Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

It’s been exactly one year since we achieved marriage equality… and is everything ok?

Have you ever thought, ‘what happens a year on after superheroes save the earth?’

Did Buffy go on to slay her next job as a social media influencer? Did Frodo craft engagement rings for same-sex hobbits and did Wonder Woman become a tradie?

More importantly, what happened after our LGBTI heroes fought and won the right to marry their partners?

Did we all get invited to hundreds of same-sex weddings; enough to turn all the Real Housewives of Melbourne into marriage celebrants?

I have always been interested in what happens next: movie sequels, sophomore music albums, series 2 of anything on Netflix; I am fascinated by the follow up!

So when Carmela asked me to reflect 12 months after Australia changed the marriage act, I felt deeply intrigued.

So, what were the ripple on effects for myself and for the LGBTI community?

I personally thought I would have a big gay wedding with swans, celebrities and old pop songs sung by one of the Young Divas. (Yes, I am that gay!)

So why did I not do it? Why am I still engaged with no wedding gown in sight?

Somehow (dare I admit it), there appears to be more chance of our Prime Minister Scott Morrison marrying Tony Abbott than me walking down the aisle!

Because of this, I recently started to freak out that I had not yet done what we had been fighting so hard for.

Had I lied to my partner when I proposed? Had proposing in front of the country on Big Brother in 2012 been all about getting attention? Worse, I wondered if my partner (now 6 years on) didn’t even want to marry me!?

I felt like I was having an identity crisis.

So I started looking for answers on Google. How many same sex couples got married this year? Did everyone get married but me???

Well… there have been close to 3000 same-sex Aussies couples legally married.

This is amazing, but it certainly does not conclude that everyone in loving same-sex relationships, in deed got married. Phew! I am not the only homo alive with just an engagement ring.

Then I called my partner for an emergency date night, which went something like this: an elaborate dinner plan, face masks and a certain amount of nervous energy. What followed also was a weird conversation that started with the most romantic question anyone can ask, “Do you still want to marry me?” Gulp.

The reality was lost on me for a moment. I’d almost forgotten that the marriage equality debate was really just about equality. It wasn’t about marriage. Yet here I was hanging my relationship on a tender hook and questioning if it was all worth it because I haven’t thrown an over-priced wedding extravaganza with my life partner.

I guess our version of ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t mean we all get married right now! It just means that we are all equal now.

Maybe referencing those gays & straights as heroes might be a bit intense but i am still immensely proud of Australia for last year’s achievement.

I have found last year’s result gave Australia a chance to address some issues within the LGBTI community. However, now we face more intricate issues that can’t be blanketed over with a simple solution.

It is not a Marvel popcorn flick. It’s going to take some time to fully understand all of it. But more importantly, it’s about political correctness and not being a naive ignorant prick.

Which is where we are now.

How do we make Australia more inclusive? How did we educate those who might not be aware of the stories under the broader banner of LGBTI+?

Yes, there are more queer tales beyond ‘Jack’ from Will and Grace and the stereotypical lesbian at Bunnings.

Why do people know very little about intersex: the little discussed ‘I’ in the LGBTI alphabet?

Why does our trans community need more visibility?

Bisexuality remains to be seen as just a train stop away from gay-town. Nobody seems to respect an individual’s right to choose their pronouns.

Why is it still not ok to be a fem-top or butch-bottom? And why are gay relationships judged on whether they’re open or closed?

Please don’t think of the LGBTI community as a one-size fits all, we are actually more like the entire board of ‘Guess Who’.

While the world still turns beyond the 2017 marriage equality debate, we are still in many ways in desperate need of fighting for equal rights for all people, no matter what their sexuality, gender, race, religion and personal identity is. So let’s keep going!! And remember: it’s our differences that unite us, not divide us.

Benjamin Norris lives in Melbourne, Australia and is a presenter on JOY 94.9. He also hosts the podcast series, Word for Word and how could we forget? The previous winner of 2012’s Big Brother. You may of also seen him recently on ABC’s ‘You Cant Ask That!’

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

Hey there Kweens!

You might remember me from such blog posts as:

  • Make Your Own Damn Rules!
  • Don’t live anywhere! 
  • Be single! 
  • Quit your job! 
  • Girl power YAHHHHH!! 

