Rocky road

I tend to want sweet food when I’m experiencing more anxiety than usual – which I’m not going to deny, I’m feeling somewhat during this lockdown because my usual routine is slightly non-existent right now. I refuse to dress up in work gear to go to my living-room to do my work for the day. I haven’t been sleeping the best because I’m not working out as regularly as I am (I bought a boxing bag to change that though). There’s a multitude of things going on here but that’s not the point of this post.

This is a slightly useless post though because I don’t have a recipe – I just make it up every time I buy it (Samoan of me) but am intentional with the ingredients. The chocolate to other ingredient ratio is a lucky-dip.

Basically any rocky road recipe has the following:

  1. Chocolate (I prefer dark – pick your percentage)
  2. Marshmallows
  3. Pistachios

Extra add-ons that I like to include:

  1. Goji berries
  2. Freeze dried raspberries (if I’m feeling fancy)
  3. Popcorn (I haven’t added this usually but want to try it)
  4. Other dried berries or nuts of your choice

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Mea ‘ai – fa’apāpā

My Dad and I would joke about how this translates into “bang bang bread” because the words could also loosely mean fa’a (to do/to be) and pāpā (bang/hit), and that’s what you do before you bake it!

I haven’t actually made this before on my own but have made it with and watched mum make it (cook islander’s also make this food – so I’ve made it with her in Mitiaro when we would go over and spend Christmas/New year months there).

I like fa’apāpā. It’s not my favourite Samoan snack (I love masi saiga – a bit obsessively). I grew up eating this and know my grandmother used to make it when she was raising me. I’m pretty sure she would keep these handy in her handbag during church services or housie too – no doubt. My grandfather absolutely loved these too and during the school holidays when I would live with him, we would walk to the Mount Roskill bakery (or sometimes drive to other local polynesian shops) and buy fa’apāpā, along with kalo and other groceries.

A sweet snack when out and about, easy to store and easy to eat too lol. Also – vegan for those who are interested. Fa’apāpā is also used for fa’ausi, which I’ll make another time.

Recipe (makes 2 “loves” – taken from the Samoa Food blog):

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded/desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar but want to try this with raw sugar)
  • 200 ml coconut milk (I used light coconut milk for the fa’apāpā pictured below)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Grease two separate squares of baking paper to wrap your loaves in and a baking tray to put them on.
  3. Sift the flour in a bowl then mix in your desiccated coconut, sugar and mix evenly.
  4. Add your coconut milk and mix until you have your fa’apāpā dough.
  5. Separate into two “loaves” and wrap them in the two separate sheets of baking paper.
  6. Bake for 35 – 45 min.
  7. Slice and enjoy!

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Busy for the ___?___ reasons

I don’t think I’ve had a complete burnout in life so far but I have had brushes with it through my various chapters, several times. I started being “busy” in my senior years of high school where I cried a lot from my over-commitment issues whilst trying to maintain a personal life I was happy with. Then moments during my university life there was more crying, therapy, fainting and panic attacks. Then during my first graduate job, I found out the fainting was the result of a heart condition that has now been cured through some minor heart surgery; also, more therapy. My first practising role was actually probably my saving grace, notwithstanding a necessary relationship breakup, where I slipped into maintenance therapy and felt a bit more “control”.

I have felt pressured to succeed because I have self-diagnosed imposter syndrome and I am my parent’s retirement plan. Now I find myself, almost 30, in a stimulating career I thoroughly enjoy but haven’t ticked off many “happiness experiences”. Framing a fast-paced satisfying but challenging career in that way, makes me understand why some highly successful people commit suicide. You’re too busy “achieving” that you have no time to “live”. Since high school, I became addicted to smashing goals that I just got used to enduring, with a splash of enjoyment; that I had to do things with wholehearted purpose, whether I enjoyed it or not. I essentially had several hats and tried to juggle them while still achieving 50 other goals at the same time. Of course that approach never works – something eventually gives. This self-inflicted pressure is a figment of success. And maybe I use it to thinly veil some tragic God-complex; doing the most to achieve my goals whilst being the best friend; daughter; sister; cousin; lawyer; indigenous person etc to show everyone I’m amazing – whilst not taking the time to actually personally feel happy and deeply satisfied with the life I’m living.

