10 things I wish I hadn’t learnt when traveling with my Mum

10 things I wish I hadn’t learnt when traveling with my Mum

This year my Mum and I traveled to Thailand for 10 days, and then a few months later, to Canada and Alaska for 3 weeks. Yes, I realise I am very spoilt. I’ve written about what I learnt when traveling with my boyfriend, what I learnt when traveling with my Nan, and now it’s my Mum’s turn.

  1. I learnt that when I travel with my mum I tend to revert to the role of a five year old. I become completely reliant on her for pretty much everything – apart from picking the restaurants and shopping ventures – that is my area of expertise. Whilst being sick in Canada I had flashbacks to my childhood, calling for my Mummy to bring my lozenges, hot tea and pain killers. Did I mention I’m 21? Although, it goes both ways, as there were mornings where I had to coax her out of bed with promises of buttered croissants. And a few times I have to remind her the guy she is flirting with seems to be wearing a wedding ring.
Mum and I, when I was 5. Not just acting like it.
Mum and I, when I was 5. Not just acting like it.
  1. Secrets are revealed and boundaries are broken. I learnt my mum once had a much younger lover shortly after her divorce from my Dad, and I told her (too soon) that I had hocked a pair of her earrings when I was 13. Sorry Mum, still feel guilty about that one.
  1. Once these family secrets and stories start, it is hard to know where to stop. Alcohol induced over-sharing definitely became an issue for us in Thailand. We are already pretty involved in each other’s lives – not in a creepy, handholding in the supermarket way, but we may have matching pyjamas. But there is a level of over sharing that only happens when you’re in holiday mode, and have slugged down 12 sugar-less mojitos.
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Veuve = over-sharing

Chances are you are going to find out things you may not have wanted to know. Like the first time your parents slept together (eww) or reasons for their divorce that weren’t appropriate to tell me 7 years ago. One particular night with a bottle of Veuve (have I made us sound like alcoholics yet?) there were several stories of my mum’s bad dates, bad boyfriends and some bad choices that will remain burned in my brain forever. Thanks, Mum.

  1. We are very alike. Sadly, most of my friends would agree.
  1. They have secret talents beyond doing the laundry, or cooking lasagna. My mum might even be a better writer than me. In Thailand I urged her to finally submit some of her work to be published. I submitted my own work too. Hers was published; mine exceeded their word limit. Yep, that hurt. She is also an amazing singer; a talent I unfortunately did not inherit despite my best efforts.
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Somewhere beautiful in Canada.
  1. You will find out who they were before they were just your personal maid, chef, nurse and item-locater. Warning: you may not want to. My Mum was not quite the image of the innocent teenager that she painted to me when I was younger. There were boys, alcohol, and a little bit of pot. She even had a pair of “pot-smoking pants” which she was wearing the night she met my Dad.* I’m not sure how I feel about this.
  1. And you will find out who they are now. I feel like most people don’t really know their parents. I am not one of them. I probably know too much about my Mum, and she probably knows a little bit too much about me. And I’m okay with that, mostly.
On the beach at Khao Lak.
On the beach at Khao Lak.
  1. I learnt that we should not attempt a duet to Grease’s Summer Nights without rehearsing prior. Or a duet in general.
  1. My mum snores, loudly. It’s probably hereditary. Sorry Toby.
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Another day in paradise.
  1. You will develop a new relationship that no longer exists around discipline; rather, friendship, fabulous food and amazing experiences. You reach a new era, where you can really enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other beyond the boundaries of just mother and daughter.

Okay I guess I am glad I learnt that last one.

* Disclaimer: My Mum hasn’t smoked pot in 30 years, and probably would no longer fit into those hippy pants, just in case anyone was planning on calling DOCS.

10 things I learnt when traveling with my Nanna

This year I was lucky enough to be taken on an amazing trip around Canada and Alaska for 3 weeks with my Nanna and my Mum. This is what I learnt.

