A Recipe For Relationship Success

We all want to have our cake and eat it too and, as the old adage goes, if you’re going to bake a cake then you’re going to need to break some eggs.  You may be happy with a Coles-brand sponge or maybe you’re the kind of person that dreams of a multi-layered rainbow cake romance. Perhaps you’re a new-age paleo/vegan/ gluten-free  romantic and you need some kind of flourless carrot cake love. Whatever your hungry heart desires, like cake, a good relationship requires some methodical mixing of ingredients and a good pinch of patience.

We’ve all sat back and wondered why such a promising love was such a flop. You started out with a picture of a Women’s Weekly birthday cake and before you know it you’re elbows deep in a singe-crusted, oozy topping, food dyed disaster. You’re weeping on the floor of the kitchen, covered of course, in the main ingredient: flour. No relationship, no love, no cake. Just a big bloody mess and a torn up photo of a multi-layered, dinosaur cake with green butter icing and peppermint leaf spikes.  The white dust settled on every surface quietly transforms into gelatinous papier mache glue as it mingles with your cascading tears.

Such life events show us that it’s not a matter of following a simple recipe. Being human – all too human – we rush into things. We miss crucial steps, skip ahead, think we know best, ignore the oven timer and become completely distracted watching Family Feud, delivering a half-baked, lackluster love, droopy and distinctly lacking some key ingredient. So what are the essentials?

Obviously there’s got to be flour, you are trying to bake a cake after all.  I’ll call the flour (or almond meal if you’re that way inclined) love. . All you need is love, right? Love is all you need. That’s what I was told. Wrong. Whatever it is your heart desires from love, you’re going to need more than just flour. You’re also going to need a raising agent, a spark, a chemical reaction, something to turn a bowl of beige stodge into a fluffly delight. Without baking powder, you’ll end up making friendship crepes. Now, if you have flour and baking powder then you can have a crack at damper – you might even magic up some play-dough or a scone – but you’re still only half way to a relationship.

Holding the cake together is the eggs, the milk, the butter or the mashed bananas for my vegan friends. Key binders in a love cake might seem critically obvious, but they are often the most neglected component. Your eggless cake is the relationship your peers turn their nose up at. The foray that causes you to fall out with old friends. It’s trust, respect, communication, equality, understanding, acceptance, openness. Without a minimum of three of these components the partnerships skews towards ownership. Old eggs in your love meringue ruin your chances at that soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, delivering instead a disappointing dish that really should go straight in the bin.

A cake should be sweet and it needs measures of kindness, caring, thoughtfulness; all that vom-worthy couple stuff. But there’s no level of garnish that can can uncook a catastrophy. No extravagant couple holiday, kissing selfie profile pic, overtly affectionate post or tacky couple tatt that can overcome a blundered base. There is no measure of silver cashews that can convincingly bedazzle a bland bundt cake. Some of us think we want a hot partner, nice dinners, holidays, presents. While a thick layer of icing can mask a dry cake, remember that the best chocolate brownie needs no extra decoration.

In truth, you can’t make a cake without flour. You also cannot call a bag of flour a cake. It’s not enough to fight for a relationship because you’re in love. If you are missing trust, respect, dignity, honesty and communication, it’s going to be a shitshow,  not a souffle . Too many times I hear vile, unhealthy and downright repulsive behaviour condoned and defended by love. So babe, what you’re telling me Neanderthal Neil can be excused for crushing you confidence, destroying your friendships and ruining your life? “…but, but you don’t understand, we’re in love.”

Mmm. Cool story. Neil is not a masterpiece, he’s got less personality of a bag of sugar and is not a healthy or balanced addition to your diet. You may as well throw fistfuls of flour at each other to show your love, it’s roughly the same result as your dysfunctional relationship. He makes everyone around you sick, most of all you, whilst you trip-out on some kind of delusional sugar high. “Ohhhh doctor I know I have type two diabetes…. But, but you don’t understand, Neil and I are in love. Neil doesn’t mean to destroy my health. I couldn’t possibly end it with Neil, Neil, love, Sugar, love blah blah blah”

*Self-destructs in a puff of sprinkles*

In the past we’ve all hoped for a bombe alaska and instead landed a cream pie to the face. In hindsight it’s generally safe to say the measurements were a bit off. Next time if you’re thinking of baking a cake with someone check your shopping basket first before you hit the check out.

