Last month marked my two year anniversary in Sydney. My two-year subscription to this site even renewed!
With two years gone by, I've held two job roles, been to two sales Kickoffs and traveled to two new countries with LinkedIn - Japan and India. I have lived in two corners of town, have run two workshops AND have run two City2Surfs (at the time of writing this post) Down Under. Now two visas in with one renewal to go, I've hosted two family visitors and two of my own birthday parties, and I even prepared dishes and entertainment for two Friends-giving dinners.
Don’t get me wrong! Sydney is TOO far from home, too hot in summer and too rainy on Christmas. The time zone’s too hard sometimes and texting can be too impersonal. FaceTime is too much for some people and calling is too much effort after I've spent my whole week talking. But Sydney is also too beautiful to leave; it's too convenient to warrant buying a car. Trains are too easy and Aussies are too easy to hang out with. Their accents are all too charming and the surfers are simply too cute to resist.
In my time abroad I’ve had two real crushes and two less-than-ideal workplace ones. Two dear friends have moved back home to the States... but I've already made 2+ work BFFs, 2+ lifelong friends (pictured below). I’ve held two gym memberships, retired two yoga studios and hosted two successful bookclubs. :) I've created two “homes” out of two apartments in my two respective neighbourhoods - while they're only about ten minutes apartment, they're still unique in their own ways.
In the past two years we've lost two remarkable matriarchs in our family. We've also had two cousin weddings and two new babes have been born -- make that three! I've seen two dear friends get married whose festivities I was lucky enough to join. I've also celebrated family, graduations, wedding preparations... I've had quality time with Kirb's two puppies and seen my two kitty nieces on visits home.
Despite the 14+ hour flight to CA, I could never take too many trips home nor spend too many hours on the phone catching up (as Jill and I prove time and time again). I think I'll simply know once I've been gone too long. For now, I'll count my 2 [million+] blessings and remember that it must take two years [and then some] to feel like somewhere is home.
It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I wish it were mostly due to my busyness living life. There are countless reasons: I turned thirty, had a fun-filled end of summer, went for a new job at work, and applied for a new Australian work visa. What else got in my way? Sporadic illness, procrastination, writer’s block and failure to dare greatly. I’ve journaled often and written reflections, but I’m always waiting to have that perfect a-ha moment or wave of clarity before I hit POST.
There are a few reasons that I’m writing NOW.
In the first quarter of 2019 I’ve already witnessed much, from great loss to new life. I’ve pondered and pivoted, endured waiting periods and ambiguity. To borrow from one of my comrades in cultivating a life with intention (yes - we have a “bookclub”) — my aim this year is to stay brave and leap whenever possible. If her goal is to leap, mine is growth -- I intend to try new things and keep flexing new muscles in order to build my career, cultivate courage, stay inspired and optimise for maximum well-being.
What do I mean by leap?
As 2018 came to a close and Christmas break approached back in California, I learned that a highly-ranked “dream job” was opening in my line of business at LinkedIn. In a unique intersection of high-demand and great timing, our APAC sales director was investing in a headcount role to support and enable our field team. In tech, this job is called Sales Enablement or, at LinkedIn, Sales Readiness. I wouldn’t know for a while if it would be based in Singapore or (potentially?!) Sydney, but what I did know was that I had been interested in teaching and consulting internally for years. I also had a chance opportunity to meet with the global leader of this team — she was working in our SoCal office at the time, and only through the end of 2018. We spoke that week.
After weeks of interviewing sales managers, talking to field reps and soliciting advice from learning professionals, I prepped a learning proposal geared at the team of which I’m currently a part. I spent those weeks considering my personal ambitions, my life and routine in Sydney, and my non-negotiables. Based on what’s in my heart, I told my company (in one of several “brave” moments) that I’m not currently willing to moving to Singapore. I shared my story, leveraged what I’ve learned from all my employers (to whom I’m so grateful, from Islands to Apple!), and taught a new concept or two. Days before my thirtieth birthday, I was offered the job of Sales Performance Consultant for LinkedIn APAC.
At the end of year while lounging at home in Cali, I considered my New Years’ Intentions differently than I had in the past. As I wrote ideas like “visit a new country” and “go on a solo trip abroad,” I was struck by a rhetorical question in my mind: what better time than the present? Though I knew work awaited and an interview process would begin as soon as possible, I also knew that January would be the best and slowest time for our customer business to be without me. I saw no better way to ensure I was ahead of my resolutions than by booking a trip while December was still in progress. So, off to Google Flights I went...
One of my dearest friends (Brittany the PhD!) and her hubs had a trip lined up to visit New Zealand’s South Island for their belated honeymoon come the first day of January. They invited me to rendezvous for part of their camper van road trip, but I was home in the U.S. during most of the time they’d be meandering. On the other hand, I recognised that I'm living in a remote corner of the Asia Pacific ring — right next to the beautiful and green island country — and shouldn’t miss an opportunity to meet my friends Down Under! While I had visited the North Island’s capital city of Auckland for a quick work trip, I had longed to see the South Island's natural beauty and lakefronts for a while. Finally, I learned that their itinerary’s January finale was a quick and affordable flight away from a long-desired bucket list location that all of my Sydney friends love: Queenstown.
In the end, New Zealand was beckoning and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! So I re-packed my suitcase and headed off for a five day adventure from Christchurch to Queenstown via coastal mountain road-trip. On Day One, I took a shuttle from CHC’s arts district to the mecca of marine mammals where I’d meet Britt and Jefe: Kaikoura. We made great decisions, from choosing whale-watching via small plane (success! and no seasickness. See below.) to seeking out a small, quirky brewery off the main road that donned an escape room and mini-golf course out back. Night One we spent cooking in the camper van and seeking out refuge from the rain, which was made easier by the Irish pub (and its cute British bartender) based behind our campsite. I even tried my hand at surfing and caught a wave so tall and scary that I stayed flat on my tummy throughout the entire, exhilarating ride. Thanks Jeff for the push!
After saying goodbye to my travel buddies at CHC airport, I jetted off to Queenstown for my first international trip (mostly) solo. I was immediately met with stunning views and soothing ease; I took a $10 bus toward the lake town’s centre and walked mere steps to my hostel (recommended by a friend who was traveling days later). I arrived before 8am, allowing me to spend the day in leisurely solitude. First stop: the biggest mountain I could see - since it seemed likely to beget the biggest adventure on my way back down it. See my video here.
I enjoyed two full days of strolling, savouring and leaping (from zip-line to zip-line). I even tried one of my scarier adventure sports yet: river-rafting (with strangers!) down the ice-cold Kawarau River. Queenstown was ridiculously picturesque, so I walked/jogged and dined/drank alongside the volcanic lake as much as humanly possible. I met friends traveling from the North of England (see: center), the middle of the U.S. and the cities of South America. I slept in a hostel [for the first time solo] and enjoyed a deluxe pod that reminded me of Zenon’s room on her space station. Finally, I met with one of my first American Sydney friends for fresh seafood, downhill luge rides at sunset, heartfelt catch-ups and overdue reflections on life. After 48 hours in solitude, it was special to have company and an adventure companion at that!
The least-novel leap I’ve taken this year has somehow felt the scariest of all. After witnessing my own family and certain friends experience loss, I’ve come to re-appreciate and more deeply understand life’s profound fragility. Not despite but perhaps through the pain of distance and fear of worst-case-scenarios, I appreciate even more the fun times at home and today’s technology. I can’t predict the future, but I know that my home remains first - and always will - in California. So, led by my heart once again, I decided to pursue a second work visa to reside and consult in Australia.
This week, on 23rd March — it was approved. I have the option to be A Broad Down Under through March 2021.
I’ll take each new adventure and its subsequent teachings one leap at a time. For now, wish me luck and thanks for staying along for the ride!
A Broad Down Under
I have a tradition each year where, on New Years eve night or shortly thereafter, I reflect on the year that’s about to end by thinking about each of the twelve months individually. I usually list experiences and memories that stand out in my mind without photos or calendar entries; sometimes, I cheat and sneak a look back at my journals, forgetful and then nostalgic/grateful toward all of the great things that blessed me that year.