It’s been awhile since we last I wrote this and well, I still don’t live anywhere. I really, really wanted to get myself a home this year but life didn’t work that way. So that’s 18 months and counting. I’ve managed to get through another year on contract work and have avoided getting a ‘proper job’ HUGE WIN.

I also turned 40. It was bloody wonderful. I wore a big pink tutu and was surrounded by people I love. Kylie Kwong sang me Happy Birthday. I didn’t even know I wanted that to happen: but it was the best thing ever. Turning 40. Tick that one off.

I remember turning 30 and really coming into my own about who I was. Turning 40 was that on steroids. I feel like life has become real.

Here are some things I’ve worked out. Sit back for some advice from your older, wiser Kween!

DON’T FIT IN. DO YOU 

I no longer have time for trying to fit into this life. For doing things the way we are told. For meaningless conversations. For buying stuff I don’t need. I don’t want the same things I once did. They say your new life will cost you your old one. And hasn’t it what!

We are given a single story-line on what makes a good life. Just the one. And it’s not for me.

Choose YOU. Don’t run with the status quo, if that’s not what’s in your heart.

Get married. Don’t get married. Have kids or don’t. Become a lawyer, become an artist, work in a shop: so, you can get home to your family and not answer emails at all hours. You have all the choices in the world. Make them. But make sure they’re your choices, not something you’ve been told to want.

The world is your goddamn oyster!

Sidenote: Don’t question someone else’s choices. Don’t force your beliefs on them. We are all so different. Let’s just be different. Let’s celebrate that.

Other sidenote: Oysters are disgusting. 

BE SINGLE. OR DON’T BE.

I no longer think of being single as less than. I’m bloody happy. Being alone feels like freedom to me. Being in a relationship could feel the same to someone else.

I’m sure if I met a guy who brought me coffee in bed and liked to get to airports really super-duper early (like when the bag drop is just open) then maybe I’d sign up for this love stuff too. But I’m not going out searching for him because I think I need that.

You don’t need it. It’s nice but you don’t need it.

HAVE KIDS. OR DON’T.

I never wanted children and I always worried I’d regret it. But I know now I won’t. To quote Cameron Diaz: “The one thing I know is that I’m not childless. I have a ton of children in my life. It’s not like I’m the spinster who didn’t have a child. I just didn’t do that in life, and I’m OK with that. I know the choices I’ve made. I know why I made them.”

I love that quote. 

I am not childless.

BE YOUR OWN HERO. NON-NEGOTIABLE.

I started my 40th year with SO MANY PLANS! But life had other plans. It always does. I swear life must laugh at my New Year’s resolutions each year. This year has brought me to my knees. I have cried more than I can remember.

My stepmum died this year. We found out she had cancer and she died within a month. Just like that. It felt like she just disappeared. My stepbrother died two months before that. He was my age. 40. And he died.

It was the second son my stepmum had lost. To see her afterwards; there are no words for that level of grief. My stepsister and brother have lost two brothers and their mum. That seems like an exceptionally unfair amount of pain.

But pain doesn’t work like that.

I sit here today and it feels like spring is coming. It’s coming and people are missing from my life but it’s coming anyway. Winter always ends.

So, for now: I give myself permission to be changed by the events of my life. You can’t be the same person after such a huge loss. But you can get back up when you’re on your knees.

You are stronger than you know. Choose to be strong. Choose to see the light in the dark.

Don’t avoid the pain. It’s meant for you. Let it leave you with the fuel to do more and be more. Let it have meaning.

We all get dealt bad blows. And when you do, you are acutely aware of people going through worse.

Life is always both. The good, the bad, the dark, the light. When you’re going through the dark times, remember the light. Try and find it. It’s always there.

Sometimes your life choices help you in ways you never thought about. Not having a permanent home has let me be there for my family so much more. Working as a contractor meant that I could work anywhere. I have been able to be physically present when it mattered and I could not have done that working a 9 to 5 job. This was not what I was thinking about when I made those choices but that was the outcome and I am blessed because of that.

It sounds cliché but you have to be grateful. Because when the sh*t hits the fan, people do amazing things.

I am grateful for all the love I’ve received this year. For the friends who have loved me through it. Who have made me laugh in spite of everything.

