Offline. A good kind of selfish.

If we were consistently social, we'd never get anything done and we'd resent our friends. Being offline gives us the time we require to reflect on ourselves in a meaningful way; to focus on our own projects, our health.

We're not distracted or socially obliged. It becomes easier to say 'no' and we thank ourselves for it. It's a good kind of selfish.

I’m gay

And tonight, to coincide with my birthday, I’m celebrating with friends over Rainbow Cake. It’s the Elton John of cakes, complete with rainbow flares. As a child I always knew I was gay, but somewhere the feeling got lost. A long and, not always scenic, route ensued to bring me back to who I truly am.

What I needed was to find my tribe. I wasn’t actively seeking it, though sometime last year I met a group of women that I could truly connect to. I could see myself in them in many ways. And they are women of character who I aspire to. Most importantly, they are women that are generous and kind. For the first time in my life I came to the full realisation of who I am and I felt safe in their company. They bolstered my confidence and gave me my voice again. And I love them eternally for it.

Thankfully my tribe has now extended to my family and friends that I’ve had the confidence to come out to. We’ve created noise, a celebratory noise. We’ve drowned out the negativity that sadly weaves through many homes, communities, governments and countries throughout the world.

In life, philosophy and literature imparts one of the greatest lessons we continuously come back to, and that is to know thyself. For those reading this who are LGBT and haven’t come out – even when society may not deem you equal because of your sexuality - know that you are. And just like in my situation, know that there are people in the world that have your back.

Some may be asking “Why does she feel the need to write this?”. The answer is that there is nothing I’m leveraging off or deliberately seeking. This simply feels like the right and natural way to let it be known, sincerely.

As black as my skin, as Chinese as my blood, and as Australian and British are my nationalities, I’m also a proud Gay Woman. 

Most importantly though, I’m a happy human being. 

Love,

Faustina Agolley

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When we revere people

We can undo ourselves in many ways when we revere others. We look to and talk to their status rather to them as a person. We also become less discerning. We're blinded with admiration. The common types of people we hold high - leaders, CEOs, layers, doctors, directors, athletes and artists are not without their shadows.

Self-Love

Self love - a topic that's quite "fru-fru" - my made up word for mushy, sensitive -  yet a necessary topic because it's a vital part of living. Self love is thinking and feeling for yourself. You're in charge of your well being and happiness.

It's understanding your constitution before someone dictates it for you. It's filling yourself up with the things that are right for you rather than looking to others to fill that space.

It's getting back to the very ideas of what makes you excited about living. It's knowing your likes and dislikes, your interests, what you're curious about. It's having confidence in yourself and self worth. Coincidently this is likely where you become more compassionate and empathetic to new ideas and to others.

How is it done in practice? Its going inwards and knowing yourself. You cut out the noise of daily life. Practices like meditation or mindful time alone are superb ways to achieve this.

Then it's being vocal about it. Your inner dialogue shapes your behaviour. You're then aware that you have choices every moment rather than feeling you're largely shaped by the day's events - good or bad.

These dating apps ain't so bad...

A good way to diminish the stigma and fear around dating apps is to simply treat them as real life conversations. We can still hold our own in these environments and exercise the kind of autonomy we require.

How is this done? Our profile is a huge reflection of what people respond to. Therefore, our profiles should be an honest representation of who we are.

Why is this important to point out? Because quite often we can rest on the assumed ideas of what other people think we should be as opposed to who we really are. We can also get a little lazy when talking about ourselves and our values. We immediately think it's egotistical to commit to words about our true selves. Or believe we have to be clever or witty, when the majority of us are not.

Ultimately, our values are the very thing that other people want to know or will eventually have to know for any kind of genuine connection to happen.

We're wonderfully complex people with many dimensions that sum up our character. We're passionate about at least one thing if not many. And, just like any human, we all harbour insecurities and are afraid of being judged. Though if we abandon all unhelpful ideas around ourselves, be vocal in a way that's most sincere to us, then our profiles become self filtering in the kinds of conversations we'll attract.

The joy comes when we do away with the huge expectation on an outcome. If we're hell bent on finding 'the one', having the perfect date or a life partner we can miss out on all the opportunities of meeting people that can inspire our lives in more ways we could have ever thought.

That's not to say there can't or shouldn't be an endgame - but we should lighten up a little and just enjoy getting to know the wonderful people that exist beyond our orbit.

Life Sabbaticals

Sabbatical is a term usually reserved for teachers. It's a year's paid leave while they travel and/ or take on further study. Seven years of work usually equates to year away. The purpose of sabbaticals is for teachers to come back to their vocation enriched with experiences to share.

It's quite the opposite of sipping daiquiris by a pool in Bali or mindlessly dedicating a year to binge watch television. It's considered time away for proper life experiences that can assist in shaping the next phase of life and work.

Put simply, it's an investment in the teacher.

Sabbaticals shouldn't just be reserved for those in the teaching field. There should be large chapters of our lives where we can have significant time away from the daily grind no matter what profession we're in.

