Thoughts From a Woman Destined to Live in Paris
An interesting side effect of changing my mindset in relation to clothes has been remembering some really great items I bought in the past, but hadn't really gotten around to wearing.
One example is my cousin's wedding this past weekend. I found a dress in my closet (with the tags still on it from one of my favorite consignment shops). It is a simply adorable dress. I had forgotten to wear it and realized it was perfect to wear to this wedding.
It was a moment like this that reminded me that it's important to see what you have and use those items before you buy things you don't need. Or really, before I buy things I don't need. I was so excited to wear the dress and I got a lot of compliments. I could wear it to weddings, work events, nights on the town, and more. The beauty of clothes is that they are so versatile, when we remember to view them that way.
It's easy to think that we can only wear certain items in certain situations, but most items we own could be used for more than one purpose. One funny example of people wearing the same types of items at the same type of events is when my sister couldn't tell which year she had attended a banquet because she wore the same dress several years in a row to the same banquet. It was a really funny moment because she had all these photos, but couldn't remember what year they were from.
There are a lot of items I could use in multiple circumstances. I have skirts I could wear to work, out running errands, at formal events, or just because I don't want to "adult enough to wear pants" that day. I have tried to start looking at various Pinterest boards to get ideas for ways to wear items in multiple ways and I now have boards for each season. That way I can categorize items based on the time of year or what events I have coming up. It's a work in progress- but also a really good excuse to browse Pinterest for a few hours.
So, the journey continues. I made a commitment to this adventure and to blogging about my story. Until next time.
Last week, I talked about my rationale behind really critically looking at and evaluating my wardrobe. Sometimes (okay a lot of times) when I was bored I would shop or buy things I really didn't need. I love a good deal, but I have had to remind myself that I have more than enough. I didn't need another item for my closet- I wanted it.
When I was in college we had a speaker on campus as part of an organization I was involved in. His name was Jeff Shinabarger and he talked about his book called More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity. This is a wonderful book- one I still have sitting on my coffee table. It highlights the idea that everyone has some area in their life where they have more than they need.
One example he gives in the book is how many people find extra gift cards in their wallets with just a few dollars on them that have been sitting there for years. We forget about them and then don't usually get around to using them. He argues that this is something small that we don't even think about that is an excess in our life. If we take some time to think about what we have and where we have excess we can begin to start using this excess to help others.
I liked this concept because it was a simple way to start to reframe your perspective on giving back. It takes a different approach to civic engagement and being part of a community. Like if you have an excess of food in your pantry, that's an opportunity to share it with others who may need it more. Or if you have too many clothes (sounds familiar...) that's an opportunity to get rid of the things you don't need and share them with those who do.
Now I know that in my life I have a lot of privileges and blessings that give me the time and ability to think about how I have excess items like clothes and shoes. That's not always the case for everyone. And I think the true focus of this book is to challenge me as the reader to reframe how I see the world around me. Instead of thinking I need more to buy, think about what I have more to give. It's a wonderful concept. One that I hope to continue to embrace during my "No Stupid Spending Year." Because the reality is I have an excess of clothes.
I am not saying that I am going to be a minimalist tomorrow (LOL), but I can work towards changing my mindset when it comes to clothes. I can use what I have and think about what I don't use, don't like, don't need, or don't want anymore. It's about the way I see my wardrobe. Not as a quest to have more, more, and more. But as a journey to see what I love, what I want to keep, and what could be doing better work somewhere else or in someone else's closet.
I'm the first to admit it's been awhile. With life, job, obligations, etc (you know the list) updating my blog fell to the back burner. And I don't want that to be the case. I've had a really interesting year in 2018 (and 2017 for that matter). A lot has happened for me- but isn't that the case for everyone?
Anyway, to the point. I've been thinking recently about what I am blessed with. One really big example- my wardrobe. I LOVE clothes and accessories and purses and jewelry. It's my "thing." But what is enough? When do I have enough? Do I have enough? Who determines what enough is? Why does Oprah have a closet the size of my apartment?
