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Women and men, both, are forever trying to achieve what emerged in the 1880s as the work-leisure balance. Each of us are constantly juggling commitments: friends, family, career, ambition, hobbies, inner-drive, chores, household tasks, running errands and answering emails.

Technology has made these processes more seamless and more demanding. As other peoples’ availability and accessibility increases, the same is thought of and applied to us.

For students, a further dimension is added into the equation when school/tertiary/further study becomes another immersion and pleasure with deadlines, readings and out-of-hours time required to complete and pass each course. You’ll of course then have to earn a living and manage the other aspects of life simultaneously. And while there are the old 9 to 5, or 8-8-8 expressions, the reality of the world today is that flexibility and adaptability are keys to success, achievement and sanity.

I’m pretty terrible with flexibility, I like routine. But I’m slowly and steadily trying to stretch and thoughtfully strain those tired muscles and help them to regain some youthful flexibility.

While we’re on the topic of flexibility, have you ever wondered how those amazing women you see on stage manage their dual roles as mother-actress/dancer/musician/performer?

On top of the complexities other workers, commuters and you and I have to face, those drawn to the stage and screen must also integrate rehearsals, shows, touring and long days and nights into their ‘routine’.

I recently spoke to a few notable women who find themselves in this position (no pun intended) and wrote about it for artsHub. Check it out for some insight into living the days and loving the nights, and how to be constantly ‘on’ and present.

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There are so many reasons to talk about mental health and wellbeing.

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Our world is facing anything and everything at once. Big universal issues of poverty, malnutrition, economic crises, disease, unemployment, climate change and outbreaks of war. And communities are suffering overflows of waste, insufficient maternal and child healthcare, inflated petrol prices and supermarket wastage.

I find it incredible that every single person – or dog, cat, ant or any other living, breathing species – is unique. Everyone has their own history, experiences and story to tell. Each person is their own mixture of their parents, friends, extended family, education, culture and religion. It really takes my breath away knowing that each person I speak to, interact or make eye contact with, as well as every person I just pass someone on the street, is one of a kind. And anyone you have heard of, referenced, imagined or backstabbed is, too.

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I’m no saint. Sure, I’ve spoken a bad word about someone behind their back, joked about a person’s shoes being too big, their hair unkempt (although let’s face it, I’m the number one perpetrator of that ‘crime’), and criticised someone’s decisions based on my personal principles. But that’s just it. My judgements, assumptions and assertions are my own, stemming from my personal, social, familial and cultural background. I’m trying to to judge less, and accept and appreciate more. Because if someone is acting safely, in a manner that could be widely considered as socially, ethically and morally just, then really, who are we to judge?

The times are tough and tedious and I think you’d be searching far and wide to find someone who wasn’t in need of a helping hand in one way or another. Maybe your grandmother needs someone to take her grocery shopping because she can’t carry all the bags back to the car/bus/tram. A friend might want a wingman for a first date on Valentine’s Day. Or maybe your loving, caring mother or father might appreciate a phone call from their long, lost daughter or son who they haven’t seen in weeks, despite you living just a couple of suburbs away, across the river.

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I say this because everyone deserves a life – a life where they feel appreciated and loved for who they are, no matter their race, religion, sexual identity, gender, socio-economic status, whether they live in a house, a yurt or they choose a nomadic lifestyle. If someone has committed a crime, they deserve a chance to redeem themselves if they are willing to work towards a better and more sustainable life in which they will contribute positively to society.

And so often, it’s about the words we choose. Naming and shaming does nobody any good. Not one of us is perfect; no one has everything. Social media perpetuates this constant feeling of inferiority, FOMO, hints to us that we’re insignificant in a burgeoning network and sea of faces. But as I said, in each (legitimate) profile picture, is a whole person. A person with unique feelings, thoughts and experiences from which we can learn, and influence in the best ways we know how.

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Alongside all the heavy weights pulling on the world, everyone also has their own troubles and challenges. While I’d love to be able to resolve global conflicts, find a cure for dementia or cancer, or provide a home for all those seeking asylum across the globe, I’m aware of trying to ground myself in reality. That’s not to say one person cannot make an impact, instigate change or contribute to solving any one of an array of international issues. But if that’s a bit overwhelming, maybe we can start closer to home.

Everyone can find themselves in a sticky situation where they’re left feeling vulnerable and alone. For some, this is rare, and these people are lucky. For others, helplessness and struggle seem to be daily battles occurring within the depths of their stomach, their heart, their mind. These people do have a bright future ahead of them. They might just need a leg up over the bushes to see it.

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A huge percentage of the world’s population are facing or coming to terms with mental ill health. Mental health is a precursor for a life where one is appropriately stretched and tested, and is gratified and celebrated in return.

We need to let these people know that while despair can be debilitating, it too, shall pass.

Thankfully, there are thousands and thousands of people across the world who are striving everyday to communicate this message to those who need it. And if you don’t need it now, chances are you or someone you love will need a little shot of hope somewhere down the track.

