Lifestyle

Finding Happiness

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The past ten years, I have experienced a multitude of highs and lows. Some of my biggest highs being – my first degree in psychology, moving countries on my own and travelling. And some of my lowest lows involved – going down the wrong career path, failed relationships and a lingering feeling of loneliness. Last year I decided to take action and change my most significant “low” – I left my previous profession as a teacher and  returned to University in pursuit of a new career, one much better tailored to my interests and personality. In 2017, I got to this weird place in my life where I was so grateful that I had new path ahead of me, yet, because my life had not panned out the way I expected, I felt angry at the world, at humanity and at life in general. It got to the point where I actually wanted something bad to happen to the earth because I wasn’t happy with my own life. Negativity attracts negativity, and last year I became very susceptible to this. On a number of dates I went on, I would receive the same criticisms over and over – “you’re too introverted”, “too guarded”, “too reserved”. I will never understand how another human being can actually have the audacity to vocalise their judgements and criticisms of another person on a first encounter, but that’s what happened in my case, time and time again.

Luckily, I have had a bit of a revelation just in time for the new year. I realised, I am sick of being weak. I’m fed up of being an anxious person, I’m fed up of caring what others think, I’m fed up of not standing up for myself. I’m tired of hearing and internalising the same continuous criticisms from others. Maybe it’s time to do something about it and make a change.  I have one life, and as cliché as it sounds, I want 2018 to be the year where I find happiness. I don’t want to just be content in life…I want to be happy. It’s time to disconnect from the negative mentality that has skewed my mindset for too long now, and adopt a more productive one moving forward. And I would love to help others who are also going through the same process.

During my ‘low’ phases of life, I would occasionally experience what I can only describe as being “depressed ruts” or “funks”. Sometimes these ruts would last twenty-four hours, sometimes they would last several days, and sometimes they could go on for weeks. Over the years, I have learned several techniques that have helped me break out of these ruts. Below are the main tips I would like to share with you, if they can be of any help.

How to break out of a rut:

  1. Take a break from social media – deactivate it, delete it, just get off it. Various research has found a strong correlation between extended social media use and depression. Browsing through everyone’s ‘highlight reels’ sure isn’t going to make you feel any better about your reality. Just ditch it.
  2. Preoccupy yourself – take up a hobby, a sport, an art, just anything that will occupy your mind. Sometimes too much free time with nothing to do can be incredibly detrimental. It may result in spending excessive amounts of time overanalysing situations and focusing on your emotions. Do something that will distract you.
  3. Exercise – exercise leads to a release of endorphins in the brain, leading to increased feelings of positive emotion. Not only is exercise great for your health, but it also has tremendous effects on the mind.
  4. Vent but don’t create a pity party for yourself – talk to someone about what you are going through. Sometimes you just need to vent and be listened to, no matter how small or mundane the matter may seem. There is nothing wrong with this. However, make sure that your aim of venting is not to get people to feel sorry for you. If this is the case, then you may start relying on others to make you feel better – for them to do and say the right things. But ultimately, it is you that needs to get yourself out of the situation.
  5. Get out – on your own, or with a friend. Connect with nature. Just get out in the world and do something. One of the worst things you can do when you are experiencing a depressed rut is to stay in your room all day long, feeling sorry for yourself. It is more likely this will only prolong and increase the negative feelings you are experiencing.
  6. Put things into perspective – remember that there is always someone who has it worse than you. Make a mental note of all the things you should be grateful for in life.
  7. Treat your rut like a challenge – instead of letting the rut consume you, change your mindset and view it as a battle. Tell yourself that you are going to beat this rut and don’t let it take away anymore of your time.

For the year 2018, not only do I want to diminish my negative mindset, but I also want to become a more happy, and a more confident person. This goal is going to be a bit of a work in progress – but these are the tips I have learned so far and will continue to implement.

How to become more confident and happy:

  1. Keep a journal – use a personal diary to jot down your thoughts and ideas, it’s a great way to organise, clarify and make sense of your thought processes. Also, remember to write down positive comments about yourself. If you tend to be quite a self-deprecating person, writing down just a few things you like about yourself can really help boost your self-esteem.
  2. Be a good person – be kind, and be respectful. Even if you are a shy, guarded, or introverted person, if you treat others well, you will always have this to fall back on. I often try to remind myself – sure, I might be a bit socially awkward, but at least I am a good person and treat others with kindess, and that’s all that really matters.
  3. Keep in good shape – don’t get me wrong, you can definitely be out of shape and still be confident. But I think many of us would agree that when you look great, you  feel great. The past few months I have been going to the gym and have lost a fair amount of weight. I still have a few milestones to reach but overall it really has done wonders for my confidence.
  4. Make eye contact – lack of eye contact with another person can often portray a sense of disinterest and disengagement. This is a point I really want to work on this year because it is something I sometimes struggle with. While it may feel challenging at first, I’m sure in time, it will become second nature.
  5. Be aware of body language – similar to the above point, if you are with another person, and are constantly adjusting yourself/fidgeting, this can often make you seem anxious and insecure. I know this is easier said than done, but try to just relax and hold your head up high. Again in time and with practice, this will probably become second nature.
  6. Smile more – rather self-explanatory. Smiling will make you seem more warm, and others may warm to you faster.
  7. Say ‘yes’ more – put yourself out there, say yes to new experiences and opportunities instead of hiding away. I have always had a bad habit of avoiding certain social situations where I may be put out of my comfort zone. But this year I want to make a conscious effort to say yes to more opportunities and to meeting new people.
  8. Stay away from social media – as with the previous list of pointers, disconnect from the online world. Comparing yourself to others rarely results in positive feelings about yourself.
  9. Try not to care what others think – again, easier said than done. Just try to remember that you only live once – who cares if you embarrass yourself.
  10. Stand up for yourself – stop being weak, stop letting people walk all over you, be strong and stand up for yourself. If someone criticises you or doesn’t treat you well – speak up. Explain yourself, give them a piece of your mind. This can really help you to feel more powerful. Just make sure you have the right intentions when doing so i.e. don’t bite back at someone with the sole intention of putting them down.
  11. Fake it til you make it – this is a tip I have seen a lot online. Quite an ironic one to be fair. Even though I am always myself with other people, I often get told that I am ‘acting’ too reserved. While it is not an act, maybe putting on an act is the best way to go. I feel a bit iffy about this point, but am going to give it a try.