These are questions that I've recently spent a lot of time considering (minus the Oprah question- we all just cannot live to her standards). During a shopping trip with my sister I realized that I have SO MUCH. And honestly, really honestly, how often do I wear some of my favorite pieces that sit in my closet? Exhibit A: A dress with the tags on it I plan to wear to my cousin's wedding. I've had that in my closet for at least a year. I love that dress. I don't usually wear it. Why? Who knows.
Now I think I wear a lot of my wardrobe often, but I wanted to see how often. So I challenged myself to think about things in the frame of a year. When I have way more than I need, do I need to buy anything else? The answer is no. And I figured if I am going to try an experience to save money and to challenge myself not to add more to my closet of excess, then I should make it interesting.
So, I've decided to have a "No Stupid Spending Year" or, my personal favorite the "Jesus Christ Megan, Don't You Have Enough Year." This year, (starting a few weeks ago in June) I am challenging myself not to buy anything that I don't need (like clothes, accessories, etc) for a whole year. Of course there are exceptions like if something breaks or I have a commitment that requires I get a piece like a specific item. But my goal is to not casually add things to my wardrobe because I can. Instead, I want to see what I have, wear it, enjoy it, show it off, and remember that I have WAY more than I need. So I should use what I have.
And, to go a step further, I think about the money. I could save my money I'd usually spend on clothes I probably don't need (okay, I don't need them). I'd love the opportunity to travel more and this is an easy way to do that. Do I want that new shirt or do I want to save for a plane ticket? The choice is easy. So, I am going to use this year to reflect, to save money, to travel, and to think about the role clothes play in my life.
It's going to be an adventure. Which is why I wanted to blog again. I missed this. I missed sharing the journey. Who knows- maybe I'll post a weekly favorite outfit and talk about each item. If I can go a year without repeating an outfit (which I have) then I can go a year with creatively using the contents of my closet and not adding to it. I think it's going to be fun. I look forward to the journey.
I'm no stranger to traveling. I've been here and there. I've been on road trips, joined bus trips, and even shared cross atlantic flight trips. I've seen the world and I count my lucky stars each time I break out my suitcase for a new destination.
I thought I had a pretty good grasp on traveling before this adventure. I had some basic skills and traits that did help me, yet, not in the ways I thought. But man was I not prepared for the traveler I'd become as a part of this trip. Maybe it's the safety of knowing often when I travelled, I wasn't alone. It was the comfort of feeling like if I'm being a complete fool, other people are nearby and can be foolish with me. Maybe it was the security of being in the same continent as family and friends. Maybe it was knowing that no matter what, I knew someone I could call if I needed them.
I came into this experience with the sense that I'd grow as a person, a professional, and yeah sure, a traveller too. I had no idea just how much traveller growth was in store for me during this adventure.
I'm not talking about packing skills traveling (though I've certainly become more of a strategic packer with cool gadgets and an arsenal of bags). I'm not talking about checking things off a list of places I've been to (though I am guilty of that too).
I'm talking about real traveling. The type of traveling where you dive into every experience, embrace the joy of not knowing or having a set plan, try new things like staying in hostels, fake boldness when eating at a restaurant alone, walk forward confidently when you literally have no idea what you're doing, and surprise yourself in the process.
I'm talking about traveling where you just figure it out. I'm talking about traveling where you pretend you know what you're doing. I'm talking about self discovery, personal challenges, hilariously awkward stories, and moments that make the man (well, the woman).
I'm talking about traveling alone. Meeting people. Making plans. Getting to know that each day is different, yet uniquely familiar. I'm talking about going somewhere where you don't know a soul, and learning that each person you interact with as a potential new friend or someone you'll never see again. I'm talking about learning to trust your gut, find your people, and make things happen.
I'm talking about being part of the journey. I'm talking about savoring the destination. I didn't know what I was getting into when I started, but I'm so glad that I had the experience.
