uni

Life goes on

I have survived an entire semester of Psych Honours, woo! With (some) of my sanity intact.

Last semester was exhausting.  The workload was intense.  I missed most family events, skipped all work socialising, didn’t see my friends, cancelled the gym membership and basically lived the life of a hermit.  Fast forward to midyear, and I’m over it, I can’t live my life like that again.  Yes, grades were good, but I don’t think it’s worth my sanity.  So I’ve made the decision to not apply for masters next year, and it feels liberating.  Even this semester, I’m increasing my hours at work and have rejoined the gym, because all work and no play makes Jhil go cray cray.

The midyear break has been fantastic though, I’ve started to live my life again.  Highlights include:

Batman: The Killing Joke – took my husband to see this as an early anniversary surprise and we loved it.  Aside from the bizarre Batgirl plot (wtf?!), it was exactly what I hoped for – dark, complex, and a little bit ambiguous.

The Cure – this band got me through teenage angst, and I’d never seen them live, so this was a big deal.  The gig itself was incredible, ran for 3 hours and had about 5 encores.  Robert Smith still sounds amazing, and I was transported back to the 80s.

Lots of binge watching Netflix/TV

  • Stranger Things – LOVE! Can’t recommend enough.  80’s nostalgia ❤
  • Marcella – I love a messed up female protagonist who still manages to kick arse
  • Game of Thrones – FINALLY found the time to watch it, had read the books previously though

However, all good things must come to an end, and classes resume today.  Here’s hoping I can balance my life a little better this semester.

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3 months can make a difference

The last 3 months have been emotionally taxing.

I finished my final exams and felt some sadness at having to leave this university.  Unfortunately, they only offer psychology honours 2.5 hours away from where I live, so studying there wasn’t viable.  But that said, I wasn’t guaranteed to be offered honours anywhere else, so I was quietly worried that I’d have to accept an offer from RMIT and either commute massively each day or move houses.

On top of this, I was burnt out from studying all year without a break (studied overseas midyear).  I managed to have 2 full days off work where I lounged around and played Fallout 4 to my hearts content.  This brief bout of lazy happiness ended, and I increased my work hours to full-time.

 

Soon after,  I was offered a secondment in what seemed like a normal role, but I eventually realised it was much more difficult than I expected.  I was leading a team who appeared to be fully functioning and well skilled, however it turned out that they had just passed through the forming-storming phases, and were yet to norm.  These meant many issues, technical errors, and arguments about the best way to do thing.  3 months later, this role has come to an end, and I’m hopeful that I’ve helped them transition and left them in a stronger position then when I began.

During this time, I also graduated.  I can’t describe the joy I felt from receiving the certificate and celebrating with loved ones.  After going through high school imagining I was dumb, hearing similar comments from my mother, it was a huge relief to have that piece of paper that proves otherwise.  I received my final results soon after, and although they weren’t as great as I would have liked, they weren’t bad at all.

Then the worrying began.  Were my results good enough to get into honours? Each university only takes in approx 20-60 honours students, so it’s incredibly competitive.  I began to doubt my own abilities, and when I received the offer from RMIT I immediately accepted.  Then the other offers started to come in, and instead of it being a relief, it actually became a lot harder to decide what to do.  The first offer that came through was from a lesser institution, so I declined.  The third offer was also a less credible institution, however I accepted, to ensure I wouldn’t commute 2.5 hrs each way each day.  More offers, more changes.  It was exhausting.  It was only in the last fortnight that I finally received an offer that ticked all the boxes – credible institute and decent location (45 min travel time) but I was still hesitant to cancel all other offers because the next hurdle had to be surmounted.

Getting the right supervisor is tough at the best of times, and it requires students to really put themselves out there.  You have to somehow figure out what you’re interested in (hard when undergrad only gives a shallow understanding of many topics, with no opportunity to get in-depth with anything), find supervisors at the uni you’ve been accepted into who not only match your interests but are also experienced, well qualified, and can give you the support you need, and then convince them that they should supervise you for the next 12 months.  It was even harder for me, because by accepting this offer late in the process, I had very limited options of available supervisors.

Somehow it all worked out in the end.  Earlier this week I met with 2 supervisors who sounded great, and in person, one clearly stood out as having a similar work ethic as myself.  The relief I felt when she confirmed that she would be happy to supervise me was MASSIVE.

 

Now the next part of this journey begins.  I’ve heard that honours year in psych is quite literally the worst year of most people’s lives.  Worse than undergrad, masters, PhD.  Apparently I should expect ~3 hours sleep at night and zero social life.

