Let’s see how far we’ve come!

We have a new receptionist starting in our team, and her first days were this weekend. It was a big weekend, and we had no other reception staff. Plus we had a Campground Kid underfoot (she started daycare this week, and after two days we’d already become accustomed to working WITHOUT a toddler). Plus one of our cleaners had to head to the hospital with her son this morning (thankfully he’s fine!) Plus we had a big bus group arrive earlier than expected and a bed cover that was pissed on and a whole lot of people checking out late.

All of which adds up to: chaos.

There were moments where I wasn’t at my very best, I’ll admit. But the biggest thing I took from the madness was a recognition of just how far we’ve come in the last 6 months.

And I’m not talking about physically (although this weekend also brought a reminder of that, in the form of this little video of our town in Brunei):

I’m talking about how much we’ve all learned and changed. 

It’s perhaps most obvious in the Campground Kid, who is now a confident and chatty two years and eight months, able to hold full on conversations and tell amazing stories. She’s got a magnificent imagination and has learned million little things about the park. The other day while we were having a swim she told me “I’ve just put a little leaf into the skimmer” (the skimmer being what most people would probably call “the filter-y thingy”, myself included.)  She is also a lot taller than when we arrived, which we know because she can climb onto all sorts of new places. 

Breakfast in the office.

In me and Campground Papa, the change is perhaps more subtle, but it’s definitely there. We have learnt new skills (he can maintain a pool, I can navigate our park management system like a pro, we can both fold a fitted sheet with our eyes closed); but we’ve also grown and developed as people. We’re both more confident, especially with making phone calls (although to be fair to Campground Papa, it was mostly me who hated phone calls before). We’ve learned to be more clear and vocal about our needs and how others could help us meet them. We’re better at prioritising and planning ahead. We’re more confident to just dive in and fix problems on the spot, even if they’re not problems we know how to fix. 

We’ve had so much change and craziness over the last few months that I hadn’t really stopped to consider these things, but seeing someone new trying to figure it all out is a great reminder of those first clueless days of nearly 6 months ago. And the fact that I am now entirely confident to recruit and train that someone new is a great reminder that I am learning and developing as a manager.

Even though I’ve come a long way, today was still pretty fucking hard. So now I’m going to put my feet up, and maybe have a glass of wine.

Cheers!

Budget cut

“Why would someone move back from making big bucks overseas to live here and work more and make less?” I’ve been asked this question once, and kinda-nearly-but-not-outright asked this question several more times. And the answer is basically: we love New Zealand. But from the way it was asked, that wasn’t quite what they meant. To get more specific, yes, this change involved a pretty decent drop in income. But even if we just focus on money (which ignores the multitude of reasons we made this choice) it’s not really that simple. Our overall household income is less, even with both of us working now, we pay more tax than we did in Brunei, and we work many more hours for less pay. At the same time, we pay less in household bills (rent, power, phone etc.), we still don’t have to pay much in the way of childcare, and we have less free time to spend money. 

But the biggest reason that the income drop hasn’t been so bad is that it’s so much easier to be frugal in New Zealand (for us, anyway). We’ve definitely had an adjustment period as we get back into the rhythm of frugality, and there are still plenty of things I’d like to change, but our lifestyle here lets us do several things that help us save money compared to our lifestyle in Brunei:

  • Shopping at op shops. We LOVE op shops. You may call them thrift shops or secondhand stores or junk shops or something else entirely. But whatever you call them, we think they’re great. The Campground Kid doesn’t get any new toys except at Christmas and birthdays, but she occasionally gets a book or a toy from the op shop; I have found some of my favourite clothes in op shops (though it’s a lot harder now that I’m fat!); and there’s no better place for cheap craft supplies. Plus, it’s really satisfying to find a great bargain.
  • Having a vegetable garden. In Brunei we pretty much just had concrete around our flat. It was a bit miserable, and it made it impossible to garden. Now we have lots of space, and big raised vegetable garden. We learned from previous mistakes and kept it pretty low maintenance, but we’ve had a near endless supply of silverbeet, spinach, zucchini, lettuce, and herbs. And we’re pretty excited to see capsicums growing on our plants and passionfruit and feijoas coming through on the vine/trees that were planted before we arrived. It takes a bit of work, but we have so many fresh veges, and have even managed to stock up our freezer a bit. Speaking of which, next on the list is…

Vege garden haul

  • Having a deep freeze. Our tiny little freezer in Brunei was always crammed full, just from our weekly shop. Now we have a big chest freezer, so we can buy meat and veges and bread and other staples in bulk when they’re a good price and freeze them until we need them. We always have food available, and can keep a decent stock of easy-to-prepare meals on hand, which saves money on takeaways. I didn’t realise how much I had missed having a big freezer until we had one again.
  • Driving less. In our new job, we almost never drive during our work week (except driving 3 min down the road on the days The Campground Kid goes to hang out with a child minder). I drove a lot in Brunei, so this is a nice change. It probably doesn’t save us much actual money, though, because petrol is more than three times the price here ūüė¨ūüė≥ūüėģ. I do miss 53c petrol!
  • Wearing a uniform. We both wear a uniform five days a week now, which a) makes it very easy to get dressed in the morning and b) means I hardly need any clothes. I tend to be someone who has too many clothes (waaay too many), so this probably hasn’t even reduced my wardrobe to normal, but it’s definitely reduced it from totally over the top. Baby steps, right?!

