Monday, 5 September 2016

Adulting: use a moral compass and you'll never be lost

Let's take a stereotypical blonde female running away from
demons, make her turn around and kick their ass.

‘You think you know what’s to come... what you are. You haven’t even begun.’ Joss Whedon, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.

Ok, ok, the quote may or may not be an indication of binge watching said TV show, but my goodness I’d forgotten what an impactful quote it was. I’m also reminded of my flirtation with dark romanticism; when I thought it would be very cool to be a vampire or some sort of Transylvanian concubine. Well, I say vampire, but I mean a vegan one, or a vampire with a blood intolerance… Essentially, I’d take the living forever and being ultra badass, just without all the killing and blood-letting. (Although, if you’re not drinking blood and killing people and you have a baby face, then I don’t really think you can use the words ultra badass – in fact, I don’t think you can even say badass. Equally, I wouldn’t want to be likened to Edward from Twilight; I like to think I’d have more sass than him. I’ll ponder on this.)

Anyway, that period of my life is also reflective of the quote above. I was around 22 years old when I first heard it and I hadn’t even come out yet… But I knew it was coming. My self-realisation/actualisation was all part of the journey, and I remember thinking that coming out would be the final piece completing the Corina puzzle. I think it’s ok to take a meaningful quote about a vampire-slaying hero ultimately becoming a much more powerful and awesome version of herself and apply it to little old me studying Sports Coaching and Rehabilitation and thinking she might fancy girls. That’s the beauty of Joss Whedon’s writing, he really does speak to your soul – or at least he spoke to mine. It’s a clever metaphorical play on demons (aka the Big Bad), strong independent female characters and having a resilient moral compass. And, of course, there’s the blonde badass woman who gets to punch evil things in the face.

Lately, I’ve felt a bit like I’m 22 again, not because I’m out partying every night (although, apparently, Facebook implies otherwise – see social media tripe)… It’s more about feeling that I’m at a crossroads again. When I was in Perth, I had sold everything from my past ‘life’; I literally owned a few boxes of stuff. I remember sitting in my room surrounded by a few boxes thinking, who am I? And why in my late 30's am I asking myself that question? Surely by now I should have figured things out? Why did a fully furnished house and a partner make me feel like I knew who I was? How terribly materialistic! Why am I talking to myself in my head? Have I lost my mind?

A couple of sad events have happened recently, and it was while listening to the quote above that I thought I should do something brave – a solo road trip – which might not be saving people from burning buildings or thrusting a stake heroically through vampire hearts, but for little old me it feels brave. Then I thought of my cousin’s wife and how she was a hero donating her organs after passing away from a stroke, to save other people. I also thought of my Uncle Peter who is also a hero, fighting MND every day. I wanted to do a little something for them both, so I thought what better way than to dress as one of my ultimate heroes and be Batman (Wonder Woman’s attire would have been obscene in my current shape, and Superman doesn’t have a cool mask) to raise money for the Brain Research Trust*, while pushing myself out of my comfort zone and travelling solo even further off the chart. I will be driving around Great Ocean Road and covering just over 500km, 200km section of that will be as Batman around some key tourist spots!

Having always been secretly jealous of kids being able to wake up in the morning and tell their mums they want to dress as Queen Elsa or Spiderman – or any other fantasy character – for the day, I’m also going to have a lot of fun doing it. At my sister’s wedding, I was majorly jealous of a small child dressed as a storm trooper – so I figure it’ll be good for me to wake up and randomly dress as Batman.

Proof of me at Bells Beach, Great Ocean Road,
dressed as Batman.

I’m actually a little excited, as well as nervous, about sticking out like a sore thumb along Australia’s Great Ocean Road. But I’m thinking of it as a journey that will push my own personal boundaries, inspired by the above quote, and keep me pushing myself whilst trying to do something worthwhile – not quite like Buffy – raising funds to research possible causes and treatments for neurological conditions. I couldn’t be there for my cousin as we are on opposite sides of the planet, and hope this is a way to show that he is constantly in my thoughts.

I am taking some time out and my mini break from 1 September (which will probably be long gone by the time this is published), means I will also be throwing myself into working on my book, which, as you know is now in edit, or in utero as I affectionately like to say. We’re about a third of the way through now, and I have a brilliant editor who has been a massive help on my journey and is now doing more hours per month. So the good news is that things are looking up for having the book ready to approach publishers with by the end of the year. It is starting to look and feel more like a proper novel, rather than a first draft of ideas thrown onto a page! As you know, the blog is to entice you into one day reading the said novel. It has been a long and perilous (not really, but I wanted to add some excitement) journey. Thanks to Sophie, it is starting to become a more polished reality, and thanks to Fi, who is sanity checking the readability of the story.

