Walk On By
It’s been a common maxim amongst Australians in the last few years since an Australian Of The Year stated ‘the standard you walk by is the standard you accept’. If you walk by a situation or someone in need and don’t do something, don’t feel something, then you’re accepting that as part of society, that its ‘just the way it is.’ Whether it’s domestic violence or poverty or racism, as human beings we need to stand-up for what we believe is right. We don’t know the circumstances sometimes, so we only have a few seconds to make a call. With my pride bubbling, I would like to say how impressed I was of my girlfriend’s reaction to seeing a woman wearing a burka being verbally abused on the tram (am not entirely sure if verbs were in fact used as I wasn’t there, but let’s say there was). The antagonist was a man clearly on some drugs, yet the outcome was the same. A large man stepped in first and told him to be quiet, but once the defendant got off at a stop, the abuser continued. So my girlfriend stepped in too to protect the woman, despite not having the impacting presence of a large figure and most likely (being Asian) to suffer racist abuse herself. Now the woman in the burka didn’t say anything, she didn’t need to, but I hope that she realised not all people are arseholes, and that Australia is a welcoming multi-cultural society of tolerance, not of spite. And that underneath it all, people give a shit.
And so it’s with some embarrassment that I relay my own story. In spotting a man sat down under a blanket on the street opposite our Parliament building, I reached inside my pocket for some change – usually I have none and barely even carry cash any more. Yet today I knew I had a fifty-cent coin that could do with a home so I dropped in my money to this man’s battered paper coffee cup. As I did that, the homeless man raised hands from underneath his blanket to type on his mobile phone. He didn’t notice me pass. The fifty cents clinked loudly amongst the other gold and silver coins in the cup, and I noticed a rogue $1 coin left strewn on the pavement behind the view of the phone. I almost walked back for my fifty cents I was so annoyed, but it’s funny analysing it as I continued my stroll home, with multiple personalities jostling one another:
Why wasn’t that man grateful for my fifty-cent donation? I should at least have received a thank you!
What do you want, a cake? A hug? You gave away fifty cents, you tight sod! Why should he be grateful, he didn’t ask for money from you did he? You gave it!
He’s got an iPhone! Pisses all over your three years old Samsung Galaxy with a cracked screen eh?
That could be his only possession in the world, relax! . . . remember that homeless man that used to sit there with his MacBook?
He’s got so much money he can’t even keep the place tidy by putting the spilled $1 in the cup
You want a man begging on the street to be tidy? You have issues, Reed
I was recently made aware of the excellent page which is written by women for women to protect themselves online. Worth a read if you have time, thanks Jane Hernandez for bringing it my attention.
For more information on homelessness in Australia, check out homelessnessaustralia.org and the ever excellent redcross
I attended a delightful BCW (Brilliantly Connected Women) power-lunch the other week, an event which attracts about three men in support of their female colleagues, who in turn number about fifty. The aim is quite simple: empower women to connect with one another, learn from one another and progress in their careers. The speaker this week was a lady in sync with my own thought processes of getting away from yourself to find yourself. In her case, she embarked on an ambitious 800km pilgrim trek in Spain in which she reassessed her life and found a little bit of zen to boot. It’s a wonderful feeling.
She took two months off to pursue this adventure, a leap of faith for her as it was an insurmountable time off (for me, no!). In talking of her career and focusing on behaviour and attitude that got her to where she is today, this sparked a woman in attendance to question why she was always pigeon holed in her career. A programmer of some twenty years standing, she was bright enough to know exactly what she needed to do, but had got to a point of not seeing the forest for the trees. To close to the action to see the action, as it were. This made me think of the differentiators between us all: not just gender or appearance, but behaviour. What do others do differently in their approach to situations and life? Here are mine:
1.Television – For me, I barely watch it. If my housemate hadn’t brought a television, I probably wouldn’t have one at all. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, Vikings, never seen a single episode of Breaking Bad, or any series really right back to the Sopranos. I do though love films and adore going to the cinema perhaps once a month. I see day to day television of very little value. Same could be applied with computer games. . .
2.News – See ‘television’. The amount of news thrust upon us every day is staggering: 24-hour news to remain instantly connected with every human being on the planet about every single thing. Do you need access to such an amazing conglomeration of news? Probably not. Once a day is enough. I once went 7 months without reading a single piece of news: no newspapers, no internet webpages, no news channels. What happened in that 7 months? There was some flooding in Houston 12,000 miles away from where I lived. I think that’s about it. When news was brought up at lunch time, people were more than happy to explain what was going on in the world, most of it of little consequence.
3.Time – It’s the most important thing you will ever possess. Use it wisely, which is why the first two points exist at all. Don’t do things because you feel encumbered, do them because you want to do them. You don’t have to offer people excuses. Sometimes ‘sorry I can’t make it’ is enough, although if you have a family or partner, then sometimes you have to suck some eggs to keep the peace!