With it starting in less than 2 weeks, I’m now hoping to manage people’s expectations.  I’ve reduced my work hours even more, warned family I might not see them weekly anymore, and now I need to break the news to my friends that I’m probably not going to be around this year.  Other than that, I’m trying to do all of my favourite things.  Socialising, cooking, video games, vegging on the couch, gym.

I imagine this will be a year for a lot of sacrifice.  Hopefully I survive with my sanity intact.

 

Gratitude #5

Woo! Last day of writing a gratitude list for uni!

Firstly, a reflection.  Writing a list every day has been a bit annoying and time consuming, but I think it’s really made this week more enjoyable.  This grey, wet weather has been getting me down, and I’ve been struggling with juggling uni, work and gym.  On top of that, Pete’s having a stressful time at work, so it would’ve been really easy to be unhappy, irritable or argumentative this week.

Instead, I’ve found myself exercising greater appreciation of the small things and by talking about it and sharing it with others, I feel like I’ve been able to spread the happiness.

Alongside gratitude, we also did some readings on savouring.  One reading in particular stood out, the author was a professor and he said he was going to be doing a speech to recognise some undergrad psych students for their academic achievements.  He told them to really savour the moment, to listen to every word in his speech, to congratulate themselves and allow a moment of self-pride and to share this moment with others if they could, either by taking family members along, by calling them afterwards or even writing a letter about the experience.

This really struck a chord with me, because I’m very much aware of the tall-poppy syndrome and know that it’s easier to not share success with others.  Because of this, I spent a moment reflecting on the fact that I might be graduating this year, and to fully appreciate the work that’s gone in to get this far.

While I was doing my reading, I got some great news from my boss.  Something I’ve been working on for the last 10 months has come to fruition, and will be resulting in success and recognition for my whole team.  My immediate response was to think, “I can do better!” and I had to stop and force myself to really savour the moment and congratulate myself.  And you know what…it feels really good!

Okay, now onto the list.

Gratitude List – Saturday 29/08/2015

I’m firstly grateful for my health and my body.  I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have my physical and mental health, and it serves me well every moment of every day.  I started the day with my usual Saturday morning gym session, and I noticed that I’m able to do tricep pushups really well – which is something I really struggled with in the beginning.  I felt very grateful to be whole, healthy and strong.

I’m grateful for the time Pete spends with me, and how much he cares about my interests.  I know some people tend to zone out when their partners talk about work or study, things that are considered boring.  But Pete always listens.  On Saturday morning I relayed to him what I’d learnt about depression – the subgroups, symptoms, comorbid factors, etc.  He listened to every word, added more information and asked questions.  It’s because of this supportive attitude that encourages me to do well in my studies.

I had a call from my dad, and again, I was grateful for his health.  Can’t wait to catch up with him in person sometime soon.

I know I’ve mentioned this already as well, but I’m so grateful for friendships.  Although I didn’t spend any time with friends yesterday (spent the vast majority of the day studying), I was reminded of them on a few lovely occasions.  Firstly, I put on my favourite pair of boots to go out to brunch, and the sole of one felt slippery.  I looked underneath, and found a picture of Jenny’s face, which immediately brought a smile to my face.

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For context – when Pete and I went to Korea, Jenny and her partner (also Peter) house-sat for us.  When they left, their parting gift was pictures of Jenny’s face in all sorts of random locations and we’ve been finding them ever since.  This one was great because it took 5 weeks to be found.  It’s like a treasure hunt in my own house.

Later in the day, I got a call from another friend.  One that I haven’t seen in a few months, and I’ve been missing her a lot.  We had a good chat and planned a catch up for tomorrow.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the mid semester break.  I really hope I can get on top of my readings in the next week, this semester is proving to be a lot tougher than I expected.  A week without classes is exactly what I need.

Gratitude #4

This week has been tough, so this gratitude list thing is starting to get difficult.  One more day to go!

Gratitude list for Fri 28/08/2015

  1. Being able to open the jam jar – I’m going to take small wins today, and seeing as there are about 3 jars in the fridge that I couldn’t open, I was pretty happy to open this last one.  I know the usual tricks – boiling water over the seal, or jamming a knife in underneath, but still – opening it with my own two hands is the most satisfying.
  2. Grey days – I’m definitely dying for summer to come back, I’m not at all a winter person, however I spent the day at home studying and it was really nice to look out at the grey day through the giant window in the lounge room.  The wind was sweeping the tree branches around, and the general feeling was quite cozy indoors.
  3. When grey days turn sunny – there was some sunshine in the afternoon that cheered me up considerably.  And the mornings are starting to lighten earlier and earlier, so I know the sunshine is just around the corner.
  4. My gym – I don’t know what I’d do without my gym.  It is the source of so happiness for me.  In the gym I find challenge and triumph.  Peace and quiet, plus loud music and instructors yelling.  I go through ups and downs, and right now I’m in a bit of a down – still struggling to get the routine I had pre-Korea, but every day I go is a day I spend full of endorphins and satisfaction.
  5. John Oliver – seeing John Oliver was great, and I got a really pleasant surprise with his opener – Celia Pacquola, she was fantastic.  Laughter is good for the health, and doing something fun with Pete after a difficult week was just what we needed.
  6. My work’s whatsapp chat (funny memes) – I’m so lucky to work with such a funny, close knit group.  Even on the days I’m not around, I get to see their hilarity in the group chat on my phone, and it always makes me happy.

