Gratuitous Gratitude Time

I’ve been doing some writing recently for a great little startup that involved creating a series of emails to guide their customers through a very basic mindfulness practice. The most recent dispatch introduced the idea of gratitude and the importance of acknowledging the great things in life as you look back (or forward) over the day. It was only as I sat down to write this post that I realised that’s not something I’ve been practicing regularly in my own life! So here they are, the three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. That the $13 I have left in my wallet to last the weekend just means that I’m sticking to my budget and watching my savings grow
  2. That I can afford to rent my beautiful little apartment to share with my sassy little fluffball and no-one else (introverts unite!). It’s been 18 months now and I still get an overwhelming sense of peace every time I put my key in the front door.
  3. That I have a week in Tasmania coming up with a bunch of amazing girls! Two weeks to go until whiskey tours, endless cheese and late nights around a fire with the best company a gal could ask for.

You know what? It felt really great to write that list! I think it’s so easy to get swept up in what I still need to achieve, that it’s nice to sit back and look at what I’ve already got.

What are you grateful for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

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Gratuitous Gratitude Time

The danger of a single story

This post was inspired by a fantastic talk of the same name by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I will embed below for your viewing pleasure.

The single story creates stereotypes,and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

For a period of time a while back, I worked at a disruptive transport startup company that we will call…Youba. Brought on as a general hand around the office while they set up a local branch, I ended up staying for twelve months and watched the company grow from an incredibly hands-on approach to the more remote systems that one would expect from a technology company.

The thing is, during my time at…Youba…I accidentally ended up exposing myself to just one story, over and over again, and as Chimamanda says, it became my only story.

Let me explain.

As you may have noticed during your own experiences with this company, while drivers come from a range of ethnic backgrounds, the majority do seem to be what politicians would describe as ‘immigrants’. And most of them were lovely! Unfortunately they weren’t the drivers I got to hang out with. The majority of the drivers that came to spend time in our offices were the ones that had to be brought in to be ‘spoken to’. The ones that were brash, argumentative, frequently dismissive of me as a female, and occasionally very upsetting. The troublemakers. And these trouble makers were more often than not middle aged men with an ethnicity other than my own, who spoke English as a second language. Day in, day out, this was the story I was exposed to. It’s been years since I left that role, but I still struggle with the stereotype I built every time I interact (or even walk near) someone who matches the demographic of those drivers. It’s been ingrained and it is sometimes incredibly hard for me to put those thoughts aside and focus on the personality traits of the person actually in front of me.

But that’s a real-life series of interactions that led to my misleading impression of an entire group of people (and to be completely fair to myself, I had to deal with a -lot- of horrible people in that job). As Chimamamda points out, it’s the stories we are told that are much more instrumental in shaping our views of the world.

Like many people, I went to see Hidden Figures when it was in the cinemas (mostly because the costumes looked amazeballs. I was not disappointed). For those not in the know, Hidden Figures tells the stories of some of the ‘Coloured’ female mathematicians who helped to put man into space. It’s a great movie, I highly recommend.

But it wasn’t the way the women were treated in this movie that shook me, it was something much more subtle than that. As a couple kissed on the screen, it occurred to me that I had never seen a black couple kiss on film before.

Hand on heart, I have been racking my brains for the past few months, and I still haven’t come up with a single film I have watched where two lead characters of colour were allowed to express themselves in a romantic way. Please send me your examples so that I can track them down, please.

I know that as a white female, I enjoy a privilege. The stories I see told are my own. The histories I learn are those of my people (except for my Maori blood, but that’s a story for another time). I see my life reflected back at me in every medium I choose to consume. The only stories I have about people different from myself are those the media has chosen to present to me.

If we are what we eat, then we are also the information we digest. In the technologically driven age, that information is force fed to us – when was the last time you had to actively searched beyond your phone screen for your news?

The classic example is the Muslim terrorist. You may not be the sort of person who thinks that everyone who practices one of the largest religions in the world is a terrorist, but how many times has that image been presented to you as the truth?

There is an advertising rule of thumb that says that a products advertising has to reach a consumer at least seven times before it makes an impact on them. After that point, I guess the brand has managed to imprint on your brain, forever reminding you of hot, salty fries when you see the golden arches.  So if I can think of seven times I’ve been presented with a Muslim stereotype in the last week, what truth am I being convinced of?

When it seems that every force in the world wants us to barrel towards WWIII at the moment, how do we become the bigger person? How do we fight back against the single story?