*If you’d like to donate, you can through Justgiving, because me, as Batman, journeying alone along the Great Ocean Road is a little ‘out there’, when I’d rather be blending into the background. In fact, I don’t know why I even said out loud that I would do it: but in a fortnights time I’ll be standing out like a giant polar bear in the outback. By the time this is published, you’ll be able to see evidence that I’ve completed the challenge! 

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon-to-be author, and edited by Sophie McClelland.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Psychological armour

The most important takeaway from this blog

I am not really sure how to start this blog, I want to be as honest as possible, but emotionally I might find that a little tough. My favourite quote at the moment, is a micky take from a Desiree song, ‘life, oh life’ because life is funny, fickle and yet fantastic. However, I do have a strong belief that the people around you dictate whether life is fun, fickle or fantastic. The people around you enable you to stay true to yourself and be the best you can be, a bit like in my previous blog where I said ultimately your partner should bring out the best in you, the same can be said of your friends, colleagues and basically anyone you choose to associate yourself with.

A very simple piece of advice on the face of it, but how do you identify that in others? Also, how do you find the strength, courage and independence to stay true to finding in others everything you wish to be? Loneliness can be misleading as can low self-esteem, which we can all suffer from time to time. We can chase the wrong things, start ‘acting’ out and ultimately causing yourself some serious mental damage as you clash and clatter with your core values.

Living against the grain of who you are is not healthy and focusing on first world material objects causes a tumultuous tirade of negative thoughts. We are naturally hard wired to be kind, that’s how societies were developed and that’s why we have the word ‘culture’, we came together to work together to feed each other, to shelter each other, clothe each other and protect each other. It is the core of what makes us happy and what helps make us resilient. Yet, as a first world we are losing this, notice I stated ‘first world’.

We focus on the negative, we allow a small moment in our day, a tiny molecule of our life to ruin a week… a month or even a year. We focus and obsess over it, I am not criticising this (hence the we)… It’s a first world problem we have created by focusing on the wrong things. The promotion, the new car, the new house, the new iPad, the amazing body... and even when we achieve it, it is not enough and it creates anxiety and depression. We have created, as a society, our own plethora of mental health issues. We can even be guilty of belittling our fellow humanoid who is struggling with depression/anxiety by not acknowledging it is a very real problem. A problem we have created through the way we live.

Don’t believe me? There are small villages in third world countries, with no bed, no shelter, no water… Who have no idea what suicide is! They literally cannot comprehend that someone would take their own life because they are unhappy, when they are fighting so hard to survive. They obviously don’t have a bureau of statistics in these tiny villages, but they estimate 1 in 85 people have a mental illness. Absorb that fact – no water, no shelter… Not even a bed to sleep in. Now compare this to Australia, 1 in 4 adolescents have a mental illness and scarily 1 in 7 primary school kids. Absorb that too.

I am not belittling these issues at all, the reason I am talking about it, is mainly because I have just been through an episode of my own battle. Do you know what the hardest thing for me to do was? Admit it. Why? Because of the stigma attached to it. I functioned, I operated and I got up every day going through the motions – that was literally what I was doing, I was acting but inside I was falling to pieces and a darkness descended upon me and there was no escape. I gave myself a very hard time over this – the self-talk I gave myself was horrible. Which leads to another thing we do not do anymore – be present – aka meditation, turning off our thoughts. We are absorbing 50 times more information per day than we were 20 years ago, that is insane and our brains are constantly absorbing, translating and interpreting what we see and hear. We put ourselves under so much pressure, yet we would not speak to our friends the way we talk to ourselves. I would never belittle a mental illness to a friend, and yet I have to myself in my own head for months!

Think about it… Years ago, before smart phones… I used to walk to the bus stop and I just walked... Sometimes I would listen to my Walkman… But I just walked. Imagine that, totally present and just walking. We don’t really do that anymore, in fact, how many of you are reading this now as you’re sitting on a train or walking along? Again, I’m not criticising, I love technology but sometimes we need to switch off.

We also need to stop focusing on the negative, stop focusing on what we have materialistically and wanting the next best thing. We need to be grateful for what we have right now. My darkness descended from not being where I think I should be and putting pressure on myself, undue pressure and I lost sight of the usual things I am very happy with: My friends, my experiences, my music, exercise and laughing - genuine laughter from genuine human interactions.