The proof is in the pudding.

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Love and Other Fast Moving Goods

In this life of fast cars, fast food and fast money things that take time tend to take a backseat. We are so used to instant gratification that it is an almost-alien concept to nurture and grow something for more than a few minutes. If our seeds don’t propagate, reach maturity and bloom in the space of two minutes we ditch gardening all together and do what any self-respecting Gen-Y should do: move on. I don’t like to fuel Gen Y biases but I feel as though were born at the tail end of a revolution and our concept of success, hard work and even love are shaped by the rapidly changing world we grew up in. I’ve spoken before about my propensity to cash in phones (iLove You, iLove You Not… iDunno) the same way I cash in relationships: yearly. This is because like you, I have been raised to feel the like obsolesce is inevitable and that anything I have is temporary until the next big thing comes along.

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty disheartened by the transient nature of friendships, jobs and love. This eternal optimist has had her flame for life dampened by the idea that, in fact, nothing does last forever. I wistfully recall the glorious lyrics from Pooh’s Grand Adventure, where the two odd buddies cheerfully quarreled about how long their friendship would last. The highly cynical Christopher Robin sceptically advised “Forever and ever is a very long time, Pooh.” To which the charmingly overweight, binge eating, dependent-wreck Pooh replied: “forever isn’t long at all, when I’m with you.” For a long time I thought I was Pooh (I’ve also thought I was shit at times too) but recently I’ve been taught by the school of Chris Rob. Turns out poor Pooh was just a stepping stone on the path to the next best thing. He knew that in the big wide world there was going to be more for him than an engorged stuffed animal with stupendous charm. He was already plotting his next move long before old Pooh Bear realised he was the last man standing in a three-legged race to forever.

For the last twelve months I’ve been wildly optimistic about love, friendships, careers and life. But as the optimism fades, like a general anaesthetic, I am left wounded and bemused as I hurtle back to reality. Life was so much simpler when forever and ever didn’t seem like such a long time. But these days, a month feels like a lifetime. Life is full of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) and more and more I’m starting to feel like one of them. FMCGs, as the name suggests are products that are sold quickly and at a relatively low-cost. They are items like chocolate bars that generally have a short shelf life, either because customer demand is high or because product deterioration is rapid. It’s a low-margin business that demands trade in high volumes in order to reap a significant profit. Well, that sounds like modern life right there: always scrambling to upgrade to a newest version before we have truly extracted worth from the first.

We keep churning through life’s offerings so quickly that we perpetuate this FMCG cycle and become a part of it by default. I’ve been busy investing in myself, pouring my heart and soul into my friends and relationships and searching relentlessly for a fulfilling career for an end goal of securing a life of slowly-maturing, stable investments that yield hefty returns. But how wrong was I? I’ve been treating people like property (The Dating Game) and they’ve been treating me like ice-cream (We Can Dish It Out, But We Can’t Take It).  I’ve been paying my way through life with fat stacks of cash but accepting dividends paid out in Monopoly money. I’ve been trying to in vain to build an empire, because lord knows Rome wasn’t built in a day, but when I look around all I can see is young upstarts bragging about how fast they got Park Lane with four houses (hotel coming soon), whilst getting ready to sell up big and move onto the next thing before the game is even finished. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

We’re all aware of this easy come, easy go attitude because we are its greatest advocates. Routinely we ask ourselves: why should we bother trying to repair something when it will cost just as much to replace it? Sure that might be the case when it comes to laptops or vacuum cleaners but not relationships and careers. These things should be regularly serviced and patched-up. They are not a tub of yogurt that’s gone a bit sour, more often than not they are a car that just needs a bit of oil. We are constantly abandoning opportunities that just need a little bit of TLC in order to keep reaping returns. But alas: try and fix a four-year friendship? Nah. I’ve got 3000 friends on Facebook, I don’t need that bitch. Ride out a rough patch a work? Damn, have you seen how many jobs there are on Seek? Then there’s the old “Hey, its been ages! We should catch-up ” (aka “do you still think I’m cute?!”) messages that start popping up in your inbox when someone is preparing to exit a relationship and looking for a soft place to land.