So those are my main pointers on how to break out of a rut, and how to be a more confident and happy person. I hope this post can be of help to anyone who has, and is experiencing something similar. I also hope that these pointers will change my mindset for the better this year and continuing onward. I would love to hear your best tips and pointers regarding your journey in the pursuit of happiness. What do you do to get yourself out of a rut?  And what are your best tips for being confident and feeling happy? Please leave a comment below.

The Future of Humanity and the Earth

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A few days ago I was reading an article on overpopulation. In the comments section someone had posted “when I was born in the 1950s there were only 2.5 billion people on the planet”. I thought to myself – surely that can’t be right…if there are currently 7.6 billion people on the planet, how could there only have been 2.5 billion people just 67 years ago. I looked this figure up and it turns out these stats are correct. I don’t know about you, but that really puts things into perspective for me. Scientists predict that our earth can sustain a maximum of 10 billion people until we begin encountering major problems with resources, and we are expected to reach this in 2056. In fact, in 2023 Africa’s population is forecasted to overtake that of India and China. These regions combined will make up half the world’s population by 2023. Sure, there are some places, like Japan, that have an imploding population, but in its entirety, overpopulation is a huge problem, and I believe that most of us aren’t aware of the magnitude of this problem, as well as how many of today’s issues are linked, some of which are listed below.

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Climate change – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 1.38 to 5.5 degrees Celsius over the next century. To maintain stable global human societies, we must prevent the earth from warming above 2°C relative to the pre-industrial level. To stay below two degree warming we must take the global energy system to net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. Scientists warn that we have a 5% chance of limiting warming to 2°C. If this tipping point is crossed, there may be catastrophic effects such increased droughts and heat waves, an ice-free Arctic, stronger and more intense hurricanes, and a sea level rise 1-4ft by 2100. In fact, recent research has found that many areas in Australia, such as Darwin and the state of Queensland will become uninhabitable in the very near future due to temperature rise. In addition to C02, another greenhouse gas, methane, is twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide, and there is more methane stored in the Arctic ice than there is C02 in the atmosphere. The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on the planet. The IPCC also states that a 1.5°C average rise may put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. If the planet warms by more than 3°C, this will be detrimental to most of the world’s ecosystems.

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The Global food crisis – Sarah Menke’s models predict that the world could be short by 214 trillion calories per year by 2027. A food deficit we will not be able to replace (please see her TED talk for more information on the global food crisis). Earth Overshoot Day is an annual event when humanity’s consumption outweighs Earth’s production of resources. An event which is becoming earlier and earlier. This year, this event landed on August 2nd.

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Deforestation – The destruction of large areas of forest is disastrous for the local species and communities that rely on them. Eighty percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes.  Every year about 18 million acres of forest – an area the size of England and Wales is destroyed. Deforestation is also a driving factor behind climate change.

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Ocean acidification – one of the biggest threats facing humanity, yet one in which so many people are unaware of. Since pre-industrial times, the pH of the oceans has dropped from an average of 8.2 to 8.1. Projections of climate change estimate that by the year 2100, this number will drop further, to around 7.8. Increased human activity has ultimately resulted in the oceans becoming 30% more acidic since the beginning of the industrial revolution, taking a heavy toll on marine organisms. The impact of ocean acidification on plankton may have serious implications, as these microscopic organisms sit at the base of the food chain. Coral reefs are also at risk. If global warming remains on its upward path, by 2050 just 5% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest coral reef – will remain. Around half a billion people rely on fish from coral reefs as their main source of protein and these reefs also act as nurseries to young fish and smaller species. Researchers predict that most of our remaining coral systems will collapse even before a global temperature rise of two degree Celsius.

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Plastic pollution – Plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. At least 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade. Recent studies have found that sea salt around the world is also contaminated by microplastics – the effects of this on humans is not yet known. By 2050 there is expected to be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Overpopulation is the common denominator underlying the majority of these environmental issues. The most important question is, what can we do about it? How can we limit our population? While this may sound controversial, if you really want to help the environment – the most productive way you can do this is by not reproducing. Studies have found that having one fewer children per family can save an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year. Scientists propose that everyone on the planet needs to reduce their carbon footprint to just 2 tonnes of C02 per year by 2050, to stay below the two degree tipping point.

