Category Archives: On Happiness

On Happiness

Sara Wars – A New Visa

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.58.46 AM“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

My hands are so chilly I can barely type. But I must. I need to tell you the news 😀 Partner-in-crime and I have finally been granted New Zealand residency.

That’s right. After a year and a half in make-up, I now look like this:

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Some of you may have heard more than you care to of the trials and tribulations that have brought us to this point. A hefty sigh of relief was blown over my bubbles last night! I’m so happy to be here, with all the battles fought and the war finally over.

To those who may not have an appreciation for the pain of immigration admin, let me walk you through the process. Last January, we decided to go for residency. Due to my prowess with paper, we decided not to go for an immigration lawyer (they cost a crazy amount. I’m almost tempted to become one). Before you can even apply for residency here, you have to submit an application asking to be allowed to ask to be invited to apply. This ‘Expression of Interest’ cost $500 and involved a large form, covering all sorts of background, proving that you have 100 points plus. You get points for qualifications, an offer of employment in a ‘skilled’ category, years of relevant work experience etc. These things I have, so I thought it would be a straightforward road to travel. First up, your EOI joins a pool, from which the higher pointed applications are selected every fortnight. Having started to gather evidence and prepare the app in Jan, we submitted in Feb and received an Invitation To Apply in March. So far, so smooth.

Then the real work/expense began. It took another 3 months before we could submit an application (at a cost of $2k) because I had to have my accountancy qualification assessed by the NZQA (at a cost of $1k). I had everything lined up ready to go, but alongside certificates and transcripts, they then asked for my school qualifications (GCSEs and A-Levels), which I hadn’t seen for a wee while (ok, a long while, I’m aging). We had to have full medical checks, bloods and x-rays (at $450 each). We had to have full police checks and certificates from any country in which we’d been situated for a combined total of 12 months over the course of our lives (thankfully just the UK – NZ do their own sneaky check – and thankfully clean 😉 at $100 each – and they only accepted UK based payment, thanks Mum & Dad). We also needed proof of partnership, which would have been easier had we not been living in a van 12 months previously, with no idea that we would have been doing ourselves a favour if we hadn’t thrown away all proofs of address to lighten the load on the road. Initially, the first employment reference I requested (for my 4 years at Ernst & Young in London) came back stating I’d only worked there as an intern for 6 weeks. Awkward. And getting the right evidence was only a part of it. Referencing it and writing it up was a whole other kettle of kiwis.

Pressing submit on 21 June last year was *amazing.* Subsequently waiting 7 months for an immigration case officer was not. Her first contact was to request us to provide a statutory document, which we’d need to request from a government body in the UK, in 3 business days. Was she on glue?! That took 4 weeks. I later ended up providing her with 14 months of payslips and background to why partner-in-crime’s nose was broken when he was 15. No joke. She asked so many technical questions of my employer, the response took 4 pages of A4. At more than one point, the future did not look bright. It seemed they were trying to make an example out of me. They wanted answers in tiny timeframes, but wouldn’t respond to my communications. There was a distinct lack of friendliness about the process. It was like being in a trial, where you’re not welcome until proven worthy. So you can imagine how it felt to outgun them :p (ahem, I mean, thank you so much for letting me stay in your country). Now all we need to do is coax them to put the stamps in our passports within the year – and pay a $600 migrant levy.

Just as I’ve learnt with the path to publication – it’s better not to be an island. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There’s nothing wrong with people sharing and supporting your goals and letting them assist you. Yep, we didn’t fork out for a lawyer, but I *drowned* in paperwork. Half a metre had to be couriered off. I stressed and worried and triple-checked things every step of the way. Being qualified to do something alone doesn’t mean that you have to. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do the same again – just that if money is no object, an immigration lawyer is a swell team member to have :p I became a paranoid pest when dealing with my immigration officer. With a lack of lawyer, I couldn’t have done this without having friends to bounce off and whine to. We couldn’t have done this without the 18 people who wrote us letters of support for our partnership and posted them from all over the world. And we couldn’t have done this without timely references and recommendations from employers past and present. So I’m not just triumphant, I’m grateful.