A new boyfriend every week, a new best friend every month and a new job every year. Keep. ‘Em. Coming. Companies wonder why young talent won’t stay when they’ve been contracted, probationed and treated like visitors in an organisation that wants them to feel at home. Friendships these days seem to go out of style faster than most reality TV contestants and don’t even get me started on long-term relationships (apparently a terrifying prospect for FMCG fans). Love and romance now inevitably die like cut flowers because everyone wants a bouquet of roses but no-one wants to take care of the plant. Quite honestly, I’m sick to death of being someone’s impulse purchase that gets picked up and dropped like a packet of Mentos. Don’t buy into FMCG life choices and don’t ever let someone treat you like one. In life, although they might be part of your appeal, you should never be chosen solely for your affordable price, convenient location or cuter-than-most aesthetics.

Love Maths: Equations and Probabilities

It’s another girl. The timing is wrong. He’s just too busy with work; he’s been abducted by aliens or more likely than not he’s been recruited to the secret service and has had to cut ties with me for my own safety. Whatever the reason, it couldn’t have been my fault. If my calculations were correct we should’ve been holi-dating in Thailand by now and posting obnoxious couple selfies. Instead, the red carpet has been pulled out from under me and I’m left red-faced and licking my wounds after making a public spectacle of myself.  Someone must have fed me corrupted data.  How did this all go so horribly wrong? Holy shit Neo, there’s a glitch in the Matrix.

After falling flat on your face in front of a bemused crowd of onlookers, it can be hard to regain composure. In trying to make sense of our stumbles, we tend to blame everything under the sun except ourselves and get very hung up on the idea of closure. As if falling ass-over-tit for someone who doesn’t want you back isn’t embarrassing enough, people then want to pinpoint the exact moment things went astray. When people tell you not to worry because there’s plenty more fish it’s typically not very comforting. Oh wow really, what sea? What fish? Okay, there’s like 2 billion fish out there but they are probably all weird looking, undersized, bottom feeders. No thanks.  I want a Marlin, not a tin of tuna. I thought I’d hooked a big fish, if only I knew what went wrong. That would change everything, wouldn’t it?

The word itself – closure – indicates some kind of finality, as if knowing what the turning point was will make you feel instantly better and the whole saga will magically fade away into a distant memory. Keep dreaming. Of course it’s not that easy: since when could you blame one straw for paralysing a camel when there’s a whole bale underneath it? It’s never as simple or logical as “rise over run,” so analyse as long as you want but you are more likely to catch a unicorn then the mythical closure beast. Relationships don’t follow a logical, linear progression; the best you can hope for is to find some kind of trend in the chaos so you can manipulate future equations. Jules + Jerk Face = Sad Jules. Subtract the boy, carry the Jules, + gal pals x brunch = awesomeness2.

When you finally accept that you probably won’t ever be able to solve ‘x’ to uncover the exact reason for the relationship failure then you can start looking forward. Perhaps you forgot to carry the two, divide by 36 and move the decimal point; maybe you just weren’t his cup of tea and maybe he likes coffee. It doesn’t matter, post a passive aggressive quote on Instagram and move on. In fact, screw algebra. Thank you, high school maths teachers, for your years of hard work, but I don’t need a graphics calculator to tell me that love doesn’t bear resemblance to a text-book slope. It’s full of curves – positive and negative – and is generally much more of a white-knuckle roller coaster than a bell-shape or an exponential.

Don’t get so hung up on finding a logical answer for the one that got away. It’s nothing more than a necessary dot to your data set. So you put together a forecast based on an algorithm built with situational data and this time your prediction wasn’t even in the ball-park. You got it wrong… But that’s life. You’re not the first person to put all your eggs in one basket before elegantly face-planting right into them, crushing them to smithereens.  Wipe the yolk off your face, honey, and move on, because if you want to bake a cake you’re going to need to break some eggs and what’s that saying again? Oh yeah: “There are plenty more fish in the sea”…but how many exactly!? “Plenty more”’ isn’t a very compelling number– plenty more than what? Plenty more than none or plenty more than a New York City fish market?! Let’s crunch numbers.