In regards to my personal views on humanity and the status of the earth – I sometimes view climate change and increased weather patterns as the earths attempt to eliminate the human plague. It took literally perfect conditions for this earth to form, and every so often I questions whether humans are perfect enough of a species to survive and succeed on this planet. One thing I will never be able to comprehend is the sheer amount of ignorance humans possess in regards to these issues. How so many humans can passively go through their lives, blatantly ignoring (and even disputing) the major threats to humanity, is beyond me. If you don’t feel educated or knowledgeable on these issues – go and make yourself aware.

While I may have somewhat of a skeptical take on the future, I do have faith in science and technology. I believe that advancements in science and technology could resolve a number of environmental threats, however, it is all a race against time. There are countless technological solutions (such as project Clean up, and Bill gates idea of lab grown meat), which have been proposed to alleviate the varying threats facing humanity, however, I feel slightly skeptical as to whether such solutions will be implemented in time. It seems as though too many tipping points may about about to be crossed. The outcome all comes down to who will win the race first – mother nature or technology.

I would love to hear your views on this topic – do you believe that humanity will survive? Or do you believe the earth will become uninhabitable? Do you think we will develop the technology in time to save the planet? Please comment below.

The Pros and Cons of being an Introvert

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I have always held the view that one’s level of natural or inherent introversion or extroversion is part of their core personality. I believe that one’s level of introversion/extroversion can be altered or improved to an extent, however, I do not believe that it is possible to ‘fully’ transform traits that are part of your innate personality, especially to the opposite end of the spectrum. I have always been an introvert, although my level of introversion/extroversion changes depending on the social context with which I am in. For the most part, I would say that 10% of the time I am an extrovert (usually at drinks or clubs), 20% of time I am an ambivert (usually when I am hanging out with friends, going to cafes, for walks, and so forth), and 70% of the time I am an introvert (almost always during formal settings – such as school, university or work). While I feel content being an introvert and believe there are various benefits of being introverted, there are also a wide array of challenges to this personality trait. Let’s begin with the positives…

Pros:

Deep thinking:

Introverted people tend to spend a lot of time observing and analysing situations, thinking logically and analytically. Introverts generally enjoy deep and intellectual conversation over small talk. They are seemingly curious about the world around them, how things and people work.

Talk is meaningful:

Because introverts are usually deep thinkers, when they do vocalise their thoughts and opinions, they tend to be well thought out and meaningful. Introverts usually don’t talk, just for the sake of talking.

Being self-aware:

Introverts tend to engage in a lot of introspection, analysing themselves, trying to figure out why they are the way they are, or how certain personality traits developed. For this reason, introverts are generally quite self-aware and have a good idea of who they are as a person.

Enjoying your own company:

Introverts feel content being on their own and tend to enjoy their own company. One of my favourite feelings in the world, is to wander around somewhere on my own in my free time, being alone with my thoughts, not having to compromise with anyone. That feeling of being completely and utterly free is a state which I highly value, as they are the times I am able to organise my thoughts and gain clarity.

Scarcely feeling alone:

Because introverts tend to enjoy their own company, this means they seldom feel lonely. One thing I have learned over the past few years is that there is a notable difference between being alone and being lonely. Even though I spend a considerable amount of time on my own, this does not mean that I feel lonely. As long as I have at least one or two ‘constant’ friends i.e. someone that I feel comfortable talking to and confiding in on a regular basis, then I’m happy.

Being accepting and empathetic:

Because introverts are prone to being misjudged as ‘weird’, this tends to make them more empathetic and non-judgemental of others, because they understand what it is like to be misjudged themselves. I have found that I usually connect more with people that are most likely to be perceived as being socially awkward or shy because I feel an instant sense of empathy for them.

Being comfortable with silence:

Because introverts tend to enjoy being on their own, this means they are usually quite accustom to silence and quiet environments. Introverts are therefore more likely to feel comfortable during silent moments compared to their extroverted counterparts who may talk to fill the silence.

Always being prepared:

Introverts like to be well-prepared – in regards to attending events, appointments, lectures, exams and so forth. I find that I check my belongings several times before I’ve left the house to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything, and usually turn up to lectures or appointments at least half an hour early. I struggle to recall the last time I was actually late for something. I have added this point to the list of pros, as being well-prepared also demonstrates that introverts tend to possess a sense of reliability.

Cons:

Overanalysing:

While I would consider deep thinking to be a positive attribute, on the other hand, introverts may think too much. For as long as I can remember, it has always taken me at least three hours to fall asleep every night, because I cannot switch my mind off. I tend to spend absurd amounts of time pondering over some of the bigger questions in life “what is the meaning of life? How was the universe created? How do blackholes, spacetime and relativity work? Will we ever be able to manage climate change? How long until humanity develops self-aware AI?”. Thinking about these topics on frequent basis can make you feel like your brain is in overdrive a lot of the time.