I like to call them Life Sabbaticals. It's a decision made by you, for you. A decision that doesn't rest on the job you have.

In a Life Sabbatical you turn your life's timeline on its ear. You, running your life on your watch and nobody else's. A year designed of your own choices.

You may be thinking, well this isn't an ideal world, my job won't ever pay me to take a year off to travel. Having a year of nothing on my CV doesn't look good for my next employer. I have bills to pay, responsibilities to think about like my bullsh** mortgage.

Or you may be thinking, that's not normal.

True. It's not normal. And quite easily all your friends have never made these kinds of choices so you're weird for even thinking about it. You may even be feeling guilty. Or there was that one friend that had the balls to pack up and split. You see all their remarkable world travels or philosophical insights on Instagram and it makes you envious and nervous at the same time.

But if the idea also excites you, even just by an ounce, wouldn't you at the very least entertain the idea of making it happen? To draw out a plan to make it feasible?

What if you chose to factor in this time away for yourself so that you're not at mercy to the requirements that you think your life, society or your job demands of you?

Or took smaller steps. Initially taking three or six months away?

There's wonderful examples of people that have staked their claim on their own time line. There's a family member, at age 50, that took time away to dedicate her full attention to the romantic novel she always wanted to write. A grand departure of her former life, and she thanked herself for it. Now she's looking into literary agents and publishers.

Then there's an old colleague in my world of TV who took a year away to the United States to explore other careers. He got a broad scope of what was out there, returned to his old job and eventually transitioned into another role that still included his knowledge and experience of the entertainment industry.

There's friends that have become dissatisfied with their former jobs and are now looking for something more fulfilling. They've had the courage to step away from their old life, to investigate inward and taken a lateral approach to explore what's out there. Most importantly, the simple thought is to get back to what makes them happy. And to see those joys turned into a life and business of their choosing.

These are exactly the kinds of results that come from  dedicating huge periods of time to yourself.

At the very least, after a life sabbatical you've expanded in some way.

And your evolvement is grander than anything else you could have ever imagined.

Why I don't tell my friends to meditate

I was in group meditation some time ago when a teacher advised us not to tell our friends to meditate. His contention, people won’t be responsive.

There’s truth in that. People generally aren’t. I’ve tried it before with friends and family that have suffered a great deal. Their internal dialogue is helpless, angry, desperate or bitter. They see no way out. I’ve even offered to pay for sessions in hope that it would help and it’s generally not welcome.

Seeing people in their predicament is like watching a tense game show where the answer is so obvious to the audience (therefore, all of planet Earth) but not to the person under the pump for the cash prize. I want to yell from the bleachers, "Meditation! It's Meditation dammit!!!"  Then go back to my zen state.

I’ve not taken their reluctance personally. Rather, empathetically I realised that (of course) suggesting something that is so out of the ordinary would be naturally rejected.

Imagine someone’s life being extremely busy with periods of stress, worries and at times, suffering. For a meditator reading this, that was likely your life before you meditated. That was mine.

What we usually hear from those who are distressed is a yearning of "what used to be" or "better days" that are well behind them. Sometimes they're convinced their situation is permanent. Or they're waiting on something out there in the future that will make them happy, like a new relationship, a better job. Which helps by the way, but its not everything.

To then suggest time to sit quietly is a too much of a contrast. Too frightening. Too foreign. Passive, even.

It's usually the big things like trauma, depression, anxiety, huge life or career transitions that make them seek change. Meditation is illuminated to them when they see no other solution to escape their stressed-out minds.

What's most important is to realise that the option to meditate has to be theirs. An autonomous one. 

It’s only then, that I’ve found that the idea of mindfulness or meditation is a welcome conversation. Yet even so, our teacher suggested to discuss very little, to allow it to be a person’s own exploration, their discovery.

Just being the result of meditation is example enough. Being improved-from-your-old-self and perhaps a distinctively different person to many others in your loved one's orbit may make them curious to meditate.

I wrestled with this idea for a good year or so and now I'm convinced it's the best thing to do. Yet the goodwill to help and elevate people closest to me seems a responsibility I can't shake. Perhaps just compassionately listening, patiently being in one's company and not echoing their fears and doubts is enough.

I may still guide them to a helpful and autonomous decision. Hopefully meditation is one of them.

Who are the old champions of your self-worth?

I part took in an exercise from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way*. This exercise required me to dig through my memory bank and find people who may have seen something in me that I didn't, those who encouraged my interests or natural aptitude. In short - I had to find those people who backed me with whole confidence. The beauty of this exercise is that we can quickly realise that these people have helped us beyond the time we've known them. Their confidence in us has actually laid a permanent place in our lifelong development of not only giving us a wider view on life, but on being a better person. And it always comes from their kindness.

The added benefit of this is that during lowly times, when our confidence is knocked, when we're looking for some respite from negative thoughts, we can turn to these old champions in our minds to inspire us again.

