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Final blog post

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It’s been a while since I have posted on this blog, and after some thinking, I’ve decided not to continue with it. I created this blog when I was 25, I had just walked away from a short-lived career in teaching and was in limbo. I was living on my own in Brisbane and had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I wasn’t in the best head-space when I created this blog – I was angry at the world because my life hadn’t panned out the way I had expected it to, and this negative mindset stayed with me for another year after. Despite finally finding the right career path, it took me a while to snap out of the previous mindset I was in. A couple of months ago I read through this blog, and realised that I can no longer relate to many of my posts – my perspectives have changed so much! There are even several posts where I just have no bloody idea what I was on about (i.e. please see redshift vs blueshift post). I thought for my final post I would look back on some previous ones and briefly talk about where I stand now.

Method of loci/memory palace – one of the posts I’m most proud of, not to mention, one of the best learning techniques I have ever come across. This method has helped me tremendously with my studies. And it is a technique I will continue to use for the rest of my life. Some people will spend hours upon hours re-writing their notes, making them look pretty. Maybe that works for them. But what I have learned, is that you only need one set of information – it’s how you actually process that information that really matters.

The future of humanity and the earth – let’s be honest, this blog post was quite a depressing read. While I have always been, and will always be interested in topics such as climate change, ocean acidification, plastic pollution etc, what I have come to realise, is that sometimes it’s best to steer away from these topics. Even though these issues are incredibly important, many people interpret them as being negative, scary even. Negativity only attracts negativity. So I’ve sort of distanced myself from these subject areas. I don’t think purposely making yourself ‘unaware’ of these issues is the smartest thing to do, in fact I think its incredibly counter-productive, but on a personal and social level, I have found it to be more beneficial.

Life after teaching – going into teaching was one of the worst mistakes I have ever made in my life. Leaving the field, and changing careers, even though that meant starting from scratch again – totally worth it. I have not one regret in that decision. I am now half way through my degree in oral health (dental hygiene/oral health therapy), and all I can say, is that it makes the world of the difference when you’re career is better suited to you as a person. If you are a teacher and feel as though you are too introverted for the profession, that you want something more intellectually fulfilling (science oriented even), a job where you can work more on your own, and have primarily have one on one interaction – I would recommend working in dental as a career. I can’t speak for or recommend any other career paths, because I believe you need to actually walk in another person’s shoes to fully understand what their career experience entails. But from my experience so far, this new career fits me to a tea!

Childfree – by the end of my teaching career, I was so burned out, I decided that I never, ever wanted to have children in future. And the decision of whether to have kids or not, is something that has played out in my mind many times over the past few years. Now that some time has past, my mentality on this has again changed – and I currently feel completely ambivalent about this topic. Ideally, yes maybe I am leaning more towards the idea of having a family in future, but for the most part, it is something I am ambivalent about. And to be honest, having an ambivalent mindset on this topic, really helps to take a lot of pressure off. Life is too short to dwell on what your life ‘could’ have been. Whichever path my life takes, I will try to make the most of!

Well that’s all folks – it’s been fun writing this blog; a great place to organise your thoughts, get your ideas down and share them with other’s. It’s also been really interesting looking back and seeing just how much some of your perspectives can change in such a short space of time. Apologies, I know this blog isn’t as well written! But just wanted to give a quick final update.

Adios!

Carbonara (non-traditional)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 packet of pancetta or bacon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/3 bottle of chardonnay
  • 500g of pappardelle pasta
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon of cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of butter
  • 100g of parmesan
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, parsley

Recipe:

  1. In a frying pan, add olive oil to a pan and fry pancetta until crisp
  2. Add the chopped garlic and fry until slightly brown
  3. Add chardonnay and cook on a medium-high heat for 10 minutes
  4. Boil pasta
  5. In a bowl add egg yolks, cream, parmesan, seasoning and butter, mix well
  6. Once pasta is aldente and the wine has reduced, add it to the bowl and combine all ingredients

Bacon and Courgette pasta bake in a creamy Parmesan and white wine sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 500g pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 rations of bacon
  • 2 large courgettes
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 bottle of white wine
  • 2 cups of cream
  • 1 1/2 packets of parmesan
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, nutmeg, dried basil and parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of butter

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 bake
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the bacon, fry until crisp
  3. Add the garlic and chopped courgettes
  4. Add the white wine to the pan, bring to boil and reduce for 10 minutes
  5. At the same time cook the pasta until aldente and place on a cooking tray
  6. Turn the heat to low and add the cream, butter, seasoning and parmesan to sauce
  7. Pour sauce on top of pasta in the tray
  8. Sprinkle extra Parmesan over the top
  9. Place tray in oven and cook for 10 minutes until the tops are golden brown