Being pre-judged and misjudged:

Because introverts are usually quite independent and withdrawn, this can sometimes make them difficult to read. I have found that the biggest con to being an introvert is the fact that I am constantly being pre and misjudged. There have been several occasions where I’ve been told I come across as “cold”, “distant”, “reserved”, “conservative”, even “snobby!”. While I am fully aware that I can come across this way when I first meet someone or when I don’t feel completely comfortable around them, once I do feel comfortable enough to come out of my shell, then a totally different side of my personality arises (one which not many people have seen). Unfortunately, it can be difficult trying not to internalise the criticisms of others, especially when you hear the same insults over and over. What I have found, is that extroverts are usually more likely misjudge and perceive introverts in a negative sense because they don’t understand them, whereas introverts tend to ‘get’ other introverts and their quirky personality traits –  so even though some people won’t get you, there will always be others who do.

Dating is difficult:

Being misjudged, and taking a considerable amount of time to ‘be myself’ around another person makes dating very difficult. We now live in a world where everyone seeks instant gratification, if someone doesn’t feel that sense of gratification on a first date then they will most likely give up and move onto the next. No-one really seems to give each other a chance anymore.

Needing to be alone to recharge:

While I do not think that needing to be alone to recharge is a negative attribute, I have only added it to the list of cons due to the negative perception other people may have of this behaviour. While extroverts require social interaction to recharge, introverts prefer quiet and solitude. During my lunch breaks, while most people sit, chat and eat lunch with their peers or colleagues, all I want is space. Sometimes I get paranoid that people will judge me for being rather anti-social, but with age, I care less and less about the perceptions of others. I’m at a stage now where I just don’t really care what others think – if someone chooses to prejudge me on my introversion, I figure that is their problem, not mine.

Feeling like you don’t fit in:

Introversion can sometimes be self-detrimental due to the tendency of excluding yourself in certain situations. For instance, if I am in a room with a group of people I am unfamiliar with, I automatically go into quiet mode while the other people happily and so naturally converse, chat and joke with each other. This can sometimes make me feel like I am the odd one out and that I must be a bit ‘socially weird’. In these situations I just try to remind myself – sure, some people can be themselves from the get go, that’s great! But there are plenty of other people out there who take time to open up, and that’s perfectly fine too, so try not to be so hard on yourself!

Not standing up for yourself:

When encountering socially confrontational situations, introverts tend to go into flight mode instead of fight mode. Unfortunately, this means that introverts can sometimes be walked all over because they don’t bite back or stand up for themselves. Sadly, many introverts may also be mistaken for being weak, which may place an even greater target on their back. One of my ultimate pet peeves in life, is when someone unnecessarily speaks to another person aggressively, with an attitude or with tone in their voice. No matter how stressed out you are in your own life, I don’t believe this gives anyone any legitimacy or right to take it out on those around them. There have been several occasions in the past few years when someone has spoken to me aggressively or with an attitude, and instead of standing up for myself, I bottle up all my emotions, wait until I get home and then have an angry gym work out as an outlet. While I am comfortable standing up for myself with people I feel comfortable around, I sometimes wish that I could also do this with people I am not so comfortable with.

Being overshadowed:

Being an introvert means that sometimes your work, effort and accomplishments go unrecognised. I remember in the last school I was working at in Australia, one of my colleagues was incredibly vocal, and frankly quite eager to brag about the work she had done, and in turn, got recognised and praised for this. Yet, much of the work and effort I had put in went completely unrecognised because I never vocalised what it was I had done, I just kept it to myself.

Overall, even though there are a fair few more cons to this list than pros, I would still never change being an introvert. All that I wish, is that we lived in a world that was a little more accepting and understanding of differing personality traits, a world where there wasn’t such a negative stigma attached to being introverted. Remember, just because you are introverted, doesn’t mean that you are weird – studies have found that 16-50% of the population are introverts, so if it is any reassurance, you are not alone, there are actually many of us in the same boat!

Materialism vs. Minimalism

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Many people today, particularly those living in OECD countries, live in what you could call a ‘consumerist society’. Cultures driven by self-indulgence and materialism – the more material items you own, the higher your perceived status. But does the possession of material items really increase happiness? Research suggests otherwise. In fact, studies have found that it is experience that leads to greater happiness rather than the amount of “stuff” one owns.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I worked a part-time job and spent every single dime I earned on material items – new clothes, jewellery, shoes and so forth. I would buy a new party dress every other week, sometimes only to wear the dress once and never again. The idea of materialism was a social ideal that had been projected onto me and engrained within my mentality from a very young age – the bigger the house, the bigger the garden, the more ‘things’ someone owned, the better. It wasn’t until I began working overseas, had to pack up my life into one suitcase and keep only the necessary and essential items, that I began to ponder over the topic of minimalism.

While I may not be the utmost dedicated minimalist, the past three years, I have definitely adopted a more minimalistic lifestyle. Being a student, I don’t really have any other choice. What I have learned, is that I actually prefer this lifestyle. I like knowing exactly what items I own and that I could easily pack up my life into one suitcase if I needed to, I like not having clutter. This lifestyle has also changed the way I consume – when I go shopping I no longer feel the urge to splurge on material items. For instance, if I see a jumper I like, instead of impulsively going ahead and purchasing it, I stop and ask myself “I already own four jumpers, they all serve the purpose of keeping me warm, so do I really need another one?”. The same applies to jewellery, I have two pairs of earrings, one necklace, and two rings, all of which come to under $30NZD. I don’t feel as though I need any more than this. I was actually watching a video a few days ago on a vloggers ‘room tour’ and was quite astounded at what I saw – fifteen draws stacked full of jewellery, twenty handbags, eight pairs of jeans, twenty different nail varnishes. I just didn’t understand it, all these items serve the same function, so why would someone need so many versions of it?

