Khmer Lessons

It has been a year since my trip to India kickstarted massive transformation in my life. My life and I are unrecognizable lol. It is awesome that I start and finish my travel in an Asian country.

What have I learned …

That travel is education. When we travel, we learn. I have learned so much about Cambodia: it’s history, culture, lifestyle, politics, and peoples. I love this country. I have some fears that it may not remain a ‘democracy’ much longer, but I hope that I am wrong.

That I can achieve anything I decide to achieve. Those 352 steps, one way, are staying with me. I did it. I took breaths as I needed to, I didn’t compete with anyone else, I was lacquered in my own sweat five million times over, and I did it. Fitness is an obstacle for me. I have chosen that. Since the steps, I have chosen otherwise. Every activity, every chance to walk, I have taken. Because I can if I decide to.

That people are basically the same. We all want to belong, to connect, to fit, to be valued, to be seen. Age, gender, socio-economic status, none of it matters at the core. At the core, we are one.

If you choose to give to beggars, especially children, you become part of the problem. Children who earn more money begging than going to school, will not go to school. Education is vital to break cycles, and to improve the condition of our planet and us. Find another way to assuage the guilt of privilege.

That my passion for teaching exists deeply. I have no time for the politics and admin. Enough said.

That those of us living in the first world have no idea what poverty and suffering is, evidenced by our overconsumption and misery. People here have nothing but smile broadly. We should learn from that.

And I have learned that girls from Campbelltown can become something, anything, everything. I am truly blessed.

On to Vietnam.

Ch ch ch ch changes 

My friends are heading back to their first day with kids at school today. I’m sitting at Paul Wakeling Hyundai whilst my car receives its 15000 km service, capped at $249. I live Facebooked my Year 12 class this morning and replied to a message from the bestie, heading to school without her Sister of Destruction meeting her there. 

This is the first time in 24 years that I have not had somewhere school-related to be on the first day with kids (in 2010 I was in Europe but was heading back to work soon). 

It’s a very weird feeling. 

I spent my holidays catching up with people. For this introvert, every day activities resulted in two two-day migraines, the only times I stopped before heading to Tasmania on a cruise ship last Monday. 

And, Tasmania marked the end of anxiety about money for the upcoming year as I remembered the benefits and beauty of travel. Hobart is beautiful. What I saw of Tasmania is beautiful. The freedom to explore, also beautiful. 

Having faith that you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are doing, and will survive it all is hard when you just don’t know. I have taken certainty out of my life for this year, until the first week of December when I return to work. However, booking in tutoring for people settled those doubts yesterday and when I start casual teaching, I’m sure I will feel even better. 

I am carrying anger and resentment about the investigation last year. And whilst I want the tags liar and self-serving removed from the documents, I am not sure it will be healthy for me psychologically to continue the fight to have those words redacted. I know that I didn’t lie, and anyone that has interacted with me in the world of public education throughout the last twenty four years knows that I am far from self-serving. 

So, does it really matter if a couple of investigators, neither the person who made the final resolution, which speaks against both words, wrote that about me? People who have never been in the context that I was, or worked as closely with kids as I have, or understand the broader impact my work has made on so many people’s lives? 

I don’t know. That’s the question I am asking now. 

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe to heal I need to let go of it all, burn the file, and just keep moving forward. Maybe by fighting it, I open a hornet’s nest, and create more trouble for myself. 

Am I strong enough to withstand that pressure again. 


I rolled down a hill in Tasmania. Liberation. The hill was green. Small hill. But, called me to roll. And I could not ignore the call. I rolled the anxiety away lol. I’ll post it, because it’s funny, and I love that I embraced my inner child even though I look like a teletubbie trying to get up at the end. I was dizzy – my defense and I’m standing by it lol. 

Hmmm, it’s not letting me post the video. Possibly saving me from assured humiliation. Hmmm, still no. Some photos instead. 


My Resolutions

Wow! Home. 

