often compared to my older sisters and asked ‘why can’t you be more like them’.  This planted a seed in my mind, and for a long time I believed that I wasn’t good enough.

Words can act as emotional poison and pull a person down causing feelings of anger, hurt, fear and doubt.  Or, words can lift people up and make them feel supported, loved and happy.

This goes for the words we speak to ourselves as well.  Ever catch yourself thinking a negative thought like ‘I’m so unfit’ or ‘I can’t believe I did that I’m so stupid’.  You are planting those seeds in your own mind and causing pain for yourself.

It is often with ourselves and the people we love the most that we get complacent with our words and cause harm, when those are the people we least want to hurt.

Take responsibility for your words.  Choose them carefully.  Use them for good.

And be aware of others planting seeds in your mind, remember it is the seeds we water that grow.  Negative seeds will only grow if you pay attention to them and give them power by believing them.

Let’s be kind to ourselves, and to others.

Stop taking things personally – it’s not all about you!

Posted by on Feb 23, 2016 in Life | 0 comments

Stop taking things personally – it’s not all about you!

My husband is a high school teacher so his time is spent dealing with adolescents, who as you can imagine are prone to giving a bit of attitude at times.

I overheard him talking about this with a colleague recently, discussing a particular student.  He said something that really resonated, that in his experience a student acted out for a reason – something might be going on at home, the student might be under a lot of stress about an upcoming assessment, in a fight with his best friend, having problems with his parents, the list goes on.

Ultimately whatever the reason is, it isn’t because that student is a “bad person”, and it definitely is not about the teacher.

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

 

This is something I have touched on before, as understanding this totally changed my life.

I want to explore this concept further, what it means to live a life where you don’t take things personally.

When you stop taking things personally it doesn’t matter what people do or say, it has no affect on you.

This can be tricky, sometimes it really feels like it is about you, but it’s not!

Even if someone insults you directly, even if they say you are the worst person they have ever met, this is still a reflection of them and their experiences.  It doesn’t make it true, and will only hurt you if you let it by choosing to take it on board as reality.

Everyone has an opinion, we each have our own point of view and that is fine.

Taking things personally means assuming that everything is about us, when actually what someone says or does is about them.  We are all living in our own worlds.

Something I read recently that made me laugh was that we spend our 20s and 30s worried about what other people think, our 40s and 50s deciding we don’t care what other people think, and finally in our 60s and 70s we realise no-one was even thinking of us at all!

Taking things personally is a huge waste of time.  You will feel offended and defensive, and spend time with these negative emotions and why?  Because of what someone else said, when you have no context for why they said it.

Just as no-one knows what you are going through on any given day, you don’t know their full story either.

When someone says something hurtful they are probably dealing with some painful things themselves.

By taking things personally you are setting yourself up for suffering.

Know who you are and be responsible for your own thoughts and actions.  What others think of you is none of your business and should have no bearing on your life.

When you fully understand this and stop taking things personally it is impossible to be hurt by the comments of others, and that my friends is true bliss.

 

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What happens when you start setting personal goals

Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in Healthy Living, Life, Wellbeing | 1 comment

What happens when you start setting personal goals

We often have goals or targets set for us at work, but something I’ve been thinking about is the benefits of goal setting in your personal life.

Over the last year or so I’ve been setting goals for myself.
Things that I want to achieve purely for my own personal satisfaction and self improvement.

These have included physical goals such as doing yoga everyday, taking part in 10km fun runs and completing my first triathlon, as well as intellectual challenges like sitting HSK exams (the standardised Mandarin language test).

Setting goals gives you something to work towards, keeps you accountable, and gives you a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you complete it.

It provides direction, you are not aimlessly going day-to-day without purpose or something to work towards.

Think about what you want for yourself, and make it happen!  When you work towards a goal you are turning your thoughts into reality.

Set a goal now, don’t wait until you think you are ready, or you’ll probably never do it.

When I entered the triathlon I was not prepared, I had not been training and hadn’t been swimming for a really long time.  Once I knew I was going to participate I got in the pool and started, it gave me the push I needed.

I signed up for the HSK exam and was completely overwhelmed looking at past papers for the level I had chosen, and wondered what I was thinking.

But this is good, aim high!  Having a challenging goal provides fuel for your drive and perseverance to get there, and means when you do get there you are rewarded with a rush of pride and happiness.

Specific and tangible goals give you inspiration to get started working towards them, as well as incentive to not give up in pursuit of them.

There is no way I would have learned all of the Chinese characters I now know if I hadn’t signed up to take those tests.  Realising I would not even be able to understand the question if I couldn’t recognise the characters pushed me to focus on studying.