So many industries and sectors are working their butts off to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and appreciated. Every month, awareness is growing, as are available support groups, networks and healthcare professionals. You might not need that kind of support, and that’s okay too. Sometimes your greatest support can be your puppy, your partner, or even a note pad and pen.

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I second the responses of Thu-Huong Ha, who in December, asked the question, How should we talk about mental health?. Drawing on wisdom from TED speakers, she highlighted the importance of sensitivity, being considerate, and respect when talking about the health of our minds. I suggest this is the same respect and thought we give others who’ve broken a bone and cannot participate in a shopping spree, or those who’ve been diagnosed with a condition that’ll put them out of work for weeks or months at a time.

We do not give up on these physically scarred individuals. Because everyone who is scarred, is also healing. They are one and the same. Healing is a process which only time can propel. But with the right treatment, ointment, love and care, we can all heal, whatever our wound, and in turn, help others to do the same.

Nobody else can tell your story. And it’s okay to ask for help to relocate your voice, your legs and your lungs, so that you can.

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Support Services Australia:

headspace

beyondblue

Black Dog Institute

Butterfly Foundation

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Lifeline

Kids Helpline

Relationships Australia

International:

Mental Health America

Mind (UK)

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

Canadian Mental Health Association

Or please use Google to find the most direct and appropriate service for you.

This weekend I flew to Sydney to celebrate an aunt’s special birthday. I stayed at my grandmother’s and in the guest room, this photograph was on display.

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The first thing I noticed was my late grandfather almost cropped out of the picture, whom we all miss dearly. But this image really captures how I – and my peers – have grown with and through the development of digital technology. Here I am, a youngster with a mouse comfortably in hand, navigating an early Macintosh computer. The old desktop looks pretty darn ancient, clunky and bulky but is evidence of how far technology has come in only a matter of years.

Coincidently, this weekend the Mac turned 30. In 1984, the original Macintosh gave power to the people and laid the foundations of a legacy of innovation, intuition and constant evolution. As the late Steve Jobs said at the time:

“We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people — as remarkable as the telephone.”

Over time, Apple became one of the world’s largest enterprises, a digital pioneer known for its user-friendly interfaces, high resolution graphics, and consistent ability to develop, create and distribute life changing products.

I’ve had two Macs of my own, but have used numerous versions of the Macintosh through school, my parents, friends and public institutions. Needless to say, I love my MacBook Pro (even though I recently spent a good couple of hundred on getting its capacity upgraded).

As a Gen Y baby, I am incredibly dependent on computers, phones and other portable devices. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a world in which they don’t exist because as the above photo shows, it has always just been there. As part of a broadcasting subject I am taking this summer, my group and I are exploring what it was like for members of previous generations growing up without these technologies, and it is interesting to note the similarities and the differences in our experiences. 

We all have memories of times at the beach, playing with siblings, friends and family. Yet, I’ve found it so fascinating (and heartening) to hear real stories about kids entertaining themselves without technology. As we sat around as a family on Friday night, almost every person – myself certainly included – spent some time flicking around on their phone. Now people stand out if they are not actively engaged online, in constant reception of friends’ news and check ins. Personally, I’m in two minds about my reliance on (or addiction to?) my phone and computer. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time and live without such constant access, updates and commentary because my FOMO, anxieties and procrastination keep me staring at a backlit screen when it’s really time for sleep/study/getting outside and into the physical world.

But that’s a whole other can of worms for another day. Today I wish the Mac many happy returns, and if you’re so inclined, check out the 30 year tribute Apple has published in honour of the big 3 – 0. Happy browsing.

Kids are so often questioned by endearing adults about what they want to be when they grow up. I’d say it’s one of the three most common questions grandparents ask their grandchildren, teachers ask their students, and family-friends ask their younger acquaintances.

There are your stereotypical answers: firefighter, sports star, pop singer. I know I had dreams of becoming a famous entertainer; traveling the world with my entourage, performing to thousands of screaming fans at the world’s biggest arenas. I knew every word to Sk8r Boi, Born To Try, and Bring It All Back. With friends and cousins, I created shows and made tired adults sit through our endless cycles of songs and dances, accompanied by summersaults, and a hairbrush held upright, just below my chin – for authenticity, of course (see below).

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I’m an avid TED fan, and spend my spare moments listening and watching TEDTalks from all over the world. TEDTalks give me insight into the possibilities and opportunities available to me, knowledge about the brain, our emotions, global institutions, personal triumphs, life challenges and revolutions of all sizes and nature, and the chance to gain an understanding and new perspectives about issues so central to our world, past, present and future.

I’ve listened and watched American model Cameron Russell’s TEDTalk time, and time again, (and if you enjoyed my post Like This, I suggest you watch it, too). I love Andrew Solomon’s soliloquy on depression, and Brené Brown on The power of vulnerability.

