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)

Diversity isn’t just about race, it’s also about ideas

When Muslim minds aren’t challenged by “dangerous” ideas they cannot develop the sophistication needed to articulate their own.

So true, and I would argue the same for all minds, regardless of faith, ethnicity and background. Perhaps the only hopeful way forward for the world is less ignorance and a willingness to engage “the other”.

I guess that’s why I’m so interested in education; to me, it’s the key to opening up minds and broadening horizons. The ability to read and think allows you to consider other perspectives instead of always being told what to believe. Though I realise that’s my idealised notion of education, because of course people can be “educated” into becoming narrow minded bigots.

I also found this bit especially interesting because I did not know this:

This willful closed-mindedness is not an inherent feature of Islam. A thousand years ago, Muslim societies were open and curious, while Christian Europe was insular and fearful of “blasphemy.” Aristotle’s books were translated and studied in Baghdad and Córdoba, and banned in Paris and Rome. No wonder the Muslim world was then the home to groundbreaking discoveries in science, medicine and mathematics. In theology, too, Muslim thinkers like Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroës, developed sophisticated arguments that would inspire Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas — thanks to the Muslim engagement with Greek philosophy.

Read: How Muslim Governments Impose Ignorance

The difference between empathy and sympathy

Empathy is hard to do, and I’m almost always terrible at expressing it. I’m that person with an awkwardly timed “I’m sorry to hear that”, the one who resists the urge to find a silver lining because I know that doesn’t help but the silence is so uncomfortable! So I’m learning, and probably always will be. Also, watch Brené Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability.

Penelope Trunk on the Stanford rapist and the power of language

Melissa found Louisa Curry who says, “I see a pattern emerging from rape culture where women have a past while men have potential. When women are violated we’re asked ‘What did you do to deserve this?’ and often our past is looked at for clues. When men violate women they’re asked ‘What do you have to lose?’ and their future is looked at for clues.”

I read Penelope Trunk – a lot. Here’s her piece on the Stanford rapist and the power of language. From this day onwards, through no real fault of its own, the Stanford name will be linked with the crime of an entitled white brat and his offensively arrogant/ignorant father. That’s unfortunate because, had the judge in this case done what a judge is supposed to do, i.e. see that justice is served, the Stanford name could so easily have become part of the fight against rape culture instead.

Two years on: Still missed, never forgotten

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It’s been two years and there are days when something still catches in my throat when I think of you, taking me by surprise. I hope you are well, my friend. If there were a Starbucks around here, I would have a caramel macchiato in your honour, iced of course, even though it’s 16 degrees out. Here’s to you: still missed and never, ever forgotten.

The family secret

I don’t remember what prompted my desire for a family motto – perhaps I read something somewhere, or it might have been from a talk I heard. But coming up with a family motto had been on my mind for several weeks when the 5yo produced this one day:

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Kung Fu Panda may or may not have had something to do with this, but I thank Po and his friends all the same because it’s perfect. It really is.

Last year was my Year of Kindness, and being kind is something that’s been very much on my mind. I’ve been working with the kid to encourage kindness and awareness of it, and even though I think the message is sinking in, I’ve also given her a heads-up: this is probably something I’ll keep reminding her of for the next 15 years.

Courage is a word we don’t hear very often these days, and it always reminds me of two things: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, and this from the Bible.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

For me, that has always been about braving new adventures, starting new chapters, trying new things. It’s something that really strikes close to home (heart), particularly in the last couple of years, and I guess it’s also stuck with me because I’ve always found the prospect of it exciting.

Have courage.

Be kind.

If we can learn what and how it is to live out these things, then we won’t have done too badly at all.