Every day we should stop and think of the following three things:
  1. What was the best thing that happened to me today?
  2. Who am I most grateful for today and why?
  3. What am I looking forward to most about tomorrow?

I am just passing this on from a presentation I attended called The Resilience Project, you should look it up. If you can get your work, school or a group of you to book it – you absolutely should. Even if you are currently dancing on air, you never know when a traumatic event can hit your usual happy state and you need to mentally be at your most resilient. Hugh van Cuylenburg is an awesome speaker… I cannot recommend enough. 

I am not trying to be all dancing on air and OTT with isn’t life great, because sometimes it is genuinely shit. Sometimes life is unfair, but don’t ever, EVER, let that feeling escalate to the point that you no longer want to experience it. Because, my goodness, there are some amazing things that suddenly come along and they literally come from nowhere. When those things happen then you realise why you were on the path you were, again that is so clichéd but you don’t realise how true it is until something comes along that blows your socks off. It is really worth staggering through the tough times, and how you stagger through is as I explained above, (it has been proved by science with data and everything.) you need to build your resilience, or a psychological armour if you will. So to emphasise how you do this – gratitude: ask those three questions listed above every day, mindfulness: meditate and stop your negative self-talk, and finally, empathy: do something nice for someone else – think of other people.

I say this quite often to my friends, because I want there to be absolutely no doubt in their minds that I don’t care how trivial they think something is: if it is 3am in the morning and they need someone, then they call me. No problem is too small, any problem should be shared and you should always feel like you can call. All of your friends would say that to you, always remember that and never feel alone. It's ok to say you're not ok.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author. 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

When the 'in' really counts - inequality vs equality

We need to get inventive with the way we bridge the gap

I am on a writing adventure whilst at home: suddenly there is so much I want to write about. Although my mother nearly put me off writing about this topic when she said, ‘Recently, some of your blogs read like they were written by an angry lesbian’, which both amused me but also got me thinking that maybe my writing style (when addressing issues that upset me) reads more like anger than the sarcastic and facetious style that I usually aim for. Then again, maybe it is my gender that makes the writing seem ‘angry’ instead of a tongue-in-cheek exposition into certain issues. Her comment got me thinking about various issues, but gender inequality fascinates me, and I am still frequently shocked by other females that will either defend or seem completely oblivious to the issue. So bear with me while I hop back on my soapbox and go over:


Let’s not beat around the bush on this one. Historically, women have been deemed the inferior gender, mainly owing to the greater physical strength that men generally have over women. This is a biological fact we cannot overcome, and this fact of physical supremacy is the same in most other species (except in some species of insect, where the female is actually larger and stronger, and totes kicks some male arse physically).

As humans have evolved and developed a civilised, intellectually based society, women have become more liberated over the years in terms of participation in sport, etc. – it is no longer frowned upon for women to compete in formerly male-only physical disciplines, such as weight-lifting – which has helped us to catch up a bit (or at least narrow the gap) when it comes to physical strength.


I’ve been involved in some debates (I will not take my usual childish approach to this and talk about being involved in ‘mass debates’ as a totally juvenile play on words… Oh, whoops!) with friends and colleagues who’ve said they don’t believe an inequality still exists. I’ve even reeled off the data to them and yet they persist in denying it. I think the most startling fact I’ve come across is that if we continue at our current rate of change towards a more equal society, it will take 250 years before we have a 50/50 split of male/female CEOs in the Fortune 500 list (70 years in the UK - A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission of the UK’s largest 100 companies in 2008, and in Australia the stats are less clear, but from a range of data most indicate by the end of the century). The facts are that the rate of improvement levelled off in the mid 1990s, and hasn’t moved much since. Well, isn’t this depressing?!

The other mind-boggling yet inescapable fact is that females are paid 20% less than their male counterparts in non-managerial jobs; and economists can account for only a portion of this being related to productivity-related characteristics, so the residual number is attributed to gender discrimination.

The most frustrating thing for me is that since I started working some 20 *cough* years ago, we have been talking about this, and we still appear to be no further forward.


I can personally relate to these issues, so I have selfishly chosen to write about them, but ‘the why’ is another thing we have been talking about for years. Females tend to have to prove they have the skills for a job over and over again.

There’s also the challenge of walking the tightrope of being deemed either ‘too feminine’, and not being taken seriously enough, or ‘too masculine’, and labelled intimidating, bossy or challenging. Getting the balance right in order to master walking that tightrope is near on impossible.