Are you struggling with anything at the moment? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be too proud to ask for help (just don’t ask me – I’m fricking exhausted :p). A win is a win – sometimes we need support to get where we want to be. And it’s so lovely to see so many people happy for us. A genuine thank you to everyone who has shown their support in so many forms, during this and many other long, arduous battles. 

In, Along & Up With The New!

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 7.42.15 PM‘To infinity… and beyond!’

– Buzz Lightyear

I’m a pretty happy camper right now due to the launch of my new website and the new home of this blog – www.rightinkonthewall.com.

I have to thank three people in particular: Nicola Whetstone of NKW-Illustration for bringing every page to life with her art and putting up with a stalkerish number of emails from me; Laird Sapir of Memphis McKay, who is cool for ten million reasons, but right up there for naming her company after a cat, plus developing my website and putting up with a stalkerish number of emails from me; and Jay Donovan of Tech Surgeons, for saving me from the unfathomable world of ‘technical stuff’ and who is yet to learn exactly how stalkerish I’m going to get via email. I couldn’t have found Laird or Jay without WANACon, which is coming up soon woop!

I know this sounds weirdly like an acceptance speech rather than someone calmly announcing the launch of their website. But this has been months in the making and finally we have liftoff! And I just feel *UP*.  I’ve been buoyed by how helpful people are; by contact with several potential clients within a couple of days; by getting on with revising The Book To Be; by plotting my Book To Be Book Cover with NKW; seeing publication on the horizon; and by just generally being in an exciting whirlwind of a year.

Just two years ago and I couldn’t see any of this coming. I was lost; adrift; inert. I’m now moving so fast in the right direction, I need to sit down before I hurt myself. Everyone needs to know that this kind of turnaround is possible – just trust your instincts and embrace the new and, whatever the obstacles, keep moving onward and upward!

Soooo a wee bit of begging – if you’re a follower at wordpress.com, please do follow me here! And if you’re not a follower, hey, why not?! Meanwhile, if you sign up to receive things by email, there will be posts & bits and pieces of news, but never too much or too many – nobody loves a spammer.

Any comments & queries on the new website muchly appreciated! And, for the love of Lexicon, please scream (quietly, using the contact form here) if you see a typo –  so I can say unto thee, ‘Congratulations for passing my secret test of Spot The Typo’ (I get to save face, you get to save my face – you get me).

 

The First Sunrise Of A New Year & Other Highlights

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‘For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.’

– Robert Burns

Tonight, two of my favourite things are going to happen – fireworks and new beginnings. I’ve never been one to bemoan the perceived ‘anti-climax’ of New Year’s – any excuse for a party and I’ll find the fun. I’ve had a good time every New Year’s eve back as far as I can remember. January blues I am guilty of, but I always see the old year out and the new year in with a bang!

This year, I’m road-tripping oe’r the holidays. I’ve been camping over Christmas and exploring more of New Zealand’s north island before arriving today back in Gisborne, on the east coast. It’s a carnival-spirited place that will the be first in the world to see the sunrise of a new year.

I’m going to invite you all to join me in one of my evening’s activities and play ‘highlights’ – a game born of myself and my bestie (Amster of Pride and Projection fame) many years back, which we still play periodically, especially at New Year’s (the drinking is, of course, optional – though not really for me and Amster).

Sometimes we start with lowlights – raising a glass to drown the bad points of the past year, those that brought us down and sometimes out, those that we don’t remember fondly. I could pretend here that we toast the learnings that have emerged from the negatives we’ve experienced, but mostly it’s more of a ‘…And remember that happened? Wow that sucked. 2 fingers.’

But the highlight is always the highlights – remembering and drinking to all the best things that have happened to us. They invariably include each other. They have ranged from promotions and resignations, relationships and relocations, to ‘…Hey, I love this song! 3 fingers.’   

New Year’s is always a time to look forward, making resolutions and hoping for a better year, regardless of whether the last was particularly good or bad. Remember to take a moment, for auld lang syne (‘old time’s sake’). Don’t just focus on what you want to go / do better – play highlights. Alcohol often induces bonus rounds – it’s amazing what you can think of to celebrate when there’s a good reason! And drinking to resolutions is also encouraged.

