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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Changing and learning and Christmas

Year's end approaches, and I don't feel like the calendar brings a fresh start this time around. I suppose it's because the last 12 months have been full of fresh starts. So 2016 must be about continuing, learning, experimenting, getting used to life as it is now.

I pushed very hard for the first three months of freelancing, and now in Month Four, I'm in a good place. I like my clients, I'm interested in my work, I reckon I can ease off the accelerator and try a few things out. I don't want to call this a groove, because a groove so easily becomes a rut when you're not looking. This is a pit stop.

What I'm excited to try over the next few months:

Finishing my manuscript. Forget the thrill of completing a first draft - that's so three weeks ago. Now, it's like someone gave me a new toy for Christmas. One I can fiddle with until it becomes something another person can read without vomiting. It's nice to not be starting from scratch. Even though my first draft is a pile of poo, I am still one first draft ahead of where I would otherwise be. Yay!

Making a product. I spent the last 6 months in prototyping and testing (ie. ruminating over a test piece). Then my prototype failed. Then I found a better way to go about the production. And now I'm waiting on materials so I can make a batch. I'm spending a lot of spoons on the freelance writing side of my life right now, but nowhere near as many spoons as when I was still working an office job. So, hopefully the new materials are legit, and this thing can finally be done.

Trying fermenting and pickling. Since I can't keep furry and feathered livestock yet, I shall start with microscopic ones. A friend gave me a glossy wipe-clean booklet on fermentation, and offered one of her Herman babies when he's ready. That plus a kombucha SCOBY, kefir from Mum, and whatever vinegar mothers I find in our pantry should jumpstart a nice bubbling, smelly kitchen.

Cleaning my typewriter. Did you know one of the best typewriter oils on the market is the same oil you use in a gun? Neither did I. I have an old Olivetti Lettera 22 I've been meaning to get in touch with. As time passes, my fingers grow increasingly itchy to pull it apart, scrub under the folds, and give it a rub down. Today, I made a shopping list of tools and supplies for this project.

my cousin's Christmas ham

This Christmas felt like the least stressful in a long time. Instead of everyone buying gifts for everyone, we played Secret Santa. I used to have doubts about this game, as it's always been associated with office parties and buying for people I hardly know. But it's way less awkward among friends and family. Turning our family gift habits into a game made things fun again. Especially with a low price limit, giving us licence to get creative.

Actually, we tried a couple new Christmas practices in my family this year. The main one being that Mum doesn't shoulder the burden of feeding everyone. She's our local matriarch, and has always assumed responsibility for putting on a banquet. But this year, family lunch was pot luck.

What I observed:

  • Everyone contributed.
  • Every dish was a conversation piece.
  • There was no one person having to worry about everything.
  • There was no reason for anyone to feel like they weren't doing enough.

Best of all, Mum didn't have to spend a day and a half preparing everything.

I've learned I'm sensitive to patterns and repetition. Particularly in the last few years, I've felt at odds with my family's Christmas habits. They're more habits than traditions, as we don't fiercely cling to them as much as fall back on them when the holiday arrives. At times, they've struck me as the perpetuation of activity long after we'd run out of circumstances that made them ideal. Like when people move from mild climates to arid ones, yet still insist on keeping a lawn.

I suspect my growing stress over the years has had something to do with falling back on habits no longer suitable for the climate. I daresay we once found our groove, and somewhere along the way, it became a rut. At least for me. My mum is not old, but older. Us kids - my siblings, cousins and I - are now the adults. We have income and responsibilities, passable cooking skills and a new generation of kids to treat. And as people, we change and grow, and learn new things about each other. Maybe I'm the only one in my family who thinks so, but these new habits seem to me like the right fit for where we are today.

Can I call them "new habits"? Next year could be different still. Hopefully we'll be able to adapt.

Shut up and eat your nutrient paste

We've been eating Soylent. Yep. It's not as gross or bland as I expected. Certainly looks like it could be made of people, but tastes like biscuits. The one we got is vanilla Aussielent. It's formulated to Australian RDI (recommended daily intake) standards, which meant nothing to me until I had a serve and felt full. No, actually, I only had half a serve, and it did me fine.

It blows my mind how cheap this is compared to real food. Not that it's fake food, but like... aaah. The whole thing blows my mind. It works out to $4 a meal, but it's not junk food. HOW CAN THIS BE?!?!