By the time you’re in your early-to-mid twenties, it’s likely you’ve already caught a few fish. The newest guy/girl is the second, third – or in my case, 47th – love of your life. For the sake of the argument lets presume you’ve been casting lines into the dating pool for six years approximately. Now in that time you’ve met probably two life-changing loves, which averages out to one every three years (or every three months, if like me you fall in love like it’s going out of fashion). Therefore, conservatively, in a lifetime of dating that could be upto 25 people who could potentially turn your life into the blissful day-dream that is love. [Rough workings: 75 adult years/ 3 year love spells= 25 eligible candidates out there! Yiew!] Now, don’t give me crap about diminishing dating pools and declining probabilities, that’s not the point. I’m not a mathematician I am just a hopeless romantic trying to make an argument. So buck up, Chum, there actually are plenty more fish in the sea. Just keep on catching them and throwing them back until you find the one that’s right for you. And if nothing else, be comforted and a little grossed out by the fact that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among the elderly… So you’ve got plenty more years of love to look forward to.

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Jules x

iLove you, iLove you not…. iDunno

Relationships and technology – two areas of my life where, despite all my best intentions, I have taken a few hits. I’ve probably spent roughly as much time in JB HI-FI processing warrantee claims as I’ve spent trying to sew back together my heart and my dignity. In a complex world where even smartphones have an opinion of their own, it can be very hard to back your own judgement. It’s hard to know whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em, when everyone keeps promising the next big thing is right around the corner. Should I buy the iPhone I’ve been dreaming of for the past six months or do I wait and see what the next model will be like? What if I wait another two months only to find the next model is basically no different and $200 more expensive? I’m at a loss. So I ask my friends what they think I should do and they tell me to forget iPhones and go get a Samsung. The whole experience is utterly bewildering and I would rather give up and go live on an island. For me, dating is pretty much the same story.

What if we are so busy looking far off into the distance for the next innovation that we forget what’s really most important? Unperturbed by my past technological breakdowns I am still entirely optimistic that there is a model out there for me. I wonder though – is the whizz-bang HD, 3D, intuitive, line-around-the-block latest-release really what I’m looking for? Maybe what I actually want is someone solid; someone strong; someone who can handle a fall; can communicate with me, doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily and won’t start malfunctioning if I drop him in the kitchen sink. Hang on, wait — now I’m not sure if I’m talking about a man or a Nokia.  I think back to the days when the only important feature in a phone was Snake 2 and wish dating could be as simple.

Funnily enough, I’m an android user – I don’t know what that says about me as a person. Maybe I’m pragmatic and I want functionality over flash. You might just think it means I’m stingy; there could be some truth to that too. But if you want to debate the value of an iPhone vs a Samsung in rational terms, there is really no justification for the price discrepancy between the two, just like how Nike sportswear is made of the same stuff as New Balance but twice the price (hint as to where I buy my gym gear).  I don’t really buy into brands and I really don’t buy into iPhones. I don’t like the exclusive chargers, I don’t like the glass screen that crack if you sneeze on them and I don’t like the obligatory software. They are very pretty though.

What implications does this have for my dating life? Maybe my choice of android over iOS is because over my overwhelming fear of having my heart chewed up and spat out by iTunes. I’m scared of putting everything I care about into one lousy device that is not backed up properly. Something that has the propensity to heartlessly delete my entire existence in one foul swoop. Sounds a lot like a guy, right? Maybe that’s a reflection of my love life. Maybe I hold back all of my important data because I don’t want to leave my valuable content at the mercy of some heartless and unreliable male computer program.

So I’ve always thought Samsung is the safe bet, the smart bet, the reliable choice. I also like what they stand for – they are courageous, they are smart and best of all they are (or were) the underdog. Investing in the less obvious choice can really pay off. For instance I always loved people that were ugly ducklings, they are always the best value. It could be the fat kid, the guy with bad teeth, the girl with the awful hair. Being socially less desirable in your youth can force you to equip yourself with tools much stronger than your appearance. These are the kids who are funnier, smarter and stronger than the rest because they had to force their way up the school yard ranks, they couldn’t just rely on good looks.  Given those ducks five years though and their metabolisms have sped up, the braces are off and they’ve got an army of hair stylists. Bubye ugly duckling, hello beautiful swan and jealous gasps from past skeptics: “Holy shit, you got hotttttt!”