This year is the first that I scribe this exercise with the intention of sharing. After watching a recent learning course on Leading yourself in the workplace, I found new appreciation for the value of reflection. The course led me to conduct a workshop on ways that we can better acknowledge and celebrate our achievements. Not only does this help us stay motivated and get recognition for our work professionally; it’s shown to cultivate countless other benefits including increased happiness and fulfillment, greater amounts of positive relationships and deeper gratitude (not necessarily in that order!).
This exercise fondly reminded me of a framework called the 18 areas of life. Introduced to me by my college and now-lifelong bestie Jill, it's a list of value categories that one can use to gauge and benchmark their overall contentment in life. From my recollection, the eighteen areas include the obvious: family, work, health, finances, spirituality, purpose. It also prompts me to rate my Relationships, Community, Home, Personal Space, Body (Sex too!). My favourites include degree of Learning, level of Adventure/Fun, and the basics we take for granted including Time and Habits.
2018 was a year of countless firsts, several failures, serious loss, and numerous learnings. It was abundant in travel, friendship, new discoveries and new habits. Though it's taken me weeks to think about said areas and finally sit down to draft this reflection -- perhaps delayed in part by the desire for more time or the absence of the right time -- it's nearly the end of January. I'm out of time. Better to just write than not share at all!
A few lessons stand out as I think of what the Universe showed me this year:
Life's biggest lessons come at the most inconvenient of times. My last handwritten note from Gramz boasted these words on the front, and I read them two weeks after her passing - the day her note arrived in the mail. Being even further away from home than I normally am when I got the news, my biggest fear upon moving overseas had come true. Surrounded by new experiences and people who were celebrating, I had to stand up in her honour (see above) and accept both my award and the fact that life has highs and lows -- often at the same time.
Grief is weird and different for everyone. I had never related to those who lost someone-- not really. Certain friends and colleagues gave advice with the best intent, but no one else could put words to how I felt or what I should do. My deepest moments of grief came unexpectedly and sporadically. I miss and long for her as much as I savour my gratitude for her. I wish she could read this.
Everyone is doing the best they can at their level of consciousness. While such optimism reads like something I should have always believed, it wasn't until I realised my uniqueness and endured my hardest year that I truly understood the effort of -- humanity, I guess. How could she say that? Why don't they understand? We each see the world through our own lens and struggle with the same desperate hope of being happy or doing something great. We can't rightly assume that we would do better if we were in the other person's shoes, in the exact same "totality of their circumstances." We’re not them. We all have our struggles.
In order to live the life we desire, we have to release the hold that our past has on us. I've listened to this mantra through a digital meditation for years, but only this year realised the extent of its meaning. Releasing the hold that our past on us is not only about pain or those who may have “wronged us”; it's also about letting go the grip on our past selves as well as the expectations that we alone have set upon us. My previous chapters are precious and inked, yet closed.
Music is woven into our family’s legacy. On Christmas Eve we sat and listened to holiday classics, acknowledging the greats who were favourites of Grandma and Gramz. As the thought crossed the room that it was like they both were with us, I realised a new appreciation for music's gift of connecting us: regardless of time or celestial plane. My mom’s choral teachings and my sisters’ lovely voices collectively weave some of my fondest memories together.
I can run the world. Moving my body across Sydney and even Newbury reminded me that there isn’t a minimum distance or a certain pace required. Running wasn’t a part of my SF life, or a ritual that belonged to Mike or the Embarcadero or the streets of LA. Running is a part of me, and running is about covering a little ground each day… in order to become a better version of myself when I fall asleep than I was when I woke up that morning. Thankful for discovering Coach Bennett through the Nike app to remind me of that!
No often isn’t a bad word! While essentialism taught me that boundaries garner respect, this year and its mentors taught me that "no" also makes room for "yes" by someone else. I can choose with intention when I know my heart and values. I can also decline opportunities without missing out on the right to others. I've built a community and circle of trust. I am worthy and I am enough exactly as I am.
Manifesting my dreams won’t always turn out looking like my vision did. I believe so firmly in the power of intentions and visualising - but this year, several milestones arrived on unexpected paths. Where I assumed things would change or I'd be required to move somewhere else, an opportunity arrived in the place I newly call home. When I dreamed of crossing a bridge later down the line, I walked at the right pace and the bridge arrived before me. Finally, I need not cross the proverbial bridge until I come to it. I should only focus on what I can control and have faith in the rest. I'm applying this now to my pursuit of a new opportunity. My visa, my residence and the homes in my future? Only time will tell.
Finally, daring greatly will only reward me.
Being vulnerable when I was struggling at work helped me grow more effective strategies with my boss throughout the year, and being vulnerable with my friends or through social media paid dividends -- it turns out our confidantes appreciate authenticity. This year, I even "dared greatly" by posting videos, sharing my story of transformation and writing about how I built brand rapport since moving here. In turn, I was celebrated as a top profile at Linkedin AU and my long-form post on LinkedIn went viral. I constantly re-read Teddy Roosevelt's words via Brené Brown:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming... who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”
Upon deeper reflection, countless highlights and bucket list items were ticked in 2018:
January Alyssa and I took the reef! We rang in the year at my first festival, first time camping, first time traveling together. Phil moved to Sydney. Book club thrived. I met one of my soul sisters here: Becca!
February Scott and I took the Vic coast. Sydney too. I conquered the Great Ocean Road and I turned 29 with everyone I’d come to love! I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
March I hosted my first culture program and cultivated an Int'l Women's Day. Jill and I discovered Byron Bay and even more of Melbs. Saw my first Mardi Gras in Australia! "30 before 30" began in a courageous attempt at dating. I met another true friend Cecilia and celebrated home[sickness] on Easter.
April I grew my crew. Becca’s birthday led to endless flirting, shameless dancing and my first true flame. Yoga continued, more goodbyes took place. Amanda came to visit and I savoured Sydney more deeply than ever! I filmed my first-ever web series as a travel host (dream job #1 -- coming soon).
May I also hosted my first true celebration on Cinco de Mayo. I hosted USC students! I got Lys married and fell in all kinds of love on Kauai for the weekend of a lifetime. I reconnected with SF. I saw Talia graduate and got to spend time with half my Welsh family.
June I celebrated and said farewell to Gramz. I saw SD, explored with Chlo and Mom. Returned to Hamilton Island, showed Mom my city. I had quality Bram & Sarah time and rounded out the best family visit.
July I saw Macau and returned to HK. I won big, a career highlight… and we lost Gramz. I endured the lowest of lowlights I've experienced in this life.
August I don’t recall clearly. I reaccelerated at work and took on a dream job (on the side) in welcoming our new hires. I started cooking; I set boundaries. I went on dates and opened my heart again. Kirb and Andy decided to spend their lives together.
September Ticked the bucket list and went to the Blue Mountains to savour an escape. I branched out, started career chats and brought women leaders to LinkedIn. I started embracing Marley Spoon and growing my cooking confidence!
October I rocked my most intentional and rewarding [Learning] InDay for employees! Made new friends, painted again. I started personal training with Raks.
November Zina got married. I was recognised on LinkedIn, I wrote a post... and I hosted my very own fulfilling Friendsgiving! Explored more culture activities in Sydney and went out on my latest first dates. Saw potential by keeping my heart open.
December I celebrated life love and 2018, from person to party to purposeful day after day. Partied across Sydney and then continued home to NP! Reunited across LA and AZ and got the family time I needed, pieces of Gramz included.
I read at least 10 books, met more than 15 cute guys and cooked over 20 new meals. I went to 10 new cities and booked my first international solo trip! I ventured across Oz, grew my confidence, celebrated my loved ones from afar and saw countless new things, movies, recreational things and yummy restaurants.
I took my first weekend-long solo trip along with interstate and int'l adventures:
In hindsight, 2018 was spent Becoming a Better Broad just like Gramz foresaw. My grandma knew more than I ever could have realised she did. She got me through it.
Here's to embracing 2019 with clarity and intent!
Abroad Down Under
In a forgotten journal entry from 2015, I wrote that "September is the new January.” It’s a month of fresh starts, spring cleaning and untapped potential. It marks the fourth quarter of the “game" as the clock runs out on the time for annual goals and New Years Resolutions. Seasons take a brisk turn, either down colourful autumn lane (back home) or onto the long sunny days of Summer. It's the final countdown.