There is absolutely nothing to rival that feeling of flying over Sydney Harbour and seeing the Bridge and the Opera House, Anzac Bridge and Centrepoint. My soul smiles every time I fly home and see the harbour; the most beautiful city in the world, especially from the sky. It’s home. And a beautiful symbol of home. 

And then, I heard Australian accents, and saw people who looked like my cultural group. It’s such a bizarre feeling. For the last few days at least, I have been the only westerner I’ve had significant contact with. Bizarre to be surrounded by similar voices, similar appearances, similarities. 

I finished Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things whilst I waited for my flight in Delhi Airport. I don’t know where I found the resolve to hold back so many tears. It was appropriate for me to read it in a place where I was a minority and not the dominant cultural group. A place where my white privilege didn’t really count for much in the way of belonging and acceptance. I do not know what it consistently feels like to be an outsider, but I’ve had a taste. It feels unsafe. And I have forced myself to confront my own racism, and my inappropriate and ignorant racist humour. Shame. 

Mum took a photo of me as I walked out of the gate. I had to laugh. I have gained and learned so much that I feel like I’ve been gone for months. And I was so intent on laughing, I didn’t see my sister. Phenomenal surprise and blessing. 

My ankle’s swelling is down but it is painful. I think it will be a visit to the doctor and an x-ray on Monday afternoon. 

My fur children were as excited to see me as I was them. Molly (my cat) slept enfolded in my arms all night. Max on the other side. Sammy let me sleep until 7. This is my home, my family, what counts. 

I have learned so much. I am still processing but there are some things I need to immortalise before reality attempts to defeat me 😉. 

I really need to make time to do the things that bring me joy. This means work needs to be the thing that pays the bills. 

My mum said that I’ve lost weight. People said the same thing when I returned from NYC. It’s the weight of stress that has moved. My job no longer brings me joy and as a result, I gain weight because I make bad choices and don’t put my joy first. Massive lesson. 

I need to write more. Not just my blog, but the novel’s I have started and am yet to start. 

I want to start a charity for the school in India. That visit impacted me so deeply. Mel and I have talked. She has talked to her people. I’m going to talk to mine. This needs to happen. 

I want to run groups for healing. That is the direction I wish to move my life into. I also want to run meditation groups. 

I want to feel deeply entrenched purpose through service; serving myself as much as I serve others. That will sustain my joy. 

This is what I desire. 

This is what I will work towards achieving. 

🙏🏻 namaste 

Thank you India. Thank you Alana. 

Jet Lag and Processing

I love travelling BUT man, I hate flying. I never sleep well, always managing to just grab a few five minute blocks every so often, just enough to keep me from dying I guess. I just hate flying.

Next time I fly I am going to try premium economy; the extra money may be worth the extra comfort. We shall see.

Having said that, the amount of awake time permitted me to really evaluate my trip. And forward plan my life. Yep, never not thinking in this head.

My time away has permitted me to work out exactly what I want my future to be.

I remember the first time I wrote a poem as a child. It was about Adolf Hitler (yep, I have always loved writing about the darker aspects of life) and it rhymed. I was SO proud. I loved the act and the art of writing. Words have always held power and sway for me. Always.

I absolutely enjoyed keeping my blog whilst I was away. I loved writing every day (almost) and missed it when I wasn’t writing.

The act of writing allowed me to process my experiences as well as keep a record of my adventures and my responses towards them.

I want to write.

It is who I am.

I became a fan of podcasts whilst I was away (thank you Liz Gilbert for Big Magic – your podcast started my obsession). And I spent a lot of time on the Greyhound buses listening to interviews with authors and TED Talks. Illuminating.

Liz Gilbert said in one interview that she almost felt sorry for people who had more than one passion/thing they were good at because finding time for both and to succeed in both would seem very difficult to her; she feels blessed that she was only ever good at writing because it was what she had to do.

You can imagine why this was illuminating for me.

I love teaching and I am good at it.

I love writing and I am good at it.

But it has been very much sacrificed for my teaching.

And that has been okay.

But it isn’t okay anymore.

Writing always fills me with calm and jubilation.

Teaching does not.

That is the reality.

