Life

The 5 People I Met On My Way Out Of Christianity…

Posted on Sep 2, 2014 in God, Life | 0 comments

http://premiumcoding.com/daily-photo-connecting-people/connecting-people/

They reckon you need 3-7 connections with a Christian to convert or feel established into a new church.

I reckon you need around 5 connections to get you out of it.

A reader, we’ll call her Sarah, sent me this message this week:

 

I have been wanting to send you a message for a few weeks now, as I have been ferociously reading my way through your blog. Okay, that’s a lie – I read the entirety of your public posts in one evening, sitting on my couch with a bottle of wine and a growing puddle of tears. I want to tell you that I so deeply appreciate your honesty and authenticity in how you tell your story.

 

 

Much of what you share has resonated with me in some the big questions I find myself facing at the moment. I understand that these “all-the-important-things-in-life” conversations are best had in person (or at the very least, via hologram or Skype). If you ever find yourself in Melbourne, I would love to have a drink or few with you.

 

Of course the answer was yes. Aside from the fact that she said a ‘few’ drinks, I love talking about this stuff and catching up with people I only knew as a kid. I’m also personally so grateful to the everyone who was a part of my own journey out, even though for some of them it probably wasn’t that fun.

It made me start thinking of all the people involved in my own questioning journey… anyone else have similar sorts of people you talked to?

The Verbal Deluge Friend

My poor friend Cassi.

She got the brunt of it. The deluge of new thoughts and shocking realisations, the constant to-ing and the fro-ing and analysing and discussing and processing of the first 2 years I began thinking for myself. Every new experience, every conversation or discussion or thing I read came pouring out over a glass of champagne in her spa for, quite literally, hours on end.

I didn’t mean to make our friendship purely about me processing the decision she’d already come to a year or so ago. She was just the only one I had.

There’s a period in your life where you’re questioning and thinking and wondering a lot but you’re still pretty entrenched in the whole thing. You can’t talk to your friends or colleagues or even your husband because they start getting scared that you’re going to hell.

So you need a Verbal Deluge Friend, someone who understands that just cos you don’t believe in Jesus today doesn’t mean you won’t be adoringly worshipping him again on the weekend. Someone who gets that there’s a difference between God and the Church.  Someone who knows it’s a love/hate, emotionally devastating process to accept that there’s no god and gives you the space to process it. And especially someone who knows that you need to work this Stuff out for yourself and that it’s not gonna be over in a day.

The Guide

Sam was my yoga teacher. A wiry, 50 year old, grey haired man who could stand on his head and fold his legs into strange angles, his eyes emanate the gentlest spirit of anyone I’ve ever known. Twice a week I got up in the dark at 5am in the morning, drove over to Manly Corso and took myself through the Ash Tanga MySore series under his direction.

He showed me that my body is not my enemy, to be subdued and fought against, but to be listened to and cherished. To just let myself fall without trying to prevent it and simply start the move again.

He taught me that life goes in cycles and some days you’re not better than yesterday, you’re just different. That sometimes simply breathing and holding gets the same results as striving and pushing.

He taught me that emotions live in your muscles and your physical body is as much a part of your soul as your mind and feelings. That Being is more important than Doing.

He told me to cry out the weeping that soaked from my muscles after every yoga class. The weeping that turned out to be unconscious grieving for the death of the idea of God and the gateway to acceptance.

I owe this man so much, it’s emotional to write about him.

When you’re letting go of truths, you need new anchors to hold onto. For a friend of mine, this was Richard Dawkins, for another it was a comedian. You just need someone who gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to live on the other side – any side of the other side – and makes it safe for you process that stuff.

That said, go to yoga. Go, everyone, to yoga.

The Reality Check

Yvette was a business manager of another church overseas when she realised she didn’t believe in God anymore.

I knew her story for a year before I could bring myself to talk to her. Not just because she’s a naturally loud and opinionated person and I was a little intimidated but also because talking to her meant I had made a decision that it wasn’t for me, this church life. It meant that I needed advice on how to leave and get out of it, rather than just continue pretending that one day my faith would come back and let me go back to the life I knew.

At the time I didn’t believe what she told me, about what would happen after leaving. She told me my mentor and second-mum would drop communication with me. She told me the leaders of the church would get nasty as soon as I resigned. She told me my staff and friends would be banned from seeing me and most people, even my friends, would not be in contact, even to find out what happened.

I didn’t believe her at the time but was glad for the warning when all those things – and worse – happened just like she said they would. At least I didn’t feel like the problem was with me.

There comes a point when you’ll make a decision and some hard, practical advice on what that’s going to mean for your life is just the thing to get you through.  If you can find them, someone who’s been in the same position you are (Pastor’s daughter, gay, Anglican, worship leader etc) is best.