So much happened this month of September that it felt I was mid-leap from the spring of an inflection point I mentioned in my last post. If July endured the hardest combination of grief, joy, bittersweet pride, love and gratitude, then August was for healing and September was for building up my strength again!
By absolutely no coincidence but, rather, a few fated opportunities and a stroke of intuition, I spent a long weekend in September taking my first entirely solo trip: in a town called Long Jetty in the Central Coast of New South Wales.
I arrived via taxi after a two-hour train from Sydney. Sloped slightly downhill in number nine’s slanted driveway, I noticed I was being greeted by a banana yellow door like its AirBnB listing had promised. I approached the door and touched the digital padlock with a Hogwarts-sort of magic: the numbers glimmered to life on the screen and silently prompted me to tap: one one oh six. Unlock.
The first thing I noticed was a coastal theme: warm hues of sunshine and sky blue adorned each room. In the master bed and bathroom, alternating blues and gold suddenly reminded me of my arch nemesis, the UCLA Bruin. That slid from my mind as I glimpsed seemingly local and aboriginal art; a wise elephant in Noir filter glanced down her trunk at me knowingly. This could work for my private thinking sanctuary.
The next thing I saw was a critter on the floor, in stark contrast on the cream carpet and disrupting the otherwise peaceful ambiance. Deep breath. I delicately grabbed him up in a paper towel and freed him onto my private patio - let’s be honest, I chucked him onto the grassy depths below it - since the alternative was risking his company in my fresh white bed linens that night. This was not a replay of Jubilee Pocket in Airlie Beach circa earlier this year; I didn’t have a brave companion like Scott with whom I could chase and capture unwanted flatmates until all hours of the night! First proud moment of solitary courage: check.
It was early afternoon, so I took my time to settle in and observe my spacious quarters. My room: cozy with electric blankets and three simple furnishings only. I took my three weekend outfits and placed them cozily rolled onto my corner chair. A hanging mirror and its protruding frame made a quaint shelf for my single pair of earrings and four rings. Later that evening, I’d place my precious findings from the day’s beach walk there.
Past my room, a small dining table neighboured a lonely guitar and small houseplant. The room-length bookshelf featured classics and modern pop reads, mysteries like I’d find on our bookshelf in the pink room [back home]. My three-ring-binder of a host-guide told me there was Foxtel and Netflix for my enjoyment. I thought, I think I’ll avoid them in favour of the rarities only available on the Central Coast.
I set out for my first bout of exploration, inspired by the daily ritual and sole tourist attraction native to Long Jetty - The 3pm Pelican Feeding at "The Entrance" (fondly known as such for its unique and narrow waterway from the Pacific into a saltwater bay-like Tuggerah Lake). The birds were fearless, bigger than small preteens and resembled the epic pelicans that came out of Jumanji! After taking a look, I continued on an easy jogging path that circled the entire peninsula from Long Jetty (on the west side, facing the lake and the rest of Oz) all the way around the Entrance and several more ocean bays (named Blue and Toowoon). There were ocean baths, rocky beaches with treasure troves of abandoned shells, and only a scattered few passerby or vacationers (likely due to my weekday timing). I passed a pair of women, sisters, who walked their dog lovingly and asked what had brought me there. I also spied a beach bungalow hideaway back in the trees that I later discovered hold's the homey name of Kim's beachside retreat. I can see myself returning someday.
Upon reflection, I am just now noticing this coastal pocket's resemblance to a nearly-whole heart. Little did I know when I chose and booked it that such a whole-heartedly heart-encompassing journey would ensue. Bonus! Being positioned on the west coast of such a quaint peninsula (see "Long Jetty" on the map) would mean sunrises over the ocean and sunsets over the Lake just beyond my private backyard - see below.
When I returned home that first evening, I found my patio to be framed in magic hour sunshine softened only by the second floor’s wooden pillars. A glass-top table and five wicker chairs look out over the lower patio deck, inviting with a giant outdoor sectional and black-brick fire pit that’s square in shape. To its left was a half yard of grass, an herb garden speckled in red and a hammock that’s been unjustly neglected according to its sun-faded hues. The thick, smooth branches of the yard's mystery-trees slashed starkly against the sky’s glow, resembling a monster-size urchin resting behind this cottage of mine (see it there behind my tea mug?). The autumnal cloud-cover made for some heavenly witching hour-lighting.
Enter: Day two of my first-ever solo retreat and vacation
My first morning’s jaunt was to the nearby Glass Onion Society, a neighbourhood corner haunt boasting coffee, food and vibes on its front door. All were served. In one of the first effortful activities of my phone-free day, I savoured each rare colour and taste on my plate instead of photographing them… like I normally would. Button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes on their vine, half a perfect avo and multi-coloured grain sourdough toasted to a crunch. Meals don’t often get better than that, but this one did - thanks to an almond flat white and tropics smoothie (featuring pine, mango, passion and coconut).
I returned home to rest in my queen sized bed under a checker-quilted duvet in Long Jetty. There was Morning Tea at my bedside and a fresh apple in my belly, books stacked at my feet where Simba should be. As I both read and wrote and wondered what else would come of this retreat, I realised that Rilke’s words from Letters on Life touched on why I love journaling about my experiences: he says,
"The longer I live, the more urgent it seems to me to endure and transcribe the whole dictation of existence up to its end, for it might just be the case that only the very last sentence contains that small and possibly inconspicuous word through which everything we had struggled to learn and everything we had failed to understand will be transformed into magnificent sense.”
When I wasn't scribing my innermost thoughts, musings on my career goals and writing down every rich and lovely detail of my discoveries on this trip, I made time for activities that we don't often fit into the daily, city routine. I decided to attempt a digital detox on Day 2 and left my phone on airplane mode. I went for another stroll through the coastal path lined in rainforest-y foliage and did some sketching in the aforementioned backyard. I jogged through a protected marshland and waved to more pelicans; I even forewent headphones in favour of nature sounds.
I picked up litter! Finally, I went back to the Glass Onion Society and listened to Central Coast locals share brave snippets of Spoken Word. Over a light Mexican food dinner at a cozy recommendation by my BnB hosts, I people-watched and appreciated the unique eccentricities of this quaint coastal town.
When asked how was it? about this quiet solo adventure, I reflect that it was both beautiful and quiet, raw and confronting. I had space to think, remember, dream and imagine. I reached several moments of the clarity I had set out striving toward. I savoured love and gratitude as well as well as longing and mourning. Finally, I watched the sun recede beyond the still lake and mysterious hills of NSW mainland. As quiet strollers and amateur fishermen and -women passed me on the long jetty, I acknowledged the 180-degree panoramic view of lake-sea around me (and no, not through my iPhone's Panorama setting). We should remember to unplug more often.
Here's to have taken time for what's in my heart, and to many more solo adventures to come.
Abroad Down Under
This past month and then some has felt like a sort of inflection point. The dawn of a new start or a different season is here: not just of 2018, but also of ME. In the past five weeks, I celebrated my one year-anniversary since landing in Sydney, my halfway point around the sun toward Age 30, and the start of Spring (according the land down under). Not only do I love celebrating my birthday; I latch onto any excuse to commemorate and reflect on where I've been and where I've landed.
For all the reasons I acknowledge above, there are twice as many more that I didn’t realise loomed within me. This month-long storm of surging nostalgia and self-inquisition could also be spurred by seasonality or the zodiac. Every year for 15 of my laps around the sun, September marked the entrance of a fresh school year by the academic calendar: New teachers, new classmates, new friends and (often) a new romance. Then again, not only am I halfway around my current waltz of this galaxy; a new moon also rose in the sky this past week! Could it be to blame for the wave of clarity? Is Mars is close-by I hear? Is Mercury permanently in retrograde at Age 29?
