Guest Kween: SIMONE WHALAN “What Happens After You ‘Wait’ Till Marriage!”

Guest Kween: SIMONE WHALAN “What Happens After You ‘Wait’ Till Marriage!”

Having someone you love and know really cherishes you is special and rare but greater than that, is having someone who loves and cherishes you, when you are going through your toughest times.

This year, I will be celebrating 12 years of marriage to my husband Andrew.

We wanted to build a life-long marriage of 50-60 years, so we knew we needed to build strong foundations from the start and not just get swept up in the excitement of a new relationship. I always wanted my first time to be with my husband on our wedding night. For me it meant that I was completely in this relationship; that my whole heart was in it.

We had both been hurt in relationships before and hurt others too. I had spent time healing, becoming confident in myself and with being on my own before needing another relationship. I had learnt to love myself more than ever and wasn’t reliant on needing that love from someone else to be ok anymore.

I was drawn to Andrew’s joy and quirkiness; which seem to fit with me perfectly.

We met in Melbourne. Andrew asked me out while I was living there but I felt I wasn’t ready to commit. Andrew waited and asked me out again once I moved back to WA.

Long distance relationships can be tricky but also really great. We spent the time getting to know each other by writing letters. Each week we would ask questions and answer them in the next letter. Some questions were fun and silly but some were also tough: like what were our strengths, weaknesses and insecurities. We were honest and vulnerable but we were invested in trying to understand each other.

Eventually, Andrew moved over to WA to spend time getting to know my family as well and boy, did he romance me. There was no denying this man truly adored me. He spent a whole night filling up my room with balloons (which he blew each by mouth) just to surprise me, he took me on picnics, and he asked me to marry him one morning, after a beautiful walk along the beach. Those times were amazing and we married in May 2007.

We moved back to Melbourne and began our life together. There were some big adjustments.

Let’s be honest, I was not great with having my own house, living with someone 24/7 and suffered some serious home sickness. But it wasn’t until two years into our marriage, that we had our first big test.

Just before our wedding, I had found out my dad had died. I hadn’t seen him since I was little, so I shut down my emotions and said I would deal with it later. I was ok to never look at it again but I became withdrawn, unhappy and just not myself; this grief was trying to come out and it was scaring me.

Andrew was also struggling with the fact that this person he married, wasn’t the same person he fell in love with. But Andrew gave me space and didn’t try to fix me or change me. We went on a road trip to outback South Australia and met my dad’s family, visited his grave and I finally grieved.

I knew there would be a time when I would return the favour and be strong for him too.

Following on, we continued living in the city of Melbourne, running our own cafe for a couple of years and enjoying married life once more.

In that time, we had three children in four years and needless to state, life got busy, really busy. I struggled after the birth of our second child (later to realise it was PND) and at the same time the pressure was mounting for Andrew.

I had noticed that Andrew and I weren’t talking as much and he didn’t quite seem himself but at the end of the day when the kids were asleep, we were both exhausted too, so I would put it down to that. This went on for six months (maybe more) until we finally talked and I learnt that the heaviness of life and fatherhood was affecting him.

This was now my time to be brave for him, to listen, give him space and help him get the support of family and friends.

From these difficult times, things needed to change: like making sure we both have a ‘time out’ from the kids, see our friends and do things we both enjoy. We acknowledge that these are simple things, but they’re also the first things we both drop or forget when life gets a bit too much.

It’s easier writing all this down now but as someone who has always struggled to open up about her feelings, it can still be a challenge. I guess, I grew up believing this lie that no one really cared about what I thought or felt, so I shouldn’t express it. I now choose every day to speak up and be honest instead of letting this lie rule my life and relationship.

Learning to communicate freely with each other, without fear of judgement has been the greatest tool we have.

If we hadn’t spent that time at the start of our relationship to really get to know and respect each other, would things be different? I’m sure there are always going to be misunderstandings and rough times in a relationship, no matter how strong your foundation is. But I do believe, building our strong foundation, gave our relationship the best chance it had to succeed.