I have a beautiful memory of sitting by the water with a girlfriend and trading war stories about this past year. And all I could see was her light and all she could see was mine. That’s what life is about.

Being human hurts at times. Let it. Because it’s so beautiful too.

Jane is a freelance tour/event manager in the health world and has been lucky enough to work with some of her biggest heroes and inspirations. She has technically been homeless for 18 months now and hopes 2019 is the year she learns to sit still. But she will most definitely freak out if she signs a lease. She loves laughing, saying ‘wot?’ and knows all the best people in the world.

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

Happy 1st Birthday #STFTL! I can’t believe it’s been a year. We’ve had some good times, haven’t we? All those mornings reading your posts in bed instead of getting ready for work… I’ve treasured every one. You’re a breath of fresh air out here, girl, and we love you. Keep doing your thing!

When Carmela asked me to write this ‘one year on’ piece, I felt like a bit of a fraud, because very little has changed since this – I’m still very much the mother/wife/teacher/whinger I was a year ago. But I’m a whole year older now, so some things must have changed, surely.

I’m still teaching (it’s going good, thanks for asking), studying (also good), mothering (it’s good/relentless) and I suppose I’ve grown a little bit. I still don’t feel like a grown-up though, it’s like any minute now someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to step aside so the real grown-ups can take over.

Has anyone (a child, probably) ever told you they want to be like you when they grow up? I recently had this experience and I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit of a shock.

Not that a five-year-old might look up to me (she’s five, she doesn’t know any better) but that I’m considered a ‘grown-up’. Not just an adult, someone who has literally ‘grown up’, A GROWN-UP!

I looked at her little face and, after briefly wondering why my own kids don’t say these things to me (note: do not pull at this thread), I chuckled pretty lamely and said something like: “Oh, wow, and I’m not done growing yet!”

I’m willing to concede that at 32, I’m possibly not getting any taller at this point. And I admit I’ve done some grown-up things. I got married and had kids (not necessarily in that order), sometimes I buy the expensive tissues instead of the 99c ones and I know my tax file number by heart. Those seem like grown-up things.

But in lots of ways, I’m nowhere near grown-up. I have the attention span of a goldfish and still have a lot of things I want to achieve. I still run late in the mornings. I think thongs go with everything and I drink the cheapest wine I can stomach. I still don’t know what half the settings on my washing machine do and I can’t do eyeliner to save my life. At best, I’d say I’m en route to being a grown-up, but still a way off.

After some pretty self-indulgent reflection on my part, I think I’m in this weird, in-between stage where I still feel like a young person, but at the same time am bloody glad I’m not one. I guess that cliché about growing old, not growing up, is pretty spot on.

I love that I’m not in my twenties anymore. God, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for my thirties. Going to bed when I’m tired! Saying no to things! Making time for myself! Taking risks! Having a career! Being wiser, smarter, sexier (‘cause of the smarts) and not caring what people think of me! (At least, not as much as I used to). It’s bliss. I’d honestly never be a teenager again.

I don’t know if this feeling is unique to me or what, but frankly, I’m really enjoying getting older. Granted, in the scheme of things I’m still young, but so far I’m only getting more comfortable with myself with each passing year.

Wrinkles? Gimme ‘em. Grey hairs? Sure. Retirement? Farkin’ BRING IT. I know, I shouldn’t wish my life away (or my kids’ lives, since I’m supposed to be enjoying every precious moment, woopsee woops), but you can’t bloody tell me Gloria Steinem wasn’t onto something when she said this:

To that little girl who may one day read this (you just never know): don’t worry a damn about growing up, my darling. Eyeliner is hard, girlfriend, and to be honest the cheap wine does the same job. And f*** that washing machine, too. Just enjoy growing older.

Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m in my seventies, but this growing-up business can go jump. Growing older is where it’s at!

Caitlyn is a thirtyish-year-old teacher with a passion for good books and cheap wine. She has two children and an ever-patient husband, though her true love is Mexican food.

 

Happily Ever After? Guest King: MATT BASELEY

Happily Ever After? Guest King: MATT BASELEY

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

Well, here we are… one year on. Firstly, a huge congrats to #STFTL on their first year anniversary. I can’t even commit to making a cup of tea, so well done!

