Who you are in high school is NOT who you are for the rest of your life.

FeetIt’s this:  Who You Are In High School Is Not Who You Are For The Rest Of Your Life

There are two big things I remember about high school: truly ridiculous amounts of homework. And being labelled. Do any of these sound familiar? You’re the sports star or the geek or the loner or the teacher’s pet or the brain or the gossip or the one who is always gossiped about. Or maybe you’re the bully or the loud mouth or the school captain or one of the “choir kids” or a muso or a science-lover or part of the “cool group” or the guy who spends his lunch hours in the library researching Japanese anime or the girl who seems to spend her entire life organising charity cake stalls and fashion parades. Maybe you did something in year nine that people were still talking about in year 12. Or maybe it’s what you didn’t do that set tongues wagging.

That can be the problem with high school. It’s like being forced to live in Summer Bay for several years. It seems like everyone remembers everything. The place thrives on rumour and gossip. And it feels impossible to shake off a label once it’s been super-glued to your back. Thankfully this doesn’t last forever. It really doesn’t.

 

The good news: once school ends you get to reinvent yourself

Some people – lots of people – feel tortured in high school because of the way they’re perceived or misunderstood, or the reputation (deserving or not) they get stuck with. But here’s the good news;­ whatever label was smacked on your head in high school can be peeled off when you walk out those gates for the last time. Think of it like an Etch-a-Sketch that gets wiped clean. Your reputation gets packed away along with your school uniform and textbooks.

See, the great thing about The Rest Of Your Life is that you get to reinvent yourself. And you get to reinvent yourself as many times as you like. A bit like Lady Gaga (except maybe without the meat dress).

Here’s an example. A girl in my year 12 class who was seen as Mayoress of Dorktown transformed into this incredibly cool political science student after high school. She went to uni and suddenly found her tribe – other students who were into the same stuff that she liked (the student union, rallies, clever jokes about politicians that no-one else understood). Her new friends were people who couldn’t have cared less that she was always chosen last when we played basketball in high school. At university she found people who liked her for who she was.

That’s the thing — many people blossom when they’re given the freedom to be themselves.

The great thing about the real world is that all of a sudden you’ll find yourself exposed to new ideas, philosophies and ways of seeing the world. After years of having to wear a uniform, adhere to ‘regulation sock height’ and live by certain school values — you’ll have the freedom to experiment with different looks and ideals. And nobody is going to be hovering by waiting to give you a detention because your fringe is too long.

In exactly the same way, whoever you were in high school can also end on that last day of year 12. Maybe you’re not that proud of how you behaved in high school (or the friends you were hanging around) but you felt trapped by a label and continued to play the role of the bully or the socialite or the brainiac. Well the world outside of high school is full of people who don’t know anything about you, so you get to start over. Sort of like being in a witness protection program (okay, not really). But my point is you get to start afresh with a clean slate. Learn from your mistakes. Decide what you want to do differently. Make a decision to be the best version of yourself that you can be and then go for it. It’s never too late to change.

Lastly, the great thing about leaving high school is that those people you really, really didn’t gel with — you never have to see them again. Huzzah! Once you’ve graduated you can choose who you’d like to see each day. You can kiss the bullies or the mean girls goodbye (not literally… that could be awkward.). High school ending is really just the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life.

The bad news: small fish in a big pond syndrome

While some people cannot wait to finish high school, move on and shrug off the labels assigned to them, other students may not be quite so keen to leave their glory days behind. I mean, what if you were school captain? Or voted The Girl Most People Want To Be Stranded on A Deserted Island With? What if you topped Maths or Biology and loved the fact you were the smartest person in your class? Now what?

You can really struggle when your environment changes and you no longer have the ‘status’ you had in high school. What I mean is, you become a small fish in a big pond (having spent maybe five years being a big fish in a small pond at high school). Maybe you were the smartest person at your school and now everyone in your first year Science degree is like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. Suddenly, nobody thinks you’re special (well, except your Nanna). But try to look at the bright side — the pressure is off you a bit. You can actually relax instead of having to maintain the reputation of always topping Chemistry or English. Or maybe what you were missing in high school was the challenge to push yourself. Suddenly you’re with a whole heap of other smart kids you can learn from. Maybe instead of being made to feel like a freaky genius, you can choose to revel in being around other students who love talking about politics and current affairs and who actually understand nuclear fusion. Accept the difference as a good thing.

Or perhaps you were extremely popular in high school and all of a sudden you don’t have an entire school community in awe of you. Maybe at your job, people don’t really notice you or give you any attention the way they did in grade 12. Again, look at the positive. You no longer have the pressure of having to behave in a certain way. Let me get all Dr Phil for a second and remind you that you don’t need to be the most popular person in the room to be happy. If you behave in a way that is kind and friendly, if you demonstrate integrity and compassion and can laugh at yourself — you’ll find your feet. And anyway, the more popular you are, the more people want a piece of you. Enjoy being part of the crowd for a change — sometimes it’s a relief to have no expectations on you.

 

You are not defined by your Year 12 score

Finally, let me repeat something I wrote an entire chapter on in Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I FIND YOUR TRIBE COVERwish I’d known in high school) — your future success does not rely on your year 12 score.

For the first few months after high school is finished your friends will probably be obsessed with knowing what score you (and everyone else) received but then they’ll moves on. A great score is fantastic (go you!) but is no guarantee that your life is going to be all ponies, kittens and rainbows. Long-term success is about being resilient.

In a similar way, a terrible score doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a failure either. So you bombed out? Okay, that sucks. But if you really want to chase a goal, you’ll find another way to get there.

It’s worth remembering that some people are late bloomers. A fabulous example is my friend (and fellow author) Kim Wilkins. Kim writes:

“I was a late bloomer in every sense of the word. I still played with my dollhouse in the first year of high school, until one of the other girls told me that it was lame. I was puzzled and sometimes horrified by the things my teenage peers talked about and did. I gained a reputation for being the biggest “dag” in my grade. I flunked almost everything at high school and spent a very long time working in fast food jobs and typing jobs. In fact, I’d say that I didn’t really blossom until my mid-twenties. I went back to school and finished my senior, got into uni, started writing books, and haven’t looked back.”