Enough said 🙂

A man I used to work with died whilst I was away. It hit me hard. Both Lauren and I had someone that we regarded as a good person die whilst we were away, different men.

Jeff was a PE teacher at Airds High School when I was finishing school. He was still there when I commenced my teaching career at Airds High School as a casual teacher in 1993. He was a fairly quiet man with a wicked sense of humour. He was very committed to teaching and to his family. He was a great person. He died from a heart attack. He is only just older than me. I was devastated.

Mortality is such a bizarre thing.

We all know that we will die.

But we expect that we will all be really old when we do.

Losing my friend Nat, well before she should have been allowed to die still hurts my heart every day. Having a sense of what Jeff’s family will be going through is just horrid.

It did enforce for me though how grateful I was that I was in New York really living my life, forcing my dreams to become my reality. Life really is too short to not do what makes us happy.

I have had dark times in my life. We all have. The depth of the darkness may vary among us, but very few people get to be my age having never experienced pain and hardship to some extent. I know a few kids who have experienced extreme pain and hardship, and who struggle to survive every single day. As we age we learn that things will pass, light will come after dark. But as kids, they lack that frame of reference of experience. They do not know for sure that light comes after dark. I want them to trust that it does, but that is a big ask.

I do believe that happiness is a choice.

We all have times of darkness and pain, very often not a choice. And it is important to experience the full breadth of the pain and associated suffering. But I also believe that there comes a time when we choose our direction.

Continue to suffer.

Or move forward.

And this is the choice.

Much easier for me to say than for others to do. Inevitably the question of HOW comes.

How do we choose happiness?

If I say, “I choose happiness”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that happiness just comes. It requires some work. Unfair and unjust I know, but if we want it, we need to work for it.

It helps if you know what makes you happy.

For me it is reading, writing, serving others (to a point), travel, discussing, exploring, gardening, baking. Yep, just for starters.

So when I need to choose happiness, I choose these things.

Happiness is a buoyant feeling. A feeling of utter peace. Bliss. Contentment. A knowledge that you are where you are supposed to be doing what you are supposed to be doing.

And that requires work.

Often to break away from the invisible binds that shackle us. Like work/school responsibilities, family responsibilities, social responsibilities, and most oppressively underlying all of these, fear.

We fear what will happen if we aren’t what we are expected to be.

I now think that we should question what will happen to us if we are not being real, and being true, to our own selves. We should fear those consequences. They are the binds that really shackle us. That fear stops us from embracing opportunities that permit us to feel real and long term happiness. They are the binds that we should be severing.

And that’s where real courage comes in to play.

I have been utterly blessed that my trip to Europe five and a half years ago and my trip to New York were completed with two exceptional travelling companions. I would never have dreamed that two people could travel so seamlessly together as Courtney and I did, and as comfortably as Lauren and I just have. I will be forever grateful to both for supporting me in ticking things off my bucket list.

It takes courage to travel away from everything you know.

But that travel invariably permits you to be wholly you, away from the expectations that your life choices have forced you to incur. Travel allows exploration, other ways of seeing and of doing, not all positive, but permitting us freedom to revise our own choices with more information. Every time I travel my world opens that little bit more. Travel permits you to meet other people, often nameless, who impact on you for better or worse, but permitting growth. It is an amazing thing and something that I believe everyone should do, if only once.

New York. Wow.

As the Greyhound Bus arrived in the first parts of New York City on Wednesday, I just started to feel so alive and so connected again. I smiled, inside and out, feeling like I was home, that this was MY New York City. The place where dreams can come true.

I felt the electricity of connection flood through my veins. Boston is a beautiful city. New York is the heart of it though. The noise. The dirt. The homeless. The diversity. The traffic. The buzz. A never ending buzz, permeating everything.

Man, it filled my soul and I felt truly alive, Truly transformed. Magical. Energised. Alive.

Even now, sitting on my lounge in the quiet village of Thirlmere where I live, the excitement of New York still courses through my veins. Our meeting was perfectly executed; our friendship now lifelong.

And I am grateful for all of my blessings.

Today, because I could travel.

I could live.

I am living.

