Things that got me through this week

I recently marked six months of living in Perth.

When I last left Perth in 2013, I knew it was for good. I was born and raised here, and have come and gone a number of times as an adult, but this time was it.

Except it wasn’t. While I finally started to find my feet in Melbourne, my husband felt differently. Also: house prices. And so not long after we got married, almost exactly four years after we’d arrived, we left again.

While the decision to move back was mutual, let’s just say it’s not a decision I would have reached independently. Even though Perth is well and truly where I’m now settled, I don’t really feel at home. I knew I wouldn’t. I have some kind of subconscious sense that I’m just here temporarily, and that soon we’ll be back in our cold little Flemington Victorian where the Citylink cheesestick is visible from our porch and the local cafe owner shouts us to free coffees because we’re mates.

But the truth is someone else lives in our house now, admiring the cheesestick as they leave for work and grabbing coffee from our local. And we’ve since become home owners, too.

That knowledge of being settled in a place you know isn’t the right fit for you can sometimes be overwhelming. It’s hard. But I've been trying really hard to focus on all the good things I have going on in my life. You know, practising gratitude and shit.

One of those good things is that I’m flying out to Sydney this weekend to attend Make Nice, a creative women’s conference founded and organised by the amazing Ngaio Parr. I am SO FREAKING EXCITED, not only to hear some amazing women speak, meet some online buddies IRL and Learn Important Career Shit™, but, admittedly, to get out of Perth and experience a bustling city again (sry Perth, maybe one day I’ll stop shitting on you). Also: NSW heatwave, sister catch-ups and flights with QantasnotTiger. It should be good.

Anyway, in that spirit of gratitude, here’s four things that got me through this week:

1. Amy @ Pikaland’s five-day style course

If you read my last blog post, you’ll be familiar with the gripping anxiety I've been experiencing around my illustration style. It’s still there, of course, and I can’t see it abating any time soon. But I feel like I stumbled upon this five-day course at literally the perfect time. I’ve been visiting illustration blog Pikaland by Amy Ng consistently for at least a couple of years and didn’t notice the sign-up link to this course until the exact week my style anxiety (and probably general anxiety) hit a peak. Maybe because it’s new? I don’t know. In any case, thanks, universe!

Or more to the point: thanks, Amy! Seriously, if anything I wrote resonated with you, sign up for this email course NOW. It’s free, and it not only provides practical exercises to help you hone your style, but it’s so super reassuring. It literally spoke straight to my anxieties:

“When you find yourself still torn by the different directions your work can take, ask yourself this: what kind of work will I be happiest doing a few months down the line? A year maybe? Or even a few years? Maybe you’re certain you want to pursue one thing, or maybe you’re not sure at all.”

“A combination of [your history, interests, experiences and more], including the technicalities of how you create your work, is what will make you stand out as an artist.”

“There is no one way of working and if you like working in a variety of styles, so be it! If you want to focus the way you create by nailing that one style that you'd be happy with, then go that route.”

Amy also links to this excellent article by illustrator Kyle T. Webster about why you don’t need to pick one style. Like I said: it spoke to me, you guys.

I’m still pushing my way through the practical components of Amy’s course, but it’s already making me feel a little more hopeful that I can develop a cohesive style I’m happy with—and that if I don’t, that’s still OK.


2. Sweet potatoes

My husband’s CrossFit place started a six-week paleo challenge last week for their members. It’s entirely opt-in, but he signed up, and I decided to do it with him. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while to see how it might affect my shitty fatigue and shitty moods born of my shitty thyroid, but it always seemed kind of an impossible idea to stop eating pizza and all the cheese. But here we are.

At the start of the challenge, I put all our non-paleo pantry foods into a big Aldi bag to stash in the laundry for six weeks (we’ll meet again soon, tortilla chips!). I reluctantly threw away the few non-paleo items we had in the fridge, except for three different cheeses I just couldn’t bring myself to dispose of, so I just pushed them to the back of the fridge behind a big jar of pickles.

Needless to say, planning meals sans grains (and cheese) is hard! That is, until you factor in sweet potato. What do I eat instead of bread? Sweet potato. A good sub for pasta? Sweet potato. No tortillas? Sweet potato. Can't eat rice? Sweet potato.

We have been eating a LOT of sweet potato. And it’s kind of been getting me through the week. Don’t get me wrong: while I am a little more headachey than usual this week, I am enjoying eating this way (I think?). I already don’t eat sugar, so I think that has, mercifully, made the transition to paleo much easier.


3. Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba

I ordered Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women from Book Depository (are we still allowed to use BD? I always feel bad for ordering from there but it’s just so damn convenient) and it arrived last week and I’ve been turning to it at least a few times a day ever since.

Little Black Book is the work of Otegha Uwagba, the brains behind Women Who, a “URL and IRL community for creative working women”. And fuck, this book is small but it packs a punch. It cuts through the bullshit to give tips on everything you’d want to know about being a woman in the creative industries, like overcoming creative blocks, building your brand, getting paid what you deserve and public speaking.

The book also finishes on an excellent Q&A chapter that shares advice from prominent and successful women like writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Refinery 29 co-founder Piera Gelardi and editor-in-chief of the wonderful Riposte Magazine Danielle Pender. Some quotes that really resonated with me:

“Take up space. Don’t be apologetic about your ideas and opinions. Men aren’t.”

“You have to be your own cheerleader, even if it makes you cringe at first.”

“Don’t be swayed by how other people define success. It’s not one size fits all.”

Word to the wise: Women Who also has a great weekly newsletter full of interesting links and resources that you should definitely sign up to if you’re a woman and if you’re creative.


4. The return of Broad City

I’ve been hanging for season four of Broad City since, like, early last year and am SO VERY VERY EXCITED IT’S BACK.

I immediately fell in in love with Broad City when I first watched it a few years ago, which is pretty unusual for me. It takes me a long time to warm up to things. Case in point: I abandoned Master of None two eps deep into the first season and didn’t return to it until about a year later, something that still shocks me because MON is a masterpiece and I heart Aziz Ansari 4eva.

I can’t really explain what it is I love so much about Broad City. I mean, obviously, it’s freaking hilarious. The celebrity cameos are genius (Mara Wilson in the Mrs Doubtfire-inspired episode zomg). It’s worth it just for Bevvers alone. And it has an endearing and inspiring back story.

I was struggling to put my feelings about this show into words until I read this Junkee article today that basically managed to sum it up: it’s the best love story on TV, hands down. I can’t really say anything more astute than the article without plagiarising it, so just go read it to understand where I’m coming from.

But I also have to admit to seeing a lot of myself in Abbi. I once worked as a cleaner (or, as they dubbed it, ‘membercare assistant’) at a high-end gym where, honestly, people did throw towels at you on their way out and pubes did always clog the showers; I’m pretty awkward and say awkward things and mumble to myself a lot; and I’m hustling to make something of my illustration career while frustrating and sometimes comical roadblocks seem to pop up.

It’s not a perfect show, as the author of the Junkee article points out, but damn it if it doesn’t have the most heart and provide the most lols. Go watch it if you haven’t already.