  1. As I’ve grown older I feel an overwhelming desire and responsibility to protect my Nanna as she protected me when I was a child. My Nan is 84 years old, hits the gym 3 times a week and showed everyone how zip-lining was done through Whistler’s mountains, but I still found myself watching her step and reaching for her hand as she unloaded the coach. Although, no matter what my age a hug from my Nanna will always take me back to the time my hand fit nearly onto her soft palm, and her rosy perfume clung to my blonde curls.
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Nan and I (1996)
  1. I learnt that traveling with me keeps my Nan young. From taking her on ghost tours through the rumoured haunted hotel, to doing the chicken dance with her in an empty ballroom, I have her giggling “like a school girl.” I can safely say she knows who Beyoncé is because of me.
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Nan, 84, zip-lining in Whistler. With grace, of course.
  1. Family secrets and past lives are revealed. I always pictured my Nan as only the angelic, English woman who fed me boiled sweets and taught me tricks on the trampoline, until I read her life story a few months ago. Her stories shocked me, as I was yet to even hear a swear word pass her lipsticked lips.

She was a woman before her time – well educated and ambitious. As I urged her to tell me tales of her life on our trip, she revealed nights of dancing with “fetching” Denmark men, how she fell in love with my Grandpa, and how she fell out of love with him. As we strolled through the trails of Banff, arms linked and breathing in the scent of pine, I questioned her on experiences of the war and an abusive older brother. These are moments I will treasure forever, and stories that your own grandparents are desperate to tell you if you take the time to listen (and throw in a glass of wine, or two).

A few glasses of wine on the Rocky Mountaineer, and all the secrets came flowing out.
A few glasses of wine on the Rocky Mountaineer, and all the secrets came flowing out.
  1. You learn who your grandparents were before they were just your grandparents. They have had amazing lives and careers that most of us are completely unaware of. My Nan grew up in a time that I have only seen featured in films, under threat of bombing, and when love letters were delivered into a letterbox not an inbox. She was clever, cheeky and classy. A dancer, a singer, and a thrill-seeker. She worked with the deaf and the blind, and was a pioneer in her field at a time when women were only just beginning to infiltrate male-dominated work places.
  1. And she is that same young girl. Just with a pension and sun spots. She has been known to still crash Bollywood weddings in Banff.
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Riding the gondola over Whistler.
  1. They get to really know you. For the first time my Nan saw me tipsy (and on cold and flu medication) and kept gasping at how she had never been me so “silly”, as I tried to teach her how to dance to Single Ladies. They see you, flaws and all – the flaws you are usually able to hide at family get togethers.
  1. It is hard to watch someone you love get older. As a kid I struggled to keep up with my active Nan, as she took me bush walking behind her house, on a search for blue tongue lizards. But now, I have to slow my step to walk at her pace. It can be frustrating, and it is scary to consider their mortality. But even though my Nan’s hearing has deteriorated, her heart remains young. And she will out dance you any night of the week.
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Our love for champagne must be hereditary.
  1. I learnt that there is a much larger generational gap between my Mum and my Nan, than my Mum and I, that didn’t allow them to have the same close relationship that my own Mum and I have. Things were different back then, and parents weren’t allowed to be your friend. Today, we are much more honest. I am probably a bit too honest for my Nan’s liking, but at least we can be real.
Three generations take Canada and Alaska.
Three generations take Canada and Alaska.
  1. It may be cliché, but grandparents really do hold an immensity of wisdom that can only be learnt over a lifetime. My Nan knows she has made mistakes; in her marriage, in her parenting, in her single life. Over Baileys and a decadent brownie Nan told me all the problems in her marriage could have been resolved if they had of had maturity. She also said to travel young, always wear layers, and pack a pair of fresh knickers in your backpack.
  1. You will create new memories. Traveling for 22 days through two countries, 6 hotels, and countless cities will always be time I will cherish. I know not many people can say they get that opportunity, and I hope I took every chance to hear her stories, hold her soft hand and try to piece together her life in an era I only learnt about in school.
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Nan’s hugs are the best. No matter what age.

You are never too old to become younger” – Mae West

10 things you’ll learn when you travel with your partner

10 things you’ll learn when you travel with your partner

Travelling opens your eyes to a whole new world, and it can also open your eyes to a whole new aspect of your relationship. In 2014 and 2015 my boyfriend, Toby, and I went to Bali, this is what I learnt..

  1. Airports suck. They are stressful, they are slow, they are pretty shitty all-round (minus duty-free, of course.) I need a prescription just to make it through the airport without having a panic attack. I’ve learnt (or am trying to learn) not to let it put a dampener on the beginning of you trip. Cudos to Toby for dealing with my psychosis in airports. That’s how I knew he was a keeper.

