This is a post I've been wanting to write for a really long time...but there has never felt like a right time to do so. I guess there are so many things to say about this subject it has always felt overwhelming - but now I have decided it had better do it or I never will feel ready.
Often I post about general tips to Wellington and the cool things I find. However, a very key thing you might ask is WHY I am even doing it to start with. I feel I owe you, readers, an explanation - just to help those of you who maybe feel like Wellington, while amazing, is not where you are meant to be right now. I know that feeling because it is a big part of where this blog started.
I was born in Wellington and it is the only place I've ever lived except for one year in Auckland for first-year uni - but I was lucky enough to travel a bit as a kid. I saw that there was big, wide world out there and in some ways, I felt like I should be part of that world. I felt more part of it than the Kiwi culture I knew growing up. When I was young, the internet was still a baby. My main source of knowledge about the outside world was books, magazines (especially fashion magazines like Vogue and Tatler in my teens) and TV. Everything Kiwi seemed a bit second rate. I felt I was destined for a bigger life overseas, where amazing things happened to people. It just didn't make sense to keep living in my hometown if I had any choice about it. How boring, right?
When I was 23 I, like many others around this time, ended my first proper relationship. That was when The Residents actually started (it was on 'Blogger' and I made my first logo on Paint - this will help you understand where I started). It was around trimester two of my final year of studying at Victoria. At that time, I felt like everyone I knew was leaving Wellington, moving onto greener pastures, whether it was an exchange, moving overseas for work. Wellington was old hat. I was bored and wanted something to share that reflected how I saw the city, as a young person.
Four years on, at 27, I've finally been able to consistently post and really get stuck into blogging. It took time but was completely worth it. I still live in my hometown. But the craziest thing is, I am very content with life and I love living here to the point where I would have to seriously consider giving it up to move away. Blogging has taught me how to appreciate being right here, now.
So for those of you who are feeling lost, frustrated and unsatisfied about living here, like I did, I can share with you some things I've learnt from NOT going overseas (also, absolutely no offence to those of you who have travelled for this is a wonderful, magical thing that I feel shapes you greatly - this is just the other perspective).
So here it is - what you will learn from not moving away and staying in Wellington...
1. Accept the things you cannot change - and find the courage to change the things you can.
A huge part of growing up for me has been accepting who I am. I used to aspire to be someone a bit different than who I was. Cooler - YES. Sexier - probably. More intelligent and street savvy - absolutely. But at 22 when I was desperate to go and maybe try living overseas out of Uni, I talked to my Dad and he gave me a straight up answer. "Yes, go move overseas if you have the money yourself". That money he mentioned, dear reader, I did not have. Although I felt like I wanted to run away, it was clear that, practically, I had to accept Mum and Dad were not going to indulge my ego and sponsor a journey of 'growth'. I had to find ways to grow within what I already had, here in my own hometown. I couldn't fake it. I had to get comfortable that maybe, for the forseeable future this was as good as it got. And soon I realised it was actually pretty good. I tried to focus not on the surroundings I was in, but on myself. That I COULD change. So I would say that staying in your own hometown forces you to take a hard look at your life, work out what you don't love about it and then, hopefully, go about working out how to make it a better one.
2. You learn to deal with loss and how to make new friends.
People say it's hard to make new friends in your twenties. I would agree, yes it is hard - because you have to make an effort. You have to know how to adapt and face your own anxieties. At school or university, you have 'thing' in common (study), in a common place that you commune together. To an extent, this happens in graduate jobs as well. But as soon as people start progressing and moving away, it is easy to be struck by the fear that your own life isn't developing. "Where am I going?" we ask ourselves "So-and-so is moving to London and I am stuck here, in the same place as I was 5 years ago? Am I a loser??"