The New Life Best Friend

I had no idea what to do with the salt shaker. A shot glass of tequila was pushed onto the counter top and someone started saying ‘ready?’. Kendyl jumped over and told me to lick between my thumb and forefinger and shake some salt on it. I got it done just in time to lick it off, down the tequila and suck the lemon just a couple of beats behind everyone else.

There’s going to be a lot of new experiences in your new life, especially if you’ve jumped straight from being a married Pastor to a single Uni student (for example), that you’ll have not the slightest idea about.  You won’t have any club appropriate shoes, you’ll have boy questions, you won’t know anything about Sex and the City and most innuendos will go over your head so you need someone to help you navigate all this. You’ll also just need a good ol’ partner in crime.

That’s where your New Life Best Friend comes in. Kendyl was adorable and a deep well of never ending patience and fun. She didn’t care so much for the philosophical thinking and that’s exactly what I needed. An escape and introduction to the best my new life had to offer…

The Deconverted Best Friend

No one in your new world is really going to understand the part of you that once was a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, tongues-speaking, Holy-Spirit-praying Pastor. They’ll find it fascinating… for the first 20 minutes, maybe a one hour tell-all session if they’re the Curious type but after that you’re on your own…

You’re on your own with that random night terror of Ps Chris sitting on a red chair in her office, wearing a multi-coloured kaftan, cackling over her new magazine coffee-table style book. You’re on your own with the incessant urge to read anything that has to do with some old Asian pastor convicted of embezzlement… with those moments you get contacted by Someone Else Who Left… and the pure awkwardness of running into a Connect Group of people you went to bible college with just two weeks into living in Sydney again…

All of these moments will seems like nothing more than a dream, a news article, a rumour and a random meet with old friends to everyone except your De-Converted Best Friend.

Jyana understands what a freakin’ big deal some of these things are and how much they jarred my day-to-day reality. She responds with a huge ‘Oh my gaaawwwwd, I can’t believe that happened!!!!’ and I don’t have to even go through the process of explaining what a Connect Group is.

I was in Portugal a couple of years ago whenI lost my camera (again). I went to an agency to get the police report translated for the insurance claim. I had to call the insurance company to check something about the documents and had a slight moment of shock when a girl with an Australian accent picked up the phone. I’d been travelling about 8 weeks at that stage through countries where english wasn’t their first language. It’s necessary to speak a different kind of english to officials, waiters, taxi drivers, shop assistants etc; a stilted sort of english where you reduce it down to the basics and say things nice and slowly.

Suddenly, I was talking to a native Australian and it was like jumping into a pool on a hot day. She understood me straight away. We had the fastest conversation I’d had in months and frankly, it was over too quickly. I hesitated when she asked if there was anything else she could do for me because I was trying to think of excuses to keep talking to her.

If you grew up in church, you need to speak with someone who speaks your native language every now and again – you just gotta let it out and go back there and reminisce and laugh and get angry and rant and gossip and confess and philosophise and all that stuff that’s impossible with anyone – no matter how much they love you – from the New Life.  And that’s your Deconverted Best Friend (or friends, if you’re as lucky as I am).

If I can be any one of these people for you, please feel free to write me. To my friends Cassi, Yvette, Sam, Kendyl and Jyana… thanks. Xx

 

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What Christians Saving Sex For Marriage Don’t Realise About Sex That They Really Freakin’ Should (Part 2)

Posted on Jul 1, 2014 in God, Life | 0 comments

**This is the second of a two part series about saving sex for marriage… by someone who knows what she’s talking about. If you didn’t read the first part, you can read it here.

saving sex 2

Belief #5.     The build up to sex on your marriage night will make sex better for the years to come

So, that would be so nice if it were true.

Sadly, more likely, the build up to sex on your marriage night has turned it into some ethereal, life-changing activity that will make you a unicorn before whisking you off into the seventh heaven.

And when you discover it’s not actually that, it’ll be your libido whisked to the seventh heaven instead.

Not that I’m speaking from personal experience *shifty eyes*

And, my friends, if there’s one thing that’ll kill a sex life, it’s an inexplicable lack of libido…

The other panelist on the Huffinton Post panel ran an abstinence website and seemed to think that if he saved sex for marriage, the rest of his 20-30 years of copulating were going to be a blissful honeymoon of happy, true, lovemaking…

As in…

…he’d never find himself in the position of needing to ‘spice up the bedroom’ with clown outfits or some other sort of low-grade activity.

I googled ‘sexy clown outfit’ which just confirms that the phrase is an oxymoron…

 

To him I say, firstly:

– in a few years, you’ll be in the same position as a couple who had sex before marriage, except all the mystery and surprise that makes sex exciting will disappear sooner because you’ll be peeing together and balancing finances.