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    Toby and I crying because Jetstar sucks.
  2. You will fight. If someone tells you they didn’t fight with their partner on their holiday, they are lying or I need to meet them immediately. It will probably be about something stupid, like directions – what is it with guys “winging it” in a foreign country? Or the most common argument that follows the weighted question, “Where do you want to go to dinner tonight?” If you are like me, it may be alcohol-induced. I think it is normal for any couple getting their bearings with the unknown; that be in a new country, or a new stage in their relationship. Let’s face it; to be with anyone in confined spaces can be difficult.
“So, where do you want to eat for dinner?”

3. Speaking of confined spaces, you are going to have to go to the toilet. Especially if your holiday is to a tropical, third-world destination like Bali, or Thailand, where the water is laced with delights that leave you clutching your stomach in sweats. There really is no hiding Bali belly. So the illusion we’ve been creating that “girls don’t poo” is quickly disintegrated. Be prepared. And pack Imodium, and maybe ear plugs because you may hear things that you would prefer not to.

4. Point 2 refers to other bodily functions too, like vomiting. Toby had never seen me vomit before our trip to Bali in 2014, because I’m classy like that. Until I decided (in holiday-mode) it would be fine to drink 300 Long Island ice teas. It wasn’t. And it resulted in me projectile vomiting of one of the famous cliff-bars in Bali with poor Toby holding my tangled hair back. Yep, classy.

The night Toby learnt I vomit after excessive alcohol. Yes, we look very sober.

5. It will bring you closer. You create memories that you’ll hold onto forever – the good and the bad. I don’t think either of us will ever forget the robust laugh of our taxi driver in Bali that referred to us as Kuta and Rhonda, and drove us to McDonald’s at 1am. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (hopefully not, but I definitely did) and you’ll ultimately develop a better understanding of your partner.

Fighting? Never. Look how happy we look.
Fighting? Us? Never.

6. Or it may make you realise you are not meant to be together. Better to find out now then your honeymoon.

7. You will learn new things about each other, and also from each other. Some things you may not want to know – refer to point 2. I learnt my boyfriend is cool, calm and collected under pressure and the polar opposite of me, but it works. I’m pretty sure if we missed our flight he would simply shrug his shoulders – I would spontaneously combust. He still is teaching me patience, and to “go with the flow.” I’ve taught him to appreciate fine dining, and never to settle for cold toast.

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At Ku De Ta. 2014

8. You get an insight into what it would be like to live with your partner, but with an expiration date. It’s the perfect time to test how you would survive living together. You discover who is the neat freak (not me), and who is the messy one (probably me, but hey, I’m on holidays!) But remember, at home you won’t have 24/7 room service, a butler, and a room with the view of the ocean.

9. Guys don’t make very good photographers. They don’t know they need to take at least 6 photos, and that candid photos are better for Instagram.

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Me like, “Lets get a cute beach selfie”. Toby like, “Are you seriously taking more photos?”

10. There’s a level of comfort you gain by travelling with your partner. I remember in the early stages of our relationship, setting my alarm early so I could perfect my “just rolled out of bed” hair and make up, before he awoke – think Kristen Wig in Bridesmaids. But whilst travelling sometimes you just have to say screw it. The first day in Bali my hair was lovely and straight, my make up fresh, only to meet the harsh humidity which caused my already unruly hair to frizz and make up to disappear. By the last few days I was waking up hungover from dancing on bars till 3am, sporting sexy Panda eyes and wearing an oversized tee, stained with the remnants of last nights room service. If Toby can see me like that and still want to be with me, that’s true love.

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We scrub up alright.

Ultimately, there are things that will get on your nerves. There are things that will make you fall more in love with them. There are things that will make you want to stab them in the eye with a fork. But travelling with your partner can be one of the best experiences – in your life and in your relationship. The two trips I shared with Toby made me appreciate him more than ever, and made me more secure in our future together. Word of advice, just don’t fly Jetstar.

Miscarriage: A Culture of Silence

Miscarriage: A Culture of Silence

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The birth was quick. Being only a fraction of the size of a full-term baby, it had only taken a few pushes. Karen* and Rob* had been given the option of having a natural birth or a dilation and curettage (D&C); a brief surgical procedure where the cervix is dilated and a special instrument called a curette is used to scrape the uterine lining. But at 19 weeks their baby was very fragile. The D&C would have crushed her underdeveloped bones and thin skin and Karen and Rob would never be able to meet their child. Whilst many parents decide it is too painful to see their miscarried, only partly-formed child, they knew it was vital to say goodbye.