Then there’s the maternal wall, which affects all women regardless of their decision to have children or not, because they can still be ruled out of progressing simply by being of a ‘child-rearing age’. These factors seem to combine to create a tug-of-war, and there are even some women that create conflict with – and even actively hold back – other women from progressing. It’s quite frankly a nightmare scenario to find any balance!

Isn’t it time we progressed?

In my eyes, we have been discussing the issue for over 20 years; I keep seeing the same old information being recycled with very little change in the stats. This is where the ‘it will take 250 years to get equality’ fact comes from, and it’s shocking! This means that not even our daughters or our granddaughters or even our great granddaughters will be on level ground with their male counterparts.


Surely it’s time for action?! We’ve had enough social commentary and enough statistical analysis to provide us with the evidence that gender inequality still strongly exists, and thus remains a problem. In my estimation, the easiest solution would be for all organisations to run their payroll stats and address the balance financially. If they think that’s too much of a sting, it goes to show what a sad state of affairs we are in, and reflective of how unjust businesses as a whole have let things become.

It would also pay to get some specific company analysis on what the split of male/female ratios are and then establish the reasons behind this. I appreciate that there can be some factors other than gender at play, but on the whole there will also be some genuine gender bias and I think the government should be setting some harsh targets around this. Maybe CEOs should have their pay deducted to address the balance? ‘We’ve done some analysis, and in your organisation females are paid 20% less than their male counterparts; therefore, we shall deduct 20% from your own salary this year.’ (Assuming the CEO isn’t one of the few female CEOs out there, whose pay may well be less than their male equivalents.) This would surely make them sit up, pay attention and get to work correcting the discrepancy in pay?! I believe it is inexcusable to be talking about this subject for so long and for us to still be dancing around the action that is needed.

What will it take for a company – or indeed society – to take notice and make the necessary changes? We all have a part to play, and we all have a voice, so why not use it? I can’t help but imagine a world where women actually start to help and support each other and fight together for gender equality – now, what a world that would be… Angry lesbian rant over.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author, and edited by Sophie McClelland.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The search

Have we really!?

“The core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and to set boundaries.” Brené Brown

After saying I'm not talking about dating anymore, I'm kinda talking about dating… Not dating, dating… I like to call it ‘THE SEARCH’ (I used capitals and everything to really drive home this concept). It’s mainly because if I’m not dating I am being encouraged to date. If I am in a relationship I am hearing about dating stories and really dating is a search… A search for a hook up, a search for a relationship, a search for friendship: there are a plethora of search outcomes. I believe we single peeps constantly think about whether we want a relationship and the dating process we’re eventually going to have to tackle. The reason we mainly think about this, because all our friends inevitably ask… ‘so are you seeing anyone yet?’

I want to scrap this way of thinking because as human beings looking for fulfilling partnerships we need to really think through this dating concept without pressure. Maybe it’s me as an over analytical person and potentially sometimes maybe a little overly conscientious about people I date. I am not trying to take the fun out of dating… Honest. But what we need to establish is why you are dating in the first place? Do you really know what you are looking for? Because I bloody don’t!

One thing I notice is that there is a lot of advice on dating... Or 'rules' you need to follow... Bless all friends in the world, they love you so much that they want you to meet someone amazing ASAP and you're being given their advice and pressure to 'get out there'. Let’s remove the terminology of dating and change it to ‘The Search’, and if that’s too confronting then why are you dating? Even if you don’t know what you are looking for then dating can be good to help you establish your search criteria (I am like a walking contradiction but I wasn’t sure what I was looking for so I went out dating, but I put on my profile I was looking for friendship and then see where things go from there so as not to mislead anyone).

Even qualified psychologists acknowledge that falling in love is a mystery. Remember that, as humans we are complex and slightly mysterious, and that chemistry we feel with someone else is something we can’t quantify or put any scientific structure behind (apart from knowing what chemicals get released into the body and what parts of the brain are activated).

It's not a bloody competition

Isn't it best that the formative part of any relationship sets the tone for how you would like any relationship to be? For example, most of us agree that a relationship should be a partnership and not a competition. So, as my mum said, who was the stupid person that when phones/smart phones were invented said 'thou shalt not text or call for three days'. Why? Honestly, why?

Oh you sent the last text... Oooo, no you definitely can't send one now. Is this because we are actually playing tennis and the ball hasn't been hit back to your side of the court? Are we back to game playing?