As the old adage says- Our first thought is who we were conditioned to be, our first action is who we are.

Challenge yourself. Reach beyond what the popular culture is preparing for you. Read from authors of a different country, watch movies that weren’t specifically created for you.

Prior to meeting me, my other half discovered that he held a negative stereotype of Asian baristas (yes, he takes his coffee seriously). What did he do about it? He went out of his way to only drink coffee made by the many many wonderful (and some terrible) Asian baristas of our fair city  until he had taught his subconscious the lesson I think we all still need to learn- some people make fantastic coffee. Some people make terrible coffee. Race has nothing to do with it.

I refuse to let the media tell me what to think as the world seems to descend into chaos around me- because if we’re learned anything from pop culture, that is definitely how any apocalypse starts.

 

 

 

*If you find any of the terms I have used above to refer to people of various ethnicities offensive or derogatory, please enlighten me so that I can be sure to make appropriate corrections. Please also accept this clip from comedian Aziz Ansari, because I find him hilarious *

 


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The danger of a single story

It’s about the little things

Ever since I stumbled across the low-waste community on Instagram, it’s a concept that’s been slowly eating away at my brain. So many of the things that I took for granted before (takeaway coffee cups, plastic produce bags, on-trend clothing) are now little guilt-points on my purchase pathway.

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And sometimes it’s hard! There are days I wish I could just throw my food scraps into the bin without that little voice reminding me that if I just emptied my little apartment compost, I could compose them instead. And why is it so impossible to find ethical clothing in a style I actually want to wear!?

With the weather getting all gray and gloomy here, I’ve been slipping back into the habit of doing what’s easy, as opposed to what’s right (sad face). So brace yourself for a completely self-indulgent post to get myself back into the swing of things -hopefully some of you will get something from it too.

Without further ado- a list of zero waste moments that bring me joy

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  • French press coffee on the couch in my little apartment, where I can’t see the carpark below me but I can enjoy the wind in the trees above it. My cat likes to sit within stroking-range on the back of the couch, and it feels like the world stops for a moment
  • Eating a flaky croissant from a soft cotton bag and pretending I’m actually bustling through the streets of Paris or somewhere equally as exotic
  • Ignoring the shower walls that need scrubbing and instead focusing on the one bar of (amazing) soap, my solid shampoo, a bad-ass safety razor, and that one potplant that for some reason is happiest perched in the corner there. Yes, the walls need a wipe, but at least I don’t have to fight through a half-dozen plastic bottles to do it.
  • Coming home from the supermarket and being able to unpack everything without having to bundle a bunch of plastic together to take down to the bins.
  • Opening my pantry and seeing a sleek lineup of tidy jars, all neatly labeled and awaiting my next baking adventure

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…yes. It is impossible. That last point is a big ol’ lie. Despite everything the interwebs promised me, my low-waste pantry is definitely not a minimalist paradise. It’s an overflowing mess of tea, spices and at least three different jars of the same brown rice. Still, at least a girl can dream.

So what about you? Are you trying to cut down waste in your life? Or is there another habit you’ve been letting slide? I would love to hear the tactics you’re using to get back on track.


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It’s about the little things

Have you embraced your Freebie? (Tom Hiddleston has)

While enjoying my morning routine of interwebs and procrastination – yes, I know I’m trying to cut down, but sometimes a gal has a moment of weakness and that moment is every morning ever.

Anyway, while browsing I came across this fun nugget of trivia that I’m sure everyone but me has probably already stumbled across. Apparently Kingofthebritishgentlemen Tom Hiddleston originally wanted to audition for the role of Thor in the Marvel Universe.

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Oh, darling

According to rumours, he actually got close to the final audition rounds before director/Shakespeare God Kenneth Branagh pulled him aside to gently break the news that they weren’t going to be offering him the part-

“Ken told me that every actor has something for free. Jack Nicholson has an irreverence for free, Anthony Hopkins has a majesty and gravitas for free. Idris Elba, who plays Heimdall in Thor – and, by the way, anyone who’s been complaining about a black actor being cast as a Norse god is just crazy; this is a fantasy world, for goodness sake – has a watchful gravitas for free. He explained that what I have for free is that I can’t turn off my intelligence. Therefore Loki would be much more up my street.”