“Have you decided if you would like to meet your baby?” asked the midwife. Rob squeezed his wife’s hand, gesturing for her to respond. They wanted to meet the daughter they had sung to, they had dreamt dreams for, and begun to plan a future. Karen choked out a yes, her hair wet with the efforts of labour and her face damp with tears.

The midwife had taken Matilda to be cleaned up. When she returned, she cradled a blanket-wrapped bundle that lay still across her two palms. Before placing the baby in Karen outreached arms, she explained that she was extremely fragile, and described what she looked like. At 19 weeks, Matilda looked like a baby, with 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a set of her own fingerprints. But she had been dead for a week or two inside her mother; her tiny body slightly deteriorated, her skin dark, having not developed multiple layers of skin yet. Because of her size the doctors could not initially determine the sex; it was determined a few days later in the autopsy. Karen said Matilda, or Tilly for short, looked like her dad. Karen and Rob looked into the peaceful face of their child they would never get to take to school, or teach to ride a bike. Tears streaked down their faces and fell onto the hospital bed sheets. They took turns holding Matilda. They treated her like tissue paper they were trying not to tear. They told her how much they love her, and that she would always be their first-born child. Outside people walked past the room, unaware of the pain encompassed inside the four walls of the hospital room. Conversation that would usually be background noise to Karen was suddenly discernible. As they took her child away, she listened, wondering is she would ever be able to have a ‘normal” conversation again.

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Karen hadn’t known her child had died. She wrote on a miscarriage, still birth and infant loss support group blog, a place many parents turn to to find relief, that she was excited when she saw the scan machine at her routine check up. “I thought to myself, oooo I get an extra sneak peak,” Karen gushed. She spoke to the doctor about the weather and about the pregnancy. Then the conversation stopped. The doctor squinted at the black and white screen, pushing the cool ultra-sound jelly across Karen’s belly. “There’s something wrong,” he stated, without taking her eyes from the screen. “In my mind I was repeating the baby’s not dead, the baby’s not dead,” Karen recalled. But the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. The baby was not moving. “The baby’s head is much smaller than it should be at 19 weeks. This means it probably stropped growing a week or two ago,” explained the doctor, his eyebrows furrowing as he held Karen’s stare. It wasn’t the first time he delivered such news.

Karen is not alone in her experience. Miscarriages are common in Australia, with one in four women having experienced a miscarriage in their life. That’s 147,000 miscarriages happening each year. The statistics are so high that it minimizes the effects of miscarriage, almost as if it does not carry an emotional expense. There seems to be a correlation between the length of the pregnancy and the level of emotion that can be displayed. With a miscarriage occurring in the first trimester, parents are expected to show little sadness, and there is a general consensus that parents will, “move on,” and “try again.” But that is not always the case.

The definition of a miscarried child is a loss of an embryo or fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. Matilda was only five days away from being classed as a stillbirth, and legally recognised as existing. You are not legally required to hold a funeral for a baby before 20 weeks. It is standard procedure for hospitals to dispose of these babies as “medical waste.” This may be okay for a family of a baby of five weeks, with the baby only being the size of a sesame seed and resembles more of a tadpole than a tiny human. But for the families of babies like Matilda, who have their own fingerprints and identifiable facial features, the thought of disposing them as medical waste and simply moving on is unfathomable.

When it comes to miscarriage, people seem to forget that families form hopes and dreams for these babies as soon as they find out they are pregnant; they choose names and schools, and fantasise over which parent they will look like. Mothers are left filled with shame and guilt of what has happened to their child. Families become isolated because there is a general perception that they need to move on quickly; that these babies are not real babies and shouldn’t be treated as a full term birth. The topic of miscarriage is taboo, referred to as a dirty secret by media mogul Mia Freedman, who experienced her own miscarriage at 19 weeks.

Whilst recently Australian celebrities such as Georgia Gardner and Lisa Wilkinson have started the conversation surrounding their own miscarriages, a culture of silence still exists. We are taught not to talk about them, or worse, to pretend they didn’t happen. This perception has been passed on through generations, stemming from the tradition of withholding the news you are pregnant until after 12 weeks, the primary reason being incase you miscarry. The logic is ironic as it is the exact time you need support from loved ones the most.