 

Let me tell you, Kim’s being modest. Today she’s an internationally acclaimed author of twenty books. She’s a university lecturer. She’s won a University Medal for pete’s sake. She’s living the life of her dreams. And she flunked out at high school. So if you too bombed out in high school… don’t despair. Tomorrow is another day. Just look at Kim.

*This is an extract from FIND YOUR FEET (the 8 things I wish I’d known before I left high school). You can by that book here or here.

Is this the conversation you need to have with your child before school goes back?

Have you taught your child how to recognise a good friend?

When you write a book about the importance of choosing the right friends in school, it goes with the territory that other parents come up and tell you their concerns. Or, you know, HORROR stories.  Horror stories from kids who are in primary school. Horror stories of kids behaving badly and I mean BADLY even in Prep or year one.

And what I’ve realised is that in the past week in between getting uniforms and school shoes and covering schoolbooks and finding lunchbox lids there’s a whole slew of kids and parents who are worrying about school staring next week.

And you know what the source of that anxiety is?

It’s been about friendships.

The kids were either anxious about starting a new school and making friends (totally understandable) OR they were anxious about going back into their current friendship group. A group that perhaps is not so great. A group that is perhaps making the child in question miserable.

And it made me think that perhaps we don’t talk enough to our kids about friendship. Are we actively teaching our kids how to recognise a good friend and a bad one? Are we explaining how to be a good friend yourself? How to handle the ups and downs of friendship? How to know when to leave a friendship and how to do it?

FIND YOUR TRIBE COVERObviously this is something I cover in detail in Find Your Tribe (and nine other thngs I wish I’d known in high school). The first chapter deals exclusively with what girls starting high school need to know about choosing the right friends. My theory being that at least 50% of whether or not you enjoy high school is based on WHO you choose to hang around.

So I thought I’d do an extract from that chapter here (see below). And I’d also include some conversation starters for parents who have children in primary school.

If you or your primary-school aged child are worried about friendships, here are some talking points. It’s worth remembering that making friends and being a good friend is a big learning curve for kids (and, er, some adults). Sometimes our kids will make bad choices. Sometimes our kids will behave badly themselves. But if we keep having these conversations, I think that’s the key to making the right decisions.

FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL KIDS:  What does a good friend look and feel like …  

  • A good friend is someone who you love to spend time with.
  • A good friend cheers you up when you’re feeling sad.
  • A good friend sticks up for you if someone else is being mean in the playground.
  • A good friend makes you laugh.
  • A good friend is someone who is happy to take turns when it comes to deciding what to play in the playground.
  • When you’re with a good friend, you feel happy and comfortable.
  • A good friend doesn’t tease you or make fun of you.
  • A good friend will tell you how they are feeling if they are upset.
  • A good friend doesn’t make you feel sad or embarrassed.
  • A good friend doesn’t lie about things or cheat at games or refuse to take turns.
  • A good friend doesn’t refuse to play with you or refuse to sit with you or talk to you some days at school for no reason.
  • A good friend doesn’t hit or kick or bite you.
  • A good friend apologises if they hurt your feelings.

How to be a good friend:

  • Smile and be friendly!
  • Try to be encouraging and helpful to your friends and other kids at school.
  • Be willing to take turns at games.
  • Stick to the rules of the game. And don’t cheat!
  • Don’t boast or tell lies.
  • Don’t tease your friends (or anyone at school).
  • Don’t say mean or hurtful things to your friends.
  • Be direct and if something upsets you or hurts your feelings – be up front and tell your friends.
  • Apologise if you hurt your friend’s feelings.
  • Be a good loser if you lose at a game. Don’t get upset or angry.
  • Be willing to forgive your friends if they do something that upsets you.
  • Understand that all friendships have ups and downs and just because you have one small fight it doesn’t mean the friendship should be over.

 

FOR HIGH SCHOOL KIDS:  An extract from Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school)

Happiness in high school, I believe, is determined by two things: having fabulous, inspiring teachers and having great friends. Now unfortunately the ‘fabulous, inspiring teachers’ thing isn’t something you can control. But if you’re lucky enough to have a few fab teachers in high school who challenge you and inspire you, who make you want to be in their classroom even on a Friday at two o’clock and who can still join in a conversation on your total addiction to the Twilight series, then count yourself extremely lucky.

The other major factor that will determine the quality of your time at high school is who you hang around. Your friends. And this is the bit you can control.

I’m going to cut to the chase: Life is too short to hang around with bitchy, negative people. So don’t. In high school you want to surround yourself with people who ‘get you’. You know, people who get your sense of humour and think you’re funny (well, most of the time – maybe not when you’re trying to see how many Tiny Teddies you can fit in your mouth). True friends are those who support your dreams, who cheer you on and who are prepared to do CPR on you when you start choking on those Tiny Teddies. They provide a soft place for you to fall and are there to comfort you (and eat cookies’n’cream ice-cream with you when you’re blue). Real friends don’t slag you off the moment your back is turned or routinely put you down or humiliate you in front of others. Real friends don’t leave you out. Instead real friends ‘have your back’ – in other words, they’re fiercely loyal and protective. My friend Franny describes finding real friends as finding your ‘tribe’ which I think is the perfect way to describe it. Your tribe are people you met who you immediately click with. People you can trust. People who see the world the way you see it. People who like the same things as you. So choose friends at school who are from your tribe and high school will be waaaaay more enjoyable.

All friendships have ups and downs and, for whatever reason, girls can be incredibly bitchy to one another for no apparent reason. But when you’ve got great friends these little spats will last for maybe a day. Not weeks. Not months. And then you’ll make up and want to get together again to plot a way for that hottie who catches your bus to finally notice you.

You know what else? You don’t need to be in the cool group to enjoy high school. Aim to be someone who is friends with all different kinds of people at school. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes calls this being a ‘floater’. Floaters do their own thing, have high self-esteem and they definitely don’t pay attention to peer pressure. Be authentic in your tastes. In other words, be who you are. Don’t change your personality or your interests or your taste just to hang around with girls who spend all their time bitching and making fun of other people.

