Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

wolf jpgI had an argument with my physio this morning.

We were chatting about baking (he’s an avid baker for his two young kids), which led to a discussion on the recent Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale held at the Queensland University, and the issues that came out of that: namely, that even though we live in what we think is an equitable society, not only is wage disparity a real issue, but that when this discrepancy is raised, the anti-women vitriol that comes to the fore is positively frightening.

Both agreeing that this is, of course, deeply shocking and condemnable, my physio went on to say that by choosing to read about and be affected by it, that I’m making myself unhappy. As a parent, he said, he is actively trying not be taken in by the seemingly endless bad news stories as generated by the press.

He went on to confess that it is too scary for him to consider the world he’s actively welcomed his children to and would therefore prefer to focus on what he does have control over; the raising of good respectful humans.

He isn’t alone in feeling like this: a number of my friends with children have commented that they too now view everything in the news as a threat and no longer actively engage with the wider world.

My perspective is a bit different; I believe that as a citizen of the world, it is our duty to be cognisant of all its shades – both the good and the bad, and to actively participate in shaping the world the way we want our children to inherit.

Wage disparity is a real issue across all industries in Australia. It’s happening right in front you.  It’s happening right in front of me – actually, it’s happening to me. And that’s not right. It should be discusssed and the underlying question of why this continues to occur be constanty asked. If the response that this bake sale recieved is anything to go by, this mere sratching of the surface of the ‘why’, uncovers an active part of our society which appears to fundamentally hate women. That was a huge wake up call for me and certainly makes me feel less secure in our society, especially because these people were not visible but only gave their opinion protected by the anonymity of the online environment. In real terms, this means that the individual standing in front of you could be a wolf in sheeps clothing.

We are at a time in history where believing in the fundamental good of man is required if we are to hold together our increasingly fractured society. This display of violent discrimination does nothing other than erode this belief.

In order to raise good, respectful humans, don’t we need to be fully aware of the what that means? Of what we need to equip both ourselves and our children with in order to not only defend but to fight for our rights in the future? And of how to spot a wolf in sheeps clothing?

I think we do.

Skipping outside the box

D9AE3D6D9A

I have a habit of walking on the retaining wall, between the ocean and the boardwalk, along Brighton Beach.

The wall is only about knee height, so walking up here isn’t particularly dangerous and it doesn’t take me away from conversing with my walking buddies (who generally refrain from commenting on my behaviour).

It’s a habit I don’t often think about – if there is an option to walk higher than the footpath, I’ll always take it. Why not? It’s fun!

I often come across children doing this same thing and I’ve faced off on quite a few dogs too who prefer walking slightly elevated, but I’ve never come across another ‘adult’, and I wonder why not.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all walked on the wall as kids, but when did we give it up?

We are such funny creatures; we spend our youth wishing we were adults and our adult years wishing we were youths. As adults, we fight to maintain our youthful features with skin peels, gym classes and Botox, but we fail to fight for the elements that truly make us youthful; curiosity, whimsy, imagination and nonsensical fun.

When did we start seeing puddles as shoe-ruining obstacles, rather than a great place to jump and splash around in?

I’m not sure if many adults see themselves as ‘grown-ups’. Most of my friends seem perplexed and bemused that they have bills and mortgages to pay, as well as responsibilities such as child-rearing under their authority. None of them describe themselves as ‘adult’ and most of them feel rather fraudulent at the concept. Sometimes when I’m in a meeting at work, I look around the group and wonder just how many of them are truly grown-up and how many of them are just big kids trying to do their best to survive.

It’s for this reason, that I feel confident the ‘Adult Colouring-In Book’ phase which is currently sweeping the nation, has gained such popularity. ‘Adults’ are secretly revolting and actively re-engaging with ‘childish’ activities, and I, for one, think it should be encouraged. Anything that you find fun, relaxing and enjoyable should be supported. Anything that gets your imagination whirling, piques your curiosity or feels whimsical and enjoyable should be pursued.

The best part about being a kid was not having labels for everything and therefore not being restricted by rules and norms of behaviour. It’s not just our artists, entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers who need creativity to push humanity forwards; it’s everyone. We are always looking for that person in business who ‘thinks outside the box’ and we seem to value that creative mindset, but as a society, we actively work against nurturing the elements required in order to think this way. We tamper imagination by educating our kids to pass tests and we stop taking dance/music/singing/art classes when it becomes clear we’re not ‘talented’ at it (no matter how much fun we are having).

We stop walking on the wall.

Consider, for example, when was the last time you skipped down a path instead of walked.

I haven’t skipped in years but today I decided to skip down the path along the beach, and whilst I was extremely self-conscious, it made me smile and giggle in a way that even a bottle of the best champagne can’t do.

Try it; I guarantee your inner child will love it and you’ll smile and giggle to yourself just like I did.