For an impending partial-burnout, my coping strategies vary depending on my mood and how bad the potential burnout is. I usually measure it in how many plans/appointments/engagements/goals are falling apart concurrently. To counter this said semi-burnout, I go into periods of solitude. My friends have probably witnessed these moments when I completely ignore the world around me, unfortunately including them, because I need to be alone and shut out any stimulus I can’t control and just have nothingness for a while.

I guess I write this in anticipation of some form of burnout this year. There will be a lot of firsts this year that will take up more emotional energy than I’ll allow myself – as always. I’ll need to find my voice a bit more. Be kinder to myself. And prepare for my mental health dips because regarding any goals I set myself – I am my toughest critic.

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Lana Lopesi’s piece on burnout pinched where it hurt. A dear friend has been screaming this at me for the last 5 years, although she is just as much a “slave to success” as I am.

We all die. Yet here we are glorifying a sense of busyness that does not serve us when we’re alive, let alone when we’re dead. It literally makes us sick.

I used to walk through life feeling responsible to a community, only later to realise that community was, in many ways, a figment of my imagination. ‘Serving people’ was the self-imposed burden I thought I was carrying by writing art criticism.

My sense of self-worth was tied up with productivity – to be worthy, I felt, required a constant state of production. If what was on my plate ever started to feel achievable, I’d quickly fix that by filling it up again. It’s normal, though, right? Being busy is ordinary! It’s necessary too! Right? With job precarity in the arts we shouldn’t be saying no.

She then went on to look at “Busy as F*ck” syndrome and how it described everyone she knew. I can definitely see how it describes most people in the legal ecosystem I work in. It’s a tough space trying to carve out your advocacy style, be yourself, be relatable to the average layman as well as highly persuasive to some of the smartest people in the country. Peachy task – also slightly schizophrenic or bipolar.

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It doesn’t help that I’ve set some outrageous goals this year.

  1. Financial/resources: Buy a house with my parents – who are at retirement age (insert several relevant gifs and memes about how ridiculous this is here)
  2. Physical: Run a half-marathon. I’m not the best at running. I’m semi-good at punching and lifting things.
  3. Career: Do 5 jury trials. Minimum. 10 is better. But I’m still a baby in this space.

There aren’t any happiness goals there. Not an overarching one at least – because they’re little ones in the form of stay-cations to keep me sane through the chaos.

So, as I wrap up this entry, I’m booking an airbnb and a wine-tour for myself in Napier for the Easter break. I have no idea who is coming with me at this stage, but I’m going, because going on road-trips make me happy. I plan on bringing some books I’ve been meaning to finish, my paddle-board (weather permitting) and my yoga mat. ❤

#TeamSelfSabotage

I can be a bit of a princess and self-sabotage a lot of good things in my life in an attempt to “protect” myself based on past experiences (cue childhood trauma and other trauma generally). I’d say a lot of people do this to be honest. One of my girlfriends pointed out a few ex-boyfriends that are now loving husbands, but I cut them off or didn’t invest because of the “what ifs” that put me off. Another girlfriend pointed out how I am addicted to doing the most (cue all the crazy milestones and goals I have to date) because I attach most of my value to my achievements and productivity – I can see why this is slightly toxic because I get annoyed at people around me who aren’t “doing the most” either. I think I get this from my mother who is a workaholic in her workplace and at home.

Anyway, I really want to liberate myself from some of these problematic thoughts or beliefs that I generally hold, so I don’t shoot myself in the foot when I’m trying to shoot my shot – in my relationships (romantic and platonic), career, health and in life.

