Category Archives: Thoughts

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

Back to the classroom

From spilling coffee down myself on day one, to falling asleep on a train on day eighteen. From losing control of a class, to having a student tell me that ‘I sounded more like a teacher’ as I was telling off one of the boys in the class. I’ve had hours of conversations with my mentor teacher and taken away a lot of lessons. An early observation was however hard my mentor teacher seemingly was with her class they all appeared to love her at the end of the day. We had a discussion about this a few days ago and she said as long as the students think you are being just and fair they won’t hold it against you, which I thought was a nice piece of advice.

The students have frustrated me, tried my patience, amazed me and made me proud. For every lesson I thought didn’t go well, another did. On the penultimate day I asked my class what they thought of the personal timeline project I’d set them. They started with ‘100% fun’ and then ‘120% fun’. This might suggest I failed in my maths teaching!

I’ve dealt with children with a variety of learning difficulties and done all this whilst embracing a teaching method that could be seen as a little unusual. Self-directed learning and three-hour lessons may sound the stuff of nightmares for some teachers and would probably keep others awake at night, but the more I got used to it the more I saw its benefits, especially with children on the margins.

Saying all this I had a wise experienced mentor who told it straight all the time and I took on board everything I was told, despite that response you sometimes get when you are given ‘feedback’. What I’m talking about is that natural urge to ignore it or hide away from it and not face it. The teaching assistant was also invaluable; from rescuing me on day one when a teacher I can only assume misheard that this was my first day put me 1:1 with the most disruptive student in the class, to providing the materials for my increasingly practical and material heavy lessons.

I was worried before I began. I thought, I’m nearly half way through, what if I don’t like it? What if I decide it isn’t for me? There is always that possibility, at least in my mind. But instead I thrived. I experimented with what worked and what didn’t. I changed my opinion on discipline and I taught some lessons that captured the attention of my class.

I’ve done lots of non-teaching duties as well; gate duty, attended staff and department meetings, watched my class prepare for the school play and learnt how to deal with situations that frankly would have freaked me out six weeks ago. I’ve laughed and almost cried at the things that have gone on and the way the children have reacted.

There was one thing that took me time to get used to. Before I started my mentor teacher warned me that the children like to touch you. Despite being told, I wasn’t ready for such an invasion of my personal space. But after a while the hugs, the way the children push themselves into you, became a nice part of the job. As did the cards they made for me. I guessed something was happening when a few of them came up to me after they’d finished making mother’s day cards and asking how to spell my name.

It’s been a pleasure to work with such young and open minds. To put some of the theory that I’ve studied into practice and to understand that theory is one thing but getting out there and standing in front of a class calls for a lot more than thinking about your teaching ‘pedagogy’ and theorising about how children learn. Decisions are made on the hop, lessons can turn in seconds and unusual random events happen all the time. Perhaps the ability to be dynamic and move outside of a structured way of thinking is the greatest lesson the class has taught me. And I’ve embraced that, just as they have embraced learning from me.

Those who know me well will know that I find it hard to stop and appreciate an achievement before moving on to the next challenge. It’s been ingrained in me to always think I could have done a better job, to look for what I’ve done wrong, instead of what I’ve done right. But this time, as I sat on the train home on one of my final days, the emotion washed over me, and a voice said that I should be proud of the job I’ve done. I should be giving myself a pat on the back. I should let that feeling linger a while and enjoy it. I sat there on the penultimate day as my mentor teacher filled in my end of placement report and spent thirty minutes complimenting me on the job I’d done, the feedback she’d given me that I’d enacted, my willingness to step in and the way I cared for the children in her class. It’s always nice to be told that you’ve done a good job, but in my experience it’s rare for people to actually tell you.

There have been other signs too. Claire has commented on how I come home of an evening and enjoy talking about work. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that. I had a policy for many years that I wouldn’t talk about work at home.  I felt as though it had invaded the majority of my day and I wouldn’t let it invade any more. Maybe that’s the difference between a job and a career. A career is something you live, a job is something you do.

