Word Limit: 2015-2016

Lately I’ve been challenged to think about my dreams and goals for the future. New Years is a common time to stop and think about what your dreams and goals are and to look back and assess whether you made any progress the year prior and what will you do to make more progress again.

One of my main dreams is to write. I love it. It’s what makes me tick. However in 2015 I didn’t really do it, pretty much at all. I had an interesting transitional year where I went from a job and part time study to an actual grown up career. I gave my all to that transition and while I don’t regret it, I did mean that I had little margin for creative writing. I now had to write for my job which was awesome but meant that I didn’t really invest into my writing outside of business hours.

So when it came to News Years and I looked back on 2015 to see how much progress I had made on my dream to write, I sort of felt like I’d failed. How could I say that this was what I wanted to do and yet I’d spent no time doing it? I’d always written out of desire instead of habit and now that I had little margin I had no habit to fall back on.

I wasn’t disappointed with 2015 but I was a little disappointed with myself.

“You call yourself a writer and yet what have you written this year?”
“Can you still write? What if you’ve somehow lost it?”

These are the conversations I started to have with myself.

Conversations with yourself are pretty risky. They have so much potential both for good and for destruction. Without even realising it I was reinforcing a false idea that somehow who I am is determined by what I do.

Today I had to remind myself that I could write zero words or 1 million this year and that doesn’t change who I am; I am still a writer. Today I had to remind myself that just because it’s your dream that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Today I had to remind myself to make a start, even if it wasn’t my best piece of work.

Perhaps you need that reminder too. Maybe you need to have a good conversation with yourself and say that what you’ve done or haven’t done in 2015 doesn’t have to define you or 2016. Maybe you just need to make an uninspiring but critical habit that will push you on towards your dreams. Maybe you just need to make a start. Come on, let’s do it together.

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My Means to an End

I had this great and confronting thought a little while ago when I was chatting to my housemate about people who hate their jobs. Those people who find themselves in what is neither a dream job nor a ‘I need to do this right now in order to be able to achieve something else’ job. You know the working part time at the Fish and Chip shop while you study type of job. There of course, is nothing wrong with working at a Fish and Chip shop, or at Woolworths or as a government admin officer if you legitimately love it – but the problem is that most of us don’t love it. It’s a means to an end and what I started to dwell on and couldn’t get out of my brain is what happens when the means to an end never ends and we find ourselves, knowingly, or unknowingly – stuck.

Depending on how well we know each other in the real world – you may or may not know that I am a part time university student. I’ve been studying for so long now that so many of the people in my life weren’t around before the study journey began and what led me to it all.

When I graduated high school – I had no idea what I wanted to do. It’s become a lot more common now but the concept of the “gap year” was fairly fresh and I was one of the few people who didn’t go straight into a degree or into a trade. I had some vague ideas about a communications degree but not wanting to force it and make a wrong decision at such an early stage of life – I deferred my degree and prayed that the “gap year” would resolve everything. As a way to pass the time and earn some money I landed a full time job as a Receptionist at a Real Estate. It wasn’t the dream by any means – but “gap year” for me wasn’t about fun times, it was about trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

A means to an end is something you are not really interested in but that you do, grudgingly or otherwise, because it will help you achieve something else. Gap year was my means to an end.

I didn’t love my job – in fact, I think I sort of hated it. I wasn’t being paid much and after 14+ weeks of school holidays I very quickly got over the phone ringing and it being my responsibility to answer it. However even though I hated it – I got used to it. The year rolled by and when a somewhat better Receptionist role came up – I moved on without giving my waiting deferred uni degree another thought. In fact, if I’m being honest – I think I purposefully forgot it.

After so many years of retrospective thinking – I think I can say that I was subconsciously afraid of university. Perhaps I was fearful of having no money after a year of a stable (albeit tiny) income or perhaps I was nervous that I wouldn’t like the course and I would waste my time by dropping out or if I was in fact, just straight up afraid that I wasn’t smart enough for uni –or some awful cocktail of the three combined. I didn’t want to be a “student” and so I pushed it from my mind and tried to focus on my Receptionist ‘career’.

What sucked about this was that the longer I stayed in what was initially my means to an end – the more I became dissatisfied with the means. It had way passed its expiry date and I began to resent it. I worked poorly on purpose, become one of those people who lived for the weekend and wished themselves sick in order to avoid work. It wasn’t a pretty picture but I wasn’t super prepared to change it. I was comfortable. Unhappy – but comfortable.

One Sunday I was chatting with an amazing couple at church and they were telling me about their daughter who was just about to graduate from the very degree I’d deferred. We talked a little of this and where I was at with work and while I don’t even remember asking for it he gave me the best advice said quite simply. ‘You should go and study now Steff – if you don’t do it now, you never will’.

For some unknown reason – his words rang true and I applied to university the very next morning. Was I scared? Absolutely! I had no idea how to even apply for uni let alone be a uni student. I was still afraid of failing but in the end, I was more scared of staying where I was forever – of not living up to potential I knew existed somewhere.

It would be so awesome if this was the end of the story but in so many ways it is only the beginning. While it was and still is one of the best decisions of my life – it has not been easy. I kept my admin career going as a way to pay for rent, bills and to metaphorically and literally fuel my weekends and despite the goal of achieving my degree – it was hard not to be overtaken by the soul crushing occupation that is Office Administration – my new means to an end. That sounds dramatic – but most ‘means to and end’ situations feel that way.

