Wednesday, October 24, 2012

R is for Reality Check.

There is something wrong with me.

I mean, there are probably a lot of things wrong with me. Things that are frequently pointed out are my 'terrible' taste in music, my love for dipping my fries in my sundae, my irrational fear of the telephone, and the fact that I'm actually enjoying living in Rotorua. "What is wrong with you," people cry, and I laugh because these are just little things, the kinds of things that are wrong with everyone.

But not everyone's bodies are slowly eating themselves.

Around two years ago, I started getting really sick. I'd always had a bit of a weird stomach - I have endometriosis, and there had been times in my life where I had been inexplicably ill for a while, but this was something new. There was a swelling, stabbing pain nestled right next to my left hipbone that just wouldn't quit, my stomach was swollen and tender, I was going to the bathroom two or three or four times a day, and every now and then, there'd be blood. I got scared, and one day when the pain got really bad, I took myself to the hospital. I didn't have a proper GP - I was with Student Health, and had never found them at all effective for anything except re-prescribing my contraceptive pill. I don't think, in my five years at uni, I'd seen the same doctor more than twice.

At the hospital, they took a urine sample and a stool sample and a blood sample and told me that I wasn't dying, that I needed my insides looked at, but that because it wasn't mega urgent I would have to go to my GP to get referred. So I went to a GP at Student Health, got my referral, and waited. The pain, the blood, the swelling, came and went. Some days were good days, some weeks were good weeks. Some weeks were write-offs. I kept going to classes, kept writing my thesis, kept seeing my clients, but I was always waiting. And then my appointment came, and I was excited.

I had a flexible sigmoidoscopy. It showed.. nothing. There was nothing wrong with me, it said.

That should have been a relief, but it wasn't. I wanted to call bullshit, but tests are tests. They'd looked inside me with a camera, they took pieces of me and tested me, and it was all fine, and I was devastated. The specialist suggested a low-fibre diet. The GP suggested a high-fibre diet. Neither helped.

I can't remember who first asked if I thought, maybe, it might be psychosomatic, but the second and third soon followed. Maybe it was all in my head? Not that I was imagining the blood, but that it was all a result of my neurosis. My anxiety. Had I considered that maybe I was depressed? I mean, there was nothing wrong with me, so perhaps there was something wrong with me. Suggestions like that are hard to counter, so I started looking for things to blame. I knew that there was something wrong, I just had to find it. I went to the Allergy Food Show, and went to every single talk. One phrase kept coming up over and over again: 'FODMAP'. No wheat, no dairy, no fruits except berries and citrus.. it was a bastard of a diet, but it was getting all these rave reviews for symptoms that sounded similar to mine, so the FODMAP diet it was. And overall, things got better. Sure, I still had pain and occasional bleeding and other nasty bits and pieces, but I felt better, I had more energy, everyone kept telling me that I looked better than I had in ages. 'It's working!' I cried to myself, desperately ignoring the pain and the blood. 'It's working!'. I was occasionally mystified - I'd 'cheat' and feel just fine, I'd follow the diet to the letter and get ill. I persuaded myself to ignore this, to write it off, to explain it away. I plodded along. I even met a boy. A boy who found me attractive even when I felt disgusting, a boy who found recipes that I could eat, and demanded restaurants cook me customised meals, and stayed in with me when I was too sick to go out, and held my hand when I was in pain. And I told myself that it was okay to live like this.

Over the last few months, though, I had to start facing facts. I was in too much pain to work. I was bleeding every day. Eating nothing, eating FODMAP, eating regular person food, it made no difference. I was really, really ill, all of the time. After one particularly awful evening in Wellington, I went back to the hospital. Again: I wasn't dying, and was sent to get a GP in Rotorua to get another referral for another look at my insides. Inside, I was screaming. I'd already done this, I'd already felt the sharp sting of utter invalidation. And now, more than ever, people questioned the basis of my illness. More and more questions about my mental state, from the people who I most needed to believe me.

This time, though, things were different. My GP in Rotorua - my first real GP in six and a half years - listened with a sense of urgency. Her forehead creased. She asked a lot of questions, and her frown deepened. She asked if anybody in my family had the money to send me to a private specialist.

My specialist appointment was less than a month later. His forehead creased, too. Less than 48 hours later, I was being prepped for a colonoscopy.

He found something wrong with me. All this time, there has been something wrong with me. All this time, my immune system has been eating my intestines. I get the biopsies back on the 31st, and then I'll know exactly what's wrong and how I can manage it for the rest of my life. Until then, I'm on a mega dose of steroids and immunosuppresants. I oscillate between the immense relief of feeling validated, and the fear and sadness that comes with being officially damaged, and the utter indignity of having to put steroids up my ass every night, and the dread about the inevitable steroid weight gain and potential moon face. I feel angry at myself for not going back to get more help sooner, I feel gratitude to the wonderful boy who stayed by my side despite having to hear about all sorts of things that no new boyfriend should, and I feel cautiously optimistic about my future. I am having about eight thousand feelings a minute. I'm crying a lot, this week. But some of them are good cries.

I don't know why the first tests didn't find it, but it's there. It wasn't in my head. My pain, in every meaning of the word, was real. And even though that doesn't really change anything, it changes everything.

Reality: checked.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Q is for Quit It.

There are two things which I am officially done with in the New Zealand media this week.

The first is the media’s insistence of referring to Stewart Wilson as ‘The Beast of Blenheim’. For example, if you were on Stuff this morning, you may have noticed the headline ‘Beast move upsets inmates’. If you had clicked on it, you would have seen the following opening paragraph:

“The serial sex predator known as the Beast of Blenheim is already offside with his new neighbours, who have been kicked out of their home before he's even moved in.”

No. Quit it.

