DISTRACTED DRIVING

Distractions are dangerous when driving. It’s why using your phone while on the road gets you a hefty fine from the police and the loss of demerit points.

Distractions are bad. We don’t need or want them when driving, but sometimes it’s out of our control. Like when the kids argue with each other in the back seats of the car or when you sneak a peek at the hot topless man jogging down the street. Sometimes distractions just happens.

The worst kind of distraction is the one you can’t even see… it’s called brain overload. You know, when you’re so in your own head thinking about upcoming bills to pay, scheduling appointments, grocery shopping items, how much washing you have etc. You’re thinking about the million and one things that need to be done.

Brain overload was quite possibly the reason for all the accidents and near-accidents that keep happening to me lately. A few weeks ago, while on my way home from school drop-off, I was in brain overload mode. I was thinking of the sale of the house, what to buy for dinner, the bills I had yet to pay, and a whole host of other unnecessary thoughts when I sideswiped a car.

I was driving around a bend of a single lane road. There was a parked car in my lane, and so I had to veer around it and drive into the opposite lane. As I was passing the parked car, another car driving in the opposite direction came past. Instead of waiting for me to past the parked car and get back into my lane, the oncoming car refused to give way and continued on. In order to avoid side swiping it, I pitched further towards the parked car and side swiped its side mirror. Does this make sense? Maybe the below picture will help.

Blue car: me

I heard the sound of smashed glass as I past and I knew without a doubt that I had hit the parked car. I parked and went to inspect the damage on my car. There was none. For about a second, I thought about driving off but immediately chastised myself for being a shit human being. I went to inspect the other car. The cap on the side mirror had fallen off and a bit of plastic was broken. Other than that, nothing else was damaged. I had my son with me, so we walked up to the nearest cafe to get paper and pen, and left my details under the window wipers.

I received a phone call later in the day. The old gentleman told me his wife had just passed and the car used to belong to her. He was going through a tough time in his life and that he was grateful for my honesty. So instead of going through insurance and costing me an arm and a leg in excess insurance money, he got his mechanic friend to fix it for a third of the cost. Luckily for me, as it was an expensive BMW sports car.

A few days ago I was innocently driving along when a Chopper Reid looking bloke in a Holden Commodore blew out from a side street and almost became a T-bone accident statistic. He had the audacity to stick his finger up at me, like it was my fault he didn’t give way. It rattled me quite a bit.

Blue car: me again

Then yesterday, I almost had another accident while doing a right turn into a highway. The car in the opposite direction did a left turn into the same highway and nearly collided with me. However, after my initial indignant reaction, I realised I was at fault as I was meant to give way first. I can’t chalk it up to distractions, it was simply ignorance.

Blue car: that’s right, me again!

My husband joked that because I’m an Asian woman, poor driving is to be expected. Actually, I don’t think he was even joking! He fully believes this stereotype of Asian women.

It got me thinking. Why do people believe stereotypes? Why do people subconsciously and consciously have oversimplified and overgeneralised beliefs about groups of people?

Does culture play a role? If we are raised in a culture and surrounded by a society that readily accepts certain stereotypes, are those biases programmed into our psyche?

What about media? It’s not uncommon for stereotypes to be exaggerated in movies and tv shows. Remember Apu from The Simpsons?

Anyway, my husband and I had a heated disagreement about stereotypes. He believes they play an important role and there’s a reason they exist. My counter arguments were that stereotypes limit people’s ability to be tolerant by encouraging prejudices and oversimplifies negative assumptions about groups of people in a hurtful way.

It was a pointless exercise as we have such different worldviews and cultural influences. In the end, the only thing we could agree on was this… stereotype and distractions aside… maybe, just maybe, I’m simply a bad driver.

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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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FALLING OUT OF BED

“Mummy! Mummy!” – my six o’clock wake up call sounds the same every morning, with my four-year-old son calling out for me from his bed. I know that if I don’t go over to tell him to be quiet, he will fuss and wake the whole household. If I brave the morning chill, I might be able to squeeze in another ten minutes of peace. 

Pulling back the blankets, I swung my legs to the side of the bed and stood up. Then I fell to the ground in a crumpled heap. My legs were not doing what I thought my brain was telling those porkchops to do. 

“ARGH!!!!” My son’s morning whinge might not have woken anyone yet, but my screams of agony certainly would have done the trick.

Three worried pairs of eyes peered over my prone body.

“What’s wrong with Mummy?!”

“Mum, what happened to your foot?”

“Are you ok?”

On occasion, I’ve woken up with pins and needles in my limbs and have collapsed getting out of bed. Never have I fallen in such an awkward position that I’ve injured myself in the process. Unlucky for me, I fell forwards and bent the toes on my right foot upwards. I wasn’t sure if the toes were broken or sprained but it hurt – BAD. Other than grab my foot, I could only manage to whimper in pain. After I had managed to collect myself, we examined my foot and came to the conclusion that if I could wriggle my toes, it probably wasn’t broken. To the kids, the excitement was over. 

“Mummy, I’m hungry!”

“Mummy, can you make me a toastie?”

“I’ve got to get ready for work.”

It was time to get back to Mum duties, bruised toes or not. So I hobbled about to get things done.

“Mummy, can you pick that up?”

“Mummy, can you get my water bottle from my room?”

“Mummy, can you get me a snack?”

“Mummy, can you wipe my bottom?”

Have I mentioned that being a parent is a thankless job? 

“I have broken (maybe) toes you know!” I had to remind everyone that I was an injured person and perhaps people could cut me some Mum slack and go do things themselves. I dread thinking how anyone would cope if I was really out of action. Dropped items would stay dropped, water bottles would never get refilled, no one would do a poop. 

Anyway, I’m sure you are all thoughtful folks and want to know how my toes are faring, right? I am unhappy to report I am back to 90% servant/cleaner/cook duties. Maybe if I want a break from Mum duties next time I’m injured, I’ll need both hands broken.

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