So I get to sit at home and study for a couple of months, but the break from the classroom is short which is actually nice. Part of me doesn’t want to have an alarm go off at 6.15 am in the morning and have to drag myself out of bed, but part of me does as well. Part of me likes getting my coffee from Coles (they’re only $2 for a large), likes doing my admin on the train and enjoys walking into the classroom waiting for the children to come in for the day. I head back to the classroom in August, this time to teach grades 5&6 in a different school, but I have a feeling I will return to this first one. Many of the children have asked if I’ll come back and see them and I will. My first placement and teaching experience is special, it’ll be forever etched on my memory.

Teaching hey? I’m not saying this is for everyone, but it seems like it might be for me.

IJS 25/05/2018

Holiday dilemmas

Holidays really are a microcosm of life in general. Everything that would normally happen is so sped up because of all the decisions we make, which would normally take weeks. Hence a week is a long time in holidays! Whilst away we faced a number of dilemmas which I suppose in many ways are just the run of the mill kind but something you never quite sit down and think about.

Dilemma No. 1 : Why doesn’t it look anything like the pictures?

I’m sure I’m not alone in this one. I sit at home on booking.com or a hotel’s website and I wonder at the pictures of the room I’m about to book and the lifestyle I’m going to lead because of this amazing room.  Years of staying in hotels after booking them has brought me to the conclusion that whenever you go, the hotel never ever lives up to your expectation. I’m not entirely sure what the reason is for this, I guess the very wide angled lens they use to take pictures of the rooms to make them look massive, all the amenities they have (which they don’t when you arrive) or maybe it’s just that feeling of stepping off a flight which has taken hours, arriving at the hotel and feeling thoroughly miserable as you open the door and wonder why you booked this.

Interestingly, for the first time for a long time, I was actually not disappointed at this place. A few things came to light after a few days (some electrical tape round one of the lamp leads and the towel holder precariously attached to the wall) however the first impression was amazing. An apartment the size of our house, a second bedroom we didn’t expect (or use), a balcony overlooking a serenity pool with tables, chairs, outside fridge and BBQ.

Amazing!

Dilemma No. 2: We have to fit sooo much in!

Well you know what, you don’t really? Often the reason people state for going on holiday is to relax, only to get there and fill every moment of every day with things to do and see. Maybe this comes from the finiteness of our lives and the popular FOMO (fear of missing out ). Sometimes though isn’t it nice just to do absolutely nothing? Probably one of my greatest pleasures from the holiday we just went on was I had a 30-minute run in the humid tropical heat followed by a swim in one of the hotel’s pool (they had three) all before breakfast. It’s nothing amazing, or nothing I couldn’t recreate in Melbourne (bar the tropical heat and serenity pool)

I knew it was special, when I was walking back from the pool I felt that glow and calmness come over me and the very unusual human feeling of just being in the moment and enjoying it for what it is. I can’t claim I feel that a lot of the time, but when I do it’s always nice to pause, reflect and acknowledge it.

Dilemma No 3: Ethics and Values

Ethics and values are an interesting topic but particularly in relation to holidays, I’d like to pose a question, do we apply the same ethics and values when we’re on holiday as we do in our everyday lives? In reference to dilemma 2, I think the need to fit in so many things in might just lead us to doing things we wouldn’t normally do.

For us, our particular dilemma was about going to a popular crocodile farm. We were in FNQ and let’s face it crocodiles are a big attraction and everyone wants to see one. The day before we’d taken a trip down the river from Port Douglas and saw one on our whole cruise. That funnily enough was in the marina as we returned. I mean we didn’t really need to leave the marina. The next day we decided to go to a crocodile farm to see a few more. It’s not a widely advertised point but this crocodile farm kills most of its crocodiles and sells them on through another company to make high end handbags and shoes. Would I buy one of these handbags or shoes, nope. So why would I visit the crocodile farm. Well to see crocodiles. To be fair the place does do a lot of good work, rescuing crocodiles that are problems in the areas and housing them (and it’s not these crocs they kill) and there is something amazing about seeing a 4 metre crocodile jump out of the water to catch a piece of dangling meat but do I wish I hadn’t gone? I’m not quite sure would be my honest answer. Would I go to a crocodile farm in Victoria, probably not. I think it speaks a lot to how fluid our morals actually are depending on the situation.