I was going to use this space to talk about my opinion, and the conclusions of a wealth of psychological and forensic literature, about prison/punishment in general. Then I realized that I just do not have the energy to read the comments that such a post could potentially inspire, so I’m going to stick with Mr. Wilson himself.

As a somewhat obsessive Belle fan, the creature that first comes to mind whenever I see the word ‘Beast’ is the Disney character from Beauty and the Beast. He is cruel, unsocialised, violent, entitled. He displays no empathy, no warmth, no humanity. But throughout the course of the film, he changes, and develops into a far more palatable creature.

How? By having the news media incite fear and hysteria about his potential actions? By being loathed by an entire country? By having all human aspects that remain in him, god, even his name, ignored and shunned by the world in favour of the things that make him most beastly?

No. The beast became a man because he was treated like one. He was treated like a human being. He was shown gentleness, kindness, respect, and empathy. He was shown a world that he wanted to be a part of, but in order to do so, he had to abide by certain rules. It took him a long time to learn some of the rules, but he got there.

Am I saying that I genuinely believe that the world is like a Disney movie? Not quite. Nor am I saying that I believe that if we just send a pretty girl in to dance around Mr. Wilson’s garden flinging snow about that he will magically transform into a valued and valuable member of society? No. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a fucking terrible idea.

What I am saying is that if we treat people like animals, like beasts, we can expect only beastly behaviour in return.

Only humans are punishable by human law. If we punish Mr. Wilson based upon his membership in a law-driven society, then he needs to be treated as a member of a law-driven society. If Mr. Wilson is a beast, someone so far removed from humanity that he does not even deserve a name, then why would be expect to adhere to our laws? How can we ever expect him to become an adaptive member of society if we do not even treat him like a human being?

I acknowledge that Stewart Wilson has done hideous and heinous things. I acknowledge that there is a high chance that he will do hideous and heinous things again, if given the chance. But is the best way of preventing him from doing these things treating him like a beast – and not even just treating him like a beast, going to far as to label him one?

No. So quit it. Just use his damn name.

I also think this is an excellent chance to point out that the laws suit a lot of us. Take a moment to think about which laws you would ‘break’ if no laws existed. Would you smash someone’s window and take all their possessions? Would you wrap your hands around the throat of that hideously annoying woman in the supermarket? Would you have sex with an eight-year old? I don’t know about you, but my choices not to do these things are not at all based on whether or not I’ll get in trouble if I do them. In fact, there are very few laws that I follow simply because they are law. I know someone who only has their restricted who does not hesitate to take other people (who haven’t had their full license for two years) out and about in her car, because she thinks that that law is bullshit. And I don’t judge her for that, because she’s amazing. But I digress.

It’s simple to follow the law when your base impulses are congruent with it. ‘I do not want to kill you’ goes excellently with ‘I am not allowed to kill you’. ‘I am only attracted to consenting adults’ goes perfectly with ‘I am only permitted to have sex with consenting adults’. But for some people these things aren’t congruous, and it’s really easy to heap judgment and punishment on them in spades. And yes, sometimes they have done heinous and hideous things, and I am not saying that anything that Mr. Wilson has done is even in the least bit okay. But a man having sex with a man was against the law, once. It can be hard to follow the law when your every impulse screams against it… and that does not make you a beast.

I had a whole different ‘quit it’ to write about the man having a wahh because he wanted to see the Muslim women’s unveiled faces but I just don’t even have the emotional energy to go into that right now. I will just say this: who is more negatively impacted at the end of the day, the man who wasn’t allowed to see one art exhibition, or a woman who feels violated and removed from her beliefs because a male viewed her body without her consent, against her explicit wishes? Oh, you didn’t get to see a little movie? Wahhh. The fact that you’d even want to when you know how much that woman doesn’t want you to is gross. Quit it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

P is for Pinkman.

I am moderately in love with Jesse Pinkman.

For many of you, this will not come as news, due to my frequent use of the ‘#AmyPinkman’ hashtag and the Jesse Pinkman quote that is my Twitter bio. In fact, my adoration is so apparent that the delightful Billie recently sent me a picture of us photoshopped into a quasi-intimate pose, which is now blue-tacked to the side of my bedside table.

While I am unashamedly adoring of many actors, singers, authors, sportspeople and comedians, it is highly unusual for me to be so utterly obsessed with a fictional character. There are a number I’ve been incredibly fond of: everyone in Parks and Recreation, Nick Miller, Ron Weasley, Sheldon Cooper, Pam, Arya Stark… but never have I felt so strongly about any until now.

(Actually, no, that’s a lie. Shane McCutcheon. If Shane McCutcheon was a real person I would sell everything I own and everything I could steal and make it my life’s mission to find her and make her love me. In fact I actually love Shane more than I love Jesse but I’m going to carry on with this blog post anyway.)

And the thing is, it’s definitely Jesse Pinkman. I don’t give a shit about Aaron Paul. I don’t even follow Aaron Paul on Twitter. I do not want to see anything else he’s been in, or know what he had for lunch. Don’t care. I originally had a bunch of people like Summer Roberts in my little list up there of fictional-characters-I-somewhat-adored-but-was-not-obsessed-with until I realized I was actually obsessed with Rachel Bilson who is possibly just the cutest little person on the planet. But Aaron Paul? Nope. I’m Jesse’s girl.

But why? Why do I love Jesse Pinkman so much that, even though I actually don’t think I love Breaking Bad (it’s surprisingly scary to admit that on the internet. But while I’m at it, one of my top five favourite songs of all time is by Coldplay), I watch it near-obsessively? I mean, I like the story, but I hate the main character, and the majority of the non-main characters, but I watch it like it's my favourite show on earth.

I love Jesse because he is a little bit shit at life. He's made one or two more oopsy-daisies than is optimal for being an adaptive member of society. But he's not shit at being a person. He's not cruel. He's not mean. He's not entitled. Even when he breaks, he's not broken.

