Never forget you are amazing

Happiness has been my go-to conversation piece when drunk for about the last month. As soon as I hit that third glass of wine tipping point, whoever I’m out with gets gifted a drunken Runawaykiwi preaching about happiness – apologies to everyone caught up in the ramble. Rather than continue to piss off my friends, I thought I would write something hopefully more coherent on this little old blog of mine.

I’m not quite sure if it is social media, the stage in life I’m in (late 20’s for anyone asking) or the language of modern marketing imprinting itself on my brain; at the moment we only speak in bests and worsts. It’s no longer ok to be just simply happy, now you need to be living in a constant state of ecstasy or alternatively be a tight ball of misery in order to fit in with the crowd.

I am really happy at the moment. God writing that felt like declaring a political statement. It’s not that I am an overnight Zoella, have been promoted to CEO or am suddenly getting married; I’m just getting enough sleep, have been doing some fun London stuff, drinking a lot of coffee and have actually managed to catch up with my friends. Not earth shattering, but I’m smiling and content. And yet this happiness is quite simply not something you hear about very often. It is partially because you are sensitive to others emotions and don’t want to rub happiness in the face of someone who is struggling, but it is mostly because stressed is the new normal.

The biggest issue I have with this best/worst mentality is that it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Think back to the last time someone asked how you were, I would put money on your reply going something along the lines of “I’m so stressed and/or tired/shattered”…and it might be have been true. The problem is the more you say it, the more you reduce your emotional rainbow down to those two negative emotions, and after a while you don’t even bother to think about how you actually feel, you automatically go straight to stressed. You begin to forget that stressed and tired are just temporary states of being, you forget that they do not identify you.

I listened to this being discussed on the Being Boss podcast and their suggestion was to add a positive twist to the end of your automatic reaction; change “I’m so stressed” to “I’m busy but loving it”. I’m not sure that works for every situation, sometimes you are just stressed to all hell. But identifying the bigger picture really can work. This week in particular it’s too reductionist to say “I’m stressed”, instead it could be “I’m so excited for Christmas and I want to get all this work finished before the break”. It’s not “I’m stressed” its “I’ve got a big project and its taking up a lot of my energy”. Or hell, it’s not “I’m stressed” it could even be “I’m great”. Turns out just like complaining about teachers and homework made you cool in high school, being stressed makes you fit in at work.

Motivational quotes on my wall

The Pinterest impact can’t be overlooked either. Now I love a motivational quote, I pin quotes most days and have them all over the walls in my room. The danger is if they stop being little nuggets of lovely and actually start making you feel bad about your life, as if you are not doing it right unless EVERYTHING IS MAGICAL ALL THE TIME.

The funny thing about happiness is that, just like all emotions, it’s on a spectrum. Happiness runs from the tiny things like that first sip of coffee, through the middle ground of planning world domination with friends over wine, right up to the highs of finally having wanderlust satisfied – or my personal highlight this year of seeing my sister marry the love of her life, a moment so happy that it was in another emotion universe entirely. With all the Pinterest-beautiful quotes floating round, I get the impression that it’s only ‘happiness’ if it falls in the top 10% of the spectrum.

You are selling your happiness so so short if you can’t bask in the tiny happy moments that dot your day. That top 10% of social media approved happiness means that apparently 90% of your life is unhappy. That’s just terrifying.

I’m not sure if this post is any better than the wine ramble, but I think what I am trying to say is that this is your life, every second of it is a moment that you won’t get back. Don’t sell yourself short by falling into stressed/tired automatic-reaction trap, or feeling like your little moments of happiness aren’t big enough to count and enjoy. Wake up and think “I get to do this, I can try again and might even find some happy today”, and if that is too hippy dippy for you just remember that today you can buy a coffee and treasure that first sip. The emotions you are feeling are delightfully temporary, the fact that you are amazing is a constant that you need to keep in your heart every day.

Christmas is going to be a hard time for a lot of you reading this, either because you are an expat away from home or you might be home with your family…but your family is a bit cray. Forget that its not THE BEST CHRISTMAS OF ALL TIME, forget for a moment that being unhappy is cool and just enjoy those little moments. Use the silly jumper, the mulled wine and a surprise ‘Merry Christmas’ from a colleague you didn’t think knew you existed to get you through.