The ultimate champion - Ms. Jill Barker

In this exercise I cited my Year 12 English teacher, Jill Barker. English had never been my strength in school (I'm sure you can pick out errors in the way that I blog). The final year of high school saw a tremendous upswing in grades only because I gave extra attention to it.

I did away with being intimidated and overwhelmed and tackled text in ways I never had before. It meant less indulging in TV and music and more time dedicated to reading all the prescibed novels across the Summer ahead of the school year. It meant being curious and participating in class discussions where I had to swallow my pride and be prepared to be wrong.

What I found were potent universal themes in the books we studied. One in particular, David Malouf's Fly Away Peter, beautifully embraced the theme of mortality - a topic I've always been fixated on since the passing of my father as a child. And there was Ms. Barker guiding our young minds through it all with all her grace, intelligence and positive reinforcement.

Yes, I had to show up and do the work. This was coupled with her flawless manner. Her teaching was gentle, yet effective. She didn't have to yell to command respect in the class room. She wasn't patronising. I think what was most important is that she treated us like women instead of girls. You wanted to be a good student of hers. You wanted to do your best. The feeling in every class was always warm and supportive. The result? Top grades for all.

At the end of the school year Ms. Barker wrote a poem - a line dedicated to each student.

"I love Faustina to the ends of her every curl..."

To this day, this has been the kindest words ever said to me.

The year long experience still sits on my bones. And the lessons learnt in that class room still act like a slow release or a late bloom - purposefully designed to only be understood as we grow older and embrace the enormity of life.

I have no doubt that I'll keep being taught these lessons, these epiphanies from that time til the day I breathe my last breath.

These old champions of self worth, they're real treasures to hold onto.

 

*I'm down for borrowing books over purchasing them. We pay for them with our taxes.

Library Resources:

Los Angeles Public Library

New York Public Library

The British Library

State Library of Victoria

State Library of New South Wales

The importance of using our feelings

Our feelings hold a large significance on how we make decisions. Though it's something that we don't exercise enough.

Instead, our senses are dulled. We're distracted. We're driven by our thoughts - which for most people are largely based on assumptions rather than fact. We're also humans that are bound by imagined obligation.

Getting back to our feelings can give us remarkable insight on how we live and what's truly important to us.

When we take notice, we may call into question many parts of our lives, jobs, friendships and our personal and professional relationships.

The ultimate reward - we spend less time pleasing others. We give more attention on our unique interests and the parts of our lives that bring us fulfilment.

Complaint < Solution

We can complain all we want. Vent all we want. It can alleviate stress, but what's ultimate is that we're  looking for solutions.

There's a solution in every complaint. Think about what you're saying and how you can make the situation better. Or look to that golden friend, a mentor, an advisor to break it down for you.

Failure

Failure is so common I wonder why we're so ashamed of it. I have a few ideas - the most prominent of ideas would be the very fact that we've been conditioned to think this way for quite some time. A lot of us had at least a good 12 years of this in our education system. We were raised to think that the only way to do well was to score highly, win, achieve. Basically, we were taught to not screw up. 

So when we enter the world beyond school, failure is much tougher to deal with.

When we reflect on our lives as objectively as we can, we are able see that life has been wonderfully and not so wonderfully coloured with failures.

We've all had them. Public failures, professional failures, various false starts and personal failures. So what can we learn from this?

What if there was a better way of looking at our failures? To do away with shame, to diminish ignorance and still mindfully acknowledge what went on? What if we looked at our failures with a bit of compassion and with all the esteem we can muster?

I think then we'll see that those failures were so necessary.

Lessons.

And a set up for something better.

I'd go so far as to say that life is the sum of many failures and few successes. And it's all rather glorious.

Don't wait on anyone, just keep working

My cousins invest in property. A brother and sister pairing with a portfolio of homes across the UK. When they're close to signing off on a deal they're researching the next opportunity. Their logic - if the pending deal falls through they're onto the next one. This should apply to anything we take on.

Don't wait for permission. Don't ask for permission. Just keep working.

Client or Partner?

All professional unions are about a shared idea. Which is better? Client or Partner?

Simple choice of words. Significant difference in action.

Client rests responsibility (almost entirely) to the work of another. Blind trust that usually ends in disappointment

Partnership carries an expectation that everyone is accountable. It builds a stronger bond. Then there’s the greater likelihood of the desired outcome.

Getting fit + eating

My cousin, Faruk is a personal trainer. I was going through one of those phases of getting back into regular practice.

My concern surrounded an orthodox approach to eating coupled with regular exercise. I can mostly do the 'regular exercise part' - but the eating?

Really?

Whatever fad is around is truly what it is - a huge overhaul with unrealistic expectations that just don't really stick. Well, not entirely.

Faruk's response -  "You've got to enjoy life" 

Of course there's responsibility of portions and the allowance of occasional indulgences.

But this means pressure is instantly off. Motivation to give it your all, ON.

A handful of hours

There's someone you know who's looking to connect with people - and you know them. You like their work, you see there will be mutual respect. A moment of your time is all that's required. And what of a whole web of people you know? What's a  handful of hours to make the connection? Good, talented people should stick together.