I know he's fictional, but he gives me hope. He reminds me why we need rehabilitation in prisons. He reminds me to go back, after I've inevitably judged the book by its cover, and read a few chapters. When he gets things right, I feel this overwhelming sense of joy. My bio quote: "Yeah, bitch! Magnets!" was possibly one of my favourite moments ever on television. Why? It's the victory of the guy who has to try harder than everyone else.

He reminds me of the ever-true Vonnegut quote: "There's only one rule that I know of, babies - goddamn it, you've got to be kind." Jesse Pinkman, against all odds, is kind, and I am moderately in love with him.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

O is for Overdue.

Today, a bill got drawn from a ballot. The most important bill. The bill that takes the 'you're wrong' out of 'you're different'. The bill that equalises. The bill that humanises. The bill that says 'we see you'. The bill that says 'we hear you'. The bill that says 'we welcome you'. The bill that says nothing, because there is nothing to say. Love is love. People are people. Joy is joy. Commitment is commitment. Right is right.

Below is an email I wrote to my local MP earlier today. Take a second and write to yours. Let your voice of reason be the first they hear. It's in their hands, which is terrifying, but it's up to us to do what we can.

Hi Todd,

My name is Amy.

I know MPs are very busy people so I promised myself I'd only email you once during the 2011 term, and only if it was something really, really important. Well, much as I hate to use up my email so early in the game, I can't imagine anything requiring me to email you more urgently than the marriage equality bill that was drawn today.

I see from your profile that you're married, and that's wonderful. And four kids! I can't even imagine.. But I'm getting off track. As you’re a clear supporter of marriage, I'm just writing to make sure that you're going to go the right way on this marriage equality thing. And even though I'm sure that you don't need me to clarify, the right way is to grant equal rights to every New Zealander.

Being gay is hard in New Zealand. Shit, it's hard pretty much everywhere. That's how we can tell that people don't choose to be gay, because it's not actually all that fun most of the time. Best case scenario, people stare. Worst case scenario, they yell. They hit. Sometimes, they kill. Families disown children. But people just keep on being gay! It's almost like they can't help it.

Should people be discriminated against for something they cannot help? Can we really tell people that the way that they love, the way they were born to love, is wrong? Can you really say that you’re better, deserve more rights than people who are attracted to those of the same sex? Can you really say you’re better and deserve more rights than anyone?

Some people say that allowing homosexuals to marry will 'ruin' or 'cheapen' marriage. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the divorce rate. I'm sure I don't need to entertain you with stories both from my personal life and the media about heterosexual couples ruining and cheapening marriage all on their own. I'm sure I also don't need to tell you about the gay couples that have stayed together five, ten, twenty times as long as these shams of marriages. All those homosexual couples who are married in everything but name: the name you now have the power to give them.

Do the right thing, Todd. Speak for me, for us, with your vote. Take, on behalf of us all, a giant step in the right direction.

I believe in you.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

N is for Nzuri.

Nzuri is Swahili. It means 'good, nice, easy to like'.

First, some things that are good, nice, and easy to like THAT START WITH 'N'. Meta as, yo.


Nuggets (chicken)


New Zealand






Nails that are painted to look like a giraffe


Finally, some things that are good, nice, and easy to like that do not start with N but are nzuri all the same:

Good, nice, and easy to like song. Best.

Good, nice, and easy to like bestie

Good, nice, and easy to like boyfriend

Good, nice, and easy to like munmy

Good, nice, and easy to like future wife

Natalie Portman again because oh my godd.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

M is for Mitch Hedberg.

Mitch Hedburg would be the funniest man on the planet, except he’s dead.

Whenever I tell anyone about Mitch, I make sure his death is mentioned in the third sentence at the absolute latest. This is because when my darling ex-boyfriend introduced me to Mitch, he forgot to mention that he was dead. He even kept coming up with ‘new’ Mitch, which I assumed to mean ‘things he made since that last one we listened to’ rather than ‘his older stuff hidden in a deep corner of the internet that I hadn’t come across before’. We’re talking, like, months, that I loved Mitch Hedberg and had no idea that he was dead. Then, one day, we were planning some fantasy trip to America, and I was like “We could go see Mitch Hedberg!” and my ex laughed and said “Um, good luck with that, he’s dead.”


I actually haven’t recovered. I can’t believe I didn’t break up with him on the spot.

Anyway. To save others the horror of falling utterly and irrevocably in love with him only to find out later that he is no more, I always introduce the death concept early. Mitch Hedberg died of a cocaine/heroin overdose on March 29, 2005.


Despite the fact that he is no longer with us, Mitch remains my favourite comedian. I will share with you ten of my favourite of his ‘jokes’, but I strongly recommend you listen to them yourself because most of the beauty is in the delivery.

My top ten, in no particular order:

