Friday, October 9, 2015

Reflections on self-improvement

Two years ago, two of the most amazing people I know left their Gold Coast lives behind to work and travel. Radhika and Johnny, the team behind Fulltime Nomad, took a risk and plunged in to something they believed in and were passionate about.

Apart from being gorgeous and generous and positive people, they're also extremely smart. They knew they wanted more out of life, and to expand and grow. They had a plan, and a goal, and they worked hard to prepare themselves. I was on holiday when they finally announced to the world that they were quitting their jobs and going travelling. I still remember that moment standing in Melbourne Zoo and reading the text from her, and the immense excitement and joy I felt knowing that they were embarking on a journey they'd worked so hard to prepare for. You can read their story of the last two years in this blog post: From Desk Jockeys To Fulltime Nomads: Our Digital Nomad Story.

Around the same time, late in 2013 (and probably at least in part inspired by their example) I began to realise that I wanted more out of my life too. While I was enjoying my job, and the company I worked for, I was no longer finding it challenging - or (for want of a better word) satisfying. (Aside: the concept of "job satisfaction" is a very loaded one, I know. But it's the closest I have to what I was feeling at the time.)

While I hugely admired what Radhika and Johnny were doing, I also knew that it wasn't for me. I love travel, but I also love my creature comforts and my fur babies. I'd made a commitment to my fur children and I wasn't going to abandon them (or my electronic baby - my gaming PC ;) ).

How could you not love that face?

Or this sweet set-up?

But it did get me thinking about what I could do to expand my own self. Another friend, Kai, had been pestering me for a while to make a career change in to IT. I'd been resisting, because I didn't think of myself as scientifically or technically minded - my sister was the scientist in the family, not me. (My sister, who has a PhD and travels the world studying volcanoes, is also a huge inspiration to me). I was the Arts student, the English major, the hippy. But I came to realise that these thoughts were self-limiting. Other people saw my technical skills and knowledge, even if I didn't.

So about the same time that Radhika and Johnny took off to Colombia and points beyond, I enrolled in University (again). I already had an Arts degree and half a Management degree, but now I was doing something completely different - IT. Luckily, I could get recognition of prior learning for the classes I'd already done for my Management degree. But I still needed at least 2-3 years of part time study to finish. This was a big commitment - as a Kiwi in Australia, I pay domestic student (i.e. government-subsidised) fees, but I don't have access to student loans or allowances, so I have to pay all my fees up front. I also couldn't get a payment exemption for my existing NZ student loan. So we had to be committing a large chunk of our fortnightly income to pay my higher education costs.

Shortly after I started university in early 2014, another friend told me that she and her husband were building a house. Dave and I had never considered that option - we'd always thought that buying a house was out of our reach, especially while I was studying. But building meant that we could get a grant from the government, and also didn't have any stamp duty to pay. We chatted with a mortgage broker, and then discussed our plans with our parents. After a lot of research and many, many weekends of looking at both established houses and new display homes - and thanks to the generous help of our parents - we made another huge commitment and started building a house.

Our very own patch of Australian dirt.

Now, staring down the barrel of the end of 2015, we've recently moved in to our beautiful home and I've just enrolled for 2016. If I successfully complete all my classes between now and the end of 2016 (what am I talking about? When I complete!), I'll have just one class remaining - the double-weight "capstone" mega-project class. The end is in sight, and I have a gorgeous home to study in.

The best house on the street.

TARDIS-blue door.

Maybe my subconscious remembered the day two years ago that the person I call my soul twin left on her amazing journey, because yesterday I decided that I wanted to do a bit more to expand myself and get outside my comfort zone. As an introvert and someone with anxiety, it's easy for me to get stuck in what is comfortable. I read a blog post from Steve Portigal about doing 100 doodles in 100 days, and thought "I could do that." I used to enjoy drawing, although I'd never say I was good at it, and I love the current craze of "adult colouring books" (colouring books for adults, not, you know, the other thing...). I thought that doing a squiggle every day would help jump start the creative part of my brain, and it was something outside my comfort zone, and it takes hardly any time, so it was perfect. I watched a video by Dave Gray, who I saw speak at a conference recently, about Squiggle Birds, and decided that was a good place to start.

Pretty good for a first attempt.
You can follow along with my 100 days of squiggles on Instagram with my hashtag, #100daysofjensquiggles. If you feel like creating something daily too, you should take the plunge! It doesn't have to be drawing - you might want to take photos, or vines, or selfies. Whatever you think is worthwhile, then that is something that it is worth you spending time on.

While Radhika and Johnny have chosen a very different path to me, they still inspire me every day to improve myself, to strive for more, to get out of my comfort zone - to be more. They've achieved a lot in two years, and so have I. Two years from now, I'll have finished my degree. Where will you be in two years?