Motivation and changing habits.

There are some things in my life that I want to do more often because of the positive impacts it has on me, but I find it hard to motivate myself to actually do it.

Take running as an example. I like running – once I get some great tunes going, I’m all set. I’ve got the gear, i just don’t have motivation.

I’ve never been a sporty person; I was the musical kid at school. Yet the days when dad and I would go cross-country training are some of my favourite memories and I actually enjoyed doing them.

I could go on with other examples, but what really is important is this: sometimes you need to put effort into it to do things that don’t come easy to you. Sometimes you actually need to just do it. Your body may be completely filled with nerves and you may feel ill at ease, most days you’re going to have to fight through that.

Something worth fighting for won’t come easily, but it is worth the effort you put into it and the motivation you get out of it.

Yours,

Sophia x

More love is neat.

“If you see something beautiful in someone, speak of it” – Ruthie Lindsey

Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is strong. Our media is filled with negative news constantly. I mean, have you ever counted the ratio of positive to negative stories in our daily evening news? Whenever I watch the news, I do this and more often than not, it is overwhelmingly in the negative story’s favour.

With so many advertising telling us of a product we “need” to buy to “fix” a non-existential problem, is it not surprising that we are quick to see the flaws and be negative about it?

Recently, I have been thinking about this a fair bit. Spending 24 hours in a return plane flight gave me a lot of time to ponder and think when I recently travelled to Sweden.

Whilst waiting to board at Stockholm Arlanda airport, I stumbled across Hans Rosling’s book “Factfulness” he co-wrote with his son, Ola Rosling, and his daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In it, they explore why we as a society, tend to have a bleaker overview of the world, and why things are better than we think they are.

“I think this is because human beings have a strong dramatic instinct towards binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”

“The gap instinct makes us imagine division where there is just a smooth range, difference where there is convergence, and conflict where there is agreement.”

Maybe, like Rosling argues in his book, things are better in the world than we think but our negative instinct is too strong. We remember the negative more easily with the positive in our lives.

I used to not be a fan of the daily gratitude exercise that has become popular over the past year. But the more I’ve reflected on the human tendency on the negative instinct, the more I realise that daily gratitude isn’t a bad thing after all. It helps us to realise and teaches us to think more, about the positive events in our lives than the negative. There is enough happening in the world, so why focus on the negatives?

How on earth does this have anything to do with the original quote by Ruthie Lindsey at the beginning of the post? I’ve touched on this before in the blog, but I believe that more love in the world is neat. I’m a strong believer in community and supporting each other, so I’m going to start making an effort to celebrate by speaking about the beautiful things I notice in people.

Yours,

Sophia

xx

“The German Girl” by Armando Lucas Correa

Written by Armando Lucas Correa, The German Girl follows the story of Hannah Rosenthal and her family living in Berlin during 1938-39 before embarking on the ill-fated Hamburg-Amerika Linie ship St. Louis with the aim of travelling to Cuba. Throughout the chapter, the author weaves through the story of Anna, Hannah’s great-niece, who is aged 11, trying to understand where she comes from. Both Hannah and Anna only meet when Anna receives a box of photograph negatives from Hannah living in Cuba, prompting Anna and her mother to travel to Cuba.

I read this book in a day quite easily, though I must admit I was quite determined to finish it as quickly as possible. The start isn’t as smooth as I would like with the book bouncing to and from decades with every decade for a large part of the book. Nor is the character development the best. After reading this, I was left wondering more about Anna; we don’t get to learn much about her, other than her father died when her mother was 3 months pregnant with her, Anna is close to her mother – often bringing her coffee in the morning as way of supporting her mother through mental illness. Anna has only one photo of her dad, which she talks to every night, and that Anna likes dogs. But other than that, we don’t know much about Anna – she is a passive character, in which echoes of Hannah can be felt.

Hannah is much the same – a passive character describing the people and events around her. Perhaps then it is apt that Hannah is given a camera and discovers her passion for photography; a hobby that she loses quite quickly after the events surrounding the St. Louis ship. Hannah is the camera that observes the events, taking photos of seemingly mundane every life, but it is a reminder of how important life is.

This book was recommended to me to read, and I’ll be honest, I started for the recommendation but ended up staying for the description of the architecture of Cuba, interwoven with the competing smells of violet, basil, mint and jasmine, as well as the thoughts about displacement, struggles with identity, and the idea of home in a society that doesn’t want you and considers you to be less than human.

The book is based on the true story of the over 900 passengers of the St. Louis ship, which sailed off from Hamburg to Cuba but was refused entry in Cuba, America and Canada. As a result, it was forced to return to Europe – where France, Belgium, Holland and the UK took the passengers. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards war broke out and only those who were settled in the UK survived; the remaining passengers were often killed or sent to concentration camps.

With the current refugee crisis occurring, these thoughts about displacement, identity struggles and hatred got me thinking about the individuals who are fleeing their homes. It made me think of that there are currently girls fleeing from hatred, observing the world and trying to make sense of it all – just like Hannah did.

So, despite the flaws in the writing, “The German Girl” is an interesting read, but it isn’t necessarily one that I would recommend without contemplation. It’s best read within a book club setting where discussions like identity struggles, displacement and hatred can be soundly discussed.

Yours,

Sophia

xox

International Podcast Day

Yesterday was International Podcast Day today. I’ve always been a bit slow in appreciating podcasts, (and obviously slow in uploading this post) as I don’t have a natural tendency towards audiobooks or the spoken word. As a writer, I’ve always been partial to the written word.

Yet over the past year, I’ve been slowly listening to more and more podcasts. I started with economics, and several “German for beginners” (for teaching purposes), but over the past month I’ve asked for podcast recommendations (because you need variety right?) and my podcast selection has expanded.