This year I moved into my dream home (2 fingers), set up my business (3 fingers), incorporated my company (2 fingers) and wrote a novel (down it). I became the accountant for a charitable trust (2 fingers). I went part-time at the day-job (3 fingers). I saw lots of friends from home I’d not seen since I left (finger per friend). I… ooh! I love this song! (many fingers). Next year I resolve to publish the book. I will make my business bigger and better. I will eat less fried chicken and do more exercise…. There’s more to say, plan, do, drink – but you get the idea!

What are everyone’s highlights / resolutions? Highlights cancel out lowlights. Resolutions cancel out last year’s failed resolutions (I make the rules here). Enjoy whatever you have planned for your tonight! For many of you this will be in my tomorrow. See you next year! Happy highlights 🙂 

Why Life Is Good, Even When It’s Not

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So, a few things have inspired this post.

1. I’m facing the fact that I *am* going to win NaNoWriMo and will have written a novel in a month. Earlier this month, with big bad happening, it didn’t seem possible. I didn’t give up. I had to figure out what my plot gaps were that needed filling in my last 10k, so a post-it party happened near the dresser:

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This piece of procrastination pleased me

2. Moving into my dream house has already had its catches and I was reminded on the weekend that life isn’t always fair. We even made movements to leave Arcadia (how I love the X-files), but were convinced not to by people who reminded me that human beings can be angels in disguise – kind, considerate and caring, even if they are near strangers.

3. I had a phone call with conscious branding company Thought Cloud‘s founder, Kat Kinne, who has already done so much for me, personally and professionally.

4. I had an email from Be Free People – a ‘Truth of the Day’ that read: ‘What are you sleeping with? What feelings are you taking with you into your bed, what feelings are you waking up with? So much is still being processed in your mind while you are sleeping, be very aware of how you feel before you close your eyes. What if it was the very last time you were to close your eyes, would you be happy with what you’re closing your chapter with? If not, change it, by changing your mind about things, end every chapter of the day and start the very next chapter of your life with gratitude.’

5. I read a guest blog post from the amazing Aussa Lorens, at Black Box Warnings: This Can’t Be My Life.

Now, I’m not always in the right mood to receive a ‘truth of the day’ or a ‘moment of happiness.’ (I’m always in the mood to read anything Aussa Lorens has written). Some quotes and platitudes can come across empty and meaningless when you’re going through a bad patch. You have to be in the right place for some things to speak to you.

However, when you’re off-kilter, there are people who can bring you back into balance; bring you back into yourself.

Often, when I feel stressed, I feel sick. My mind and body are very in tune. I posted something of the sort on Facebook and as usual felt awful when people commented, offering comfort and consideration. Sometimes you can post self-serving statuses and deserve it when people remind you they care! Why did I feel bad about it, really? Because I know deep down that life is good. I shouldn’t be complaining about it.

On the worst of days, whatever’s happened, if someone stopped me still and asked, ‘But, are you happy to be alive?’ I would halt, probably feel bad (it’s a habit), and realise that yes, I am. Always.

Many would agree there are key elements to a happy life: your love life, work life, and home life. There are more things to life and variations on the themes, obviously. Not everyone needs or wants a partner, but relationships with other people, be it family, friends, or lover, are commonly a source of happiness. Not everyone cares about a career, but what is done to earn a living, and what is earned to sustain a lifestyle, can be a big focus. People disagree on the definition of home. It can be about location, or about family, or about who shares it with you. It doesn’t have to be one place, or a house, maybe just where you hang your hat. I heartbreakingly read it described today as perhaps, ‘just wherever you end up when you get too tired to run anymore.’ However, as I responded, to me, home can be anywhere, but it’s the place where you’re loved, where you’re at peace with the fact that you deserve to be loved. I felt humbled reading what I’d written, because I’m lucky enough to have it. Overall, love life, work life, and home life are all wonderful.

Bad things happen. It’s a fact of life. I’m writing a novel for NaNo in which a lot of bad things happen. And I try and put myself in my characters’ shoes. One of them, who’s been through unutterable trauma, comes to realise that she is still happy to be alive.