So colour outside the lines, skip if you dare, but do, I implore you, re-engage with your own inner child and pursue an activity simply for the pleasure it gives you. Go on, it’ll be fun!

Will you leap this year?

K8W8LSVOVIHumans are funny creatures: any perceived anomaly is assumed to have a hidden meaning behind it. Take, for example, the leap year. What is functionally a mathematical necessity required for modern human time measurements to align with celestial movements, is draped in myth and superstition.

There are debates on the ‘luck’ associated with being born on a leap day and on whether or not it’s appropriate for women to use this day to propose to their beau.

Whether or not you believe it’s a good idea to drop to one knee or not, I personally delight in the sentiment that leap years are, in some way, special. I think it’s the use of the word ‘leap’.

Leaping conjures images of jumping over obstacles and blasting through challenges to arrive a new destinations. Leaping suggests bounding ahead, without fear, into the future. Leaping is hopeful. It’s taking a risk. It’s making a breakthrough.

So I like to think about a leap year as an opportunity to take a leap forward in life. A reminder that sometimes one giant leap of faith can take you further than small thoughtful steps.

This year, I’m taking a leap; I’m putting aside my overly-considered reservations and jumping into – what I can only hope to be – a beautiful future.

Will you join me and take a leap this leap year?

The true beginning of 2016: Chinese New Year

year-of-the-monkey

 

I think the Chinese are onto something.

Starting ones resolutions on the first of January is bound for failure. Firstly, all resolutions have been made when either drunk on some fizz whilst hanging off a friend watching the fireworks light up the sky, or drunk on the idea that a date creates a line in the sand which (this time) one will definitly not cross.

January is a time of holidays; of sun, of surf and of sunday sessions. If you ask anyone who is actually working during this period, they’ll confirm that January is a known quiet month, with many people still suffering the soporific effect of too much turkey at Christmas. They say it’s a great time to clean your desk (how long has that pasta been stuck to my keyboard?), your inbox (oops, never replied to John…. oh well) and lethargically begin to stretch the mental muscles for a busy year ahead. It is definitly not a time to ensure that newly established (often wildly optimistic) goals, are successfully implemented.

Which brings us to February. Australia Day has passed, our next national holiday isn’t until Easter, the tennis is over and the kids have (thankfully) gone back to school. I therefore propose  that Feb 1 is a good time to start that weight loss program or kick that nicotine habit and suggest that Feb Fast is successful for just this reason.

What’s an even cleverer idea, is allowing one week of grace (to finish off all those pesky treats still lying around the house) and then celebrate Chinese New Year as the true start o 2016. The truly smart amongst us, will by this time, have brought some realism to their proclaimed goals and reset them to more achievable targets, such as “Lose Christmas weight” rather than “Fit back into the jeans I bought X years ago when I was a teenager and my metabolism was my friend”.

So on the 8th of February, down a dumpling, light a lantern and celebrate the true start of 2016. I will be, with a Tiger beer in hand.

But be warned – it’s the year of the Monkey: a mischevious animal which is bound to throw bananas into the best laid plans! Stay strong primates!

 

 

“I’m happy” and other social media lies.

IMG_3727

Oneirataxia: the inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

Picture this: a woman posts a photo on Facebook of her husband throwing their toddler up into the air, captioned with the tag “love these two!” accompanied by lots of heart-shaped emoji’s. It looks like a prime example of spontaneous joy and when you see the photo you think things like ‘Oh, what a life! What a gorgeous family! How lovely!’ and perhaps feel a little envious at this apparently blissful lifestyle.

What you don’t know is that the woman made her husband throw the increasingly aggravated child in the air dozens of times in order for her to capture the perfect shot. By the end of it, the child was crying, the husband hurt his back and everyone was fighting.

A friend shared this story with me recently and I think it’s a great example of this apparently widespread phenomena. According to a survey by HTC, two-thirds of people surveyed embellished their social media presence in order to make their lives seem more exciting.

I’m guilty of making my life look better on social media too – I mean, I love a good filter on my photos and whilst I will rail against the need for women to succumb to the accepted idea of modern beauty, will still choose to apply a filter that I think makes me look more attractive. So it looks like I’m a hypocrite and vain to boot, and clearly in no position to judge anyone’s attempt to airbrush their life.

What I worry about though, is peoples ability to recognise the difference between reality and fiction. Creating an online fiction of an exciting/blissful/beautiful life isn’t the same as happiness in the real world. I worry that people spend too long creating the fiction and not the reality. I worry that people view the lives of others and believe this accurately portrays their realities. I worry how this impacts peoples views of themselves and their self-worth.