One pot chicken, bacon and mushroom alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 rations of eye or streaky bacon
  • 1 brown onion
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups of cream
  • 400g of egg fettucine (usually found in the fridge section)
  • A handful of parsley
  • A pinch of dried basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g parmesan

Recipe:

  1. Add a teaspoon of butter to a frying pan
  2. Add one seasoned chicken breast (chopped into small pieces)
  3. Once chicken is just cooked, remove from the pan and leave to one side
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same pan
  5. Add bacon and fry until cooked through
  6. Add 1 diced brown onion and fry until browned
  7. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook all ingredients for several minutes
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add chicken stock, cream, parsley, basil, seasoning and pasta and cook for around 3-5 minutes (or until the pasta is al dente), if the sauce reduces too much, add more chicken stock and cream
  9. Turn the heat to low and add the chicken, parmesan and 1 teaspoon of butter, mix and serve

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.

Changing mentalities: a child-free life

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It’s quite remarkable just how much your life can change within the space of a year, but equally as remarkable how much your viewpoints can change. There’s one perspective of mine that’s done a complete 180 this year, one which I never could have anticipated.

A few years ago, there was nothing more that I wanted than to have my own family and children, it was essentially one of the primary reasons I went into early childhood teaching (which I left quite recently). However, my teaching experience ended up being far more eye opening than I ever could have imagined, particularly in regards to parenthood.

It was my experience in Hong Kong that initially triggered my views on a child-free lifestyle. Prior to that I had been living in New Zealand where there is generally quite a mainstream way of life; you get engaged, married, have kids and settle down within your 20s and 30s. In Hong Kong however, this was not the case. I met many women who bluntly proclaimed their desire to live a child-free life for a number of valid reasons. This was the first time I realised, I had been blinded by a social norm and ideal that I hadn’t truly reflected upon in depth. Nor had I ever thought to consider any alternative lifestyles. In fact, not only do we have social ideals influencing our mentalities, we also have biological influences subconsciously affecting our thought processes. Humans have a biological predisposition to reproduce in order to ensure the survival of the human race. However in the present day, this predisposition could in fact hinder our chances of survival. There is already widespread concern regarding over population of the earth. Having more children at our current rate, not only contributes to this concern, but it also means more resources are being consumed and more carbon footprints are being produced. My teaching experience only accentuated this changing viewpoint further.

Through teaching, I began to see children and parenthood in a rather unromanticized way. I got see what a profound investment children are; emotionally, financially (on average $250,000 USD up until the age of 18, yes that’s a quarter of a million dollars, excluding University costs), and in terms of time and freedom. I met many parents with additional stressors; divorced parents raising a child on their own, parents struggling financially to support their family and parents raising a child with special needs. I experienced firsthand just how physically and mentally exhausting looking after children can be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure looking after twenty children in a classroom setting is completely different from looking after two or three of your own. But nevertheless, raising children requires an extensive expenditure of time and energy.

Of course there are an enormity of pros to having children. That unconditional love a parent feels for their child is irreplaceable, not to mention the adoring memories you will create. However, humans are hard wired into wanting to reproduce, which I believe can be slyly blinding.

Raising a child in today’s world can be really, really tough, especially when both parents are having to work full time (which is nowadays the norm). I can imagine there are undoubtedly, a large proportion of people that don’t stop to consider – “how will having children change my life?” and “is this something I really want?”.

I’ve met a few teachers who are parents and have openly articulated their struggles. One teacher described to me, her daily routine; waking up, making breakfast, getting the children out of bed and ready for school, dropping the children off at school, driving to work, having a full day of work taking care of other people’s children, returning home to make dinner and complete other household errands, helping the children with homework, putting the children to bed, preparing the children’s lunch for the next day, working on planning/marking/making resources for work. Then bed… and repeat. And another woman I met at a school, raising her children as a single parent. She would constantly complain about how difficult her life was, declaring that the only way she gets through every day is because she’s in survival mode. She very candidly admitted that she craved the days her ex took the kids and she could have her freedom. I’m dumbfounded as to how some people do it… you have to really respect people that have a tremendous amount on their plate yet manage to trooper through. But it also goes to show that having a romanticized view of children, family life and parenthood… doesn’t always play out accordingly.