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Embracing minimalism has also allowed me to analyse and apply this concept to other areas of life. One thing I have learned over the past few years, is that human beings tend to passively go through life without questioning what it is they are doing and why. Here, I will provide three examples of this – engagement, weddings and homes. Unfortunately there is the social ideal that the more money one spends on an engagement ring, the more moral value it possesses. Personally, I find this to be an absolutely absurd concept. A man that can only afford to spend $200 on a ring, could love their partner just as much as someone who were to spend $20,000 on a ring. At the end of the day, the amount of money a person spends on a tiny circular object that sits on your finger does not represent how much you love that person or how committed you are to them. The same applies to weddings. To break it down, the average human lives 788,400 hours, and the average wedding lasts four hours and costs $35,000 NZD. Therefore, the average person spends $35,000 on an event that lasts 0.0005% of their life. While this might sound cliché, there are millions of people in the world that struggle to afford food and shelter, every single day of their lives. To spend $35,000 on an event that lasts 0.0005% of a life would surely seem unfathomable to these people. Furthermore, another interesting finding is that in many OECD countries home sizes have dramatically increased over the past decade, despite family sizes becoming smaller. One study found that on average, a family that owns a large home (approx 2000 square feet) will make use of only 68% of the space, with some rooms going almost completely unused. It seems like many of us need a complete re-evaluation of our lifestyles.

I suppose the main point of this post, is to encourage you to think beyond the social ideals and to question everything you do. Could your money be spent on something of more personal and moral value rather than purely material value? Ask yourself – when you come to the end of your life, would you feel more fulfilled reminiscing over all the material items you owned, or how you used your finances on something more meaningful/on someway to give back to the community and contribute to the world? Research has found that splurging on material items leads to only temporary satisfaction, so instead, why not splurge on purposeful and meaningful experiences that will leave you with lifelong fulfillment.

Cutting ties – the five indicators that it’s time to let go

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Cutting ties with people and filtering out friends is a natural process most of us go through with age. Friend groups are ever evolving; old friends may leave your life and new friends may enter. For many reasons, friendships change; they may become stronger or they may dwindle and become strained. But when do you stop to think, enough is enough? What does it take to finally realise that trying to maintain a friendship is no longer worth the effort? Making the decision to cut ties with friends, particularly ones that have been in your life for many years can be trying, it can be difficult, and it can make you feel guilty. But usually, these alterations are for the best and will hopefully help to relieve any negative emotions you may have been experiencing as a result of detrimental friendships. Below are what I believe to be the five indicators that it’s time to cut ties and move on.

  1. The absent friend – a friend that is no longer present or available. If you have consistently called, texted, messaged on various occasions, only to be met with no response, it may be time give up. More importantly, if you have been going through a difficult time and have confided in your friend, yet they ignore you and turned a blind eye to your struggles, that is probably a strong indicator that you don’t mean a whole lot to them. Undoubtedly, one sided friendships do not work.
  1. The unreliable friend – a friend that continuously cancels on you. Obviously in many circumstances the reasons for bailing on a friend may be legitimate. However, if the cancellations become overly frequent and get to a point where it becomes inconceivably ridiculous, it may be time to part ways. Reliability is vital to maintaining secure friendships and a lack of it can create feelings of mistrust and doubt.
  1. The egocentric friend – someone that is concerned only with themselves, their wants and their needs. An egocentric friend is one that prefers to talk about themselves, their lives and their relationships, yet neglects asking about your life, and fails to consider the perspectives of others. A healthy friendship is one that involves mutual interest, as well as reciprocal care and concern for the other person. If you meet up with a friend and after the catch-up, feel as though you hadn’t had the opportunity to talk about your life because your friend never cared to ask, it might be time to let go.
  1. The defensive friend – a friend that isn’t willing to hear and consider alternate or opposing views. Having a good friendship doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything your friend says or does. Close friends should be able to openly articulate their views, thoughts and beliefs, even if they are not in alignment with the views of their friend. A good friend is one that is eager to hear your advice, listen to your suggestions and value your opinion, whether they agree with you or not. If you have a friend that gets defensive and aggressive when you disagree with something they say or do, it may be best to lay that battle to rest and move on.
  1. The untrustworthy friend – a friend that talks behind your back. If you have discovered that your friends have been talking negatively about you to others, yet act pleasant and friendly to your face, its best to part ways with them. Maybe you have discovered that your friends have been explicitly bitching about you in a facebook conversation, or maybe you just have a gut instinct that they put you down when you’re not around…this lack of trust can be upsetting and not worth the emotional toll.