Finally, various occasions for grief and joy have come and gone lately. In the wake of my work anniversary, recognition in my region and a personal-record of a performance review, I also hit bumps: a major error, an exciting milestone (teaching new hires!) and a major opportunity (all unrelated). This month I traveled thrice, the act of which always leads me to reflect while suspended in both air, a giant vehicle over which I have no control… oh, and time. Lastly, I enjoyed relief at the end of the latest trip...only to realise that I was boarding an aircraft on September 11th. While not the first of the somber anniversary of my first glimpse of mortality, terror and the true meaning of vulnerability — it was the first of its kind that I momentarily forgot. It reminded me of how precious life is, and how much I value the resilient spirit of people back home.
Upon returning home for a stroll around my local Surry-Hills-Sydney — donning a brimmed hat in the warmer than lately spring air — I finally felt I had a grasp on what was turning a new leaf. Something about the temperature, inbound love and catch-ups from my family here and abroad and an agenda-less day of errands and meaning-to-dos helped to put an extra spring in my step. Enter: Year Two.
Each weekend I'm local, I walk around to some of my absolute favourite neighbourhood landmarks and still explore at least two new places. That's the thing about Surry: Sydney's oldest and nearly the most recently gentrified hood. There are countless quirky storefronts tucked between town homes and split levels, usually identifiable by a flash of neon or subtle street art. Sometimes, a faded awning or creaky sign made from a multi-purpose object or signpost tells that that a hidden treasure or treat lies within. While I'm still finding many each day fit for a stroll, I also have my favourites to pop in -- like Messina and Sticky Fingers. There's Paramount and Chilli Coral and Bean Temple and Oscar & Friends - they're not unlike old friends you're stoked to run into each time. Never get old. New kid on the block? Bare Naked Bowls, the latest of the acaí family who are taking the nation.
Another trait of Surry Hills, thanks to her hills, are the cheeky views. I'll be jaunting along without a care in the world, and glimpse the juxtaposition of busy Sydney through SH's rearview. Perhaps due to its slopes and my uphill-facing route home, it's always a pleasant surprise when I glance back or in my peripheral on a corner turn to see the silver towers and reflections of the CBD. I'm only steps away, but outside the 9-5 it's like I'm in another time and world. After a year of getting to know her, I’d say I call Surry home.
I have routines. Local haunts. I store excess toiletries and hoard clothes I should donate. Every other Thursday, we have Rupert's fairy godmother (and our saint of a cleaning person) Ines come in. This means Thurs evenings or Fridays in I take a bubble bath and organise my possessions accrued. I've woven twinkle lights through his houseplants and across our front balcony. The other string stays in my room and frames my bed's headboard, preserving a permanent and year-round merriment that reminds me to reminisce of younger days and Christmas at home.
While certain milestones have passed now that I hit One year, a few staple favourites (see: lifesavers) have helped me make it through the busy times and tougher moments.
They Say Good Things Come in Threes
Friends at work, at home (no, literally. Upstairs.) and around Sydney have helped build a community where I feel safety and belonging. While I’m constantly vetting my Emergency Contact list (including backups), I am fortunate to know who I could call at any hour. They’re expat and local alike (they know who they are), and closest to home is Rupert who - lucky for me - is a bit of both as a Brit-turned-Aussie. I can make it out to bars, to musicals! and to dim sum. I can stay in with wine and in pj’s or with nothing at all and feel right at home thanks to my down-to-earth crews.
There are three prized possessions that have turned into [almost] daily habits. First is my Daily Dose Box: Shoebox turned affirmation-vending-machine that fits on my bookshelf. This past week (the tough one) suffice it to say that I pulled a stack for the first time in my 13 months here. It reminded me of how many people I have in my corner on all corners of the globe! Second: My "You Are a Badass" 365-day calendar (thanks, Chels). It speaks for itself, and also speaks for The Universe when I forgot. Most recently is my Beautiful Thoughts weekly journal that helps me check my mindset and re-frame it when necessary.
My three favourite on-demand applications that help me show gratitude and love: Bloomthat for sending not-only-blooms (like Talia's college dorm cactus and Chloe's edible birthday surprise)! Soothe - the most genius Uber-esque service I've come across that let me send zen to my sisters and their other halves for Xmas via virtual massage vouchers. Last but not least, Amazon Prime: it’s amazing what global reach and insta-delivery can do when it comes to must-haves and must-reads.
Three signs that I live here are scattered across my room. The first is a collection of local prints from Rocks Markets, Opus and Bondi Markets Postcards. Beneath the twinkle lights is even art of my own, painted at a Paint Nite concept in Sydney and resembling a sunset in Joshua Tree. Scattered amidst my books read and letters received are also seashells, collected from my favourite beaches visited yet. From Auckland to Byron to the secret bays of Central Coast, I’ve brought home twisties and spirals to rival Frawley’s beach house collections from our childhood.
Bonus: My three favourite podcasts lately really really help me to feel inspired — and connected back home: They’re currently Ted Radio Hour, The Goodlife Project and Masters of Scale.
A few highlights of my time Down Under have been thanks to my visitors and our bravery toward interstate travel. As far north as Port Douglas & as far south as the 12 Apostles, I've driven the Great Ocean Road and traversed the oceans around Whitsundays. I've landed in Cairns, Brisbane and Melbourne. I've been to Hamilton (twice!), Byron Bay and even Auckland. I've been to my first festival, first campsite and first back-to-back yacht parties!
Recently, I've explored suburbs and trails in my own backyard. Marking my first local excursion by car (rather than plane), I properly explored the Blue Mountains with the gals I met in GGI: "Girls Gone International." We got an AirBnB comfortably designed for eight, and made brekky and coffees and snack-dinners for cozy nights in. After moderate hiking around iconic mountain formations like the Three Sisters, we read tarot cards and danced to a disco-lit karaoke machine. By coincidence or the countess reasons I mentioned (or some other turn of the Universe’s knowing), I also embarked upon my first-ever solo retreat and vacation this month. Three days and two nights in a salty lakeside town up the New South Wales did me right. But that is a story for next time.
As it turns out, these feelings and bouts of nostalgia and gratitude are NORMAL! Expected, even! I’ve passed landmarks and a bend in the road, and I’m not a sappy spastic for reflecting on it. Some tell me the first year is the hardest; I know from experience that the second mile is easier than the first. I’ve been away from my former stomping ground and settling into my new one for long enough that I’ve missed things, truly longed for them and also sprouted new synapses for my current sitch. I’ve visited home, returned back, celebrated from afar and experienced great loss.
I’m grieving not just what was but who I was before. Meanwhile, I’m healing and growing into someone new.
Let the growth continue.
Abroad Down Under
On days when I feel really sick, I have a routine that’s evolved since the elementary school days. Whilst it began with tummy aches, trips to the Nurse’s office (again, Cory?) and sad Disney classics like A Little Princess, it’s only changed slightly as I approach the stage of adulthood where whiny calls to Mom are rarely appropriate.
First, I resort to pathetic eating habits. All I desire are Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and classic Saltines; in Australia, I have to settle for generic brand Instant Noodles and my favourite sea salt crackers from Aldi. Anything soft and bland will do, including but not limited to toast, rice crackers, plain pasta noodles begging for accompaniment. Last night, Rupert asked who had eaten all the bread. Then he said I get a pass “because I’m sick.” I also take the excuse need to drink fluids to an extreme, and skull tea and apple juice by the jug full. Watch your OJ, Rup.
Second, I pull out the photographs. While some might call it wallowing, I’d like to think of it as savouring: taking in old prints, re-reading handwritten letters from Gramz and fingering the mini Polaroids that I’m now unspeakably grateful for having taken on my last long trip home. Sometimes I’ll even go to lengths like pulling down my photo album from home or sifting through drawers with the second-choice pics that didn’t make it into my collage frame. I’m so lucky to have these kind of mementos. Second thought in my mind: my kids will be fascinated by these relics of the paper sort!
Next up, it’s the Daily Dose box! I suppose this is what it was intended for: for me to uncover gradually and take in small nuggets of love, tokens of memory and nostalgia shared with confidants back home. It works: I’ll often find mystery quotes, dirty jokes or entirely inappropriate memories of college stories that should have stayed in college (cough Bayan cough). Never has a single card failed to make me smile at the least, if not laugh out loud or get a lump in the back of my throat. I am so fortunate and could never thank Kirb and my fam enough for assembling it.