  • When will you ever have the thrill of sneaking into her bedroom so as not to wake her flatmates at 2am?
  • Or giving her a little bite on the finger when you think no-one’s looking cos “no one knows” you’re doing it?
  • Or getting back to your place after an unexpected weekend and suddenly realizing your bed is empty without her?

You’ll never have these experiences and I’m sad for you.
Secondly:

– although I’m pretty sure clown outfits are wayyy down the list of sexual fantasies there’s nothing wrong with them.  Maybe this imaginary couple you’re so judgemental of is so sexually free they’ve discovered they like clown outfits.

Maybe YOU like clown outfits.  Don’t you think it’s a shame you’ll never find out?

Belief #6.     It’s all about communication

This is absolutely true.  But we’ve jumped a couple of steps.

To be able to communicate you need to first have a) the confidence to communicate and b) something to communicate.  If you’ve never had sex before it’s likely you have neither.

My ex and I could, and did communicate about sex.  But agreeing it’s not all that crash-hot is like agreeing global warmings not a myth.  It’s a step but it doesn’t change anything.

Communication comes into play when you’re able to actually use it.

During sex.

Without ruining the mood or hurting someone’s ego.

That takes a special kind of comfort with yourself in the bedroom and, contrary to popular Christian opinion, that kind of comfort it not necessarily found by knowing the guy married you. It’s found from… well, being comfortable with yourself.

Belief #7.     Sex Is Always Good If You Love The Person

Definitely not a guaranteed outcome peoples.

There is such a thing as just simply being sexually incompatible. Anyone who has had a modicum of sexual experience will agree with that.

I really don’t need to say anything more on this subject. There’s a reason there’s such a big deal about good sex and that’s because it’s hard to find.

  • Amazing kissing does not equal good sex.
  • Awesome adventures together does not equal good sex.
  • Committing to each other for life does not equal good sex.

There’s only one thing that equals good sex and that’s good sex. You have to actually do it to discover it.

Belief #8. Loving Your Husband/Wife Will Ensure You’re Always Happy About The Decision To Wait

The reality is that some of you, not all of you but a good some of you, will get to a time of your life where you wonder what you might have missed out on? You’ll hear stories of people who experimented sexually and – shock horror – still seem to be whole and sane human beings and realise that you’re now in a pretty awful position…

The position of loving your spouse and not wanting to hurt him/her and at the same time desperately wishing for experiences you will now never be able to have without hurting him/her.

It’s hard to explain the heartache of this situation and I would never have believed it possible if I hadn’t had so many people tell me their own stories of experiencing it. Here it is in one commenter’s words on my original ‘I regret saving sex for marriage‘ post:

“I know this is an older post, but I need to comment. I totally agree with this, but I feel extremely guilty admitting it. I feel like this is something nobody wants to talk about. I have a wonderful loving husband who I adore. I wouldn’t trade my life with him for anything in the world. But waiting for all those years was lonely, humiliating, and emotionally damaging in so many ways. Now I feel like I never experienced my previous relationships fully, and now that I’m older I feel like I have missed out on experiences that should have been special memories. “

So there it is. Once you realise that sex outside of marriage is not going to turn you into an evil, horned person you realise you do actually want to experience it, like a normal person.

It’s Not Nothing to give up sexual freedom and exploration.

It’s a big deal.

Especially when you’re committing to do it for the rest of your life.

So… if all of that stuff you’ve been told by parents and teachers and leaders is actually bullshit, you have to ask yourself why all those people would tell a young generation that their lives will be better if they saved sex for marriage when actually it’d just be better if they:

  1.  relaxed expectations and committed to discovering what works for them and
  2. used some common sense boundaries to make it safe for both the genitals and the heart?

Aside from big Daddies wanting to protect little girls from scary boys (who could possibly use a good chat with this dad who wrote a blog titled ‘Dear Daughter, I hope you have awesome sex.’) the answer of why mature people encourage young people not to have sex before marriage is unfortunately super simple.

It’s because they have to.

They HAVE to make up reasons why saving sex for marriage is better than not because… wait for it… it’s in the bible.

And we all know how I feel about that as a reason to do anything.

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What Young People Saving Sex For Marriage Don’t Know About Sex That They Really Freakin’ Should

Posted on Jun 17, 2014 in God, Life | 0 comments

So I’ve been holding back on this blog for about, oh 2 years, cos, well, I was a little shy.