There are more people today than ever before choosing not to have children and live a child-free life. And it’s only very recently that this topic is starting to break out of its taboo realm. You can read one thread here (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/4wfl4k/serious_parents_who_regret_having_kids_why/).  Having children is possibly the most life changing decision anyone could ever make, so why wouldn’t it be discussed more openly? I read quite an influential quote from a parent on one of these forums who said…”it’s better to regret not having children, than to have children and regret them”.

I’m only twenty five and know my views on this could do a complete 180 again, however I’m glad teaching has exposed me to the difficulties of parenthood, otherwise it’s something I would never have taken into consideration. Having one child means dedicated somewhere between 18-25 years of your life, living for someone else. Do I want that? Not right now. Imagine what you could do and see during that time, all the places you could explore. At this point in time, I’m very content being on my own and would much rather spend my time, money and freedom focusing on my career, travelling the world and keeping my stress levels at a minimum.

An expats guide to Hong Kong: the pros and cons of life there

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I grew up in Hong Kong from the age of 4-14. I had the most amazing childhood there and it really is an amazing city. I went back last year to work, which was a thoroughly exciting experience, however, life there didn’t completely pan out as I had expected. Hong Kong has changed a lot since the handover and I began to see the place differently than I had before. For any expats thinking of moving to Hong Kong – here are what I believed to be the pros and cons of life there.

Pros:

  •  Feeling a sense of acceptance and belonging. Hong Kong is a place where differences are the norm. There isn’t really a “mainstream” way of life there, as there is in say New Zealand or Australia. It’s an international city and therefore one major melting pot. Everyone you meet is completely different; different backgrounds, different upbringings, different life experiences, different cultures, different accents, different beliefs, you name it! For that reason, Hong Kong is a place where anyone is accepted. You can completely be yourself there without feeling judged. Personally, my experience last year in Hong Kong was the first time I had ever really accepted myself as a person, flaws and all and realised that I was happy with the person I had become. So its a great place to really find yourself.
  • Hong Kong is a very happening place. You will never get bored. There is always something to do or something to see. There’s a surprise around every corner. You can explore the city, the outer islands, go down to Stanely which is a bit more westernised, go to Ocean Park, Disneyland, hikes and trails, the street markets, the food. I could go on and on with a list of things to do in Hong Kong. It is a really exciting place. Many people say they find that life in Hong Kong is like being on a permanent vacation.
  • Travel. One major advantage of living in Hong Kong is that exploring other parts of Asia is very easy and accessible. Many people use their holidays to explore places like Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines as they are so close. One thing I wish I had done whilst I was there, was explore more parts of Asia. I fell in love with Singapore and ended up spending two of my holidays over there. But in hindsight I now wish I had tried out a few other places.

Cons:

  • Housing. As a child I was quite lucky, we lived in a house with a garden and two pools within a gated community. However, going back as an adult was different. I had a job at an International school where I earned a decent income, but it was still not enough to afford decent accommodation. Housing there is incredibly expensive. I began flatting near Central in a place called Fortress Hill. The flat was in a very old and run down building. My room looked like a prison cell and there was just no space. Two weeks there and I’d had enough. I decided to move an hour away from Central to a place called Lohas Park. The commute to and from Central was a pain but the housing was much better. New buildings, with clean flats and a bit more space. However, one problem living in the New Territories is that there aren’t many expats there. So expect to be stared at a lot. It also means it can be quite a difficult place to make friends as there aren’t many other English speakers around. I enjoyed living there, but found it quite isolating. Basically, I think you can live somewhere central where everything is happening, however, you will probably be living somewhere not particularly nice and quite claustrophobic, or you can live further out and somewhere a bit nicer. It all depends on what sort of lifestyle you want and what your priorities are.
  • The dating life. As a single western man, you will have the time of your life. You will be spoilt for choice in terms of dating. I would definitely describe Hong Kong as being a bachelor city. However, as a single western female, our options are, well….. limited. I will be honest in saying that the majority of expat men there seem to prefer the local women. So it doesn’t really leave much option for expat women. Also, Hong Kong is definitely a place for partying. So if you’re looking to settle down, I’m not sure it’s a place I would recommend.
  • The pollution. Someday’s the pollution can get so bad, its best just to stay home. I wouldn’t recommend taking a dip in the ocean either. Hong Kong definitely isn’t the healthiest place to live and you can really start to feel that after a few months of living there.

Overall, I would 100% recommend doing a short stint in Hong Kong just for the experience. It is an amazingly exciting city and can really open up your eyes in so many different ways. Hong Kong will always be home and I will always love the place, however, returning as an adult, I found the place to be a little too crazy and intense, so decided to leave after a year of being there. Despite that, it is a city, definitely worth visiting.