For my children, I hope they will see what a relationship of love and honour is like from us directly and that they will not settle for less. I want my children to be able to build life-long relationships too and to become the men and women who know who they are and what they are worth.

In these 12 years there has been a lot of laughs, and yes, at times many tears too. We have had some incredible years together and some years, we are just happy we managed to survive. We know that with children, the daily routine of life and being human, there will always be trials. But I am thankful every day that I have my best friend and my partner for life by my side, ready for whatever life throws at us next.

Simone is a 30 something living in Melbourne. She is a wife, mother of 3 and lover of all things bright and colourful. Is there such thing as too much colour? Simone doesn’t think so!

📸: @me_as_mum

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.

Kween Krush: EBONY MELLOWSHIP “Turning Pain Into Power With Tattoos.”

Kween Krush: EBONY MELLOWSHIP “Turning Pain Into Power With Tattoos.”

Kween Krush alert!! This is where we celebrate everyday women for being complete badass Wonder Women.

Ebony, hubba hubba, guurl do we have an Aaron Carter-size crush on you!! Not only do you have some bangin’ style, look like a goth-punk-rock goddess, have a heart of platinum gold, are funny AF but you also have some mad mad tatts skillzzzz. So bare with me while I celebrate the insane human that you are!

How long have you been a tattoo artist for?

It’s just come up to eight and a half years. I can’t believe it’s been that long!!

What made you decide to become a tattoo artist? Did it start with a love for art and design?

I guess I always wanted to do something creative, as I had an interest in art growing up but I didn’t really know what to do with it and more importantly, how I could possibly have a long term career making enough clams to get by as an ‘artist’.

I only really considered being a ‘tattoo artist’ when I was about 17/18 and started getting my first few tattoos but again, I didn’t know how to go about it. To me, the tattoo industry was one of those industries that seemed like a secret society, and I was always so intimidated going into studios. I had a little taste when I was 19 in a local studio in Bunbury, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I got my apprenticeship in Margaret River.

You are totally covered in tatts yourself, face/hands/chest/arms… how did this come about?

Just a natural progression I think. Looking at it now, I definitely got a few tattoos on my body before I should have. Generally you’re meant to wait until you have a fair amount of coverage, like full sleeves etc before you get your hands done but I just did it anyway cos I was 19 and a dickhead and wanted to. That’s also why I have loads of shitty tattoos too haha.

Was there a particular pivotal moment in your life that sparked this journey of self-expression?

I don’t know if it was one moment, but I do believe this is just where I was meant to end up. My parents have always been super encouraging, my dad especially when it came to pursuing something in the ‘arts’ and doing something creative and whether it would be just for me or something I would try and build a career out of.

Also the bands I listened to heavily influenced the way I dressed (some of those early 2000s choices I’d like to forget about lol) and me getting my first couple tattoos, but I have no regrets as it all played a part in leading me to tattooing.

Not that I condone giving a fuck about what other people think, but what is the general reaction to your tattoos? Even in today’s world is there any discrimination that comes along with it?

Hahaha yeah, I don’t condone that at all too but it’s still hard isn’t it? I’m 31 and as much as I like to believe that I’m past caring what people think, there’s still times where I can’t help but be affected by people’s reactions when they’re negative.

It’s more the looks people give you, and just the staring in general. I’ve had people say to me over the years that I must get tattooed or dress/look a certain way because I like the attention but that’s sooo far from it. Why can’t people just do what the fuck they want without it having to be about others?

You’ve travelled a bit and lived in various locations as a tattoo artist, what is the community like? Is it a more different crowd, a group that are more accepting of individuality? Or is not that deep?

I haven’t done nearly as much travel as I’d like, especially with tattooing. I get too anxious and find it hard to push myself out of my safe little shop bubble, but I’m going to keep working at that! There are so many conventions and guest spots I’d like to do all over the world. The tattoo community is great, especially the ‘lady tattooer’ community!

