Completing Bravery for 2013

This is a strange post to write for a few reasons. The first of which is because I haven’t done any kind of progress report over the course of the year. Secondly, it’s because I was initially thinking that this enquiry wasn’t finished, that it would extend into next year. That now feels like it’s no longer true and so I’m doing this completion post in part to make way for subconscious thought to happen around what 2014 is going to hold for me theme wise.

I am finding myself full of feelings as I write, it’s difficult because this year has been so intense and demanded so much from me, and in such unexpected ways. I need to write about how from my initial commitments, things have changed and why. That means coming to terms with the sense of failure and humiliation I feel around certain things, and revisiting those feelings is never pleasant.

So, Bravery… and 2013, where am I left after this year?

Looking at my beginning post for this year’s theme, Bravery tells me that this year was in many ways about my embracing uncertainty and throwing myself into things regardless. This was a year in which everything was so very strongly reflected or focused on my experience as an individual person. I’m really not the same person who left Perth at 6:15 am in January, I can hardly recognise myself, honestly.

I went to Melbourne with a strong commitment to my career as a Business Analyst, and that has proved to be a dead end for me. It took me a long while to get a job, and the one I got I thought was perfect. Then I lost it without warning, just as I thought everything was coming together. My self confidence was shattered and sense of humiliation profound. Losing my job was really just the straw that did me in, I’d been running on determination and commitment all year, and when it all fell apart just as I thought it was coming together I suffered quite a strong resurgence of anxiety, which I am still dealing with. The result of this experience was realising that I didn’t want to be in project work any longer, it wasn’t satisfying and I felt I was getting nowhere. Plus, I found many of the environments I was working in to be highly toxic… and if I wasn’t getting anywhere, and it wasn’t satisfying… and it was toxic, I started to question why I wanted to do it at all, and what it was that I enjoyed about it that I could perhaps pursue elsewhere. 

I realised that what I actually enjoyed about project work was the conversations, the people and the communication, I wasn’t interested in the politics of justifying the importance of the work we were doing and how to go about it, how to make it work time wise etc. I also wasn’t interested in the politics that generally surround project situations, and the toxicity of government departments, funding, jobs and people adding to that… it was never a simple case of go in and get the job done/thing made/implemented etc.

Such a realisation was a huge test of my bravery because if I honoured my desire to leave project work, I was left with even more uncertainty in what to do next… what direction to go in and how to support myself. My counsellor suggested that I should consider counselling as an option, she thought that it would be a good fit for me. I’ve resisted suggestions like this before, for many years actually because I didn’t want to go into a space doing something I was good at but knowing that it was something women were expected to be good at. In looking at the resistance I’ve had to this pathway since I was about 19-20, I realised that it was resistance born out of not wanting to do something I was expected to be good at because I’m essentially female shaped (even if my gender identity is somewhat more complicated than that). At the age of 33, I have better understanding of nuance and how to deal with this kind of stuff better than when I was 20, I can be good at it *and* still push back in feminist ways about specific things I have issue with (like women doing the emotional heavy lifting a lot of the time). So counselling and the associated community services work is back on the table. Also, my partner Ral has spent most of this year trying to convince me to be a midwife, and after losing my job… it didn’t seem such a far out suggestion anymore. In face, more and more the idea appealed to me and so I put in an application to do an undergraduate degree in Midwifery. I find out in mid-January if I get in… (I will talk more about this midwifery thing in another post).

Going through that process of re-evaluation and consideration of if not projects, then what has required an incredible amount of bravery on my part. In many ways (not all) it would have been so much easier just to conquer the initial anxiety out of losing my job, and go out and get another one and continue to work away at that pathway I’d set myself. It has taken a lot more courage for me to say… actually no, that’s not what I want to do any more, there has to be another option.

In re-reading my initial post, in which this enquiry was already well underway, I was feeling lonely and stretched and awful wondering if the year would get easier. My heart goes out to myself, because… it really didn’t get easier. The year wasn’t *bad* but it was consistently *hard*. It was deeply challenging on multiple levels throughout the entire year and at this point, nearly at the end of December, I am feeling it. Bravery has been a relentless experience, but possibly one of the most profound self-refinement experiences I’ve been through. I’m reminded of the fact that you never actually get through refining yourself, or developing yourself, it’s a constant process because you’re always changing and your life around you, the world around you and the people around you are always changing.

It’s kind of like learning to surf the chaos, you can’t control it but you can apply some tools and techniques to get the best of the experience without it overwhelming or drowning you (too much).

Below is the list of dot points that were what I initially wanted to pursue in some way for my enquiry into Bravery. I’ll make some comments on them, and then below that I’ll list some dot points about what I’ve gotten out of Bravery that has been unexpected.