When talking to parents, the word evidence was used as if they were heading into court. Evidence. It seems like a strange word to use in relation to the existence of baby. But in western culture, it is the unfortunate reality; people need evidence to acknowledge a life. We need the baby bump, the sore breasts, the waddle in a mother’s step, which is why so often early miscarriages are simply accepted as “normal” and bypassed by society. “There is nothing to show the baby existed. Other than what I felt physically and emotionally at the time. It’s very hard to prove to the world that these are babies, they are precious babies,” says Toni Tattis, co founder of Bears of Hope, an organisation that provides support for those who have experienced a miscarriage.

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Toni and her ‘miracle baby’ Isabella who is now 9 years old. Image: Daily Mail

The 38-year-old, mother of two, started the organisation Bears of Hope, after her own heart breaking experiences with miscarriage. Toni had five miscarriages. Her first being in 2001 at 11 weeks, a child she later named Rhys. Toni says the grief she felt for her miscarriages was dismissed, with the reaction being a miscarriage was no big deal and she could “try again.” But Toni suffered seven losses before she ever brought home her first baby. This includes twin girls in 2003 at 24 weeks due to Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. “With my later losses, I had photos and tangible evidence that they existed. There are scans, and you collect hair and nail clippings. There’s a footprint, and a handprint. There’s so much more evidence. With my miscarriages there wasn’t really any acknowledgement that they were babies. There’s nothing to show”, said Toni.

Instead of an urn filled with the memory of her child, Karen’s only evidence of Matilda’s life was the blanket she was wrapped in at the hospital, and the bear she was given by Bears of Hope. When Matilda was cremated, her body was too small and her bones too soft to produce ashes. Her body simply disintegrated, becoming flecks of dust in the air. Mia Freedman had the same experience in the loss of her daughter; “I called White Lady Funerals and they collected the body and did the cremation. Then they rang me and they just said, ‘She was so small that we don’t have ashes.’ That was like losing her all over again.”

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Toni’s keepsakes from her twins, Jacinta and Madeline, are two teddies sitting on the two quilts they lay on in hospital. Image: Daily Mail 

It wasn’t until recently that miscarried babies could even be formally acknowledged. In late 2014, New South Wales Government provided the option of early pregnancy loss recognition certificates if the baby occurred before 20 weeks, or if weeks are unknown, the baby weighed less than 400g. The certificate may not be a legal document, but it was a welcomed step towards breaking the silence of miscarriage. Toni says she was emotionally overwhelmed when she heard the news, knowing first hand how important it is to identify lost children. After the loss of her twin girls Toni decided to name all of her deceased babies, finally giving herself permission to remember her children and shift the grief she was holding onto; “It was a beautiful feeling, and I wish I had done that earlier but because I had this notion that society around me would think how ridiculous that I named my babies, I felt I couldn’t allow myself to do that.” Toni hopes that this certificate will provide the same liberation to other bereaving families.

Walking through the Macquarie Park Mother and Garden Park, I can see these babies have not been forgotten. The lawns are manicured, the plaques polished. Trees keep the babies shaded. There are flowers resting on one of the grave sites. They look like they have just been laid. Janet Stables*, Community Relations Manager of a popular Sydney funeral home, says that in recent years there has been a rise in the parents wanting to have a memorial service for a miscarried or stillborn baby. “They want a memorial to honour the life of their child, and we are completely respectful of that”, said Janet.

As I read the engraved fonts at the memorial garden, I take note of how many plaques are for babies that are under 20 weeks. There are only two. I wonder where all the other miscarried babies have been laid to rest. Were they disposed as medical waste? Were they given a mass burial, offered by many hospitals? Standing alone in the garden, I am overwhelmed with a sense of grief for these lost children. It is sunny and 22 degrees but there is a chill I cannot shake. I close my eyes and think of the Japanese tradition of Mizuko Kuyo, a foetal memorial service, devoting a shrine and holding a ceremony in memory of the baby. The ceremony is an offering to Jizo, a Bodhisattva who is believed to protect children. I try to picture the shrines filled with toys and baby clothing, instead of the brown-gold plaques meticulously placed in a row across the ground.

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The statues wearing red hand-knitted pilgrim hats and surrounded by bright decorations.

Mizuko Kuyo means “water child”, with water being an important feature of Japanese Buddhism, as Buddhists believe existence flows into being slowly, like liquid. The shrines for Mizuko Kuyo are quite happy places. The rows of baby-sized soldiers stand in unison, often filled with the cremated ashes of a paper child to represent the deceased baby. The statues wear red hand-knitted pilgrim hats and sometimes a felt cape or bib. Colourful flowers are placed on either side of them and replaced every second day. Families come to the sites to clean their statue and have a moment of silence in memory of their Mizuko. They bring toys, food and even set up umbrellas when it is expected to rain. There are no restrictions to this tradition; the child will be honoured whatever the gestational age; 2 weeks or 20 weeks.