Below is a list of some of the self-limiting thoughts I want to work on; all this from a few nights reflection on some of the behaviours I thought were toxic – that’s a more personal discussion that I won’t share.

I’ve read a little bit about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other therapies that can help with tackling thoughts/behaviours that just don’t serve a purpose anymore – but maybe once used to. I used to see a therapist for specific matters but am trying a bit of self-help CBT and I don’t want to dedicate time to seeing a therapist atm. TBH – the most value I got from her were the questions she asked me when I presented her with a situation or problem I was facing. And the real learning about myself came from the reflection I did on my own, in my own time, after that question, not the time we spent during the one hour session together. Regardless, she was a gem, but I’m attempting to question myself a lot more instead this year rather than booking in with my therapist – not as an attack on my integrity or confidence, but just a quicker way of self-improvement and tackling #selfsabotage

Romantic relationships:

  • I can’t find someone I trust to be emotionally invested and vulnerable with
    • If I’m emotionally invested and vulnerable with my friends, I can find a partner just the same
  • I’m scared of being hurt or deceived again
    • I’m smart enough to use my mind and heart to confront any red flags with integrity, before getting hurt or lied to
  • I can’t find someone who will be emotionally available for me
    • My friends are just as busy with their careers as I am, the right person who is interested enough in me will make time for me in their busy life
  • I don’t trust my decisions with love because of what has happened in the past
    • I trust myself enough to get to know someone long enough with my head and heart to make the right choice

For the romantic relationships that didn’t last, I noticed a trend in what I liked about those people. My first serious boyfriend, it was his confidence, something I didn’t think I had a lot of at the time. I’ve now developed enough confidence that I feel like I have that quality within myself. My second boyfriend, it was his charisma, charm and how he stood up to me. He was able to connect with a range of people and wasn’t shy with sharing his own opinion. I’m now at a point in my life where I think I have that more or less. And finally, the last serious relationship that didn’t work out, I admired his love and dedication for his family. I’m still sour over that one ending because I hoped it would be my last romantic relationship, but anyway, I’m working on building this quality within my own life, which I’m happy to say, is improving a lot.

I like the positive elements of being in a long-term committed relationship. Despite my previous relationships ending for several reasons (the unhealthy ones – because of cheating or deception; the good ones – because of my emotional baggage and just didn’t “connect”), I enjoy having someone to share lots of moments with and someone to count on – in a healthy relationship. I also like how a partner acts as a mirror. How I am with a partner reflects aspects of myself that I sometimes can’t see and amplify inner growth and learning. It’s the complete opposite in an unhealthy relationship – the worst parts of myself were reflected and amplified in a past toxic relationship. There was still learning, but with unnecessary flow-on emotional baggage.

Familial relationships:

  • Some family trauma is so deep for close family members that some familial relationships will never heal
    • People’s perspective and positions can change
  • I haven’t been the best sister I could have been growing up
    • I can start being a better sister now

There may be fewer goals than my romantic ones but, these ones are quite big.

With my sister, we have a 10 year age gap. This always made it interesting spending time together, but usually it would be at home baking/cooking, watching a movie or just hanging out at the beach/park. Sometimes we would go to the movies, the mall, an event or a theatre show (yes I took her to some – because I thought she would do good in the arts and had a curious enough mind to explore emotions), so I think I spent a decent amount of time with her.

I would put pressure on her a lot in high school to achieve as high as she could but she had “checked” out for several reasons (some of which I don’t blame her for at all). I’ve given in to the fact that I was projecting on her, because of some of the ridiculous standards I hold myself to. I think she’s problematic with a lot of things going on in her life at the moment, but regardless, I try and give her my well-intentioned opinion when she asks. She’s turning into an adult after all and her choices should be respected, even if I think it’s wrong. From my projections, telling-offs and high standards, I just hope that I haven’t added to the childhood trauma she may/may not have suffered. What I hope for her, is that she just becomes a person of good character and values in life; treats the people around her with the care and love that we have given her for the most part (I have the same outlook if I were to raise children one day and try to apply the same care-taking process with the relationships/friendships around me).