All this sounds obvious, right? And yet many adults will tell you it took them years (and some painful friendship experiences) to finally get this lesson. For some reason, many of us spend our spare time with snarky, negative people who make us feel worthless.

And don’t think for a second that hanging around with the cool group will make you seem more attractive. There’s nothing attractive about someone who behaves like a sheep and follows a leader. You’re way better off hanging around with your tribe. After all, what’s attractive is a girl who is confident, who can laugh at herself, who smiles a lot and who exudes a generous spirit.

While we’re talking about friendship let me just say that part of having good friends is being a good friend. (Stop rolling your eyes). It’s true. Don’t bitch. Don’t be the big mouth spreading rumours. Defend your tribe when others are trying to tear them down.

 Two Tribes Are Better Than One …

If possible, try and have a second group of friends or even just one great friend outside of school. Maybe you do a drama class on weekends, play a sport, are President of the People Who Hate People Who Can’t Differentiate Between You’re And Your Society, are part of a youth group, Girl Guides, yodelling. Whatever. The point is sometimes when your school friends are driving you up the wall with their Robert Pattinson obsession, it’s good to have another friend or friends outside of school that you can turn to and hang out with.

In short: Hang with your tribe.

The key is to keep company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Epictetus, Greek philosopher

If you’re after a feel-good movie, go see this one …

Once upon a time I went to the movies ALL THE TIME.

On a whim! I’d be bored in an afternoon and think “I’m going to pop out to a movie!” There is no popping now. None. Going to the movies takes organisation and babysitters and lists of instructions.

So when I do FINALLY get to a movie, it had better be enjoyable. If I’m going to put on fancy clothes and make-up and pay money for a ticket – I want to enjoy myself.

And that’s what happened last night when I grabbed a raspberry slushie (don’t judge) and saw “The 100-Foot Journey” starring the legendary Helen Mirren, famed Bollywood actor Om Puri, the delightful Charlotte Le Bon and the captivating Manish Dayal.

The film – adapted from the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais – is the story of an Indian family headed by Papa Kadam (Puri) who move to the exquisite town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Va in the South of France and decide to open an Indian restaurant across the road (100 feet, geddit?) from a Michelin-starred and rather up itself restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Mirren).

100 foot journey If youre after a feel good film, this is the movie to see this weekend.

Cinematic comfort food. Yep, it’s a thing.

Look, I’m no fancy-schmancy reviewer. I’m not going to analyse performances or the direction. All I can tell you is that I loved this film. I just did. It’s not perfect – and about two-thirds of the way in it loses traction for a while. And sure it’s a bit Hollywood and a bit of a fairytale. BUT. But there is something undeniably lovely about this film.

This movie cheered me up. And it reminded me of things I still love about the world: red bicycles with wicker baskets, mouth-watering plates of ripe tomatoes and French cheeses or dahl and cheesey naan bread, fairy lights and rowdy backyard family meals, unexpected friendships and, of course, heart-fluttering crushes.

At a time when life feels bleak, when we seem to have lost our ability to walk in another person’s shoes – this film reminds us we are more similar than different. It’s a beautifully packaged lesson in the benefits of opening your mind and your heart to different ways of doing things.

The 100-Foot Journey is cinematic comfort-food.

The scenery will make you want to buy a plane ticket to the South of France. The food will make you want to grab a wicker basket and head to your local farmers’ market. And the storyline is a reminder that sometimes breaking bread with your enemies is as nourishing as any Chicken Tikka Masala.

Cliched? Maybe. But it’s good to be reminded.

HERE’S the TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEO1TWeM5JU

And FYI – this is not a sponsored post! I just thought I’d tell you about a movie I enjoyed! icon smile If youre after a feel good film, this is the movie to see this weekend.

What’s the last movie you enjoyed?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

That awkward moment when you realise your favourite song is actually about crystal meth.

Three years ago I confessed here on Mamamia about a rather embarrassing episode where I was publicly outed for singing the wrong song lyrics. Do you remember? You don’t? Well, cue the fog machine and the xylophone because let’s go back in time and I’ll remind you of what went down:

I got caught singing the wrong lyrics to a song. I was trying to look cool at the gym while running on the treadmill. Trying to look hip in front of Jason my trainer who has the looks of The Commando and the personality of, well, The Commando.

And I found myself attempting to sing along to some cool-ass-gangster-rap-hip-hop-yo-yo-wassup-dawg song as I shuffled along on the treadmill like Cliff Young. And somehow I ended up singing the words “Like a cheese stick, like a cheese stick” to a song that apparently is not dairy-focused. The song is called “Like a G6”. Allegedly. I think that sounds ridiculous. I mean, what the hell is a G6? My trainer however thought this was HYSTERICAL.Oh how we laughed at my mistake. Well, he laughed. I made a mental note to send him an email virus.

Thankfully after this humiliation, friends revealed to me some of their own lyrical car crashes. Cheap Wine and A Three Day Roast (Cheap Wine and A Three Day Growth by Cold Chisel); Save the Whales (Sail Away by Enya); Turn the Heater On (Turn The Beat Around by Gloria Estefan); Alex The Seal (Our Lips Are Sealed by The Go-Gos). And then there was my personal favourite: Our Father And Mark and Kevin (Our Father Who Art in Heaven, The Lord’s Prayer).

I just really love the idea that Jesus had these two other brothers called Mark and Kevin roaming around like the Biblical version of the Daddo brothers or something.

Anyway.

Three years later and I had another confronting experience with song lyrics but this time I wasn’t getting the lyrics wrong. This time I just didn’t realise what the hell I was singing.

So picture it, I’m in the car and I’m singing a peppy, cheery, up-beat song I’ve always loved. Third Eye Blind. Semi-Charmed Life.

Remember this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCI4EGjIZx4

It came on the radio and I clapped my hands and said “I love this song!” because I’m five-years-old and lame.