Speaking of tea, I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention an award I picked up this year. Bit of a humble brag, but it seems there was some kind of vote amongst the children of the world of ‘who the greatest Dad’ was.

They held the ceremony on Father’s Day and as a shock to me, I was awarded the trophy which comes in the form of a tea cup with the words ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ on it. So, yeah, pretty chuffed to receive such a prestigious award. I imagine it’s like winning a Logie. 😉

So other than winning the above mentioned award, what’s else has been happening in the last 12 months since this?

  • My 3 and half year old daughter ‘Billie’ has learnt how to crack eggs and worked out that Nanny Plum in Ben & Holly and Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig have the same voice! (So voice over actors, you’ve been put on notice, mix it up a little!!)
  • Clearly as you can probably tell by the above: I still haven’t got myself a ‘proper job’. I do get to dabble in the world of show-biz every now and then (thanks to my amazing wife and extended family), but stay-at-home-dad is what is on the email signature. It’s not really, it just says ‘Sent from my iPhone’.
  • I have become terrified of my 18 month old. I never experienced this fear with my first born, as I do with him (Ziggy). I feel like he warms you up by batting his eye lashes and giving you this cheeky grin, and then he will burn your fucking house down, but I love him all the same.
  • I ran a marathon… blah blah blah! I’ve pretty much told everyone I have come into contact with by shoehorning that into the conversation, so it’s only fair to them that I bore you with it too.
  • And, oh yeah, we are having another baby!!! Well, I’m not, my super wife will be. So yeah, another mini-human will be living with us early next year. Yep, we just really like the idea of being out numbered.

It’s funny telling people that you are having a third child. With the first one: people are thrilled like, genuinely excited for you.

The second: well, they kind of expected it. Especially considering they haven’t stopped asking you since the firstborn “Soooo, when are you going to have another one?” but, there is still that sense of excitement.

Some people would consider us lucky to have had a girl and a boy. I think it’s called the ‘pigeon pair’ (not sure why, except for the shit on the ground part). People would congratulate us on it (unlike when I won the award I mentioned earlier), but I did nothing to earn that congratulations; I couldn’t care less if we had two boys or two girls.

Telling people you’re having a third child when you already have the ‘pigeon pair’: the excitement from the first two announcements is replaced with more of a confusion. It’s always followed with “Why?” “But don’t you already have one of each?” “Are you fucking crazy?” Well, possibly. Grandparents excluded, they would have us breed a mixed netball team if they had their way.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a scenario where we needed to sync up our routines and make sure we were ‘doing it’ at that moment when the moon was aligned with the stars: we know how babies are made, but this wasn’t expected. And after the initial shock, we are now pretty damn excited/terrified. Bella & I had always dreamt of having three kids (weirdos), this just happened earlier than we thought.

When the newbie gets here: Billie will be 4, and Ziggy, 2. So much joy has come into my life through Billie & Zigs; a joy that I never knew I could experience. I can’t wait to do it all again. Sure, the dream-feeds, the witching hour and the fear that the baby isn’t breathing are pretty brutal, but the good far out weighs the bad and at least we’ve increased the odds of one of them looking after us in old age.

Something that people do keep telling us, that is true, is that ‘a party of 5’ changes everything.

This year we are saying goodbye to cool, grungy, eclectic, hipster filled suburb of Newtown in Sydney and we are off to the suburbs: the land of active wear, SUVs and wine memes.

We are super pumped about it, we’ve out grown this place, but it will always hold a special piece of our hearts. We will even miss the homeless man who uses our wall in the back lane as his urinal (every morning).

Whenever a mate of mine calls me, his first words are “You bought a KIA Carnival yet buddy?” We won’t be going down the people-mover path but a car change is definitely a reality. Unlike when I was growing up, there are actual safety rules when it comes to kids in cars, we need to have 3 car seats across the back seat until they are 8. I used to have to get in the boot of the station wagon of our Toyota Corona when we’d have Nan in the car.

Sure, we are going to need more arms, more patience, more food, more hours in the day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe ask me in a year if I feel the same way. 😉

Anyway, I’m considering anyone who has read this far as a willing babysitter and I’ll be in touch with your allocated times.

