Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music

As someone who loves orchestras and playing music, albeit not super well, this is eye-opening, beautiful and moving. I don’t consider myself a huge classical music fan, which in some way demonstrates how powerful this is. Alongside the fact that it has completely changed the way I understand and view classical music, I love the passion behind this, and the belief that it can be for everyone.

Revisiting ‘I Was Me’, Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons released ‘I Was Me’ in 2015 for the One4 project, with all proceeds going to the UN Refugee Agency. Lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, also wrote an op-ed for Medium about his experience visiting a refugee camp in Germany. This song came out of that trip. I bought the single when it came out, but hadn’t listened to it in a couple of years. Today it came up randomly on my playlist while I was out on a walk, and I promise you the song just broke my heart.

See also: Welcome to the New World, in the New York Times.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back and try again after a setback, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going, no matter how hard you fell. It’s also about being willing to have a go at something new, and to be open to asking someone for help.

It’s not about being brave or strong, but simply feeling okay about yourself – knowing that you will be okay with whatever life dishes up. In other words, it is our ability to adapt to stress and the less stressed we are, the happier we are.

The Princess Bitchface Syndrome 2.0, Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson

Minimalism is a state of mind

For several years now, minimalist living has been an aspiration, if not an achievement. I can hardly claim to be a true minimalist, but it helps a lot that I don’t particularly enjoy shopping and have no problem getting rid of stuff. Also, I’m a freelance writer – if that doesn’t teach you frugal living, I don’t know what will.

About a year ago, I decided to extend the minimalist principle to the way I spend my time. Society has made busyness out to be this glamorous thing – if you are not juggling many hats, a multi-hyphenate and #winning at every single aspect of your life, you are not doing enough. I love multi-tasking and feeling busy so I get it. Some days I list every single task, no matter how banal and insignificant, so I can see how much shit I’ve accomplished. Ironically, those are the days where I’m really not doing much because who has time to make lists when they’re out changing the world? 

I decided some re-calibrating was in order. Instead of trying to maximise each day, I started to see “doing nothing” as a good thing. Work and study aside, I streamlined my social engagements and actively tried to carve out time to read, watch a movie, journal, pray, play the piano, exercise, and just generally be still. Because I don’t know about you, but I am never really “doing nothing”. Even when I am not running around getting stuff done, my brain is always thinking, What do I need to do next?

Side note: I once read that when you ask a woman what she’s thinking and she says nothing, she’s actually thinking about what needs to be done, and what happened today or last week, and what she should do about this or that. But if you ask a man what he’s thinking and he says nothing, he’s actually thinking about… nothing!

As it turns out, minimalism as a daily living principle is a state of the mind. It gives me permission to slow down and say no to things. It reminds me that it’s okay not to go, go, go. I am learning to cut myself some slack. Even though the reality of my life might not be minimalist – the days are still busy and the weeks still fly by – at least now I know what underpins my decision making.

Here’s what I also learned: in seeking minimalism in the things that I do, I am actually freeing myself up to maximise the day and do more. I am learning and reflecting and thinking and (hopefully) writing more. I am loving those free hours after school with the 7yo where we can begin to unwind in each other’s company after a big day. We are getting outside on “lazy” days to just be surrounded by nature. And on those days when we really have nothing scheduled, I am spending them “doing nothing” with the people I love, which at the end of the day, is everything.

Quiet moments

“The character has to change, and that change has to come from within…” said the character Robert McKee in the movie Adaptation.

This I write as the movie plays on Netflix. I am trying to write at the same time because my hands will not, cannot keep still even as my eyes are occupied. So I multitask. I watch Adaptation, journal, research compost bins and attempt to write, and of course the effort involved in trying to keep track of it all gives me a headache.

For once, I don’t mind. Quiet moments spent alone with my thoughts, without a to-do list hanging over my head, is an opportunity and luxury few working parents have. I am grateful for every single minute of this time.

Have you ever looked back on your life and marvelled at how certain things happened and other things came together and suddenly this is who you are?

