Category Archives: Relationships

3000 Public Transport Stories (How I learnt to stop worrying and love the tram)

I sat on the tram yesterday, the first time I had for a very long time. I tend to train it or walk nowadays but I thought for a change I’d catch the 57 up through North Melbourne and to home, even though it is a much longer journey than the train. I sat opposite a woman who got on at the start of the line like me and was still there when I got off. Her actions, demonstrated to me how much my attitudes have changed over the last couple of years.

Within a few minutes of getting on, she had the song ‘My Prerogative’ playing on YouTube without any headphones so the whole tram could hear. Previously this might of annoyed me and in some circumstances I may have spoken up and questioned what she was doing. But, in some ways this brought some vibrancy to my journey home. However, she played it three more times, stopping the YouTube clip after it had finished and replaying it. Then she phoned someone after the third play and I couldn’t tell whether she was arranging a date or setting up musicians to meet. The pretext definitely sounded like the second but I think she was trying to arrange the first. After the call had finished, she put the phone down, ate some carrot and dip and then played the song again until I got off.

It made me think that at some level, the song meant something to her. And particularly the words ‘everybody’s talking all this stuff about me, why don’t they just let me live’ and I wondered whether her playing of the song was either meant to prompt interaction with the people around her or maybe the song on some level was a comfort to her. I think at times in our lives we have all associated with the lyrics of a particular song, a song that has spoken about our own situation and perhaps we haven’t played it obsessively to an audience on public transport, but maybe in the privacy of our own homes, we have. This women managed to nudge me about three or four times but apologised every time so I didn’t once question her niceness or that she was deliberately trying to antagonise people.

About a week ago I attended a school play for the school I’d taught at for my first placement. As I walked into the venue and up towards a seat at the front, I heard a chorus from one side of the auditorium shout ‘Ian’ and then a group of students ran towards me and hugged me. If I ever wondered what appreciation for the job I’ve done was, it was there in those few moments. To see that I’d made an impression on a few young minds and that I’d done something that they would remember and hence they remembered me. As my class walked off stage after their part was over, one of the boys in grade 1 must have known I was seated where I was and looked over and waved at me with a big smile of his face. A smile of how proud he was of the job he’d done and how glad he was I was there to see it. That is powerful stuff and a few seconds demonstrated an appreciation I haven’t felt in years in other jobs. And that’s a shame. I’ve too easily settled for comfortable positions where I could easily do the roles without much of a challenge, but with that comfort came a feeling of emptiness and I never really appreciated a job well done or felt I was adding value in the way I wanted to.

Today I reached 3000 different beers in the last 6 years. An achievement eh? A numerical one maybe, but not really an achievement in any other sense. At 2000 beers I made a claim that, that was it and I would just enjoy my beers instead of this constant search for new ones. Perhaps though the times just weren’t right for that and I wasn’t ready. It’s a very human characteristic to be constantly searching for something new, to seek happiness from external sources instead of internal ones. But perhaps I’m in a better space on many levels; I feel I’ve returned to me. The true me. The one that does things because I enjoy them rather than because they may impress others. I’m sure that feeling for many of us comes out of a lack of security, and however many people seem full of confidence; my experience is the most seemingly confident tend to be the most insecure.

To err, after all is to be human. I’m very much in transition internally, I’m returning to the things I love because I love them and they bring me genuine joy, not because of what they look like from outside. A great example is my love of horse racing, which I’m indulging more, and more at the moment. I understand that people may object to horse racing and indeed gambling for many reasons, but they are their objections and not mine. I don’t force my advocacy of my pastimes on my friends and I appreciate that they don’t enforce their objections on me. I shouldn’t feel that I need to defend my enjoyment of it and why. We shouldn’t be shamed into not liking the things we like because of other peoples opinions. I feel that my individual opinion is as valid as anyone else’s and differences should be respected. A long time ago, I was vegetarian for 5 years and I remember that everyone had an opinion and in the end I became such a moralistic vegetarian just to defend why I was vegetarian in the first place. The truth was at the time I just didn’t like the texture of meat but this reason didn’t seem to be enough for people.

