sanlive.com

Hello, my name is Sandy.

On longer days like yesterday

Worked late last night and didn't have time to write a post. No matter. I'm writing one now.

Freelancing has given me the opportunity to bust out of the 9-5 routine. Even working two days a week now, I don't feel as constrained as I used to. It was hard stepping out of that designed lifestyle mindset. I understand why people might struggle to feel productive and confident after switching out of full-time work. Waking up not needing to be anywhere is an odd feeling at first.

But the first time I chose to end my day at 3pm and snooze in a hammock for an hour was pretty sweet. It's what makes the longer days - like yesterday - not seem so tiresome and ridiculous. With discipline and mindfulness, everything balances out soon enough.

My work-life balance has changed, become irrelevant now that I consider my split to be life-life. Tobias van Schneider talks about this in his article on why work-life balance is bullshit - tl;dr when you do what you love (or love what you do), you don't need work-life balance.

He's right, sort of. I mean, it's rather privileged to make a blanket statement about not bothering with balance. Not everyone is in a position for that to be the case right away. But work-life balance is a stopgap until you get to life-life, and both are lovely things to aim for.

Balance applies to life-life too. At least for me, pursuing one thing too single-mindedly is a fast track to burning out - no matter how much I enjoy it.

Missing yesterday's #blogjune post has given me a reason to question what I'm doing. Is this still enjoyable? Is it worth doing two posts today to make up for yesterday?

I guess it is. So, off I go to write the next post.

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.

Eggs for breakfast

The only free range eggs at my supermarket had a week left on their Best Before date. No problem, I think, I'll find a way to eat twelve eggs by then. This will be no problem.

Six egg sandwiches later, I'm thinking about the times you need to adapt to the changing circumstances in your life. Sometimes these changes surprise you (death, redundancies, being sick of egg sandwiches); sometimes you get to plan for them (Best Before dates and corrective surgery). And other times, the only change is you finally realising.

Last month, I interviewed to join a team of groundskeepers maintaining an upmarket campus garden. The interviewers were nice and seemed positive, and I left feeling there was a very real prospect of my getting the job. This made me feel sick. Not fooly sick - I mean the bad kind.

I had that same sick feeling after interviewing at a lovely local garden shop. I didn't get the job. I didn't get the groundskeeper job either. And both times, upon receiving the rejection, I felt relieved. It's weird, isn't it? Most of the time, we fear rejection, but there have been many times in my life where something inside me responds with, Shit, you dodged a bullet there.

I indulged in a few days of introspection. You know the drill. You get on with life, sparing clock cycles out of every task to mull things over in the back of your mind. In the end, I realised there was no denying it. I don't want to work as a gardener. I enjoy my private, casual garden jobs because they're with people I know and trust, and I can plan a schedule that works for everyone.

I also realised I'm enjoying the freelance writing way more than I expected. I thought the business side of it would kill me by now, but it's been fun meeting new people, getting reacquainted with old colleagues, and getting to explore the very broad spectrum of what being a writer entails. The hustle, on my own terms, has made me feel awake.

I feel a lot of pressure to get experience in the garden industry. Maybe it's my impostor syndrome kicking in again: how can I call myself a horticulturist if I'm not employed to act as one? I certainly can't call myself a homesteader until we're on a rural block... or can I? We're eating lemons off our own tree. I ate tomatoes from my own garden. I grew the ridiculous zucchini that taunts me from the fridge. Once again, identity seems to play a huge part in being comfortable with life decisions. I don't want to be a gardener. I'm pretty sure I want to be a homesteader, among other things.

Perhaps the experience I thought I wanted isn't the experience I need. If we do make it out to the sticks, I don't see myself amped about driving around to maintain people's gardens. I want to grow primary produce and create good products with as little evil as possible in the supply chain. Seems obvious now, in saying that, where my focus should be.

Today, I boil two eggs for breakfast. When I get back to my desk, I find the cat has stolen my chair. No problem, I think, I will steal someone else's chair. Life happens. We happen.

And we adapt.

the cat sleeping in my chair

What I've been up to lately

It has barely been two months, but offices and cubicles feel so foreign already. This morning, I got out of bed at 9. Is this the slippery slope to becoming nocturnal again? I hope not. I like getting up early nowadays. But for the last few nights - tsk, tsk - I've stayed up past midnight, reading.

Reading. This is now essential to my professional development. Even fun reading has become a matter of study. Heaps of things are now a matter of study. I may as well tell people I'm a full-time student with heaps of prac assignments.

So here's what's been going on:

Gardenhand - After spending 2 years bumbling over how to do this, it's finally live: my gardening blog. Not much to look at now, but I have a pile of notes and drafts waiting to be written properly - answers to questions people have asked me about setting up and maintaining their gardens, little how-to's, and tips for outdoor and indoor planting.

Office Plants - Speaking of indoor planting, this project has also been keeping me busy and out of trouble. Friends setting up small businesses and home offices have asked about putting greenery in drab indoor spaces. So I'm building this site as a resource for busy office people, and as an excuse to study and grow more plants. I am loving my maidenhair fern, which I bought after writing the plant profile.

hand-lettered poster, work in progress

A hand-lettered poster - Some days, I wake up full of self-doubt. My Inner Critic suggests I'm delusional for thinking my recent life changes could ever work. Standing next to my Inner Critic, though, is an odd pair of characters. I can't find a reference to them on wiki, but I call them my Inner Drill Sergeant and Inner Cheerleader. I'm not crazy, I promise. These guys only live in my head. I know they're not real. :) Sarge is all brass tacks. He reminds me that I don't get to eat if I don't get shit done. Cheerleader is sweeter. She hangs onto positive, motivational quotes for the days I need them. Anyway, this work-in-progress poster is of something she's told me often since I started freelancing.

Inktober (day 4) - I started playing Inktober, thinking it would be a breeze after 100 teacups, but... nope. I got six days in, which you can see on my insta. It was fun, but some days, I didn't feel like drawing. I wanted to read about plants, fuss over my new tillandsia, do art that didn't involve ink. Oh well, there's always next year. I do want to finish the story of this boy and his sea adventure. Maybe I can do Inkvember and Inkcember.

Writing, and editing. I can now say I've gone through the process of pitching, writing, revising, and selling a story. Yay, achievement unlocked! More on that later, when I get a copy of the newsletter running the article. I also hit a small milestone last week in writing an article over 2000 words. I didn't think I'd ever have the patience for that, but well - it's done and I feel ever so slightly more capable.

Reading. The damn book that's been keeping me up was "Xenocide" by Orson Scott Card. So good. I thought it would be an extension of a town's relationship with the native population, but it turned into this massive question of philosophy and ethics. I love story books that give you things to bring back to real life. I've just finished reading "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" by Justin Cawthorne. It's a fast read, and gave me the creeps, like a good horror story should. It also kept me up late. I'm now confident I'll blitz my 20 book pledge.

Ned's Pup - A fundraiser for an extended family member with autism. Ned's a good kid. :) It was nice to use my website-making skills to help out. The family are running a couple of events to help raise the money - small charity dinners, a quiz night, stuff like that. We're sitting on $2100 at the moment, so there's a long, long way to go.

And finally, Planetbase - It's like Dwarf Fortress, but in space. I love base builder and resource management games. And I love space. After spending the day super focused on tilling the career fields, it's nice to go colonise a planet. Mm, come on, little space men and women. Build me a bio-dome. ^____^

Now, how bout you? What have you been up to?

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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