I think it just comes along with being in this industry, by nature everyone is more accepting. We’re all a bunch of weirdos, so we have to be!!

Your tattoos are incredible and your talents recognised amongst your peers. How scary is it to tattoo another human? Especially big, detailed, important tattoos?

Aw geez thaaaanks! It’s TERRIFYING!! I have the hardest time convincing myself that I’m doing an ok job. Huge case of imposter syndrome.

It usually serves me better to just pretend it’s not a big deal, because if I overthink it. I stress too much about upcoming jobs and beat myself up about little things; there’s a lot of expectation.

I think every tattoo is important you know, as it always is for the person that’s getting it. Surprisingly, it’s usually the small ones that are harder or that I worry over more because there’s less room for error!

Have you ever royally fucked it up? Lol!

Haha, I haven’t had any maaaajor fuck ups. I’ve definitely made some mistakes; you’re still working on a living, moving human so those things happen.

In the early days I did heeeeeaps of shit tattoos that I still sometimes lose sleep over, but you have to start somewhere I guess ha.

You mentioned the ‘lady tattooer community’ before, what’s the culture of working as a ‘female’ tattoo artist? Can it be a bit of a boys club too?

Yeah I think it’s definitely a boys club, it always has been but it’s shifted a lot and yes, there’s now this incredible female tattooer community that I feel so lucky and proud to be a part of. Especially in the last few years and seeing how things have changed, it’s way less cliquey.

I’m part of a few online groups of lady tattooers and it’s so nice to have a safe space to talk to your peers and to get constructive criticism/advice on your work. You don’t have to be concerned about asking for help or being shut down and it’s just so welcoming and uplifting; there’s no ego or bullshit.

How would you describe your childhood/teenage years? Do you think it played a big part in the person you are now?

I had a bit of a shit time growing up tbh. I was bullied pretty mercilessly for my weight and appearance and still am sometimes. I’m fucking fat guys, get over it, jeeeeesus.

Theres so much more good stuff in my life but the negative and traumatic has had a way more profound effect on me. Obviously it would have been waaay better not to have had people pour off-milk on my head and call me a fat cunt everyday (soooo not still bitter about it), I guess I am who I am because of all of it haha.

Well, I LOVE YOU and I’m so sorry that you had to experience such awful behavior like that.

Lena Dunham claims she started tattooing her body to take back control of it. Is this too your perception on body image/body confidence and being body shamed? And is this in any relation to tattooing your body?

Yeah I guess if I open up about it on a deeper level than just ‘I hell like tats’, having tattoos definitely makes me feel more confident with my body; it’s something I choose to do and have control over.

I’ve experienced my fair share of body shaming, I don’t know any woman that hasn’t unfortunately. I love the idea of tattoos being something that people use to empower themselves!

I self-harmed for a lot of my teenage years: from when I was about 11 until my early 20s and getting tattooed had a huge (positive) impact on my mental health. I don’t really know how to explain it because I haven’t really mentioned it before this, but I think wanting something rad or colourful instead of cuts and scars made me kind of stop and I thought about my body differently because of having tattoos. It’s something I liked about myself.

I’ve had most of my scars tattooed over, and I’m in the position now where I can do the same for others. I’ve been lucky enough to tattoo quite a few people over their scars and I know first hand how healing that is!!

You really are one-in-a-million Kween. Did I state already that I love you and want to watch you sleep? (Too much?!) 😋

Actually I’ve also noticed, you’ve recently connected with a beau, in a modern fairy tale way! Dish dish dish!! Tell us all about it!?

Eeeeeee!!!

We met through Facebook! We’d been friends on there since 2012 (crazy) but hadn’t ever spoken. He had liked a few of my selfies over the years haha and then he randomly messaged me last year and we’ve pretty much talked everyday since then. He’s Irish but lives in New Zealand, so we didn’t actually meet in person until a couple of weeks ago when he flew here. Now I’m moving to NZ because we’re in loooove and I’m so so happy. He’s my first BF and he’s so sweet and funny and handsome (and did I mention Irish?) and I just love and adore him!!!