With the family trauma, this is around a complex set of relationships each reacting to the others around it. And I haven’t taken any time to reflect on what positions each of these people are probably coming from – which is probably the first task, and then trying to make sense of what people actually want and seeing what resolutions might be available (it doesn’t help that people don’t always know what they want either – myself included). I haven’t confronted or made any moves regarding this space in my life because the pain was still raw for most, but I think this year is a good time to begin having some open, constructive and challenging conversations in this area; I hope those conversations can mend relationships or open hearts a bit more. I know I’ve already had one that is positive.

Because I have a beautiful and strong friend network/sisterhood, that I’ll continue to invest in, I think it’s only fair that I give as much time to this family as I do to that – because my family deserve that attention and care, for the same that they’ve given to me. It’s going to be an uphill trail run is all.

Health, work-life balance and wellbeing:

  • My body isn’t designed for particular activities
    • My body will adapt to what activities I want it to do, with consistent attention
  • I don’t have time to get fit
    • I have time for what I prioritise and so I just need better time management & to cut off the fluff
  • I should be working instead of working out
    • Working out gives me a clearer mind for work and the extra blood flow definitely gives me a lot more focus – integral to making me a better advocate
  • I should be focusing on my career and financial goals and taking a break is selfish
    • I need an occasional break (with and without people sometimes) and need to enjoy not just endure life – just a little lol

I don’t even want to go into how much of a workaholic I am. My friend constantly says I fit 87 things into my day, even when others are involved and… she’s not wrong at all. All of my close friends can attest to how I’ve been over an hour late to some social engagement because I was finishing up something else just before seeing them. Or failing to attend at all because I came down with a headache or was too tired after doing everything else before seeing them. I say I want to aim for a lot more balance in the next year but the reality of my move to Whangarei is that is a big fat no. My work-life balance will be non-existent for the next 2 – 3 years (if I can stay up here for that amount of time) which I’m ok with, it’ll just mean that I have to take my breaks alongside the workload ebb and flow. As for the goals around being ‘fit for purpose’, I want to do a lot of different walks/hikes on my future travels so conditioning and being cardio-fit is the aim this year. It’ll be great for if I ever want to do another fight (probably not anytime soon with this mahi) and for future diving experiences (I plan on getting my diving certificate this year so I want to make sure my lungs are big, happy and healthy for that). So far, my routine has been good enough that I can get moving consistently – I haven’t struck the balance I want yet, but we’re getting there.

Career:

  • I’ll never be as competent as others around me, particularly the white male lawyers
    • See the last point – this one is definitely positioned in my identity as a Polynesian female
  • I do not have enough experience
    • I have enough smarts to be strategic for the job right now and learn the intricacies as I go along
  • I don’t belong in this profession because I’m a little too different
    • I shouldn’t minimise the value I offer – I belong because I offer a unique perspective

I’m grateful for these beliefs up until this point in my life, they’ve managed to keep me safe and get me to this not-so-bad point in life thus far. But it’s time to bid farewell.

It was a bit of a profound moment when I questioned why I was so fearful about how stupid I felt when comparing my opinions to other white male lawyers/professionals. I think I have a lot of work to do on this belief that might not be done within 12 months or any specific time frame – but I know I’m hyperaware of it now. I always felt it when trying to bring my ideas and opinions up, which were sometimes validated by that demographic but never specifically identified it as a pattern. It happened when I was at uni and my first few jobs. That’s all I’ll say on that for now but I’m looking forward to exploring why I feel/think that way as I think it’ll be a major personal development point.

Two thousand and nineteen and the decade of self-love/self-work

Last year has been humbly transformational, which I was surprised with. I sent an email to my best friend setting my intentions for the year at the start of it. We have done this every year since we finished university.