Bonus points: our uniform is awesome.

  • Taking fewer holidays. We were in Brunei for a limited time, so very much felt like we needed to see as much of the area as possible. This meant lots of international holidays (and we still didn’t manage to see even close to everything we wanted to!). And even though Southeast Asia is cheap, international holidays still put a dent in the budget. We have less time and less drive for holidays now – we’re homebodies at heart – which saves us a lot. We also have a caravan now, so we anticipate most of our holidays being campgrounds, which are a little easier on the pocket. It will definitely be a change from the fancy hotels we quite often stayed at in Asia, but it’s a good change.

Coming home and making this change was NEVER about the money. At the same time, we didn’t want to be constantly scrimping and saving and worrying about money. Before we moved, I did worry that this would be the case. But, so far, it’s not at all. I think if we’d gone from similar job/lifestyle to similar job/lifestyle and had this same pay cut, it would have been quite a shock (we would still have done it, but it would have been hard). But because we changed EVERYTHING, the change in budget has been pretty low on the list of changes. By living a little more frugally, saving in some important areas (RENT), and staying at home more often, it just hasn’t been a big deal. PHEW. 

Ten years of Februaries

TL; DR – a whole lot has changed in the last decade!

February 2007

I had just graduated from university with a chemistry degree. I was living in Hawera, and working in a milk powder factory as part of a graduate program. Campground Papa (then just My Boyfriend) was in Wellington finishing off his study. I was boarding with a rad couple and had a few friends around as well as a great group of people in my graduate class. I missed my sisters and friends in Wellington, but it was a grand adventure. I was training for a triathlon, and I also read a lot of books (I didn’t have Facebook yet!) I was excited to have my first real job and real paycheck.

February 2008 

We had just moved to New Plymouth, and I had started work at a cheese factory in Eltham. My Boyfriend was still unemployed, or maybe he worked at Farmers. We lived in a funny orange house in a cul de sac full of cars in the backyards and noisy DIY mopeds. There was an awesome swimming hole just down the road. We were excited about being in our first proper house and living together again. I met a few great people through my job, and joined a carpool so I didn’t have to drive 500 km per week on my own. 

February 2009

My Boyfriend had become My Fianc√©. I was still working in the same job, but was preparing to leave for three months to a scholarship in the Netherlands. We were planning the six week backpacking holiday that would follow said scholarship. We had a lovely kitten called Trudy and some great friends. My Fianc√© was working as an engineer and we were really enjoying life in New Plymouth. 

February 2010

We were in the last stages of wedding planning, and were excited but also a bit stressed about it all. I was starting to get frustrated with my job, and was thinking about moving into HR/training. We still lived in the orange house with the swimming hole nearby, and our European adventure was a distant memory. We had another cat called George; he and Trudy were, unfortunately, not good friends. We had bought mountain bikes and loved spending time mountain biking and tramping and enjoying the amazing New Plymouth outdoors.


February 2011

I was working at the same cheese factory, but everything had changed. I’d been away for 6 months, and had just returned for a big project management and HR role. I was excited and hopeful about the new job and not too worried about going back to commuting after 6 months without it. We had been living in our new house for around 8 months and had not made nearly as much renovation progress as we would have liked. The cats were still not friends. We had recently returned from one of the greatest camping trips ever. I was in the thick of training for the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km walk.

February 2012

The job I started in 2011 didn’t work out, and I was working part time and about to start a full time distance course in career development. I had recently stopped fertility treatments and was trying to plan the next steps. I was thoroughly unhappy about that situation. We got an amazing new nephew. We were slowly slowly getting through our renovations. I won tickets to WOMAD, which was one of the most fun weekends we’ve had.


February 2013

I’d finished my study, and had given up some cool career opportunities for a cool life opportunity: we were moving to Brunei. The Engineer was there already and I was waiting for my visa. I had recently had surgery and worried about the time apart from my husband. I had an awesome new tattoo. I did lots of yoga and acupuncture and started knitting. I started a blog and read a lot of books. 


February 2014

I was four months pregnant with The Campground Kid and was still pretty unable to deal with the heat of the tropics. So I stayed at home and napped in the air conditioning a lot. We had met some great people in Brunei, and coincidentally quite a few of them were pregnant too. I started swimming and was doing a prenatal yoga class. I had just finished recovering from a nasty dog bite to the leg and was excited that I could walk again. We were doing a lot of baby planning.


February 2015

The Campground Kid was seven months old and we had recently returned from our first trip back to New Zealand. She was amazing, crawling quickly and just starting to stand up, but she also slept terribly and coming back from the holiday was a tough time. We were teaching a Mums and Babies yoga class, and attending a couple of great playgroups. 