Gratitude #3

Gratitude List Thu 27/08/2015

A full day at work means that a lot of these will be work related.

  1. Autonomy in the workplace – I’m working on a kind of difficult project at the moment, and came across a stumbling block.  I felt disheartened for a brief moment, but I have the time and autonomy at work to go away, think about it, come up with a solution and share it with colleagues.  While I don’t think I have the creativity to come up with new ideas on the spot, I appreciate the fact that my job suits my working style.
  2. My work shares the same values as me – I went to a 1.5 hour seminar on mental health run in the workplace by Beyond Blue.  The psychologist who ran it was a great public speaker, and integrated anecdotal stories as well as evidence and facts from the diagnostic statistical manual (DSM).  I was thankful that my work takes mental health seriously and that they disseminate credible knowledge.
  3. Good coffee baristas – The guys at the coffee shop nearby not only make great coffee, but they know how to pronounce and spell my name.  Small things, but very much appreciated.  After having so much trouble getting decent coffee in Korea, I’m still appreciating the coffee culture in Melbourne.
  4. My favourite band are going to play one last time together, although they stopped/retired a few years ago.  It doesn’t sound like much, but music is incredibly important in my life, and I’ve liked this particular band since I was 11 years old.  I can’t wait to see them one more time.
  5. Being dry when it is raining – lunch time was a bit miserable yesterday, walking around and getting half soaked in the rain.  So when it came to home time, I was dreading the walk across the city to Pete’s car.  As I was leaving the building, he called and said he was done with work and would be picking me up from my office.  The timing was perfect, and I’m thankful for the warm, dry drive home with great company.
  6. Amelia – I’m so grateful to have Mila in my life and I wish I could see her more.  My best friend’s daughter – 2 years old, about 2-3′ tall, is very cute, and adores Pete.  Yesterday he got a call from Mila, so when I heard about it later that day I got jealous and had to call her on the way home.  We didn’t talk much, but just hearing that voice was enough to make me happy.

Gratitude #2

Gratitude for Wed 27th August

1. My flexible workplace, where they work around whatever hours I need (I stayed at home and studied yesterday)

2. The privilege of going to uni – it’s not something I could afford when I was younger, and I know there must be many people in the same position

3. 3rd year content – the subjects I’m studying are finally very practical and I can see the long term benefits of studying them

4. Money – I’m very fortunate to live comfortably, and buy whatever we need without stressing about our budget. I try to share this by donating my time, money and effort wherever possible.

5. Our dishwasher – I still remember the time I lived alone without a dishwasher. Washing all the dishes by hand was a tedious waste of time.

6. My friends – even when I don’t see them often, I get messages and pictures sent throughout the day and they always make me happy.

7. Following on from number 6, I’m grateful for my phone and social media/chat apps – I love staying in touch with the people I care about.

8. My cat – it’s amazing how much happiness and well-being pets can bring. Before Pete came along, Missy was my only company at home for a long time. I’m grateful for her furry little face.

9. The ability to cook, access to my kitchen – for 5 weeks in Korea I didn’t have access to a kitchen, so now I’m very appreciative of the ability to cook. Last night I randomly decided to make crispy chicken tenders with a side salad and it was entirely within my control

10. Chocolate – I’ll be grateful for chocolate every day of the week 🙂

Capoeira continues

I’m writing this on my phone so I’ll be brief.

My second capoeira class was a  much better experience. It’s not that I improved, but I went in with a very different mindset.

In an unrelated class at uni, the topic for the week was mindfulness and I decided to apply it to capoeira.

Mindfulness is the act of focusing your thoughts on the present moment. Our natural tendency seems to be to think a hundred different thoughts per minute, so this can actually be quite challenging.

It was pretty obvious that during the first capoeira class I was 100% focused on my inner critic and riddled with self doubt, so this time I decided to ignore that voice. It was harder than it sounds, but I kept my attention entirely on doing the moves correctly. By the end of the class, I found I was really happy with my progress and had managed to keep up fairly easily with the others.