And my husband looked at me suspiciously and said, “You know what this is about right?”

“It’s about someone thinking they have a semi-charmed life?” I said sounding, err,  five and lame.

And he said, “It’s about a guy doing drugs. Bump is a drug expression for a hit.”

WHA?

Hang on, wha?

And then I made the mistake of sitting in the car and googling the lyrics. I needed to take some Panadol and have a lie down after I’d read them:

The sky was gold, it was rose
I was taking sips of it through my nose (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???)
And I wish I could get back there, someplace back there
Smiling in the pictures you would take
Doing crystal meth (OH SHIT, I HADN’T EVEN NOTICED THEY SAID THIS), will lift you up until you break

It won’t stop, I won’t come down
I keep stock with the tick-tock rhythm, I bump for the drop
And then I bumped up, I took the hit that I was given
Then I bumped again, then I bumped again
I said…

How do I get back there, to the place where I fell asleep inside you (I JUST VOMITED)
How do I get myself back to the place where you said…

I want something else, to get me through this
Semi-charmed kinda life, baby, baby
I want something else, I’m not listening when you say good-bye (GOOD BECAUSE I HOPE SHE’S SNEAKING AWAY TO RING NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS)

moment youve realised what the song lyrics are 380x266 That awkward moment when you realise your favourite song is actually about crystal meth.

Anyone else?

So now, this song is ruined for me. Ruined. I mean I can’t listen to this song now without thinking it’s being sung by some guy called Dave wearing a beanie, eating chips and doing crystal meth on 100 day old feral bed linen.
Naturally this led to a conversation with Brad about weird men in beanies but also on songs that I used to love until I found out they were weird.

Like the song  “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. Which is romantic IF YOU LIKE HAVING A FREAKING STALKER.

And Summer of ‘69, which I found out last year, has nothing to do with the summer of 1969 and everything to do with Bryan Adams having a summer brimmimg with oral sex. Nice one, Bryan. Next week why don’t you write a song about slapping the salami over the Easter break. #Klarssy.

And then there are just the lyrics which make NO SENSE TO ME.

For example.

When Beyonce sings Bootylicious and she says, “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly”

WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?

Jelly?

WHAT THE WHAT NOW?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.

Tara Brown 380x316 Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.

 

Tara Brown, you nailed it.

You bloody nailed it.

That’s what I wanted to say last night when I watched Tara Brown conduct one of the most horrific and disturbing interviews I’ve ever seen on television.  I am of course talking about the interview on Sixty Minutes with David and Wendy Farnell – otherwise known as Baby Gammy’s biological parents.

I think every Australian wanted answers as to how any parent could abandon their child overseas – to an impoverished Thai surrogate, no less. Australians wanted answers too, to claims of child sex convictions, paedophilia, jail time for those crimes.

And Tara got those answers for us.

Make no mistake it wasn’t an easy interview to watch. But Tara made the unwatchable watchable as she calmly, systematically dismantled the arguments put forth.

Gammy parents 2 Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.TARA BROWN: As a child sex offender, as a convicted child sex offender, what right do you have to have access to young children?

DAVID FARNELL: Well, I’ve been convicted of, yeah, child sex offences, and I hang my head in shame for that. And I am deeply regretful for that. And I’m so, so sorry to those people.

TARA BROWN: And it wasn’t just one, was it?

DAVID FARNELL: …

TARA BROWN: I mean, it is people.

DAVID FARNELL: …

TARA BROWN: Many people that you have to apologise to.

DAVID FARNELL: Yes. So…

WENDY FARNELL: It’s OK. It’s past.

DAVID FARNELL: Yeah, OK. So yeah, I was convicted and I went to jail. And when I got out of jail I thought, “Well, I can run and hide and change my name and move to another town.” But I thought, “No, I need to face everybody and I can say, yes, I’m taking responsibility for what I did.” So I stayed, I stayed in Bunbury. I copped abuse, I copped a lot of horrible things, but I stayed there and I faced it. And I said that I will continue until I can hold my head up high again. And I think that I have done that.

TARA BROWN: When did you learn to be remorseful? Because the judge at the time said that you showed no remorse and that through counselling you tried to minimise your crime. When did it hit you that you actually did do the wrong thing?

DAVID FARNELL: I think just seeing my children and thinking that if somebody did that to my children I would be devastated.

TARA BROWN: But you had children when you did it, didn’t you?

Tara Brown  Well done, Tara Brown. You nailed it.Those questions are easy to ask from the safety of your couch at home but in front of people who are teary or acting remorseful (be it a sham or not) it can be tougher to stay on course. To not let them off the hook.

But Tara Brown brought her A-game last night. She was fierce, she was unrelenting and she wasn’t going home until she had the answers every Australian has asked themselves over the past few weeks since this story broke.

And it got me thinking last night. When I was growing up and talk turned to the amazing achievements of female journalists … Jana (Wendt) and Ita (Buttrose) always headed the list but then there’d be a pause and names like Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey took over. We had to sort of look outside of Australia for big names in terms of female journalism.

Today it’s different.

I look around and I see that the names I turn to for answers, the people who challenge me and push me to see alternate points of view or to see the truth for what it is are names like Leigh Sales, Sarah Ferguson, Caroline Jones, Helen McCabe, Georgie Gardiner, Carrie Bickmore, Eleanor Hall, Lisa Wilkinson, Caroline Overington, Jennie Brockie, Fran Kelly, Kate McClymont, Annabel Crabb,  Julia Baird, Ellen Fanning, Tracy Grimshaw, Melissa Doyle, Sarah Harris, Chris Bath, Samantha Armytage, Madonna King, Kathleen Noonan and Virginia Trioli.

And in a world where we leap on screw ups and so rarely offer a pat on the back  – I’m giving one to Tara Brown. Consider this a thank you. From one viewer.  Love your work.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Some advice for the family and friends of Ada Nicodemou

I was in the kitchen last night buttering toast for my five-year-old daughter – when my husband gasped from behind his laptop.

I looked up.

“Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.”