It is a ritual of healing. A ritual that in Western society which would be beneficial to grieving families. It is a ritual that seems so foreign to us because when it comes to miscarriage, we have a culture of silence. There seems to be a blur in distinction between foetus and baby that makes miscarrying acceptable. But it’s not. No matter how big or small the ‘balls of cells’, a mother should never have to leave a hospital carrying a bear and not her baby.

Karen’s husband pulled the car around to the front of the hospital. She was seated in a wheelchair, unnecessary but hospital procedure. As Karen rose stiffly, she clutched her stomach in protection of the child that once existed. She felt an unrecognisable softness, like a semi-deflated balloon. Karen’s face flinched in pain, and she checked to make sure her husband had not seen her mistake. She turned back to the wheelchair to get her bag, instead picking up the knitted bear that had sat beside her. She had intended to leave it behind, but now, she held it close. She still sleeps with the bear every night.

*Names changed

If this post has raised any issues for you, or if you would like to speak to someone, please visit Bears of Hope or call 1300 11 HOPE. 

Can I be 18 forever, please?

Can I be 18 forever, please?

I think I’m having a quarter life crisis.

It all began when I realised 21 would officially be my last significant birthday till I turn 30. T-H-I-R-T-Y.

Then my dad gave me the papers to my car. I read over the papers, confused. Why did he give me these? He deals with all this car stuff…. Then I read my name on the papers. Oh shit. The menacing statement that had been dangled over my head for the past three years replayed in my mind, “I’m only paying for everything up until you finish university.”

3 years ago that seemed such a distant threat, but now that I am finishing uni in June I can already see the bills – phone bill: $100, car insurance: $1000, health insurance: JUST TAKE MY SOUL.

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Or at least I will be.

Oh and did I mention I’m moving houses too? You could say I’ve had some sleepless nights recently.

When I thought about turning 21 as a kid I thought I’d definitely have my shit together. Ignorantly I thought I’d be working at some glamorous magazine, or travelling the world doing press for my bestselling book. So to still be at university and interning for free around working for actual money at my retail job, makes me feel like I’ve already failed.

So not only do I have my dad’s dialogue playing on repeat in my head, I have my own which tends to go a bit like this:

What am I doing with my life?

Should I have a proper job by now?

Why aren’t I rich and successful yet?

Maybe I’m not ambitious enough?

No, no that can’t be it.

Okay, maybe that’s it.

Maybe I should look at the jobs available?

Omg there’s nothing. I’ll just die now.

It’s a weird age, 21. All of a sudden you’re in the real world. People expect things of you. They want you to actually do stuff – adult stuff, like cook and wash your own clothes. People I know are even getting engaged and having babies and successful careers. And I’m like WTF I caught a train to work for the first time the other day and it was the proudest moment of my life thus far. True story.

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You’re engaged? I can’t even commit to what I’m having for lunch.

It’s weird because you want to be treated like an adult, to be respected and taken seriously. But you also would still like pocket money, your clothes washed and ironed once a week, and dinner on the table by 7pm. It’s also weird because I’ve found that 50% of me is content being the girl who does yoga, drinks green tea, reads books, and goes to bed early; while the other 50% of me wants to wear my sexiest outfit and do shots in a strip club while dancing to dirty music until I black out #YOLO.

It’s a catch 21.

With overachievers talented people like Mark Zuckerberg around – who created his $80 billion dollar company (that little thing called Facebook) by the time he was 21- it’s easy to feel inadequate. Or Lauren Dekker who sailed around the world solo when she was just 14. And here I am thinking it’s an achievement to learn how to catch public transport.

When all these comparisons and expectations flood my thoughts, I often think back to being 18. Ah, the good old days. Where metabolisms were fast, responsibilities were low and alcohol-intake high. No one expects anything from an 18-year-old. Well, apart from being irresponsible. Yes, it was only 3 years ago that I was 18, but the days where I could stay out past 12am without thinking about work the next day seems like another life time.

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I can, but I don’t wanna

So there you have it. My quarter life crisis – if I live till 84, that is.

But hey, you’re only as young as you feel, right?

Why are we using social media to validate our relationships?

Why are we using social media to validate our relationships?