Dilemma No 4: Not looking forward to things but actually enjoying them

This really isn’t just a holiday dilemma if you ask me. And maybe it’s really just a me dilemma. But there are some things which I arrange to do and coming up to the actual event, I have a feeling that I really am not going to enjoy them and I don’t want to go. I rarely act on this and I must admit, Claire is incredibly supportive in listening to my concerns and then just dragging me along anyway which I’m always quite grateful for because it’s very rare I don’t enjoy them.

In this instance it was a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve done a couple of days of snorkeling on reefs, once on the Great Barrier Reef and another in Fiji. I enjoyed the Great Barrier Reef one but the Fiji one, the operators just decided to drop people near the reef shelf by the deep ocean and drive the boat off and come back later. This can kind of freak you out although I’m a relatively strong swimmer. I guess I was carrying that memory in the run up to this trip.

However, I loved it. We had marine biologists on board and a really nice crew who remembered everyone’s names and I even got to tell my story about what had happened in Fiji. It was a relatively small group (about 25) and the reef was gentle and flat. I found the snorkeling pretty easy and really enjoyed it.

Dilemma No 5: To complain or not complain?

I must say I don’t often get bad restaurant service in Melbourne, in fact I can’t think of the last time I have really. There are maybe a few examples when things have taken longer than I wish they had but all in all I’ve been happy.

Fast forward to our latest holiday. One of the nights we decided we’d head out for a quick meal at a restaurant a few minutes’ walk away from us. I wasn’t requiring anything fancy, just a pizza and some Saganaki. What more does anyone need? As we walked in we noticed the restaurant was relatively busy however a seat was found for us after separating a couple of tables. We thought considering the busyness of the restaurant and our want to eat quick that we’d order everything at once, ignoring the popular convention of ordering drinks, waiting for the drinks then ordering food.

Order was taken by a waitress who appeared to be new. But she took our order, read it back and it was correct. After about 15 minutes the drinks hadn’t arrived so Claire inquired at the bar to be told they hadn’t been ordered. Cue our drinks being poured quickly and the waitress being berated in the background. Next our Saganaki arrived in good time and we both jumped on that, maybe me more than Claire. The final piece of the meal was a large pizza and a salad. The pizza came out, we started eating thinking the salad would come anytime. It hadn’t appeared after 10 minutes, we caught the waitresses eye and she came over. After asking about the salad we were told, she hadn’t ordered it and it was her fault. Not really what we were expecting, in most cases, the wait staff would have rushed to the kitchen and got the chef to rustle up a few leaves on a plate.

Pizzas finished we got up to leave and our waitress rushed over to the till before anyone else could get there, apologized again, produced the bill and nearly gave me the machine for a tip but thought better of it. We paid and left. We thought afterwards should we go back and complain, but never did. My Englishness means it has to be pretty appalling for me to complain and I much prefer to facelessly complain on social media nowadays but this service was close to the limit and part of why I generally feel a lot less anxiety going to a pub and ordering my drinks and meal at the bar, because it takes, in my opinion, an unnecessary transaction out of the experience.

All of this may in some ways suggest I had a bad holiday but in fact these are everyday events I face day in day out and I genuinely enjoyed my week away in the hot tropical sunshine.

IJS 06/03/2017

Anxiety: The constant companion

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Before I made my decision to give up work and take up the teaching course, which will lead to my career of choice, I experienced varying levels of anxiety. In response to what I’m sure was ‘the uncertain’. One of my main anxious thoughts was around the loneliness of online study, having no classmates and no one but the cat around me for the whole day.