I always try to date swans. They’re more humble, they’ve got personality and they are bloody beautiful people. Take it from me, I was a fat kid and that’s why I’ve developed humour. The only looks-based competition I was winning was second prize in the Monopoly beauty pageant (Collect $10, thank you very much) so I needed to get people’s attention some other way. I guess I’ve always considered Android to be the ugly duckling and that resonates with me. Apart from the hours spent at work or sleeping, phones and relationships are probably my biggest time commitment. So I’ve always wanted to share that time with someone who understands me, whether that’s a person or an operating system.  Reflectively I’m probably just bitter about because the iPhone was born hot and popular but like Android I feel I’ve had to earn my stripes.

Where are we at? I think I’m trying to date an Android-based water fowl, so maybe it’s no surprise that I haven’t had much luck thus far. Unfortunately in my attempted to avoid the dreaded i-phenomenon I’ve actually had a pretty average run with both phones and men. Ironically, I can’t seem to make a phone or a relationship last for longer than a year. The lesson there might be that I really should take better care of my phones and my boyfriends. Or perhaps I should take a chance on the iWagon and see if I’m swept off my feet like the rest of the fanatics. Up until now I’ve been going through the same cycle over and over again and hoping for a different result. We all know that’s the definition of insanity. Like my phones, I tend to expect a lot out of my romances and they tend always end up over-heating and burning out way too soon. Until I work out what’s best for me I’m not committing to another contract.

Let’s be alone together

Somebody asked me the other day if I was lonely and I nearly fell off my chair.  I have not been lonely since I was a soppy, 14-year-old emo trying to figure out my place in the world, back when the feeling of misunderstanding felt terminal and heavy eye-liner was the only accessible medication. Back to the present day, though, am I alone? Yes.  Am I lonely? Never.  What a pointless waste of time. The absurd accusation that a person would be lonely because they don’t have a partner is about as robust as the assumption that all gay guys are “faaaaaaaabulous” and all pretty girls are dumb. Certainly, there will be instances of each but if you think it’s a blanket rule then you need to get out more.

To the young and carefree loneliness can be a bit like mould: if you’re complacent it can creep in and before you know it you’re sprouting mushrooms out of your shower grout. Much like the hygiene issues in your bathroom, you can’t trust other people to come along and clean up your mess. It’s you’re responsibility now and (I sincerely hope) your mum’s not going to come around save you. Roll up your sleeves, grab the bleach and take care of it like an adult, because – like cleaning the bathroom – the more regularly address it the easier it is to manage.

In a world where we are constantly attached to smart phones it can be easy to dilute friendships down to reciprocal post-liking or regular photo comments. Shout out to my Instagram bffs from around the globe with whom I share a magical double-tapping, girl-crushing, like-for-like commitment. I am here for you babe, and if you’re really struggling with that selfie I promise to like it across all three of my Instagram accounts – until death do us part. That being said it’s common in this day and age to let too many friends drift away from the physical world and get sucked into the digital vortex. Because of this, loneliness can catch you by surprise: while everyone else is driven mad by your loud, bragging message notification tone, you fail to realise the real-life organic relationships you once had are stale or rotting. Sure, I get a kick from pulling in mad stats on my latest highly filtered, artistic, over-exposed masterpiece (‘WOOHOO 100 likes…. Don’t touch me Bitch, I’m famous’) but that doesn’t take away my need for physical contact. I want to see your facial expression, read your body language – even smell your BO if I must. Nothing will ever replace the warmth of a whole-hearted laugh or the tingle of a rib-squishing hug.  Thinking that social media ‘connectedness’ can cure isolation is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound – it’s just not going to stick.

If you’re a capable young adult the difference between being lonely and being alone is choice. I chose to be alone but nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses to be lonely. If I wanted a relationship I’m sure I could find one. There’s a plethora of delightful gents out there who might just be up for the challenge (Wanted: tall, dark and handsome… or tall, blonde and handsome… Or tall and handsome… Ok, ok. Just handsome will do).  I chose to be alone because at this stage there isn’t an offer on the table that would justify rearranging my over-flowing calendar of commitments. With work, study, fitness, friendship, writing and my demanding hair-washing routine I am not willing to compromise my lifestyle for the sake of having someone to constantly harass me via text. So until the male cast of Vampire Diaries comes knocking down my door I’m more than happy to just keep doing my thing.