This week since arriving home from Hong Kong, I have watched an entire season of silly telenovela-style dramedy (yep, “Jane the Virgin” Season 4) on Netflix as well as no less than one hand's worth of escapist comedic and action-packed films. How to Lose a Guy was a guaranteed feel-good chick flick (full of anti-dating advice that Lord knows I need, too) and Bridget Jones’ Baby was predictably cringe-worthy and heart-warming. Edge of Tomorrow was expectedly thrill-inducing and had Rup and I on the edge of the couch… which was as far out my front door as I had been all weekend. Finally, Evan Almighty was a brain-reducing chuckler that had surprisingly redeeming jokes — and was at least a spectacle to look at because of so many animals! CGI wasn’t half bad.
Between pathetic ebbs and flows of lethargy, discomfort, restlessness and fatigue, I managed ample naps and early bedtimes. I read my latest book club selection: Calypso by David Sedaris, and stuck with it for the duration of time my bath would stay hot and/or eyelids could endure. When I didn’t have the energy to hold up my iPad mini, I gazed longingly at Jamie from "Outlander" as I began my second tv binge and first new show in a while (thanks again, Netflix). Finally, I got the absolute most minimal-effort tasks out of the way so I could call it a productive sick-iday: ran and switched four loads of laundry, unpacked and folded and hung everything I owned, and paid a few online bills with just a few taps. Oh how I wished my secretly domesticated animal friends could have flown in my window to help me with these a la Cinderella. Way too cold to have those windows open, though!
This takes me to the best sick-day gift I’ve ever received and my number one caretaker: Rupert. You’ve all heard about him. Online-sourced flatmate turned couch-cushion confidant, he is truly the only man who’s ever loved me (relatives not included). Yesterday, not only did he leave me out three packs of throat lozenges and leftovers from the weekend… he bought me an ELECTRIC BLANKET. Game-changer! It plugs in on both sides of my bed and has separate controllers for the body and the feet area. Did I mention that last week, when I was homesick over Independence Day? Rupert brought home a slow-cooker from K-mart and dressed like a lumberjack to be on theme for the holiday. Swoon.
Other sources of comfort: friends, costumes, and double scoops
Last but not least and, as much as I hate to admit, outreach from friends and co-workers near and far on social media has been a source of comfort. Last week marked a true career highlight when I received my first regional award at work, and I was both humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of love and congrats I received in response. In the lowest points of loneliness that tend to follow homesickness (and sicky lows), it was touching to hear from old co-workers and childhood friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while. I’m thankful to all the realms of family I have around the world these days.
At least once or twice a year, Mother Nature and the Universe tend to conspire, knock me on my ass and laugh as if to say we warned you to slow down, girl! They’re laughing with affection only, I know. A debilitating head cold, tickling cough and all sorts of aches and pains tend to accompany this sabotage, like an intervention coming at me from all sides. I know it’s a sign and symptom of too much exertion, not enough sleep, too much hosting & boasting, not enough me-time nor self-care. After six months of visitors and sixty days of traveling (from Sydney to LA to SF to AZ to Sydney to Melbourne to Hamilton to Hong Kong to Macau and back) — what did I expect?
If I’m reflecting honestly on the past week of true holiday hangover, I can also admit that whether “homesick” or “real sick” — was also likely a blessing in disguise. Taking five true days off, in uncharacteristic isolation spent nesting in my recent cave of cozy, gave me the space to reflect on recent events and mourn my Grandma Sioux. Gramz, as we all know her. Being in Hong Kong when I received the news, I pushed on through my work trip and even ascended the unrivalled lookout known as Victoria Peak — feeling as if it were the truest honour I could bestow on her in that circumstance. I couldn’t take in the reality of her departure until I was home, alone but also with my family virtually and in spirit.
Reflecting back on the week since we lost Gramz, I know that what I am is heartsick. From this, I won’t recover swiftly — if ever. The little things above, however? The pictures, the text messages, the teary Facetimes with family and the colorful letters that Gramz held in her skilled fingers only months ago have gone a long way in helping me to celebrate her here in Sydney. My best friend in the world and one of the few who spent quality time with Gramz too sent me this simple yet symbolic, gold candle. Its relentless flame reminds me every minute I burn it of the energy that Gramz instilled in us, her fiery spirit and burning love for her grandkids, and the legacy that I’m so lucky to carry in me. Burn, baby, burn.
As my best friend in Sydney reminded me — and as I hold onto when the heartsick homesick sick-day drags on — Gramz was the first to point out that moving abroad will make me a better broad. Thanks to everyone who’s been there for me from afar.
Abroad down under
My trip to Victoria Peak (left) and the 4 of us donning classic Vickie Sue sass (right)
In the first 90 days of 2018, I have traversed more of the Eastern Coast of Australia than I have the U.S. coasts combined. I'm the luckiest beazy alive, if not for the fact that I live in Sydney with a job and spot I love but because I've had no less than three visitors come to Oz: lifelong friends from LA days that range from childhood romps to collegiate escapades.
I haven't written or drafted or shared with my humans (all twelve of you) for a few reasons: travel fatigue and a classic holiday hangover; logistical obstacles (such as leaving my laptop at home during most of my coastal adventures); most importantly, a strong desire to soak up the present moment and company of my far-away friends. I am dead-set, however, on forever-remembering each ounce of detail from these trips and discoveries. This will hopefully be made possible by my faithful journaling habit, iCloud shared Photo Streams, my kind friends below and their half of our memories, and written recollections of epic proportions (like that in my birthday card from Lys!).
A new romantic prospect (Source: Bumble for iOS) recently asked what I meant by a “holiday hangover.” I am currently enduring Week 3 of a short- to mid-term, treatable condition that consists of multiple familiar symptoms:
Recovery step 1: Reflection
A recent yoga practice spoke to the three layers of our spiritual self: the physical body, the energetic body and the emotional (or inner) body. First, the physical body is what we use and feel daily: our bones and muscles, our skin and exterior senses, pain and tightness and many sorts of pleasure. Second, the energetic body is that which sustains us, provides life: our heart beat and blood flow, our energy and oxygen, the electricity that flows to our fingertips igniting movement and ability. Finally, our emotional self contains the parts we feel only inside: heartache, sadness, joy, relaxation.
These first three months of 2018 have been rich with not only visitors but abundant expeditions and luxuries within, including but not limited to epic views, delicious delicacies, adventurous lodging and discoveries that awe-inspired me. Each of my three layers of self were tried, tested and stretched to new degrees. I fell in love with no less than four new towns and regions and reunited with three lifelong friends in my new reality: Sydney life! Before I reflect on their countless stories, I thought I’d analyse how they’ve left me feeling.
Recovery step 2: Recollection
Reading through my first journal (which spanned the six months of Oz) and current one has been cathartic, perspective-granting and unexpectedly beautiful. My emotions and musings have varied SO widely since my arrival on the evening of August 6th in AEST. The tiniest interactions, some of which have now faded from immediate memory, comprised each brick of the foundation for my imminent assimilation and coming-of-age as a Sydney-sider. Every cafe I tried or window display I passed contained some kind of symbolic reassurance that I was in the right place; signs from the Universe were bountiful if only because I had wide eyes for them. Still do.
Now, I'll tell the story of my explorations across a new land. I'll leave no stone nor palm frond nor seashell unturned. I'll reminisce, re-read journal entries and reach to recall jam-packed days and blurry nights. Most importantly, I'll share that not each leg of this journey or sticky week in Sydney has been flawless nor easy. Though Facebook and Instagram say otherwise, there's an abundance of unspoken (or un-posted, rather) feels, including but not limited to: loneliness, homesickness, stress and anguish, and even guilt and shame for getting lost. In this context, "lost" could mean feeling lost metaphorically, getting temporarily lost within 1k of my flat, and leading friends down the wrong path quite literally until you find yourself hailing a taxi and searching in desperation for a rural motel with a vacancy within the hour.
What do I mean, you ask? Stay tuned, as this might get juicy.