  1. My belt holds up my pants and my pants have belt loops that hold up the belt. What the fuck’s really goin on down there? Who is the real hero?
  2. Sometimes I wave to people I don't know. It's very dangerous to wave to someone you don't know because, what if they don't have a hand? They'll think you're cocky. "Look what I got motherfucker! This thing is useful. I'm gonna go pick something up!"
  3. The only way I could get my old CD into a store is if I were to take one in and leave it. Then the guys says, "Sir, you forgot this!" "No, I did not. That is for sale. Please alphabetize it.
  4. My manager saw me drinking backstage and he said "Mitch, don't use liquor as a crutch." I can't use liquor as a crutch, because a crutch helps me walk. Liquor severely fucks up the way I walk. It ain't like a crutch, it's like a step I didn't see.
  5. I've got an oscillating fan at my house. The fan goes back and forth. It looks like the fan is saying "No". So I like to ask it questions that a fan would say "no" to. "Do you keep my hair in place? Do you keep my documents in order? … Do you have 3 settings? Liar!" My fan fucking lied to me. Now I will pull the pin up. Now you ain't sayin' shit.
  6. When you go to a restaurant on the weekends and it's busy they start a waiting list. They start calling out names, they say "Dufresne, party of two. Dufresne, party of two." And if no one answers they'll say their name again. "Dufresne, party of two, Dufresne, party of two." But then if no one answers they'll just go right on to the next name. "Bush, party of three." Yeah, what happened to the Dufresnes? No one seems to give a shit. Who can eat at a time like this? People are missing! You fuckers are selfish. The Dufresnes are in someone's trunk right now, with duct tape over their mouths. And they're hungry. That's a double whammy. Bush, search party of three, you can eat when you find the Dufresnes.
  7. I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don't you? "Fuck you, real estate lady! This bedroom has an oven in it! This bedroom's got a lot of people sitting around watching TV. This bedroom's over in that guy's house! Sir, you have one of my bedrooms, are you aware? Don't decorate it!"
  8. An escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. You would never see an "Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order" sign, just "Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there."
  9. My lucky number is four billion. That doesn't come in real handy when you're gambling. "Come on four billion! Fuck! Seven. Not even close. I need some more dice. Four billion divided by six... at least. Snake eyes!" I just said "snake eyes." That's a gambling term. Or it's a animal term too.
  10. I saw this commercial on late night TV, it was for this thing you attach to a garden hose, it was like "You can water your hard-to-reach plants with this product." Who the fuck would make their plants hard to reach? That seems so very mean. "I know you need water, but I'm gonna make you hard to reach! I will throw water at you. Hopefully they will invent a product before you shrivel and die! Think like a cactus!"
I love you Mitch please come back from the dead and say more things. xoxo

Friday, July 13, 2012

L is for Liam and Chris Hemsworth.

We'll just get right into it.

I don't think much needs to be said.

See also, some other excellent L-babes.

What? It's not my fault that the best picture of Lea Michele also had Dianna Agron in it.. ahem.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

K is for Kisses.

I have started three 'K is for...' blogs. The first, 'K is for Kotahitanga' was about Metiria's speech at the Green Party AGM in Wellington a month ago. The second, 'K is for Ka Kite Ano' and was about my bestie moving overseas. The third, 'K is for Kittens', was born on a terrible day that was improved immeasurably by people on Twitter sending me cute pictures of kittens, and I wanted to share the joy.

Today, K is for Kisses.

My first kiss went to a boy called Sam. I was fourteen, and he was home for the university holidays. I was fairly sure I loved him, and fairly intent on gifting him my virginity. We kissed once, and it was bewilderingly unerotic. In fact, the whole experience was so utterly uninspiring that my second kiss didn't come until two years later, and later still I gave my virginity to an utter asshat from Hamilton.

Of best kisses, I have two. The first took place in 2006, in the tiny bathroom of my university hostel. The second took place in 2012, on a little wooden pier on Lake Rotorua. They were both incredibly perfect and incredibly important. I have had many most excellent kisses, but those two, I think, will always be top.

I do not have a favourite movie kiss. I do, however, have two favourite TV kisses.

Okay so that last one is more like a series of kisses but I think we can all agree that it's all sorts of wonderful. 

That is all I have to say about kisses, except that I hope the rest of mine all come from this guy

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

J is for Jesus Christ, and Jackson James.

Jesus christ.

This entire 'strangers caring about what I have to say' experience has been utterly bizarre and excruciatingly uncomfortable, in a number of ways, but I have learned a lot and for that I am grateful. Mostly, though, I am grateful to everyone who read my letter. Thank you, to everyone who read what I had to say and thought it was worth sharing. Thank you especially to those of you who put me forward as a representative to speak on your behalf. It was an honour, though a thoroughly undeserved one. But now that I know that my sentiments are echoed by so many of you, I will do what I can to make myself (ourselves?) heard.


The letter that comes after 'I' is 'J' and the best thing that starts with 'J' is Jackson James Wood.

This is him.

He is a boy. Apparently he likes me which is quite cool because I like him too. I met him when we both went to the movies with our mutual wonderful friend Fiona. I didn't really like him that much at first but he grew on me and now I like him quite a lot.

One time he roasted me a duck. A more different time he sent me a pukeko in the post.

I can tell I like him because usually when my phone rings I ignore it, but when it's him I smile and answer it.

It's a bit sad because I didn't really realise I liked him that much until I moved away from him and now we live far far apart and I miss him every day.

He's pretty clever and funny. For ages he was Dr Brash on Twitter and I knew that but I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. One day he is going to be a Green MP and then he is going to save the world.

He's also pretty much the most tolerant man I have ever met and that's probably actually why we're still dating because I am Incredibly Hard Work and Something Of A Nightmare At Times but he is always patient and kind and gentle and he can fix anything and make me smile even when I have the ultimate sads. And when he calls me up and he says "What can I do?" I know that he would really do anything and somehow that fixes things a little, all on its own.

All these feelings are making me uncomfortable so I will now show you a picture of some more excellent Js and then we can be done.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I is for I Really Think You Should Reconsider, John Key.

Dear John*,

Hello. We don't know each other, but I have a few things to say to you so I thought I'd write you a letter.

I already know quite a bit about you so to make things even I'll tell you a bit about me. My name is Amy. I'm 24. I'm currently living in Rotorua, but I was born in Stratford, grew up in Whakatane, and then spent six years at university in Wellington. Gosh, I get around a bit, don't I? Starting to see where Colin Craig was coming from.

Have you been to Rotorua? We don't have any famous people or sports folk for you to hand-shake on the tele so probably not. That's okay. I wasn't so crash-hot on the idea of moving here either. Turns out it's actually a kinda nice place! But I digress.

I am in my final year of my post-graduate diploma in Clinical Psychology. I did three years of undergraduate psychology, a year of Honours, and now I'm in my third of three years of clinical. One's third year of clinical involves working four full-time days per week as an intern psychologist, attending a full day (9 till 4.30) of classes on a Friday, and doing assignments and exam preparation in the evenings and weekends.