Loneliness happens when you stop proactively filling up your life with awesome things and waste your time moping that the man or woman of your dreams hasn’t tracked you down and put a ring on it yet. God knows why. Maybe they are too busy out living their own exciting, fulfilling lives to waste time trawling through Tinder profiles, Mutual Friends and Instagram galleries chasing you. The reality is you’re not going to get swept of your feet if you spend the majority of your time alone on the couch. I’m not saying you should sign up for insincere activities in the hopes of meeting someone, because that probably won’t work either. Trust me; a happy person can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood in the water. Only they won’t be creeping up on you like Jaws, they will be running for the hills in case you’re contagious. There is nothing less attractive than a stage-five clinger who has no real life, friends or interests of their own. You don’t want to be that guy and you definitely don’t want to be with that guy so always carry salt.

Finding someone won’t necessarily cure your loneliness anyway.  Personally, I’m more likely to feel alone when I’m in a relationship that’s constantly letting me down than when I am in a committed relationship with myself.  I know what I like, I manage my own expectations, I never have to fight over what movie to watch, I don’t have to shave my legs every day and I’m free to be as ugly as I like without judgement.  If all of that is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “if you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.’  If you can accept your flaws and embrace your strengths you can do away with the need for the continual reinforcement sought in a relationship. Put down the i-solation-Phone and make an ongoing commitment to your friendships and making life as full and rewarding as possible. You don’t need to settle for Joe-Blow, or worse, become boring old barnacle joy-riding on someone else’s life. Concentrate on yourself and it won’t matter if you have someone or not because you will be kicking life’s butt regardless.

Bottom line: You never have to be lonely if you can be comfortable being alone.

(Image courtesy of usamedeniz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Travelholics Anonymous: When it’s Not OK to Vacay

By now we have all been exposed to the Travel Bug, a common and serious parasite that can take over your life and infest your every waking thought. Many embrace the relationship as symbiotic – they nourish the travel bug which in turn nourishes them. We all know others, though, who have taken this way too far, to the point that their normal life is starved of all joy between overseas jaunts. When it gets to the point they won’t even have a $12 dinner with their friends at your local dumpling house for fear of blowing the budget, they’ve gone too far beyond passionate. More than that, the habit of sitting at home, avoiding friends for fear of frivolous expenditure, just makes you feel like they hate you as much as they hate their own dreary life. What makes it worse is that all the while they’re completely oblivious to their social leprosy, manically trawling for sale fares online like Gollum searching for ‘Precious.’

These friends, from an outsiders perspective start to appear like drug addicts – willing to lie, cheat and steal just to scrape enough money together for the next exotic hit; lurking in dark alleys and robbing little old ladies because just to fund the next plane ride. Travelling has taken to the brink, where bare essentials are being sacrificed just to fuel the habit… after all, toothpaste is just a marketing ploy, right?  We go weeks without seeing them, having barricaded themselves inside because these vagabonds can’t bear to be seen scuttling around in their travel junky outfits: Three inches of regrowth, moth-bitten yoga pants and bleach-stained singlets. Surely when you get to the point you’re working three jobs and seriously considering selling your little brother into slavery you need to ask yourself a question: “what am I running away from?” If your life is so tedious and mundane maybe you need to look a little bit closer to home to solve the problem.

Many of us are clearly driven overseas by the unavoidable fact that it’s cheaper to spend a week in Bali than a weekend in Queensland but really – how necessary is it to run for the hills at every single opportunity? Is the motivation for travel about broadening your mind or simply to bolster your Instagram gallery? By your seventh trip to Bali, I’m sure you have squeezed out just about as much culture as you can get. Perhaps you just needed to pop back for a few more Bintang singlets, a vodka bucket and a henna tattoo- who am I to judge?