The feeling of elation and self-satisfaction when I walked out of the exam having done something that previously seemed impossible was awesome.

 

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By setting difficult goals I have pushed myself harder than I otherwise would have, and in doing so uncovered potential I didn’t know I had.

In this way it’s also a journey of self discovery, learning about what you want, how strong you are (mentally and/or physically), and what you can achieve if you set your mind to it.

The top 5 benefits of personal goal setting I have experienced are:

  1.  Focus and direction working towards something.
  2.  A tangible result where you can see how far you have come.
  3.  Working on something you have decided is important to you – you are accountable to yourself and are making your ambitions a priority.
  4.  Motivation, a positive and contagious energy.
  5.  Being a person of action making things happen, rather than just talking about them.

By setting goals and achieving them you become the best you can be, and ensure that you continue to grow and learn.

Approaching the new year a lot of people are making some pretty vague resolutions, instead I suggest setting some specific personal goals for yourself.

So, what are you going to achieve next year?!

Time for the next adventure, coming soon..!

Posted by on Dec 5, 2015 in Life | 0 comments

Time for the next adventure, coming soon..!

The international school year finishes in six months time in June, Wayne’s teaching contract is up and we’ve made the decision not to renew and move on from Beijing.

We don’t plan on moving back home to Aus either, we actually don’t know where we are headed just yet!

Currently our conversations with people both here in Beijing and from those at home have been going something like this:

Everyone: So what are you doing next year?
Us: Don’t know! *big smiles*
Everyone: But what’s your plan, and if that doesn’t work out what’s your back-up plan?
Us: Just playing it by ear, don’t have any definite plans.
Everyone: But, aren’t you worried?
Us: Nope, we actually think it’s pretty exciting – who knows where we’ll end up!
Everyone: Oh. *confused and worried expression*

It always amuses me that people are so nervous about a lack of definite answers.  I find it freeing, it’s a feeling of endless opportunity!

So why are we leaving Beijing?

Firstly let’s not beat around the bush, the winter is horrendously cold for two Sydney-siders, and the air pollution is pretty depressing at times.

The other reason we’ve decided to leave is because it has gotten comfortable.

When we first moved to Beijing it was daunting, challenging, full of new places, new people and a world of culture.

If we stayed now it would be because it has gotten easy, we know our way around, we speak some of the language, it’s good money, and we feel comfortable.

But we moved to China to challenge ourselves, to get far outside of our comfort zones, to dive headfirst into the unknown.

We want to continue to challenge ourselves, to grow and learn, and so will embark upon a new adventure into the next unknown!

I have loved our time here and don’t regret coming to Beijing for a second.  We have experienced a dynamic city during an exciting time of change and growth, have met some truly awesome people who I know we will remain friends with, learned so much about ourselves, and experienced living in a completely different culture.

Moving to Beijing has also given us trust in our own wings.  When our family and friends heard we were moving halfway around the world to a place we’d never been and frankly didn’t know much about – other than some (mostly negative) press from Australian media – they thought we were crazy.
But we took a leap of faith and jumped anyway, and I now have confidence in jumping into the unknown again, whatever that may be!

The more we challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations the more I realise that we are more capable than we think, the importance of being adaptable and keeping a calm head, and that everything usually turns out ok!

At the end of the day maybe our next crazy adventure won’t work out the way we expect, in fact it probably won’t, but whatever happens I’m sure it will be full of great experiences and life lessons.

In the wise words of  Yvon Chouinard: “The word ‘adventure’ has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts”.

So embrace the unknown, get out and have an adventure!

The downside of being an expat

Posted by on Dec 5, 2015 in Life, Travel | 0 comments

The downside of being an expat

Talk to someone living overseas and we will likely gush about the excitement of experiencing a different culture, the fun of meeting wonderful people and amazing new opportunities.

That’s all true, and most of the time it’s pretty awesome, but what we don’t often talk about are the sacrifices made.

It’s coming up to Christmas now, a time when families and friends are all getting together, and I am constantly being reminded of the people I’ve “left behind” at home.

Those at home know we are off living an adventure and see photos of our fun outings and frequent holidays, but what they don’t see are the waves of homesickness.

The simple things like wanting to share a coffee with your best friend, spend the weekend with your sisters, or eat at your favourite cafe.

The pang of guilt that you’re not there for your nephews and nieces.  The mixed emotions when people tell you they miss you, happy to know they’re thinking of you, but sad because you miss them like crazy too.

Feeling that the words “I miss you” aren’t actually enough to convey the void you feel without their presence in your daily life, but not knowing what else to say.