Some of the goals were definitely outside of my comfort zone and even though I did not feel courageous enough to achieve them in January, my mind thought I could at least stretch myself towards it. If I didn’t get there – I was ok with that. But I wanted to at least try and keep trying until I got what I wanted.

Quick stats for January 2019 (not including anything to do with my career/kaupapa – that’s a different post):

  • Physical: Not enough quality self-love/me-time routine, was only giving myself the dregs of the week and numbing my mind with social media -_-
  • Mental: Volunteering with IDYP & PSRH – productive and building my skillset, but not genuinely towards my own growth & vision for my future
  • Emotional: have worked through my behavioural issues that I developed from a toxic relationship in my past but still needed to work on this in relation to some core beliefs that don’t serve me anymore
  • Spiritual: really just lacking overall energy and harmony between the different elements in my life – that should be contributing towards a vision for something greater than me – I’m Christian so yes, basically hopes towards better days etc.

Quick stats for December 2019:

  • Physical: I spend a lot more time on weekdays and weekends doing things that genuinely give me joy/happiness (I’m simple to please – a coffee and stroll at the beach makes me happy; also now punching people and risking being punched), and am 15kg lighter for it. There is also A LOT more ocean time.
  • Mental: Breathing space to think about how I can grow my own kingdom (no longer volunteering for PSRH and IDYP);
  • Emotional: my trust issues and communication about my feelings > behaviours has improved. There are still core beliefs I need to address but I am happy with where I am at and will continue to improve in the new year;
  • Spiritual: getting there but this is something I most definitely will work on in the new year.

Extra-curriculars: I’ve already commented on how much my extra-curricular activities have thrown a lot of my life out of balance – at my own doing so I’m not blaming anyone for this. My ex-boyfriends would tell me it was something I should look into for my own wellbeing. As part of this whole 2019 re-invention, I’ve ditched all the extra curriculars that don’t feed my soul anymore. This includes IDYP and PSRH which took space in my mind but didn’t necessarily satisfy me anymore on a soulful level, it became the mantra “this will add to my CV”. You become a robot if that’s the only reason why you do something. I don’t regret any of my time spent towards these organisations, I just want to move onto other experiences that I feel would be more fulfilling.

Since August 2019, I’ve been free of those activities and I am in a much better head-space for it.

And what a good feeling it is to just be able to focus on a smaller set of experiences and goals i.e. quality and intentional experiences, as well as rest and creativity. Tbh that’s probably the most mindful action I took for my wellbeing in 2019.

Relationships: some of my familial relationships have factured after tauma to the vā/relational space. Whether those fractures heal will depend on the work each person within that space puts in. I predict this will take a few more years yet, if not the rest of the incoming decade. But that is ok. If people still put in the work – myself included.

So that was the year that was. I feel like I have grown so much within the space of 12 – 14 months. And it’s set the tone and pace for the incoming decade as I farewell the last.

Points of importance from the last decade include:

  • I completed 2.3 degrees (haven’t quite finished my PgDipPH but we will get there);
  • Did a corporate fight;
  • Became a lawyer;
  • Went flatting;
  • Received multiple scholarships;
  • Went to several (and helped organise a few) conferences;
  • Served on different committees, a board and several projects;
  • Learned how to budget;
  • Bought and sold a few cars;
  • Moved towns;
  • Worked over 12 different jobs;
  • Had a few heartbreaks;
  • Almost cried in Court (R v Queenie aka Piahana)
  • Traveled to over 9 countries;
  • Graduated;
  • Got my own place;
  • Lost people I love dearly;
  • Got more comfortable within my soul & skin

I’m excited for the decade to come, God-willing. I have so much energy I want to give to the people I love and more. And if not, my insurance plan will at least have my family covered.