But just yesterday I had another comment on this article about saving sex for marriage from a guy who regretted it and it made me decide to share this. Cos maybe if I speak honestly about this stuff, someone out there will actually believe me (and all the other people leaving comments) and save themselves the heartache that comes.

saving sex for marraige 1

As you all know I saved sex for marriage and Would Not Do That Again, even if that wasn’t a physical impossibility.

A year or so ago, the Huffington Post invited me as the Pro-sex Before Marriage advocate on a discussion generated from an article written by this brave but completely sheltered lady, Evette Holyfield.

Surprise, surprise her father influenced her decision to save sex for The One.

“We grew up in a Christian home. When I was around six years old, my dad said to me, “You don’t need to have sex outside of marriage.” He went through the whole spiel with me. So as I grew up, I thought, okay dad, if you don’t want me to do it, I’m not gonna do it. Then I started to really understand church – the words in the Bible and what the pastor is really saying. At that point, I wasn’t just doing it because my dad said don’t, but rather, I now believe that by waiting, God will bless me and bring me a great husband.

I don’t suppose anyone has pointed out to her that God nor the bible ever promised that waiting to  have sex until marriage would bring her a great husband…

…but I do hope it happens for her either way.

The problem with this sort of stuff is that it makes other young people feel guilty for not being as ‘pure’ by saving sex for marriage.

And I say, that’s enough of that.

The discussions behind the scenes of that Huffington Post panel were, for me, quite shocking.

If you’re going to go on national television with an opinion, you kinda wanna make sure it’s informed.

They had quite literally never come across someone who could confidently say ‘Tried that whole saving sex for marriage thing! Wasn’t so great.’ 

I was bombarded with questions that reminded me of all the things I had also thought about sex before marriage… before I got married and actually had sex.

Yeahhhhhhhh…

So here are all the things I remembered that sheltered people believe about sex and saving it for marriage.

And here’s my response to those, now having been on both sides of the equation.

Just as a clarification:

I’m not saying you should have sex before marriage. There are loads of people out there, religious or not, who only ever have sex with the one person.

I’m AM saying that you should do what is right for you and not what the rest of the people around you say is right for you, even if they’re your parents or parental figures or gods representative or whats-it. Cos at the end of the day They Are Not You and – shock – You Are A Unique Person.

So… work it out for yourselves, lovelies.

Belief #1.    You can’t help but compare sex with your current partner to sex with your previous partner and therefore won’t enjoy it with the current one.

Er… this is like saying you should only eat vanilla ice cream because if you try raspberry you might realize you like it more.

Listen, YOU WANT TO KNOW YOU LIKE RASPBERRY ICE CREAM MORE.

Raspberry ice cream is awesome!  It’s a little bitey and unpredictable and has these bits that get stuck in your teeth that you’re thinking about for days afterwards…

Secondly, let’s say hypothetically you’ve had raspberry ice-cream before but vanilla ice-cream goes better with everything else on your plate for the rest of your life.  You don’t have to live with Vanilla every single night…

Now that you’ve had raspberry you know how to bring it’s bity-ness to the table.  Yep!  You can make a delicious raspberry and vanilla ice cream dessert one night and maybe chuck some passionfruit puree on the top another.    And maybe your partner has discovered he likes nuts so he brings those for a big nutty, vanilla swirl.

On the kitchen bench.

Thirdly, this was clearly said by someone who feels like they are terrible in bed and is hugely insecure about it.

There’s no such thing as a hierarchy of sex.

Everyone does it, and likes it, differently and it’s different with everyone!  You can be the Queen of the Sac with one guy and a hugely awkward starfish with another – it doesn’t mean you or he is bad in bed, it just means you’re not compatible.  Mint ice cream and raspberry ice cream are awesome separately but don’t match together.

For me, anyway.  I’m sure there’s someone walking Oxford Street who swears by it.

Belief #2.    You will get AIDs and/or a baby

Okay so 80% of people have mouth ulcers aka: HERPES OF THE MOUTH and we’re not saving that particular contraction for marriage, so could we all take a breather and relax on the STD witch-hunt please!?

This is what condoms are for peoples.

More importantly, and on a grave subject, I know two Christian girls who had abortions because every time they had sex with their boyfriend was ‘the last time’ so they were never prepared for the next time.

They were already feeling guilty for sleeping with their boyfriend – imagine the guilt over an abortion once the shock started to wear off and they began processing what they’d done…

(Side note: Do you reckon Christian culture could use some re-thinking around an environment so ‘loving’ a girl would override her conscience to the point of abortion rather than suffer the humiliation of being found out to not be The Perfect Christian?)

Anyway, the point is, attempting to NOT have sex, can actually result in a higher amount of unprotected sex.

 You won’t get AIDs or pregnant if you’re approaching the whole she-bang with a bit of maturity, otherwise known as a condom.

