Friday, October 12, 2012

Defining moments


I am thirteen years old sitting in front of the first computer that actually made sense to me. My hand gently encloses a beige mouse that's scurrying, with my amateur guidance, leaves a black trail all over the image of a gorgeous geisha brushing her hair. Drawing with a mouse - an everyday action these days, but believe me back then it was a total revelation.

Up until that day when my father bought home an Apple Macintosh's from work the only activity I'd used a computer for was to load games from very wobbly 5'1/2 inch disks and watch my brother write weird languages that made text fly across the screen. Those clunky keyboard-driven machines were totally alien, I instead preferred more lo-fi coloured pencils.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This first Mac experience confirmed what I had long suspected. I wanted to be a designer. I needed to be a designer. And I would doing anything it took to make it happen.

This is what I call one of life's defining moments - a point on our journey that sparks a passion or idea so powerful it has the possibility of taking our life in an amazing new direction. I have heard stories of this happening in many people's lives, from Ludwig Guttman's quest of help injured soldiers overcome limitations leading to the birth of the Paralympics, through to chef Heston Blumenthal's epiphany while reading the book 'On Food and Cooking'.

These defining moments can be a tiny or ground-shaking. But I believe everyone has at least one in their life. The problem can be that we forget them, or fail to realise that they have happened in the first place. Sometimes it's only by looking back on our lives and remembering those moments when we felt most alive, those ah-ha moments, that we can tap into what drives us as as a person. The thing, or things that makes us really hum.

So, you might like to know - did I actually become a designer? I most certainly did. I got my first design job when I was ten and I never looked back. I am so thankful for where design has taken me, I have loved my career with it's twisted and woven threads. 

Loved in the past tense? Why yes, for I'm about to embark on a whole new journey. Another defining moment has led me to a new path which will combine design with another passion of mine; psychology and helping people live fulfilling lives. 

Are you intrigued? All will soon be revealed. 

Meanwhile I'd love to hear - what has been a defining moment of your life? 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Passion à la Française

Pas·sion : any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love.


I can clearly remember when I first understood the meaning of the word passion. I'm not talking the intense love of another person, but of what was to become a love affair with a country that has spanned decades.


As eight year old students we were tasked with a homework project of creating a menu for a restaurant of our choice. While other kids were lovingly calligraphing pieces of card with chicken chow mein and bolognese, I created a pop-up french restaurant complete with waiter and red, white and blue awning. The 'restaurant' when opened revealed a menu in French. I admit my mother helped me with the translations (cheat alert!) but the rest was all mine.


My father had months before been touring Europe on a wine research tour. Sounds so glamourous eh? Actually, he's an accountant, but happened to work for a university that was setting up a winery science course, and knew someone who knew someone.... Anyway, he was the first in our family to travel overseas and I was totally fascinated by the whole ordeal. Yet for some reason, his snippets of France were the ones that grabbed me and I floated away with the stories. I started reading my mum's school old French dictionary, decorated my room with craft paper Eiffel towers and dreamed obsessively about visiting Paris.

When I did finally visit the City of Light for the very first time it did not disappoint. I was absolutely smitten wandering the back streets of this magical city. I loved every moment of that three day stay. The smell of hot buttery pastry in the early morning, the sound of the language, the look of the people, the taste of the strawberries, the feeling of being immersed in a place I had been dreaming of for so long.


That visit was over fifteen years ago now. Through my love of France I've had some amazing experiences; designing for a French company, doing avalanche training in the Pyrenees, crawling cellars while lost in Champagne, and crashing papal parties in Avignon. I now scrimp and save, and organise my life so I can spend at least a couple of weeks France every year in France if I can.



So thank you dad and mum for sparking a defining moment in my life where true passion was ignited. Je t'aime.

What about you? Do you have an ongoing love affair with another country?

Morning delight

I have a strange condition - I'm allergic to afternoons. It's that time between midday and four o'clock when the sun is at it's brightest and everything and everybody seems washed out. I've had this adverse reaction since I was a kid. It was always the boring part of the day at school when you just wish it was home time. As an adult, its the hours of the afternoon slump.

In stark contrast I delight in early mornings. The moment when the sun streams through a kitchen window and starts to warm a chilly dawn is pretty special. There is so much promise at that time of the day; it feels like anything is possible.