One Week Down

My friend Sara, and I went to see Wild on Thursday afternoon; an attempt at work/life balance as well as intellectual and spiritual reflection. What an incredible film! As an English teacher I am never immune to the quality of craftsmanship as well as the quality of story: both superb.

I had intended to write this on Thursday night when I arrived home but the fur kids were feeling very neglected. They took priority. Even now, two and a half days later, the words are still milling inside my brain and aren’t very coherent; I will probably not do the film justice.

I cried for most of it. I love when a film resonates that deeply. I hate when a film resonates that deeply. Sara and I were the only ones that laughed at the opening scene when she throws her boot. As we laughed though, I knew that when that scene was put into context I would be crying. And I did. Buckets. And that was whilst I forced most of them back so that I didn’t become ‘that woman kicking, screaming and sobbing in the foetal position’ in the cinema. Lol. Gotta love the magic of story.

Sara and I were the only ones that laughed at quite a few scenes. As Cheryl struggled with her backpack I was drawn back to backpacking in Europe in winter during 2010, struggling to get backpacks on as trains arrived at destinations. Quality memories.

And then her journey to reclaim herself. A worthwhile journey not dissimilar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s in Eat, Pray, Love. Physical challenge that supports inner growth. Is it really inner growth though or journey back to whom we truly are. Reclaiming the pure essence of childhood before life imprinted.

It is so easy to want to give up. To not live wholly, to make excuses, to become bogged down. It is so valuable to keep pushing forward though, to vanquish our enemies and demons, and to live authentically in a world that really only wants automatons. To know that you are breathing the mountain air freely …

Having said that, prior to the movie I saw a man walking up the stairs. I blinked. He wasn’t really there, well not in this realm. I say this only to provide context for what followed.

The cinema only had six other people in it. A group of three women, a lone woman, an elderly couple and us. I didn’t hear the mother with baby walk in and sit directly behind me. In 44 years of life and many many movie viewings, I have never been in a cinema with a mum and bub unless it was a mum and bubs session. And that only once before the epic journey of trying to conceive.

Part way through the movie I heard a baby gurgling behind me. I froze. After seeing the man I didn’t know if this was my imagination, a sign or what. My first response was to run. My second response was significantly more rational – if this was a sign from the Gods, what was it a sign of?

I tried to turn discretely to see if there was a baby but couldn’t turn enough to see; in my mind I didn’t want to make a real mum self-conscious about her baby’s noises when obviously, this was her ‘me’ time. And she is entitled to that free from judgement.

What are the odds?

And the noises continued throughout the movie. Eventually I realised, when rational mind took over, that the baby was real, and eventually I stopped trying to ascertain what it could possibly mean.

It will all be what it is meant to be.

She tries to say with conviction lol. Unsuccessfully. Her mind and heart know she is still struggling to find an answer that feels right. That journey is clearly not yet at its end.

Journeys are incredible things. Ironically, teaching that concept to Year 11 this term 😳.

The path is not always (rarely) straightforward. They can be (often are) unpredictable and frustrating. Obstacles abound, trying to force you back or make you stop, every time you think you are making progress. And they are exhausting.

But beautiful. And liberating. And rewarding.

Almost always taking you to your self, your true potential. We are far stronger than we believe. And infinitely more capable than we imagine.

I once trekked through the Annapurna’s in Nepal.

This year is a new journey for me. Trying to be who I am and live more wholly. With more balance and more external inspiration.

The sunrise was beautiful yesterday morning. The ocean was ferocious. Unswimmable. The ocean cleansing itself of its own impurities? But ravagingly beautiful all the same; a reminder that she doesn’t exist for others but for herself , and often she will allow us in to share her beauty but she will give herself time when she needs it. To heal her own wounds and forge her own path; separately from all who depend on her.

Timely reminder.

And so I have bought tickets to Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk at the Opera House in March, and have booked myself in for a ukulele workshop over two Saturdays in March.

Balance is important. As is the need to forge one’s own path, separately from those that depend on us for theirs.

There will be more coming in this vein … Still processing 😉.