Are you ready for the twist? Because here it is: the Government, and then very quickly the DHBs, run out of money.. so most of our internships are unpaid. Only five of the fourteen of us in my class got paid placements, and the other nine.. well, we're living on whatever you deign to loan/give us. I am one of the unpaid ones, and I took a very very faraway internship in Rotorua because there weren't enough in Wellington and it's really cheap to live here and also it was nice and close to my mum and I quite like her.

For me, it's my first year of student allowance because even though my father makes terrible financial decisions and therefore is barely scraping by paycheck-to-paycheck, apparently he was earning enough for support me up until my 24th birthday. He didn't, but nobody really seemed to care too much about that. Including myself, to be honest, because in undergrad I had enough spare time to have a part-time job (and anyone who says they don't is either lying or working way too damn hard) and I even managed to save up enough money to see me through Honours.

Things went to hell in a handbasket after that financially. During my first and second years of clinical I was living in the only apartment in the city which I could actually afford with my $160 living costs, and then entirely supporting myself off the $40 a week I made tutoring. It was kind of fine though, in a way, because I was only a student so on the weeks I couldn't afford washing powder I just wore dirty clothes. Bikinis became 'clean underwear'. Dirty underwear turned inside out also became 'clean underwear'. Any shirt that didn't smell bad became a 'clean shirt'. It was kind of charming, in a really gross way.

But then, in my third year of clinical, two things happened. One: I stopped having the spare time to even run a couple of tutorials a week (refer to above schedule). Two: I became an intern psychologist, which meant clean clothes. All the time. Clean, nice clothes. All. The. Time.

But that's okay! Student allowance to the rescue! In an amazing feat of for once in my life having amazing timing, I turned 24 three weeks before my internship started. Hallelujah! Praise the lords! In a fortunate twist of fate, the first year that I actually really needed the allowance, I was eligible for it, and it has been amazing. And not because the money is free, John. I think this is where people get confused. I'm not afraid of debt. My generation can't afford to be. Between course fees and living costs and course-related costs, I've been borrowing $10k a year for the past six years. Sick as it is, I'm okay with having to borrow to be able to live. I barely even cry when I see my student loan balance anymore.

But the thing is, in this country, you can't actually borrow enough to exist. If I could only borrow $160 per week this year, I could not survive. I could certainly not survive well enough to be a competent, healthy and non-olfactorally-offensive psychologist. And if I was living in Wellington, where my rent was $50 per week more expensive to live in a flat with cardboard walls and a lounge without windows, well, same thing, but actually bordering on hilarious.

But for some reason, while you can only borrow up to $160, if you qualify for allowance you get GIVEN at least $200. If the roles were reversed, and I could be handed $160 or borrow $200, I'd borrow the $200. I'm not trying to steal your precious money, John. I don't give a bucket if you give it to me, or I borrow it, or it falls from the sky. I need enough money to pay my rent and buy my food and my shampoo and my laundry powder and my pantyhose because apparently, I have to be able to afford to dress like a grown-up now.

So imagine my dismay when I saw that you were taking away student allowance for postgraduate students, without any mention of increasing the amount they were able to borrow.

I'd really love to know what the plan is there, John. What the end goal looks like. Because right now, what I'm hearing is:

"Unless you are living at home, have parents that will pay your rent, or are middle-aged and have been saving up for a while, you cannot do postgraduate study."

You know how that's going to end? That's going to end with a university even more filled with people like you.

You know what we need? The opposite of that.

I almost said some very mean things about you just then but I refrained (and by refrained I mean typed them, and then deleted them) because I don't think that would be particularly helpful. What would be helpful is you telling me what the flying fuck the interns of 2013 are supposed to do.

Yours in disappointment and dismay,

*I asked on Twitter how one is supposed to address you, and answers ranged from 'Muppet' to 'Your Royal Highness' and back to 'Cunt' but I didn't particularly fancy any of those so I hope calling you John is okay. Please don't double my taxes or cut out my tongue.**

**I've been reading the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series a bit too much lately. Have you read them? They're great.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

H is for Hopefulness, Hideous Hairstyles, Home Decor, Horrible Horses, Holidays, Handlebars, and Heavy Hammers.

If you read even one hundredth of my tweets, you'll know that I am currently devouring the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. I am utterly obsessed, and find no shame in it. They are highly obsess-worthy, and if you haven't read them/aren't planning to, then you're a twit.

One unfortunate downfall of my rapture is that it makes thinking about other things difficult. When attempting to think of 'H' words to use as blog inspiration, my mind kept bleating 'Harrenhal! Harrenhal!'. Now, I could actually write a half-decent blog post about Harrenal, but a) it would be full of spoilers that might not endear me to those who are watching the show before they delve into the books and b) I feel it would push my obsession dangerously close to the 'not okay' end of the spectrum.

I tweeted about this conundrum, because, well, that's what I do. While Troy took the devil's advocate route, Cate came up with a somewhat bizarre list of prompts. I think I was supposed to pick one. But I don't. I PICK THEM ALL. But I don't have many words tonight, so I accept the challenge.. in pictures.

H is for Hopefulness

H is for Hideous Hairstyles

H is for Home Decor

H is for Horrible Horses

H is for Holidays

H is for Handlebars

H is for Heavy Hammers

But mostly, mostly, H is for Happy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

G is for Giraffes, and Geekery.

First of all G is for Giraffes because they are my first equal favourite animal.

Oh hi.

I was going to write all about why I love them but I need to get on to the second part so I will just put one more picture. This one I took at the zoo when I went to visit the giraffes there with Simon.

Look at him just sitting there, chilling out, giving me a little smile. Yes, giving me a little smile. Don't challenge me on that if you value our friendship. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT HE WAS SMILING AT ME SHUT UP.