So yeah, maybe I'm a more experienced traveller than I realized I could be as part of this journey. Maybe I'm not afraid to stay at a hostel or eat dinner alone. Maybe I've figured out the science to getting around with different transportation systems. Maybe I've changed traveling. And maybe traveling has changed me. All I can say is that if this is what it feels like to be a more experienced traveller, then sign me up again. Because I'm happy to embrace the next journey, no matter the destination.
I've learned a lot on this adventure. Much of these nuggets of wisdom are things that have changed how I view higher education and the world. However, some of these moments of awkwardness did not teach me lessons that I could have learned at a meeting or training. Instead, they are moments where I hope that no one was looking or listening to me make a fool of myself...
Roasted chestnut incident: During my adventure in Sydney, I came across a street vendor selling roasted chestnuts. I was extremely excited to buy a bag and try them, since I had always related them to winter because of classic Christmas songs. Well, to say the least, it wasn't what I expected. Here were some of the nuggets of wisdom I took away from this moment of awkwardness.
Coffee pot conundrum: One of my first weeks here, I wanted to try the fancy office coffee pot that looked like a higher tech Keurig. After procuring a little coffee pod thing from my coworker (who was nice enough to give me one), I set off to make my cup of coffee. Here are the lessons I learned while panicking because I thought I broke the coffee pot.
Spicy Food Scene: One day before taking the train back to Melbourne, I stopped at a restaurant to grab something and take it with me to the station. I had never been to this place before, and I wasn't sure what I was ordering. I picked a rice dish with vegetables. After grabbing my food and waiting at the station for my train, I started to eat my mystery dish. It was great for the first few minutes, then...disaster struck. I have no idea what kind of spices they put into the dish, but I bit into one particularly spicy green bean and I almost spit my food across the platform. Here's what I learned in that moment of panic.
I've always wanted to live abroad. Some part of me has always known that going abroad would help me discover myself, work towards my dreams, and give me the tools to be successful.
I've heard that people who live abroad are known as better employees because they try to new things and are adaptable. I like to think that's true. Living abroad isn't always easy, but it is worth it.
Living in Australia hasn't been what I expected, but in a good way. I didn't really have any set expectations, and that helped me. I think if I came in with rigid expectations, I would have forgotten to smell the roses along the journey.
Australians are kind. They're funny. They love coffee. They're obsessed with cooking shows. Their commitment to sports and working out makes me feel like I've got a lot to learn (and miles to run). They travel everywhere. They take super cool vacations. They eat great food. They unabashedly ask about American politics. They have a great accent. They live in a beautiful country bustling with interesting and exciting people. They value history and tradition. They're by no means perfect, none of us are, but they have a way of life that makes you feel welcomed and supported. They want you to succeed here and they want to tell you about Australia. It's infectious to be in a place where everyone loves the world around them and the experiences they have. From the bustling cities to country towns, Australians know how to make you feel appreciated.
I'm very lucky to have supportive staff and coworkers who have helped me be successful. From rides to the grocery store to tips about using public transport, they've been there when I needed them. They have shared their stories, told me about their lives, and helped me see the world differently.
So, yeah. Living abroad isn't what I expected. My Aussie journey has been full of moments I'll treasure, moments I'll laugh at one day (see my upcoming Awkwardly Australian post), moments I'll always remember, people I'll keep in touch with, people who made me smile, professional experiences I'm proud of, professional experiences I never thought I'd get, and adventures that have made a difference in who I am today.
If this journey has taught me anything, it's that we should make the most from each day, because it has so many lessons to each us.
FedUni organizes an orientation for international students and I was able to shadow the sessions. This was exciting because I joined Connie, a new intern in the office. She and I participated in some of the activities and even traveled to the Ballarat Wildlife Park! I was so excited for the chance to meet a koala (see below) and spend time in such an exciting place. This was a great way to spend some of my last days in Australia. It's bittersweet that things are ending, but with a day like today and a chance to meet some koalas, it has been so incredibly worth it.