Belief #3.     Sex distracts you from really getting to know a person

Don’t think about a pink elephant.  No seriously, stop thinking about it.  Bad you!  STOP!  Pink elephants!!!!  STOP THINKING ABOUT THEM!!!!

Welcome to being in a relationship where you’re not allowed to have sex.

You think about it… ALL. THE. TIME.

You fantasize about it.

You imagine what it’ll be like when you do get to have sex.  Where you’re going to do it.  How you’re going to do it.  What it’ll feel like.

You’re a veritable porn site of imaginary, fantastical, completely ridiculous sexual fantasies that will haunt you after you actually do it with their movie-like innocence.

There’s no room for anything in there except when your wedding day is going to be.  So you can have sex on your wedding night.  Juuust like Brad Pitt and Rose Byrne in the movie Troy…  Surrrrrre.

Firstly: NOT having sex distracts you from really getting to know a person.

Secondly: if you find someone who you can’t get to know very well because you’re too busy having loads of sex… This. Is. Not. A. Bad. Thing. Cling. Hard. And never let go.

Thirdly: sex is something you want to know about a person before you commit to doing it only with them for the ressssssst of your liiiiiiiiiiiife…  Just sayin’.

Belief #4.     Break ups are harder if you’ve had sex

Break ups are hard, period.  But it’s not about sex.

It’s about your heart.

If you’re the type of person who can’t separate the two, then yes, save sex until you trust them with your heart.

I know girls who have been more hurt by a guy they had only sent a few text messages with than by one they had sex with. Actually, come to think of it, that was the same girl.

Having sex with someone as a purely recreational activity is possible and breaking up with them is not difficult at all.  You just stop answering their calls at 3am after a night out.  Or get the next train to Budapest.

Giving yourself to someone who is unworthy is a valid concern but it’s not protected against by not having sex with them.

Sex and heartache are two different things.

—-

Four more shatterings of innocent beliefs coming next week… (Ahh I know you wanted the rest now but heeeyy, it’s a long one! And I know you’ll be back cos it’s about sex and they’re always the most popular blogs. And I like to stretch out the writing so that Facebook stops reminding me that I haven’t put a bloody post up recently… on that note, if you want to get the next instalment direct to your inbox, the box for your email address is over there ———>)

See you next week!

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Rescuing the Present from the Clutches of the Past

Posted on May 29, 2014 in God, Life | 0 comments


The Past

No self-respecting Spanish gets out of bed before midday on a Saturday.  All the people walking Calle Larios, the main street, at 10am are tourists.  If it weren’t for the time of day, you could tell from the clothes anyway.  Oversized t-shirts, a lack of accessories and hair bundled up or left scraggling around their shoulders.

These are not the Spanish chicas.  Spanish chicas are brutal when it comes to fashion. They are perfectly bronzed, slight heels, covered in accessories, long hair flowing down their back.

There was this time about a year ago in Spain when I turned around and saw that end moment when you know two people have been looking at you.  One of the chicas raised her eyebrow at the other and they laughed.  Every girl knows how to read that message of, ‘As if you would wear that.’ or ‘What even IS that?’

It took me a moment to work out why I deserved it.

My dress was too big for me but I bought it anyway.  You know when you love something.  Not a fashionista (I only care so much) I’d tied the material belt into a half-bow, sitting at the centre of my back to make it the right size and promptly forgot about it.  Out of sight to me, but not the chicas.

Of all the effort I’d gone to that day, the hair, the make up, the waxing, the nails, the perfume, the dress, the heels, she’d noticed one tiny thing a little odd.

It was a shame cos I was quite keen to be friends. My Spanish is better in Madrid, where they remember to use the ’s’ sound and breath between sentences. I watched them walk away a little sad that I’d been a little lazy about the oversized belt and that it was something that mattered so strongly to her.

Because I’m a Pastor-by-trade and there’s a freakin’ object lesson in everything, my mind reminded me that…

Focussing on the negative shuts life down.  Shifting attention to the positive opens life up.

At that time, I was so negative about my life Before. About life in the church. I was processing anger over the way it had shut my world down and encouraged me to make decisions that weren’t right for me. I was dealing with the feelings of betrayal, the incredulity that no-one told me, that the whole time people were actively keeping me from knowledge of things under the guise of ‘protecting me’. I was working through what my relationship with the past was going to be moving forward; to forget, to pretend it doesn’t exist, to write, to be actively against, blah blah blah…

It reminded me that, while acknowledging the negative is crucial to dealing with it, focussing on the positive is a key part of actually moving on from it.

My experience growing up fundamental took away a lot of things. If I look hard enough though, it also gave me a lot of things.

For those of us who have gone through that, if we’re to live the next phase of our life to its fullest, we need to mine our past for gems that give us some appreciation of it.