He kept talking I think. But I didn’t hear anything else. I didn’t need to.

Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.

bec and georgie 300x400 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.

Bec with Ava, when she was pregnant with Georgie

That’s all I had to hear for my heart to feel like it was suddenly wafer thin and shedding layers. For September 2010 to come rushing back to me. For the moment I too found out that the baby I was carrying – my second daughter Georgie –  had suddenly, inexplicably – died inside me at 36 and a half weeks.

And tears came to my eyes for a woman I do not know. For her husband. And for the excruciating road that lay ahead for them both. A road that I am still on.

This column I’m writing today is not for Ada and Chrys.  Not now. Not yet. Today and in the days and weeks ahead they will be in their own protective bubble. Today, my guess, is that they will have disconnected from the world – both physically and emotionally  – as they try to fathom the cruel hand they have just been dealt.

I remember.

One minute my baby was here. Wasn’t she here? I felt a kick. And now. I don’t understand. She was just here. But we have the clothes. The cot. That new  jumpsuit I bought on Monday. I don’t understand.

I remember.

The raw primal pain. Collapsing in the shower screaming for my daughter. The numbness. The overwhelming desire to stop participating in the world. To just sink into my darkness only to be pulled out again by my two-year-old daughter Ava.

I remember.

But I am here, four years on – strong and happy. I survived something I thought I never could. I have gone on to have two more beautiful healthy, happy children. And my grief somehow sits comfortably side by side with my happiness. Make no mistake  I miss Georgie every single day but she is also an inextricable part of who I am. She has made me more fierce. More compassionate. More wise. I am grateful for how she has shaped me into the woman I have become. These days it is Georgie who is the light in my darkest hour.

Today is not the day for me to offer advice to Ada and Chrys. Today they will be blocking out the world and wanting only to wake up from this nightmare.

No, this column is for Ada and Chrys’s family and friends who right now are in shock and anguish themselves. Who are reeling from the news of Harrison’s death. And who are most likely now asking themselves “What do we do? What can we do? How can we help? What should we say?

And since Ada and Chrys themselves won’t even know yet what they need,  I thought I would step in as someone who has been there and who understands exactly how they are feeling.

So for Ada and Chrys’s friends and colleagues and in fact for anyone who today has been told that a friend has lost a baby – this is what I want you to know …

1. Do not be afraid to say Harrison’s name or the name of any stillborn baby.

Harrison was very real and very loved and he will always be Ada and Chrys’s second baby. Don’t be afraid to use Harrison’s name not just now but in the years to come.  Hearing friends and family use Georgie’s name brings me such happiness I can’t describe. It brings her back to me. So rather than say “the baby” or “your loss” … talk about Harrison and how much you had been looking forward to getting to know him, cuddling him, watching him grow up. Does that hurt to hear? Of course but what hurts more is friends and family behaving as though he never existed in the first place.

2. Give out lots of love and expect nothing in return.

However Ada and Chrys decide to grieve will be the right way for them.  They may shut out the world or embrace it. They may go silent or they may want to talk and talk and talk. But what they will most surely need  is knowing that people care. That they are loved. Send a card. A handkerchief. Flowers. A Christmas ornament bearing Harrison’s name. A candle.  Organise a food roster.  Send a daily text message of love and support and know that you may rarely or never get a reply. But that’s okay.  For me, just knowing that my friends were thinking of us helped us get through each day. Every message I received made me feel like Georgie mattered.

Ada  300x302 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.3. Don’t try to fix the situation.

You want to take the pain away. Of course you do. But trying to explain this tragedy or ‘find the positives’ will only cause more pain.  You don’t know what to say? That’s okay. Just say that your heart is broken for them and for their two year old son Johnas.  Just say that you love them. That you’re sorry.  Don’t ask what you can do to help. Just help. Leave a meal on the doorstep. Arrange a play date for Johnas. Now is the time to step up.

4. Go to your calendar now and circle six weeks ahead of today.

The six week mark – it’s a particular punch in the guts for anyone who is grieving a loved one. At the six week mark people have moved on and you find yourself feeling very much alone. The world is moving around you as though life is normal. But life is not the same for you. At the six week mark, make a call, send an email, post a card – just don’t  stay silent because the silence is deafening.

To Ada and Chrys – on the off-chance that you read this post one day, I wish for you such love.  And know this, you will get through this. One day at a time. One hour at a time.  It doesn’t feel like it now, I know, as you struggle to breathe in and out but you will be happy again.  You will learn to live with this pain – a pain that will not always be so raw. I promise. (I also know that right now the idea of being happy is the last thing on your mind. It feels like the act of a traitor. So for now just focus on getting through each hour.)

And I am offering you my hand of friendship and understanding. Four years ago a stranger reached out to me and took my hand and navigated me through the crashing waves of grief.

Mia Freedman saved my life.  I hope you find your own Mia as this storm of hurt and pain swirls around you. And if you don’t  – my hand is here ready to pull you through the waves.

 

screenshot 1654 300x348 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.Later this month, Mamamia will officially release a book, Never Forgotten,  for parents like Ada and Chrys and all the tens of thousands of families who have experienced pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth and neo natal death. The loss of any child, particularly during pregnancy or soon after birth, is an extraordinarily traumatic process and one it can be impossible for other people to understand.

Mamamia publisher Mia Freedman and senior writer Bec Sparrow have both been there and after helping each other through the grief process began to reach out to other women going through similar trauma.

Mamamia readers and writers have joined together to contribute their stories to this book, compiled by Bec and Mia and edited by Paula Ellery. The book is available as an E-book download or in print form [click here to order].

All the proceeds will go towards charities who help families who have suffered this very common yet widely misunderstood type of loss.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

I think Offspring just broke up with us.

Be careful what you wish for.

Three weeks ago, I somewhat controversially wrote that I hoped tonight’s season finale of Offspring would be the series finale. Why? Because I wanted Offspring to leave the party on a high. Go out on top. And I instinctively felt that it was finally time to let Nina and Billie and Jimmy and Geraldine and Darcy Proudman go.