As the slogan says, the speakers at TED really do have ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.

Today, I came across a recent TEDxTalk by Logan LaPlante. LaPlante shares his thoughts on this reoccurring concept of asking children what they want to be when they ‘grow up’.

LaPlante explains his philosophy that maybe what we should focus on is making a life, rather than making a living, and suggests that being happy, healthy and engaging in creative practice will help us achieve our life goals in more meaningful and rewarding ways.

Maybe you’ve come across similar ideas somewhere, someplace, sometime. Maybe you think there’s nothing so exceptional about an individual such as LaPlante having developed this point of view.

Except, Logan LaPlante is 13 years old. In Lake Tahoe, California, he lives with his parents and his younger brother, Cody. And, another thing that makes LaPlante’s philosophy so poignant is how he found these principles by which he lives. 

Logan LaPlante

Logan LaPlante

Ask LaPlante what he wants to be when he grows up? Happy. He believes innovation, exploration and experimentation are key aspects of developing a life worth living, and actively pursues his interests through his education.

LaPlante was taken out of the traditional school system at age nine. Now, he is homeschooled, and has coined the method through which he learns, as Hackschooling.

He explains, ‘hackers are people who challenge and change… systems, to make them work differently, to make them work better.’ He says hacking and hackschooling involve adopting an open ‘mindset’ where you’re not afraid to try new things, to get messy.

LaPlante stands by Sir Ken Robinson’s argument that creativity should be just as valued as literacy, and suggests hackschooling as a ‘remix’ or a ‘mash up’ of traditional education, one that  encourages students to develop their passions, take on opportunities, and think outside the square.

He now loves writing, because he was given the opportunity to write about subjects that actually interest him. His favourite ‘class’ is an internship he has one day a week with Big Truck Brand, a global lifestyle and accessories company. He is motivated, stimulated and aware.

LaPlante talks about Dr Roger Walsh’s idea of Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLCs), and has made these principles of learning how to be happy and healthy an integral part his hackschooling philosophy.

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And, as LaPlante says, because it’s a mindset, not a system, ‘the cool part [is] hackschooling can be used by anyone, even traditional schools’.

At its heart, hackschooling is about encouraging kids to follow their passions. It’s about involving young people in the community, drawing on local resources, making learning fun, and trusting that given these opportunities, young people will find their way to make a living as a byproduct of their journey towards creating a meaningful life.

Learning should be hands on, involved, inspiring. We should focus on developing skills and fostering relationships, rather than memorising charts and tables and facts.

Logan LaPlante recognises we’re living in a world in great need of more young people with this hacker mindset, and the benefits it offers individuals, their communities, and the world at large.

If only our Education Minister and (sadly appointed) senior teaching staff such as Christopher Bantick were open to adopting the hacker mindset. I’m sure the world would have a much brighter future.

Apart from having the pleasure and privilege to continue my internship at artsHub and publishing articles there each week, last week I also had two other quite different pieces published.

My poem The Station was published as part of an anthology of poems displayed on a map. The title of the anthology is Impressions of Banyule and was published by Poets@Watsonia. I attended the launch of Impressions with my parents and was asked to read my poem. It was my first experience of a poetry reading, and it was interesting and enjoyable.

In addition, a while back I submitted a reflective piece for the next issue of Ricochet Magazine. After a selection process and contact with lovely members of the Ricochet team, my piece, Friday Night, was published as part of The Flashback Edition, launched last Tuesday morning. It is available for free download. This work is dedicated to my family, and anyone who has been lucky enough to spend a Friday night at the humble abode of S, M & A.

Peruse and enjoy at your own leisure.

 

 

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The response I received on my previous post has been overwhelming. All your words of wisdom have been gratefully appreciated. This is only the beginning of a long, complex journey towards recovery, but my word stands: it will be worth it.

I had an amazing birthday yesterday. I was incredibly spoilt by my parents, family and friends. A week ago, nobody would have believed I’d have been home to celebrate but with the support of those around me, home I was. Thank you to everyone who made contact and gave me their well wishes. It means an enormous amount to have you all by my side. Here’s to an exciting year of growth ahead.

A mere portion of the gifts I received. I now live in a florist!

A mere portion of the gifts I received. I now live in a florist!

Today I Appreciate:

  1. Being with 16 other young women who are making a move on the tough ride over Humpday
  2. Getting back to sleep after an early wakeup
  3. Art Therapy
  4. Getting a headway with sorting things out for university
  5. Feeling heard
  6. Being cared for
  7. Having a warm bed to snuggle up in
  8. Messages and calls of hope from loved ones

Things I Could Do Without:

  1. Guilt
  2. Physical illness
  3. Slipping over in the shower and hurting my bum (TMI?)
  4. Self-pressure
  5. A poor and unreliable internet connection
  6. No Wifi
  7. My laptop battery’s ridiculously short life-span
  8. Ensure