Anyway, I... like it? I think. It's only been a couple of days, and I'm not replacing all my meals - no chance of that until they make a NongShim flavour. If you're a protein shake kind of person, this could be for you. But I'm having mine hot and thick like a Horlicks. I hope the hot water isn't de-nourishing my nutrients.

Aussielent soylent powder

This first month of my new freelancing/making/homesteading life has tempered many of the anxieties that plagued me throughout my career. It's been interesting to discover that even accomplished and proven freelancers/creatives worry about being terrible. Award-winning Moby, for example:

"When you're working by yourself you can lose objectivity so quickly and molehills become mountains. I'll be working on a song and if I can't get the kick drum to sound right I'll think I'm a failure and walk around Manhattan, mourning my fate. It doesn't matter that I've made lots of records in the past. All that matters is I can't get one kick drum right. And all I can think about is my career's over and I'm going to have to become a fries chef at McDonalds."

--- Moby (pg 63, Future Music 84, July 1999)

(Thanks, Kohan, for sending me this!)

Anyway, the big lesson I learned last month was that it doesn't matter if you feel like a fake (impostor syndrome) or not good enough (perfectionism). What matters is getting the job done, and having it not be just plain shit. The best part is that worrying about this at all shows you're capable of making something better than shit. Creativity will happen through you - most of the time, you just have to get out of the way and let it do its thing. Otherwise you don't get paid and you can't afford to eat. Not even $4 soylents.

I don't expect to wake up tomorrow feeling like a million bucks forever, but today, I have a slightly better process for dealing with the lows. Maybe next week, it will be slightly better still.

And the highs that kept me going:

  • Learning more about plants - the different types, how to care for them, and what they're suitable for. I'm working on a plants site that I will show you soon.

  • Landing a private gardening job. Self-paced hours and room for creativity. My client wants to grow vegetables and herbs too. As a horticulturist, subsistence gardening is the area I'm most interested in, so you can imagine how stoked I am to veggie up a piece of someone's backyard.

  • Learning how to change a tap. And it not leaking after. (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT)

  • Making progress with making. Very slow progress, but I'm OK with that. I have almost all my materials to make my first batch of stuff. More on that later.

  • Getting a guest article accepted by GardenDrum - wee!! If you love cats and gardens, go read it and let me know what you think: How to design and plant a garden for cats

Mona checks out an ivy nook

When setbacks are things to work around

screenshot of my writing folio site, sandylim.me

My writing folio is up. Wanna see? sandylim.me

I spent three days agonising over what platform to use. Three days. I remember when I'd have a new site up within hours of wanting it - back when we weren't so spoiled for choice of free website providers.

Wait. I take that back. We did have plenty of choices, but not so many good ones. Today, Weebly and Wix make it so easy to instantly publish a nice site. Weebly moreso, because you get a nicer URL with the free account. Wordpress.com is also good, but I didn't need all those features. In the end, I went with old mate Tumblr for the super simple, pleasurable user experience.

HEAR THAT? GOOD USER EXPERIENCE.

For the last 10 days, my feet have been shuffling awkwardly in whichever direction felt best. Lots of trial and error going on here, and overcoming bad habits of self-doubt. Hanging over me is the constant fear that this won't work, that it'll never work, and I'm stupid for thinking it could. I feel like an impostor and wishful thinker.

But people tell me these feelings are normal, and I must stay the course. I dare not look too far ahead in case I get distracted by shiny things, but it seems safe to look back and reflect a bit, so here goes.

In the last week-and-a-bit, I have:

  • Experienced much fear, anxiety, insecurity and worry. It helps knowing everyone goes through this when adjusting to new circumstances, but it still sucks.

  • Also experienced excitement, optimism and what I can only describe as luck. This keeps me going. When obstacles feel less like setbacks and more like things to work around, you know things can't be too bad... or can they?

  • Consulted on someone's garden. That felt very good. I love doing this.

  • Been given a chance to try for a guest blogging spot at a reputable gardening site. It took all of my courage to contact them, so hearing back blew my mind a bit.

  • Tested my latest batch of homemade soap. It turned out better than expected. A couple more trial runs and I'll be ready to make my first soap 'product'. (Shame it takes 8 weeks to know if a batch is good. See you next year.)

  • Started playing games on Lumosity. They're supposed to be good for your brain, but I can't speak for the science of it. At the very least, small victories with cute pictures give me placebo confidence.

The plan for today is to work on my guest blog story and make a fabric & haberdashery shopping list. I have almost all the supplies I need to start sewing. More to come.

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