My answer to that would absolutely be NO. There is no reason to feel that you are somehow 'behind'. Friends will come and go in life - some stay for a lifetime and some for a season. It is up to you to work out who is which. As I grow up, I have learnt to count my true friends on one hand. Sometimes friends who I have thought were friends for life have disappeared and to be honest, many of those still live in Wellington. The true friends stick around, no matter what the distance.
At the same time, we need to open up in a new way, making ourselves vulnerable and finding new ways to connect. For me, it was blogging, but for you, it might be joining a new sports team, attending a cooking class or just asking someone you met at a dinner who you liked to meet for a coffee next week. We need to set our pride to one side and accept that we are all just meeting my happenstance - and what follows after is up to us. Friendships take effort but people generally crave connection. If you don't ask, you don't get,
3. Realise the good you can do right where you are...
When I realised I wouldn't be doing some kind of OE even in 4 years time, I panicked. I thought that I was going to miss out because everyone else on social media seemed to be exploring the world. I wanted to stay in Wellington however because I had a relationship with someone who was still studying here. After I accepted that was a priority for me, I could then see that there was still work to be done right here in Wellington, not only on myself. I had a career I could build (there are many advantages to building a career in Wellington, let alone the quality of living), I was learning my parents were not just my parents but that I could get to know them as people too, and I saw I could get involved in cool projects in the city, such as volunteering for TEDx and Kaibosh, and then starting my own blog.
Life always has more for us to do. The most important thing is not to worry about what everyone else is doing but to establish what YOUR priorities are. They may not be to travel right now. There is no point in beating yourself up as a 'failure'. Open your eyes, look around and see the opportunities that are right in front of you. You will be astounded about how much more good you can do when you seek it out. Remember, wherever you go - there you are (i.e. you can't escape yourself just because you move to Cambodia. You will still have to live with the things you like and don't like about yourself. Soz).
4. Accept that life isn't going anywhere - there is still time...
As a gal, I have always felt some kind of extra time frame on me. Like, I need to have everything sorted by the time I am 30 or I won't be able to think about family. When I saw friends who are older move overseas in their early thirties and have a wonderful time because they knew themselves so much better than when they were younger, I thought if I went earlier I might not enjoy travelling as much due to other pressures like finances and being homesick and lonely. Europe isn't going anywhere. In fact, New Zealand is actually becoming a better place to live (as we have seen as we watched the drama unfold in the US and UK over 2016). So why rush? The Philosopher Allen Watts said if we are always looking into the future, we never truly live, NOW. So make sure you aren't living in the future constantly or you never really live in the present. Don't worry about things...there is still plenty of time and worrying just means you suffer twice.
5. Make your own highlights reel.
Expectations, perception and reality are often way out of whack with Facebook and Instagram. But that doesn't mean you can't flip the equation and start treating your own city like a tourist. When we try and find an interesting perspective on something to show others, we accidentally reveal it to ourselves. If you go wandering the lanes of Aro Valley, who knows what you will find? Document it, discover and share your unique perspective with those you know. You may even find new fans. I have loved making friends through blogging because we are all equally passionate about Wellington and sharing its wonderful qualities. You have to start before you are ready and I find that the internet is a great tool to share discoveries.
Amy Cuddy, in her famous TED Talk speaks about faking it until you become it. For me, that has proved to be the biggest truth I've learnt through The Residents. When I first set this blog up as a 22-year-old, I quickly became overwhelmed by self-doubt. "Who am I?" I asked "to have an opinion on Wellington or anything? I am not cool. I shouldn't be here." But the amazing experiences I have had and the personal satisfaction that comes from having written 250,000 words in one year (yes, argh!) well makes up for it. Had I followed my mother's advice right from the start, I would have been further along by now for sure. She used to say to me, when I worried about how long study would take, "The time will pass anyway." Luckily, I started before I was ready. Because I realised I never would be ready. I had to start somewhere. Or I never would.
So for those of you who are in Wellington and waiting for something to happen, make something happen to you- whether it be a side project, career move or a change in love or friendship. The time will pass anyway. Look forward, not back. Start before you're ready.