A broad down under
When I embarked upon this journey across the Pacific six months ago, there were countless reasons why and goals in my head that comprised the purpose of this pilgrimage. In seeking a new horizon, greater independence, cultural immersion, international exposure, an open canvas and first home-away-from-home? I brought visions and pictures and lists and to-do items that filled pages and pages of my journals and dreams. A few, my loyal readers have heard about: cooking more, prioritising fitness, cultivating greater well-being, writing regularly.
What I decided recently was that several of these withstood the trials throughout my assimilation into Sydney.
Lesson 1: Certain Daily Doses are essential to my happiness.
These components evolved into my 2018 daily intentions (working draft), and include:
Get fresh air
Connect with framily
Exercise (my mind or body)
Learn something new
The simple ingredients above are much less robust than my goals/intentions in prior years. This could be due to the fact that, while conducting my routine reflection at the end of 2017, I had a two-part a-ha strike me. It came along after reading a personal testimony, reflecting on the aforementioned years past, pondering the countless dreams/ideas/social constructs that influence my goals, and digesting it all alongside multiple accountability partners in my well-being.
My colleague Arlyne wrote a piece on what society and femininity have historically described to us as “having it all.” I know the concept from my own aspirations and musings: I want success and also happiness. I love what I do, and I want more. I value family, and I value my personal development! Exploration! She really seems to have it all; could I do that? How will I manage that?
The borrowed lesson I’ll paraphrase and share is this: Not only does "having it all" look different for everyone; “having it all" might mean something different for me at varying stages of my life — and independence. Of course there are archetypes of what having it all could mean to an adult woman, or any human. However, all I can know with certainty is what I value and want to cultivate in my own life today. Oftentimes while strolling home or journaling, I smile outwardly with heart-about-to-burst gratefulness because I have most all I could have asked for when moving to Sydney: a safe and cozy home, a career and company I enjoy immensely, a new world around me, and the means to see my family through technology and visits. In LA five years ago, I had it made because I had a paying job and my family nearby to fill my days with joy, support and good food (+ free laundry!). Someday, my interests/priorities/happiness-sources may be slightly different. In summary, I’ll take my dreams and actualise them day by day — maybe a year at a time.
Various versions of "having it all" over the past five years
This led me to a subsequent and micro-realisation that blew my mind like a macro-level life one. If I’m not tied to an idea of “it all” or my exact “best life”? Then perhaps I didn’t need the blueprint for the perfect day, either. Over the past four years of learning more of the psychology of happiness, I’ve obsessed over the recipe for the ideal day in the life-of-Cory. It’s been an idea, a working draft and an aspiration for so long that the halo around my outline? It blurred my view, and I failed to realise that a perfect day is different depending on where I’m at and what I need.
Yes, there is virtue in my "dream day” (it’s typically my birthday when proposed in a hypothetical imagination activity): wake to the sun, read, enjoy the best brunch-on-planet cough-at BluJam-cough, go to the beach, see all my favourite people, travel to a new city in a high-speed private jet, dance the night away! However, while certain facets of a strong day repeatedly feed my soul (see intentions above), I accept that other days are for resting and nesting. There will be times that I need to re-charge, and times where I’ll gain from the choice to “tend and befriend.”
Lesson 2: Certain Daily Doses may may be prescribed based on symptoms.
The perfect remedy for Caturday blues and all I want as I write this post
As a child, I had a morbid if subconscious fascination with shipwrecks. I fawned over Ariel’s many treasures, and ability to be awe-struck by gadgets and gizmos. The Swiss Family Robinson’s existence enticed me — what an adventure! — and even the film Castaway hung on my mind for years by the question of what I would do, how I would survive in such a solo crisis.
Fittingly, viewers read a quote in The Shape of Water from a 365-day calendar, one that resonated deeply with existing beliefs of mine like "everything happens for a reason." It stated simply:
Life is but the shipwreck of our plans.
While I hold true to the power of dreaming big and visualising, I also know in my heart that oftentimes blueprints must go out the window. The best things that have happened to me and for me have been [mostly] unplanned: my first trip abroad (thanks Mom), my visit to Jill in Sydney (thanks Josh), my leap of faith toward LinkedIn (thanks Taylor), and my new role in Learning Solutions at LinkedIn that led me to Oz. The best ideas and possibilities for my absolute most authentic self? They may not exist, have crossed my mind nor have been invented yet.
At the outset of my voyage and move to Australia, my sisters gave me a invaluable and unforgettable gift before I left port: My Daily Dose box, filled with over eight-hundred index cards adorned with doodles, photos and words of inspiration. Intended to keep me company and remind me of the crew I have rooting for me around the word, the box contains enough of these doses to start my day or round out my night EVERY SINGLE DAY for two years -- the duration of my work visa.
Over the past six months of my time in Sydney, I've pulled countless cards that made me smile, tear up or laugh out loud. They’re pinned behind my headboard and scattered across all of my room’s surfaces. There are more to come, and they’ve come by text, or iMessage, snail mail from Gramz or hidden in the words of mine and Dad’s latest book club indulgence.
Lesson 3: The most essential Daily Doses may come courtesy of others... or be unknown.
For now, here are a choice top ten lessons learned thanks to the wisdom and generosity of my biggest supporters:
Courtesy of Aunt Nancy and the Lowerre clan:
Courtesy of the lifelong and all-knowing bestie Chelsea Hartling:
Courtesy of the lovely and wise Lauryn Wells:
Courtesy of Grandma Sioux:
And finally, courtesy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a la Dad:
Here's to the unknown doses, blueprints, detours and shipwrecks ahead!
A broad down under
Part 1: The Power of Yasss-tralia
As most of my faithful readers (all twelve of you) know, I find the ridiculous Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel-starring comedy "Yes Man" to be an inspiring though hyperbolic film. The idea that boldly and unconditionally saying Yes to life's every opportunity and odd request has the power to pry open our eyes and hearts? It not only resonates, but has proven true time and time again in my own adventures.
When the idea for my first career transformation came about via a close friend from my first job, I metaphorically compared LinkedIn to a high-speed training rushing toward and past me. I knew I had to jump on, despite my sadness or uncertainty. Saying yes to Linkedin and San Francisco? Best decision of my young life. The same happened when my first collegiate boss/mentor nominated me for a program in Singapore, a global and multicultural explosion-of-a-place that I had never considered let alone researched. This intro led me to explore and fall in love with APAC, bravely say yes to the vacancies in USC's Hong Kong internship exchange two years later, and eventually consider a career in APAC a la Sydney myself. Finally, from saying yes to Carolyn's Iceland expedition to shouting "sure!" to Laura's yacht-party invite on the first day we met in Oz, I couldn't possibly have been rewarded with more joy or novelty for saying “yes.”
Upon arriving in Sydney (and in the weeks leading up), many a friend's advice included not only to say yes, but "Say yes to everything!" I soon realised that this was not sustainable nor necessarily me either. Despite my gregarious and extroverted nature, the rate at which I was absorbing new information, experiences and relationship-vibes was insane... to the point that certain weeks of consecutive beach days, friend dates and harbour nights were leading to imminent exhaustion and couch-potato-syndrome on the weekend.
Don't get me wrong: there are opportunities to which I've thankfully reserved the energy to say YES. Looking back upon my most immersive (and transformative) month yet, I am grateful and relieved that my first-draft of SAY YES-criteria helped me to nail down the most nourishing, unique and gloriously-"Australia" activities:
The first thing that I rightfully said yes to in November was going to the Races for Melbourne Cup Day. Considering even my boss insisted I attend the "Race that stops the country," it was a good choice to take a half day, wear the heels instead of the flats, and even take the first tequila shot at [my new favourite outdoor pub] the Beresford -- which may or may not have been handed to me by the work crush (enter: warning signs *danger zone* etc). Such a fun and memorable day!
This month, I also said yes to returning to Ladies Book club. I could not be happier that I said yes to downloading Glennon Doyle's Love Warrior, reading about our messy shameful lives and their worthiness of acceptance, getting to know inspiring American turned Aussie-permanent-residents like Ash and Kristen, and learning about cultures vastly different from my own thanks to Small Great Things and, most recently, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
I then said yes to Power Living. As much as certain yoga studios and experiences make me feel like a total poser (pun noted and trademarked, FYI), I agreed to try a class that was next to the beach with a new girlfriend and a teammate. I have never sweat more and I have never felt so in tune with my body, mind and spirit. I've now been to four classes, three in the calm morning-time, two with some serious sweat and one in Manly Beach instead of Bondi. My favourite parts? The ocean breezes via the skylight, the touch-base with Mother Earth when in child's pose, and that soothing scent of sage and sandalwood that permeates the foyer and entire studio in both locations I've seen so far.