The fear of missing out when you see photos of your friends together on social media, for birthdays or a Sunday brunch.  Almost jealous when they hang out with someone new, an irrational thought of ‘they’ve replaced me!’

Or worse, people whose friendship you feel weakening and drifting away, hopelessly watching as it unfolds and knowing you’ll never be as close as you once were, feeling responsible for causing this sorrow because you were the one who left.

Watching your loved ones go through times of grief and wanting nothing more than to hold them and really be there for them.

I personally also decided to take an indefinite break from my career as a lawyer to move overseas.  I don’t regret it, but admittedly when friends careers are sky rocketing there are brief moments where doubt creeps into my mind about my chosen path.

But we don’t talk about these feelings because it doesn’t make good memes or status updates, because we don’t want our family and friends to suspect we are ever unhappy, and because we want to reassure ourselves that we’ve made the right decision.

It’s good to be positive, and the majority of the time there is so much that reminds me we made the right call.  But today, let me say this: to the laid back Australian disposition, to Sydney’s sparkling beaches and stunning harbour, to my beautiful friends and to my loving family, I miss you more than you know.

If I could have it both ways I would. But life’s all about choices, and I couldn’t stay at home for others, I needed to chase down my dreams and be true to myself.

I am grateful that I have such wonderful people in my life that leaving them was so difficult, and I am thankful for all the love and support I have received from those closest to me.

Thank you, I love you, I miss you.

How I stopped punishing myself emotionally

Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 in Life | 0 comments

How I stopped punishing myself emotionally

I used to beat myself up emotionally if things didn’t go the way I planned.

When I didn’t get the outcome I wanted at work, the results I wanted at university, when friends and family didn’t understand my point of view, when I ate something unhealthy, the list goes on and on..

But I have put an end to this self punishment.  The answer was simple: I do my best.

I even do my best to always do my best!

That cliched line our parents used give us is in fact invaluable, and a release from so much pain.

When you do your best it’s not possible to be disappointed, angry or upset with yourself, because you did everything you could. This philosophy applies to everything in life.

I like this because the responsibility is on ourselves, something I have written about previously.

Doing your best means you have done all that you can.

However, you can only do what is within your control.

If you are working on a group project and you do your best but the rest of the group don’t, you still won’t get a good outcome.  But you will be at peace with yourself, knowing you did your best.

Our best will change depending on the conditions.  My best late at night when I am tired and emotional is not as good as my best when I am fresh in the morning, and that’s ok.

Do the best you can in the circumstances.

When I would do a gym class if I couldn’t keep up with everyone else I would feel frustrated and like I wasn’t good enough.  Now I ask myself ‘did you do your best?’ and if the answer is yes I am happy because I couldn’t have worked any harder.

Feelings of frustration, guilt, regret and judgement cannot be inflicted on yourself when you have done your best.

Instead, feelings of satisfaction, acceptance, contentment and pride are felt.  You will like yourself!

When we don’t like who we are we subconsciously hurt ourselves as punishment.  We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, we aren’t deserving, that we are a bad person.

An honest answer of ‘I did my best’ will set you free.

If you do your best you cannot judge yourself, you cannot have regrets – there was nothing more you could have done.

Doing your best doesn’t mean doing things perfectly and not making mistakes. You will make mistakes, learn from them and move forward.  It will be ok that you made a mistake, because you did your best!

Make doing your best a habit.  Start now.

Life is precious

Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Life | 1 comment

Life is precious

One week ago American teacher Jonathan Sokoloff, who was living in Beijing, was involved in an accident while riding his scooter home.  He suffered serious brain injuries and is currently in the ICU in a coma and on life support.

Tragically he is not expected to recover.

I did not know Jonathan, but from all accounts including from my friends who knew him well, he was a really good person.  This is shown by the fact that he was sending money home from Beijing to support the ongoing medical expenses of his mother back in the USA.

In times of tragedy we are reminded of what is important.  The worries of am I skinny enough, do they like me, is my work good enough, did I say the wrong thing fade away in the presence of a reality like this.

We take stock, we remember that human life is vulnerable and can be taken away in an instant.

Today at a fundraising event for Jonathan I was also reminded of the beauty of human kindness.  In order to raise money for his sister to come to China, repatriation expenses, legal fees and funeral arrangements my friends organised an online crow fund (you can donate here) as well as the event held today which included an auction of items donated by various companies in Beijing and donation boxes.

People from all across the community came and showed their support.  These actions of solidarity in times of crisis are invaluable to those involved.  I have no doubt that these gestures will be remembered by Jonathan’s family as a small beacon of light in a truly dark time.

Remember life is precious, live accordingly.