To provide a bit of background about where this thought came from. I’ve struggled with loneliness in the past and was frightened that it might rear its ugly head again and blight what should be a joyous return to study after 20 years away from it. A few years ago, prompted by feelings of loneliness, I went through a two-month period of insomnia. I’d go to bed around 11pm and then wake up at 1am feeling sure it was the morning and time to get up. Once I’d checked the time, my heart would begin to race, my breathing would get rapid and my mind would turn to thoughts of not being able to sleep the whole night.

This was probably one of the most terrifying periods of my life. I once had to beg the chemist to give me some sleeping tablets because I’d forgotten my ID, had about 5 sleep remedies (none of which worked) and once took a sleeping tablet at 4am in the morning and wandered around like a zombie at work the next day. During this period, I was forcing down six or seven meals a day and still losing weight. On a work trip to Sydney I nearly passed out in my hotel. This is what anxiety can do.

Anxiety is our constant companion, it walks with us everywhere. It doesn’t always speak, sometimes it just sits quietly in the corner but at times it shouts so loud we can hear nothing else. Part of my life I guess, has been and is, learning how to soothe it. Mine responds to exercise, so I head down to the gym or run four days a week now. Mine also likes sitting in the backyard in the sun reading a book. Mine likes structure. It likes to feel in control. It definitely likes a plan. If I don’t wake up and know what I’m doing that day it starts to talk and gradually gets louder. Mine likes to be talked about; hence just writing this is good. I guess things only have power when they remain unsaid.

I have two great outlets for this, firstly Claire, who listens in the most non-judgemental way I have ever experienced. However irrational the thing I’m saying, she doesn’t instantly jump on it, saying it’s silly. She’ll ask questions and explore it. I suppose considering her job this is understandable, but to me it’s quite amazing. The second is of course my psychologist, someone far detached from my life, whom I’m able to say anything to. I still feel, even when I’m typing this, that there is a stigma in saying I see a psychologist but there shouldn’t be, we’re all too quick to look after our physical health but pay little attention to our mental health.

The question might arise, why did I choose to do an online course, which puts me in this position, when I had an offer from another university to study on campus. Well that’s a good question. Perhaps as well as challenging myself with my studies, I also wanted to grow as a person, to build resilience and finally put my fear of loneliness to bed.

In exploring the loneliness I’ve suffered in the past I’ve come to realise that when I’ve felt it and especially when the terrifying period of insomnia was taking place, that loneliness was enforced and involuntary. I had just split up with a partner and was experiencing living on my own for the first time in around 20 years. In the moment though, I didn’t take time to think, analyse, and wonder why? I was too busy trying to distract myself, to just get myself through. And through it I did get and came out the other side. I don’t view sleep in the same way that I did. I still occasionally wake up in the early hours of the morning and look at the clock. However I no longer get distressed if it is very early, I just think I’ve got plenty more time to sleep and if I don’t sleep I can just lie there and think of things instead of trying to distract myself. There is a great quote by, I think, the School of Life’s Alain de Botton which says that not being able to sleep is the brain’s way of telling us we need to think more about something. That’s a mantra I keep in mind when I wake up now.

All of this isn’t to say I don’t suffer anxious thoughts. I believe everyone probably does. Others saw me, for years, as calm. But that’s about what we show the world, not what we show ourselves. These first few weeks have been surprisingly easy. Perhaps it’s because they were a choice I made instead of something being forced on me. Sure I’ve developed routines. I now have five weeks without study and when I started, this was the time I was most dreading. Three days in, I’m starting to welcome it and embrace the silence and solitude it offers me, being alone with my thoughts with no distractions.

My studies continue to excite me, to make me think about the future ahead. It seems a long way away but I think I will enjoy the journey of getting there.