Let’s be honest though, no one is perfect. It would be rare to find a friend that perfectly fits all criteria. I will admit that while I would consider myself capable of being a good, supportive and reliable friend, there are still certain criteria I do not completely fulfil. But what is important, is to ask yourself, does the good outweigh the bad? Does your friend add something to your life? Does your friends presence bring you more positive emotions than negative ones? Personally, in any area of my life, once someone starts causing me more negative emotions than positive ones, that is the defining factor for me – the moment I know it’s time to let that person go. Unfortunately, poor friendships can make you feel more alone than if you were to have no friends at all. That constant longing for your friend to finally be there for you, only to be repeatedly disappointed can actually create undeniably feelings of loneliness. However, on a more positive note, I can say that once you have cut the destructive and depleted friendships off, you may feel an instant sense of relief. Those negative emotions you were experiencing may be instantaneously eradicated by a click of a button, deleting that person from your existence. Personally, I didn’t realise how low a certain failed friendship of mine had been making me feel until I eliminated that person from my life, and almost immediately, I felt a tremendous weight being lifted off my shoulders. If you are feeling unhappy in your life, I think it’s important to assess what exactly is making you unhappy. If certain friendships are contributing to your unhappiness, it may be best to cut ties with them and move on.

Returning to University at age 25

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For a variety of different reasons, people end up going back to University later in life. I did my first degree in Psychology which I thoroughly enjoyed, however, this degree is limited in career prospects. Because of this, I then completed a Graduate Diploma in Teaching. While this qualification guaranteed me to work as a teacher, I never enjoyed the University course or the line of work. Throughout my short-lived career as a teacher, I would often ponder over the thought of going back to University and starting again. Yet I would always think of reasons that opposed this, because I ideally, I didn’t want to start again. It wasn’t until my third year as a teacher that I realised I could no longer work in the profession; that I didn’t want to live my life unhappy in my career and finally felt the desire to go back and start again.

Once I had made the decision to go back to University, I decided to research what it would be like returning to University as a mature student (although I’m not sure 25 would qualify as being “mature”). I noticed this topic was a search trend on google. Therefore, I thought this post may be useful to any readers considering going back to University in their mid-twenties, and as with most of my blog posts, what the pros and cons of this may be.

Before I delve into the list of pros and cons, I think it’s firstly quite important to establish whether returning to University would be a viable option for you. I believe there are two main factors you need to consider before making the commitment of returning to University in your mid-twenties.

  • Your financial situation. University is very expensive. Many people are already in substantial debt due to previous studies. I think it’s very important to consider whether returning to University is worth the financial burden. Personally, I believe that if you are truly unhappy in your career, then you should change your situation, despite the financial liabilities. However, if you are seriously in debt, you may need to consider other options. It’s also important to find out whether you qualify for any allowances. In New Zealand, if you are 25 and over, you may qualify for a housing allowance, as well a supplementary allowance. While the allowances aren’t much, it is fantastic in the sense that it almost allows people to take a second shot at getting their careers right without having to reach too far into their pockets. Also, if your future career offers a decent salary, this should also be taken into consideration. As a teacher, the salary was relatively low, however, as a dental hygienist/therapist I will be earning almost double what I was a teacher, so this alleviates any stressors of having a small student debt once completing my new degree.
  • Putting your life on hold. When you decide to go back to University, you not only have to put your life on hold in a financial sense, but also personally. If you have a partner and are wanting to start a family, these plans may need to be delayed. Raising a child and attending University won’t be an easy option. However, if you are single, or have a partner, but no plans to settle down in the near future, then you are in a great position to return to University.

If you have made your decision to return to University, fantastic! I have been back at University about a month now, and below are what I have found to be the main pros and cons of returning to University at age 25.

Pros:

  • Increased work ethic. When you’re older, you tend to have less of a desire to socialise and “party”, compared to when you were in your early twenties. All of that is probably out of your system, and as a result you are able to become a lot more focused on your work and motivated to achieve high grades. I have found that I have a much greater work ethic than ever before.
  • Increased confidence. The majority of people at University are around age 18-21. I find that with age, you become more confident in yourself and less concerned as to what people think of you. At age 25, I feel a lot more confident speaking up and do not feel intimated by people that I may have been when I was younger.
  • Feeling better suited to the career path and with your classmates. People tend to know themselves better as they get older and become more self aware. Once you have figured out a career path that is best suited to you, you may find that you fit in better with the ‘crowd’. As a student studying education, I felt no drive and no passion towards the profession and I did not fit in with the crowd. While I should not generalise, I will admit that the majority of people on my teaching course were very loud, extroverted and arty. I remember everyone being so enthusiastic when singing nursery rhymes and demonstrating lesson plans, while I felt completely awkward and uncomfortable.  I have always been introverted and quite a logical/structured person. I find that a lot of people on my current course also possess these personality traits and I see this as being a huge indicator that I am on a career path much better suited to my personality.

Cons:

  • As mentioned before, there are financial consequences of returning to University, as well as having to delay certain life plans.
  • Comparing yourself to others. All of my friends are now working full time, earning an annual salary, being able to save and travel abroad. I sometimes find it frustrating knowing that I will need to wait several years before doing these things again and sometimes feel as though I am slightly behind compared to my friends. Yet, when I hear someone speaking about being unhappy in their job, that tends to reassure me that while I may be behind, it is still worth starting again and getting my career right.

Overall, I definitely find that the pros of returning to University at age 25 outweigh the cons. If you are thinking of returning to University, just make sure you do your research in regards to the financial aspects and find out whether you qualify for any allowances. While returning to University and putting your life on hold may not sound ideal, it’s important to look at your life in the long run. Getting your career right while you are still young is easier than starting again much later in life.

The truth about teaching

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Let’s start off with a statistic – 40-50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. The significance of this statistic has to indicate that there is something catastrophically wrong with the teaching profession today. There are many inaccurate notions and assumptions surrounding teaching. I believe a large number of people go into the career because of these assumptions, yet quickly find out it’s not what they expected, and not long after, leave the field.