Thanks for your application,

Matt

Matt Baseley is a 34-year-old former pastry chef, who dreamt of captaining the Australian cricket team or playing the Phantom on Broadway but he wasn’t good enough at either, so he ended up working in commercial radio for almost 13 years. Matt is now a stay-at-home-dad, who also features as ‘that guy’ in a few TV commercials and a reporter on Channel 7’s Sydney Weekender.

@MattBaseley

Matt and Billie also have a ton of fun in the kitchen making healthy(ish) food in a simple, realistic way. You can follow their cooking adventures here. #CookingWithBillieCoco

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

 

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

 

First and foremost, it’s a real honour to be asked to come back and write for this incredibly empowering blog. I also want to thank the founder Carmela (CC) for giving me the power and encouragement to continue writing and for starting my own blog: Confessions Of A Married Woman.

From the bottom of my heart Carmela, I thank you for inspiring me and giving me the confidence and strength to keep doing this. You are a true friend and a real game changer!

The last time I wrote for #STFTL I was talking about how difficult marriage is, and has my mind changed? No. Not at all.

I still acknowledge its difficulty. Living with someone that can drive you insane on a fairly regular basis will drive you insane, literally. But I must also acknowledge the fact that it works both ways. My attention to detail, my pedantic way of placing glasses in the cupboard, how the t-shirts should be folded and how the towels should be hung up after use could drive somebody crazy too (and in reality, that somebody is my husband).

Do we argue about my anal retentiveness? Totally. Why am I like that? Because I just am. I can’t help it, but then again, I can. The question is: do I want to stop being like that? Sometimes I do, but then I wonder if I stop being so anal about one thing, then I will become lax about other things and then all the balls in the air that I juggle will come crashing down on me.

There seems to be a lot of balls and anal discussion, doesn’t there? 😉

Here is what I know a year on about marriage. Find your best friend to marry. Don’t marry a guy because he is rich, has a cool car, is good looking, is good in bed, looks good in a suit, seems like he comes from a nice family (but doesn’t). I know 95% of you wouldn’t be so superficial, but some people are.

If you do choose to marry somebody and it comes to your actual wedding day or the night before, week before, month before and you find yourself having second thoughts, don’t hesitate to call it off. I’ve had too many friends tell me that they had second thoughts before getting married but kept up the pretense because of silly reasons like, all the money spent on the wedding, not wanting to disappoint parents or family who have traveled such a long way. I’m calling bullshit. You were just too afraid to just come out and say it.

Of all the friends who have admitted to me that they wished they had called it off, 99% are now divorced. Yes that’s 99%! Not only did they enter into a marriage, they entered another family’s life (the bride or grooms). They created attachments and friendships with family members. They created children only to leave them all later and leave others picking up the pieces and everybody wondering ‘Why!?’ Just don’t do it in the first place.

Of course, you wouldn’t regret having the children, but you will always regret putting your children through that split-family situation. And perhaps a partner who you really don’t want your child exposed to.

Another thing that has happened in the past 12 months to my family unit is that my husband was summarily dismissed from his job. This was a job he dedicated more than 12 hours a day to. He was in management and loved by his team. When he came home before Christmas and told me what happened it was a shock to all: him, his staff and of course, us as a family.

I work from home mostly, so hubby now being home 24/7 has been a real learning curve for the both of us. It started out fun but then you realise you have no personal space and after about the 3rd month you want to kill each other. Figuratively, not literally. 😉

It’s nearly been a year. He too is working from home now and we have set out terms and conditions. Because I married my bestie, we are able to negotiate things reasonably well. We still have the occasional malfunction but mostly we respect each other’s ability to occasionally act like an asshole. No harm done, just stand back and wait for it to blow over.

Seriously, the better you know each other, the more you understand that you have to deal with someone you don’t like sometimes. That’s marriage. That why it’s called a partnership.

As I mentioned before, in my blog there’s a piece called Is it better to love? Or to like? where I write that I think it’s better to ‘like’ than it is to ‘love’. Love is temporary, it comes, it goes. But if you like somebody, you generally always will; even if they annoy you sometimes, because that is what a friendship is about. I’ve always thought the wedding vows should be ‘to LIKE in sickness and in health’, ‘not to LOVE in sickness and in health’ etc.