How cool is that thought? That there’s some trait that’s so inherently you, that it’s just suffused into every role you’ll ever play- no need to work for it, it’s always just there. And the more I think of it, the more I can list actors and their ‘freebies’. Morgan Freeman has that playful God vibe, Helen Mirran (my queen) has that edge of ‘don’t mess with me bitch’- And Hugh Grant? Floppy fringe. I don’t think he can act without it

Acting world aside, I got to thinking of my own Freebie in the real world- the part of my personality that is just waiting to burst out. I would say that mine is enthusiasm. Push the right buttons and I will gush at a hundred words a minute about something I’m passionate about (you don’t want to be near me when you’re complaining about an unexpected bill, or how you don’t have any savings). The same will happen if anyone even breathes about a theatre piece I love, or some passing obsession that I currently have. It’s like my brain is wired to thrive on that endorphin kick I get from being ridiculously over-excited about anything.

I think I look like this…

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But I really look like this…

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For so long I’ve spent time apologising for my random outbursts, or trying to pretend that I am waaaay cooler than I actually am by moderating my responses (sound familiar?).

Recently I’ve started to wonder if maybe it isn’t just better to embrace that side of myself. And if I come off a little manic (and maybe a little ax-murdery, as has been mentioned in the past) then phooey- playing a serial killer is definitely on my to-do list anyway.

And if I know what makes me a little more ‘me’, then maybe that will help me pinpoint when I’m losing myself a little. If I can’t be bothered to muster a kitten scratch or a suggestion than an actor should roll their fifteen super funds into one account, then something is wrong in my life and I need to identify it. Because not having the time to scratch a kitten? Definitely not me.

So what would your freebie be? Is it something that you’re happy to indulge in, or something that only your nearest & dearest get to see? Maybe you have the dryest sense of humour, or you can’t help working to turn any room you walk into into a place of calm. Maybe you don’t even know what yours is yet (Hiddles clearly needed some help). Or am I raving (with enthusiasm) on a topic that isn’t really applicable in the real world?

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Have you embraced your Freebie? (Tom Hiddleston has)

Wanted: Cabin in the woods

As I write this, winter is slowly creeping in on Melbourne. The trees are dropping leaves and nights are cool enough that I’m sleeping snuggled around a hot water bottle. I miss the feeling of sun soaking into my bones, and the way it lingers on the corner of my couch when I have time to sit for a morning coffee.

Maybe it’s the change of season getting the best of me, but I’m also feeling as though life is stretching me thin at the moment. I haven’t had two days in a row off in forever (at least it feels like it) and I can feel my poor body struggling to keep up with the endless balancing act of my bill paying work and the ‘work’ of building an acting career. I get a sort of tightness in my brain that makes me crave a cabin in the woods somewhere with nothing but green as far as the eye can see.

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My soul needs this…without the stabby stabby

Failing a cabin, what would you suggest? How do you cope when life is getting a bit much?

 


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Wanted: Cabin in the woods

I solemnly swear that I’m up to some good

It’s easy (for me, at least) to spend a fair bit of time thinking about where my money is going- or rather, where it’s vanishing to.

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This month I want to start spending more time thinking about where my money is going. And yes, that is a very important set of italics.

I’ve reached a stage with my money where I’m no longer the panicking, impoverished arts student. I wouldn’t say that I’m functioning with a grown-up level of income (what’s a real job again?) but I am at a point where it’s time to start thinking about how my spending is serving the world – what lives am I changing, what values am I representing?

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and confess that I’m frequently guilty of going for the bottom line. Why bother spending top dollar on some boring essential when I can duck down to Big W and get what I need for just a few dollars? But it’s time to stop kidding myself (and yes, this hurts). More often than not that bottom dollar is supporting sweat-shop labour, unsafe conditions, and probably terrible environmental practices.

If I’m voting with my money, then I sure don’t want it to be going to those people. I want to live in a world stuffed full of companies that are truly trying to make a difference! Hell, I want to live in a world that still looks like our world in fifty years. If that means shopping a little more mindfully and perhaps forking out more for businesses that support my goals, then I guess that’s a small price to pay.

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WALL-E is adorable, but not if his world becomes our reality

While I’m at it, I’m going to do my best to support the people with the dreams! The good folk in my area who have taken the dive and are trying to make good when the whole world says they can’t. I’m talking delicious freshly baked breads, beautiful plants (from somewhere other than the supermarket I’msosorryIcan’tleavethemtheretheyneedmeeee), handmade ceramics, locally grown organics, coffee from that new spot that just needs time to become the next big thing. Doesn’t that just sound like the dream?