  • Explore options for permanent employment that I might be willing to commit to that allow me to progress my career as a business analyst.
  • Do some sort of training in Agile methodologies, preferably at the expense of some awesome employer that I’d like to commit to.
  • Volunteer with OTW and enjoy getting to hang out with cool people doing something I think is amazing and getting Agile familiarity while I’m at it.
  • Go to a conference related either to my work interests or academic interests.

These things I pursued, and I have been volunteering with the OTW and also with another opensource project Growstuff. I did this to pursue familiarity with Agile projects, but I haven’t got a permanent job and I’ve also decided that pursuing business analysis and project work is no longer what I want. I went to RubyConf this year after attending the Rails Girls learn to code day, it was fun but I can’t say that the programming bug has caught on. I did work at it though, in particular because it was so outside my comfort zone or previous interests. I understand a bunch of things better and I’m glad for the stuff I’ve done, but am also happy to just leave it where it is – if anything, I’d pursue CSS over other kinds of programming.

  • Explore yoga and pilates as things that may have some positive impact on my pain levels.
  • Take up a latin dance class, particularly interested in Argentine Tango, but I enjoy them all and clumsy or not it’s fun.
  • Try (or re-try) a bunch of other different sport/leisure things that I’ve mused about trying for ages, like rock climbing, horse riding, sailing, cycling, swimming.

This is something that is largely still theoretical, although honestly my pain levels are far better than what they were last year – even when they’ve been bad I still think overall it’s been better. I still want to take up Argentine Tango, but haven’t had the spare cash. I have a pool and tiny gym in  my building and I really should spend more time using them, lets call that your traditional new year’s resolution, shall we? Tentative plans exist for rock climbing and horse riding too, though nothing concrete yet.

  • Develop a wardrobe appropriate for the kind of job I envision myself doing, but managing to fulfil comfort and creative requirements.

Well… I didn’t really manage to have a job long enough to do this, so it’s still something I’d like to do. Given I’m about to go back into full time study for the next 3 years though, it’s no longer a high priority.

  • Get my P plates once I’m comfortable driving in Melbourne and the CBD, including on tram lines, hook turns, stop start traffic, and other complexities.
  • Go on road trips, hopefully go on a road trip by myself once I have my license!

I’ve done a moderate amount of driving this year, but I’ve taken my time to get comfortable and familiar with Melbourne city driving – especially since I live in one of the trickiest parts of the city for driving (St Kilda Road, I hate you). I am feeling really ready and confident about doing my test now, but it won’t happen before the new year. I’ve done a little road tripping, went to Airey’s Inlet in the beginning of the year to hang out with lovely people and go to a music festival, the boys and I went to Wodonga and I introduced them to my parents, I also did a couple of trips to Ballarat and back to help my friend move. Looking forward to more trips in the New Year, including going camping.

  • Explore Melbourne, so many festivals and events and random stuff happening – I want to go to a bunch of things and just enjoy that this is possible and happens here!

I love Melbourne – I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that you just can’t explore everything and do everything – there’s just so much on, all the time! It’s a very different feeling from Perth where you feel the lack and have a strong sense of wanting to take advantage of opportunities to enjoy cool things. Melbourne, that’s every weeknight and weekend… depends on your interests, but there’s just *always* stuff, and a lot of it is cheap or free too, which is great. Actually I’ve had to spend more time remembering to take quiet time…

  • Find an awesome place to live with a housemate or two in the area around Brunswick.
  • Nest in new place to live.

Well! I thought it would take a while before I wanted to live by myself. Actually, it turns out that this is what I wanted and focused on doing once I was ready to move out. Especially since I wanted to live in the central city, and at the time had plenty of income to cover my own place. I found a gorgeous apartment off St Kilda Road about two blocks away from where the boys live. It’s a gorgeous one bedroom place with great security, a nice balcony and view, well appointed kitchen, bath and floor boards – making it easy to clean. I’m in love with it and am enjoying my nesting wholeheartedly.

  • Do well in my last two units for my degree and work out where to apply for Honours and talk to useful people about doing that.

I did very well in my last two units, High Distinction and Distinction! I’ve also received confirmation that I’m able to graduate and I’m deliriously excited about that! I did talk to people about doing Honours, but actually it turns out I’m going to do another undergraduate instead, a science one this time in Midwifery. I’m going to learn how to help deliver tiny humans!

  • Read 100 books including completing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 and also reading some of the texts I’ve bought that are nonfiction that I haven’t found my way to yet.

Well I have read a bunch of books this year – not as many as I wanted though. I’ve read all the books I need to for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2013, but I haven’t done my reviews yet – that’s my next task on this blog. I didn’t get to the nonfiction outside of what I read for study, unfortunately – just not enough brain/coping left for it.

  • Keep involved with the Down Under Feminists Carnival including writing pieces to submit to it.
  • Try and keep up with my blogging both here and at my personal journal. Especially include more personal photos in my personal journal.

This I really didn’t keep up with, in some cases because I didn’t know what to say, and other times because there was too much to say and still other times where I’ve just been too busy…

  • Send out postcards and letters – reduce the stash!