Relationship development is organic and all of the above comes from a pessimistic mind set of 'the person you dated probs didn't like you'. If you come from an optimistic mind set of 'that was a great date and I respect that person'... Then you'll find you don't worry about stupid 3 day rules and who text last. You will send that bloody text and then you will get a response of either ‘yay I would love to see you again’ or ‘sorry from my side I just wasn’t feeling it’ (because people this is how the world should work). I would love to eradicate ghosting but unfortunately those people exist and surely an indication they were not the right sort of person in the first place.

Boolean tips to finding the right person

Can you tell I am a recruiter? I spend all day searching and screening people, it’s what I do for a living. Do you know what we do as a first step? We do a job brief which captures what our hiring managers are looking for. That's right, before you embark on any form of search you need to think about some hard and fast facts and probably take a long hard look at yourself. Why are you dating? Who are you looking for?

‘The who’ part enables you to decide the sort of person you are looking to attract and the why part also helps you to decide where you look. Are you looking for a hook up? Tinder. Wapa. Grindr. Are you looking for a relationship? Then you need to know ‘the who’ part and hang out in the places the sort of person you are looking for will hangout (both in cyber space and real space). Sounds simple doesn't it?

I've not intentionally been single for two years, I’ve been figuring myself out over that time period… I’ve been doing some essential ‘uncoupling’ and ‘re-identification’ of myself. Then I started to formulate ‘the who I am’ part through reflection, counselling and reading. Now no matter the attraction I think through potential red flags… Let me give you an example, in all honesty I contemplated the second date with the married woman in an open relationship, but I took a week before messaging her back to reflect and also think through the consequences - that may sound boring but it saved me drama. Maybe that is where I am in life, I am approaching my 40’s and I do need to limit the drama. I take my time now, it sounds very unexciting but actually it's 100% the opposite. I think if she had been upfront from the start, then I would have gone in to the date with my eyes open as to me authenticity is more important than the situation at hand, and she probably would have got a second date.

Patience is a virtue

The main thing I learnt from my past relationship is that sex shouldn't be rushed into. Unless sex is your thing and that is your objective (just to hook up), as long as the other person is aware that is your motivation. Hormones play a massive part in poor decision making, we hear about infatuation and the sex part magnifies that infatuation part massively. Those hormones make you blind, it is what created the famous phrase ‘love is blind’.

Now it is incredibly hard when you are very physically attracted to someone to apply that restraint, and alcohol does not help! Get to know someone, make sure you are both comfortable with the way things are progressing and then if you are ready to make that step it is because you know (as much as you can) that this person is someone you can see things developing with. I may sound boring and methodical by saying that, but when it comes to long term decision making – it's honestly best. If you want the hook up, then ignore my advice as this is a completely different approach, so you can dive right in – respectfully and safely.

By the by, all my advice is based upon looking for a relationship. I have totes been down with having fun and I still am, but when I am looking for a full blown relationship my advice above is what I will always follow. Also, the longer the wait… the more mind blowing the moment is when it finally arrives! After all you have probably imagined it a thousand times in your head, so in theory if you’re considerate… It’s going to be pretty damn good.

The who

The who is how a person’s values and the way they make you feel should tally. Pay attention to red flag behaviours (past relationships, friendships, work ethic etc), be self-aware to know the things that are important to you and then remember the best argument for your life partner selection... The urge to merge: we all end up taking on traits of our partner both emotionally and developmentally. Therefore your partner should be someone you look up to and respect, they should make you want to be the best version of yourself, someone you listen to that tells you about their life and about their values - should make you think, I want that and I want to be that. Then that urge to merge thing... Both of you will take on the best possible traits of each other.


Dating is a highly vulnerable and risky business. Respect is therefore very important, be honest and treat people how you want to be treated. No games. No bullshit. I have mentioned this before because I wish I could coach everyone on this. If you are not interested in going out again, be honest and let the person know nicely. If you are dating other people, be respectful and let the other person know. Just be honest and remember how vulnerable you feel and think through how you would like to be treated because everyone deserves that level of respect. It leads back to being the person you would love.

It's not just me, me, me

There are two people (or sometimes three or four) in a dating process and you must always assume that the other person has the best of intentions. What I mean by this is that everyone has lives outside of dating. Don't take things personally and always listen to your date.