And maybe I will have to make some sacrifices to follow through. Maybe I cut down my takeaway coffee habit to so there’s money to pay more for my veges, or maybe I save for the items I truly want to bring into my life from suppliers that I honestly want to support. The great thing about having a budget is that it’s totally possible to look at your spendings in black & white and re-evaluate as circumstances change.

I’m not going to lie, this is going to be hard for me. After so many years of being dirt-poor, parting with more money than I absolutely have to is going to take some getting used to. But I’m going to take a big ol’ breath and let go of the reins a little, putting my money where my mouth is. Because what’s the point of money, if we’re not using it to make the world a better place?


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I solemnly swear that I’m up to some good

When it’s time to say No

We live in a world that places value on Yes. Yes to staying late at work, Yes to the third girls night out in a month, Yes to that upsize.

Yes means that you’re a team player, a go-getter, someone who’s seizing every opportunity that life throws your way. But do you also sometimes feel trapped by the big Y-E-S?

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(Gratuitous Hiddles GIF because we’re getting deep)

As I’ve detailed before, when I’m not able to make ends meet with acting gigs, I cover my bills with a variety of casual jobs. These all dove-tail nicely and usually mean that I’m able to earn more than I need to to keep afloat. And I mean way more. It’s completely normal to get a ‘By the way, are you free on…’ every time I’m in an office. My knee-jerk reaction is always to say yes, because who’s going to turn down extra money? If I don’t practice my No muscle, there are times when I can look at my diary and realise that I’ve worked 50-60 hours in a week. My workplaces are probably grateful to have an extra set of hands available and I know that my bank account always sure appreciates the extra boost, but how is any of that helping me move towards what I actually want in life? Looked at objectively, my Yes is serving everyone but me.

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The self-sacrificing Yes can disguise itself in a number of ways.

Online sales are my weaknesssss- I’m the person that will open a dozen tabs and add hundreds of dollars of items to my cart before coming to my senses and leaving everything behind. So where has my Yes to their emailed invitation gotten me? I’ve probably wasted a few hours of work time and decided that I need to completely overhaul my wardrobe, browsing the sale was really only the good little capitalist in me trying to burn my hard earned money on some low-cost, sweatshop clothing. Is that really what I’m working for?

The real irony is, the more I’ve been working in a day-job, the harder it is for me to resist the chance to throw my money away. I’ll find myself engaging in hard-core research for products I don’t even need, because deep down I’m trying to justify the overwork. I’m working so hard so I deserve to spend money on the things I want – or the things they tell me I want. And then what do I have to do to replace the money I spent?

Bingo. I say yes to overtime again.

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Sometimes not using your Yes won’t make sense to the rest of the world.

This whole blog post started in my head last night when I went to grab a burger on the run for dinner. At the end of my order, I was offered sauce for an extra 50c and obviously said yes because aoli is life.

And then I got ‘and what drink would you like?’

The options on offer were canned soft drink (which I’m avoiding because I’m trying to deny that it’s time for a visit to the dentist) or bottled water (see here and here for the back story on that one).

‘None, thank you’.

‘None?’

‘No thanks’

‘Are you sure? It’s free with the sauce.’

‘I’m good, but thanks’

‘Not even a water?’

‘No thank you.’

I had to turn down a free drink four times before she would accept my answer.

Because who doesn’t say yes to free? Crazy people, that’s who!

Saying Yes would sure have ended the conversation sooner. But then where would I have been? Technically I would have been up the cost of a water, but why do I need it? I had a bottle in my bag, and if I had taken the plastic bottle it would have lurked on my conscience all night.

No matter how badly the lovely woman wanted me to follow the purchase path (probably making her till order easier) and take the ferdydurking free water, withholding my Yes was what was better for me. (Okay, technically it was more of a series of very polite No’s, but you get the point. I’ll write on the power of a good No another day.)

Treasure your Yes-es as if you had a finite amount to give- because you do! How many times can you say Yes to everyone before you suffer a complete breakdown?

Save them for the things that will bring you joy. Say Yes to that movie with friends, that extra-nice bottle of wine, or that short film that you really don’t have time to do but the script is just so.damned.good (guilty). Save your Yes-es for the things that will feed your soul, because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who has to live in the life you’re creating.

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PSA: This post is written from the perspective of a compulsive Yes-er. If you think that mayyybe you’re a compulsive No-er, you go and sprinkle those Yes-es like stardust, you beautiful little nay-sayer!


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When it’s time to say No