And tonight that’s exactly what happened.

It felt – to me at least – like my wish was granted. And it was bittersweet.

I think Offspring broke up with us tonight.

Every storyline was wrapped up. Every character was sorted out. Darcy and Geraldine are back together. Mick and Billie reunited. Cherie and Clegg are on. God even Elvis got a pash. We all know Zara is going to make a fantastic paediatrician with Jimmy by her side. Billie has finally carved her own place in the world. And Nina. I saw Nina and Zoe walking into their future with Nina’s hand firmly in Leo’s. And I bloody love Leo.

Tonight those crazy Proudmans came full circle – albeit a little older, a lot wiser and with more kids in tow. And tonight I said goodbye to a group of people I have come to love very much.

Will there be another season of Offspring? That’s yet to be confirmed. But tonight felt like the end to me. The family photo. The music. The appearance of Patrick smiling at Nina and giving her fledging relationship with Leo his blessing. It felt like a beautiful end.

And if by chance it was the end, I want to say this (in case I don’t get the chance to again):

Thank you.

offspring and leo s5 OFFSPRING: I think the Proudmans said goodbye.

 

Thank you to Debra Oswald for dreaming up a show that was laugh-out-loud funny and sexy and fresh and sophisticated and distinctly ours – distinctly Australian without being full of clichés and obnoxious characters. From the very first scene Offspring was layered and complex and whimsical and lovely. It just hummed. It reminded me of the gloriousness of a big, messy family. And it taught us that  ‘family’ is whatever you choose it to be: parents and siblings, work colleagues, friends.

Thank you too for creating a show that was in effect a love song to women over 35. Nina, Geraldine, Billie, Cherie and Kim – reminded Australian audiences that whether you’re 35 or 55 – life is still full of love, sex, family, friendships, career and fabulous boots and scarves. Over five years how refreshing it was to see these women living their complex, independent and interesting lives. They were more than wives or girlfriends or mothers.  They were fascinating women.

Thank you to the crew and the scriptwriters – Deb, Michael Lucas, Jonathan Gavin and their team who made blisteringly great television look effortless. From zinging one-liners (Clegg: “Law degrees are like iPods. Everybody’s got one”) to laugh-out-loud scenes (Nina’s dancing during a drunken night out with the girls, Billie’s pregnancy fantasy sequence, the Nanna Nina Noonan conversation, every scene ever with Martin Clegg) to the poignant TV moments that will stay in my heart for decades.

Like what? Like that moment when Patrick met up with his ex-wife who handed him a baby book of their stillborn son Gus and explained her actions with ‘Well, I’m still his mum’. Billie’s “You are the love of my life” moment at the pub with Mick. The night Nina found the rocking horse Patrick had lovingly handcrafted for their child. And I don’t think I will ever forget a heavily pregnant and newly widowed Nina confessing to Billie that she was worried she’d be too consumed with grief to be able to love the baby she was carrying. When Billie said, “Well, then I’ll cover you. If you’re too sad to start with, I’ll love the baby … I’ll love the baby ’til you’re ready to.” – I wept.

And thank you to the actors – Asher Keddie and Kat Stewart in particular – who breathed life into those words and were so convincing that the mere thought of seeing them in other roles and thus breaking the spell kills me a bit inside.

Oh I know, I know it’s just a TV show.

offspring full cast s3 OFFSPRING: I think the Proudmans said goodbye.

 

But.

The Proudmans were a second family that I anchored myself to for five years while my own life blew off course and unravelled at times.

Offspring gave me a place to escape to every week. It reminded me of the sacredness of family. The power of life’s biggest forces – births, deaths, first loves, heartaches, and that intense bond between siblings.

If tonight was the end, well I like to think the writers of Offspring handed the baton to us – the viewers – to take over. Now we get to decide for ourselves where life will take Nina and Leo, Billie and Mick, Jimmy and Zara, Cherie and Clegg, Darcy and Geraldine. I’d much rather that than experience another two years of watching Nina and Leo and Billie and Mick repeatedly breakup in an attempt to keep a drama going.

Nope. I’m taking the baton and running with it. I have my own ideas where Nina and Billie and Jimmy will go from here. And maybe, just maybe in five or ten years time – we’ll see a special two-hour reunion telemovie.

Are you listening Debra Oswald? In five or ten years time  I want to check in on those crazy Proudmans and make sure they’re all doing okay and that Billie isn’t in jail for verbally assaulting anyone. So Debra Oswald, I’m going to hand this baton back to you in time but for now – I’m done. And I can’t thank you enough.
This post first appeared on Mamamia.

Dear Offspring, it’s time to call it a day. (July 2014)

’m just going to spit it out:  I want Offspring to finish.  I want this season – season five – to be the last one. In three weeks time, I want to be sitting on my couch, in my pjs watching a spectacular series finale. Not season finale. SERIES finale.

I want to be laughing and crying and reminiscing and I want to be really devastated that my favourite show is ending but more than all that I want it to actually be the end.

(I’ll just pause now as you start bashing out an abusive comment. Just remember – it’s BEC with a c not a k).

I can feel your rage from here. I can.

And it’s entirely possible I’m the only Offspring fan in the country that actually wants their favourite show to call it a day.

But let me explain.

I have loved Offspring from that very fist episode.  Remember it?  When Nina’s ex husband the bomb expert was blowing shit up to impress her?  When Nina and Cherie realised that Nina’s own father was the father of Cherie’s baby. When Nina was trying to hit on Chris Havel?  But most of all from that first glorious moment between the Proudman girls when Nina is grappling with a hospital vending machine and Billie calls her mobile and says, “Have you got your hand up a patient or can you talk?”

I was hooked. Smitten. You had me at hello.

And since that first episode in August 2010, baby I’ve been up for the ride.

The Chris Havel on-again off-again (dude, why are you living with your missing wife’s mother?) situation.  The sheer clustertruck of Nina sleeping with Mick.  The genius of Mick’s apology song ‘Six at Best’.  Nana Nina Noonan.

