23 Jun

eleven things that are helping me get through a crazy week

It’s crazy town here at the moment* but I’ve got a bit of a kit of awesome things that are helping me get through the crazy. Maybe some of them might be useful for you too (you can’t have my mum though, sorry – there’s a waiting list for dibs on her. Not really willing to share the kids either, but totally willing to share their cute, which you can partake in by following me on Instagram).

  1. 20 minute deep stretch yoga for neck and shoulders with Sara Beth Yoga on YouTube.
  2. The Headspace meditation app, which I’ve been using to learn how to meditate (this works, by the way – I’m one of those people who finds it hard to quiet their mind and I can do this).
  3. The Okapi coffee capsules from Zarraffa’s Coffee for my Nespresso – delicious!
  4. Perfect Potion Sweet Dreams Balm on my temples and the back of my neck at bedtime.
  5. Pomodoros for focused writing (made even better by doing them with a virtual buddy – thanks Kathleen!).
  6. My new to do list manager Todoist, where I’m blithely dumping things to deal with after 1 July.
  7. A little bit of Bulla Creamy Classics Chocolate Chip ice cream every night (and maybe a spoonful or three during the day as a reward).
  8. New comfy work from home clothes courtesy the recent Bonds 40% off sale. Super soft, unpilled jersey tees and harem pants.
  9. A claw hair clip I found in the bottom of the bathroom cupboard – so much better for headache management than a ponytail.
  10. Blogging – it’s so nice to write something other than thesis!
  11. And most importantly, my support crew:
    • my supervisors (every thing seems much clearer after a 10 minute chat. I know people have horrible experiences of PhD supervision and I don’t know how they get through the process without great supervisors)
    • friends who have spent half their weekend reading and reviewing my work (thanks Zaana!)
    • my team, who always deliver and who are always offering to help with work to free up my time to write
    • my friends and colleagues – my personal learning network, really – who send me supportive messages, love via Instagram, and chant my mantra – it’s just one more week – with me
    • the babes, who give me restorative hugs, make me snacks (okay, that one is only Ms 6), draw me pictures for my office, and who make my world shiny every time they step into sight
    • my mum, who puts up with me being an absolute cow (seriously, I’m a nightmare when I’m stressed), brings me a Maccas Coke home every day (I’m pretty much a postmix Coke addict), cooks for me even though she hates cooking, reminds me to sleep and breathe and stuff, and patiently listens to me rant about objects of study even though it’s really boring.

It’s just one more week! Not even! Woo!

* On Monday, I have to submit my thesis and an application for a job that would essentially give me permanency in my current job. And at work it’s the week we finalise grades, and because I had a huge teaching load this semester that’s quite a bit of admin. Plus other things I’m trying not to think about because: THESIS!

#blogjune 22/30

18 Jul

proud sister

When I finished school, I started my undergraduate degree straight away, even though I had no idea what I wanted to study and not a single drop of career ambition. I started my degree and fluffed around trying to find something that was the right fit for me. Eventually, I fluffed around for long enough that I actually finished the degree I started.

I was very fortunate to have a lot of support from my sister when I was studying. We lived together, which meant I never had to share a house with strangers (or friends), but instead lived in a nice apartment, with nice (non-student) furniture. I got to drive her brand new car around. She supported me emotionally and financially through my degree. I quite literally could not have done it without her.

This year, my sister started her undergraduate degree. My sister, who thought she would hate study and had no confidence in her capacity to do this thing. My sister, who would be happy if she passed.

Yesterday, my sister got a letter from the dean of her school, commending her on her achievement in her first semester.

She finished her first semester with a higher GPA (and a bigger course load) than I managed in my first semester. Or in my first several semesters, actually.

So today, I get to be the proud sister. And I couldn’t possibly *be* any prouder.

17 Jul

holy shit! sabbatical is here and i am not ready

Tomorrow, I am officially on sabbatical. Like, holidays over, time to knuckle down and kick this thesis to the curb.

There are three problems with this.

1. I didn’t do all of the things I wanted to do while I was on holidays.

Actually, I didn’t do hardly any of the things. The things were all about getting me sorted so I would have a good, tidy, organised workspace as well as good habits, good routines and a good frame of mind for my thesis writing sprint.

There are various reasons why this didn’t happen. Which leads me to problem number two.

2. I may be on sabbatical from work, but I cannot take a sabbatical from my life.

It sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But this is something I only just realised, and I only realised it because I’ve just had one of those periods you have where shit just goes wrong and even the easiest things are way, way too hard.

The everyday stuff continues. Food still needs to be bought and cooked. Appointments at sundry medical practitioners (physios, doctors, dieticians) need to be made and attended. Houses need to be cleaned. Washing needs to be done and folded and put away. Children need attention – lots and lots of it. But it’s not these everyday things that worry me.

It’s the little things that shouldn’t be hard but take up ridiculous amounts of time. The photo frames that are faulty and need to be returned. The cabinet doors that don’t fit that need exchanging. The birthday presents that are too big to fit in Australia Post boxes. The children that choose Lego as reward gifts and are too young to assemble it themselves. The clothes ordered online that don’t fit, need to be returned and rebought. The wedding presents that need to be sourced and sent to unknown addresses in Europe. (Shit. That one is well overdue.) The paintings that fall off walls. The TV antennas that die and need replacing and the technician that wants to spend an hour explaining the mechanics to me when I do not care.