It’s no secret that social media has become the platform for showing off – here’s my new watch, here’s my new bag, here’s $5000 of Moet. Yes Rich Kids of Instagram I’m looking at you.

Really RKOI?
Really RKOI?

With pictures like these, my mandatory morning Instagram scroll (admit it, you know what I mean) often leaves me with feelings of inadequacy before I’ve even had breakfast.

But most recently another type of post has been getting on my nerves – the relationship post. Not sure what I mean? I’ll give you a taster of some of sweet incredibly annoying captions I see scrolling through my news feed on a daily basis.

He’s perfect #bestboyfriend you are the man of my dreams #romance#romantic#ilovehim

This little lady never stops amazing me. When I thought you couldn’t get any better you always manage to up the level. Everytime I look at you, it is like falling in love all over again #mygirl

Best boyfriend ever! I’m inlove JJJ Thank you! #6monthanniversary

Gag.

So now I not only have to feel bad about not having a private jet or mounds of cash, I also start to feel bad about my own relationship; why isn’t my relationship like that? I don’t remember getting anything for my 6-month anniversary… Why doesn’t my boyfriend post pictures announcing his ever-lasting love for me? And then I actually find myself asking my boyfriend some of those questions OUT LOUD. Oh, the shame. Don’t worry, I hate myself just as much as you do right now.

I can still hate on couples if I'm in a couple, right?
I can still hate on couples if I’m in a couple, right?

Yes I know, we aren’t supposed to compare. As my boyfriend likes to remind me – “Every relationship is different”. But c’mon, it’s 2015 and I’m a Gen Y – I compare everything.

Social media has allowed us to create better, filter-enhanced versions of ourselves. Feeling ugly? Valencia will fix that for you. Rumours your boyfriend is cheating? Just upload a photo of you two looking happier than ever #forever. Or my favourite, the fake-that-I-am-deliriously-happy post break up upload where smiles are mandatory and a glass of wine optional #freshstart.

So are we enhancing what we have, or just completely faking it?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I faked it. I faked it, hard. My boyfriend and I have been together for three years – two of them good, one of them bad. Our first year together was hard. He probably wasn’t ready for a relationship, and which made me even more desperate to make it work. If I couldn’t do that, I needed to portray it was working, via Instagram, of course.

So candid. So happy. So constructed.
So candid. So happy. So constructed.

I know I’m not alone here. I’ve had friends in the past who’ve been in the midst of a break up but still posting photos with their soon-to-be-ex captioned #soulmate. And they are just the few psycho ladies I’m close enough with to know better.

Through our phones (no one uses computers anymore, right?) we are given this little peep into other people’s relationships, but we forget this peep is altered, it’s refined and it’s how they want the be perceived by the online world. I mean whose really going to publicise their boyfriend cancelling their plans to drink beers with da boiz. Been there.

A friend once said to me, “The best sign of a healthy relationship is no sign of it on Facebook.” Since we are in the digital era of 2015 I realise that no sign of a relationship on Facebook means it probably doesn’t exist. But I believe a healthy relationship is one that is not pimped out on social media. And I’m speaking from experience.

In the early days of my relationship I felt it necessary to flood people’s feeds with pictures of the two of us, or posts to his Facebook wall with the standard marking-my-territory love heart <3. Now when I see someone doing the same thing, I can recognize they are probably very insecure about their relationship.

I’m not saying I don’t upload photos of Toby and I now, but it’s not to prove anything to anyone – it’s most likely because I was having a good hair day.

Example one of my good hair day.
Example one of my good hair day.

I think once you are truly happy in your relationship, you stop caring what other people think. If you know your relationship is good, there is no need to persuade others with photos/videos/Snapchats. I’ve realised there are moments that should be sacred, and there are moments where your phone doesn’t belong and can actually ruin the moment of spontaneity or romance. Not everything needs to be shared to your entire social media network – people with over 100 engagement photos; I’m looking at you.

Surprisingly you can actually go to a romantic dinner without checking in on Facebook and/or taking 35 photos perfectly timed ‘kissing photos’.

So the next time you’re scrolling and start wondering – Wtf why didn’t my boyfriend give me a Michael Kors watch on our one month anniversary? Remember there is more than meets the eye. And there is more than what makes your FB feed.

Feelings of inadequacy BE GONE.

Don’t you wish it were that easy?