HOORAY!! This my kind of happily ever after. Yasss.

Knowing what you know now, what’s one thing you’d tell your younger self?

I know it’s super cliche, but just that things will get better. That your worth isn’t based on others opinions of you and it’s definitely not defined by how you look. And also read more!!!

Any advise to other bad ass beautiful Kweens trying to find themselves or are struggling to embrace their uniqueness?

Surround yourself with the best damn girl gang you can. I have soooo many incredible women in my life who do nothing but support and love me, but are also strong enough to call me out if I’m being an asshole. Seeing yourself from your friends’ perspective because of how they treat and value you for literally just being you, is fucking beautiful and made me realise maybe I’m not such a piece of shit afterall.

@ebony_mellowship

Ebony and Carmela went to high school together. Carmela remembers feeling x1000 cooler whenever Ebony was around, like something special was going to happen; and it always did! Also Eb had the knack of making Carmela laugh till just a little bit of a pee would come out. Carmela’s fondest memory of Ebony is when she they got ready for a house party together at her place and she did the most rad make up on her face. Carmela is lucky she had an ‘Ebony’ around when she was going through those awkward teenage years and she hopes you did too, because ‘Ebonys’ are the tits!!

 

Prince Charming: PAUL RIGGIO

Prince Charming: PAUL RIGGIO

Prince Charming alert!! This is where we celebrate the kick ass men in today’s world who are setting the bar high when it comes to love and respect.

Introducing Paul Riggio:

1) Describe yourself in three words:

Resilient, instinctive, ambitious, spontaneous, compassionate, introspective, complex… What’s the word for someone who can’t count?

2) What do you think a modern-day Prince Charming is? 

Does he even exist? Ha! The enchanting champion who saves the day and whose heroic actions earn him the highly sought-after princess as his prize… [record scratch].     Hang on, it’s 2018! Do we even want him to exist?

No, thank you! Ain’t nobody taking me as a prize (although my other half has scored the jackpot… and don’t I keep reminding him! Jokes people!!).

My ‘new-age’ prince charming isn’t charging solo. Rather, we’re riding side-by-side. PC’s got my back and I’ve got his. He’s giving me strength when I require it and support when I need it. PC never pulls the reigns to hold me back. Instead, he’s there to push me forward. And it’s vice versa. Because together we will triumph. And together we make each other our best selves. And that’s the real prize. Thanks PC!

3) What’s one piece of advice you would give to young men? 

Let’s be honest, you’re gonna be a bit of a ‘dick’ for the most part of your late adolescence and early adulthood. To each other, to your family, to those you fancy. We all were… blame the testosterone. Whether it’s trying to impress mates, trying to assert our newly developed masculinity, trying to prove ourselves…

So, my advice would be to always have respect for yourself and for others. Even when you’re trying to ‘become a man’ in those turbulent years. Look to your role models and follow their lead. Let them and the ‘good guy’ on your shoulder guide you. And for goodness sake, listen!

4) What does feminism mean to you? Would you call yourself a feminist?  

It’s the understanding that women are equal in society and must be ensured every opportunity possible throughout it, without diminished status or reward. That women not only offer just as much to society as men, but also have a unique and significant perspective that must be heard. It’s about the freedom of women to make their own decisions regarding their life, their body, career, family, finances and future.

Feminism has been a tough fight and there’s still a way to go (let’s take a moment to celebrate those courageous women that have been at the forefront of this today and throughout history) but feminism for me is a celebration of women; all that they are, all that they offer, and all that has been achieved.

But it’s more than all of this. It’s also about believing that most of us out there want the same for all women, regardless of our sex. So feminism is also about embracing those out there that share the same belief. I know plenty of cracking guys who are all for equality for women and they should be embraced and celebrated as change. And yes, us blokes need to pull our socks up, me included but don’t we all, men and women alike, when it comes to these important social issues?