I’m going to give this a go again next class, fingers crossed it works. 🙂

First Capoeira Class

We all have personal identity stories that we tell ourselves, they can be based on fact (previous history) or they can be self-fulfilling prophecies.  So when we were told our assignment in Psychological Assessment and Individual Differences (PAID) was to ‘do something creative’, I felt panic.  A part of my identity is that I am not creative.  I can’t draw, sing, play music, or think outside the box.  Every personality test I have done (and I’ve done a lot) reaffirms this belief.  I am logical, structured, analytical and objective.  Asking me to do something creative is like asking a fish to tap dance.
After my initial panic wore off, I reread the instructions and got some good tips – think of something you enjoy, try to stretch yourself, challenge yourself, but don’t go completely left field into an area that’s outside your capabilities, and at the same time don’t choose something too easy.  With this in mind, I came up with a short list of things that I like.  I love dancing, I can dance for hours…but…I’m uncoordinated.  I have loved boxing classes – releasing stress and energy in the form of a martial art is extremely rewarding…but martial arts aren’t really ‘creative’ and can’t be easily presented to my tutor/class.  I also love to cook, so worst case I could make something, but considering I live pretty independently and cook almost every night, I figured this was a bit of a cop out.
And then I thought of capoeira.  The Brazilian martial art that combines music and singing with dance-like movements.  And I happened to know someone at work who wanted to take capoeira classes.  So that was that.  I looked up classes, got in touch with a few, and found one that had classes on Wednesdays.
The following Wednesday, my friend Shan and I headed to the capoeira class.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and I was extremely nervous.  Physically, my fitness level was really low as I had just returned from 5 weeks overseas, with a lot of eating out and minimal exercise. 
We went to a semi-deserted part of South Melbourne, climbed up some dingy looking stairs, and found ourselves in a small, sparse gym with majority of the space covered in mats set aside for martial arts.
We met the instructor Nano, who came from Argentina.  He had been practicing capoeira for over 12 years and teaching it in Melbourne for the past year.  There were about 6 or 7 students, most of them practicing for about a year, and all extremely friendly and welcoming.
Warm up began.  And I thought I was going to die.
There was the usual run around the room, run backwards, run with knees up, run while touching the floor every so often.  That was fine.  But then there was Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.  My poor body didn’t know what it had done to deserve doing the spiderman/walking-push-up thing.  Let alone the 15 minutes we dedicated to doing handstands.  Or in my case, failing to do handstands.  Plus the million other bizarre positions we had to assume while moving around the room.
After this, I was ready to go home.  But no the show must go on.  No rest for the wicked.  Etc.
We learned a few of the basic forms in capoeira: the ginga, esquiva`, and martelo.  While everyone else worked on more complex moves, Shan and I practiced these over and over…and over again.
And then came the freestyle fighting.  A circle was created, and pairs hopped in and ‘fought’ freestyle.   For the most part, the fighting was really more like dancing – changing forms/positions in response to the other person, mirroring one another, and moving in for a hit or kick when the opportunity arose.  This particular group also combines jujitsu with capoeira, so there were a few moments when it progressed to actual fighting, but those moments were rare and only a minimal number of actual blows were exchanged.
I hopped into the ring twice, neither were my own choice as Nano made it clear it wasn’t an option.  When I was on the sideline I was certain hopping in was the worst possible idea.  I couldn’t remember any of the moves, and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to do anything other than look stupid in front of these strangers (who were all incredibly agile, talented, and competent, and much better than I could ever hope to be…etc).
When I was in the ring, there were moments where I just focused on my movements and responding.  In these brief moments, I felt curious about what the other person would do and excited when I was able to respond.  But these moments were quickly overtaken by overthinking my movements.  It was still very unnatural to assume some of these positions, and they required thought rather than natural instinct, so intrinsic enjoyment wasn’t really possible.
Afterwards, I felt frustrated and disappointed with myself.  Learning capoeira was like learning how to walk, while being surrounded by people who could run.  I know that my self-doubt and negative self-talk wasn’t helping, but I couldn’t find a way to get better perspective.  The others said that I did really well, but I was certain that it was just them being polite to a newcomer.  I went home tired and disheartened…and wishing that I could do a handstand.

The following Monday, our PAID lecture was on Adler and his theory of inferiority/superiority, and I realised that I was experiencing a sense of inferiority over a task that I had only just tried the one time.  A sense of inferiority with a new task is completely normal and in fact allows us to minimise risks and keep ourselves safe.  With this in mind, I plan to return to capoeira the following Wednesday.