It’s often one of those activities thrown out there during ‘icebreaker’ games when some soul-less facilitator tries to embarrass you all by making you share interesting and quirky facts about yourselves (Internally I’m wondering “ Holy crap, is eating a hobby?! Does watching boxed sets count?!… Should I be embarrassed that Breaking Bad is my main joy in life?”).

You start clutching at straws so no-one realises you’re as dull as a pile of pine bark: “Travel! That’s my hobby. I live to travel!” But in reality, a hobby requires dedication, practice and ongoing commitment.  The only commitment travel-maniacs have is the commitment to poor living standards and a bad work-life balance, and to the avoidance of real life goals. The end result is a fat little hamster on a wheel, working as hard as they can but getting nowhere. In the meantime, the hamsters around them start climbing the corporate ladder, buying nice things and gradually getting their shit together.

It’s great to have something to look forward to. I encourage all of you to travel, see the world, open your mind and put on five kilos trying every flavour of gelato ever invented ( because on holidays it is law that you are allowed ice cream every day). I’m just saying that there are more economical ways to enjoy your life every day and not just for four weeks a year, and therein lies the key. The fear of a boring life is real for every single one of us, but travel is the symptom – not the cure. Transplant the determination and dedication from travel plans into self-improvement and the seek contentment from Monday to Friday, not in spite of it.

We should all be looking to Bilbo Baggins for inspiration instead of Gollum. Bilbo built such a pleasant life that he was vehemently opposed to leaving it; even when he did he spent much of his time dreaming of his nice warm burrow and the joys of his everyday life.  Admittedly, our holidays don’t usually involve dragons or wizards (although I am always on the lookout for large spiders and thieves), but the point is that he built a nest; a safe-place; a life that he treasured and in which he surrounded himself with friends and family. He took pleasure in the simple things like reading good books and eating multiple breakfasts (a man after my own heart). Travel changed him, made him a better Hobbit and opened-up his eyes – no doubt about it. But Bilbo did not believe he was defined by his adventures and was always driven to return to his own life. That said, they obviously wouldn’t have made a trilogy about Bilbo sitting on his bum in a Shire. Coming soon, The Hobbit: – An Unexpected Haemorrhoid….

Not by any means am I saying that we should all be Hobbits and relish solely in the comfort of our homes until the age of 50, but I do think we could take a lesson in enjoying the simple pleasures in life such as good food, good drink and good people. Indeed the alarming amount of hair that grows on my feet could be the source of my affinity with these little fellows, but when all is said and done, Bilbo had it right. Deep down we are all waiting for Gandalf to knock on our door and drag us on a life changing adventure through Middle Earth, but until then why don’t we divert a little bit of that travel passion into creating a sanctuary in our everyday lives? The year should never be reduced to a 40hr+ weekly struggle to scrimp, save and escape a hum-drum hell, especially when that hell is most often one we have created for ourselves.

And maybe if you didn’t deprive yourself so much you could get by on the small pleasures in life, like buying $130 gym tights without having to sell a kidney to make up the deficit.

Thanks for reading, if you love my posts please subscribe to email notifications via the link in the menu icon above. Jules x

Valentine’s Day Special: 5 Signs You’ve Settled

Happy Valentine’s Day lovers! It’s that time of the year again, the time where blissfully happy singles are made to feel like second-rate citizens due to their lack of arm-candy.

I’d like to take this opportunity to divert your attention away from those of us who are currently proud members of a one-man wolf pack, however, and highlight the real sob story here. The real losers here are neither those of us who are happily single or, heaven forbid, happily taken.  The ones I feel for are those in sub-par relationships where days like Valentine’s remind them what they are truly missing out on.

Being single is not terminal and it does not mean you’re defective. I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that King Arthur hasn’t yet arrived to pull the sword from the stone; Prince Charming must’ve had too many ales and fallen off his horse; I haven’t stumbled upon a royal amphibian looking to lock lips; and my hair – alas – is still not long or strong enough to support the weight of a fully grown man. What does concern me is the amount of people who have settled prematurely into unhappy relationships. Men and women alike, who are so desperate to stay out of the Lonely Hearts Club that they’ve jumped into a relationship with someone who barely meets their minimum standard.