This is acceptance.  It is letting go of bitterness.  It is rescuing the present from the clutches of the past.

An exercise.  Here are the good things I’ve gained from growing up Fundamental.

  1.  I have a strong work ethic and hold excellence as a high ideal
  2. I value living life for the good of humanity, rather than just myself
  3. If I hadn’t bound myself 100% to rules, I think I would have bound myself 100% to experience.  I’m glad my 15 year old self didn’t have to experience what I would have put it through. The 25 year old self only just survived!
  4. I learned the fine art of getting along with people
  5. It encouraged and fostered the leader in me
  6. I believe I can do anything.  And should.
  7. I’m not afraid to be different.

So now an exercise for you…  what good things did you get from growing up in religion?

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Finding Your Way When You’re Just Totally Lost

Posted on May 21, 2014 in Life | 0 comments

Lost

So writing blogs when you’re working full time is a *bit* harder than I imagined!! It’s also difficult when you need to move house twice in a month, because it became clear two weeks in that you live with Oscar the Grouch’s evil OCD twin… am happily installed just this morning in a new house, completely muppet free.

It’s now coming up to nearly two months living in Sydney in my new job and it’s nice to be able to say, I’m totally happy.  Doing nothing in Spain for nearly a year showed me that I’m more than a career but being able to mesh earning money with something challenging and meaningful is totally the dream.

Daaamn though, but getting to that point was a PROCESS.   After it became clear the world does not, in fact, need saving from Satan, all the rest of the job opportunities out there seemed, well, slightly lack-luster. Couple that with some existential confusion, disconnection from old friends and too much sangria the night before and you’ve got me in a cafe in Spain being all like ‘WHAT AM I ABOUT!?’

Frankly, it’s AWFUL not knowing what you’re about. Maybe it’s awful-er for me cos I’m wired that way but I’ve heard a lot of people trying to work this out and not just 20-somethings. There was a good six months there where I’d decided to move on from Spain and really Do Something and yet still had no idea what that Something was.

The worst thing is websites telling you to ‘List Your Passions’ and then work out how to get paid for doing those passions.

This is ridiculous.

You can’t list your passions if you don’t know what they are. Which means I must’ve been more lost than most people. Maybe that entitles me to some level of expert-navigator-of-life-decisions status or something…

With that title in mind, here’s my thoughts on how to Find Your Way when you’re just totally firkin’ lost.

1. Embrace Jealousy
I’m not jealous of the Prime Minister or a Scuba Diver instructor or a Fashion Stylist even though all of those jobs are pretty cool. I’m only ever jealous of people with their own businesses or in consulting.  Jealousy is a clue to what you want in life, so ask yourself who you’re jealous of and start channeling that evil greeness somewhere productive.

2. One Step At A Time, Don’t Worry About Where It Will Lead
I found a business I totally loved around November-ish and noticed that the founder was speaking at TedX Amsterdam. I love both Amsterdam and TedX so signed up as a volunteer and used it as an opportunity to speak to the owner of the business. I met a few other interesting people as well and just generally fell in love with Amsterdam. If I hadn’t taken the one I did in Sydney, the fall-back plan was to go to Amsterdam. The more you know, the more secure you’ll feel in your options.

3. Take The Shot
Now’s the time to take a shot at all those things you thought you were never good enough for. Possibly you’ll find out you’re not good enough for them.  No stress. At least you know now and you won’t be on your death bed all like ‘If only I had…’. I applied for those management consulting roles I’ve always known I wasn’t qualified for. The rejection was bitter sweet.

4. Notice how you feel
After researching design agencies I felt bored.  After researching a business concept I felt tired.  After researching Innovation Consultancies I was jumping through my hallway to grab my laptop for more reading over cooking a chicken risotto.  Picking a direction to follow ain’t something you wanna do with your head.  It’s all about the heart so just listen hard, then go with it.

On the other hand, if you find you’re feeling constantly depressed about Getting Onto Something or keep putting it off, you have to ask yourself why? I feel like that with this blog sometimes – there’s lots of should’ve done last year to make it ‘Popular’ but I just didn’t. I’m not a lazy person so to me that was a sign that this is a hobby and not a profession. You never know what letting go will open up…

5. It’s. So. Easy. To. Talk. To. People.
I don’t know if we’re just on the cusp of this socially connected world and so people are more open to approaches from random strangers they don’t know.  Perhaps in a few years it will become such common practice that people get over it and stop saying yes.  But right now, it’s totally possible to LinkedIn message any person you come across in an article and ask them if you’re able to catch up for coffee.