 

* Sadly since this post was published Jonathan has passed away.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends.  

Getting married? Don’t lose sight of what it’s about

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Featured, Life | 1 comment

Getting married? Don’t lose sight of what it’s about

I got married last year, and it truly was one of the most special days of my life.  I will treasure the memories forever.  But during my “bride experience” and planning the wedding, I became somewhat disillusioned.

Here are some things we did to stay true to ourselves and not get too caught up in all the wedding hype.

 

 

Rings

My engagement ring was an old family ring, which I adore.  It’s not a typical engagement ring setting and it’s an emerald stone.  It seemed crazy to us to spend a tonne of money (that we could otherwise do so much with) on a ring.  I handmade Wayne’s ring in Bali, we took a three hour silver making class during which I made his ring, which ended up costing about 35 AUD.  That ring is more special to us than any ring I could have bought in a store.

 

Guests

Weddings can blow out in numbers without you even realising with the old “oh but if we invite A we have to invite B…”  We decided to lay some ground rules right from the start – we limited our guests to 50 people, no partners, no children, and no cousins.  It’s your day, don’t let people make you feel guilty!  People need to remember that it is an honour to be invited to a wedding.  We didn’t want people there who didn’t really know us, it would mean nothing to them to be there and mean nothing to us to have them there.

 

Invitations

Let’s be honest, as beautiful as they may be, most wedding invitations end up in the trash contributing to landfill.  To be more environmentally friendly (not to mention save a fair amount of money) we simply sent out a pdf invite.  I always take a photo on my phone of wedding invites anyway so that I have the details handy, and figured this way people would have it readily available on their phones.  If you have any guests who aren’t on Facebook or email you can just print off a copy of the invite.

 

Social Media / Technology

During the wedding ceremony we had our celebrant ask that guests not use their phones / iPads / cameras to take photos.  We wanted everyone to be genuinely present and really there with us in the moment, not worrying about whether their picture turned out well or not, or busy uploading it to social media.  We were paying professionals whose job it was to capture the moment.

 

Cake

We didn’t have a wedding cake (cue shock and horror!)  In all seriousness people seemed really upset that we weren’t having a cake with cries of “but what will you cut?!”  Um… nothing?  Why do we need to cut anything – for a photo we will never look at?  This was just another thing we saw as something that society demanded we spend money on.  Before you get too worried we did have a delicious dessert made by our caterers that we had chosen and that we loved.  We thought that dessert was tastier than any wedding cake (and to be honest I never understood why you would have both wedding cake and dessert).

 

Dress

You’ll never feel small for not wanting to spend more than $2,000 on a dress until you’re getting married.  I went to a bridal store in Sydney called Savvy Brides that stock second hand or “preloved” dresses, and although I didn’t end up getting a second hand dress I tried on plenty and it didn’t bother me at all, I think it’s a really great idea.  They also have very reasonably priced new dresses, mine was by Australian designer Anna Campbell.

 

Photographer

Our friend who is a talented photographer took our photos as a wedding gift to us.  She loved it so much that she has since started her own wedding photography business Snowflake Creations.

 

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At the end of the day do what you want and don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about your choices – they can do what they want at their own wedding!  Choose what it is that is important to you, and put money towards those things.  For us that was having beautiful live music, having the day filmed, and enjoying good food.

 

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Of course you want to make it special and have what you want, but remember that at the end of the day it’s about you and your partner making a commitment to each other, and sharing the beauty of that with those closest to you.  If you’re getting married for the right reasons, the material things don’t really matter.

One of my friends summed it up perfectly, after her wedding she told me that on the day things had gone wrong – the cake was decorated exactly the way she had asked for it not to be, the flowers in her bouquet weren’t what she wanted, but she said to me beaming; “You know what, I didn’t even care, I was just so happy that I was getting to marry him”.

 

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Why we decided to move halfway round the world

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Featured, Life, Travel | 3 comments

Why we decided to move halfway round the world

In January 2013 our high school friend passed away at the much too young age of 23.  He was a wonderful and intelligent person with a bright future ahead of him.  The sad reality hit home to us that life is indeed unpredictable and can be taken away in an instant.

I began to ask that big cliched question – what is the meaning of life?

 

I read the book The top five regrets of the dying by Bronnie Ware who worked in palliative care.  Two of the top regrets were ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard‘, and ‘I wish I had lived the life I wanted, not the life that was expected of me’.  The reason she wrote this book was that it seemed such a waste not to learn these lessons earlier, instead of only on our deathbed realising what is important in life.  You won’t be thinking “I’m glad I got that project done on time and my boss was happy”.