If I can imagine someone who’s been through so much being happy to be alive; if I can meet, as I have, people who have been through so much in real life being happy to be alive – then the least I can do is gain some perspective. I’m going to make a push to remember how happy I am to be alive, and start and end each day with gratitude.

Life is good, even when it’s not. 

Who’s going through a terrible time and feels awful? But who feels even worse with guilt when they realise other people are going through even worse times? It’s ok not to cope, but please ask yourself, despite it all, am I happy to be alive? Things can change for the better as much as they can change for the worse. Don’t give up. Be happy just to be alive.

Why I Became An Editor – Work-Life Love Affair vs Work-Life Balance

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© 2013 NKW-Illustration. All Rights Reserved.

‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ – Confucius

Who has ever had a big pile of work dumped on their desk by their manager, whether first thing in the morning or last thing at night, when they already have a list of jobs to do a mile long? Who has ever felt their heart sink as they’ve faced another week at work? Who has spent time and energy doing the best job they can do, but all the while feeling a lack of passion and excitement for the tasks at hand? Who has given up their personal time and interests in order to do all the work that their career has put on their plate?

A large piece of work landed in my inbox this morning. Instead of getting stuck right in, I took a moment and told myself that I needed to write down how I was feeling at that moment, because I must never forget it. Instead of the sinking feeling I’ve experienced before, my heart lifted. Instead of the flutter of panic and a scrambling worry to rehash my timetable, I felt a quiver of excitement and calm confidence that is becoming a more familiar feeling since I’ve created my own business and given myself more choices, including the choice to change careers and organise my time my way. I had been given notice to expect this work, but it hadn’t weighed over me like a storm cloud as I blacked out the time it would take me to do it around the time it would arrive. Rather, I’ve spent the last while looking forward to it.

All of these things tell me that, finally, I’m on the right path. I’ve chosen the right career. It was out there after all and it didn’t matter that I took a different direction at the starting line. As my own boss, I am the slave now only to my own ambitions. I create my own choices. I generate my own work. I need to be just as organised, just as thorough, just as dedicated as when I am working for someone else’s agenda, but now the dance is solely between myself and my client; making each other happy; giving each other something of value. I am doing for a living an extension of what I do for fun – playing with words; communicating meaning; telling a story.

Life is a puzzle and sometimes you can feel boxed in by your perceived lack of choices. You can only see parts of the puzzle, only make certain pieces fit together. If you’re feeling unfulfilled in your life, you need to take a step back and see that there are more choices than you think. Think outside the box. This morning has confirmed that, while once adrift and inert in a sea of choices where only a few were visible to me, it was the right move to take out my telescope, look for more choices, and make the right one rather than remaining in a whirlpool.

I still have a part-time day job while I build up the business, but this is a glimpse of the utopia I’m headed for: an end to Sunday Evening Depression; an end to Living For The Weekend; an end to Waiting For The Next Holiday. An end to seeing money as an end, and instead beginning to see it as positive energy gained through positive energy. Call me crazy, but I think it’s possible to break free from chains and ladders, and enjoy a work-life love affair rather than striving for a work-life balance. Like in any relationship, while balance is great, possessions are nice, and progression is fulfilling – to me, it’s passion that’s most rewarding.

Home Sweet Home

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‘Home is where the heart is’ – Pliny

There are so many things to be happy about at the moment. I don’t think that happiness is necessarily a fully-formed destination – it can be found in the excitement of what could be, what can be and what will be. I’m happy not just because of things that are but because of a lot of things that are going to be.

I’m moving house next month (expect a painful post about packing). Unlike the last few times I’ve moved, this is to be a home. We dreamt up what we would love to live in and, somehow, somewhere not too far from town but a world away, it appeared (pictured). It’s beyond our wildest; so much so that I fear Rumpelstiltskin may rock up to claim my firstborn. It’s a log cabin up a mountain; log fire inside and views to die for from the grounds outside, secluded by and surrounded with forest. I’m going to write my first book here. This is the place I’ll build up my business from its budding beginning and this is the place I’ll plan to publish, surrounded by the love of those I live with and a thousand trees. I’m not there yet, but I’m over the moon just thinking about it. I’m going to move mountains. And grow vegetables.