The joy with podcasts is the transportable nature of little information. The learner in me is always keen to turn a podcast on and jump into that little world for either the 30 minutes or 60 minutes length of the podcast. I read on a Slate article and it described podcasts being a snippet, a pocket of happiness within the large world that is the internet.

So to belatedly celebrate International Podcast Day, here’s a list of podcasts I’ve been listening. Okay, it’s more like a mini-review because the journalist within me couldn’t help itself.

So here we go – 5 podcasts I think you should listen to:

From Our Correspondents (BBC)

From Our Correspondents is, to me, is a podcast version of SBS’ Insights and the ABC’s Four Corners. Differing from the typical journalistic structure of telling stories, each episode (whose length is around 30 minutes long) is made up of short 5 minute stories from various correspondents who delve into the stories behind the headlines using wit, insight and analysis. If you’re interested in wanting to know more about what is happening in the world, but wanting something different than the 24/7 news cycle, this podcast (or if you’re Australian, “Correspondents Report”) is the one for you.

Historical Figures

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a history nerd. So a podcast telling the stories of historical figures is definitely on my list of podcasts that I listen to. The bio of the podcast describes the podcast as “Big lives. Little-known Facts.” and as “audio biographies”. The podcast does live up to this, however, the narration seems, at times, too scripted and wooden. Despite this, the podcast is well researched and worth a listen to learn more about historical figures.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

One of the things I love about reading novels is that through the format of the written form, we learn more about what makes us human – emotions, feelings, universal themes. What I love about Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, is that it explores the different themes and nuances that make us human. You can listen to it chronologically or you can listen to in a “Choose your own adventure” style if you’re looking to explore a particular theme using the Harry Potter books. Do note that it is in the Religion & Spirituality category of podcasts because it does use methods within different faiths to explore texts and applies it to Harry Potter. If that doesn’t bother you (and it isn’t much of a deterrent for me), then exploring Harry Potter through this podcast may be for you.

The Money

I’m an economics teacher and do quite enjoy economics (duh!), so it’s no surprise that an economics-related podcast will make this list. The Money is produced by the ABC Radio National and explains neatly how the Australian economy and everything in it works, and vitally for any economics students, how this all connects to the global economy. It is a favourite podcast of mine because of the rehashing the same old dry economics theory, it looks at how the economy works using a real-world application. Just look at the recent podcasts – the drone technology economy, the rise of Comic-Con, fraud and the workings of the world. It’s definitely going to make an appearance in my economics teaching because of the real world application of economic understanding and I think you should add this to your podcast library.

The Dollop

The Dollop is a comedic take to history storytelling, and can be summed up like this: think American history, told by a comedian to a clueless comedian, and you’ve got a hilarious take on history. With each episode length at around 1.5 hours long, it seems too long at times, but it’s the chemistry between Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds makes listening to it for that length of time worth it.

These are my five podcasts I think you should be listening to. What podcasts have you been listening to recently? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

 

Are you okay?

It’s R U Okay? Day today.

You will probably see people talking about whether or not they’re okay on social media. Having conversations about whether or not we’re okay is important. It starts a conversation, a moment of time to help people feel that they belong.

Let’s start conversations about mental health, let’s build connections with each other.

I once read somewhere that a problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing a problem starts with a conversation, a question, “Are you okay?”, that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask every day.

I know it’s hard to open up – sometimes it is because we don’t want to burden anyone with our troubles, other times it’s because we aren’t ready to communicate what is wrong.

In the murky days of my depression, that was how I felt. But my journey dealing with depression, and now anxiety, taught me this: I would never know what to say until I started to say “I’m not okay”.

Because I didn’t know all the answers, but by having conversations with people, letting them in, that’s when I started to have answers for dealing with what was wrong.

So, let people know you’re there for them. You may not need to say “are you okay?” It might be a simple “let me know if you need anything. I’m here for you”.

Let’s build a world, a community where a connection is strong among us. Let’s start conversations about how we truly are.

We are not alone in fighting our fights.

Yours,

Sophia

X

PS: Project Rockit released a really got resource in how to start a conversation. I will add it below, but before I do, I just wanted to say:

If you are struggling, feeling down or alone, know that you can just leave me a message and that I am here for you. You can also contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) or Headspace (1800 650 890).

Please open up to people. You are valuable, you are loved, and you are important.

To my grandparents,

 

It is hard to count the number of life lessons I’ve learnt from my grandparents on a single hand. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents taught me the value and importance of family, as well as the benefits of a good work ethic. My grandmothers instilled in me a love of the craft (regardless of how terrible I am) and an appreciation for strong matriarchs.

My grandfathers instilled in me a quiet love of family history. My maternal grandfather shared his love of pear schnapps, the comedian Loriot and the joy of a simple Kartoffelsalat with me. My paternal grandfather taught me the joy of words, how to play chess and instilled in me a quiet pride in my Dutch heritage and where I’ve come from.

My maternal grandmother and I share a love of cooking and baking. My paternal grandmother taught me how to knit, and how to create a warm and loving home filled with happy memories. She taught me how to love others in all their eccentricities.

Today’s “National Grandparents Day” is tinged with slight bittersweetness as I’ve had to say goodbye to my maternal grandfather 7 years ago. But amongst the bittersweetness, lies a fierce pride and love for my grandparents, who have taught me so much.

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To my grandparents,

Thank you for making me smile and laugh, and passing on your wisdom and knowledge. 

Thank you for being the quiet, loving support whenever I’ve needed it. Thank you for the words of advice over countless cups of tea and biscuits. But most of all, thank you for loving me.

Yours,

Sophia
x