Tag Archives: Great Writing Challenge

Post #87: Here endeth the Great Writing Challenge 2012.

Post #87: Retiring the Great Writing Challenge 2012

Post #87: Here endeth the Great Writing Challenge 2012.

With the new adventure we’ve just embarked on, I feel it’s time to retire the Great Writing Challenge 2012. The Challenge has run its course, and has achieved its purpose: to get me writing.

In late December last year, we encountered constant driving rain during our time in Bilbao, Spain. I had cashed in my year’s allotment of holidays (10 working days) to visit Spain and German, but spent most of it jetlagged and sopping wet. Cue meltdown. The American, in his infinite wisdom, told me to suck it up and do something about what was really making me unhappy. Being tired and saturated were only catalysts, and the major issue was that I was not pursuing my dreams.

The Writing Challenge helped get me out of the rut I was in, and just get writing. The aim of it was to be positive and write about something, irrespective if the finished product was bollocks. It was about doing something each day to achieve my dreams.

Looking back on my first few posts, I was rigid and rusty. But giving myself the formal structure and setting deadlines has made me more disciplined, and has kept me more accountable. What I put out is not always my best work, and it pains me. I want every single post to be exponentially better than the previous one, but realistically, it’s not always going to be the case. Dealing with this is difficult than I imagined, but life’s just like that. You have to keep producing, keep moving forward.

The American also embarked on a challenge of his own, finishing a whole season of comics charting the ups and downs of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. And what a year to pick! We are still on a high from witnessing the Giants sweep the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. I am so proud of what he has achieved with this, and know how tough it was to create for 162 regular season, one All-Star Game and 16 post-season games. Collectively, we can both say we’ve achieved more this year than we had last year.

Thank you all so much for your honest feedback on my writing, and thank you for helping me be a better version of myself than I was a year ago. I am really looking forward to trying something new with The Rebecca Project and hope you’ll still continue to read it. It’s onwards and upwards from here!

Become what you've always wanted to be.

Post #86: Packing Up My Life (Again)

We have only a handful of days left in the apartment, and in the city, and I feel the ticking of time with each passing day. This morning I awoke in a bad mood. I have a mountain of stuff to discard, and was quickly disheartened and overwhelmed. I thought about burying my head under the pillows and enjoying the weekend, but the truth was that I was not much enjoying the weekend anyway with this dark cloud hovering. So we just got right to it.

I purged myself of all the beautiful stationary I have collected over the years. Japanese pens, British cards, Swedish-Australian notebooks. All of it is being donated to work — I’m sure my public sector colleagues will appreciate it. It’s cathartic to let these things go, but it also makes me wonder why I didn’t use more of it to benefit someone else when given the chance. There are plenty of people who should have received a lovely, handwritten note from me… I hope I will remember the next time to pass on the joy and appreciation I have felt.

Along with stationary, another thing I tend to accumulate is books. I always imagined that when I ‘settle down’, I will have all of my collections in one place, displayed in my own personal library. I don’t know when that will be, and these books are taking up a lot of room in other people’s garages. But after recently purchasing a Kindle, I have decided to only retain the hard copies of the books that have incredible sentimental value for me and donate the rest. Sometimes you just have to be practical.

Become what you’ve always wanted to be.

I have been reading a few things lately that I’ve enjoyed for varying reasons:

  • You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One!) by Jeff Goins.
    The quote above really resonated with me. I am making a more conscious effort to become what I have always wanted, but also to project it. I’m gonna fake it until I make it!
  • Across Asia on a Bicycle by William Lewis Sachtleben and Thomas Gaskell Allen.
    Talk about epic adventuring! My adventures without arranging visas or hassling with foreign currency pales in comparison with these adventurers.
  • The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
    A rather dark commentary on two personalities who seem to bring out the worst in each other. It’s beautifully written and I kept hoping for the characters to turn from their obsession with money, status and the never-ending party.

I’m looking for some more suggestions for good books to take on my career sabbatical with me. Do you have any recommendations for me?

2012 October SF 009a

Post #85: Fleet Week in SF

Last week we enjoyed fantastic weather to welcome the service men and women to San Francisco for the yearly Fleet Week celebrations. It’s the one week of the year I really look forward to: the sight of young men and women in uniform, the ear-splitting sounds of jets flying over our apartment. And the weather always seems to cooperate.

Look at all that space!