Now I only have mere weeks left of my degree and after many tough years where it felt like it would never end and after many tough jobs that I really didn’t love – the light at the end of the tunnel is practically blinding. I am equal parts ecstatic and afraid. When this ends, and I finally walk across that stage and get that darn piece of paper I will have to face the music and try and get started on my career – something for the last 7 years I’ve just been ‘working on’. My means to an end needs to come to an end and that scares me a little.

There’s something about the means to end process in which the longer we stay in it, the harder it is to get out. We learn to accept that seasons are hard and then we spend so long accepting it that when it comes time to leave the season behind, we don’t. Sometimes we go through a valley and a trial and there’s an important lesson to be learnt in those moments but so often, the valley season ends and God is standing on top of the mountain, applauding your learnt lesson and wondering why you won’t join him there. Sometimes we stay because we think there isn’t another option, that there isn’t a way out of our unhappiness. That is a lie.

I wanted to tell you this because I want you to know that you can do anything you want. If you can at all relate to what I’ve been through, then I want to give you that uncomfortable but necessary push that someone gave me. If you aren’t happy, you do have the power to change that. We need to learn how to swallow our fear or our pride and go do what needs to be done in order to live a fulfilling life. We can’t be the type of people who complain about our lot in life when we could quit that awful admin job and go learn how to fly a plan, or scuba dive, or be a mum, or become a florist. I’m not saying that you should quit everything that’s hard work – in fact, I’m saying the very opposite. Sometimes living the life God has called you to involves hard work. Sometimes it involves a ‘means to an end’ phase – but you have to make sure it ends. Don’t linger around the means because it’s comfortable – push forward. It’s not always easy but it will be worth it.

New Year, New Who?

I don’t know about you but I find the start of a new year to be a little bit daunting.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been on annual leave over the Christmas and New Year break. I almost wish this wasn’t so as this extended holiday mode means I start the year off, pretty lazy. I blame the holidays but perhaps it’s actually because the whole new year concept is a little overwhelming. I was definitely asked more often this year the awful and frustrating question “What are your New Year’s Resolutions”?
It might actually surprise you, but I don’t think I like New Year’s Resolutions. I actually love the idea of self-improvement, goal making, planning, prioritising. I just find it weird that it just happens on January 1st. I find it weird that we all sit around at the one time and make promises to give up smoking or take more holidays, or.. lose weight.
Maybe I actually don’t dislike New Year’s Resolution. I just dislike the pressure. I normally do come up with goals for the New Year but I take my time and it ends up being a while before I decide what I really want. They end up being like Valentine’s Day Resolutions. I’m a big processor and it actually takes me more than 30 minutes to assess the whole year and then decide on how I want to improve upon it and then somehow define and condense that into 2 or 3 simple statements. By then it’s normally the end of January and I feel like the moment has passed. It’s simply too late to have a New Year’s Resolution.
For me, all the typical New Year’s Resolution type things kick in once I go back to work. I can’t suggest to the world how I want to improve my routine until I see it. Until I remember what it feels like to wake up every day and go to a job I don’t love or come home to chores I wish I didn’t need to do or try and walk the work stairs and struggle. That’s when I start thinking up things like: Learn to be content, be more organised, get fit!
And so today, I am back at work. Back to routine. Back to the everyday. So today, I am dreaming. Dreaming of what I want, what I wish for and how I am going to make that happen. I have never been very good at large overreaching summarising type New Year’s Resolution like the above statements. Mine are always specific, small and potentially achievable. They are usually based on a review of years gone by and a dream of years to come. I hope you find some inspiration from these goals and are challenged to continually and realistically challenge yourself this year. Even if you don’t get around to starting until February.

Respond to texts promptly.
Go for a walk 3 times a week.
Save $100 a week in order to Vacation Overseas!!
Finish every book I received as a present for Christmas 2013 – (just 4). Read 8 other books this year.
Start University assignments 2 weeks before they are due – finish strong!
Learn to make lemon flavoured desserts. YUM.
Spend more time working on Connect Group/with Connect girls.
Read the New Testament.
Have freshly painted nails!
Write more. Even if it stays in a notebook and no one ever reads it.

 

These are the specific goals that actually represent several ideals that I want to embody more this year. That of inexpensive living, being present and available with people, working hard and finishing strong, engaging my mind, my body and my spirit in a way that produces a better, well rounded Steffany.
I hope I see you here again and I hope the fear and pressure of New Years doesn’t stunt your ability to dream in 2014.

New Year Goals

Look I know it’s mid-January but a girl can still wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR right?

Happy New Year all.

In keeping with the theme I just created out of virtual thin air – here’s my new years resolutions – or goals. Goals seem better for some reason and so for each ‘resolution’ i have something by which it can be measured. A goal without a plan is after all – only a wish. I tried to have one for almost all areas of life.

  1. Get more organised – Use a diary
  2. Get fit – be able to run my current walking route.
  3. Blog once a week – readers can hold me to that one. Essentially it means 50ish posts a year.
  4. Read two books a month – shelfari.com
  5. Complete 5 things off the ‘things to do while I’m still single’ list – a post at the end of the year that shows the 5 things I completed!
  6. Read my bible and journal regularly – have a full journal at the end of year.
  7. Be supportive – have all the same friends and more at the end of the year.
  8. Say yes to good things and no to bad things – be a better a person.