Life is what you make it

life is what you make itIt had been just over six weeks since we’d first arrived and whilst the first two weeks were fairly full-on with finding somewhere to live and reliable transportation, life had slowed down to a painful crawl. I’d applied for two jobs best described as residing at the extreme opposite ends of my work/qualification spectrum and whilst I would have been happy with either, just to feel a sense of purpose once again (and, ok let’s be honest, money), neither one looked like panning out.

The lease had started on the unit and rather than spend money on rent AND a motel room, we decided to move in despite a rather large hitch.

Furniture. We didn’t have it yet.

Not to worry though, as there are some wonderful people in the world (and more importantly, in Hamilton) and we were loaned all the blankets, sheets and towels we would need from the managers of the motel we’d been staying at. The airbed, pillows and doona plus a fold-out table and chairs came from NIH’s boss. With a communal kitchen in the complex complete with cutlery and crockery to loan, we had everything we needed to ‘glamp’ it out until the furniture arrived. Little did we know that was still over three weeks away but that’s another blog entirely!

The unit was lovely, even with next to nothing in it. Very close to everything yet quiet and peaceful – a real relief after staying next to one of the busiest roads in Hamilton. No more having to worry about finding a reason to be out so motel cleaners could access our room. Our own little courtyard with grass and trees rather than brick walls and busy highway. Very short walk to the lake and our new favourite coffee shop.

And yet …

I was feeling quite lost. NIH had a job to go to every day and was making friends at work whilst I was left to find things to occupy the great gaping hole of 10 hours between him leaving and coming home.

Every day I would take myself out for a walk. The weather was lovely and it kept the app on my phone happy, encouraging me to complete my 10,000 steps every day or at least 60 minutes of moving. Small goal indeed but enough of a ‘purpose’ until something better came along.

During these walks I would listen to a downloaded book on my phone app (Bolinda BorrowBox– if your library service doesn’t have it or something like it, ask them why. Totally brilliant and completely free.)

“Girl in the dark” by Anna Lyndsey is actually a biography. The blurb sparked my interest:

“The story of an ordinary woman with an extraordinary illness. The memoir of a life lived in darkness and a passionate love affair with light.”

Basically, Anna develops an allergy to light. Any light. Imagine that for a moment.

I didn’t have to though, as Anna described it so perfectly I felt I was there with her, huddled in a corner in the dark, as she made up word games to play in her head to pass the time. No computers. No reading. No TV. Her body could not handle the light emitted by them. All she had was her mind – and audiobooks.

Amazingly, she managed to cope and tells her story with humour and honesty. Her descriptions are rich and beautifully moving, even more so when she gains remission and can go outside again – although generally only at twilight.

I felt a kinship with her and yet so very ungrateful for my life at the same time. Sure, it was a hassle not having furniture. Yes, the future was a little uncertain with regards to work. Most definitely I missed my family and friends. I was desperately lonely. But in actual fact, I realised I was supremely lucky.

We had a nice space to live in and the furniture would arrive eventually but to be honest we were quite comfortable with what we had – amazing how little you actually need to get by.

Eventually the right job would come for me and life would get so busy I wouldn’t have time to scratch.

I’d make new friends and family are always just a Skype date or quick text away.

And I had my health. I could go walking out in the world without a care. I had each day to do with as I chose. I was not a prisoner. If Anna could find the strength to go on in her tiny dark room, then I had absolutely nothing to whinge about.

Joys of working for yourself

Clown

Clutsy the Clown would like to get paid. Please.

Otherwise known as the “Cashflow Blues” …

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a fan of working from home and being my own boss. Getting to be creative on a variety of jobs from a real mix of clients is great fun. Getting to do it in comfortable (i.e daggy) clothes and no makeup plus getting those mundane household chores done as part of your working day is a real bonus as well.  I can take a long weekend and head off somewhere if I so choose, or stay in bed all day if I’m not well.

Theoretically.

In practice, I can’t really take that many long weekends because the sad reality of modern society is that you need money to do that. Money that I get sporadically at best. And surprisingly enough, I don’t seem to have as many sick days anymore …

But back to the green stuff. I’ve become a compulsive checker, looking at my work bank account daily (sometimes twice daily) to see if by some miracle people have actually paid me.  I mean, I have a deadline to work to. My invoices should be treated in the same manner.  But by and large, they aren’t. Sigh.