Anyway, back on to the second G: Geekery. I have always maintained that I am a total geek. However, this has often been hotly disputed by 'real' geeks: mainly because I had not seen Star Wars. Little did they know that it went far beyond that: until very recently I did not even know the difference between Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate (in fact, I used to think Star Wars referred to some sort of conflict between Star Trek and Stargate.. not even kidding). 

Anyway. This has all been rectified and my geekery is now indisputable because as of Saturday evening, I have now seen Star Wars. (Except Episode 1, which I was told is entirely unnecessary. I was mildly devastated about this because Liam Neeson, but apparently even he doesn't redeem it. I find this unlikely. I am so utterly attracted to Liam Neeson. I think him and Sean Bean would make the most amazing couple and I want to see them pash.)

For reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, Hadyn had been secretly on the prowl for a Star Wars virgin so that he could show them the movies in 'Machete Order' (4, 5, 2, 3, 6) to see if that 'helped'. With what I am unsure, so I cannot really tell you if it helped or not. What I can (and now will) do is tell you all about what I thought of them.

We started with Episode IV, in original VHS quality. While I understand that the remastered versions are a plague on all that is good and true in the world, I found the prehistoric special effects so amusing that they completely distracted from the storyline. I also thought that Natalie Portman was Princess Leia and Hayden Christiansen was Luke Skywalker so I was moderately confused about what was going on there, and highly disappointed about the lack of babes in my life. I found the acting stilted and forced, and the complete lack of chemsitry between the characters bemusing. Also, there was no Yoda (who I was expecting to look like a mogwai). I think we can sum up the first movie as equal parts disappointing and hilarious, and not in a good way.

There were some good bits, I'll admit. Potentially due to the godawfully painful acting dished out by the human characters, I fell madly in love with C3PO (in fact, it was pointed out by Hadyn that the only time I had an emotional reaction in the entire movie was when C3PO got his arm ripped off. I 'awww!'ed), and Chewy, and I had a certain fondness for R2D2 although I found his limited capacity for communication moderately frustrating. I definitely didn't form any emotional attachments to any of the human characters, unless 'mild annoyance' counts.

Next came Episode V. We watched the remastered version of this so I was far less distracted by the awfulness of the special effects and actually able to watch the fight/chase scenes with some sort of buy-in, although this did not do much for my emotional connection to the characters (saddest moment was when Chewy got all upset that Han Solo was flying out to look for Luke. Poor Chewy!). There was further confusion: I'd always thought/heard that Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia get together (don't people go as them to 'famous couples' dress-up parties?) so was relatively taken aback by her dalliances with Han Solo.

Overall though I kind of enjoyed this film and it ended up being my second favourite. Finally getting to meet this Yoda guy I'd heard so much about was pretty exciting, even if he wasn't quite as furry as I was anticipating. Knowing beforehand that I wasn't getting any Natalie Portman in my life saved me from that crushing disappointment, and the acting was a little better. Even though I knew just from being alive that Darth Vader was Luke's father, it was kinda fun seeing it all unfold in context and finally understanding the gravity of this revelation. I found myself almost, almost disappointed when it ended and certainly looking forward to returning in a fortnight and finding out what happened.

Unfortunately, after patiently waiting a fortnight, the first thing I had to do was watch some prequels. Episodes II and III kind of blur into one mess in my mind, but I'll attempt to talk about them separately.

Episode II I found to be mildly ridiculous and the worst film by far. Aside from celebrity-spotting excitement (Natalie Portman was best, obvs, but I love me a little Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson) this movie went from absurd (that first chase sequence, what the actual) to creepy (any scene with Anakin Skywalker in it) and back to absurd (MEADOW FOLICKING ARE YOU KIDDING ME) with very little life progress seeming to happen in between. The special effects seemed to be worse than the re-mastered old movies which once again, served to distract me, and somehow the acting had not improved. I honestly have no recollection of the actual storyline. Ridiculous ridiculous ridiculous.

Episode III redeemed itself only by being the movie which answered a lot of questions I had about Episodes IV and V - mainly, when did Anakin become Vader, why does he wear that mask and do the creepy breathing, if Vader's Luke's father then who/where is his mother, etc. So from that point of view, it was.. well, enjoyable might be too strong a word, but enlightening at least. Luke moved from one sort of creepy to another, slightly more enjoyable sort, but Natalie Portman was significantly more clothed. Overall, not quite as much as a waste of my life as Episode II was, but definitely not an experience I wish to repeat, ever.

I was about ready to throw my toys at this point and tell Hadyn to stick Episode VI up his bumoley but it seemed like we'd come so far and I really did want to know what happened, so we persevered. And I'm so very, very pleased that we did.

Episode VI was the only movie that I will actually call 'good'. It was a good movie and I liked it. The chemistry was finally there between the actors, Princess Leia got some skin out, half of it was about super cute little furry things, most of the main characters were in one place for lots of it so it wasn't too choppy and changey and I could actually keep up all the time, the ending was kinda unexpected and really sweet, and it was all just a bucket full of win. I mean, it doesn't make it into my top twenty movies of all time or anything, but I certainly enjoyed it. A+++ would trade again.

I'm not sure exactly what watching them in the funny order was supposed to do but I actually recommend it. Get some buy-in with the originals first, then give the important back-story with the shitty new ones, then end it all off with the grand finale. Was an excellent way to do it.

So that's it! My geekery is no longer disputable and I love giraffes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

F is for Fifteen.

The other day I was helping someone construct their bucket list and I suddenly remembered that I had one too. Given the sixteen existential crises I've had this year you'd think that'd never be far from my mind, but apparently you'd think wrong. 

We'll call it 'unpredictable' instead of 'illogical', shall we?