Working abroad has an almost magical appeal. Here you are in, a foreign and beautiful land where people want to pay you to spend time working and experiencing the culture and environment.
But, it's not all fun and games, as much as you want it to be. For some, myself included, you must find balance between the traveling adventures abroad, and the professional experiences you have at work.
The first thing I realized is that working is truly my priority. At the end of the day, I came here in a professional capacity to get a professional experience that will help me succeed. That is not to say I don't want the traveling and adventuring part. I just needed to find balance.
In my own quest towards balance, I realized that so many of my work experiences and opportunities were also traveling and international adventuring experiences. Something like traveling into town on an errand meant driving through an area I hadn't been to yet. Going to Sydney for a networking visit meant I could explore the city during the weekend. A presentation at campus by visiting professors from Scotland meant an incredible view into the education system abroad while I was abroad myself.
I had to find a path that worked for me. That meant taking full advantage of my weekends, tagging along when invited by a coworker or new friend, and realizing that this journey was personal. That doesn't meant that I have to do what everyone else did. It just means I have to do what I want to give myself the most joy.
It was like a game to find joy in places I didn't expect. There's joy in trying a new coffee shop or visiting Melbourne by myself. There's joy in going to the aquarium or taking in the breeze on the Great Ocean Road. Joy can be hiding in a cafe that you visit with your coworkers. There's joy in each day and beautiful photos all around us, we don't have to be abroad to see it or appreciate it.
I can't begin to put into words how this internship has enhanced my life personally and professionally. There are too many experiences to count. But, if I've learned anything during this trip, it's that we can find joy and work and play all around us. The people, the places, the traditions, the culture, the food, the job, the professional development opportunities, and dare I say it, the meetings, all hold joy. We just have to remember to look for it.
Okay, so maybe BAE is an overused term these days, but I'm rolling with it. I've fallen a bit in love with the city I've called my home in Australia during my time here. Now that I'm semi versed in the world of Ballarat culture, food, and adventures, I've got a list of favorites that I must share.
This is by no means a final or comprehensive list, but it starts to paint a picture of what I have found charming and lovable about Ballarat. I may not have tried every cafe in town (there were just too many options) but I did find ones that were fun for me and had experiences that'll last a lifetime.
The Great Ocean Road was a mystery to be before I came to Australia. I probably had heard of it, or seen photos of some of the famous "must sees" of the road. But I hadn't really put two and two together and realized just where this wonder of the world was.
My coworker (who again I need to recognize for being awesome) was taking her friend to part of the Great Ocean Road and invited me to come along. I was very excited and wanted to put some of the claims of its completely humbling beauty to the test when I saw things with my own eyes!
Well, I can confidently say that I've never seen anything like the Great Ocean Road in my entire life. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We started the day in Lorne, a town a few hours drive from Ballarat. We then went along the road to Apollo Bay, what I would describe as an idyllic seaside town. During our stop at Apollo Bay we looked around, saw some of the shops and the sites, and grabbed a delicious seafood lunch by the dock. Seriously, if I was writing the script of a movie, I would not have been able to outline a more perfect day.
After lunch we headed towards the 12 Apostles, which is so beautiful that I can't fully describe it. It was once 12 rock formations that stood along the coast looking something along the lines of the 12 historic followers of Jesus. Not all of the formations are still standing, but they still have an incredible view. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones that wanted to see this wonder of nature, and there were a lot of people out at the viewing deck when we were. It almost took a bit of the magic from the experience...(Almost).
We drove through the mountains and past more beautifully calm and haunting ocean views. We then headed away from the ocean and towards a nearby town. A few students had recommended the ice cream shop in a town just a few minutes inland, and I have to agree with their enthusiasm for the town since I'm still dreaming about the apple crumble I had.
Overall, it was a lovely day and an amazing trip. We laughed, ate ourselves silly, and honestly enjoyed the moment. I'm glad for moments like these and the amazing people that help make the dream a reality.