If you recall, I said yes to Girls Gone International -- the most unlikely yet similar group of expat women, world travelers and adventurers, intro- and extroverts alike -- who gather to find community and camaraderie in their new homes, filled with uncertainty. After choosing the sunrise kayak and being vehemently rewarded, I opted into cocktails on a Friday after work only to meet countless fun women, connect with two of the Trojan variety (Fight On!), and make one friend who I instantly loved (and definitely felt drawn to due to her nerdy librarian Lynda glasses like mine!). She and I later went on our first friend-date for burgers and boy talk; I'm now sharing Christmas eve and my upcoming housewarming with a few of these keepers!
Nearing the end of this eventful month, I said yes to Friendsgiving. When Alesia (yogi friend mentioned above) invited me to a strangers' Thanksgiving feast in a new neighbourhood, I wasn't sure what to expect -- I knew that I'd at least turn out with new friends. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised! While I was definitely met with a dinner party alright, it ended up being 40 people and the same number of dishes, dances and drinking games. There were dancing gals from all countries of origin and even a rendezvous with an American sailor who walked me along the beach in some God-forsaken and very un-Sydney-like rain the next day. I guess it was kind of magical.
There are so many things I said yes to that it's actually hard to keep track. And why do I keep beating myself up, you ask? I said yes to new friends, intros galore, and fitness (from yoga to soccer to personal training, as you've read). I said yes to trying, to showing up, and to conducting an event for my client in Melbourne that took me on my second trip there! It's almost as if it was going too well to last forever...
Part 2: What I Learned about saying Yes in No-vember
First, I said yes to a point that caused a faux pas. At the end of the month, I made a first-of-its-kind mistake in my three years at LinkedIn and missed a decently sized, virtual client event. It's like I got too comfortable; I was busy saying yes to every client and every request, to seeing the town and staying out late. I suppose I then said yes too eagerly without thoughtfully planning (or calendar-ing) the commitment, which led me to fail a client, let down a teammate and disappoint myself. I was ashamed, had been forgetful, and maybe needed to take a hint from the Universe.
Fortunately, I've also been saying yes to learning opportunities, podcasts, Netflix recs and LinkedIn Learning courses in my newsfeed (see above). If I learned one thing in this course, it's Lesson 1: a failure is a single frame in a LONG strip of film. One error or proven experiment is not a testament to who we are or even what people think of us.
On the other hand, maybe I had pushed myself too far. A long month of sun, sea, socialising and sipping drinks didn't allow much time to recover. So, the Universe intervened again and said: Cory, it's okay not to say yes to everything. Don't believe me? Fine: I'll show you. At the start of December, I took a wrong step (shamefully clad in tennis shoes) on the soccer field and felt that lurch in my gut that comes with a sprain. Convincing enough, Cor? It was a test, I'm sure of it; barred from stairwells, my upstairs living room and definitely the playing fields, I was tempted all December long by friends, fun things and all the things aligned with most core values: family, adventure, simple pleasures like sushi (all the way across town). Was this a sign that I often try to balance too much?
As the month of yes-vember came to a close I thought, wrote and realised that it might be a good thing. I felt this overwhelming sense of fatigue coming over me, as if I over-exerted and -extended my efforts, intentions, interest and invitation to the Universe for more. Discouraged by my injury and saturated with paradoxical inspiration from podcasts like Oprah's and books by Brené, I felt paralysed by that torn feeling between enthusiasm and terror, mental energy and physical fatigue. I had remorse for pushing too hard, neither stretching (nor buying cleats) and for ignoring both my gut instinct and oncoming head-cold that morning of the soccer game. Then again, I was reminded with not-so-subtle symbols of Lesson 2: The many people looking out for me can serve as sanity-checkers, sounding boards and bumpers to my bowling lanes. Friends drove me home, my flatmate Rupert brought me dinner and icepacks, and a colleague just happened to call me and check in the next morning as she was passing by my house?! In the spirit of the holiday season (and my Last Watched on Netflix): It's as if God sent in his angels full force a la It's a Wonderful Life.
The setback led me to say YES to lazy pool days and letting someone else play "Tour guide" for once
Earlier this month, I decided to sleep in on a Sunday and opt out (aka bail on) a few activities I had planned, including morning yoga and a tour along my other favourite beach: Manly. Thank goodness I rested my weary soul, and thank goodness my new friends gave me another chance: a new acquaintance Justine asked if I'd be willing to venture in the afternoon instead and so, when I got a surge of energy, I rounded up my favorite new athleisure instead of getting ready and took my absolute favourite ferry ride through the perfect breeze and choppy harbour. Lesson 3: Saying no to one thing makes room for something else. I had the perfect afternoon almost unexpectedly. I walked, treated myself to Yogurtland for old times' sake (instantly reminded of USC days), explored the side streets that are off- shoots of Manly's boardwalk and saw open air markets, cute gift ideas and the This & That boutique where a separate new friends works. :) Finally, with Power Living next door and my afternoon dates dying for a workout, we checked in for what became my favourite yoga class to date in Sydney: It was calming, static and deep, sweat-inducing but not overly hot, just breezy enough and tasty from the salty air outside
I had such a good time meeting Justine and Chad, walking them along the Manly beach walk and showing them a brewery (where it was my first visit too!). We had delicious shared plates; I loved the infamous ginger beer, setting sun and conversation about life, career, entrepreneurship and life goals. I cruised home through an epic Sydney sunset high on inspiration re: living off house-sitting/ literal "couch surfing" in order to explore a new land the way they were.
While forbidden from exercise and seeping with reflections and ideas, I had the opportunity to attend a unique career workshop that my office was hosting: the topic? Transformation. Needless to say, I mustered one last yes.
In a ninety-minute exercise, I thought more deeply about my aspirations and the fears/insecurities/fixed-mindset narratives that keep me for reaching wholly toward them. I recalled wanting to live abroad... I realised that I still want to travel solo to an unknown land, continue to discover my independence, and write a work for the world about it: a novel, a memoir or a piece to remember me by (hence the return to this blog!). I want it to reflect what I've learned so that someone else can feel confident enough to explore beyond the reef; I want it to contain the shortcuts that were lent to me and I want it to inspire someone to grab life by the collar, say yes to speeding trains and no to non-essentials by leaping into uncertainty, not with the absence of fear but with the FIRE of it. I want to be a Jill of all Trades and Mistress of None; I want to say yes and listen close for when to say no, because Lesson 5: some things in life might only happen once. I want to stay safe and still push myself beyond what I might know now in favour of what I don't know or do YET.
In an episode of Super Soul conversations with Oprah and Liz Gilbert, LG says that we all are unanimously asked or beckoned to The Call of: what is it we were put here to do? That is the first vulnerable part: listening to and pondering the question, so that Lesson 6: our core values can help us know when to say yes. Finding the answer? This might take what I'm here to do: lean into the discomfort, love shamelessly and wholeheartedly, and fail a few more times if I need to because I'm not perfect and I'm not alone. I have my NP fam, my LA and SF framilies, my new Sydney posse and a nearly global clan rooting for me from around this world!
Jill once told me that there are no such things as mistakes, only experiments. Failed romance? Simply the work of heart-refining, as "all love ends in heartbreak until the one with whom it doesn't." Failures at work? Attempts at creative genius that simply provide more pieces of evidence. As I heard on a timely TedRadioHour episode called Failure is an Option: Failure as the cost of innovation equates to learning. Finally, my favourite book on the planet Daring Greatly might read that Lesson 7: failure as the outcome of courage is vulnerability. That sounds brave to me.
Last but not least, tonight I said yes to what my mind, body and soul have been craving all along: a “me night.” The work week came to a close, the Christmas lights in my living room beckoned and after eight days straight of festivities and fun, I realised that there was no harm in saying no to Friday night’s events. I was finally saying yes to ME (as well as #NetflixandChill with James Stewart).