Yes, unfortunately, there are douche bags

Sorry but we all know this part is true either through experience or by helping a friend through post-douchebag disorder. Don't let that scare you and don't think this is the norm. Most people do have the best intentions, the douches are the minority, so from that we can conclude that it's safer to be optimistic than pessimistic. It's better to act from a place of hope than a place of expectation. There is a difference.

Sense and sensibility

I know I am probably making dating sound a little boring and potentially a lot like an OHS conference. It's not, it is amazing and something we all should experience, but it's funny that one of the most important life skills and decisions we make is never taught. Is it because nobody knows what they are doing? Probably. But teaching ourselves to make decisions around who we enter into relationships with is important. We can't get it right 100% of the time, we make mistakes but we try to learn from them. There is no exact science to this madness of dating but if awareness is combined with patience, we may succeed. I hate dating, but my sensible head knows that to truly make a good long term partner decision then you need to date to sample what life has to offer.

All you can do is own your behaviour and be the type of person you would love. To be that person is through actions, if you love yourself then you attract the right person in. I keep coming back to the same point - words are who you want to be and your actions are who you are. If you can identify that in yourself then you can identify that in others. Lots of relationships fail through broken promises - a partner who says a lot but never does it. Identify that early, a person who says something and then does it are precious, hold on to that. I'm not saying we're all perfect and always deliver on our promises, but that should be the minority not the majority of time. The times where you can’t deliver on a promise you should be honest about it, but don’t say the words in the first place if you already know that you won’t be able to follow through with the action. So when conducting your search remember: a person will show you who they are, pay attention.

Have fun

I’ve made this sound very analytical and serious, but really you should be out there having fun. We are on this planet once, so therefore laugh lots and create meaningful experiences. Meet lots of people, do something that scares you… Experience life!


I just think more people should be aware why they are dating and then they can approach it in a respectful way. Maybe that’s reflective of my own personal values, I think as humans we should treat each other honestly, respectfully and without hiding anything. The person you need to be truthful with the most is yourself, the person you need to hold in the highest esteem is yourself and then you get the outcomes you desire through the way people respond to the information and behaviours you exhibit. Search wisely my friends and may the force be with you.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Growing up

Two of my favourite heads

Ah insomnia, my old friend! It's the early hours of my last day in the UK and, perhaps in readiness for heading back to Australia, I seem to have become nocturnal. I've had an amazing few weeks here, centred around my little sister’s wedding. On the day itself, I was immensely proud of her for so many reasons; especially as I watched her protectively walk her new wife around at the reception, and saw how they had thought through a day that reflected them as a couple but also caringly catered for their guests. It was a beautiful day that epitomised both my sister and her new wife!

And who doesn't love a good wedding?! I’ve always tended to get carried away with the frivolity of the day and the celebration at hand, and this one was no exception: I turned into 18-year-old Corina again for the day, and may or may not have coerced some of the party – including one of my more competitive cousins – into a game of Last Man Standing. (The cousin in question is also the first-born on one side of the family, thus aptly named First in Command – FIC.) Well, at 6.45am on Sunday we called a truce, only to discover that one of my other legendary cousins had pulled the wool over both our sets of eyes – she had hidden until we retired to bed, and therefore cunningly stole the crown of last man standingActually, I might have to get on my high horse and rename this game 'last person standing'... Because, FIC, technically you lost to two girls.

This story is leading somewhere, I promise... Family is very important to me as is the wonderment of little people, which sounds hypocritical coming from someone who decided to move to the other side of the world. But it’s true. My family is bloody massive too, to the extent that if we were the Waltons, then the 'goodnight Grandpagoodnight blah-blah bit would not be the closing scene, but the whole flipping episode. And one thing I was struck by when I came home this time is just how much it has expanded over the past few years. Not just in my family, but in my friendship group too, there’s a whole new army of little people around. 

I got to spend a few nights 'co-parenting*'which was precious whilst also opening my eyes to what consecutive nights of sleep deprivation can do to a person! Listening to my friends tell me about their various 'bad parenting' stories had me in stitches, and I had to remind them that turning on Peppa Pig at 5am so you can catch one more hour of sleep  well, that really isn't bad parenting.

As I heard them worry about what other people may think, all I could do was sit there in awe that they are bringing these tiny people up with amazing values and, in my eyes, memories of 'when mum let me crawl into bed and snuggle while we watched Peppa Pig'. Especially when it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was carrying these now-responsible parents home after a night out, as they tried to recall whether it was the left or right foot next before dragging us both into a gutter With that kind of perspective, all I can think is, wow, you are successfully raising a small human  bravo you legend!

