LIFE IS A BLANK CANVAS

Do you remember the first time you started applying for jobs? What about the first time you received a phone call asking you to come for an interview? Better yet, do you recall how you felt when you landed your first job? I bet you were a melting pot of emotions – a little bit of nerves mixed with a heap of hope. Perhaps you were young and brimming with confidence, maybe even a little bit arrogant. 

I was 16-years-old when I got my first paying job. After completing two weeks of work experience at a pharmacy, the owner offered me a job. I remember feeling overwhelmed with happiness. At the time, that job was a godsend as my parents were struggling financially and we were walking the poverty line. Every dollar had counted. I worked for the owner, who was a gentle, supportive and wise old soul, for three years before I left for University. I don’t think I can express how much that man shaped my future. 

By the time I left University to seek my dream job at the age of 22-years-old, I was eager to make my mark in the world. I felt ten feet tall and bulletproof. I was confident in my abilities and knowledge, and truly believed people were lucky to have me as an employee. Gosh, how conceited was I? I blame being young and naive. 

For the most part, I had no trouble finding work. I jumped from job to job, desperately searching for the next best thing; the nirvana of all jobs. I was never satisfied to stay in one place for long, always wanting more – higher pay, better conditions, fewer hours, more status. Eventually, I settled for a stable and secure government job when I started a family. It lasted almost a decade until I had a mental breakdown and a midlife crisis, which coincided with the start of the pandemic.

My focuses for the last two years have been supporting my family and strengthening my mental health. The reprieve from working has also been an opportunity to re-educate and explore a new career. In all, the break has given me clarity and perspective that has sorely been missing in my life.

After a year of studies and with my youngest going to school next year, I am finally in the position to look for a job for 2022. At the ripe old age of 39-years-old, I am a new ‘graduate’ and essentially starting over again. Only this time I don’t have the misplaced confidence and arrogance of youth. 

Currently, I am trying to scrub up my resume and cover letter to better fit the requirements of this day and age. Long gone are popular buzz terms like ‘self-starter’, ‘hard worker’, ‘people person’ or ‘punctual’. It’s no longer acceptable to just list what you did in previous jobs. Instead, you have to use action verbs and examples to show how you have demonstrated a competency or skill. There’s a lot of work needed to get my resume up to scratch, but luckily, I have access to the University’s postgraduate careers service which offers help. Soon I’ll be ready for the process of screening and applying for jobs. 

The prospect of getting out there and starting again is terrifying and on occasion, self-doubt likes to gnaw at my subconscious. Sometimes I wonder what will happen if no one wants to employ me? What happens if I don’t have what it takes to teach adults? What if I hate teaching?

It’s a good thing that the overruling emotions are excitement and hope. While there are self-doubt and anxiety about the uncertainty of my job prospects, I know deep down that my rich life experiences and confidence in soft skills, and eagerness to be a working member of society, makes me as a worthy applicant for any job. 

Plus, I don’t have the burning need to prove myself to anyone, like when I was a young person. There are no expectations that matter other than my own. There is no pressure to accept or reject a job. If it doesn’t fit the bill, then I’ll move on. In a way, the world is my oyster. 

With that thought in mind, I’ll endeavour to see this opportunity in life as a blank canvas ready for me to paint in any which way I want. Hopefully, in a few years I’ll look back and admire the masterpiece that is my life and give myself a pat on the back for having the courage to start over. 

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MOTHER-IN-FLAWS

I’ll start off by saying this post is more of a rant than anything, so I apologise in advance for the unleashing of pent up emotions I’m about to heap on you.

It’s about my mother-in-law. I could probably just leave it at that and you’ll all be nodding your heads and expressing your commiseration. Well, those of you who have had or have one, and know of the pain.

I promised my children I would never end up like their grandmothers. I would not be overbearing, impose on their time and space, offer unsolicited advice, or suggest they should take up hobbies and activities just because I like them. My daughter told me it was bound to happen and that old people were silly and forgetful. I hope to prove her wrong!

I read somewhere that one in four daughters-in-law hate their mother-in-law, with half claiming to have difficult or uncomfortable relationships. Reasons for daughters-in-law resentment stemmed from their mother-in-law’s excessive maternal jealousy and asserting parenting dominance. From the looks of things, there are plenty of stories online about difficult, emotionally manipulative and outright batsh!t crazy mother-in-laws. You may even have one of those! Please do tell us in the comments section if you have a story or two.

I have always had a tedious relationship with my mother-in-law. We’ve never really gotten along. I’m too headstrong in my beliefs and parenting style, and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. Similarly, my mother-in-law is stubborn, volatile and set in her ways. At times, it’s been a clash of wills between the two of us with surrounding family members becoming collateral damage.

Having children brought forth a multitude of tension to our already fraught relationship. As a new mother, I felt offended whenever my mother-in-law and my mother offered parenting advice, usually because it was often outdated and questioned my competence as a mother.

I raised so and so many children and they turned out fine. This is what we did when we had young children. Blah, blah, blah!

Can I just say, I hate it when people tell me how to parent based on their experiences, no matter how well-intentioned? Sure, your kids survived but it doesn’t mean you did a great job! My mother likes to remind me that I turned out ok, so her parenting must have been great. I turned out “ok” despite her parenting not because of it.

When my daughter was 2-years-old, tensions between my mother-in-law and I built to such extremes that we ended up in a major blow-up after she called my mother unintelligent. She was jealous my mother got to babysit while I worked a full-time job, and the two of them clashed whenever their time crossed paths. Being from different cultures and having a language barrier meant the two grandmothers could not find common ground. The blow-up caused a deeper rift in our relationship and I refused to have anything to do with her.

