“Take care.”

Self care is something that I think is amazingly important. I recently left my job as a part time receptionist and moved into a full time position as a student support officer. I was close with a few people at my old workplace, and one of them told me that moving into full time work would up my stress and it was very, very important to take care of myself, even though often I would be so tired I wouldn’t want to bother. Well, she was right.

Changing jobs was stressful. Not as stressful as I thought it would be, but definitely stressful. More stressful was that only a couple of weeks after I began in my new position, my grandmother got sick and was put in hospital and given two days to live. That was a few weeks ago and she’s still alive and kicking, which is why we call her Lazarus (for those unfamiliar with the Biblical story, Lazarus rose from the dead. My grandmother has been given her Last Rites (you know, the things you have once, right before you die) nine times now. Hence, Lazarus).

So, all the family came up. And, as with every family, there are people that relieve stress and those that add to it. Some of my family definitely make my stress levels rise.

After that little dramatic moment, we’ve had family around nearly every weekend, stress at work, assessments due at uni (because apparently I thought I could do it all. Ha!) and all of this has resulted in me being a little ball of stress.

Not that I noticed this right away, of course. I thought I was coping really well. I thought that I was handling everything, helping out to help others and acing life. And then my sister slurped her drink and it pushed me over the edge and I sat and cried in my room for like an hour. And that was when I was like, “Hmm, okay, maybe not at my best.”

It was my birthday two weeks ago, and so I decided for my birthday I would stay the night at a hotel with a big spa bath and treat myself. Except that weekend and the next the university was having graduations, so everywhere was booked up. But now, two weeks later, I’m sitting on a hotel bed. Let me tell you about it:

I had a driving lesson this morning, then went down town and picked up a few things, some bubble bath, some bath bombs, and some sweet treats. I then went home, had lunch, packed my bags and headed to the hotel (only 2 blocks from home). I got my room key and walked down to my room. I unlocked the door and stepped in.

Guys,

I was so shocked. I’m used to staying at youth hostels, sharing with at least 5 other people, the most fancy room I’ve stayed at was just big enough to fit a single bed in it. I walked into this room and it was a living room. A living room! Off the living room is the bathroom (which is made of TWO rooms!) and the bedroom! I was so shocked and so excited. I videoed my friends to show them. And, I’m not ashamed to admit, I ran and jumped onto the bed.

So, since I’ve been here, I had a bath. Now, this bath is amazing. It’s a spa bath. It’s big enough to fit three people comfortably (not that it will be). I filled it up, put in the bubbles and bath bomb and jumped in. Now, I’m not used to spa baths, so I had no idea that when I turned on the jets they would fluff up the bubble bath even more. One third of the bath was bubbles.

A. Maz. Ing.

I did a face mask, had music on, and shaved my legs. Then I got out and got all snuggled up in a dressing gown and put the tv on. I’ve ordered dinner and am in my pajamas and it’s not even 7pm yet!

And you know what, all my problems, all the stress factors feel so far away.

For the first time in weeks I haven’t been sitting and stewing over all the things I need to do at work, home and uni. I haven’t had to interact with anyone, I haven’t had to run around after anyone, I haven’t had to do anything. If I want to, I’ll do some study. Most likely, I’ll eat my dinner and fall asleep. Hell, I might even have another bath.

Now, this might just seem like I’m putting a hold on things, just ignoring problems. I mean, they’ll still be there when I go home, right?

Well, yeah, they will be. But I’ll be refreshed, calm and more able to deal with them, which means they’ll be a hell of a lot less likely to overwhelm me. I can just get in and deal with them.

Now, I’m not saying you need to go and book a hotel room. Although, if you can, maybe you should. But you do need to make sure that you take time for you. Whether it’s taking an hour out to do your nails, or have a bath, or just to sit and bitch to a friend, you need to find something that helps you feel more relaxed, calmer and more refreshed. You need to make sure that there’s a regular time for you to just check out. You can’t be switched on all the time, you’ll blow out. Everyone needs time out, and it’s so important to find it, even when there are extra people around, everyone needs something from you, your boss needs you to work overtime and you have assignments due.