Bottled connection, change and celebration

So I moved up to Whangarei in a bit of a whirlwind. In the space of 10 days, I:

  • Quit my job and had a wonderful farewell party
  • Got a tattoo
  • Bought a new family car
  • Celebrated my birthday
  • Went to Friday jams (hopefully for the last time – I’ve done enough of that gig)
  • Moved out of Auckland/home
  • Started a new job

This really is just an excuse for a photo essay; so I remember this moment and capture it in written and visual form – a bottled moment in time if you will. Lots of change about, but I’m super excited to kick-off the new decade with major mountains to climb. I haven’t had to knuckle down like this for a little while so this will be a good challenge.

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Calm mind, quick hands

This year I wanted to do a corporate fight. Initially, I wanted to do it to see how much I could push my body to perform the way I wanted it to (within the timeframe I had). After having a heart procedure 2 years ago and inching closer to 30, I’ve wanted to push myself physically (as a way of celebrating a now-properly-functioning heart! My GP thinks I’m nuts) and to test my courage and will.

Anyway, I set myself up for the second half of the year so that for 16 weeks I could participate in a boxing camp. I signed up because I had seen posts about it on facebook and thought the fundraiser was for a good cause.

I was tested physically and mentally over the 15 weeks. I didn’t expect the camp to be as transformative as it was. I ate as clean as I could (real/whole foods and not processed) while still eating some of my favourite foods for sanity and sometimes laziness. I managed to still have a quiet social-life but centred my week around training sessions and minor Court appearances/duties. I would say I trained on average between 7 – 8 hours most weeks. This meant doing some sessions twice a day and resting on one day. Not getting knocked out was at the forefront of my mind during the lead-up, which dictated what I ate and how I spent my time.

I fundraised, I sweat up a storm and I got smacked around several times. However, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in life so far.

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The 15 weeks literally felt like a crash course in boxing – I wish I had been boxing for months before that, but I hadn’t. So I made an effort to try balance my work alongside making more than the requisite 3 training sessions per week. On the off-session, I would go for a run or do a HIIT based workout to increase my cardio-fitness (where I could muster it in). All in preparation to perform in 3 x 1.5-minute rounds. I got to spend more time with my dad and friends who helped do pad work with me, so I could work on my agility, faking and defence. After having my first few sessions of sparring, I had to keep my routine tight to prepare effectively.

I couldn’t really help myself being meek in the first few weeks. Firstly, the neuro-programming of this type of body-language is foreign to me and my character. I’m not an offensive person by nature – well, at least I don’t know myself to be unless challenged or when someone I love is being hurt. I’ve always played defence in sports and have been generally good at it. Secondly, it takes me a while to warm up to people. Thirdly, I also didn’t know what the f**k I was doing technically for a little while. For the first 5 weeks we trained together under Daniella Smith then the remainder of the camp with Terry Batchelor (Coach to Geovana Peres, Troy Garton, Roi Ransfield, and many other greats).

It was hard not to be starstruck during training sessions. Geovana gave me some pointers, laughed as she could tell I was still learning this boxing body-language and I was both angry I didn’t get the movement properly/quickly enough, but also grateful af that she gave me guidance.

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There were three points during the camp where I seriously considered dropping out. The first was not being used to particular teaching styles. It definitely took a little getting used to in the earliest stages.

The second moment was due to a health scare. My GP told me I was stupid for wanting to participate in a corporate fight because of my previous heart condition. His lecture made me consider dropping out entirely, because he made it seem like I might end up dying in the ring if my opponent punching me in the chest causing an arrhythmia.

The final moment was when I was emotionally and mentally drained 2 weeks out from fight night. The coach for the other team had asked me to drop approximately 2 – 3 kgs to make sure I was matched with my opponent by weigh-in the night before the fight. I was on the brink of junioring for a sex-offence trial (which ended up resolving on day 2) and I was applying for jobs (secured a new job out of town within that week). All while still making it to training, eating clean and aiming to get my 7ish hours of sleep per night. I was exhausted and wanted a break. I cut the weight (water loading – totally new world to me but one of the girls from the gym knew all the tricks) and pushed through the week until weigh-in. I ended up being 81.5 kgs.