I was one of those statistics. I went into preschool teaching for all of the wrong reasons. I had the assumption that teaching would be a relatively easy and stress-free career, one that would go hand in hand with having a family (back then I was quite family oriented, now I don’t even want kids). I couldn’t have been more wrong. Teaching was anything but easy. It all became too much. After three years in the teaching profession, I decided it was time for a career change, even if that meant returning to University to do another degree (I will now be doing a degree in dentistry).

Because there is such a high teacher drop out rate, I think it’s really important to take a look at why exactly so many teachers leave. Unfortunately, when I was younger I was quite naive and hadn’t done a whole lot of research regarding teacher’s experiences and views of the pros and cons of the profession. I spent half a day at an early childcare centre to try and get a bit more insight, and thought that had made me well aware of what the job entails. But in reality, I was totally clueless. If you’re thinking about going into teaching, I would seriously recommend doing your research. On top of that, go and spend a full week or two working at a school so you can see what it’s really like and make sure you understand the full list of responsibilities that teachers have. The aim of this post is not to discourage anyone from the teaching profession, but to raise some awareness of the difficulties within the job.

Below is a list of what I believe to be the pros and cons of being a teacher based on my experience. Its also important to note that this post will relate mostly to preschool teachers, however, a large proportion of points may also relate to Primary and High-school teachers.

Pros

  • Teaching can serve as a means of travel and working overseas. Teachers are needed everywhere. However, I wouldn’t say it’s the smartest reason to go into teaching, because while you might get to travel, you may still be miserable in the job. That was the case for me, I ended up teaching in New Zealand, Hong Kong and Australia, which was amazing, but it never resulted in me feeling happy within the job.
  • The bonds you will make with the children. In every school I worked at, there were always a handful of children I formed incredible bonds with. Those bonds definitely made the job worthwhile. I loved coming in everyday seeing their little faces. I remember my very final day as a teacher, one of the girls I had formed a close bond with told me that she loved me. That was a memory I will keep with me for a long time. So yes, there are moments that can make the job rewarding.
  • Witnessing the progress children make. Not just on an academic level but also on a personal level. I always used to find it very rewarding seeing a shy/withdrawn child come out of their shell and gain confidence, especially when you have helped them in the process.

(Unfortunately, that’s it for the pros! No seriously…. that’s it. Now let’s delve down into the long list of cons….)