I don’t often do this, but here’s a challenge: This week find fifteen minutes minimum. Make a cup of tea, some juice, whatever. And then just sit. And breathe. And drink. And everytime a thought of “I need to-” or “x needs this” comes into your head, close your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale it. Then take five deep, slow breaths and open your eyes again.

Try this. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Just find something that helps you to relax. Take care of yourself, because if you don’t, you can’t take care of anyone else.

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Complications of Love

When I was younger love seemed so simple. The movies made it seem so easy. You meet a prince, he falls in love with you, you get married and live happily ever after. I always dreamed of the day I would meet my Prince Charming – or, more accurately, my Prince Eric – and be swept off my feet, falling hopelessly in love. I didn’t think about how to maintain the relationship, I didn’t have to. I was a kid and the way I saw it, you just sort of… Lived together.

When I was nine my family traveled to America. One night we had dinner with a friend of my mum’s, Mick. Mick lived with his partner at the time, a man. Being nine and oblivious to the concept of homosexuality, I didn’t realise that they were together. I thought they were house mates. It wasn’t until years later that I connected the dots and went to my mum saying “Mick is gay, isn’t he?”. I didn’t have a problem with it, even then. It was just a fact of life. My father, however, has a big problem with gay people. He uses a lot of hate language towards them, which honestly makes me sick. So, I was raised hearing that it was wrong and unnatural, when it was acknowledged at all.

The idea of me liking girls, however, wasn’t something I even considered until I was in year eight. I developed a little crush on one of my friends. It didn’t last for long and in my mind I made up ever excuse not to accept that it was a crush. I didn’t like girls, I liked boys! I dated boys! That was that. You either liked boys or you liked girls, those were the options! Right? Nope.

Year eleven brought around the State Drama camp. I met this girl called Georgina. She wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense, but I thought she was stunning. I was painfully shy and she was the most talented girl there. She asked me to be partners in class one day and was so nice and friendly that I couldn’t help falling for her. She was just so down to earth, so easy to talk to, and so talented. I never saw her again after that week, but she was a turning point in my life.

It was around that time that I learned of the term “bisexual”. I thought, “Hey, I’ve had crushes on girls. I must be bisexual!”. I still thought it was that simple. But I didn’t want to tell everyone, to ‘come out’. I spoke to one boy in our friends group who is bi, then I spoke to my mum. The conversation went like this: “Mum, I think I might like girls.” “Yeah, I thought you were that way inclined.” And that was sort of it. It hasn’t been brought up since. But I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being bisexual.

That was five years ago, and ever since then I’ve been trying to figure out what I am. I know you don’t need to put labels on things, but I like labels. They help me simplify things. See, I’ve known for years now that I fall for girls. I’ve known for even longer that I fall for boys. But I’m not sexually attracted to girls in the same way I am guys. Physically attracted, yeah, but not sexually.

So, it wasn’t as simple as I thought.

I thought that if you’re bi you feel the same way about boys and girls, but that’s not the case. Sexuality and romance are so personal, I doubt anyone works the exact same way as anyone else. It’s more like a spectrum  than “gay”, “bi”, “straight”. Trying to figure out where I fit on this spectrum has been really difficult for me, and has bothered me for a long time. I want to know exactly who I am, and having something this important in my life that I’m so unsure about is deeply unsettling.

At the start of this year I joined my university’s GSMA (Gender and Sexual Minorities Alliance). I was so scared going to the first meeting. I was terrified that somehow my father would see me there and find out what I was, even thought I didn’t know what I was. I was scared that one of my friends would see me. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in. I was scared that I was straight and that I wouldn’t belong. I was just plain scared.

I shouldn’t have been, of course. They were welcoming, friendly and fun. I liked fitting in with the group, I felt like I belonged there. But I still didn’t have the answers about what I was. I filed myself between Bisexual and Questioning, and just sort of hung out there. It was okay, it didn’t matter what you were in the group, as long as you were polite, friendly and willing to joke around.

