Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is It Just Me?

People who know me will also know that I have done a lot of travelling, I have lived in the UK, Australia, and Canada, and within England alone I had the pleasure of calling five different cities home. I have also worked a multitude of different jobs, all within highly social industries. This means that I am fortunate enough to have friends all over the globe.

Despite the fact that I could pretty much go anywhere and I'd be guaranteed to know somebody, I really really like doing things by myself. I will go to the cinema; restaurants; and even travelling absolutely bare balled alone. It gives me time to think, time to write, and time to plan my next adventure (because you know there will be one).

I have always noticed, though, that there is particular stigma against people who are going it alone (particularly young people). Last night I went into a restaurant and asked for a table for dinner. The waitress looked at me and asked "is it just you?" in an all too questioning manner. I got the impression that what she wanted to say was, 'where is your husband? Boyfriend? Best friend? Mother…?' She soon noticed her instinctual tone, though, and she almost winced and smiled at me. I gave her a reassuring look. "Yes. It's just me." 

A quick google search gives me 3.9 million hits on the term: "A Guide To Dining Alone".  Because heaven forbid if we do it wrong… Some of my favourite advice I found was "Ask for the cheque before you finish eating, that way you do not have to sit alone for too long". 
Why not just go to McDonalds if you're after fast food? That way, you don't even have to get out of the car, and nobody will actually know that those 24 McNuggets and 3 Cheeseburgers are all for you, YOU SAD CAT.

Back in the restaurant (which thankfully is far from my imagination) the waitress seated me, and the table next to me was occupied by a couple who looked to be in their early thirties, both dressed nicely as if they were on a date. Both of them were concentrating wistfully on their cell phones, and did not speak a word to each other. Years ago, this would have been considered the height of rudeness, but now I was the one being judged for dining solo?

Is being comfortable in your own company the new taboo?

And so what happens if, by my own choice or circumstance, I do not have a significant other in my life to dine with: am I supposed to sit at home and order a pizza while I watch 'He's Just Not That Into You' on repeat?

I mean, sure, there are times when I catch myself thinking, 'It would be great if there was someone here with me, because I'd really like to order a lobster dinner but I don't actually know how to eat it'. And it definitely would be handy to have someone in the passenger seat of the car to say: 'Rachel, you're on the wrong side of the road..' or, 'Honey! Eyes front and centre!', but this surely shouldn't define me as a person.

Yet, to these servers I am apparently the girl who dines alone. There is nothing else to me.

By the way, I have to share more advice from these 'Dining Alone Guides'. Obviously, one should always take work papers or a book with them, because it is just the worst thing in the world if you are to sit there without something to occupy your hands (It is not enough anymore to be occupied by your own thoughts and reflections on your day). Also, it is suggested that we do just order takeaway or have a sandwich in the park because then we can avoid the whole 'being alone' fiasco and we won't alarm other diners. 

Maybe one day I will go out to a lobster dinner with someone who actually knows how to eat the beast (and I will rip it to shreds) , and perhaps I will take a trip with someone who gets endless pleasure out of the fact that I keep confusing the driver and passenger sides of the car…

Until then, I'm pretty happy. Not only do I have amazing friends, but I am also not riddled with the self doubt that stops me from going out alone. I don't have to share these memories if I don't want to: I can keep them all to myself.



Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Yes, I've checked. 'Shit-tonne' is actually a standardized unit of measurement now. Thanks, Gen-Y. 
For real, though. It isn't even simply the fact that moving costs a lot of money (which it does), but it is that you don't even really know how to look after yourself in a new city. If, heaven forbid, you move to a different country, you will pretty much have to learn how to shop all over again. You will buy the wrong things, shop in the wrong places, and genuinely just waste money for at least a month or two until you learn the vital 'International Skimping' technique. Also, you will probably overspend on things like electric, cable, and everything else until you meet people who can teach you the basics.