Cons

  • Preschool teaching is physically exhausting. You are literally on your feet all day. Walking around, monitoring the class, setting up activities, putting activities away. You will be lifting children up and down from things, some children may need to be carried when upset, you may have to spend a couple of hours each day supervising them outside (in the boiling heat in Australia). You will have to break up fights on occasion and you will constantly be cleaning – vacuuming, sweeping, mopping the floors, wiping down tables and the bathroom. Teaching is incredibly physically demanding. By the end of the day you’re legs and feet will be aching and you’ll probably be in bed by 8.30 every night.
  • Preschool teaching is socially exhausting. This was the most challenging factor of teaching for me, because I am more of an introvert. As a teacher you will be interacting and communicating non-stop throughout the day. Not only would I rarely get five minutes of time to sit, but rarely even five minutes of not having to talk or give instruction. You don’t just communicate with the children, but with the parents, other staff and management also. I think the constant communication can be a major struggle for introverted teachers, because unlike extroverts who are energised by social interaction, introverts recharge from quiet/alone time. Unfortunately, as a teacher you won’t really get any moments of privacy or solitude. Of course, you can still be a fantastic teacher and be on the introverted side (I’ve met a few), but I do think it holds far more challenges for introverts because you are constantly being pushed out of your comfort zone. In all honesty, I do think teaching comes more naturally to those on the extroverted and socially confident side, considering that it is a highly socially demanding job.
  • Teaching is emotionally exhausting. When you’re stuck in a classroom of twenty hyperactive children each day, who refuse to listen or follow instruction, you will reach breaking point. There are some days when the children’s behaviour can be so overbearing that you will shout, or break down in tears behind closed doors. Not to mention, having children with special needs or suspected ADHD. It can be incredibly difficult trying to manage all of these children on your own. There is also a lot of pressure from parents and from management, along with the workload which additionally contributes to teaching being an emotionally draining job (this will be further explained in points below).
  • Preschool teaching isn’t overly mentally stimulating. You will be teaching nursery rhymes, the ABC’s, numbers from 1-20. It can get incredibly tedious at times. While the job may be physically, socially and emotionally exhausting, it isn’t necessarily intellectually demanding (which is what I always wanted most in a job).
  • The workload. Unfortunately, teaching is a job that never stops. There is always something that can be done. On top of actually teaching every day, there is a long list of documentation and admin tasks that need to be completed on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. For instance, you might need to write daily learning journals of the children’s day, an observation and learning story for each child, each month. You will have to write reports and reflections. You will need to gather and make resources for all of the children. You will need to fill out detailed lesson planning templates for each week. You will need to show evidence of how your planning links to certain framework and guidelines. You will need to organise and maintain files for all of the children. You will have to plan and get organised for school events. You may need to plan for school assemblies, write scripts and gather resources for them. You will need to go home and mark homework. You may need to spend time each day responding to parent emails. You may need to spend some weekends going to craft shops and buying resources, with your own money. HOW are teachers expected to do ALL OF THIS ON TOP OF A FULL DAY OF TEACHING, which is exhausting enough as it is. It is ridiculous. There is just not enough time during the day to get everything done, not to mention only four weeks of holiday a year. In the last school I was working at, I would often spend half of my lunch breaks completing this documentation because there was never an ideal moment during the day when I could get it done.
  • You will get blamed for everything. If a child is having nightmares, you will get blamed for it. If a child comes home angry or upset, you will get blamed for it. If a child hits, or gets hit, you will get blamed for it. If a child gets paint on their clothes, you will get blamed for it. If a child loses a shoe, or a hair-clip, you will get blamed for it. If a child gets sick, you will get blamed for it. If a resource goes missing or gets broken, you will get blamed for it. As a teacher you really have to develop a thick skin. You will get blamed for things that are out of your control, so you’ll need to learn how to grin and bear it.
  • You may not be treated respectfully. By parents and by management. In New Zealand, the biggest complaint within Early Childhood Education, is that the school managers/directors treat their staff disrespectfully. My teaching experience overseas, taught me that this is probably more of a universal problem. It’s such a shame – one person can have a huge impact on the overall environment of the school and negatively influence their staff’s happiness within the workplace. If the staff aren’t happy then this in turn will affect their performance. It is absurd to me that people in management positions don’t seem to understand this. If you manage to find a job at a school with a nice, respectful manager, I would advise sticking to that school for as long as possible.
  • The teaching environment can get very catty. At times you will feel like you are back in High School. Unfortunately, when you are working in a team of all girls, things are inevitably going to get a bit bitchy.
  • Preschool teaching is messy and unhygienic. You will get spat on, you will get sneezed on, you will get burped on, you will get farted on. Children will wipe things on you, they will get paint on you, draw on you, poke you in the eye and in the ears. You will have to endure terrible smells on a daily basis. On top of that you will have a whole list of cleaning duties (as mentioned in one of the points above). You may need to clean the eating areas three times a day, and devastatingly, the bathrooms too. Trust me, you don’t want to know what a Preschool bathroom can look like.
  • The low salary. As a teacher working at an International school in Asia, they pay is very decent. However, as a Preschool teacher in Australia or New Zealand (probably the UK too), the pay isn’t great. Considering the amount of stress, time and energy teachers put into the job every day, the pay check is not reflective of these efforts.
  • The stigma attached to preschool teaching. I always felt hesitant and embarrassed to tell people I was a Preschool teacher because of the stereotypes and generalisations attached to it. There is the stigma that Preschool teachers are ‘dumb’ and that Preschool teaching is easy. I remember a couple of months ago, someone said to me “teaching is easy, I spent a day at a school, I know what it’s like. Plus don’t you guys only work like 6.5 hours a day?”. Still to this day, that comment infuriates me. If you are naive enough to think that teachers end their working day at 3pm, then you sure shouldn’t be judging how stressful or stress-free you consider the job to be.
  • Everyday is completely different. Children will get into fights, they will break things, they will hurt themselves, they will get sick. You never really know how your day is going to turn out. I would say, I’d usually have two or three terrible days during the week, one or two average days, and just one good day. If you’re someone that likes routine and someone that wants a job that you can walk into each day and know exactly what you need to do, you may find the variety of this job challenging.
  • Constant multitasking. Teaching is a job that basically requires you to have several pairs of eyes and ears. For instance, if I were to set up a painting activity on the table, I would have to explain the rules to the children while also having to keep an eye on the rest of the class, shout out to the children that are becoming a bit rowdy, while also trying to pay attention to the children at the table and make sure the water doesn’t get spilled. The amount of multitasking we are supposed to do all day can become overwhelming, and frankly not humanly possible. Its not an ideal job if you work best with having a specific focus.
  • Teaching does not go hand with having a family. It would be exhausting having to run around looking after other people’s kids every day and then having to go home and do the same for your own, in addition to the high workload. If you do some research online, you will find that being a teacher and a Mother is not an easy or an ideal combination.

There you have it. In the three years of teaching, I found that there were only three pros to the job and a extensive list of cons. If you are thinking of going into teaching, please, think twice. Do you’re research, spend a significant amount of time volunteering at a school, and figure out whether you have the right personality traits for the job. If you are unhappy in the job (as many teachers are), then maybe you should consider other options. Get a job in another field, or go back to University. There’s nothing worse that living your life doing a job you loathe. But just remember, you are never stuck. There are always other options out there. Now that I have left the profession, I feel so relieved and content with my decision. I look back now and can’t believe I even made it to the three year mark. Again, the aim of this post was not to discourage anyone from going into teaching (even though it probably comes across that way), but to provide information, insight and awareness to people thinking of going into the profession. If you found this post useful, or if you still aren’t convinced these are the realities of teaching today, then please take a look at the links below:

http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/index.php?threads/ok-so-i-hate-teaching-what-else-can-i-do-with-this-teaching-degree.67063/

http://www.xojane.com/issues/i-quit-teaching-burn-out

https://toughnickel.com/business/I-Hate-My-Teaching-Job-Should-I-Quit

https://thosewhoteach.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/life-after-teaching-part-i-four-reasons-why-im-better-off/