Anyway. I unearthed it, and found that to my pleasant surprise, I'd knocked a fair few of the bastards off. Highlights include:
  • Learn to drive (I even bought a car to drive around IN)
  • Write a Masters thesis (and had it accepted, with Merit)
  • Visit Rosemary (and then, seven months later, moved to the same city as her!)
  • Meet Brad and Lauren (who are, without doubt, two of the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of spending time with)
Then I got to reading the rest of my bucket list, and.. well, it was a bit drivel-y. It was kind of more a list of 'Things it might be quite cool to do sometime but maybe not' rather than 'Things I will actually regret not doing as I lie on my deathbed'. So I started again.

Here is my new bucket list. It has just fifteen items, in no particular order.
  1. Go to Italy
  2. Go to Stewart Island
  3. Donate blood
  4. Have sex with a girl
  5. Watch every movie that won the Best Picture Oscar up until 2012 (and hopefully further if I live for a while longer)
  6. Learn (proper) Te Reo Maori
  7. Make my own dress and wear it out in public
  8. Get a tattoo
  9. Write a novel
  10. Commit to spending my life with someone
  11. See a show on Broadway (preferably Wicked)
  12. Own a Kitchenaid stand mixer
  13. Have sex on my birthday
  14. Get my PhD
  15. Go to Disneyland
You can tell it's in no particular order because Disneyland is at the bottom and we all know it isn't, really. (this will be me)

These are the only things I could think of that if it came down to it, I would be really truly disappointed that I left this world without doing. And yes, some of them are ridiculous. Own a Kitchenaid stand mixer? Really, Amy? Well, yes. I have always wanted one and I truly believe that the level of happiness I will get out of owning one will be significant and worthwhile. 

That's really all I have to say about that.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

E is for Equality.. or is it?

Four times recently, I have had my 'feminist'ness challenged and frankly, it's becoming tiring.

Let me start by saying I have never, ever described myself as a feminist. I like to think that actions speak infinitely louder than words, sort of along the 'Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car', but with labels. If, from my life, you can derive that I do not believe in any gods, must I really label myself an atheist? If I speak of, and act on, my attraction to both sexes, do we really need a label to firm that up? Despite never proclaiming myself to be one, being called un-feminist is deeply unsettling to me, much like how I don't believe I've ever outwardly proclaimed to be 'homosexual-accepting' but being accused of being homophobic would jolt me to my core. You can believe in things, and stand for things, and strive for things, quietly, in your own way, and mean it every bit as much.

Sorry, I'm getting wildly and drastically off-message. Suffice it to say: I believe, deeply, in equal rights for women, in all spheres of life. And that is what feminism is... right?


Or did I miss something?

Let me list the things I have done to have my feministity (what a wonderful word) challenged:
  • I said that I appreciate people (including men) holding doors open for me
  • I said that I would love to be a housewife
  • I said that I would consider altering my weight for a partner
  • I considered/am considering passing up a financially rewarding and career-enhancing opportunity in favour of my relationship
If you do not believe that these things are indicative of some sort of anti-feminist agenda, then thank you, kind and rational person. You are free to go. If you read any of those items and thought 'Well, clearly she DOES hate women and want them marginalised', then please, stick around for a minute.

When a man holds a door open for me, my thought process is this: 'Oh, good, I don't have to push the door'. That's it. I do not think 'I bet that man thinks my weak, flimsy feminine arms are incapable of managing that big, manly, door, even if my silly female mind could figure out how to open it, and I bet he just wants to look at my bottom as I go past because that's all I am to him, a piece of dim-witted meat with ineffectual arms'. Because, well, if we're all being honest with ourselves, that second one is probably not true. He's probably just being nice. I mean, we'll never really know, will we, but I think we can fairly safely assume. I'll concede that there's a small chance he may be doing it to make himself appear more attractive to me, but whether or not I jump his bones following this small act of human decency is entirely up to me and therefore his thought process is none of my concern. Note that I called it human decency, not chivalry. I would equally expect a woman going through a door moments before me to hold on to it for me as I would a man, and I'd do the same for either gender*. Surely, if we're allowed to do it for each other, men are allowed to do it for us as well? That's, um, kind of what equal means.

I would fucking love to be a housewife. (Quick side-note: when I say 'housewife', for some reason, people hear 'stay at home mother'. No. No, that is NOT what I mean. Being a stay at home mother is fucking HARD. Like, way harder than being a psychologist. I'm talking just me, and a husband or a wife, who goes away to work all day and leaves me alone to do my housewifing). If you know me, you will know that some of my favourite things to do include, in no particular order: sleeping, reading, baking, walking, watching terrible television, eating and writing. You name me a job where I would get to do all of those things all day that isn't being a housewife and I will do that job instead. I fail to see how wanting to spend my day doing the things I like best is un-feminist. Don't get me wrong, I am hell excited to be a psychologist and I'm incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to become one. I'd just rather be a housewife.

This third one is the only one where I may see where someone may be coming from, but hear me out. When a man, or a woman, looks you in the eyes and tells you he or she wants to be with you, that's something wonderful, and it's something that should always be treasured rather than ever be taken for granted. I would never change my weight to get anyone to commit to me, but once they have, I believe that I have a responsibility to that person to a) not change in any drastic way without consultation with them, and/or b) be the best me that I can possibly be. If I am an important part of somebody's world, and they have a vested interest in me being around for a long time, I believe I have the responsibility to take care of myself. And, if that person 'signed up' to me when I looked a certain way, I do not believe I have the right to demand them to feel the same way about me no matter how how drastically my appearance changes. That is all I really want to say about that.