People change, but more important than what we can see is what we cannot always see – the change within. That’s why the quote resonates; this week, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve changed in the past 1.5 years. Maybe one day I will be able to write about it in a coherent manner, but for now, keeping a journal is all I can manage. I highly recommend that, by the way.


Jump, her heart told her.

No, said her brain.

Do it, counseled Wisdom.

You can’t, cautioned Self.

She stood on the edge of the precipice – one of life’s many, really – and knew that everything was about to change. It amazed her to think of the road she had taken to get here. Sure, she had been the one to put one foot in front of the other, but she had done so without realising, asking, knowing where she was headed.

The story of her life.

Hindsight is a remarkable thing. Without her journal, would she even remember how prophetic her words would prove? Of course not.

She thought back to all that has happened, the paths she had chosen that have led her here, all those nights she wrestled with her thoughts on the lonely road.

And now, here she was.

If she jumped, what would happen? What would happen if she did not?

She jumped.

2018: Year of New Beginnings

It’s been a while.

That seems to be how I start everything I write when it’s personal.

The problem with working as a (copy)writer is you just don’t feel like doing any more writing outside of work hours, even though writing for work is completely different to writing for and about myself.

Long gone are the days of several-times-a-week blog posts. I keep a private journal, but at last count I think I clocked nine entries in a year. And I’m not sure I’ll ever show those to the world.

I want to go back to writing this year. Not as a day job but for me. I’ve said that before, but 2018, what I’m christening the Year of New Beginnings – maybe this will be the year it finally sticks.

I read somewhere that the key to writing is to just write. And if you chip away at it long enough, eventually all the nonsensical crap and glorified rambling will give way to better stuff. I hope it’s true because this, right now, this is the crap.

Also, hardly anyone reads blogs anymore and if they do they’re certainly not browsing my collection of quotes and YouTube videos so I feel like maybe it’s okay for me to leave this here.

With a bit of luck and a whole lot of determination, there will be more where this came from.

Back in 2008, I decided to give each year a theme as a way of setting the direction and tone for the coming months. Some years it worked great, some I found myself reflecting and changing themes when the year was over and done.

Last year I didn’t even have one, but I’ve posthumously appointed it the Year of Gratitude. Gratitude was (and still is) a big thing for me. Ask my daughter and she will tell you my loudest lectures are those that relate to gratitude or the lack of it.

This year I’m calling it: 2018 will be the Year of New Beginnings. I was hoping for something catchier and less of a mouthful, but this stuck. Here’s the obvious one: if all goes well, I will graduate with a Master of Primary Teaching in July. This not only (potentially) means the beginning of a new career as a primary school teacher, but also the beginning of life not as a working writer. I’ve been writing professionally since 2005 so it’s a little bit of a change.

With that I’m also hoping to start a new chapter with my writing, literally and figuratively. Perhaps, with the burden of writing for work lifted, I will find the desire and inspiration to write about other things. Even if it is all just rubbish at first. The Man and I were talking about writing 1000 words a month. It can be anything and of course it will be absolutely hideous, but we just need to get back into it.

Along with new beginnings, I want to try new things. I’ve always preferred having experiences to buying stuff anyway, and I already have a maiden trip to Koh Samui (in January) and my first mud run (in March) lined up. I’m also hoping to make a trip to Tasmania at some point.

Every year brings change and new discoveries, but I guess the point of this year is to be more mindful and deliberate about the journey. To embrace the changing seasons, to not shy away from attempting the unfamiliar, to jump even though I might be afraid. It’s sometimes bloody hard to tell the difference between intuition and wishful thinking, but I feel like this is going to be a big year.

Fingers crossed it’s also going to be a good one.

Kinder than is necessary

“Kinder than is necessary,” he repeated. “What a marvelous line, isn’t it? Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness. … If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this… someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognise in you the face of God.”

– Mr Tushman, in Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Bono describes my kind of religion

If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there’s a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in “straw poverty”; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me. … As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian.

– Bono, Rolling Stone interview (2005)