This is so inevitable I can't even (...)
Here's the thing: We have all done it before. We have all invested time in the unreturned messages; the non existent phone calls; and the people who play a disappearing act for weeks on end (or until they like something that you post on some form of social media). And this isn't just guys. I think girls do it, too. 
But we have all sat around waiting for that person to get bored and text us for a 'hang out', even though we know that as soon as the hangout session is over, we will go back to feeling a little like a used bag of shit.
So why are we going to do this all over again after moving away? It's simple. This feeling (the chase) is so familiar and so concrete: it's almost like you will reach for the only steady thing there is. You will reach for that unreliable (yet gorgeous) person because there is a strange comfort in it. It's almost like they are your way of creating a link to this new place, and even though you deserve better, everything is so rocky that you will settle for it as it is. Don't worry: this too shall pass.

You will wonder if you did the right thing, for the right reasons.. and you will wonder where this decision will land you in the next five; ten; even twenty years. Is this going to change the way you view the world? Is this going to change every plan and idea you ever had for who you would be? Is this going to be the making of you?
Most likely, it will do all of those things.
No matter how many times you retrace the thought process that got you to where you are, you will realize that you made this decision for a reason, and that certainly can never be the wrong thing to do. I have always been a firm believer that anytime you are uncomfortable, you are growing into a better and stronger person.
Moving away will MAKE YOU.

So here is a little something about me.
At my parent's home in the Australian countryside, there is a large fence around the entire property. Our dog is like Houdini (or she likes to think she is), so we have to keep this huge metal gate closed at all times. Whenever you leave or arrive, you have to get out of the car, open the gate, get back in, drive through the gate, then close it again. Annoying, huh? And when it's a car full of people, someone always has to volunteer to be the person that gets out of the car and "gets the gate". 
This is the craziest thing.
Since moving away, I really miss that part of my day at 7.30pm when I would get home from work. In the winter it would already be dark, and I would climb out of my car, clutch foot aching from the two hour drive, and I would push the gate open and look at the house. Hot steam would be coming out of the chimney. The lights would be reflecting a dim hue out onto the front yard. And I knew there was a hot meal waiting for me inside, prepared by either one of my parents who would greet me: always eager to find out about my day.
That one moment of stopping the hustle and bustle of everyday life to open the gate, is one of the things I miss the most. And when you move away, it will most likely be something equally as random that sticks in your head as a moment of clarity.

What is a social insurance number?
What kind of insurance would I need to go to the dentist?
How do I file my P45?
How many superannuation, renumeration, and pension funds are in my name?

These are all questions that I have asked in the previous few years. Point is, a lot of these questions will be common knowledge to a resident of the country you have moved to. If you turned to a Canadian and said (as I have), "what is a social insurance number?" they will probably look at you like you're from another planet: not because they are mean, but because to them, your homeland IS another planet and they cannot believe you wouldn't have a social insurance system. You probably do, but it is called something different, be it National Insurance, or a Tax File Number (TFN). 
People will tell you how to do things, and assume that you will know the process behind it, even if this is something that is totally foreign to you. Just a few days ago, I was asked for proof of tenant insurance and I was shocked. What was this? And why did I need it? I had never heard of it in my life. Similarly, post dated cheques are something that I had never come across until moving to Canada. And what happened to Universal Healthcare?
Call me stupid all you want: I already feel like a bit of an idiot anyway. 
But its OK. I am learning.
Also, I can flip you off in six different languages.

SO, here's five.
But there are SO MANY MORE things, just waiting for you.

Hop to it.


By the way, don't forget to follow me on Twitter, HERE

Monday, July 8, 2013

To Men Of Past and Present..


All the things that you did for me were really nice. The fact that they were rehearsed and revised actions that had been undertaken time and time again is no longer of any relevance. At that moment, they were for me, and I wish I hadn't been so mad about it.
You taught me a lot about what it means to love somebody, and believe in them even if they are slightly ridiculous. You taught me that loving somebody isn't a choice. It happens, and just as it happens, it can go away again.