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Boxing humbles you faster than team sports in my opinion – because you can’t lie about your weaknesses or preparation. You don’t have a backup player to help you execute the phase or take the ball down the court or field. Everything is on display in that ring for your coach, the opponent, and the audience to see i.e. everything you did and didn’t prepare for. It is literally all you. That’s it.

A week before my match I watched Geovana Peres live and some of the boys from the gym and their corporate fights. It’s hard not to be inspired seeing them all in the ring win all their matches. But Geo was the most inspiring. To witness that passion and dedication perform at top level is… Unbelievable. The moment is truly ceremonious and humbling to be a part of.

More people than I expected came to watch my fight, which I was both flattered by and anxious about. While you’re in the ring though, everything outside those four corners is a blur.

The night took a while because I was the last corporate fight. I took to the ring at 10:30 pm. Our team had some great wins and some close losses. I won by technical knockout in the third round which the referee called. I was thrilled to have so much support from my extended family, close family, friends and even my boss and colleagues/other seniors. It was a big mashup of social circles and emotions.

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Regardless of the result, it was the process/journey that I enjoyed the most. I can genuinely say I gave the training and prep my all (not being a full-time fighter and balancing it alongside work). Highlights included:

  • Improving my agility (something I’ve missed since giving up netball);
  • Learning how to spar and sparring – I freaked the first time, but I actually enjoy this now, when I’m not tired;
  • Boxing out of the same studio as some current female champions;
  • Making new friends and nurturing a friendship along the way;
  • Spending time with my Dad doing pad work;
  • Building a shit-load of confidence;
  • And physical fitness of course.

The top three mental elements I nurtured, that I want to apply to my life in general:

  • Fearlessness;
  • Keeping calm during the discomfort (be it physical or mental);
  • Mastering the basics of your craft.

I learned and am still learning how to control my nerves. An interesting result from this journey as well is that it has abated my imposter syndrome somewhat; or at least minimised it. I.e. if I have done the work and am competent to do a particular activity, I should not have crippling anxiety over performing said activity – just the normal amount of nervousness with doing something for the first time in front of an audience.

I’m grateful to everyone that helped out along the way and am happy to say that I’ve continued boxing training. I’m not sure I would do another fight because I want to focus on my career a little more next year with my new role – but I wouldn’t say no in future if I was in the right place to train towards it.

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Marks of Mana

My review follows a hectic few days. I wasn’t going to go because I was salty about a lot of things from earlier in the day but the documentary gave my soul more peace than I had started that day with. I took myself on a date and don’t regret it.

The documentary started with the story of Taema ma Tilafaega; the two women that swam to Fiji to learn the art of tattooing and then returning to Samoa only to be confused when they returned. Their chant, which originally held that women would be tattooed, instead said the men would be tattooed. And thus tattooing on women was initially lost, but the “malu” resurged and has been growing since. Women get them for several reasons however there is always pain to be endured before you are bestowed one.

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Credit: Director Lisa Taouma, Western Samoa, NZ, 2018

For a good snippet on the myth of Taema ma Tilafaega check out these posts. Or even Sia Figiel’s “They who do not Grieve” which makes several references to the twins.

The story starts off in Samoa and travels to Aotearoa, Papua New Guinea. To a lesser degree, the story also covers female tattooing in Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Malu (adj; noun) – to protect; the top of the house of a fale; shelter. Also known or depicted as the entrance to the first house of humankind. The womb. Hence the symbol of the diamond.

Patterns in the Samoan malu design centre around the feminine and feminine strength. The imagery and the story-telling were both was ethereal.

First of all, can I say how empowering it feels to be privileged as an audience? When the story is and was created by someone like you, for you; by Pacific women for Pacific women (including Maori). 

I highly recommend seeing it if you can. I’m not sure if copies will be available on DVD/electronically, but if you’re an indigenous woman exploring your identity, this is a 56 minute deep dive you will definitely want to check it out.

