Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fickle A-words

I'm continually surprised by how fickle Auckland is. And I don't just mean the weather.

This morning there was thunder and lightening and rain and it was glorious. Now - sunny and completely blue skies. I've spent the day reading, drinking tea, writing - and shunting washing through the machine and dryer. So domestic.

This year has been somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster for me so far and I think I've lost touch with the things I really enjoy - not just at work but in my downtime as well. I no longer write and I miss it, but in a different capacity to last year where I was writing - but at work instead of out of it. Now - nowhere. Work has changed and I feel stifled in my inability to talk about it. But that is neither here nor there. I haven't been to book club in months, my toes only feel the grass and sand when I visit home, and I didn't renew my NZSO subscription. A month or so ago I realised I was profoundly unhappy, and that some change had precipitated the feeling.

I think my satisfaction with life is directly tied to my satisfaction with work, and that has been a valuable reality to become aware of. Is it the same for all single, childless types?! I'm striving to achieve balance, I suspect it will be a journey.

Self-awareness is always a good first step towards change for the better, and I'm enjoying the challenge of consciously being in control of the direction of my life, happiness and career. But like everything - it takes time, and hard work. Also self confidence - in that the authority figures around you might not be always right, and that your mentors might be. Identifying the difference between the two has been profound, and alarmingly recent.

Fickle Academia. I have come full circle without even knowing it. I finished my PhD in 2012 and had a massive revelation in early 2013 that I didn't want to be an academic. I wrote a piece at the time which, upon re-reading, might have been one of the most insightful, honest and deep things I have ever unintentionally written. I also wrote a piece last year about 'The Quitting' and it is interesting to see the differences in the two - and where I'm at now. I suspect 'life in the real world' (read 'post-perpetual-studenthood') consists of these revelations periodically, and a constant evolution of direction and goals. I am baffled by being such a babe in the woods with respect to adulthood.

I landed a couple of short contracts that year and started my current job at the beginning of last year. In May of last year I switched from being professional staff to academic - I was, ironically, a postdoc after all.

I have learnt so much these past 24 months. I've gained new skills, new experiences and met new people - of both the fabulous and...less so varieties. I've reconnected with old friends and happily watched the evolution of relationship with sustained ones. I have learnt so much at work I am completely astounded by my CV. I am more confident in which skills I value over others - and which ones I want to primarily use in my career. This knowledge makes forced-pigeon-holing into using only skills I don't value all the more unsatisfying. I don't want to kill myself by lurching from one panic to the next, or by having my happiness remain so completely, complexly entwined with perceived success or failure at work.

But - I've come full circle. I am deeply disappointed in academia. The system is broken and a toxic undercurrent runs beneath the relationships of some of the people working within it. I'm not so naive as to think any other industry is perfect, nor that other people aren't perfectly happy within the system, and that it is only my opinion (settle down, trolls). Academia is not for me. And I am completely at peace with that knowledge. I am also at peace with the knowledge that I don't want to fix it (at least...not right now. My student-activist-self, horrified by injustice, still, apparently, exists). It is not a battle that I currently want to fight. I'm ducks-backing academia and its singular goals. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

It seems to be my way, to pass through these periods of tumultuousness, and dissect them by writing about them after. I'm letting go of unnecessary guilt and obligation, and getting better at making hard decisions. I'm also newly convinced that ones own happiness and well-being should come first (shocking I know) - screw all expectations and demons other than my own.

No one has more control over your life than you. Its an empowering truth, but also a daunting one - blaming other people no longer holds water. Sort your own shit out.


Friday, January 30, 2015

'Ofa atu Nuku'alofa

In somewhat sporadic blogging style - an update!

I'm in Tonga, I think that deserves a quick post. Its my last day and I'm sitting in a cafe drinking cold coconut while waiting for my ride to the airport this evening. I've bought 75 Mb of data - we'll see how far that gets me.

I'm here for work - basically a repeat of what I was in the Cook Islands for, but with a Tongan context. Helping the coordinator over here to set up her data collection protocols, meeting the teachers involved in the project again, meeting people in the Ministries for Education, Health and Finance, and today - a meeting with the Deputy High Commissioner. That meeting was really good - so fascinating to see the whole diplomatic side of government.

The Tongan teachers have been fantastic. I sat in on a meeting welcoming the new entrants to Tonga High School on Tuesday, the new Form 1s. This is their school hall - a open fale style building that was really pleasant to sit under in the heat.

You can see some of the kids in the front row of the picture above are holding brooms - this is part of their entrance fee to the school: a broom, and a pack of toilet paper. The brooms and bog roll are stacked up in a room and used to supply the school for the year. The brooms are made from strips of dried coconut leaf, bound onto a pole. When all the bits fall out - you just fill it up again. We've also been round to Tonga College and Tonga Side School, the other two schools involved in the project.

I stayed at the NOA Guesthouse and would definitely recommend it to people visiting Nuku'alofa. It was clean and tidy, safe and very friendly. They make you breakfast every morning if you stay in a en suite room, and while heavy on the white bread (my gluten and dairy-free guts are killing me, this latter end of the week) and egg it was completely lovely. The fridge was also always full of coconuts to drink whenever. Diana, the host, has her son jump up a palm to get more whenever needed.

Sunset from the porch of the main house. Tropical Islands do do sunsets remarkably well. I had an airconned room, and thank all of the many many gods that I did so. Last night I was convinced to try a Tongan drink of cold milk (from the Kings own royal cows) with coffee and sugar (I'm guessing the contents) which was lovely (you know, bar the whole dairy issue) but which kept me up past 2am this morning. 

Today the teachers were finishing off their planning week for the year (think; a week of teacher-only days) and celebrated the new year with lunch at Vakaloa, a resort out west on Tongatapu. This was the first beach I've seen all week - Nuku'alofa is very much a port - no beaches around the capital, though they have built a kind of sea-wall to make an area where kids can learn to swim.

 The water looked sublime and felt like a tepid bath. It was blistering hot and I could only stand to be on the beach for about 5 minutes to take photos before heading back inside to the shade and about a gallon of water.

Its Dealing with bureaucrats to make a project run is apparently always a nightmare but jeeeese - my skill-set has certainly taken a jump up this week. I'm quite ready to get back home to cooler nights, my own bed and non-developing-nation-comforts (the shame).

We'll be back in March for teacher prof dev workshops and to work on data with the Ministry of Health. I'm hoping it'll be much cooler! In the mean time the teachers at Tonga High School have decided they are going to find me a Tongan husband. Hah. Good luck.