You don’t need to talk to the person doing what you want to be doing in 10 years.  Just the person doing what you might like to do tomorrow.  An analyst or design strategist is quite flattered to get a request to be taken out for coffee to talk about themselves and give advice.

6. It’s sickening.
On coming back from my visit to Amsterdam stalking said Business Founder, I mentioned to my friend that it hadn’t gone as far as I’d thought it would go, aka being offered an internship or even being able to see their offices.  When he told me I had to mention I was looking for opportunities I wanted to vomit in my spaghetti carbonara. I’d just wanted to have a nice conversation without any soliciting.

This is just something you have to get better at. The best way to get comfortable with it is to see someone else do it. I saw a young girl do this at a workshop, looking for an internship. When you’re honest and intentional about your search, people understand that you’re not trying to screw them over and will connect you.

7. Ask for help
Everyone knows someone who knows someone who can help you. Now’s the time to ask for advice from people you only met once or twice. Anyone up a particular career ladder totally gets it and is more than willing to help out. The number of coffees and lunches I bought… the greatest value in these conversations was not necessarily connections but the way they allowed me to frame my experience and skills for the industry I wanted to get into. Each conversation refined My Story until I was sitting in front of my current boss, confidently spurting off the couple of lines that demonstrated my worth.

8. Give Your Heart A Break

It’s not the effort involved in searching that tires you out – it’s just living with the constant uncertainty. Don’t let yourself get so fatigued that you just take whatever’s in front of you rather than keep going for the dream. Give yourself a break every now and again so you’ve got the energy to keep pushing for the Best.

My greatest realisation is that these things take time. I used to be time’s worst enemy and now I’m it’s biggest friend. Relax into time, do what you can, follow the leads, give it your best and eventually opportunity will collide with your preparation to give you what you were looking for.

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How Should We Live?

Posted on Mar 5, 2014 in Life | 0 comments

“How to pursue the art of living has become the great quandary of our age… The future of the art of living can be found by gazing into the past.”

As a Christian, the answer to how to live life was clear; dedicate it to God’s mission aka: make other people Christians. Live your life according to His principals as closely as you could. If you got those two things right, you could *’tick!*’ say that you lived a successful life.

What makes a good or a bad life when it turns out there’s no big super-being with a mission just for you? Is there even such a thing as a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ life? There are so many different versions of ‘success’ – Mother Theresa, Richard Branson, Elizabeth Gilbert, The Guy Who Is An Awesome Dad, The Surfer Who Loves Every Second Of Life…

How Should We LiveRoman Kznaric just released a new book drawing on three thousand years of philosophy in attempt to answer this question. I’ll post a review after reading it but wanted to share some of my own thoughts on this question after a year or so pondering it on the shores of Europe.

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5 Writings That Will Change You In 2014

Posted on Dec 29, 2013 in Life | 0 comments

It’s not books that change your life, it’s thinking. It’s coming face to face with something that is different to you. It’s working with thought as you would clay.

So are five sets of other people’s thoughts that have made me a better person this year.  What are yours?

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A Salud, Cheers & Proust To Summits At The Nearly-End Of 2013

Posted on Dec 14, 2013 in Life | 0 comments

It’s not often we get to experience that feeling of ‘finishing’. The sense that the chapter is closing, making way for the next one to open. The exhilaration of standing at the Summit – a mountain climbed beneath you, a challenge finally overcome, accomplishment mixed with relief as the last bead of sweat inches its way down the side of your cheek… a new perspective now yours to tuck away as a completed item… an experience that ‘was’.

I was lucky recently. I got this feeling twice in one day, about a metaphysical mountain and a very real, very high, physical one called Everest. Not the point of Everest, just the base, but let’s just all focus on that word ‘Everest’ for a second and think that I’m awesome.

Now sitting at Newark International Airport with 15 minutes until boarding time, relaxed on a long overdue glass of Sauvignon, I’m about to board a flight home to Australia for the first time in 18 months.

A part of me looks back and asks, ‘What exactly did I do with myself the past year and a half…?’ (*cue large sip of wine*)

The other part of me remembers two moments.

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Giving Your Heart A Break From The Search

Posted on Nov 9, 2013 in Life | 0 comments

Gah! That moment when you lose your keys!  Or think you’ve left your wallet somewhere… or throw your iPhone into a rubbish bin. *cough cough*

Maybe you’ve never had that last one happen to you but I’m sure you know the feeling of searching.  The feeling of not having something that you need and there’s no immediate way to grasp it.  Keys are just the beginning.  Jobs.  Boyfriends.  Answers.

After years of searching, first for approval, then love, then answers, I thought I was all done! Until I realised I still had searching for myself, meaning of life and purpose to go!! So by now searching and its tensions are pretty familiar to me.  I think we’re always Searching for Something on some level.  And you know, actually, I’ve learned to appreciate it.