Obviously, I love my husband but over the years that love has changed and evolved. Sure, sometimes it de-evolves but more importantly, it also evolves. You can’t expect to feel the same way you did when you first got together.

Life changes, you both change, you grow as individuals, so your love changes too. I have his back and he has mine. Every marriage is different and different circumstances call for some creative thinking in what will make you both happy. Whatever works for you as a couple is what suits you as a couple. Don’t be caught up in the conventionality of marriage or partnerships. If it works, do it. Enough said.

When you are working, you tend to live to work and not work to live. You think you are building real bonds and friendships but most of the time you are being used to help others in your workplace. I know it’s hard to get your head around it, but trust me and my 45+ years of living; no one gives a shit about you once you leave your job. Maybe if you are lucky 1% will. Maybe.

The people who give a shit are the relationships you cultivate outside of work: your lovers, partners, husbands, girlfriends, family. They always will care about you, call you and love you. Most importantly they will ‘like’ you. Even if they call you an asshole, remember they’ve always got your back.

Ronni Swintek is a Mother, Wife, Woman of the World and Professional Media person.

@RonniFox

Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Hi, I’m Yen. I am a girl that’s super independent. I grew up believing in my strength, was taught to think that I am bold, that my words carry weight and can help change the world. I learnt that I am a force to be reckoned with when I’m standing on my own two feet, and when I must decide, for myself, I know what I want.

Throughout my early 20s, I had everything: a semi-successful startup brewing, found the greatest group of people I still call my best friends today, moved to the other side of the world, travelled alone and graduated in the top two percentile of my university. Yep, all before 22.

I always knew I was super independent, it probably came with being the eldest sibling and a Virgo (think Beyoncé, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sheryl Sandberg: just to name drop a few). 😉

I was used to walking fast, spending my own money and opening my own doors. I learnt to trust myself and knew who I was through falling down and picking myself back up. I found my niche in the world, paving my own way, presenting my own smile and sense of self to whoever I met. I wasn’t used to balancing myself with another person. I wasn’t used to needing someone, or allowing anyone to help.

YEN

My independence definitely contributed to the destruction of my relationships in my early 20s too. I drove men crazy because I didn’t let them do everything for me. I didn’t let them cater to my every need. I refused to let them pay for every date.

I sometimes wouldn’t let them be the manly-man, the savior, the strong suitor that they so desperately wanted to be for me. It’s wasn’t on purpose; it’s just because I was used to being my own savior. Someone even told me to ‘pretend and be a little less independent, just so they can feel you need them’.

Somehow, something still didn’t feel right. And along the way, I lost my independence: I became that friend who disappeared off the face of the earth because she got a boyfriend. But I fell into this trap, of believing I had to dumb myself down just to make a boy feel better about himself.

My last breakup reminded me how much I needed to put myself first again and regain everything I knew about being independent. Although that breakup shattered my world, it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to be in a relationship with anyone else but myself.

Maybe it was a time for me to fix myself and change. Appreciate myself more and to never make the same mistake. To achieve more goals and more importantly find happiness. To hopefully one day understand, that I’ll attract the right things when I have a sense of who I am.

I had spontaneously decided to accept a job in London (the other side of the world) and pack up and leave within weeks. I had lived in London back in 2011 while studying there and had always called it my ‘home away from home’, so when the offer came through I couldn’t reject it. I called my best friend and told her I was coming, and recalled saying “I have nothing to lose”. I didn’t make plans to come home, or let alone have a plan? I was ready to accept whatever it was that the universe had installed. I felt so free.

yen 2

yen 3

The week my visa appointment with the UK consulate got booked: I met a guy who I never imagined would mean so much to me today. You see, I was so focused on my life that I was completely blind-sided; a relationship was the last thing I was looking for. On our second date, I had no choice but to tell him I was leaving the country. I felt like I owed this to him and was super nervous delivering the update. That’s when I knew, I really liked him.

I asked for answers “Why throw me a bone now universe? I am about to go on an adventure of a lifetime! Do you want me to stay in Melbourne?” I even went to church and a temple to find clarity. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.

I still left for London and to my understanding we weren’t official. But the distance didn’t change how we both felt about each other. Sure the different time zones were hard but we made it work. Last minute, I booked a flight home so I could surprise this guy on his birthday.