Part way through this year I encountered another term. “Bi-romantic”. Someone who is bi-romantic is romantically attracted to both males and females (as well as other genders), but not necessarily sexually attracted to both. Yes! I thought, that sounds like me! And it did. And does. I fall in love with people no matter what their gender is, I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am. But I’m not really sexually attracted to females. I find them beautiful and attractive, but as I said earlier, it’s different from the attraction I have to males.

But, unfortunately, figuring out that I’m heterosexual and bi-romantic didn’t make everything easy like I thought it would. Instead, it just made me more afraid. What if people find out I like girls? Will my friends think I’d perve on them? Would they judge me? What if my family found out? These are all things that freak me the heck out. I think a few people are aware of my sexuality, but I keep it hidden from most people. It’d like to be open about it, but I’m scared of being judged, being teased, being isolated.

And that sucks.

Because right now I am falling for this amazing girl. She’s beautiful, smart, funny and we get on really well. She likes things I like, and talking to her about them makes me feel so alive. I want to hold her, to kiss her, to take her on dates. But I’m also too scared. It’s not just the fear that she’ll reject me, although that is ever-present, it’s that if we walked down the street hand-in-hand, people might stare. That if I took her as my date to the work Christmas party, people would think I was weird. That I couldn’t have her around to meet my family because of my father. I’m scared because I still can’t fully accept that I like girls, even though I like her so much.

When I was a kid, I thought love was straightforward. The older I get, the more complicated it seems. I’m hoping it’ll start to go the other way after a certain age, that it’ll start to seem more and more simple. I hope that one day we’ll reach a place where the LGBTQI+ community won’t have these fears. Most of all, I hope that one day I can call this girl my girlfriend, and be brave enough to walk through the mall holding her hand.

Dear Auntie…

I’ve been an aunt since I was six years old. Nearly 16 years on and I have eight nieces and nephews. Being an aunt at six is entirely different from being an aunt at 21. For one thing, I’m now considered an adult and therefore responsible, although sometimes I think I’m just as childish as they are!

I once heard someone describe being an aunt as a “thankless job” and I can honestly say that is a massive pile of bulls*** and it’s sad that someone could feel that way.

I recently had two of my nieces over for a craft day. The first thing we did was paint our faces. I painted theirs and then let them paint mine. It was messy and I looked liked I’d tried to put my makeup on in the dark with a shovel, but we were having fun. Then we did some painting which became finger painting which became hand painting which became “How did you get paint THERE?!” There was paint absolutely everywhere and we had to spend ages trying to get it off before we could go inside again. When it was time for lunch they decided they didn’t like the “orange spaghetti and ants”, aka carrot and sultanas, that I’d made, so I had to quickly throw something together as we were out of bread while two hungry girls kept trying to “help”. At the end of the day we were covered in paint, glue, googly eyes and bits of pipe cleaners. We were tired, hot and sticky. And we were incredibly happy.

Each time I see my nieces and nephews I remember how lucky I am to have them. They might not say “thank you” or “I love you” but they don’t have to. When they come into the house and immediately start telling me about something that happened a school, knowing I’ll listen with interest, I know. When they bring me a book and are half way onto my lap before I realise what’s happening, I know. When they bring me a piece of paper that has a scribble on it, I know. When my 9 month old niece leaned towards me from her mum’s arms for a cuddle for the first time, I knew. I have a whole wall full of little notes and drawings that remind me.

Being an aunt is an easy job. We get to play with the kids, laugh with them, cuddle them and give them back when they start getting cranky. We get given squished flowers that have been carried all the way from the park just because “You like yellow”. We get to watch these amazing, brilliant, beautiful little creatures grow into hilarious, clever, fantastic young men and women and we get to love them with all our hearts the whole way. If that’s not enough of a “thank you” then I don’t know what is.