4.Excuses – Don’t be the person that says “I’d love to be able to do that”. Usually there is nothing that stops you doing anything you set your mind to, but you’re too distracted by television, the news or, let’s face it, being lazy. I don’t buy into the mindset that ‘oh I’m not a numbers person’ or ‘I’m not very creative’. Put in the hard yards. Personally, I’d love to be a travel writer reporting and exploring he world. But I know also that many, many people want to do that, and even if you make it, the money to be made isn’t that good. Very few writers actually make a proper living. However, I can achieve my aims of travel through working at a good, well-paid job (enough for me, anyway) I don’t love but do thoroughly enjoy – the aspects of training and mentoring others, of problem solving to find a solution – and I write in my spare time which I love. Having travelled extensively for long periods, I know that I would get tired. Would travel-writing as a job become a chore as opposed a joy if there was a deadline? Perhaps.
5.Don’t take your job too seriously – Most of us are in a position where if we perform badly at our job, people don’t die. I certainly am. And yet the stress we bring home because of an email or report or office politics is staggering. Find a way to leave it there. I have a thirty-minute walk to work and back. During that period I’ve stopped taking phone calls, checking my phone or reading emails, anything other than just walking. This relaxes me and gives me a good wind-down before I start or finish work.
6.Privileges - Financially people voluntarily put themselves into debt to have the things they want and believe they need. I have no car (or rather, before I brought my Land Cruiser for my antipodeanadventure.com, I had no car!), I don’t own a house, I have no debts, I save money where I can. I don’t gamble, drink or smoke – god I sound boring! - and actually, oddly, don’t really like possessing ‘things’. My laptop and camera remain my prized possessions, with various hard-drives for photos etc. But if push came to shove I could leave everything I have with a small bag. I like that. I enjoy the fact I don’t need much to be happy. I don’t think I’ll ever need the escape factor though! The more people depend on their income, the more rigid and less risks they can take i.e. I can’t risk losing my job because of the mortgage, because of the school fees, because of the car payments or credit cards. You then start to think ‘I’m luck to have this job’ rather than, as it should be, ‘they are lucky to have me.’
None of the above makes me better or worse than anyone else, it's just my path and what helps me along my journey. What are yours?
Thought I'd share a few things from my travels which prevail through life. Or at least they do for me:
Try - Regretting something you didn’t do will eat away at you more than the stuff you tried and got wrong. I hiked for 5hrs in snow uphill to find the path was closed at the top and I could do nothing but come back down again. I started a business, spent a lot of money, 8 months of my life doing it. And I abandoned it because I realised there was something else I was more passionate about. Who cares! We overestimate the impact of trying vs not trying. We’re a risk averse species, that’s why we’ve lived so long, but some great innovations and advancements have come about by taking a risk. Just calculate the risk, learn from the mistakes, learn from trying, take as much out of it as you can. It’s not enough to say “well I was trying to juggle chainsaws, and then I lost my arm, and I learnt it was dangerous”. We sensationalise failure because we’re afraid people will find out we failed, when the reality is that so many of us are doing so many different things, that really no one gives a shit if you’ve failed or not as they’ve got their own lives going on. You’ve failed? Awesome. I’ve got bills to pay, kids running around screaming, a job where my boss is going to kill me for not completing a report, a girls’ night out on Saturday, oh and you failed? So what! Fail. Embrace it, move on. One of my current favourite quotes is this, from W.C. Fields, the great American comedian – “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no need to be a damn fool about it” Then again sometimes it’s worth the push. I don’t know if this is hypocraphyl or not, but guess how many times did Colonel Sanders go to a restaurant to sell his chicken recipe before finding one that would take it on? Guess? 10? 50? 200 times? Try over a 1000.
Adventuring and travel is a privilege. I read on forums all the time ‘what are the key takeaways of overlanding?’ and people are looking for these nuggets of truth, like carrying spare water, learning the native tongue, hiding a spare key in your shoe in case you get locked out in the middle of a salt flat in Bolivia (me), etc people want the inside fast track when in fact the key is staring them in the face the whole time. It’s as simple as this: “appreciate that 99% of the world will never get the chance that you have to travel and experience what you’re about to. So no matter how shitty the day, how bleak the outlook, enjoy the fuck out of it”. The same could be said of life. Unless you see and experience different perspectives you have no idea how lucky you are. No fucking idea.
Don’t listen when people tell you something cannot be done. The more vehement and angry and steadfast, the more fanatical someone is about something . . . take it with a pinch of salt. Usually they’re the ones that know nothing and have formed their opinion on half-facts, spouting them as gospel truths. Prove them wrong, and when you do, be magnanimous in victory. Women didn’t win the right to vote and black people didn’t get to ride at the front of the bus and Jews didn’t get to share the same white neighbourhoods as Christians because they did what they were told. Learn your place? How about unlearn your place. Go and find your place. This time around on my travels I met far more women travelling solo than ever before and it was great to see. In Australia there are currently more females than males (marginal %) so why do men have the top jobs? Jobs for the boys? No, don’t take it. Women will outlive us men anyway, when we die take control and beat the rest of us into submission. When you get to parity though please back down a bit or you’ll wipe us out!