Several years later, the arrival of my son somewhat healed the relationship. We are now civil and respectful enough towards each other to make the relationship functional and comfortable for those around us and for her to have a meaningful relationship with the children. It’s thought that a poor relationship between grandparents and children-in-law results in a poorer relationship with grandchildren. I don’t want that for my children so I try, oh do I try.

However, every time they come to stay, I can’t help but feel anxious. I don’t like having my personal space invaded. Plus we have two bedrooms so our whole family squishes into one to cater for guests. Routines for the children are disrupted. Sometimes we have to host for their guests who come to visit them.

Next week, we will be breaking the rules to allow them to stay over. I relented despite feeling nervous about the consequences of being dobbed in by neighbours and fined. I can’t say no without looking like a b!tch because they’ve not seen the children since lockdown started in August.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my mother-in-law. I just don’t relish spending time with her because I find the things she says and does grating on my nerves. My mother-in-law is a wonderful grandmother and is well-meaning. However, she is simply not a self-aware person. My mother-in-law repeats the same stories over and over, talks about people like we know them and care, is woefully ignorant, and occasionally racist. She also does what she wants and refuses to budge on anything once her mind is set.

For example, today I thought I’d be nice and offered to buy food for their stay and asked what dinners might suit them. My mother-in-law told me she wanted to cook a roast while she was with us. She insisted on paying and to avoid arguing over money, I suggested we buy the meat when they were in town. The supermarket is literally a 5 min walk, just up the road from us. But no, being stubborn, she insisted on buying the roast, freezing it, and then carting raw meat in an esky for a 7-hour drive instead. To say it set my teeth on edge is an understatement.

I can only pray for the Universe to give me the strength to hold my tongue and grant me an abundance of patience to get me through the next two weeks.

My husband says I can’t change people and there’s no use getting upset or annoyed. He says I need to look at this from a learning perspective. I’m not exactly sure what bulldust he’s been sniffing or what kind of learning he’s expecting of me, so I’m gonna have to throw a question into the ether.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to find their inner Zen while having their patience tested?

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I’M NOT HUNGRY ANYMORE!

There is an annoying trend happening in my household. I cook and no one eats. Sound familiar to anyone? 

Every Sunday, I meal plan and order my groceries online. Each week, like clockwork, I’ll ask the same question – what would you like to eat this week? The response from each member of the family never changes – I don’t know, whatever!

So each week, I waste brain cells coming up with exciting new dishes coupled with a few solid favourites for dinner. Honestly, I don’t know why I bother with trying to expand their palates! The results are always the same. 

“I don’t like this!”

“It smells yuck!”

“It looks yuck”

“I can’t eat this!”

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? I must be insane. 

The worst part is having to eat leftovers for days on end because I don’t want to throw out good food and waste money. 

You’re probably wondering if maybe my cooking isn’t up to par and that’s why people are refusing to eat it, right?

Well, let me assure you that I’m a decent cook. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I’d be in the running to win Masterchef… Junior, that is. As in, if I was competing against a bunch of talented 10-year-olds, I’d totally be in with a chance 😜

Sure, there are people who would spit their coffee reading my bold declaration. For instance, my brother would bitterly disagree and claim that eating my food gives him the sh&ts, literally. My mum would roll her eyes and tell me my food is as bland as baby mush. My children and husband might balk and tell you my meals are never the same and too “experimental.”

But maybe the problem isn’t my abilities or my creations. Maybe the problem lies with everyone else?

I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. Just a few days ago, I made a lemon meringue pie for the first time ever. My husband suggested I make use of the surplus of lemons given to us. Obviously everyone knows baking is an exact science and can’t be replicated without a recipe, so I found a highly rated recipe online and channelled my inner Nigella.

This is what it looked like. Pretty damn good if you ask me.

Lemon meringue pie

After making this beautiful creation, my husband told me he didn’t like lemon meringue pie. My 9-year-old daughter told me it tasted terrible, and my 4-year-old son stated he was allergic. I think he meant he was allergic to my food in general.

I offered some to my brother, but he texted “The pie looks mad [but] nah, I’m good. Too risky with diarrhoea.” My friends weren’t too keen to take any, stating diets and what not.

So what do you do when no one wants to taste test your food? You try it yourself. And guess what? I got diarrhoea. My brother was right to steer clear of my food.

While the pie looked amazing, its beauty was only skin deep. The shortcrust pastry was undercooked, the meringue tasted strange and the lemon curd was playing slippery buggers between the layers. I did a rush job and took the pie out too soon, fearing the meringue would burn.

My ratios were a bit off!

But in my defence, maybe the lemon meringue pie disaster was a once-off anomaly. Just a bad day in the kitchen is all. After all, even Gordon Ramsay experiences bloopers and cooking fails.

Last night, I made a beef massaman curry from scratch. No bottle stuff, no siree! I used kaffir lime leaves, cinnamon sticks and even tamarind paste. You know, like authentic Thai ingredients. 

This is what it looked like. Smelled as good as it looked, my friends!

Beef massaman

Anyway, the husband asked if I used lemongrass or kaffir limes, claiming the taste was overpowering. The 4-year-old claimed “grass limes” weren’t for him and refused to even try it. The 9-year-old asked if she had to eat it all to get dessert. It felt like another bust.

The husband tried to placate me saying that I should lower my expectations and not strive for perfection all the time. He suggested that I should view cooking as a journey to be explored and to think of these mishaps as a learning and practice experience. 

He wasn’t trying to sound condescending or critical, but after slaving in the kitchen for a few hours, I wanted to shove my boot up his clacker!

From where I stand (…in the kitchen), there can only be two solutions to this problem. One – be a stubborn mule and continue in hopes something will change. Two – accept that I’m no Gordon or Nigella, and I might be better choosing dishes to suit the palates of my family members, however unrefined those palates may seem.

Which one do you think I should choose?

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