Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lessons in Failure and Flexibility



You could say they go hand in hand. You could say I’ve been dealing with a lot of both lately, in equal measure - Failure and Flexibility.

I came back from Spain with this Zen and the Art of Keeping Your Cool thing going on. I was tigger, bouncing off the walls with a go-get-em attitude I started pouring myself into making plans for myself here, getting a job, a role in a university club, trying to keep my Spanish up by going to intercambios and putting my dormant-holiday-in-europe brain to good use. I set goals to save for South America, to get HDs, getting extra-curicular, a strategy of overall kicking ass at life. But it didn’t take long before the shinyness of Sydney life wore off and the familiarity began to irk me.

And other things started happening, the motivation got lost, I woke up one morning and no I didn’t feel like speaking Spanish and no I didn’t want to do the readings for that lecture and where did I put that calm and peace and Art of Keeping it Together?? It got lost somewhere when the planning starting to become the doing and the end-goal didn’t seem to get any closer.

Here’s where the failure comes in. I went for a job I really wanted in an organization I respected for a program I believed in. And I got so close, but I didn’t get it. It wasn’t meant to work out this way. This, along with the slow realisation that this is life, too, has been paralysing me.

This is where that life lesson I said I learned in Spain comes in. I have to relearn it, take two – the Sydney edition. The lesson… In life you have to be flexible. Plans change, opportunities are missed, sometimes you lose out.... the point is - that’s OK.

Just like a relationship you learn from it, what was good, what was bad – what you want and don’t want in the next one. I honestly feel like Spain broke up with me and I’m still the sad ex-girlfriend sitting on the couch eating a spoonful of nutella straight from the jar, watching trashy American dramas and relating it back to my poor bleeding heart. The thing with being that girl is that you can only be her for so long, and let’s face it – nobody wants to be that girl! I have to put the nutella down and move on. Break ups are hard, especially when it’s a whole period of your life that’s over, it can feel like you failed on an epic scale.

And that’s OK, too. Maybe part of the reason I’ve been having so much trouble adjusting to Sydney life is because I don’t want to let Spain go, I keep insisting on bringing it back, on comparing it to everything. My biggest error has been not putting into practice what I was supposed to have learned – that you have to be flexible, the picture you have of what your life is and what it’s turning out to be is constantly being painted and reworked. And I’m going to fail, a lot. But that’s OK. I gotta learn to be OK with that. Cause it's going to happen, over and over. Failure is OK. I read somewhere ‘You can’t fail, if you never give up’ and I guess as long as I’m failing it might as well be spectacularly, trying to get somewhere (flexible on the details).

Here's to that, letting go, being flexible and getting to know my newest bud Failure. To the 99 times I have to fail before the final time when I get it right.. One down, just a few more to go... 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Take two.

At the advent of the non-event that was my 22nd birthday I took pause to reflect, as I am too prone to do, on what I was doing this time last year. After a weekend of misadventures - almost-robberies, lost wallets, boat rowing and small-town-kinda-girl syndrome - on the morning of my 21st birthday I'd just missed a ryan air flight from Barcelona to Malaga.


They say the way you spend your birthday is the way you'll spend that year. For the most part you could say 2011 was a year full of all the things that went wrong that weekend in Barcelona. That wasn't the last flight I'd miss, the last time someone would try and steal something from me, the last time I'd just be glad to be alive, surrounded by friends and getting home in one piece. It wouldn't be the last time I would be forced to grow up out of happy accident, laughing recklessness and friend-fuelled-adventuring.


This year I've retired my party-girl heels and become an abuelita. My feet no longer numb to the pain of 10cm of added height on 4am on a Saturday night, mostly because I am never out on 4am on a Saturday night. Finally, yes I'll admit, the post-spain-depression has begun to sink in. It's hard coming back home. Not because home isn't as comforting, familiar or warm as I remember it but because I've fulfilled the heinous crime at the root of all high school dramas - I've changed (Say it with a squinted look of shock and disappointed imagined on a teenage girl - "You've changed").


I'm trying not to live in the past, but nostalgia is so damn seductive. I'm trying not to live for the future either, but unknown possibilities have never looked so good. And the present? Well it's my own fault for making the Present an interim between the Past and the Future.


So here's my resolve, renewed. Being here, being present. Planning road trips around Australia, from the waterfalls to the hours of desert-like scenery from a car window, weekends exploring the city's bars and restaurants, the endless thai food and Japanese. I want to see my own country now that I'm finally back here again, before I leave it all over again and mourn for it's extreme heat and thunderstorms. Because everywhere I went in Europe, Australia was a code word for the exotic, the foreign, the far away, the wealthy, the opportune.


And I want to enjoy being here too, with all my family and friends and FOOD. oh, the food. I want to appreciate the full extent of its awesomeness before I board a plane without a return date and realise that, after all the excitement fades, it's just full frontal fear.


So let's toast a nice glass of vino tinto (because it's always night time somewhere in the world) to the Present. Take two.

Monday, April 2, 2012

We're getting older but we're still young

Over a quarter of a century ago my Dad was about my age, learning French in Belgium, preparing to spend 2 years in the relatively small West-Central-African country of Cameroon. Years later, he would go to Nepal and Thailand in late 1990 to work in Community Development, just months after I was born. Now his French is a bit rusty, though he can still get by, it's been decades since he worked in that field and he's now retired from working life.

I've looked through an album of his from his early twenties, a scrap book of quotes cut out from magazines and pictures of him with flared pants, a leather jacket and ray bans. The rectangled sentences read something like the mottos and phrases I keep scribbled in notepads I have or those stuck on my mirror. An obsession with other peoples words' runs in the family.

That was 'Then' for Him, this is Now for me. Now is the arrival of the long awaited, highly anticipated 'Growing Up' stage. Most of my friends have graduated or are about to, have lined up careers through graduate programs for top tier law firms, Transnational Corporations, PR offices overseas or are building robots for their thesis'. Yes, I am surrounded by incredibly driven, talented, smart people who gratefully still find it fitting to hang around with a bum like me. The point is... we're pretty grown up now, we're Adults in The Real World (with business attire, non-sensical acronyms and office speak like 'touch base' to boot) how and when did that happen?

I forget so often that we're at that stage in our lives where things are only just beginning to GET REAL. Speaking to my Dad it gives me comfort to know that I am not alone, nor have I ever been or will be, in being young and all that that implies. The Not Knowing, the Knowing, the Finding Out, the Multiple Crisis'... We're not unique in our youth, even our parents were young once too (shocking, really - how did they exist before I was born??). They wanted to Do Things, they had ideas about The World, about who they wanted to be, what they wanted to do but mostly they didn't know - and that helps me, a lot.

Because they did alright. And we'll be just fine. In fact, in the mean time we'll be awesome. It's not a bad gig being Us in this day and age. There's a certain sadness and a small hope knowing that every generation before us and those that come after will be wrought with the same questions... and the world will continue nonetheless (discounting the impending question of environmental self-destruction but let's leave that one to another day). 

And then there's this song. Partially because Dad I know you're reading this but also because it's true.



I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.