IJS 5/10/2017

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

Home

  
“A home without books is a body without a soul” (Marcus Tullius Cicero) 

Well what a week. The accumulation of things that have happened is quite truly staggering and in their own way a little bit crazy. In hindsight to get off a plane at 6.00am in the morning, to then pick up a moving van a couple of hours later, then for Claire to have an interview on the way to make our first drop off the same morning was probably a bit wildly optimistic. However, amazingly we managed it. And with very good results, our two houses were moved in 2 days with us finishing at 12.30am on Thursday morning after 6 exhaustive trips across the city. We cancelled the removalists we had booked just in case and fell into bed for one of the soundest sleeps ever. To think we both went back to work on Thursday morning too.

 Thankfully we thought to hire a stair trolley to help with this effort. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to move fridges and washing machines without it. I look at my arms today and can see the bruising from all the lifting but surprisingly I don’t really ache that much from it.

 I enjoyed driving quite a big van across the city and I liked the fact that people tended to move out of the way of it. Although this could just be a reaction to my driving which although I think is relatively good, might not be an opinion that is shared by everyone.

 I have to say it’s nice being back in the inner north of the city. Kensington is a beautiful suburb only a couple of stops from Southern Cross and an easy ten minute cycle into North Melbourne. It’s a part of the city I’m very familiar with and a part where I find the people are very easy to get on with. After our late night moving antics we decided it might be a nice thought to buy some chocolates for our next door neighbours and leave them in their letterboxes. The next day, one of them popped round to thank us and brought us some herbs from her garden, a nice thought. The other one we ran into later, who I’d met briefly when I was moving. She introduced her husband to us and let us know that she hadn’t heard a thing but we were always welcome to put chocolates in her letterbox!

 Another nice thing happened to, as I was unpacking the van on one of the loads. A woman walked past me down the street and asked if I was just moving in. I answered ‘yes’ and she said she lived round the corner and welcomed me to the neighbourhood. Their certainly seems like a nice community in the area we’ve moved to and the street seems full of residents who’ve been there quite a while.

 It’s also nice to actually have a house. I’ve lived in my fair share of apartments and units over the years and finally I have quite a bit of room, which is in fact, unusual in the inner city. The giant shed will certainly come in use for the relaunch of my home brewing operations which has taken a back seat so far this year. This beautiful three bedroom weatherboard although may not have been my first choice when we were looking but has felt like home from the moment I stepped into it. With its nice high ceilings, ornate cornices, fireplaces and modern renovated kitchen and bathroom it’s been a treat to fill it with our possessions. Home though of course isn’t necessarily about the building or the location it’s also about the person who fills that space with you and I’m very thankful for Claire’s willingness to relocate to the north of the city from her base in the south.

 We’ve had a few teething problems with things like an internet connection (when doesn’t this happen?). However we are close to sorting these out and of course now we’re into the exciting stuff, making new purchases to fill the house, re-joining my previous gym at Arden Street and getting to know our new area better.

 Although we still have a bit of work to do it’s nice to start the new week in our new home, to dream of all the exciting times to be had there, the warmth, the laughter and everything else we can bring to it.

 Oh and we do have a lot of books.

 IJS

Vulnerability

“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

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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

Can’t say it’s done me much harm

Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock and roll
(Shigeru Miyamoto)

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I think the debate is almost a generation thing and it’s certainly a polarising one. There doesn’t seem a lot of middle ground and you tend to be on onside or another. But maybe it’s time for a rethink.

Computer games, Video games whatever you want to call them seem to bring out some strong opinions in people, even to the extent of why the current generations are as they are.

I’ve played video games since I was a child. I can remember the days when my parents bought me my first computer, a ZX Spectrum (48K with the rubber keys) from there I’ve owned a computer or some sort ever since. I’ve had Spectrums, Amigas, PCs, Nintendos, Xboxs and Playstations. I must admit that I love playing video games and I probably spend upwards of $1000 on games per year.

To me they are as simple as any other form of media. I personally don’t see much difference between watching TV, reading a book, listening to the radio, surfing the web or something as simple as doing a Sudoku puzzle. It’s funny but it  almost seems more acceptable to sit and play with apps on our phone than to fire up the PS4 or Xbox One and play. The only difference I do see with the above is a very important one and that is interaction, the flow in most of the above examples seems to be just one way. You either sit there watching or listening to something. Video games are by their nature interactive.