It’s a very exciting time to be a writer. I’m actually happy to be pre-published because there are so many people sharing their trials and tribulations in this new tumultuous era of publishing. Their teachings give you the opportunity to do it right and avoid the mistakes you might make if you were going it alone and unaided. I’m finding as many helpers on the path to happiness as there are trees in the wood around my home-to-be.

As much as I’ll be happy to be running a well-established, successful business and be a popular, prolific author, and as much as I’d love to be living in my dreamy cottage right now, it’s happiness to be on the road en route to all of these things. There’s excitement in the anticipation and in each and every accomplishment along the way.

You may not see your life as wholly happy and picture perfect until you’ve made it where you want to be. But is there any one thing you could change, any small step you could take, that would put you further along the exciting path to happiness? Knowing you’re going to get there is a happiness in itself.

Rabbits & The Corporate World

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‘To come to the end of a time of anxiety and fear!

To feel the cloud that hung over us lift and disperse –

that cloud that dulled the heart and made happiness no more than a memory!’

– Richard Adams

Watership Down and the lesser-known Tales From Watership Down are two of my all-time favourite books. I’ve read and reread Watership Down and fall in love with it every time, which means I relished the chance to revisit the world when I discovered the tales. I popped down the rabbit-hole again when writing my dissertation at university. My question was: ‘Is fulfilment possible?’ And the work was a discussion on utopia, dystopia and the theology of hope, composed partly because the subject fascinates me and partly as an excuse to read as much utopian literature, fact and fiction, as I could get my hands on.

At Cambridge, there was a wee group of us known amongst ourselves as the bunnies. I’m not exactly sure how this evolved, except perhaps out of the habits of my then roommate, who 1. loves bunnies, and 2. addresses everyone with this endearment. The bunnies were my close-knit fellowship in college. Perhaps if we’d pursued Footlights, The Bunnies could have been the next Monty Python. Anyhoo, this post is dedicated to them (the bunnies, not Monty Python).

But, what does this all have to do with the corporate world? I hear you wonder. Well, that’s where I left idealistic Cambridge to go. I struck forth for The City, the big-smoke, the bigger pay-packet, the twinkling lights, the buzzy brilliance. It’s known as selling out for a reason and the corporate world was not for me. However, while it’s not where I’m supposed to be, connecting with that world was an important and valuable step on my journey.

The same can be said for Hazel and his companions when they touch other warrens on their quest for Watership Down. Although Efrafa is a dystopic nightmare of a warren, with safety bought at the price of freedom, the rabbits met there by Bigwig and the lessons learned there are beyond valuable for the warren founded by the wanderers.

Fiver has a vision. It’s not just for somewhere where the grass is greener and not just for somewhere that isn’t under imminent risk of extermination. His is a dream of a better place – a safe, peaceful, just society, where it’s possible for someone like Hazel to be made Chief Rabbit. On the way, they encounter Cowslip’s warren. There is certainly peace and plenty here and nearly all of the band are seduced by it, but they discover that the cost is the risk of death and the disconnection from those who meet it.

Life at Ernst & Young hit its peak when I was sent to Edinburgh, seconded to Lloyds Banking Group to work for Scottish Widows. For me, this was a prettier place and I was happy, to a point. I even found myself thinking, I could be happy here, less stressed, I could stay. But there were still the snares of long hours and work I wasn’t passionate about, which could jump up and grab you at a moment’s notice. I’m not saying that EY is the corporate equivalent of Efrafa, by the way, I very much enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot. Some of the people I met there are among my best friends. And many thrive in the corporate world and love their work. Equally, however, I know many who feel lost and trapped. It wasn’t the warren for me, and in this post I’m writing for others who wish they could escape somehow and end up somewhere they love.

I’ve now found my Watership Down. I’m as far away from The City as you can get over here in New Zealand’s South Island. It’s not just the place, though, it’s what you do there. I’m building a business so that I can make a living doing something I love. It’s not been easy, but it’s been worth every hop of the journey to get here. I extend the warren of my work every day and I hope for others to follow their dreams too. So, I ask you this: Where is your Watership Down? And how are you going to get there?