I was super super nervous, I mean, who was I to him to do that? We weren’t even official or anything exclusive! I knew I was taking a big chance. I guess that’s the whole issue with being independent yet a hopeless romantic too. Naturally, we then agreed to a long distance relationship because he acknowledged my dreams and supported it no matter how tough it was going to be.

You see, when you fall for a girl that’s independent, you will get frustrated. She’s used to doing things for herself and by herself. She’s used to following her own rules, making her own decisions, being selfish with her time. It will take a bit for her to get used to putting someone else first, to moulding her life to shape both yours and hers together. Don’t get me wrong, she won’t have trouble loving you, but she might, at first struggle to let you in.

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A long distance relationship ended up being the best thing for me. I learnt to prioritise a relationship; scheduling in calls with confusing time differences, improving communication skills and letting someone into my life, knowing I can still continually work on myself.

I learnt to let the small things go, had to invest a lot of trust in someone, believe that not all guys are bad (something that doesn’t come easy for me), to compromise and have patience, extreme patience. And finally, I learnt that when time and luck crossed paths the universe would find me a guy who will fall in love with my driven, spontaneous, independent character.

Go travel the world, battle your demons, set up a business, find people who value your heart and yours will attract. Don’t apologise for working hard, for having goals and being independent: we need more girls like this.

When the right person comes along, they will support you unconditionally and when you do come across that person, know that you deserve them.

I hope you love yourself enough to recognise the things you don’t like about your life, and I hope you find the courage to change them. And I hope somewhere out of the unexpected, a person comes along who will love and support you on your journey too.

Yen started her career in public relations with aspirations to work in the fashion industry, she became curious with e-commerce and technology and evolved her career to where she is now. Awarded Australian Best Young Marketing Talent (2016) for spearheading numerous innovations in her field, she is a passionate marketer with an entrepreneurial edge focused on overachieving outcomes. Competitive at heart, she never wanted to settle for just a nine-to-five job and saw an opportunity start her own business while still working a full-time job. People often mistaken Yen to be quite timid on first impression, but little do they know that she enjoys confrontation, is super opinionated and will definitely shut down dickhead behaviour (if she sees it). Her upbringing has been quite colourful (a story for another time) but as a result she is now super passionate about raising diversity issues (in every form) and empowering young girls to chase their dreams through running mentorship programs and teaching at a university outside of her side hustles.

@yhoang

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

I just remember being so fucking angry.

Why is it that a chick on crack can deliver perfectly healthy babies? And here I am, off alcohol, off ham, off mouldy cheese, off everything!! And yet, my babies – yes, plural – babies! Are fighting for their fucking lives?

It was at this point, the NICU psychologist suggested I continue my sessions.

The NICU.  The Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

It’s a world unto itself.

My hope is, you never have to experience it. It’s where all the really sick babies go; and the lower your bed number, the sicker you are.

My twins occupied beds 1 and 2, for over six weeks. It was only about half of their time in hospital… and yet, we were lucky!

Hi. My name is Tam, and I was never going to have kids. I have one ovary (the result of an ovarian cyst removed during an endometriosis operation). However, in a bizarre twist of fate, I conceived on the first attempt at pregnancy.

So again, lucky right?!

Yep. These are the things I kept telling myself, sitting bedside in the NICU, while twin 2 stopped breathing for the 10th time that morning.

It had already been a difficult pregnancy! At 12 weeks, I’d been told I was having a miscarriage. Only to discover, I’d actually lost one of three.

At 20 weeks my water broke, and I was told to abort the pregnancy, and start again. I ignored that advice, and decided to take it day by day.

Every day was a long day. Especially after the twins had been born. Welcome, 12 to 15 hour shifts sitting bedside in the NICU. These are my children. I love them. But I couldn’t sit for 15 hours a day.

I couldn’t sit there and watch them stop breathing every three to four hours, only to be brought back to life. With that moment of hesitation every now and then, when the regular ‘tricks’ didn’t work. When the monitor kept triggering the non-responsive alarm a few too many times; wondering if this was it. Am I going to lose a baby right now, in this moment?

It was mentally draining.  Day in.  Day out.