Life changes at such a pace and our attitudes to it. Friends come and go through our lives, some remain constant, and some leave and some just drift away. At times we choose to listen to our friend’s counsel and at times we ignore it. That maybe justified, that may not be. All these relationships on some level are transactional, we give and we take. Although that balance can be temporarily skewed, in the long run these relationships provide us with something valuable and them with something valuable too.

We should be grateful for those that share our journey, that light the dark corners and remember that they like us because of what we are and not what we think they want us to be.

IJS 20/06/2018

Asking questions but already knowing the answers 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” C.S. Lewis

It’s a massive decision, in fact it’s been 15 years in the making. Today I resigned from my management role with no intention of seeking a full time job for a couple of years. 

My family were very working class as many peoples are. My dad a sparky and when I was born my mum gave up her job as a bank teller to look after first one but then when my sister came along, both of her kids. Perhaps coming from that background my father worked every bit of overtime so he could to earn more money. I suppose when you don’t have it, money is something you figure brings you a lot of things and allows you to offer your children a life that perhaps you never had.

During my childhood, I missed out on a lot of time with my father and as I grew older, I was angry about this but maybe I forgot what opportunities it had afforded me. The money to send me to university and the freedom of mind that education gives you. Indeed I doubt whether I would be the other side of the world if my father hadn’t spent many of his working years working every hour that he was given.

Since I left university, I had a dream profession in mind and for one reason or another, it never quite came off. At one point I applied for a course which would lead me down the path but after being almost assured of a place was told funding had been cut. And so my corporate career developed and the more I progressed and earned the further that dream seemed to move away.

I’d spoke about it to various partners over the years and my recollections are that it wasn’t received that positively, what with the need to retrain for a couple of years and financial burden this would place on us. That was until Claire came along and far from a lack of positivity, she actively encouraged me at almost every opportunity to indulge. You might think that was it, the decision was made but then I went into a mental tailspin of the thought of having to possibly be reliant on someone else for financial support. That’s a big thing for me and it’s taken me months to get through it in my head and a few chats with friends and even my psychologist.

Then one day, I applied to do a Masters of Teaching which would allow me to pursue the career I’ve always dreamed of, a primary school teacher and just a couple of days ago, not one but two universities accepted that application and offered me places on the course.

To rewind just a second, I’d thought long and hard about whether I was too old at 41 (soon to be 42) to entertain a complete change of career. Over the years, I’ve always had thoughts of doing something completely different, but there is something quite comforting in doing what you’re used to and not stepping outside of your comfort zone. However, one crisp Melbourne morning on my work to work, I came to the conclusion that in fact I have half of my working life left and how could I justify to the 70 year old me that I’d never at least given it a go. 

I don’t think I’ll look back and regret my career to date when I finally leave corporate life, even though it’s served me very well. I’ve made such amazing friends, I’ve been paid well for what I’ve done and for the majority of my career I’ve enjoyed the work I’ve done. The people I’ve encountered have taught me a lot of things and I equally hope I have taught them things too.

For me, this is truly a life changing decision and perhaps one of the biggest I’ll ever make. That’s not to say though in recent years that my life hasn’t been a series of big decisions. I’m sure going forward with this one, they’ll be frustrations along the way and some days, I’ll regret my choice but hopefully the majority of my days will be spent thinking I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do.

The last few weeks have been full of charge and I’ve been doing my best to fully embrace this. I’ve perhaps made too many choices in the past to attempt to make other people happy when in fact because of the effect they’ve had on me they have had the opposite effect. Claire has from the start encouraged me to make choices for me and not feel guilty for them. Her part in this decision is pivotal and without her support I would never have made it.

I’m sure some of you think I’m mad. A starting salary of a teacher is not huge however money isn’t everything and in fact the more choices money has brought me, in some ways, the more unhappy I’ve become.

I never been the best at spending time on my own and considering the basis of my course is online study, this is a challenge I will have to face. Although that is exactly how I see, as a challenge, my inability to deal with my loneliness at times has caused me much pain and perhaps a period of focusing on study will prove beneficial for the future not only career wise but personally as well.

I face this all with a fair share of both trepidation and excitement. The news has been positively welcomed in my friend group with no dissenting voices and that has to this point helped to propel me along. I’m not sure what it will be like, not having the routine of an office to go to everyday, people to talk to and my daily morning coffee and lunch routines. I’ve always thought I’ve been one that’s favoured routines, but maybe I’ll develop a whole new ones. I know Claire already has the vacuuming, washing up and cleaning pencilled in for me most days.