So, after all that I have to ask…what makes you happy?



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Stay in touch with home

I think my parents would be happy to confirm that I am RUBBISH at staying in touch. All those best intentions for Skyping every weekend pretty much go down the drain when its cold, I’ve had a long week at work and Suits is calling on Netflix. I can’t even imagine what Mum and Dad think about my life in London when these are the reasons I have got in touch:

  • its midnight and the lights have gone off in my flat and I can’t find the fuse box
  • I couldn’t figure out how to change the time on the microwave
  • Terrorists attacked Paris
  • I made a pom pom rug
  • Crying from work stress
  • I needed a dairy free, gluten free dessert for a dinner party
  • There was a fox outside my door looking at me
  • I got a retweet from Sigmund Freud’s granddaughter
  • I didn’t know if the lightbulbs I had got would blow up the house

Seriously none of those are made up. My parents get no contact for a month and then just get hit with one of the above…terrible terrible daughter. Its actually amazing that they haven’t either disinherited me or somehow managed to inject me with a GPS tracker so they know where I am.

Sadly after such terrible levels of communication I am no longer the favourite daughter, the mantle has been picked up by my older sister and she is getting all my Christmas presents from Santa 🙁

To help you avoid a similar fate, below are my top 7 ways to stay in touch with home. I know some are kind of weird, but lets be honest when you are useless at staying in touch in the normal fashion you need to get creative.

1. Send a box of marshmallows with your face on

Boomf marshmallow selfies

This might be my favorite way to stay in touch, there is a company called Boomf that will put your face on a marshmallow and send it to your Mum. Ok, you don’t have to put your face on it, I just thought it was narcissistic and funny…the dream combination. You can choose any 9 photos, if you want vanilla or strawberry mellows and then they ship them anywhere in the world for free.

Sending sweets anonymously has a history in my family; my sister and I once got into a candy war where we sent each other bulk candy entirely in anger (we both knew we had no self control, and being faced with large amounts of sweets could be devastating). It started with an anonymous delivery of 4kg of marshmallows and only stopped after 4 months and the final battle of 10kg of crunchy bars. I know, my family is weird. Anyway try Boomf they are awesome and will make your whanau smile.

2. Send 60 postcards over the course of 1 year

Postcard photo

This was back when my sister was living in London as well, and these two terrible daughters were going to be overseas for both Mum and Dads 60th birthdays. At this point the cats were the clear favourite and Mum was cooking them chicken each night, I think the fur-babies were getting the house in the will. So we did something crazy to try and get back in the good books. Over the course of the year we sent them 60 postcards, on the front of each was a photo of us holding up one word on a mini chalk board. Once they got all of them they would be able to read the entire Happy Birthday message. Oh and we also got all of their friends and family to take a birthday message photo as well. Cats 0: Daughters:1

3. Skype

Skype with a cat

If you can get around the time difference, the buffering and the likelihood that at least one end of the phone will be drunk … Skype really is the best answer. Why is this one on the creative list? With the terrible internet in my flat I often end up looking like a cubist dreamboat.

4. Start a blog, wait three years then write a blog post

Runawaykiwi Dad

Love you Dad

5. A one line email is better than no email at all

If you see a top that you think your Mum might like, tell her. You see a piece of street art that would make your Dad laugh, tell him. You don’t need to put aside an hour to write down every detail of your life, your parents just want to be involved. They want to know you are safe, happy and to get some picture of your life in London. Oh and brunch, they also want photos of your brunch.

6. Call a bar and ask the creepy bartender to give your Dad a cocktail

The first year I was in London I really didn’t know what to get for my Dad for his birthday. New Zealand just seemed so far away, and no present seemed like it was enough to make up the distance. So instead I got creative/creepy. I knew it was really likely that my parents would go for a drink at this one bar in Mt Eden where we often went there as a family to celebrate life’s highs and lows. From London I called the bar, picked out a cocktail and paid over the phone. I then gave the bartender a (what looking back was probably a very insulting) description of my Dad. When Mum and Dad sat down on his birthday, the creepy bartender walked over with Dads favorite cocktail and said “this is from Rebecca, Happy Birthday”.

7. Travel half way across the world whenever you can

I love travel. It broadens the mind and the waistline in equal measures. I often sit in my London flat just consumed by wanderlust, endlessly scrolling the painstakingly composed travel photos on Pinterest and dreaming about one day seeing them myself. But adventure and that perfect Instagram photo is something that you want, not necessarily what you need.