Growing up I spent a lot of time surrounded by type A personalities (myself included), which made for an environment filled with pressure and competition.  In primary school I was in a selective advanced class, I went on to attend a selective high school, next to study law at university, and then to compete with my peers for jobs as a graduate.

For so long my life was dictated and consumed by tasks and deadlines.  First it was getting the HSC results I needed to get into university, then the university results I needed to get a job.  Once I started work if a letter didn’t go out the day my boss wanted I felt like a total failure.  If due diligence wasn’t completed in the timeframe decided, it was as if the world would end.

I had no perspective, these things seemed genuinely important and were what I thought about constantly.  My energies should have gone into looking after myself, spending time with my partner, friends and family and concentrating on the things that actually mattered.  At the end of the day it didn’t really matter whether that letter went out on Tuesday or Wednesday, and it certainly wasn’t worth stressing about.

Understand that what seem to be big problems today will become small pebbles when you look back on them.

Stress and unhappiness have such profound detrimental effects on us, both mentally and physically, it can lead to depression, alcoholism  and weight gain to name a few.  I would use coffee to wake up and wine to wind down.  Physically I suffered from rashes across my body, migraines, and began to wear down my teeth from grinding while sleeping.  This was due to too much of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which I had in bucketloads.

I was fuelling my cortisol with a heavy caffeine addiction, of which I was completely dependent due to my lack of sleep.  Ironically as the caffeine increased my cortisol I slept even less, and so the vicious cycle continued.  It’s pretty crazy when you think about the body’s physical response, adrenalin is supposed to kick in when our life is in danger to put us into fight or flight mode.  But now adrenalin is being produced because we are telling our bodies there is a threat, that there is pressure and urgency because of work deadlines, bills to pay, and other perceived threats.

I knew I wasn’t happy and wanted more from life, but everyone around me was ploughing ahead with the daily grind.  On the surface our lives looked pretty good, we had checked all the boxes, our life was very satisfactory.  But there’s a difference between living a satisfactory life, and being satisfied with your life.

If I ever made a comment to a senior person in my team, asked if they wanted more or ever felt like they were missing out, they looked at me like I was crazy, or lazy, or both.  They had lived this life so long that it seemed normal to them, I don’t think they could even comprehend what they were actually missing on “the outside”.

Societal expectations put us on a carousel that goes round and round, we keep doing things we don’t like doing and raise our kids to do the same.  We drive to our job that we don’t enjoy, to make money to pay for the car we drove there in and the house that we leave empty all day, living for the holidays and waiting for retirement.  Have you ever stopped and asked yourself: what is it that I really want to do? If money were no object, what would I want to do?

Monday

Lunchtime conversations would revolve around the most recent episode of The Voice or My Kitchen Rules, I wanted to talk about more interesting and inspiring things, I wanted more.  We are so caught up in watching tv and communicating on social media that we have forgotten how to have meaningful human interactions, or spend time with ourselves in self reflection and stillness.

These feelings came to a head when Wayne and I had what we call our “epiphany moment”.  We were enjoying our usual Saturday morning routine in Bondi, siting on the south hill reading the newspaper and having coffee made by our favourite barista.  I loved this, but wanted to spend more time doing things like this – enjoying life.

We were both in the careers we had planned for, heading down the path we thought we wanted.  It occurred to us, was this what the next 40 years of our life looked like?  Were we happy for it to be?  Society was telling us we should stay in our jobs, get a mortgage, and start thinking about kids.  But we wanted more, we wanted something else.  So we asked ourselves – what did we want our life to look like, and what were we going to do to make it happen?

Top of our list was travel, we wanted to get out and see as much of the world as we could.  This was never going to happen with me working long hours and only ever getting four weeks holiday per year, two of which I always had to take over Christmas during office shutdown.  Wayne was getting great holidays as a teacher, and had heard about international teachers who could teach their subject at international schools all around the world.  We had always wanted to live overseas, so this seemed like the way to do it.  Wayne began applying for jobs everywhere, mainly in Asia where we knew the cost of living would be lower and we would be able to save more money to put towards travel.

We decided then and there to get off the treadmill and break out of the mundane routine that had become our lives.  It was a scary decision, we knew that it wouldn’t be easy and that we would miss our friends and family.  But more than that, we knew we would regret it later in life if we didn’t do it.

When we left Australia I felt a sadness, I was leaving a place and people I love and a promising career that was going well.  So why did I do it?  Because I want to see the world, and not just on short one week trips.  I want to really see it, get to know it intimately over time, live in it and experience it completely.

Right now I don’t know what the future holds, and I can’t wait to find out!

 

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