 

Tis’ the Season to be Anxious

Christmas. A time of joy, a time of happiness, a time of anxiety. If you’re one of those people that love the Christmas season, you’ve probably never worked in retail. Or had three separate Christmas events to attend on Christmas day. It’s the time of year to overeat, overspend and overcompensate. Once a religious day celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas has now become a consumerism’s dream.

Still struggling to understand how Christmas could be anything apart from enjoyable? I’ll give you a little run down of how I spent my Christmas this year…

Christmas Eve was at my Dad’s house. After working eight hours serving the lovely, festive people that Christmas brings to shopping centres (yes that would be sarcasm you hear) I came home to my house full of family, awkwardly trying to help in our overcrowded kitchen. A few games of monopoly, a two-course meal, and two hours of carols later the Christmas Eve festivities were over – we all needed our rest for Christmas day of course. It all started again at 730am with the annual present giving, my little cousin waking up at 6am to see what Santa brought. With wrapping paper spread across the floor, hugs and kisses are shared, photos are taken and the word ‘receipt’ is whispered as I looked at my hot pink rose twin set. Really? After breakfast is finished – the first of many meals, it is time for lunch with my Mum’s side followed by dinner/dessert with my boyfriend’s parents.

Don’t get me wrong I love spending time with my family, and I love the fundamentals of Christmas; who could not love a day of food, presents and alcohol? But as you get older the holiday season is more stressful than a regular old workday. My brother definitely had the right idea this year, getting his drink spiked the night before and sleeping for the whole of Christmas. Smart kid.

Half my pessimistic view of Christmas can probably be put down to working in retail. Whilst everyone else is on holiday break, I’m working the most hours I’ve worked all year. Then comes the after Christmas sales where the words what the f**k run through my head at last 40 times a day. I swear they call it the silly season because people lose half their brain, bank account and apparently their manners over the two-week period of Christmas and New Years.

Working in retail truly opens your eyes to the money hungry beast that is Christmas. The food and presents is all well and good, but the core of Christmas is undoubtedly consumerism. Wondering through the shopping centre a few days before Christmas, I saw hundreds of red faced people with shopping bags up to their elbows barking over the phone and rolling their eyes at the next innocent shopping assistant that tells them ‘Sorry we are sold out of that size.” I looked at them and thought Wow that was me when I had been Christmas shopping a few days earlier. There is none of the ‘Christmas joy’ people speak about. Just a whole lot of soon-to-be broke people with Michael Buble’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas playing in the background.

I have been known to go a little OTT with Christmas. I spend weeks planning the perfect gift, then finding the perfect gift, and then panicking the next day because it is no longer perfect so I must buy something else, and something to go with it because what if my boyfriend spends more on me? Should he spend more on me because he earns more? I’ll just buy him one more thing… $700 later and I’m too scared to look at my bank account… ever again.

I can’t help but wonder if we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. I’d be willing to bet my next pay cheque (don’t get too excited, it wouldn’t be much considering I am writing this from my holiday house) that most kids would have no clue that Christmas has anything to do with the birth of Jesus. I watched my little cousin rip through dozens of presents on Christmas, each entertaining him for a whole four minutes before moving on to the next. But if you asked him the meaning of Christmas I’m sure his answer would have been “Jesus who?” As I am not a hugely religious person myself, I won’t even begin to enter the religious side of Christmas that has been completely forgotten, but what Christmas seems to have been with in more modern times; family, joy, time of giving, time of thankfulness and all that other happy stuff.

Christmas seems to have become such a lavish affair with each year having to top the next. In a time that seems far far away today, my Nan speaks of getting one present at Christmas – often handmade, often a hand-me-down. Working in retail store that caters for kids I see parents piling up the toys and clothes for “their little angels” who are bashing each other in the corner of the store or screaming “BUT MUMMY I WANT THIS ONE TOO.” Now I know my mum will say this is rich coming from me, someone who has a colour coded Christmas/Birthday list (as my birthday is a few days after Christmas) but this year was the first year where I realised the presents, the money spent – it doesn’t matter. And it’s not worth it.

My thoughts are Christmas needs to come back to basics. I mean what is the point entering a new year broke, stressed and three kilos heavier? I am all for splurging on the ones you love, but there is a lot to be said for meaningful gifts, and a humble day.

Next year I want to avoid the curse of Christmas consumerism. I want to find the joy of Christmas I felt when I was six years old. I don’t want to anxiously await the day, ticking of the presents I’ve bought and calculating how I can buy one more gift and still buy food next week.

Anyone with me? Or am I officially the Grinch?