Let’s take a moment of silence to commemorate those who have battled through the mundane and given up their freedom for the sake of a not being single.  Their sacrifice has been in vain, and I hardly doubt that a crappy stuffed animal on Valentine’s Day is going to offer any consolation. So, as a present to you guys out there I thought I’d put a little bit of a list together to help you identify some key indicators that you might be in a dead-end relationship.

  1. You’re embarrassed by them:

If you’ve been here then you will know the guilt and shame that comes from having a partner you’re not proud of. You will come up with reasons why they wouldn’t want to come to your friend’s event, work party or family dinner; frankly, you just don’t want them there making you look bad. When someone asks you about them you instinctively ‘white lie’… “His job in the film industry [Village cinemas] is going great and he’s really into creative arts [drawing male privates on every Snapchat he sends]. Also, when it comes to P.D.A you feel more inclined towards a public display of vomit. You don’t want anyone to know you’re together because you’re secretly hoping strangers on the street think he’s your brother or a homeless person you’re philanthropically sponsoring. For guys, maybe you’re bragging about her looks to try to distract your mates from her obvious lack of brains and ambitions.

  1. You don’t include them in future plans:

This sets off alarm bells. Better grab a bucket because your relationship is going up in flames. Your only hope now is to cling to a handsome fire fighter or sultry paramedic and get out before this whole place burns to the ground. Jokes aside, if you are planning a new life overseas, an investment property, a puppy or even a new tattoo and they haven’t crossed your mind in the process then this is a worry – particularly if they are the type of person who won’t even get a haircut without your consultation. If your life is moving at a million miles an hour and you don’t want to offer them a VIP ticket for the ride then you’ve got to ask yourself why you’re letting them hang around in the airport lounge for a plane they are never going to catch.

  1. The attraction is gone:

He used to get your heart pumping like Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. Now, the only place you’re likely to experience an elevated heart rate is in spin class, or when you see your food coming at the restaurant. Somewhere along the way all of his or her endearing charm has disintegrated; suddenly you’re left with an over-grown teenager whose general approach to life is so different to yours that it has overshadowed their magnificent cheekbones and you can no longer see the beauty through the bullshit. I’m talking about that feeling you get when you look at your partner some days and wonder if you are actually dating the most disgusting creature ever to walk the earth. The magic has gone and you feel like you’d rather make out with a Saint Bernard than kiss him for the 4 millionth time; Or when her triple chin selfies are no longer cute but more resemblant of Jabba the Hut. It feels like whatever hallucinogenic drugs you must have taken have worn off and you wonder why you ever found them attractive in the first place.

  1. Your friends think you can do better (and you agree)

From the start your friends have been saying you deserve better and their friends have been applauding them for batting above their average. At first you thought your friends were just being negative old spinsters but as the relationship has progressed, the cracks have started to show. For fear of hearing “I told you so,”’ you’ve started to avoid any talk of your relationship in front of your friends. Deep down you know you could aim higher but it’s easier to be with him/her … you’ve let yourself go a bit and you’ve been avoiding manscaping or waxing for so long that you’re hairier than a wildebeest. You’re not ready to get back out there and you’re pretty sure your muffin-top isn’t going to bring anybody to the yard.

  1. You treat them more like a pet than a person:

Come here. Sit. Stay. Behave. Eat. Lie down. Good Boy! Thatta a girl!! Don’t laugh; I know I have definitely been in the situation where I was treating my significant other more like a Labrador than a lover. You shouldn’t have to scold them for stupid things, train them how to behave in public or tie them up outside when you go into a shop. Chances are you’re already day-dream about what your next relationship will be like because you know this one is not your last. If you’re treating your man like man’s-best-friend or using your lady as a show pony then it’s time to take stock.

For any of you empowered singles – meet me at the ticket box, because we are going to the movies this V-Tines day. Thank God we have 50 Shades of Grey to remind us that even most fictitious relationships are screwed up and borderline abusive. Just remember ladies and gents, it doesn’t matter how strong his Christian Gray game is, or if she’s the hottest girl you’ve ever touched. If they are a secret from your friends and a massive tool, what’s the point? Take a little look at your relationship – maybe the best present you could have this Valentine’s Day is a little bit of Candy Heart advice: life’s too short to settle.

(Photo Credit: theinvictusgroupinc.wordpress.com)