Video games also educate and that tends to be forgotten. Over the years I’ve learnt so many thing through playing video games that I would not have learnt. I’ve learnt the rules of sports I’ve never watched or never played. It doesn’t just prompt the interest on the screen either. It’s common for me to go away and buy a book or watch a documentary, research on the net or watch the sport itself to understand it much better. Actual examples of this are American Football, Ice Hockey and Basketball. I would not have an interest in any of these sports without my introduction to them via video games. In fact my current project is to learn more about Baseball, a game I’ve actually found quite boring to watch if I happened to flick on ESPN. So I’ve bought myself the latest baseball game. Just today, I’ve learnt that a lot of pitchers do not bat and are replaced by a designated hitter when it’s time to bat. I would never have known this previously if I just sat watching a game.

And it’s not just sports, I’ve boosted my knowledge of history through playing historical games like Civilization and Total War. The games themselves taught me a little but they both gave me a thirst for knowledge to go away and understand the periods of history in which they are set.

A friend recently posed a question on Facebook. He included a screenshot from a game he is currently playing and asked whether a video game can be art? The screenshot is of a beautiful moonlight scene with a silhouette of the character he is playing on a horse. If I saw a painting of this in a gallery I’d like it and I really don’t see the difference. Someone has taken the time to design the visuals within the game and really aren’t these designers as much artists as people painting onto canvas?

Video games let us explore worlds we could never travel, to be people we can never be, to replicate what our heroes do. They open the world up to us, teach us the difference between right and wrong, allow us to be creative without constraints and let us see the world through a different set of eyes. Some people call this escapism and wonder why people pass hours this way but back to my earlier point, how is it different from watching a film? I enjoy getting wrapped up in a great game (many of these games now have bigger budgets than Hollywood movies) and sometimes I just enjoy sitting down and playing to relax.

Life is about balance and people tend to think about the extreme examples of people playing games for 10 hours but I would say that would be the minority of gamers nowadays. I’m happy to just fill 20 minutes of time whilst I enjoy a morning coffee playing a few overs of cricket, a game of basketball or a bit of baseball.

Gamers get a pretty hard wrap I reckon, but I’m happy to count myself amongst their number.

IJS 14/04/2015

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And so goodbye North Melbourne

‘The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence’ (unknown)

Tick…And so the clock ticks, and the hour hand moves and another chapter of my life begins. Today is the day I hand my keys for North Melbourne in, my final connection with the suburb I’ve lived in for over 2 and a half years.

Tock….North Melbourne has served me well, it’s seen me grow, it’s influenced me in many ways. I felt an intrinsic connection to it whilst I was there. I felt the most I’ve felt at home in any of the suburbs I lived so far. A suburb isn’t just a set of buildings though, it’s the people and the community.

Tick… North Melbourne is a curious mix of families, singles with a touch of hipster culture probably brought about by its funky coffee shops. Its close enough to the city to be able to walk in and in parts its almost suburban with its larger houses and parkland.

Tock….To feel connected to a place is a great feeling. I could walk around North Melbourne alone but still feel part of the larger community. I loved going to the gym there, because by the time I was leaving I would always know someone there and be on for a little chat.

Tick…I’ll miss the running tracks, my two main routes took me down the Maribyrnong towards either Yarraville/Anglers Tavern with my other route taking me in Royal Park and around the circuit at Princes Park. I’ll miss the Capital City Trail that took me into Fitzroy and Collingwood, I’ll miss being able to cycle to work all along cycle paths and not really having to hit a road at all. Finally I’ll miss the city, I deliberately used to get off my tram in the city and walk back to North Melbourne just to see the life and soul of Melbourne.

Tock..But saying all this, it’s my choice to move. It’s time.

We can only look forward as the clock keeps ticking.

IJS 20/11/2014

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