I'm also a little jealous: it's an amazing thing to shape both a tiny humanoids life and its values. I was over the moon that my parting gift to one of my friend’s children is that she has now added 'Oh my goodness' to her vocabulary, and I sincerely hope this sticks until she is at least four, to know that I have made even a tiny impact on her life. It’s also made me sad to think that the next time I see her, she will have grown and changed so much; I’m missing these formative years.

I don't think anyone has the right to judge anyone else's parenting style. Babies don't come with manuals, and every child is unique. It's hard enough adulting let alone balancing that with feeding, clothing and shaping another human. I really do mean it when I say I am in awe of anyone who is doing this full-time job! I am also completely jealous as I'd always wanted to bring a little person into this world, which might be why I love helping out with the sproglets so much.

I am always overwhelmed when I go home by the feelings of love and overbearing protection I feel for my niece and nephew. This is why I feel like a hypocrite that I live on the other side of the world, because really I am acting out of selfishness, living out my own dreams when I could be a much larger part of their lives. Especially after finding out last year that there is a high probability that I would find it very hard to conceive a little person. It kind of took away the regret of not having prioritised children sooner in my life, because it was always going to be difficult even with the thrown in complication of a same-sex relationship.

However, I’m trying not to dwell on these things too much. You have to digest the information and then formulate a new plan. I guess the scary part for me was being asked so many times recently if I think I'll have children and was I planning on moving home soon? This is the first time in my life I don't really have a plan. The only thing I've promised myself is that I’ll get my Aussie citizenship – once that’s done, well, I really don't know what’s next. That's both scary and exciting all at once, and I suppose it's the first time in my life I've really been able to think, what do want? Not, what do we want or what does she want? But, what do I want? Which, in itself, is quite daunting...

Anyway, let's not think about these things until after my citizenship is granted! My trip home made me feel so proud of all of my family and friends. I loved those bad parenting stories that clearly do not even register on the scale, and I am definitely in complete admiration of the legendary parents my friends have become. To any parent out there, balancing life, work and your own goals along with cultivating the values and safety of your child  I tip my cap to you.

* exaggerating a little here, maybe, ‘helping out overnight’ might be more accurate.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author and edited by Sophie McClelland.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Mid-year review

It's that time of year

I really should be packing; I leave for the UK in five days and have an exceptionally busy week ahead, and today is my only free day. So I should be packing. I have instead been to the chemist… Then I went and bought some books… Then I had a coffee and read some articles… Then I wandered aimlessly before thinking: I should pack. I returned home, put on some washing, cleaned the bathroom and then I thought: I must really write my blog. So here I am writing my blog when I really should be packing.

I am soon to turn another year older, and when this happens I like to give myself a bit of a mid-year review, which is perhaps just because it’s that time of year – and I’m in HR – but I also like to think that it’s because as the years have gone by I have learnt an essential adulting skill. 

As I sit here reflecting on things, I’m thinking that if somebody had told me five years ago that I would be in Melbourne writing a blog as a single young (debatable) lady (again debatable), I would have laughed in the face of my future – and yet here I am. Today is election day in Australia and my friends will be voting for the country’s future; one I cannot yet participate in as I have yet to be awarded citizenship. It’s also quite a poignant day for another reason.

I am sitting here because of a series of decisions I made, and that’s funny because I am often told I am quite indecisive, which is true when it comes to quite insignificant things like, ‘what do I want for dinner?’ or ‘what colour Toms should I buy next?’ But when it comes to the big stuff, I can be decisive, and I like to think that I make those decisions in an informed way that’s reflective of my analytical nature… As part of my mid-year review I was thinking that it took some adjusting to my single lifestyle, it was strange not calling someone through the day and it was weird working out what to do with my time and making major life decisions without consulting someone else. Going from being practically married to single life is no easy transition; no one prepares you for it and there’s no official guide book on the matter. We’re not even taught how to do it in school; in fact, we’re not ever talked through relationships at school, which seems a bit crazy as they are pretty integral to our adult lives.

Anyway, I’ve distracted myself. The reason today is poignant is because every now and then I hear from my ex (I personally believe in keeping things amicable), and today she contacted me to let me know she is now engaged. It’s been about two years since we separated and it’s funny how lives once entwined can suddenly venture in two very different directions. When we separated I spent time in counselling both pre- and post-break up (I can’t recommend it enough), mainly because of the guilt I felt but also because I felt the need to re-examine myself after suddenly not having that person in my life who had been such a big part of my identity. I quite literally felt like I was suddenly standing in a desert, tumbleweed blowing around me, the heat beating down on my neck and armed with neither map nor water.