My only reprieve was going to milk myself in what we called the ‘boob room’ every three or so hours. Hooking my massive twin mum melons up to a double suction machine, to get every last drop of milk out for the twins’ current diet of 1ml, every two hours. Yep. 1 ml!!!

Fun fact: even when you deliver a baby 15 weeks early, your body knows you’ve expelled life, and starts producing milk.

Just a reminder, my name is Tam.

The woman with: one ovary, two premmie babies and a gazillion tears.

A miracle mum to twins born at 25 weeks gestation.

I can tell you, at 25 weeks, babies are U.G.L.Y.

Their skin is transparent.  They still have hair all over their bodies. And they’re small.  So small. Imagine a tub of margarine, and add a half. That was the size of the twins. Less than 30 cms long from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes.

Black eyes, because their eyes actually haven’t developed yet. And their lungs are so tiny, they actually can’t operate on their own; so they need breathing assistance, 24 hours a day.

Add to this, a Swine Flu outbreak.

It’s 2009, and Melbourne is reeling from a Swine Flu epidemic. I walked into the NICU, and the section where beds 1 and 2 are, is isolated. The rest of the beds in that room have also been removed.

There’s a certain kind of paperwork across a bed area, next to twin 2, so I know someone’s baby has died.

Truth is, I saw that baby dying the day before, when the nurses called a code blue. I left my babies’ bedside that day, so the mother of the dying baby could spend time alone with her miracle. The mother of that baby saw me the day after. She didn’t speak to me. She simply squeezed my arm in appreciation for allowing her to be with her baby privately.

For us, the isolation meant five days of sitting bedside wearing face masks and waiting for the results of two blood tests. Finally we discovered the twins didn’t contract Swine Flu.

What they did contract though, was a certain ability to talk to each other subliminally.

Still, Twin 1 wasn’t well at all.  For the best part of nearly two months, machines had been doing the breathing for her. As her mother, I’d only held her a handful of times in those eight weeks. In fact, it was seven days before I got to first hold her after she was born. Seven fucking days. An entire week of not being able to hold my newborn daughter.

I had to sit beside her crib, and just watch a machine breathe for her, holding onto her tiny little leg while another blood transfusion made its way through her translucent foot.

It was at this time, twin 2 needed an operation that could only be performed at a different hospital. So, off we went in the morning for surgery. There was no room in the NICU for twin 1 post-surgery at this other hospital; so we were on ward. It was AWFUL.

I pleaded to get my boy back to the same hospital as his sister, and back into the same NICU and as fate would have it, we luckily qualified for the last transport ambulance for the ‘week’.

We made our way back to the hospital where twin 1 was pulling her usual ‘help me breathe’ routine. As twin 2 was wheeled past twin 1 on his way back to his crib, he stopped breathing.

Alarms start ringing. Twin 1 then decides to stop breathing also. More alarm bells!

The nurses put twin 1 and twin 2 side by side. They both start breathing fine. No alarms.

And this continued for the entire night.

This was my life. Watching these tiny, tiny humans communicate through lung capacity!

I had visitors during the week, each helping me take my mind off the fact that one or both of the twins could die at any second. But it was the weekends that were the longest.

One weekend hubby would be down, relieving the pressure on me for a few hours. The next weekend, I’d be on my own.

We lived four hours away from the hospital and with a mortgage to pay, another child to care for… there were only so many times he could come and visit.

I remember thanking the guy at the local coffee shop with a card when we were allowed to leave the hospital. He pretended to understand why I had looked forward to his coffee every Tuesday afternoon. He really had no idea.

No one has any idea how hard it is to have a premmie baby, unless you’ve actually had one (let alone two).

This isn’t meant to be an ‘I’ve done it harder’ story. This is simply a ‘Fuck, I did it hard’ story, that you may or may not identify with.

Either way.  Motherhood…

It’s the hardest, most rewarding, awful, beautiful, gratifying, disheartening, fucked up, beautiful thing… ever!

I just hope your journey, doesn’t include a NICU. But, if it does, I’m here if you need to talk.

Tam Heinjus is an overworked, underpaid creative writer who writes for passion when she can’t pay the bills. A woman who tries hard to be a good mother, wife and friend… and fails miserably at all three some days.

Tam Heinjus

365 Real Days