Time. Spend your time wisely. How many people listen to music on the way to work? What about switching on the television when you get home? Game of Thrones, Peeky Blinders, Taboo, all these things entertain us. It’s a way of spending time, like you have an abundance and can easily acquire more. We often don’t think how important time is. Time isn’t money, time is the most important thing that anyone will ever possess. And you spend it! Spend it on distracting yourself, making time pass faster . . . diverting yourself away from reality. What the hell is wrong with reality that you need to be diverted all the time? Spend some time looking at your surroundings. Again, travelling enables you to do that. To disappear into a corner of the world and just sit. Think. To be less distracted and more focused. I make time every day to let the world turn without me at the corner of my couch with a cup of tea. I let my mind wander and it's wonderful. I find myself going for walks without music, with my phone on airplane mode . . . I don’t turn it off as I need my step count ha ha but spend time with yourself.
As an extra push, and this won’t be popular but I’ll say it anyway, drink and drugs don’t help. We like to separate drink but it’s a drug, so let’s just say drugs. Drugs distort reality. We go home on the weekend have a drink to relax, have a drink to celebrate, have a drink to relieve the stress. Well if you need booze to relieve the stress maybe the work isn’t worth it? Maybe you’re in the wrong job? Because whether I get the report to my boss or not, I’m not saving lives. No one dies because I don’t submit my timesheet on a Wednesday afternoon. If you need a drug to relax, maybe you need to look at yourself, look internally for a solution rather than relying upon a bottle or some pills.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve heard this a million times and then one day it hit me like a car crash when I saw a simple picture. I realised how ruthless I was with myself, and have been my whole life. I wouldn’t sleep for days upon some small decision which usually doesn’t matter. The picture is from a young artist called josie.doodles. I saw that on my trip and it almost made me cry at the realisation of it. Knowing you did the best you could with the information you made at the time is ok. You cannot ask for more. Being wrong, failing, spending your time unwisely, zigging when you should have zagged . . . if you live through it, if you haven’t caused people harm, then you’re doing good.
Follow @josie.doodles on instagram
Nothing hastens the planning of your next holiday quite like returning to work. The brain goes from feeling fresh and taut to at once being drowned until it’s a watery mush barely resembling its previous verve. Like a rotting salad, in a way. In my case, five months out in the wild vanished in a twinkling of an email. In fairness, it has very little to do with the work itself: a week in the same office was never going to be quite as fun as the months that preceded it. Halcyon times indeed. I am proud of myself that I submitted a request to buy additional leave within 48 hours of coming back to work. That made me smile. The first day of the actual week was cumbersome yet I muddled on through, the following days were full of tricks clearly manufactured by some fantastical time-wizard. Three hours on the second day wrapped themselves imperceptibly between 2.30 and 2.43pm. To parody the great WC Fields: I spent a lifetime working in an office. I think it was a Tuesday.
I’m often staggered by how many people I actually work with. Large corporations house towns of people, all rushing to and from the office, many counting down the hours until they can leave, retire entirely or simply drop dead. That may be a slight exaggeration with the current company (they are a good bunch on the whole) yet I know many of my colleagues that genuinely feel that way, which is a shame. Eight hours a day is a long time to wish away. It’s hard to imagine the atmosphere if you’ve never worked in a corporate environment. I once ran into a schoolfriend’s brother in Wales and immediately started enquiring about my friend – was she married, kids, work etc. Having relayed quite proudly that she worked in an office, he was utterly bereft of any further details. ‘In an office’ was explanation enough and he simply wasn’t equipped to deal with further lines of enquiry. That’s life in the countryside for you. Cities are alien places.
After six years of managing teams of business analysts, business support, testers and project managers, letting all that go has been a welcome break. I now simply manage myself. And far from being such a terror in the first days, it was all quite novel. A different type of adventure. I was at a loss how to even access my computer as the password had long expired. But once that was sorted out I smiled at the technology becoming familiar once again: the corporate email system and their accompanying traffic lights telling me whether they are available or in a meeting. I hadn’t thought about that for, well, seemingly forever. Curious as to what happened in the company in the last five months, I opened the intranet and found tens of articles and announcements, and remembered that I had no interest whatsoever in it, so quickly closed it down. I figured that if it was truly important, news could come to me.
God knows what the second week is going to be like. Where did I put that brochure on gorillas again?
Image reference: http://crossroadcenter.org/almost-back-to-school/
Writing and writing...