Feminism can too often get misrepresented and reduced to be ‘Man Vs. Woman’ or ‘man-bashing’. I think feminism should be about leading by example to continue to make further progress and I think we can all take heed of that.

I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist and I’ve never labelled myself as one. I’m not on the picket lines or in the trenches like the courageous women I tipped my hat to earlier and who have earned the right to be called feminists. I do know that I wholeheartedly believe no matter your sex, ethnicity, religion or sexuality, we all deserve the opportunity to be and give our best, free from judgement, persecution or inequality. I like the term ‘feminist ally’, I’m cool with that and proud to say it.

5) Which Kweens have influenced your life? How did that make an impact on your life/career?

How lucky am I to have so many important, influential, magnificent women in my life?

It all begins with my mum. She’s the strongest woman I know. Despite the unbelievable number of serious medical conditions she has to deal with, she’s as tough as nails and has never given up (I reckon I’d have thrown the towel in long ago).

She’s battled her demons openly and always with a brave face; even with the resulting mental health issues that after decades of ill health and chronic pain have chipped away at her spirit. And even with all that, she managed a family of four kids, a home and the finances. She did that because dad was out busting his gut working two and three jobs or night-shifts to bring in enough money, so mum could keep us fed, housed, clothed and educated.

Mum is courageous, curious, loving, selfless and fierce. She taught us to be independent (she will now tell you we’re all too independent) and encouraged us to work hard, respect one another and find what makes us happy.  I’ve certainly done that and now that my career has me living around the world, which I know she hates because of the distance, she is still proud and supportive. It also gives her major bragging rights with her girlfriends (I’ll allow her this fantasy).

Mum’s a dinner-and-a-show kinda gal now. She loves a night out, a dance when she’s up to it, music, a laugh and meeting new people. She’ll never admit it but she also loves a good feed and to feed others. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree on all of the above!

Just quickly, I have also had some incredibly inspiring female teachers who set me on the path of following what I was passionate about, even if I copped shit for it. There also many strong and independent women in my family including my sister, my aunts, my grandmother, and my nieces that have helped shape the man I’ve become. And some gloriously sassy, smart, accomplished girlfriends who have, and continue to, support and inspire me everyday.

Oh! And Oprah!! Who captivated a prepubescent, skinny, awkward, camp-ish, ethnic kid who wasn’t sure where he fitted in and made him believe he could get a job in TV. Here I aaaaammmmm! (I won’t be giving away cars anytime soon though).

6) What are your working relationships like with women?

I don’t think it’s unusual (certainly not with the people I have worked so closely with in my career) to have nothing but strong, collaborative working relationships with women. I have always thrived working alongside talented and intelligent women and have learnt a great deal from many of them who have guided and mentored me. 

7) What do you hope for men and women in the future?

I hope we get to the day where we can focus on our similarities, not our differences and that the unique qualities and perspectives we all have as individuals is celebrated.

8) Which fairy tale character, do you most identify with? Or who would play you in a movie? 

Aladdin! He’s an energetic, cheeky, smart kid who walks his own path. He’d be the class clown today: disruptive and impatient because he is preoccupied and easily excited by all kinds of people, the big world out there and the lessons that he knows they will teach him. He’s kind and generous and definitely someone not to be underestimated.

Is it a little weird that I was kind of attracted to the animated character when I was a kid watching the film? Weren’t we all?

Oh, and Stanley Tucci would totally play me in a movie. Am I right?

Paul Riggio is currently an Executive Producer for global media company FremantleMedia, one of the leading creators, producers and distributors of television brands in the world. He’s an accomplished television producer and show-runner with over 15 years hands-on experience working on some of the biggest international, entertainment and studio formats in Australia, Asia and the USA. This includes the Asian Television Award winning, ‘Asia’s Got Talent’, the International Emmy Award nominated format, ‘La Banda’, ‘Australia’s Got Talent’, ‘The X Factor’, ‘Australian Idol’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Paul also became an elected member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (International Emmys) in 2017.