There’s something about The Search, the openness, vulnerability and instability of it that makes me feel alive. It reminds me that there’s something more for me in the future than what I have at present. The Search Is Hope.

Still, it’s uncomfortable.  And it can jiggle your world in sometimes unsustainable ways. When the uncomfortableness of a Search gets too much, we tend to grasp at anything.  A job we don’t really want.  A person who’s not quite right.  An answer, a group or a meaning that just bandaids the yawning questions.

Here is how I’ve learned to release the tension of searching, just for a while, so my heart can relax for a moment.  Use a combination of these things to give your heart a break from the tension of searching, so you can muster the courage to continue all the way to the end…  all the way to the place you were really looking for.

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On Waking Up From A Fantasy Epic

Posted on Oct 7, 2013 in Life | 0 comments

Geek confession; I love fantasy books. Particularly Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; Rand’s journey towards becoming the Dragon Reborn in order to defeat the Dark One has kept me entertained for over a decade now. I love it so much I have to choose very carefully the time I start a new book in the series because productivity, social life and my general ability to function significantly diminishes until it’s finished.

Hiking his way up to Mount Everest base camp in a singlet, shorts and flip-flops that he eventually swapped over for sneakers (clearly born and bred in the UK.), I met another fantasy book fan recently. Not satisfied with at least 3 readings of each of J.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, Olly brought, as his reading material for the trip, a book outlining the history of Middle Earth, in a dry, chronological way as good history books should.

Instant friends.

So Olly got it when I explained that sometimes, having grown up in a religion like Pentacostal Christianity and then leaving it, can feel like waking up from living in a fantasy epic.  Talking with him reminded me how religion’s characters and plot give meaning to life; the Creator, the war against the Dark One, each person destined to carry out a mission, the reverberation of every move you make potentially echoing in eternity… only to wake up and discover it was a dream. A fantasy. None of it was real.

Clarifying the purpose of life is one of – if not the – hardest thing to do after leaving faith.

It’s not just the eventual dying away into nothing rather than living on forever in eternal bliss that is disconcerting.

No, no. There’s plenty more where that came from.

It’s the complete vastness and randomness of the world and the sudden insignificance of our own place in it. When human lives are suddenly reduced to nothing more than a coincidental grouping of atoms and self-consciousness, rather than eternal players in an epic (but when you think about it also sort of pointless) battle between good and evil, it’s so easy to slip into a space where lives, consciousness, waking, breathing, anything really, seems completely pointless.

I had my peak of despair, although not the only one, about the purposeless of life on the beach a few weeks after arriving in Malaga at the beginning of this year. I looked up from my towel and stared at the high rise buildings, tiny boxes piled on top of each other, each box containing a life, or a number of lives, that did nothing more than scurry about their day, waking up, interacting, stressing, laughing, crying and then sleeping again, only to do it all over again the next day. And the next day after that… and the one after that… like an advanced civilisation of ants.

I cried.

Ironically, the first two chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes sums up the feeling up entirely. Why store wealth? It will only be left behind for some idiot to squander. Why do good things? Wicked people and righteous people have the same fate befall them. Why pursue pleasure? It all becomes empty in the end. Greatness? It will be forgotten. Posterity? Just two generations on, I don’t know and don’t care about even the name of my great-grandparents.

When life no longer echos in eternity, as we were told it does, its so easy to wonder… ‘Is there any reason to bother?’

Of course… there is…

Moving outside of the viewpoint that only eternal actions or actions that others see or remember have any meaning is truly liberating. Discovering the joy and, in the non-spiritual sense of the word, miracle of actually being alive reverses the drive of life from the need to be significant to simply being grateful for this self-consciousness and the opportunity to experience this world and all the challenges and joys life offers. Instead of beginning with the great expectations of eternal life and a grand conquest, we begin with the incredulous fact that we are simply here and self aware, all odds against odds. This is the foundation on which we can build up purpose and meaning; simple awe and wonder at being alive.

That was a short paragraph outlining the conclusion of a very long journey.  For those of you who have made the same journey may have arrived at different conclusions and I’d be interested to hear about them.  I’ll be posting more blogs on this purpose / existentialism / meaning of life conundrum, from voices other than my own as well but for now, I wanted to introduce you to a great little book on the subject by a Holocaust

prisoner and psychologist, Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

One of my favourite websites, BrainPickings, does a wonderful write up of it here if you’d like to see some excerpts. If you’re working through your own search for meaning, after waking up from the Fantasy Epic, Viktor Frankl’s book is a must-read.

For more of my favourite quotes from the book, I’ll be posting them on my Twitter and Facebook account.

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