It’s amusing in some ways because I was the person who did the breaking up, and people are quick to make assumptions about that – gosh, even I used to make those assumptions. But it was the hardest decision I had to make, and was not a decision I took lightly. I didn’t leave because I felt the grass was greener; I didn’t leave because I didn’t love her anymore; and I didn’t leave because our situation was too hard. I put 100% into trying to make it work because I believe that you should never leave someone simply because it’s ‘easier’ than working on your relationship. Likewise, you should never stay with someone for fear of being alone or facing the harsh reality of a break up.

I made the decision because the relationship had broken down into something I no longer recognised, and I loved her and respected her enough to know I did not want things to continue the way they were – it was unhealthy for both of us. But letting go was the hardest thing I had to do. So getting the message that she was engaged was the moment I went from believing 95% that I did the right thing to 100% because I’m genuinely happy for her. Of course, I’m also very human, and part of me was gutted that in two years I have not found something similar. However, after the sting of the news subsided, I realised I am comfortable with the fact that I am here on my sofa writing my blog. It’s where I am supposed to be right now, or else I wouldn’t be sitting here so comfortably.

I think that one of the reasons I’m feeling a little sad about it is because I’m a romantic: I love being part of a team and couldn’t help wondering why I haven’t yet formed a new and lasting one… Well, Corina (note to self: must stop this third-person referencing thing) it’s probably because my special someone is neither hidden under the sofa nor likely to suddenly ring the doorbell – that would be a bit weird and potentially a U-Haul moment. For me (oh, I’m me again), I have never wanted to actively seek a relationship because you make bad decisions that way, trust me – that’s right my memory goes back fourteen years. I believe that you ultimately attract the right person at the right time (I am sure there is some scientific proof to my hypothesis). Although these days I am a lot older, so maybe I should be rushing the process through dating, but I don’t like the fact that everyone has this expectation that because you’re dating you want a relationship. I want feelings for someone to develop naturally, free from pressure, so that both parties can be free to see where the road takes them.

Realistically my option is that someone meets me while I am dribbling at the bar or performing the caterpillar on the dancefloor while thinking I’m gangsta (I totally am), which doesn’t bode for a great first impression.

I am a very lazy romantic (or a scaredy-cat romantic – take your pick). Maybe they should invent an app for that. I am also too invested in my career and friendships at the moment; I am still forming my life in Melbourne, which involves widening my social circles. And although I am acutely aware that I’m starting to feel ready for that next step in my life, how the devil that will transpire is anyone’s guess. Maybe I should invent the lazy scaredy-cat romantic app, where people go with no expectations and a chill pill to just see what develops. I am sure I can come up with a scientific formula for this…

Ok before I share my multi-million-dollar idea, let’s get back to my mid-year review. My friends keep telling me I should date for fun and excitement. Well, if having a panic attack is their idea of fun and excitement then I have really weird friends, because unfortunately pre-date I get worried about things I shouldn’t even worry about (ok, I might be exaggerating about the panic attack for humorous purposes). Although clearly I can’t be too bad at dating, as I make a lot of friends doing it… Oh, actually, that’s not really the point is it?!

I guess the upshot of my mid-year review is that I have one objective for the remaining half of my year: I was lucky enough to experience the feeling of 'wow, where did you come from?' earlier this year, I had forgotten how that feels, the feeling of excitement and wanting to see where it goes. I want to make someone feel that about me. I am pretty sure that moment will occur while I'm dribbling at the bar... 87.24% certain. Maybe I should just stop dribbling at bars, or buy a bib? Yeah, I might need to invest in a bib.

I got distracted again… Where was I? Oh, yes, excitement – why do people assume that being single means you have to date? The excitement of being single comes from reminding myself every Friday at around 4.45pm that I am single and while I am single I should enjoy, well, being single. What does being single mean? It means that at 4.45pm on a Friday I can persuade others to join me in general debauchery in a bar of our choosing because, as Yoda said, ‘Only once you live.’ So for me it’s not about dating, it is about living a little before some very lucky lady gets tricked by my charm and is then stuck with me for a long time.

It also means that this week I have the freedom to jump on a plane and head back to the UK for three whole weeks to celebrate my amazing sister getting married to the love of her life. Which reminds me… I really should be packing.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author and edited by Sophie McClelland.