Week 25 – Wanderlust

I haven’t participated in a wanderlust class for the last couple of months and it is very easy to just give up on the project and feel like you are ‘too behind’, but I’ve decided to pick up on this months category, which is “Inspired by “. I love the way Kasia Avery introduces each month of this class and her lovely natural and no pressure take on how to art journal. If you are pondering which art journaling class to take, I would thoroughly recommend any that she is involved with. (No, I do not earn money for referrals, I just like her style).

Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about ‘who I am’ and what it means to be authentic. I don’t know if this has anything to do with my age, the life stage I am at, being a Mum and your kids are starting to grow up or simply viewing life through a sober lens. Or is it because I am entering menopause, and the hormones are out of control. It doesn’t really matter I guess why I am navel gazing – but I am. So, when the prompt came up for this art journaling class, I starting asking myself who is the most inspirational woman to me? And I found this question really challenging.

First off, right now – my immediate answer would be Brene Brown. I only ‘found’ her the last couple of years, have devoured her books, love most of her philosophies and feel that she has made a difference to how I look at my own life. Then, ironically, I start to doubt whether this person is the right sort of person I should be choosing – and off I go googling the top 100 most inspirational women and find people like Emeline Pankhurst, Marie Curie, Indira Ghandi and Germaine Greer. Immediately, I feel that my own choice is not good enough and that I should be inspired by a more powerful and history making individual. No disrespect to Brene Brown.

But then I ponder a bit longer and out of the 100 women on the list there are probably 50 who I don’t even know what they have done to be called inspirational, a handful (like Kim Kardashian) that I do not find inspirational and that although it is interesting to open up my learning and find out about women who have made an impact on society through many avenues, that doesn’t mean they are inspirational to me. And that is one of the reasons Brene Brown is who I am choosing to use as my inspiration for a page and the quote that I choose to use is:

The thing is – I don’t really know myself that well. I certainly understand what is expected of me, how to achieve goals that I set for myself and how to fit in most of the time. I also know that my favourite books and movies are chick flicks and that I love Thai food and good (mild) flat whites. Plus, I absolutely knew that my alcoholic drink of choice was Sauvignon Blanc – there is no way I wanted to drink Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. But, this isn’t exactly knowing yourself is it?

Sometimes, I wonder if I have always been like this? I kind of ‘fell’ into my original career. When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to be, and after being sent home during my final school year from an overseas exchange I never really found my way back to the academic grades I had in the 6th form year. I left school and took up a job in the office at our local trotting club – jobs were scarce, it was convenient, it paid money and my brother worked with horses. All but one of my school friends went to university, so I kind of felt like I didn’t belong in their ‘circle’ anymore and right from then took off on my own path. I don’t regret not going to university at the time – after all I had no clue what I wanted to be. The list ranged from becoming a window dresser, teacher, interior designer or I even looked at becoming an apprentice lithographer. When I look at that list now I remember that most of these options were based on creativity yet I had dropped out of Art after the 5th form, and studied topics like Geography, Biology, Chemistry and Maths.

After a couple of years working at the trotting club and then falling out of a relationship I started thinking about moving out of my parents home and got myself a job as a waitress and housemaid at the Lake Rotoiti Resort just outside Rotorua. It was a bold move. I had applied to be the front desk receptionist, but been offered a lower level type of job, so it certainly wasn’t seen as a great career move. I was 19 years old and had never driven further south than Hamilton by myself and here I was heading off with my worldly goods in the back of the car, to live in Rotorua. I remember my Mum being very nervous about my leaving home – I don’t know which she worried about most – me on the road, or that her little girl was heading out to the big wide world.

It was while living in Rotorua, that my passion for travel started to build. After 6 months at the Resort and failing to be promoted (probably something to do with being a bit of a union stirrer) I found a job working in a travel agency through a friend I had made. So began, the next 18 years of my life working in the travel and hospitality industries. This was 1986 and in 1987 New Zealand was to host the Rugby World Cup and my boss was heavily involved in creating packages to this major event. I was excited by the job I had and started the realisation that there was a lot to see in the world, so took on a part time job at the Travelodge and starting saving as hard as I could to buy a ticket to get on a plane and get my education from the world.

I travelled for two years (another story) before returning home and then beginning my career in wholesale travel. I loved to travel and I loved my job. Plus I began to study Japanese as an extramural student as I had become passionate about all things Japanese and thought that the language would be the key to my future success in tourism.

Then I met Phil and fell in love.

Although I had known Phil for about a year, we had only been dating two weeks when I left for Japan to work in a ‘pension’ (small hotel) for a year. It was tough to go, but I was determined that I carried on with my plans. That girl I was then was still full of wanderlust and I didn’t want to make a choice. I can’t say I was happy at first. In fact, for the first month or so, I was pretty darn miserable. My job didn’t work out and I ended up transferring to another pension to work and I was really homesick. It’s a rude shock living in a country and not being able to be the person you think you are. My Japanese was basic and way too formal to understand everyday conversations, so it was very lonely, as I was the only NZ European in the village in that first month – talk about total immersion.

After returning to New Zealand and marrying Phil I carried on working in the travel industry until we had children together in 2003. During those pre-kids years Phil and I travelled constantly, it made us happy and really cemented our relationship and I believe is one of the reasons our relationship has stayed strong during our challenging times.

But, where I am going with all of this? I guess in the process of becoming a mother I lost a lot of of the ways I identified with myself and most certainly in the last few years I have experienced a loss of status in society. I believe some women find their true identity or their authentic self when they become a mother – and those women embrace motherhood with open arms and possibly experience great grief when their children no longer rely on them 100%. In some ways I envy women who garner such satisfaction from what is arguably one of the most important roles in society. But, for me, while I love my children dearly, and wouldn’t trade them for the world, I am often left with a feeling that something is missing. So, one of the reasons I enjoy the Wanderlust class is that often aside from creating a page in your journal there is this very important time spent thinking through what you are putting on the page. As yet, I haven’t finished this page, but just like my life, my journal is surely just a work in progress.

And in the words of Brene Brown, I am trying to let go of who I think I am supposed to be, and just embrace who I am. Whatever that is!

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