Screen Shot 2013 08 14 at 3.57.12 PM 290x385 Dear Offspring, it’s time to call it a day.

Patrick.

Jimmy’s surprise chips. Jimmy’s Runaway Bride, Tammy. Jimmy’s hair.  Stillbirths. Premmie babies. Infertility. Eloise. Rosanna. Rocket. Nina drunk and hiding in the bushes. And Patrick. Wonderful, complex, enigmatic Patrick.

But now it’s time to head this ship to shore. Because otherwise you know what’s going to happen. You do. Don’t pretend you don’t.  We all run the risk of falling out of love with our favourite show.

And that’s my fear, if I’m going to be brutally honest. That if Offspring keeps going it’ll jump the shark*. A moment that signals our favourite show is now on the decline.

Like the moment Alex and Rex got married on Secret Life of Us.

The moment Kimberly blew up the entire apartment complex on Melrose Place.

The moment Molly died on A Country Practice.

The moment that pesky Cousin Oliver turned up on The Brady Bunch.

There’s always a moment when fans decide – I’m done. And then what was once our favourite, can’t miss, love it to death TV show becomes Desperate Housewives. Or Lost.  Or True Blood. And every conversation about them is punctuated with “Remember when it was good?”

The writing is on the wall for Offspring.  I can feel it. How many more personal dramas can one family take?  Is a long lost Proudman sibling going to appear on the scene?  Is Jimmy going to die in a freak taco accident? Will Zoe suddenly have aged and be 14 in season six? Don’t’ laugh, my friends. It could happen.

Offspring 0872 photoJohnTsiavis 290x385 Dear Offspring, it’s time to call it a day.

“I hope Nina’s happy”

So at the end of this season I hope the writers have all those beautiful, mad Proudmans wrapped up.

Jimmy and Zara are happy.

Billie and Mick will reunite (we all know they will … Lawrence is too tanned and his teeth are too white. Billie will turn him into relationship road kill).

Cherie and Clegg will be back on.

Those saucy devils Darcy and Geraldine will find their way back to one another.

And Nina? Well what I hope is that we see Nina happy. Not necessarily in love. But happy. (Preferably with Leo). I want to see that woman – a woman who has kept me company and made me laugh and cry and cringe for the past four years – walking into her future with Zoe knowing that the two of them are going to be fine. More than fine. Fantastic.

Now you tell me a better ending than that.

* The phrase “jump the shark” was coined by an American college student to describe the moment Happy Days hit the point of no return. Once Fonzie had done the ultimate motorcycle jump numerous times in Arnold’s car park, the show’s producers decided the only way to up-the-ante was to make The Fonz jump a shark on water-skies. And so the phrase “jump the shark” was born. But it’s not just TV shows that can jump the shark – it’s open to anyone and anything: singers, actors, food (kale has had its day, my friends), scooters, loom bands, your parents. Personally, I peaked in February1987 … I was class captain, my braces had been removed and I was freshly permed. It’s been downhill for me ever since.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

At 30 I had a very clear definition of success. At 42 I threw that definition in the bin.

I made the two-hour drive south to see my parents last weekend and on my bed, waiting for me, my mum had placed an old cardboard box sealed with yellowed, crackly tape.

Look what I found, she said with a smile in her voice.

I recognised the box immediately. Recognised the bubble writing that said ‘Bec’s stuff”.

My teenage self resided inside that box. I winced.

As I pulled the tape away I was about to attend a school reunion, for one.

There were my report cards. Yearbooks full of corkscrew perms and braces and hyper-colour t-shirts. My year 12 formal ticket. My old favourite floral scrunchie that had lost its will to live. My McDonald’s Party Hostess of the Year badge.  Phil Collins “Not Jacket Required” on cassette. And a small crumpled pink envelope with ‘For The Future’  on the front.

I remember making that list of goals.

You see, when I was 17, I’d had a very clear definition of what a successful life looked liked.

I would be able to play Jessica’s Theme (from the Man From Snowy River) on the piano.

Bec list At 30 I had a very clear definition of what it meant to be a success.  At 42, I threw that definition in the bin.

Number 3 was to play Jessica’s Theme song.

I’d be able to waltz around a dance floor; have travelled to New York, Paris and Rome.

I’d be working as either a children’s TV host, a travel writer or a magazine editor.

Had at least one feature article published in a newspaper or magazine.

Drive a grey/black BMW.

And I’d be married to a man who made me go weak at the knees. Or Kirk Cameron. One or the other.

Achieve that and I’d be a success.

By the time I was 30 I dug out that list and crossed off most – not all – of those goals. I’d walked the streets of New York, Paris and Rome. Worked as a magazine editor and a travel writer. Had a column published in the newspaper.  Filled my Wednesday nights with a dance class. And married a man who made me weak at the knees  … most notably when he walked out.

But I was still driving a second-hand 1992 Hyundai sedan with no air con; I’d nicknamed her Meg Ryan (because they’d had the same amount of work done).  And as for Jessica’s Theme? After two years of piano lessons the only thing I could play was ‘Happy Frog’.

My friends thought I was living the dream. But I didn’t feel successful yet, so I started a new list.

You see, when I was 30, I had a very clear definition of what a successful life looked like.

I’d be the author of a best-selling novel.

I’d be working as a newspaper columnist or TV scriptwriter and living in a Hamptons style house with a garden full of fairy lights.

I’d be married (err, again) to a wonderful man and have at least two kids.

Tick all that off and then THEN I’d be a success.

By the time I’d turned 40, I’d achieved everything on that list. I’d met and married a wonderful man. Had a tribe of much-cherished kids. And while our home wasn’t a Hamptons style mansion, my fairy lights twinkling on our veranda made me smile.

I’d had 5 books published to terrific reviews. I’d written TV scripts, soap operas and been offered my own weekly newspaper column.

Bec envelope At 30 I had a very clear definition of what it meant to be a success.  At 42, I threw that definition in the bin.

I ticked off everything from the envelope, and yet that feeling of being ‘successful’ never came.

And yet, that feeling of being ‘successful’ never came.