Damien. I am not sure if you still hate me for the way everything happened, or if you just can't look me in the eye anymore. The things that I did were all for good reason, and I think that you understand that now. I still don't like that you never gave yourself a voice. Thank you for giving me one.

Matthew. You have the nicest face. It isn't that it is stunning, it's that your eyes and your smile made me want to do things I would never even do. And I have done those things, because I wanted to do them with you. I wanted to be the person that could tell you, show you, and teach you everything. I wanted to know you. But I'm not sure you wanted to know me in the same way. I always wondered where you disappeared to. I never told you how I felt though, because I was too scared you would reject me. I was just too scared to lose what I didn't want in order to reach for what I needed. Perhaps I let us both down.

Luke. Maybe I was what you said I was. But the hardest part about being your friend is that you were never the same to me. I actually think I would have died if it wasn't for your consistent, fierce support which genuinely made me believe that barriers can be broken down and people can feel true and genuine love, without being *in love*. Sometimes I hate that you have moved past everything, but then I remember that I am the one who ran.

David. I always thought I would miss you when I went away. I never did. I only ever missed your best friend. I am sorry. 

Marcus. I think we went through something together that neither of us will really understand. There was nothing that ever happened, in any sense, however, I felt changed by you and I'm fairly sure you are the same. It is such a shame to me that when I think of you now, those thoughts are filled with contempt and exhaustion. It makes me think that everyone else must have given up on figuring you out, too.

*Names have been changed in this piece to protect myself, and only myself. Think one of these is about you? Ask me. This may or may not be a piece of fiction

- RH

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Poem...

On Making The Bold Decisions

I just want to put this out there: I think that young people today have it tough. Of course: people in their mid twenties these days have access to more opportunity that ever before. I'm not trying to deny that. We have countless gadgets and systems to make our life easier, and there is more knowledge in the world that is more readily available to anybody who wants to receive it. However, I think with all of that there comes great social responsibility, which, with many young people, leads to greater social anxiety. It is a constant pressure of 'Am I good enough?' 'Do I wear the right clothes?' 'Am I the ideal weight?' 'Have I got enough friends?'

It's a minefield.

Depression rates are up. Suicide rates are up. And it doesn't stop with young people. Just last week, a friend told me that her partner's Uncle had just committed suicide. He was fifty four.

Let me just put this out there. I moved to another country to work a night shift. I didn't really know anybody, and had no idea how I was going to adapt to such a rapid change in lifestyle. I had lived way from home before, however I had anticipated that this would be a little different.
It is.

Along with obvious physical tolls on my body from working such hours, there have been mental and emotional strains that have come with the transition. Trying to assist other people in their transition hasn't helped either. There is a distinct domino affect at play when people aren't happy and it spreads like disease.

So where am I going with this?

The thing is: we are not bound to anywhere, or tied to anything. The greatest thing about the world today is that we are given the freedom to design our own fate. Whatever it is that you're not happy with, there are ways to change it. 

Every day, make one positive effort to better your life.

I recently quit smoking (again) which is a habit that has come in and out of my life for longer that I would be willing to admit. Along with quitting smoking, I also decided to cut back on alcohol. I removed processed foods from my diet, cancelled out majority of my dairy intake, and hired a personal trainer.

Point of this? I have learned that you can never be completely happy emotionally, spiritually, or mentally unless your insides are happy, too.

And I didn't do this all at once. I took small steps to better myself. Even the most miniscule effort towards positive action is the first step in improving your life. Cutting out the dirt, and the things that were making me feel physically uncomfortable, has had a great impact on the way I approach everything else in my life.

Of course, there are still frustrations. There are 'dog days' when it seems that nothing will go right.

I will repeat what I said. We have the power to design our own fate.

Don't waste it.