February 2016

We were still in Brunei, but were pretty convinced we’d be back in New Zealand very soon. The Campground Kid was 19 months old, and she was obsessed with her toys Teddy and Moose.  We’d recently returned from a holiday in Lao that was pretty great but also ended up revolving around me slamming her fingers in a door pretty badly. I had travelled alone with her in Bangkok, and we survived, so I was planning to do it again in a few months for a trip to New Zealand. We went on a holiday to Mulu and Kuala Lumpur and it was awesome, (despite me being pretty sick at the time). 


February 2017
We are back in New Zealand, though it wasn’t as soon as we had thought it would be. We live in a small village and manage a holiday park. The Campground Kid is two and a half and she’s really getting to be a kid, not a baby. We are busy, but I am getting back into crafting and yoga and walking. We read a LOT of kid’s books, but not very many grown up books. We spend more time together as a family, but a lot of it isn’t really quality time. We just bought a caravan and are excited to do it up and travel around with it. 

Expectations

“I’m just really disappointed that no one did anything about the noise next door to us last night. We have a young family, and this was not what we expected.” said the tired, annoyed guest.

“I get it. We have a young family too. But we just didn’t hear it here, so we didn’t know. I’m really sorry.”

It was one of my first real customer complaints, and it was from Fred*. Fred who used to be my manager when I was just starting out in the world of Human Resources. Fred who thought quite highly of me  but nowhere near as highly as he thought of himself and had expectations for me. Fred who was my manager before I changed jobs, studied for a new profession, changed jobs again, moved to Brunei, became a parent, moved back to New Zealand and changed jobs again. Basically, he was my manager a whole lifetime ago.

If he recognised me, he didn’t say anything (I guess a different¬†hairstyle and 20+ kg will do that). But I recognised him. And seeing him reminded me of all that career history and just how much has changed. I don’t just look different, I AM different, in so very many ways. The last six years have been great and hard and eventful and transformative. ¬†When I worked with Fred, and when I saw him¬†last, I was young and up and coming and had my life ahead of me. I was destined for big things. A family and a flexible job and managing a team are not small things, but they’re definitely not the things I imagined as a 26 year old starting a new career.

As much as I am happy with the choices I’ve made, and happy with where we’ve ended up, being reminded of the change was a very vulnerable feeling. And being reminded of the change while simultaneously being told I wasn’t doing my job very well was a very very vulnerable feeling.

I think I managed to hide my embarrassment and get on with helping other guests. But by afternoon, it was still nagging¬†away in the back of my mind. Complaints always bother me, and it bothered me more that it was from someone I know (or knew). Then I remembered a situation where Fred had made some rather large mistakes. ¬†It wasn’t necessarily relevant to this situation, but it made me feel a little better.

And THEN¬†I spotted a line on our park information sheet: “If you have a problem with noise, tell the management immediately. Tomorrow is too late.”

YEP. Tomorrow IS too late.

And this made me realise that this whole thing was¬†about expectations, realistic and otherwise. It wasn’t reasonable for him to be angry at me for not solving a problem I wasn’t aware of. But it was definitely reasonable for him to be annoyed. ¬†It wasn’t reasonable of me to expect myself to get it all right every day and get no complaints, especially not seven weeks into an entirely new job and an entirely new life. ¬†It definitely isn’t¬†reasonable to expect¬†all expectations (mine and others’) to be reasonable.

But most of all I realised how almost every time I fall into shame, it’s rooted in expectations; either my expectations¬†or the expectations of others (or at least what I THINK they are). As soon as I start comparing reality to expectations (reasonable or unreasonable, real or imagined) my mind¬†starts to spiral.

I am really happy to be here, to be doing this. It’s still early days, but it feels like a good fit for me and for us. But even though it’s a good fit at 31, it’s a far cry from the expectations anyone had for me¬†at 18, at 21, at 26. Heck, it doesn’t really meet the expectations anyone had for me at 29 or 30.

Going against expectations isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I am mostly inclined to think it’s mostly a great thing. For others. But for ME, my mind usually translates it into a bad thing. After all, I’m a “good girl”. I meet expectations. If I’m not meeting expectations, there must be something “wrong”. ¬†If my kid isn’t meeting expectations, I must be doing something “wrong”. If my life isn’t meeting expectations, I must be doing something “wrong”. (and so on and so forth)

Do you know who is really really good at ignoring expectations? Toddlers. I could learn a lot from her.

Do you know who is really really good at ignoring expectations? Toddlers. I could learn a lot from her.

I KNOW this is a load of tosh. I KNOW¬†it’s just a bit of crazy-making perfectionism rearing its ugly head. But KNOWing¬†doesn’t always make it easier. So with all of that in mind, I have a resolution for this new stage of life:

Cut the comparing and throw those expectations out the window.

I’m going to have to start with baby steps. My first inch forward¬†is writing about it, both here and in my long-abandoned journal.

But most importantly,¬†I’m going to start now. Today. After all, tomorrow is too late.

 

* Name changed to protect him or me, or maybe both.