We arrived at Fort Mason rather early, scouted out the best spot and set up camp on a small grassy knoll. It was a perfect location… until a totally obnoxious Australian-British family set up camp right next to us. Feral kids running all over our rugs and the grandma in her full bogan glory. UGH. Miles and miles of open space, but they decided our spot was best.

I try, I really do. But there’s something godawful about annoying Australians. And I’m allowed to say that, because I have already declared my cultural cringe. So I sucked it up and didn’t say a word (inwardly cursing them to buggery), but soon the American had enough and suggested we move elsewhere.

Focusing on the beauty.

A pretty spectacular time to arrive into SF.

Karl the Fog, lurking as usual…

But nothing that a little Photoshop can’t fix.

So soon enough, we picked a nice patch of grass far from the family and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon with our mates. Life was much more enjoyable free of grassy knolls. Nothing good comes from grassy knolls

Life was much more entertaining off the grassy knoll.

Hey, look! It’s a plane!

Lazy Sundays in San Francisco. Flying flags, drinking cheap Mexican beer.

Drinking games only work when you have a hand dedicated to drinking.

Old school.

New school.

The highlight of the weekend’s festivities are the Blue Angels, the Navy’s aerobatics team. They wowed the crowds lining the Bay and dotting the rooftops of San Francisco with opposing passes, barrel rolls and formation loops. One of the interesting things we learnt about the Blue Angels this year was that if one of the pilots is sick, then the performance is cancelled.

It’s a little confronting but also a little exciting to feel the might of the American military so close. There were plenty of cheers from the appreciative crowd at Fort Mason. And it was great to see Karl the Fog buggered off for a little while so we could fully appreciate their manoeuvres.

These kids were good kids. They stuck to the tree.

PBR: We’re living large!

Sunday in the sunshine at Fort Mason.

The Blue Angels. Up close in their tight diamond formation.


As you can tell, I couldn’t get enough of them.


A great way to sign off.

Did I tell you that October was the best time in the Bay Area?

Up, up and away.

Post #84: A New Adventure

Lots have things have happened of late, and so few of them have been mentioned.
The big news is the American and I leaving our San Francisco life and are heading back out of the road. We’ve bought our plane tickets and I’ve put in my notice at work. It all becomes real life in about two weeks.

Up, up and away.

When people hear that we’re leaving, the first thing people ask is “but why are you leaving?”. I have only been sharing with them bits and pieces of the real answer. Most of my responses sound like this:

“We have itchy feet, and need to keep moving and travelling the world.”

“We want to take some time off from work, to take a long holiday.”

“We want to learn new skills, we want to meet new people and experience new things.”

“We’re taking a ‘career sabbatical’.”

“Just ’cause!”

Most have been really supportive, some even say “do it while you can!”, which has been so encouraging.

But making a choice to leave your job, apartment and life in search of something more is much more complex, and here’s what I mean by that.

Many people aspire to a steady income, investing in their own beautiful home, owning a couple of cars and peppering it with a handful of kids. But we don’t want what most other people seem to want. People are offended when you challenge the values they hold dear, so I don’t engage random work colleagues in a debate over the proverbial water cooler about why I think owning a home is a big waste of time and money. I’m not afraid of debate, I just don’t think that most people are really interested in hearing my views when they’re at work paying for a house that’s only worth half what they paid for it two years ago, and the four kids they’re trying to put through school.

The American and I value experience, flexibility and creativity and want to give weight to it in our lives. We don’t want to live to work, but instead want to work to live.  We want to place an emphasis on good fresh food, an active lifestyle and adventure. Perhaps we can even find some way to make a living and make it a permanent adventure… But ultimately, we want to build a life for ourselves that is interesting and engaging. So this new phase is going to be where we try a new lifestyle on for size, and see if it fits.

Packing up and heading back out on the road.

The Plan

Our plans are to return home to Sydney for three weeks in early November. I felt the ‘call’ to return about six months ago, and it gets stronger each day. I must abide. From there, we’ll spend the next chunk of time in South East Asia. We hope to make Thailand our base, but we’ll be playing it by ear, and seeing where the wind takes us.

A big, exciting adventure looms for us. Yet it’s a little daunting.

Even though this is a really positive next step for us, the last month or so has seen me really struggle. Packing up your life when you have settled somewhere is challenging, and this feels like a mourning period. I know I am leaving, and I am trying to squeeze as many memories as I can out of it. I am trying to get a much of my work done as possible, before I have to hand it over to someone else. I am (not so) quietly freaking out when I see my apartment and how much stuff we’ve accumulated since moving here more than three years ago. I’m trying to squeeze in as much time with friends as possible. And most of all, I am just trying to be okay with saying goodbye and embracing the uncertainty of the future.