Showbiz aside, Paul’s talents also extends to ordering ‘everything’ off the menu, picking out a great bottle of red, finding grammatical errors in your Facebook posts, singing in perfect harmony, and serving flawless lewks and moves on the d-floor (choreographed and improvised).  

Paul too is one of Carmela’s closest friends, hell he’s more like family! He’s her confidant and conscience. The Karen to her Grace, the Olivia to her Mellie, the ‘Paul’ to her Ru. 😉

Carmela’s so thrilled that Paul could be the first ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied… Prince Charming’.

Kween Kulture: HANNAH GADSBY ‘Nanette’.

Kween Kulture: HANNAH GADSBY ‘Nanette’.

Image result for hannah gadsby nanette

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“Anger is never constructive. Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure.”

No matter what your view is on gender dysphoria, feminism, mental health, homosexuality or even Donald Trump, I highly doubt you will get to the end of this comedy special (if you can call it that) and feel nothing. 

Gadsby is changing the world of comedy with her story. When I think about her now, my heart fills with joy, sadness and hope, all at the same time.

If there’s one thing you watch this weekend, make it be ‘Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette’.

Hannah, thank you- Carmela Contarino

“Boys will be boys and women will be careful, so can we just get men to be men?”

“You’d still get a grown ass president denying any wrong doing though.”

“I don’t feel comfortable in a small town, I get a bit tense, mainly because I’m this situation.”

“Lesbians give feedback, men, opinions.”

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The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

friends-unemployed

In my twenties I hit the ground running, I was focused, zealous and fearless. Some would even say I ‘peaked’ too soon. I landed my dream job at the age of 23 and was on more money than my parents combined at 24, but by 25 it all came crashing down. It wasn’t completely dire afterwards, though I had to rebuild. Everything I thought I knew was no longer. Everything that used to be, now was different. I went from co-hosting a Sydney radio breakfast show which had me interviewing celebrities and getting dressed up for red carpet events to someone who worked at a newsagents, a clothes shop and a jewelry store just to make her rent.

Eventually I got another job in radio, but it came with half the profile and therefore half the money: so I had to keep working one of my part-time gigs. I was also lucky enough to land a manager who booked me regular spots on national TV shows (which straight after I would run to the newsagents and be confronted by customers with: “Didn’t I just see you on TV?”).

Slowly but surely and by that, I mean with a hell of a lot of persistence and tears, everything went back to the way it had been. Bigger radio and TV jobs came along. Some would even say I was ‘back on top’.

My point is, this definitely isn’t a bust out the violins story but, in my twenties, I thought I knew what it meant to struggle and to have ups and downs in my career.

Enter my thirties.

When I was 29, I left my life in Sydney and risked it all for a new, happier life in London. Looking back on it now I can understand why my friends were constantly saying “I don’t know how you’re doing this, I could never!” “Are you fucking mad?” “You brave bitch!” I was moving to a new city, with nowhere to live, no job prospects and no support network.

Also enter a new phase of my career: where I was basically starting all over again. I became familiar with the term the ‘British guard’ meaning: anything I did in Australia didn’t count unless I had done it in the UK. So, while I took meeting after meeting with different TV/production companies and radio stations, I was working in a pub earning a minimum wage of 6 pounds an hour, pouring beers, rolling cutlery and dodging mice.

I came over with some coin to get me started but the conversion rate at the time was shocking: so more than half of what I saved was just gone. Yes, I should have researched more. Yes, I should have put aside more money before I left and I know I’m ultimately responsible for my own life, my own choices, my own actions and therefore my own shortcomings but in my (slight) defense: I was the first in my immediate family to do this. My Mum and Dad had just as much of a clue as I did. Cousins who had done it before did talk about their own ‘London war stories’ but they were from over a decade ago (therefore outdated) and I guess if I had really looked into how fucking hard this was all going to be, I may have chickened out and never done it. Blind hope and a little bit of that fearlessness that I had when I first moved to Sydney at the age of 21 was what I needed again at the age of 31.