Life is ever changing and evolving and I’m finding that a very nice place to be.

IJS 10/7/2017


“To love at all is to be vulnerable Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable “ C.S Lewis


Brene Brown famously says, “What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful”. Perhaps Vulnerability is the last frontier for us truly to break through. The ability to give ourselves to something or someone without fear of our hearts being broken and our souls laid bare.

In later years I’ve maybe learnt this lesson better than most people. At times I’ve been closed off to this world unable to talk about my feelings to those around me but in the last few years after being pushed so far and finding I actually needed to talk to people I find that kind of vulnerability in fact had the opposite effect to what I always feared. What did I fear? Rejection, embarrassment, repulsion at my inner most feelings being open to the world.

But what actually happened? In fact quite the opposite, the more I spoke to people, the more I revealed my inner self, my inner voice, my thoughts and feelings I felt an outpouring of love for me and I felt relieved. Instead of me seeing this as a weakness its actually turned into one of my biggest strengths. My ability to ask for help from my friends in sad and upsetting situations is I think nowadays one of my biggest strengths. It’s allowed me to deal with and process difficult situations presented in my life effectively and in a very timely manner. The support and love I’ve felt has allowed me to heal and start regrowing.

Maybe, its worth at this point defining vulnerability. Back to probably one of the experts on this Brene Brown, she describes it as the core, the heart, the centre of meaningful human experiences. Uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

Vulnerability is very much tied up with our emotions. If we feel vulnerability as a weakness then what we seem to fear is actually our emotions themselves. Vulnerability to some people is seen as braveness that they can’t possible reciprocate. But is it really all that brave or courageous. What’s so brave and courageous about telling people how you truly feel? Especially if the reaction brings us such love and empowerment?

Vulnerability also speaks to me of something I’ve mentioned before and that is being in the moment. Not having particular regard for the future or the past, but just purely enjoying the now for what it is. I’m sure it’s a human trait to try and moderate any strong emotion as a way of self-preservation but there is something quite beautiful in letting go.

And perhaps there is a greater place for vulnerability to play in our primary relationships. Perhaps instead of hiding ourselves away we should truly reveal ourselves to our nearest and dearest from day 1. Lets take the dating world, it is full of insecurities, its full of people trying to impress others but maybe it should be a time when we give our potential partners a true choice. Not one that is based on information we want them to hear but rather a holistic picture of us. When something upsets us, maybe instead of pretending it didn’t happen because you don’t want your potential mate to have a negative thought about you, perhaps we should just stop for a second and explain that something has upset us and exactly why it upsets us. Surely by doing this we would build relationships not built on sand, but relationships with proper foundations, ones that can grow taller and longer without fear of toppling because the partners actually understand each other much better.

Why not set aside an hour or two every week and dedicate that time to just being vulnerable with your partner. It could take many formats, maybe it’s an open question sessions where each partner gets to ask alternate questions and the other partner creates a safe space where open communication is encouraged and not jumped on or reacted too. A space where active listening is adopted and we try to actual understand. The questions could be anything, from the silly to the very serious, its often that we get to our serious questions through an initial format that involves jest or segues to something more serious.

Maybe its 30 minutes at the end of everyday, maybe its not done in person, maybe it’s done by text or email. A lot of research shows that we are able to sometimes communicate better these ways because due to the detachment from the person we are willing to say things we never would in person. Those 30 minutes each day could be used to go back over recent situations and tell your partner how things made you feel and why you feel like that.

I’m not suggesting doing this is easy for a second. But as humans the more we do something we more we get used to it and the more comfortable something actually feels. Can you remember the time you first told your partner you loved them? How much anticipation builds up before you say it for the first time. But after its been said once how easy does it come to our lips when you see them? I suppose the point is it has to start somewhere. Undoubtedly, it could in fact be quite confronting especially if its not something that’s comes naturally over our lifetimes or something we were taught in our childhood. But what is there to be afraid of? That our partners may reject us? Isn’t it more likely months or years down the line when they finally start to develop a full picture of us that we get rejected at that point?