In a few more words of BB, here's to knowing myself and saying yes with a strong back, soft front and wild heart always.
A broad down under
Yesterday marked three months to the day since I had my last fish & chips, classic SF-Sunday Bloody Mary and jetted off for Hawaii en route to Sydney International. By no coincidence, recent days have been nostalgic and quite reflective. After a long month of adventures, reunions, goodbyes and new beginnings (more on these later), I am happy to say that I’m feeling symbolically settled here! I cut the tag off my bathmat and removed some from my throw pillows; I hung a shelf, more Kodak prints and even a local painting above my bed.
Last weekend, I awoke to my first relentless and rainy downpour in Australia. It felt mystical and a little sappy, the type of metaphorical weather that causes us to snuggle deeper into our covers -- and feelings. It begged the natural, rainy day behaviour: sleeping in, opening the windows (just a crack though), reflecting on sad things, and thinking about Mother Earth’s reasons for crying. Her too!?
The emotions could have been due to exhaustion; in October alone, I traveled to Melbourne, LA, SF and back to SYD for a whirlwind reunion with near all of my favourite people. In this shortened, time-travel-filled month, I experienced my first international trip from Oz and first visit home, my first entry back to the US and my first time at my old office and former home in months. On top of inaugural logistics feats, I also attended my first wedding of a dear old friend, walked down my first aisle (as a bridesmaid people calm down), had my first fling and played in my first soccer game in at least four years! Finally, I am currently witnessing the first (and an epic) Dodgers World Series in my lifetime, from the distance of my first international home during my first bout of living outside of CA — study abroad not included. It’s been exhilarating and exhausting.
While lounging in Chelsea’s apartment back in SF -- perhaps only the third of all places in the world I’d currently consider home -- she asked me if I felt as though I’ve been “holding back” from truly immersing in my new city, knowing that I’d be coming back to CA for a visit with all of my people. My first thoughts were defensive and insecure; I’ve been trying so hard, saying yes, meeting countless new people and adventuring enough to wipe myself out!
But maybe, deep down, I was awaiting quality time with my family so fiercely that I wasn’t pursuing life here as actively as I could. Instagram stories paint my picture-perfect moments: charting new waters, trying gelato whenever I can and capturing forever-novel views like those with the Harbour Bridge framing the top of them. But there are hard moments too. I miss my “family” (in all meanings of the word) and long to be a part of the fam-events and moments, from holidays to average Tuesdays. I haven’t found my rhythm, my comfort meals, nor my shortcuts; I still step into traffic and trip over flaws in my sidewalks!
Despite my doubts and recent writer’s block, maybe every moment to this point has happened at the exact pace and intersection it was meant to. What if this annoying and view-impeding scaffolding outside my new bedroom windows was placed there with a purpose: to help me truly hear the pitter patter of this first cleansing rain outside my new home, and to oblige me to pause, look inward and shift my perspective?
In October, as it turns out, I had strategically and subconsciously planned a jam-packed week of fun for my return. The highlights of this first week, now dubbed as my recommended preventative homesickness-remedy, were as follows:
Monday night: Book club! Not only did I absolutely inhale an inspirational memoir (read: Love Warrior) and adopt an instantaneous community of power-females; I explored a new part of town, enjoyed my first taste of suburban adult-living in Sydney and got ideas for my eventual dream nook. Our host, a friend of a first-friend through LinkedIn, was hospitable and warm, open and nurturing. There were teachers and tech gals and beauty consultants and a psychologist. Like-minded women with a wider diversity of thought than I see on the daily invoked total encouragement.
Tuesday night: Soccer game. Against my most primal fears and insecurities, I said yes to playing with a co-ed crew at work who have constantly welcomed me but simultaneously intimidated! Of course, everyone was nicer than I could have imagined and similar unique in stories and backgrounds. The best part of yes was the rooftop beer schooner shared after the game in celebration of our win. I felt totally exhilarated and weirdly nostalgic to be back on a grassy field like on so many adolescent weeknights…plus, I got an assist!
Wednesday and Friday: Plenty of LinkedIn love. My team, delivering on Linkedin’s newest business line in the Australian fiscal’s year’s rising summer season, decided to host a first-of-its-kind client event: it fostered mingling, brainstorming and learning from a few industry front-runners through a panel of speakers. It was my favourite type of work activity! Meeting new clients and learning from our internal rockstar about the learning and development industry renewed my enthusiasm for all that I’m learning in this new job. The other occasion I returned to was my favourite day of the month at LinkedIn: “InDay,” where the company let’s us get out to invest in ourselves, the company or the world. In one day, I learned about an Australian charity benefiting a world unknown in Cambodia, sat through a workshop on cultivating a path toward my own career dreams, AND did my first-ever presentation to the Sydney office on the platform I work on: LinkedIn Learning. Nerd alert! See below.
Wednesday eve & the weekend: Fun by the sea. Finally, I got face-time with my old friend The Pacific during a Friday adventure, day-drinks for a departing teammate and sushi dinner with a new friend. There is nothing to make you appreciate your presence in a place like a “going-away party” for someone else! Seeing the gorgeous harbour in Woolloomooloo, Bondi Beach again at twilight or my second favourite bay — that beneath the Opera House — up close instantly made me feel at home again and reconnected. I know that ocean like the back of my hand. I knew I loved it here for a reason! Aussie treats help too (see below).
The best parts of my routine which I was happy to return to:
The highlights (in hindsight) of my first ninety days:
The day I left my first Bae and her golden gated arms, I couldn’t have guessed I’d be coasting beneath her sister Down Under’s iron crown a few months later.
Saturday, rising before 4:30a (by some natural and unexpected phenomena) and showering off my fatigue rewarded me with a new friend and neighbour, a warm mocha awaiting me and a view unrivalled by any other in Sydney. I don’t remember another time I’ve risen for that kind of sunrise… unless it was for a flight or dreaded soccer tournament road trip as a kid! I dressed in my favourite Sydney tourist get-up — not unlike my Halloween costume from the night prior and yep, you guessed it: wore my gray vest again — and jaunted a whole three minutes up to Liverpool Street in Surry. My carpool saviour was named Corinne from Byron, and we got to the Lavender Bay docks (new territory!) to meet the remaining five females plus host-guides and coffee-providers. Ben (who runs the tour company Sydney by Kayak) and Danny (the cute photographer) loaded our gear, gave us a few paddling tips and pushed us out into the shark-filled harbour. Somehow, my kayak filled with neither water nor dread. The flags of my new finish line in the distance? The HB and the O House herself.
Two long days, twenty new friends, two harbour crossings and two home-cooked meals later, I’ve earned the entire bowl of popcorn-for-four I'm eating while watching Stranger Things on NetflixAU. Stranger things have happened. I kind of wish I had a giant Diet Coke and Mom to share it with me.
I can’t believe the miles or waves I’ve covered in the last twelve hours let alone past three months (especially since after the most serene and pleasant kayak in recent memory, I headed over to Manly). I don’t know of any other route/mode of transit combo — except perhaps kayaking through the same waters — that I love more than the breezy passenger ferry past Sydney’s main edges to the north islands like Manly Beach. I indulged in a sun-bath and most of the lyrical soundtrack to Moana, of course. As I FaceTimed Summer briefly and giggled about our old pastimes, recent lovers and upcoming adventures, I realised how much I miss comforts like her presence, our apartment... Simba! My old house and even my old ferry from Sausalito; will the novelty and amazingness of here soon feel like home?
I realised, also thanks to Summer and some of the other friend-wisdoms I collected whilst back home: I don’t have to build a replica of my dreamy-seeming SF life here in Oz. The only constant is change, and as roomies and Villa North Beach and people have changed in the past few months, so have I. I couldn’t have been more blessed with friends and discoveries across my first Bae. Maybe here, at twenty-eight and in a new role and country, I will have a new number of friends I call family. Maybe I’ll try long-time traditions like soccer and love them; maybe I’ll retire marathons and embrace yoga, a few new ones! I won’t rely on old comforts but I’ll keep exploring and indulging in things I love.
Wish you were here!
A broad down under
Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island and a girl who loves the sea; it calls me.