I remember looking in the mirror the year I turned 40 and thinking, “I thought it would be different to this? I thought by this point I’d feel like a success. I thought that list of goals would bring me more joy.” Instead it felt hollow.

And that’s when I realised I needed to discover my own definition of success. Because for me it wasn’t about the big-ticket items. The job title or the car or the house with the white picket fence.

For me, success was measured by how I was feeling.

At 42, success is feeling like I am significant in my community; knowing that one person on this planet breathes easier every year because I am here.

At 42, success is cultivating joy – taking friendships offline and onto my front veranda and seeing a friend’s eyes sparkle when they give me their status update in real life.

At 42, success is being part of a tribe – spending time with a cherry-picked family and friends who fill me up and nourish my soul and who accept and love me as my imperfect, messy self.

Today success is discovering that happiness is found in the small moments, the tiny triumphs as much – maybe more than – the big ones.

Tying your laces on your runners and going for that first walk in forever.

Mastering your mum’s knock-out Quiche Lorraine

Finally finishing Madame Bovary.

Feeling useful. Grateful. Valued.

So that teenage girl that resides in the cardboard box, I’m happy she’s there with her big dreams (and her big hair) and her to-achieve list.

Because all of that lead me here to where I am now as I write this post. On a veranda hemmed with fairy lights, a cup of tea and six chapters left of Madame Bovary.
This post first appeared on Mamamia.

My life is great. So why is this thought keeping me up at night?

What I’m about to tell you makes me sound ridiculous. But I’m going to tell you anyway because I don’t think I’m alone.And what I’ve learned recently has changed the way I live my life. (Look, yeah I know you’re rolling your eyes because that’s a BIG CALL  saying “changed the way I live my life” as though I’m on Dr Phil but STAY WITH ME).

So a few weeks ago I had one of those fleeting moments where I realised everything in life was going great. My husband and I had finally settled into a new home that we adore.  His work was going amazingly well. I had some fabulous writing projects on the go.  The kids were thriving. And I’d finally bought a dryer (look, don’t judge me).

Wow, I thought. Life is great! GREAT! And for a moment I was flooded with happiness and joy about how well everything was going. And then, as it always does, sheer dread kicked in.

This can’t last, I thought.  Oh my God, I’m too happy. Things are too perfect. It’s just a matter of time before the other shoe drops.

Horrible, awful things happen to people all the time. I should know. They’ve happened to me.  Blind-sided me.  So when happiness walks through the door, I instinctively go into caution mode. Don’t be TOO happy.  Don’t let your guard down.  Any minute now life is going to bite you in the arse.

Sound familiar to anyone else out there?

Looking back I’ve lived this way for pretty much my entire life. And it’s an exhausting and boring way to live because it means that when happiness comes you never truly allow yourself to lean into it. You always ALWAYS hold back to protect yourself. Don’t be too happy because life will punish you.

So thank God one of my friends put me onto Brene Brown.

Brown is a renowned vulnerability and shame researcher and TED X sensation. And I’m now mildly obsessed with her and her books. According to Brown we all use a range of strategies to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable.

c69b7d14d776425c73414cc7cc4ad52d8ddddf48 254x191 Bec: My life is great.  So why is this thought keeping me awake at night?

Brene Brown.

Alcohol. Food. Sex. Drugs. Shopping. Social Media. Perfectionism. And – here’s the one that stopped me in my tracks:   joy-foreboding.

JOY-FOREBODING.

And it’s exactly how it sounds.

Joy-foreboding  (or dress-rehearsing tragedy) is about our  inability to allow ourselves to feel  joy in case it doesn’t last. In essence, Brown says that for some people (ME!!!!) joy brings with it a feeling of terror because we are so afraid the moment won’t last.

Take a look at this clip where Brown discusses joy-forboding with Oprah Winfrey (go to the 1m 35 second mark and start from there).

Can’t watch the video? Don’t panic.

Brown succinctly explained joy-foreboding in a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post.  She kicked things off my saying that joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.

“And if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.”

Dress rehearsing tragedy, she explains, is imagining something bad is going to happen when in reality, nothing is wrong.

“How many of you have ever stood over your child while they’re sleeping and thought, ‘Oh my God, I love you’ — and then pictured something horrific happening?” Brown asks. “Or woke up in the morning and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, job’s going great. Parents are good. This can’t last.”

During her research, Brown says she met people who had a profound capacity for joy. The difference, she says, is that when something really blissful happened to them, they felt grateful. “Instead of using it as a warning to start practicing disaster, they used it as a reminder to practice gratitude,” Brown says.

Ever since I read Brene Brown’s words I can tell you – hand on heart – that I’ve stopped worrying.

Of course I have my moments but now when I feel my mind going into some kind of death spiral of all the bad things that “could” go wrong, I stop and feel grateful. I am grateful that right now today, my family are well. I’m grateful that my children are safe, tucked up in their beds. I am grateful that right now – all is right in my little patch of the world.

These days when joy walks through the door, I grab it with both hands. Life’s too short not to lean in to the good moments and appreciate them when they arrive.

Dr Jo Lamble’s 5 tips on how to avoid joy-foreboding

JoLamble Bec: My life is great.  So why is this thought keeping me awake at night?

Jo Lamble

I went to Australian psychologist Dr Jo Lamble for some tips on how to better manage this habit of joy-foreboding. Here’s what she had to say …

1. Learn to focus on there here and now. Try not to worry about the future because anticipation is usually worse than the reality and thinking about the future will cause us to miss today.

2. Practice mindfulness = learning to observe our thoughts, feelings and surroundings without judgment.

3. Practice being grateful. You are not going to jinx anything by feeling grateful for your life and loved ones. Being grateful increases happiness.

4. Know that we are resilient creatures. When bad things happen, we somehow learn to cope.

5. Preparing for disaster won’t make it easier if something bad happened. You can’t imagine pain – physical or emotional, so it’s pointless to try.

Have you ever experienced the type of fear Bec’s talking about? What do you worry about? And how do you overcome that concern?

This post first appeared on Mamamia.