The word vulnerable has often been used in a negative context; just a check of the dictionary reveals the following definitions:

  • Susceptible to physical harm or damage
  • Susceptible to emotional injury
  • Susceptible to attack
  • Open to censure or criticism

Perhaps its time we redefined this word and what it means to us?

IJS 08/06/2016

Where to from here?


It’s been a fair few weeks and perspective is all important really. The closer we are to an event, the more our judgement is clouded so although i love writing I’ve delayed this to a time I might be able to give a better account than I previously have.

I think I should start by saying I’m in a very good place. Although hard initially I’ve been quite successful at restarting my life once again.  This however may well be because I’m pretty experienced now in this situation after four pretty big breakups in the last 11 years.

To say I was blindsided by events is an understatement. I believed marriage offered some sort of security but unfortunately I was wrong. I’m not going to go into the where’s and why fors because that isn’t fair and although I had no part in the decision, I think it’s not right to make any judgements on it. It’s done and what’s important is how I move on from it and where I go.

I’ve moved back to the north which I’ve always felt is home for me. A new suburb, Brunswick West. Close to Princes Park for running, close to Moonee Ponds for a few friend catch ups and close to Sydney Road. A good spot and although it was a bit of luck, a good choice too. The choice was made on really one factor. That week when I was looking, I set up 5 interviews for flatmates to view their places. The first one I came to was in Brunswick West and I got a text 10 minutes before I arrived asking me what beer I liked and that she would grab a six pack. We sat and chatted for a couple of hours and it was decision made.

I suppose it’s with a bit of trepidation that I confirm I have entered the dating arena once again and I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by the positiveness of everyone I’ve told this too. It’s nice to know that people are genuinely happy for me and although there have been a few, it’s too early comments, I realise these are coming from a place of care and love for me and I appreciate them all. Whilst taking these onboard, I feel I have absolutely made the right decision for me.

My friends have been my rock these last few months. I’ve called on many of them and they’ve always been there. I think to name names is a bit crass, but from the person who rushed over when this all started, to the person who gave me the first hug, to the guys who’ve spent hours of time with me and the lovely check in phone calls, I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed. And it’s reminded me of the amazing people I have around me and also my own strength in a crisis. These last few months, I have tried to be purely selfish and get back to the things I enjoyed. I had a ball in Good Beer Week spending lots of time at beer events, I’ve just come back from a trip to Echuca, had a fantastic time in Sydney for work and have spent countless hours with some amazing people.

Life is beautiful. From the sunrise in the morning, the hot air balloons in the sky, the people smiling at you as you walk by, the coffee shop that remembers your name, the sun warming you on a cold winters day, the inner peace I achieve from running, drinks with friends and a tram trip home with a plethora of interesting characters. In spite of all life deals us, beauty is all around it’s just a matter of opening our eyes.

I’m not sure where to from here but it can only be forward. I have many dreams still for the future and I’m looking forward to making these come true. It’s been quite a journey so far and although there have been many bumps in the road, I’m still looking into the horizon and imagine how exciting travelling this road is going to be.

To the future.

IJS 31/05/2016

Out of the darkness and into the light

“Life is at its best when everything has fallen out of place, and you decide that you’re going to fight to get them right, not when everything is going your way and everyone is praising you” (Thisuri Wanniarachchi)

We all have our moments don’t we. Those times when we think the world is against when everything around us seems dark when we can’t see the wood for the trees. In a way though I believe our lives need these times, because they provide us with a perspective on how happy our other moments are.

In my experience people to a degree hide the way they feel to the outside world, I know there have been times when I’ve felt like an actor going through my normal day life, painting the smile on, saying the right things while everything inside me is crumbling.

What really provides us with character is not how we deal with the good times, those times when everything is sunny and beautiful around us but rather how we deal the bad times, how we lift ourselves when regardless of how much help and support our friends and family provide us, we just need to do it for ourselves.

My personal strategy in times like this has always been to do things I really enjoy (or at least used to enjoy before I got there). Secondly, to do things I think I’m relatively good at, running in this case is a great example. On top of the natural endorphins that are released from doing exercise, for me the sense of achievement and the clarity of thought I get from running has carried through some difficult times.

Everyone’s solution is different though, some people shout and scream because to them getting those feelings out and verbalising how they feel give them the relief they need. Its all about understanding your own personal strategy.