I’m currently studying Design Industry at the moment and this week is about contracts.  Now, they suggest doing up a full contract outlining how many hours; what equipment; who holds intellectual property; whose arse gets kicked if certain project markers aren’t met and ensuring you as the graphic designer can use the completed work in your portfolio as future promotion.  There is even suggestions of getting a down payment before any work is done to avoid cashflow problems.

My ears pricked up at that.

The trouble is that I work in a rural area. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the way things work out here but most things are done on a handshake. It would seem strange to go through a five page contract BEFORE any work started, with a hokey little ol’ graphic designer who’s working from home and more than likely gets business because she’s a known entity. It’s a small town. People are very trusting. I am never asked to show a portfolio. It’s very humbling, to be honest.  I’m also cheap and get the job done quickly.

I know it’s in my best interests – protects my finances, ensures intellectual property and makes the deal very clear on paper. But I’m not sure if it would work out here. And to be honest, I’d feel a little uncomfortable doing it. Seems … pushy.

Having said that, I do have a nest egg that allows for the bills to be paid when cash is not flowing inwards so it’s not like we’ll starve or lose the house … but the tightarse in me really really hates using it.

Oh yeah, and that’s my clown. I sketched him then scanned him in and used that as a background so I could use the Pen tool in Illustrator to build a digital version of him. I feel rather pleased with myself.

So fluffy I could DIE!

my breadThat right there, my friends, is the result of blood, sweat and many, many tears.

That’s my first successful sourdough bread loaf, made from scratch with just flour, water, salt and the sourdough starter that was, yep, made by me.

Am I just a teensy bit proud that this loaf would not kill ducks if you threw it at them?

Why, yes. Yes I am.

Am I grateful that the boys didn’t seem to mind that some loaves required a chainsaw to cut through the crust and consumed all previous loaves?

Indeed.

Am I happy that it only took approximately eight weeks of persevering through making a loaf every week to finally get one that worked?

Damn straight.

Did I make EVERYONE who came into the house yesterday marvel at and admire my lovely, fluffy, delicious bread?

I really did.

Am I concerned that I don’t actually know what I did differently to get this loaf right and lay awake at night fearing I’ve reached the pinnacle of perfection and it’s all downhill from here?

Just a little …

Outside the comfort zone

DGDAD12002

Who else but Jesus to market bum bags?

I’ve landed a big job and it’s kinda freaking me out. Not that it requires a great amount of graphic design finesse or will take up a huge amount of time to finish – it’s just BIG.

As in billboard big.

And I don’t know why it freaks me out, apart from the fact I’ve never actually done one ‘for real’ before.  Sure, I understand the theory of it:

No more than seven words – check √
One large graphic – check √
Contrasting colours – check √
Clear fonts (preferably sans serif) – check √

I completed the advertising module of my diploma with no problems. To be honest, I quite enjoyed it. I enjoy the psychology of marketing – it’s the commercialism and competitiveness that leaves me cold and guarantees I’d never go into the industry full-time.

However, to actually do a design for a company and have it stuck up at the entrance to town in all its 8 metre x 3 metre glory for the next who knows how long? That’s a totally new experience and one that has me over-thinking.

Usually along the lines of “But what if it sucks?”.

At the same time, I recognise the benefits of stepping out of my comfort zone. Nothing signals great leaps in learning and personal/professional growth than saying “Yeah, sure! No problem!” to a job then walking out the door wondering how the hell you’re going to deliver.

My quoted price for this job doesn’t cover the time I’ve spent researching my old study notes and website how-to’s – nor any analysis of the ultimate message they want to convey, usually done in the wee small hours of the morning whilst trying to get back to sleep! But what the hell. If I’ve undercut myself, it only seems fair since the experience I get is well worth it.

When asked how he managed to achieve so much in his lifetime, Peter Brock was once quoted as saying “I took on more than I could chew, and then chewed like mad!”

I’m chewing like mad, Pete.

 

Where does creativity come from?

live large

I always need a push when it comes to leaps of faith …

At the start of every project, almost without fail, I look at a blank screen and wonder just how the f*#k I’m going to come up with something decent. Does everyone concerned with creating something feel the same way?