The last one relates somewhat to the second one, but is a lot more serious and personal, and being called un-feminist for this is the one that hurt the most of all. I am anti-feminism unless my career is the most important thing in my life? How do people automatically perceive this as making a sacrifice for a man? No man is asking me to do any such thing - in fact, the man in question is mildly devastatingly pro-my-career-path. But it's not up to him. If I simply turned to a man and asked him to make the decision for me, then yes, perhaps that would be un-feminist. Even if I gave his opinion more weight than my own, I may see where people were coming from. If I was saying 'Oh help, I want to further my career but my boyfriend won't let me', then yes, okay, label me as you will - although given that he wants me to choose my career, it seems the 'real' feminists would be more happy with me taking his directive than my own un-feminist dilemma. But when I am saying 'I am torn between two things that will make me happy in entirely different ways and I don't know which to choose', I do not see the slight against feminism. A man in my position would have to make the exact same choice. And that's what we were fighting for, wasn't it? Isn't it? Don't you dare tell me a man has never thought about putting his relationship ahead of his career. I am in a position where I can make this decision, and that, that is beautiful, but it doesn't make it any more of an easy decision to make.

Does the fact that wonderful, strong, magnificent women have fought so far to get me the right to make choices mean that I must always make the choice that I didn't always have? There is so far left to go, so many challenges left to face.. we do not have the time, the energy, the luxury, to turn on each other. 

I do not want to be forced into any decisions, whether by men or by militant 'real' feminists. I want to be equal, and in these situations I do not believe I have I compromised either my equality or the right to equality of women as a whole. 

*Seriously, though, if you don't hold doors open for people, you're a bit of an asshole.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

D is for Degrees.

Today, I got an email with some pretty happy news. I've been awarded my third (and by far coolest-sounding) degree: my Master of Science.

It was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. 2011, for me, was.. god, I don't even have the words. There were several days where I literally didn't think I would ever smile again. I cried out clumps of my eyelashes, twice. There were days when I genuinely considered dropping out of university because I knew, I knew I just couldn't do it. I lost more than I knew I had. I developed allergies to everything I ate. I lived off $40 a week.

Of course, there was also beauty, and joy, and happiness. There was love: old, and new. I kept up friendships. I created new friendships. I met a boy.

I also wrote a Masters thesis, went to classes, and treated the first four clients in of my career. The thesis was accepted, exams were passed, clients discharged.

I am proud.

I got my first degree in 2008: my Bachelor of Science. 'Proud' is the last word I'd use to describe that particular achievement. The three years leading to that were a mess of self-indulgence. I moved to Wellington to get into clinical, but I was selfish, and lazy, and entitled. I thought that, because I knew I was intelligent, it would just kind of radiate through my pores and into my grades. Example: for one essay, in first year, I not only simply started it the night before, but I fabricated every reference. I made up an American Indian tribe and their traditions around female puberty and I made up books that I'd read about it. I got an A. So I slept, and sexed, and drank. I moved in with a boy who I thought I might marry one day, then moved out again onto my friend's bedroom floor where I camped right through third-year exams (thanks always, Frank). I barely got a B+ average, and yet applied for Clinical, which requires an A- average. Because, you know, I was smart, so I was entitled.

Imagine my shock when I didn't get in.

My next degree came in 2009. Stunned into action by my clinical rejection, I enrolled in Honours (thank god for that barely-scraped B+ average). And, for the first time in my university career, possibly my entire education, I really and truly tried.

My Honours year is best summed up by the fact that I got a B for the 300-level Neuroscience paper, and, after begging entry to the paper despite the lacking prerequisite, an A+ for the 400-level paper.

The amount of caffeine in ingested should have killed me. The amount of alcohol I ingested should certainly have killed me: and almost did, once. The lack of sleep alone should have driven me slowly mad. But I got my first-class Honours degree. Then I got my clinical interview. Then I got my letter.

At the end of this year, all going to plan, I'll get my last degree: my postgraduate diploma in clinical psychology. I don't know yet what I'll see when I look back at that point: so far, this year has been many sorts of wonderful. It very much has the potential to be my favourite degree year of all.

Monday, March 26, 2012

C is for Circle of Life.

When I bought my car, one of the most exciting features was its ten CD stacker thing. 10 CDs! I could drive all the way to Wellington and not have to faff with the stereo. Oh, the excitement. I got home, made 10 CDs, and trotted out to load them into my boot.

It doesn't work.

At first, I found this significantly upsetting. When I found out the stereo didn't get FM radio, one could almost say I despaired, in an utterly first-world sort of way. I recovered, slightly, after stumbling across the  absurd joys of talkback radio. Then one weekend, I went op-shopping with the bestie, and I found tapes. But not just any tapes.

The first tape I found was Billy Joel, who I have written about previously. The second was a Beatles best-of, which fills me with lovely memories about my first little road trip with someone a bit wonderful. But the third? The third, spotted by bestie on a high shelf, is the most special of all.

It's The Lion King soundtrack.

You know, how some days, your mind is just in a slightly different place to where it usually lives? You hear and see things differently, experience the world a little to the left of where it was yesterday. I have watched The Lion King more times than I can count on my fingers (and possibly also my toes), and I have listened to that tape four or five times since it was purchased: singing along heartily every time, may I needlessly add. But today, for the first time, I heard something.

There's more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

When the truthfulness of this statement (finally, finally, after decades of exposure) hit me, I damn near had a panic attack. My heart literally skipped a beat and I felt instantly sick to my stomach. Because it's true. It's true. I won't get to do everything.

People laugh at me because I am already planning - and I mean planning planning - a trip to Europe in 2014. But that's the soonest that I'll have enough money to go, and I need to know that I am going. I need to know when I'll next be seeing, doing, being something new. And that was before I heard the song. Now I'm in quite a state.

There's so much I'm going to miss. I will not stand on every beach, hear every language, see every star or taste every food. Even if I go, now, just leave and never come back, I will miss things (mostly because I will run out of money a month in and end up stuck living in a backpackers in Perth, not looking at anyone in particular). Isn't that just terrifying?

There is no thoughtful resolution here. I am simply terrified. Terrified of what I will miss. What if the thing I would have loved most, I never do?