We need to take care of ourselves at times and for some people that can be very difficult when their natural position in life is to care for others. Then you must remember the first rule of first aid (that I was taught anyway) first aiders should look after themselves first. Primarily because without them there is no first aid! I suppose the larger point is, I’m sure all our friends and families would understand if for a few times in our life we are a little selfish, with the trade off being we’d be much better people to be around in the long term.

In a way this blog moves onto a theme I’ve carried through a few here. That is to understand ourselves, the more self aware we are the quicker we recover from our darker moments because we understand what we need at these times. Understanding and actions aren’t necessarily the same things though. In my case I’m a bad communicator at these times, I need to chat to the people who love me and let them know what is going on but I struggle with that very basic thing. I turn in on myself and reflect, because I realise the only person who is able to solve my situation is me. Once my head is around it, I float back to the surface again.

Understanding is the key.

Are we capable of change? Do we need to?

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no-one thinks of changing himself” (Leo Tolstoy)

A few years ago, I felt I’d got to a point in my life I was unhappy with. I felt I was being overly negative about people and world in general because I felt my society or friend group demanded that of me, or rather I needed to act that way to fit in.

After a few comments from close friends, I came to realise what I was actually thinking and saying were two completely different things. My nature has never been one to see the negativeness in my life, in fact it is quite to opposite I tend to be the crazy optimist, the it’ll all be all right kind of character and I tend to see the best in people until they give me a reason not to.

Realigning those thoughts and my voice wasn’t as easy a solution as it sounds though and it is not an easy road to follow. Whilst I had been carrying out this behaviour, I drew into my life all these people who fed off it and came to expect it from me. Changing meant losing those friends because I no longer offered what they needed from me.

I tend to think we have people in our lives that we need. They draw off us and we draw off them and were stronger for having those people around. Obviously all relationships involve give and take and we tend to clump together with people who inspire us, provide us with honesty and provide the support we need in hard times.

Anyway, back to the story, I’d always felt uncomfortable about the negativeness and began to challenge that negativeness first in the people around me and hence as part of this process in myself. Along the way I lost a lot of friends who didn’t like what I was becoming but I felt much happier that my inner and outer voice were singing from the same hymn sheet. In fact new friends flocked to me, those people who valued the positiveness and my crazy optimism in their lives.

There is though I feel a bigger question here about change, how much can we actually change ourselves? I believe in some of the old adages, a leopard can’t change its spots and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There seems to me to be only so much of us we are able to change. Some of our actions and words are hardwired. For me what I was able to change was those things where my inner and outer voice were not in harmony and not aligned. For any change I think we must ask ourselves various questions such as, I am at ease with myself? can I live with my actions once I go home and I’m alone? what aftermath am I causing?

I believe in treading through this world gently, leaving my own footprint, making my mark and letting other people make theirs.

IJS 12/07/2014

Are we seeking familiarity and not happiness?

I read an article the other day that a friend sent me. It was about relationships and why we choose the people we do. Fairly standard piece but out of the 7 factors one blew my mind a little bit. That one being, we aren’t used to being happy. We believe that we seek happiness but what in fact we seek is familiarity.

The article goes on to say many of our lessons we learn are learnt in childhood and aren’t quite as straightforward as we think. We go on to reject perfectly good candidates because they are too well balanced (too reliable, too understanding) because these things feel alien to us and almost oppressive. We choose people not because they please us but because they frustrate us in familiar ways.

What an incredibly powerful point! I wonder how many people I have in my life, not because they bring me happiness necessarily but because they are people who only challenge me in a way I know how to deal with and alternatively how many people do I have that challenge me in ways I don’t know how to deal with.  Maybe I should start a list. My thinking is over the years I’ve probably got a variety of both types.

Hence through our searches we pick people who we are comfortable with, who don’t challenge our beliefs, who don’t treat us in ways we find unusual and maybe we are poorer people for this. I’d think the people who treat us differently would require us to put in some extra effort, to understand and adapt to and maybe its just a comment on the laziness of society as such. It is however quite incredible to think that there are people who don’t choose people because they are too giving, too generous because it is such an alien concept to them and they don’t really know or understand how to deal with this.

One to ponder I reckon.

IJS 10/07/2014