What did I need? Two weeks ago all I needed was something to nourish my soul and someone to tell me that it was all going to be ok. I wanted Rome, Dubrovnik and Ibiza; but all I needed was my Mum.

And I guess that pretty perfectly sums up my travel personality. Trips fade into a distant memory after a few months, but those singular moments of surreal joy I take with me everywhere. I remember driving though pitch black country lanes in Devon trying to find a pub with friends, sitting on top of a boat on the Nile at 9am drinking cocktails, the first time I stood in front of the Mona Lisa, buying something at Tiffany on 5th Ave in New York and feeling just so grown up, being among the first in the world to see the sun rise on New Years day in Gisborne, and of course that hug with my Mum.


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Home is where the heart is

A bit of a rant, but I think an important one to put out there. When you are an expat and things aren’t going according to plan the default setting in your brain is ‘move home’. It could be a grumpy day at work, flat issues (what the hell is it with landlords selling your flat from under you!) or even just the 14th day of rain in a row. Something in that little ‘grass is always greener’ part of your brain goes “well I could always book a flight home”. That’s the equivalent of throwing your perfect coffee at someone because the poached eggs were a little overcooked …oh wait I’ve done that #brunchrage.

I love London. In my head it’s a living person that I argue with, complain about and love with all the fierce protectiveness that I can summon up. But that does not mean that it is perfect, I just have to remember that its perfect for me. It will be hard, there will be days where I am just fed up with all of it…but those days would happen no matter what city I was living in.

In a way it comes down to percentages. I am happy in London 95% of the time, which means that there is that 5% that makes me want to stab someone and fly home. But should I really swap that 95% happiness for somewhere that would only make me 60% happy? No. That math just don’t work. But parts of me would be happy back home, which is why that default setting exists.

It is easy in a way to ignore this little demon part of me, the cheapest one way flight I could find for tomorrow is £620 – excuse me while I fall off my cafe chair laughing at being able to afford that. But I think its something that it is easier to recognise, to get out in the open (/to blog about) and move on from – particularly when its a feeling that is there for most expats.

We have chosen to live in these foreign cities. To have language barriers. To be confused by exchange rates. To live apart from family. To pay rent that will mean never owning a house. To live a life without cats. We have chosen because overall it is a better place to be you.

Now if only I can remember that when I’m having a bad day…


Not selfies

*all photos kindly provided by other humans*

Oh the selfie, mocked by all treasured by few. The general consensus is that selfie taking reveals how vain a person is. You scroll through Instagram and just see endless close up faces, all taken slightly from above because we all know that is the most flattering angle. Taking selfies makes you a Kardashian, little substance just obsessed with projecting a filtered and flattering version of your face on an unsuspecting internet.

When I was looking through photos from my recent trip to New Zealand I noticed something really strange, there were photos of me. For most people this wouldn’t be something out of the ordinary but I live by myself in London. And more than that I like hanging out with myself (not a euphemism), drinking coffee with myself and going on holiday with myself. All of this means that my photos tend to be of monuments and food, not my lovely face.

I looked back over my 2014 photos (all 12,000 of them!!!) and there were maybe 10 of me, and most of those were group shots or accidently having my camera around the wrong way (#awkward). Its only going home and being around family where my life gets documented; go to a vineyard take a photo of you drinking wine, go to a beach take a photo of you on the beach, go to a cafe take a photo of you drinking coffee. I never thought it was important, after all I want to look back at places not me. But, but it is important isn’t it?

I know that I am no longer growing (lol to that I have been this short arse height since I was 13), but there are those indefinable changes that happen to you throughout your life. I want to be able to look back and see myself as that baby expat scared of getting the wrong tube and then look in the mirror and see the girl who is happy to get lost in London every day.

So short of hiring a professional paparazzi to follow me round (you can do that, seriously) I am left with the selfie. The vain ‘look at me’ picture that we all see as a tool for mockery and derision. That signifier that the person in the photo needs something bigger to think about. That way that I can see my life progressing and changing for the better.

So don’t judge me for me selfies, just think of them as a time capsule to be looked at in years to come.

Although if you have enough to make a flip book out of you may have gone a little too far…