So, slowly but surely (but with a hell of A LOT more persistence and tears this time) everything went back to the way it was, I started to get those TV and radio jobs again. I bet you’re thinking that this is where the story ends but either there’s something wrong with me or the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ really is true.

After 8 months of being ‘back in the game’ I was more miserable than I was when I first moved to London. I was working 14-hour days, 6-7 days a week, my time was filled with catering for the same narcissistic evil radio hosts I came to know and loathe in Sydney and my life was no different to what it was in Australia. “Why was I here?” “What was I trying to prove?” “Was I really doing this for me? Or was I doing it to show those assholes back home that I could do it without them?” (even though the folklore goes that they were ones responsible for my success overseas **eye roll**).

So once again, I packed it all in for the search of something more. I returned home to Australia. I was back under my parents’ roof. I was living in my childhood bedroom (that I shared with my nephew whenever he would sleep over). I went on the dole. I then got a full-time job at the first radio station I ever worked at (which ignited that bright-eyed naive-of-sorts passion again). I got my Italian passport. Cleared my credit card debt. Saved more money to come back over to London with (this time fully aware of what the f**king conversion rate was). Reconnected with my family and friends and prepared for London 2.0.

Initially, I thought I had ‘cracked the code’. Yep, thanks to my new-found research and life experiences London 2.0 was off to a much better start. I aligned myself with recruitment agencies that got me work in environments that were not media-based. I was on better money. I had a better work-life-balance. I was home by 6pm every night. I didn’t work weekends. I had savings for the ‘just in case’ and most of my travels booked for the rest of the year were already paid for. More importantly, I learnt that what I did for a job didn’t define me. I was kicking London in the dick.

So I thought.

Unfortunately London 2.0 hasn’t also been without its psychotic flatmates and work contracts ending unexpectedly.

In the last few months, I was let go at work, forced to move out of the flat I was living in, put all my belongings into black plastic bags and have had them sitting at Carly’s place while I rent out her Airbnb room. I also had to finance two trips back home to Australia. In this time I applied for 60 jobs on LinkedIn alone and woke most mornings with the anxiety that if I don’t find a job soon, I would be homeless and broke in the very near future. Fun! Yeah, London 2.0 has been just as hard at times too.

The good news? I have finally secured another job and I’ll move into my new pad at the beginning of next month. Phew! Today also marks another year that I’ve survived this bad-ass city. Yaasss!!

So the real moral of the story is: while I was home back in Australia for those months in 2016, I witnessed my 60-year-old Dad (who also happened to find himself unemployed) get up every morning, look at the job vacancies online, check his emails (to find no response from any of the jobs he applied for the previous day), and muster up the courage to do it all over again: it nearly broke him.

There is something utterly soul-shattering when you find yourself unemployed past the age of 30. The constant putting yourself out there. The way your heart skips a beat and then sinks when you check your inbox. The realisation that there’s now a much higher chance of someone younger and possibly more qualified than you going for the same role. The acknowledgement of how big the gap is getting from when you last did the job you love. But mostly, ignoring the constant feeling that you’re failing. It got me real dark most days and I had to really try to find the quick wins in life. I can only imagine how my poor Dad felt during his period. If I was struggling with this at 30, what was going through his mind at 60?

The truth: I’d love to wrap this up with something hopeful and with the reassurance that everything is always going to be ok, but I didn’t have the courage or the energy to put this down on paper till I was employed again. It’s funny how that 9-5 life gives you that feeling of purpose and how necessary that is for your mental health and self-care. So I get it: if you’re going through this or have gone through this in the past, it’s hard to hear or take comfort in those words, especially when you’re in the thick of it.