I friend of mine recently put me onto the method of visioning, developed by an art therapist Dr. Lucia Capacchione. She talks about the power of creating a 'vision map' as a way of dealing with fear, self-doubt and inner obstacles associated with our aspirations.

I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of her book. Meanwhile, I thought I'd create a 'vision board' of my ideal morning using snaps form the internet. I love my little flat but it's not soaked in morning sun. One day I'd love to wake up and make tea in a sun-filled kitchen. It reminds me of being at my grandmothers - very nurturing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

From fog to blog

I used to write alot, daily in fact. For about six years, at least thirty minutes a day were spent crafting little essays that I'd ping off to a friend on the other side of the world, rising the next morning to a lovely lively response. It was a delightful ritual that really pushed me to be creative and helped develop my writing.

However, in the last couple of years some big stuff got in the way of those daily missels and as the habit went out the window I lost my knack. Arbitrary days I did manage to find some time to write I started to feel insecure about my opinion, pained over word choices and found that the dreaded spirit of perfectionism planted itself firmly in my brain. It was like I was in a fog - creatively I just couldn't see.

Some much needed space at the start of this year has allowed me to dip my hand into the alphabet infested waters and give writing another try. Scary as it was publish personal ramblings, a blog seemed like a fun way to go. Amazingly, the fog ever so slowly lifted.

Nine months later I am loving playing with the medium. So much so I'm planning to use a blog as the basis for a new program I'm developing. Clueless about how to get the best out of the platform, when I saw that the delighful Holly Becker from Decor8 was running a Blogging your way bootcamp I had to do it. 

So here I am - day one of the course. Over the next four weeks this space will become my exercise book. I'll be trying out all sorts of new things. If you have time I'd love your feedback!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Building gates and fences in three easy steps

(SYLC 40)

I'm very lucky when it comes to the people with whom I share my time and my life. On the whole they are an extremely motivating and talented bunch with hearts of gold. After each interaction I walk away feeling understood and inspired, like someone has just showered me with a burst of sunshine.

It wasn't always this way however. Much of my life I have unconsciously spent alot of time investing in people who would zap me of every ounce of positive energy, self-esteem and vigour leaving me ruffled for days at a time. I thought by listening to them and being with them I was helping them out. Unfortunately it was affecting me greatly in a bad way. So when December 2011 hit and I decided it was time to have a good hard look at myself and my life, this is one of the areas that needed an overhaul.

Who we spend time with has a big influence on our feelings, the way we think and ultimately our outlook. I have written previously about how people can also influence the way we view ourselves. If, like me, you are person who is highly empathic, you'll be even more effected as it's in our nature to pick up on the energy and feelings of those around us. If that energy happens to be negative, spending too much time with these people will likely result in us feeling zapped as well.

Realising that some of these relationships were not so good for me, what did I do to turn this around? Upot came down to just three things:

1. First up, I did an assessment and asked myself of the people in question, on the whole 'how do I feel when I'm with them?' I tried to be conscious of how I felt before, during, and after an interaction. As a result of of this I actually did wind up a couple of friendships. Was it hard? Yes, but it really did feel like the right thing to do and my decision has so far stood the test of time.

2. Next, I gave myself a crash course on boundaries, something that I've been particularly bad at to date. I still have some people in my life who aren't always the best for me, but I have reasons for keeping the interactions going. What I needed to do in these situations was take back power and get more balance to these interactions. One example, a friend who always wants to meet only when and where convenient for him. He can disappear for months and then call when he's in need of a bit of company. He usually wants me to make the trek to see him. If I'm honest I started to feel a bit used. But I enjoy hanging out with him so now, if he's unable to meet at a time/place convient for us both I don't take up the offer. Harsh but fair, which brings me to...

3. New friends! Creating space has meant more time and energy to invest in making new connections, and to reinvigorate some that I'd let lapse. I have met some amazing people just by being open to more positive relationships. I'm also more aware that if I'm talking to someone new and the vibes are not good, perhaps it's time to move on.

I'm now a much happier and more vibrant person because I implemented these three steps. How about you, do you have people in your life that zap you? How might you go abou changing this situation?

Photo credit: http://kimberlyriggins.com/
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