Was really great with this in the first half of the year, also managed to send out a huge lot of end-of-year greetings to people, stash has been dutifully reduced!

  • Explore cooking adventures, particularly in cuisines and techniques I’d like to be more proficient cooking in. Consider doing this similar to how Calli did it once upon a time with a month long focus on different cuisine.

Have been having many cooking adventures, often with Ral and it’s been marvellous. Have since moving in been exploring my Julia Childs cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and it’s brilliant – I’ll blog about that specifically some time soon and post some photos. I live right near the Prahran Markets and a bunch of other awesome food places so I am enjoying the hell out of myself when cooking is involved at present.

  • Nurture my relationships abundantly especially since they’ve all been turned inside out. Be brave and gentle about all the changes.
  • Spend time with my blood family, including introducing boyfriend and girlfriend if I have an opportunity.
  • Support boyfriend in his med school adventures, being a guinea pig where useful.

Have done lots of relationship stuff this year, and have definitely been feeling the effects of turning most all of them inside out. I also formed three new partnerships/connections, one romantic/platonic and the others which both took me completely by surprise but have been wonderful and deeply rewarding. I got the chance to introduce Ral and Fox to Mum and Trevor which was really enjoyable. Also did useful supportive things for Ral as a med student – in particular there was a great blog post he found that I read and must post and blog about as well titled ‘how to date a med student’.  I did spend a little time with  my extended family, but I’m still nervous about the whole poly thing and that makes it hard. Also, they’re very different people to me in a lot of ways and I find that draining and difficult at times. I do love them and they are absolutely, beautiful people – but it is hard to come back to spending time with a group of people that you’ve barely seen for the past 17 odd years.

  • Learn basic chemistry, physics and biology via Khan Academy.
  • Look out for opportunities to have unexpected adventures and say ‘yes’ more often. Share these adventures with others whenever possible.
  • Be my best self to the best of my ability and remember that I didn’t create the art separate from myself, that I get to make a difference just by being myself in the world and that’s amazing (and discomforting), inspiring (and confronting).

So I didn’t really spend much more time on Khan Academy this year – though I meant to and still intend to. I am going to jump into the deep end with science in my new degree though which I’m increasingly excited about. I did take opportunities to say ‘yes’ to unexpected things, trying new things and having adventures. These were sometimes rewarding and sometimes disappointing, but I am glad I did it.

I spent the whole year being challenged in myself, and the importance of the relationship with self, honesty with self was deeply reinforced. I did make a difference to the people in my networks, and I’m grateful that this is possible, but also I made a big difference in my own life and that was more difficult to achieve.

So what did I get out of this year that I want to make particular note of, or that was unexpected?

  • A massive change in my career direction, and also the sense that maybe I’m finally working out something of how and where I’ll get to make a difference in the world and improve things.
  • Deeper and more rewarding relationships with a bunch of people in my constellation network, including adding some people to that network and especially the way in which my relationship with Fox has blossomed.
  • Getting to live by myself, and loving it, though getting to that point required wrestling with learning to sleep again, having my own room again and finding comfort in spending extended time alone again (enjoying time alone is a big casualty of my anxiety when it surfaces).
  • Getting to move into a place so close to where the boys live that it’s almost like we live together – except two blocks apart.
  • I did a bunch of reading on solo polyamory from a few particularly good blogs on the subject and found a lot that has resonated with me about this approach to life, relationships and connection in general.
  • I played lots of board games and even cards with the boys and started to enjoy being playfully competitive with them. So far, I am the Queen of Catan! Also, while visiting Mum for Christmas, I beat her at cards – the game that my family has been playing as far back as I can remember.
  • Realising that I don’t think I ever want to get legally married, but that I would perhaps like to do some kind of commitment thing of some sort with some specific people in my constellation network. No idea what, but the idea is simmering away.
  • I finally changed my name legally, and I’m just getting all the paperwork and such through to really make it official – I’m loving it so much, it’s been a long time in coming but it’s utterly worth it now that it’s happened.
  • Falling even more in love with Melbourne and even though it’s been a hard year away from Kaneda, away from the people I know and love in Perth that doing this was the best decision I could have made for myself.

So that’s Bravery… this post feels a little odd to me now that I’m essentially finished because I don’t think I could have given any better sense of the deeply personal and emotional journey that this year has been for me, but also it’s a general blog post and not a personal diary so I don’t want to go into any of that  in any more depth. I’m glad that 2013 is coming to a close and while I have no idea what 2014 holds for me yet, or what my focus will be… I am looking forward to discovering this.

Thank you for all the lessons, all the difficulty and all the constant reaffirmations of love and support 2013. You were not an easy year but you were a year I gained a lot of growth out of, learned so much about myself and my relationships and also experienced such profound and abiding love from my partners and network around me that I am astounded.

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