I don’t think this is necessarily a modern issue, I have no doubt this has been endemic to human nature for eons. I imagine that given an opportunity Jane Austin’s Emma or any of the characters from Downton Abbey would have added an ‘Aphrodite’ or ‘Translucent’ filter in order to make themselves appear paler.  I do however, think that the western worlds’ obsession with self-validation through the eyes of others, has, like an escaped dinosaur in a theme park, been completely unleashed in recent years through improved technology.

I have no problem with sharing and connecting with people  online and indeed love our new interconnected society which enables me to find like-minded people who share my hobbies and interests. It’s the accumulation of ‘likes’ which I have an issue with, if it is directly linked to an individuals perceived self-value.

This sentiment is shared by Essena O’Neill, a teenager with more than 600K Instagram followers who recently quit the platform (and the associated endorsement payments), describing it as “contrived perfection made to get attention”. Her emotional utube video outlining her unhappiness at creating such an image and her plea for people to quit social media and truly connect with reality can be viewed here.

So next time your eyes turn green when scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, take a moment to consider that the image may have been embellished and that perhaps there’s a child crying just off camera.

And perhaps even next time you find yourself having fun, you simply put down the camera and enjoy in the moment itself.

2016 -Page One

change

A new year, a new look!

You’ll note, dear reader, the fab new look to this site. Nothing like a new look to make a girl feel like she’s making changes!

I currently feel that I’m in a vortex of positive change and I’m absolutely loving it! I’ve commenced the year with blank answers to societies most asked questions, e.g:

  • What do you do for a living?
  • Are you seeing anyone special?
  • Do you have any plans for this year?

As I see it, these blanks are all massive opportunities, life is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story at the moment and it’s extremely liberating.

Normally, I commence a year with a list of goals to achieve, however this year, I have made only two resolutions which I’d love to share with you. They are;

  1. Practice kindness: To myself and to others. To others, it’s about recognising that patience really is a virtue as well as understanding that I’m in no position to judge as I’ve ‘never walked a day in their shoes’. To myself, as I tend to be quite self critical and thus get in my own way, I will practice being kinder and remember that I’m a fallible human too.
  2. Actively pursue flow: For me, flow is the feeling that is created during that enigmatic time where you’re pursueing an interest and it focuses your attention and your mind to such an extent that you actually lose yourself in the activity. I find flow when I write, when I cook and when I’m creating. Flow makes me happy!

Therefore, in the blog this year, as well as making a committment to post more frequently on my general musings and ramblings, you may find that I post more around these two resolutions. If you too have made resolutions this year, I’d love to hear about them.

Happy New Year everyone – let’s make it magical!

The Kindness of Strangers

IMG_2987

Do you know how to panic a New Yorker? Alter their subway system.

Far from being the calm, cool and sophisticated urbanites that they self-consciously portray to the world, when faced with a line closure or a re-routing for maintenance purposes, New Yorkers descend into a mass of confusion. Frantically converging on harried metro-workers, demanding to know “how on earth they are expected to get to their destination under these circumstances”, it becomes apparent that most NY natives rarely travel outside their known environs, further confirming that NY is more a jigsaw of discreet neighbourhoods than a single city.

It was Saturday and I was heading downtown to meet my hot date for the evening. No stranger to being unsure of my location, the unplanned termination of the train prompted me to do nothing more than retrieve my map, whilst the natives became increasingly restless.

Standing on the platform, trying to ascertain my current position, I was approached by a young man asking if I was lost and could he be of assistance. We discovered we were both heading in the same direction and so began the snakes and ladders game that is a half-closed subway system. Throughout the three different train changes we chatted and I learned that Thomas (a New Yorker) had spent his day exhibiting at the NYCWFF and was exhausted from pouring wine to an increasingly drunk and exuberant public.

Feeling somewhat proud of ourselves, we finally arrived at our destination and so I idly asked Thomas the price of festival tickets; ‘Free, when you meet someone on a train who has spare passes’ and handed over not one, but two, complimentary tickets to the events final day. With nothing more than a handshake and the parting line ‘No pressure to come but if you do, come and visit!’ Thomas was off to catch his ferry home leaving me standing there somewhat gobsmacked.

In a world that is so often characterised by man’s cruelty, corruption and selfishness; it can be a simple act of generosity by a stranger that can remind you of all the goodness that humanity possesses. This was not the only time on my brief trip where strangers were generous; a fellow backpacker gave me a new suitcase and another surrendered his half-used Hop-on-Hop-off bus pass, but it was the only time when such generosity was paired with such alacrity.  I was forever cautioned how cavalier and rude New Yorkers tend to be but this encounter just puts a lie to such stereotypes; my experience was that they act more like the kindly neighbours (that are confused by train changes) than driven and self-absorbed office workers.

I did end up attending the event and acted the glutton alongside a couple of friends. I even found Thomas amongst the exhibitors who greeted me like a long lost friend and opened a bottle of Inglenook’s finest for us to share, toasting first to New York’s subway system and then, to the kindness of strangers.