The real truth: I can’t guarantee everything is going to be ok, no one can, in my experience it hasn’t always been. Things that make it a hell of a lot easier? Take those FaceTime calls from your family (even when you can’t bear to actually ‘face’ them), have a good chin-wag with your nearest and dearest and get that ugly off your chest, have someone in your life that encourages you to remember all the things you should be grateful for and have those cups of peppermint tea on the reg.

One piece of advice: in these times of trouble try and avoid alcohol and drugs, if you can. I’m not a saint and it’s absolutely the first thing I reach for whenever I’m in despair, but I read this great quote and it’s really changed my mind set.

‘If you drink to numb all the difficult things in life, you’ll numb all the good bits too.’

Remember, every next level of your life will determine a different you.

Peace out Kweens!

Stay strong.

Big love,

Carmela.

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Guest Kween: AMY CLARKE “Am I Really Done With Kids?”

Guest Kween: AMY CLARKE “Am I Really Done With Kids?”

This question has been looming on my mind for the last few months: “Am I really done with kids?”. Even though my two critters have been pretty bloody tough work of late, I still feel like I’m not complete. My family may be, but am I?

Apart from the lack of sleep, I just LOVE newborns. I love their smell, their noises, their clothes, their non-smelly poos; but all kids grow up, and then the chaos begins. Most of the time I have about five out of seven good days with my little girl Pippa, who’s now ten months. She is a happy, content and a super cute baby. The other two days you’ll literally see me on the ground in the kitchen crying over a glass (or seven) of wine. I can’t say she’s any easier than my first born, Leo – now four – but I guess it does get easier and I can roughly understand what’s coming.

After the newborn phase, when your eyes feel like razorblades trying to shut and you are always hungry and feel like you’re constantly battling the flu, comes the cute six-nine months phase. They interact so much more, they are playful and I don’t know about you, but they start to sleep better (marginally). Pippa is a great sleeper, and I admit I’m lucky, but we worked hard on it. Yes, we did sleep training, and yes you’d find me crying too outside her door at 2am in the morning, but at eight months, she’s started to sleep through. So why the hell am I considering another child!? I am starting to get my life back now. I’m going out with friends, I’m working and having time to ‘myself’ has just arrived from whatever planet it came from and I can now enjoy things a lot more. Every day can be a challenge in some aspect, but I don’t let it stress me the way it used to with Leo as now I keep saying to myself “This’ll be the last time Amy, so enjoy it”. I mean, I can’t even really cuddle Pippa now unless she needs help to sleep or has hurt herself, so in a blink of an eye, that snuggly phase is over too.

So right now, my life is great. I’m the first Mum to drop off and last to pick my kids up from kindy because I love my alone time: whether be it working, lying on the couch watching Netflix or searching the internet for hours watching funny cat videos, and I really don’t miss my kids (too much) when they are gone. I’m not quite sure I can go back to three hourly feeds, mastitis and the uncertainty of whether or not I can leave the house that day.

So my question is, how do you know if you’re finished having kids? I see some friends with three, even four kids and they still manage to get through it all. I heard going from two to three kids is easier than one to two kids – is that true? I worry not having my Mum and Dad around (who sadly passed a while back) will make life harder? It’s the moments you truly need your parents around that I fear the most. I remember when Pippa was only three months old, and Leo and I both got gastro and it was terrible, like more terrible than any other common sickness. I was bed-ridden, so was he, and I can’t recall life being so hard. It was that one moment in my life that I really really needed my Mum. She would have been over in a heartbeat, cleaning up our mess and looking after us all but that is something I’ll never have, or experience, so that also adds to my dilemma.

I’ve heard that if you think you’re not done, you’re not done. My heart says I’m not, but my head says I am. I guess only time and my weekly income will tell. Let me know your thoughts!

Amy Clarke is a graphic designer, a mum and a bit of an all rounder kind of person. In between running two businesses from home, she attempts to manage a crazy household of kids, pets and chickens. Amy owns Confetti Rebels: which is a brand inspired by women for women, that allows her to be creative and also bring in a little extra income. She’s energetic, honest and sometimes a little crazy.