I’m not the first person to have made a decision like this and know I won’t be the last, but I really appreciate the stories of those who are going through something similar. It makes the tough days a little easier knowing other people miss home, have made big decisions and are progressing on their own journey as a citizen of the world.

So we’ll be leaving here in just a few weeks, and we (read: I) have to let go of all the things that are part of my life here. We’re moving out of our apartment,  donating most of our things, and storing the essentials. It will be the end of my San Francisco chapter. Who knows where we’ll end up, but I know we’ll be back here at some stage. San Francisco is too beautiful, and too intoxicating to be away from forever. But this is the right decision for us.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to take a risk”.

I will enjoy returning to this.

2012 Premiers: The Sydney Swans.

Post #83: The Sydney Swans are the 2012 AFL Premiers!

So the Swans won the flag. The WHOLE THING.
I’m bursting with pride.

2012 Premiers: The Sydney Swans.

[Source: Sydney Morning Herald]

As I mentioned last time, I was so nervous in the lead up to the game. It just felt like 2005 all over again.

Remember this? Leo Barry clinches it for the Swans in 2005.

[Source: Courier Mail]

2005: the benchmark year.

[Source: SMH]

It was a strange experience — I watched the game with the American and his mate — and spent half the time explaining the nuances of the game to the mate. To focus on the game and block out the conversation that was bouncing across the room during the final (stressful!) quarter, I donned my much-loved scarf as a head covering. I spoke to the universe and suddenly, it was over.  Sydney had won. We had done it again, only the second time in 78 years. And all of my winter family were at the MCG to revel in the triumph.

And for those who remain from of the 2005 team, two premiership medals makes life so much sweeter.

The second is just as sweet as the first.

[Source: ABC News]

And apologies for the tardiness in regaling to you the outcome. I was too busy celebrating!

Footy is more than important.

Post #82: One Day in September

Footy is more than important.

It’s the morning of the Grand Final. In just a few hours, my beloved team, the Sydney Swans, will run out on to the hallowed turf of the MCG to do battle with the Hawthorn Hawks. And I am already incredibly nervous.

As I was preparing for work this morning, imagining what today might hold, my thoughts returned to one of my favourite poems of all time: Life-cycle by Bruce Dawe. There’s something noble and beautiful about the cycle of life built around football he expresses in this poem. Everything about it is perfect.

Life –cycle By Bruce Dawe
For Big Jim Phelan

When children are born in Victoria
they are wrapped in club-colours, laid in beribboned cots,
having already begun a lifetime’s barracking.

Carn, they cry, Carn … feebly at first
while parents playfully tussle with them
for possession of a rusk: Ah, he’s a little Tiger! (And they are …)

Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game
they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming
towards the daylight’s roaring empyrean

Until, now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture,
they break surface and are forever lost,
their minds rippling out like streamers

In the pure flood of sound, they are scarfed with light, a voice
like the voice of God booms from the stands
Ooohh you bludger and the covenant is sealed.

Hot pies and potato-crisps they will eat,
they will forswear the Demons, cling to the Saints
and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven,

And the tides of life will be the tides of the home-team’s fortunes
– the reckless proposal after the one-point win,
the wedding and honeymoon after the grand final …

They will not grow old as those from the more northern states grow old,
for them it will always be three-quarter time
with the scores level and the wind advantage in the final term,

That passion persisting, like a race-memory, through the welter of seasons,
enabling old-timers by boundary fences to dream of resurgent lions
and centaur-figures from the past to replenish continually the present,

So that mythology may be perpetually renewed
and Chicken Smallhorn return like the maize-god
in a thousand shapes, the dancers changing

But the dance forever the same – the elderly still
loyally crying Carn … Carn … (if feebly) unto the very end,
having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eaglehawk their hope of salvation.

I love sport, Aussie Rules in particular, and all that is associated with it. There’s a culture and a vernacular specific to Aussie Rules, intertwined with a religious fervour. And I love how a few people have managed to accurately capture elements of it: the poetry of Bruce Dawe, the writings of Martin Flanagan, and the music of Paul Kelly. The game means far more to us than just something to do on a Saturday afternoon.

After the heartbreaking one-point loss in the 2006 Grand Final, I hope the universe smiles upon the Swans once again. I’ll be following the action online from my living room in San Francisco kitted out in full red-and-white regalia. Kick off is about 9:30pm SF. Let’s hope I can eat something before then!