Layers of love – romantic

I can sometimes be a bit cold when I see others performing romantic gestures to and with one another. I go through my phases. I find myself being bitter that the gesture is used as a means to get something from that other person. Sex, money, attention or favours; something driven by selfishness. It doesn’t help with the space that I work in and see these same things play out in other peoples lives in its full glory.

However, I can also appreciate how it can make those people feel in a shared moment; together. The warmth, connection, and selflessness from the person performing the gesture to the other. To show the other person that they are loved and cared for; and that they mean something to someone in this crazy world. I sway between both emotions pending my mood any given time.

I think romantic love is idealised and overrated these days (I don’t know to what degree that applies to indigenous societies in history, however, I do know that village and island connections were strengthened through non-romantic unions – romance was a perk, hence the runaway-bride disease). Like most young-twenty-somethings, I’ve experienced limerence several times, which I think is the slightly shallower-phase of romantic love. I’ve also experienced romantic and committed love at enough of a depth to identify it for what it is and enjoy it for the space it creates between you and another; a space where you feel safe and protected.

I didn’t bother to take the time to differentiate and understand romantic love as an experience and what this type of connection with someone means. Well, no one really explained this to me – I figured it through the process below, self-reflection and reading lol. For a long time after my first serious relationship and attempt at romantic love, I numbed the discomfort from my experience with a few toxic behvaiours (yoyo weight/bfs, career armouring, partying etc.). These behaviours started affecting close friendships and people that I had a different love for and connection with. I.e. my toxicity spilled over into my other relationships. So I did a lot of reflecting and booked myself a mental GP/behavioural check-in if you will. I didn’t want to wake up after 5 years with a set of bad experiences and realisations that I could have had much faster with a bit of therapy, self-reflection, and alone-time. Since doing that, I’ve thankfully had an improved quality of relationships, life, and knowledge of myself (who I was and what I wanted/didn’t want).

At therapy, I learned that I had blocked out the hurt or any risk of potential hurt, that I was also blocking out the joy and anything constructive. Duh. Joy became forboding (quote courtesy of Brene Brown – highly recommend her lit and talks). And I deceived myself into believing that I didn’t deserve joy because of the hurtful things I had done in those relationships, for fear of doing them again. That I wasn’t worthy of joy. So I drifted through “doing” without actually experiencing any deep-set emotion. Only fleeting emotion that I used to trick myself into thinking that I was fulfilled – but not feeling it. Relationships just became transactions for mutual benefits.

I remember the moment when my therapist did some therapist-voodoo where she took me through an exercise that I had mini-breakdown. The exercise was used to address the fear I had around worthiness, belonging, connection, abandonment, rejection, and vulnerability. After the tears subsided she said “it’s ok – some people well older than you never get to this space of realisation in sessions”.

I had been using my career armour, like most yo-pro millenials that have several social enterprises on the side, to be too busy to ‘deal with it’. It was easier to say I’m too busy than address any of it. It could’ve led to high-functioning depression, who knows. But I’m glad I’ve stopped and taken sometime to reconnect with myself – the most important relationship of all.

I’ve had two serious relationships. And even though the last one ended over two years ago, I’m still learning so much about myself from them. I like to think I still astound myself with this self-learning, and I do – not to be self-centered, but to increase my self-awareness. So that when I am in a new relationship, I can share the best of me and even when I am at my worst, I know what I need to do (or what I may need from my partner) to get out of that space, be constructive and overcome. Sometimes when I think back, I am astounded because of the level of self-deception I can weave into my actions lol. But, regardless of the tricky situations I experienced, I am also astounded at the values and strengths I can offer when given the space to.

Getting to know yourself is difficult because you get so busy doing life that it’s not easy to pause deeply and assess why you act the way you do and what it says about who you are. It helps to have good friends who call you out on your bs when they see some of these “whys” so that you can address them. Hence why this space is carved out for active reflection regularly in mini-bursts.

Regardless of who I share my life with for the long-term in future, its definitely important to maintain a reflective practice for nurturing this type of relationship in the various va.