Back in the good ol’ days of full time yet tedious and incredibly stressful work, I used to relish doing the monthly report because it didn’t require creativity.  You ran a few reports on the computer, you added up visitors/circulation/amount of money spent on internet (divided by 4 to get number of hours total), you put calculations into a spreadsheet and set up the chart to work automatically … and voila! The monthly report.

Methodical. Formulaic. Safe. Fantastic for control freaks.

Nowadays, I don’t know if I’m going to be busy next week or be twiddling my thumbs (actually, I still have heaps of assignments to get done so technically I should NEVER be twiddling my thumbs but procrastination seems to be my middle name). I don’t know what type of job will be coming in or even if I’ll be able to handle it! Of course, in my more gentle, less critical moments, I realise that I always find a way to get it done. It may take longer than I thought (and I never charge the client for my own  ignorance!) but I always deliver in the end.

It’s just the process that is a struggle. I’m always super-sensitive to infringing copyright and would never blatantly copy someones work and pass it off as my own, but when I get stuck I go web surfing. I guess back before the internet, people massaged their creative juices by looking at the world around them.  I bet the first caveman didn’t worry too much about intellectual property when he fingerpainted that deer onto the wall of his cave.

Perhaps you can already tell I am procrastinating over a job.  It should be simple yet because it’s slightly left of what I usually do, I’m struggling with it. So much so that whilst I thought I had solved the problem and come up with something creative that the client would like, my brain woke me up at 2am with a loud and clear message that by changing it to a jpg file (as they’ve requested), the background that I don’t want filled in will, in fact, be filled in and it will look all boxy and now I have to come at it from a different angle.

Sigh.

I think it’s time to do a little surfing …

Staying the course

How do you keep striving when things seem out of reach?

How do you keep striving when things seem out of reach? (Pic: Oliver Jeffers “How to catch a star”)

My second child and oldest son started Uni this year after a two year ‘gap year’ after high school in which he worked for a supermarket chain then as a pizza delivery boy in between holing up in his room playing multiplayer somethingorother games on the computer he custom-built himself.

He turns 20 today so technically he is a grown man and free to choose his life and the consequences that go with it. But that doesn’t stop his mother who carried him for 9 months (and fretted until the 7 month mark due to previous experiences), fed him, bathed him, clothed him and loved him from worrying when she receives a letter from Uni that indicates all is not going as well as one would hope with first semester results.

I feel shitty for opening said letter but in my defence, I thought it might be something to do with the campus accommodation, of which I’m paying half for and his father is paying the other half.  It wasn’t about that.

My new and improved husband (NIH) has never had children but I rely on his advice at times, especially with the boys, since once upon a time he was one. Plus he and my son are strikingly similar in character.

I’m not mad. I’m sad. Heartbroken, even. The last thing a mother wants for her children is pain and disappointment. But I also recognise that life sends us these lessons to teach us something about ourselves. 

I just hope he learns that sometimes you get thrown from the horse and the best possible thing to do is to get back on up there and try a different handhold.  That there are things that we want in this world that we have to work extremely hard for and that nothing worthwhile is for free.

I hope he takes a deep breath, buckles down and has another go. He wouldn’t be the first student to go through this.  Lord knows, I did and so did my NIH – we both quit after our respective 2nd years, a decade apart and states away.  I went on to get married and have children and do all my degrees and diplomas externally, achieving excellent results because I wanted it and worked hard for it. I essentially found a different handhold.  The NIH is getting ready to get back on that horse this year and I hope he finds a different handhold too.

I want my kids to have wonderful, perfect, happy, productive, secure lives … but even as the control freak in me wishes that, the little voice of realism whispers that I didn’t have that, so why should they? They’ll never learn anything with a life like that. I think Hollywood kids have proven that point over and over again. And although I have been through some pretty shitty times, I actually like the woman I have become (and it only took 45 years to achieve :/ )

Maybe this is a turning point. Maybe it’s a good thing. It certainly explains the recent interest in changing courses …

All I can do is hug him and treat him for his birthday, hope he feels safe enough to talk to me about it whilst I hide the tears and ignore the ache in my womb that wants to shield him from all life’s slings and arrows.