It’s the big, random, complete pain in the ass stuff. The fridges that break and stay broken for weeks while the extended warranty companies make decisions about repairs (and meanwhile you have to call them ten times and eventually shout “I’m calling the Office of Fair Trading” to get some action). The shade sails that tear in bad weather, the insurance claim that results, and the banging of the broken shade that keeps you awake all night. Discs that slip, get better, slip again. Siblings that get sick, get hospitalised, come home, need care.  Shit happens and needs attention.

I want to take a rain check on everything that is not essential until the thesis is written. Birthdays, social events, life milestones… Can we just hit pause and I’ll make it up to everyone early next year? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

Also, I would really appreciate it if we could just not have any other minor disasters in the next six months. Really. I think we’ve had our fair share.

I had this vision of a nice calm life and a finished thesis. But this is *my* life we’re talking about, and it is never calm (is anyone’s?).

3. I have absolutely no idea where to start or how to plan for this beast.

That’s not quite true. I know where to start. I need to start with analysis. But I’m not sure how that happens, really, and I’m not sure how long it will take. And I’m not sure what will come after that or how long it will take. Everyone says doing a PhD is like eating an elephant. The only way you can do it is one bite at a time. But which bite do you take first?

The end

Actually, that’s not the end. Because after I wrote about these three problems, I had an…

…epiphany

I have been saying to myself (for a very long time): “Go go go! You’ll be on sabbatical soon and then you’ll be HOME so you can cook and eat properly and get up in the morning and exercise and take time out to be creative and pull your weight around the house and…”

Who the hell was I kidding? The start of a (slightly less than) six month thesis sprint is not the time to try to transform my life. Yes, I’ll be working at home all the time, and yes, I won’t be teaching at night, and yes, in theory, I should be able to cook dinner every night. But transforming my life is not something I could I am trying to undo four years worth of bad habits and I’m trying to do it all at once, at possibly one of the most stressful times of my life. *RE-OW-RE-OW-RE-OW* (In case you didn’t hear it, those are the alarm bells.)

When I took this job, I thought being an academic would mean I would have time to read and think. Haha. I haven’t been more wrong about anything since then. Until I decided that sabbatical was my chance to transform my life, as well as right my thesis.

I have just packed that idea up into a little box and thrown it in the bin.

Let’s just get the thesis done and come out the other side alive and well(ish).

Ready or not, here I go.

07 Jul

derailing, exhaling, hitting publish

An up front disclaimer: this is a selfish post. A just-for-me post. The type I usually write and leave in draft forever and ever, amen. I contemplated turning comments off for this post because discussing this feels… like too much. But that’s just silly, right? I’ve been hovering over the ‘publish’ button for about an hour [edit: it just turned into two and a half three hours]. I think I will just hit it [edit: now, two and a half three hours after I finished writing the first cut].

Today I planned to spend the day sorting paperwork: culling warranties and manuals for products we no longer own; throwing out old tax returns and their associated paperwork (I had them right back to my first ever return); organising my degrees and awards and associated stuff. At about lunchtime, I got derailed by one folder that I knew was in there, but that I hadn’t really thought about in a very long time.

I remember a time in my early 20s when things weren’t great. It has been a long time since I thought about this period in anything more than a broad remembrance of being deeply, deeply unhappy.

I opened up a folder today labeled ‘Kate – writing’. Inside were portfolios of poems and short narrative pieces that I collated for assessment in my undergraduate degree (and some other writing, too).

I knew what was in there; I knew some of these pieces of writing were loaded with emotion; I had vague ideas about some of the poems and stories; I remembered some phrases or lines from others.

I didn’t expect the affect they had on me. The visceral affect. The slam in the chest. The quiet sadness that came next.

Sure, there are some clumsy, overworked metaphors and some less than perfect phrasing. Some of the stuff is even okay and tiny little pieces of some of the poems and narratives might actually be good. But none of that actually matters.

Seeing these pieces of writing – just looking at them, as a whole bundle of stuff – had a profound impact on me. Reading them was… Something else.

I hadn’t forgotten sitting and watching every laboured breath my grandfather took, waiting with my own breath held to see if he would take another. I hadn’t forgotten sitting with my feet hanging in the pool while I wrote my grandfather’s eulogy. I hadn’t forgotten how alone I felt in my unhappiness – not in my grief, but in my unhappiness. I hadn’t forgotten that day in that thickly grassed park and how I felt sitting in the sun in that moment. I hadn’t forgotten the time the sound of my shoes slapping turned into the rhythm for and subject of a poem. I hadn’t forgotten all of the hideous, heartbreaking things – or even the happy, heartening things – I saw and did and thought and felt when I was in this place.

I hadn’t forgotten any of these things, but I had no cause to think about them until I opened up this file today. I am reeling, still, from the shock of being affected at all by my own writing, or at least the memories it invoked. I thought I might be embarrassed by the quality or maybe even amused. Not quietly sad and a bit bewildered. Not these things.

But the sadness and the bewilderment will go away and they do not compare to the overwhelming, incomprehensible unhappiness I felt at the time. And I am glad I had the opportunity to write these things while I was stuck in this unhappiness and I am glad that I can read them now and remember these moments in technicolour and I am glad that I can reflect on this monumentally fucked up time in my life from this distance and from this place where I am not deeply, deeply unhappy, but just plain old sad. Even though it has been a strange, emotional day. I am glad.

I think.