What makes a good apology

Something that very few people have mastered, including myself, is the art of a sincere apology. I remember a few years ago, I did something pretty stupid without really thinking about it – I used to have verbal diarrhea in certain situations and then have no memory and even worse – take no accountability for what I have said. This has since changed since I’ve learnt from it but at the time I did not understand what it was I had done because I had no memory of what I had said. But regardless, my inability to make a sincere apology meant that I almost lost a good friend because of it. This experience has shaped me and continues to have an impact on the way I communicate with people and play a part in their lives. I’m more mindful of how my words affect people, of how we shape each others lives with our perceptions. But it wasn’t really until a while later, when I was in a position where I wanted an apology from someone else – a sincere heartfelt apology – that I realised how hard it is to do and how I had fallen short before.

It has been a few years since both these incidents but I recently had a conversation with a friend that got me thinking about it again. It reminded me how important it is to apologise with sincerity and how much it means to the person on the receiving end when they hear that ring of truth in a good apology. There are a lot of people with strong opinions and don’t get me wrong – I think it’s good to have an opinion on something but also be willing to hear someone else’s perspective and be open to changing your mind. And most people have the ability to do this and if not, they just say I’m sorry thats just my opinion, let’s just agree to disagree.

The thing about dreams though, is that they are not a fact, they have no boundaries, and you are allowed to have them, regardless of how undesirable it may be to someone else – because guess what – it’s your dream. So when my friend called me out on a dream I had – my biggest most desperate dream in fact – and told me that there is more to life than that, I was understandably a bit upset at his tactless remarks. After suggesting that this was harsh, I was then told what is the epitome of an un-apology; ““I have a pretty strong opinion about this and it probably is hard to hear”. It’s the classic mark of an insincere apology or deflecting the onus from the person who is making the apology to the person they are apologising to – it’s saying it is your fault because you find this hard to hear and you cannot handle what I have to say.

So here you have a terrible apology. Someone who first, doesn’t say the word sorry, second, does not mean this half-hearted apology which is more for convenience than anything else, and third, makes the person they are talking to feel like it is their fault for feeling hurt. You feel what you feel guys. And you do what you have done. So man up and apologise for it. But what actually makes a good apology and how can we practice being people who are compassionate about other people’s feelings, how can we be more mindful and thoughtful? Apologising with sincerity is something that I am still learning and by no means an expert on, so here are some tips I found while scouring the internet:

  • A meaningful apology has 3 R’s; Regret, Responsibility and Remediation. There needs to be some kind of expression of regret like ‘I am so sorry, I know that I hurt you and I feel so bad about it’. You also need to take total responsibility, that means not saying I am sorry that what I said/ did made you feel hurt, but I am sorry for actually doing it because what I did was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it. And finally some offer of remediation like ‘Let me make it up to you.” Or “I know I can’t change what I did but I promise I won’t do it again.”
  • Express regret, Take responsibility, Make it up to them, express the desire to change your behaviour, and request forgiveness
  • Never say “I’m sorry…but….” The but excuses your bad behaviour with whatever actions they have done. They need to take ownership of that themselves.
  • It’s not always the right thing to do to say sorry for everything, because it loses its meaning. Someone who says sorry as an involuntary reaction to everything they do isn’t really thinking about the apology or how what they have done has really affected the other person.
  • Don’t say sorry if you don’t mean it.
  • Sometimes just saying “I’m sorry” is not enough. You need to actually show that you’re changing your behaviour and seek confirmation that your actions are providing remediation.

Apologising for something that you have done should be because you are sincerely sorry for it, because you understand the hurt and pain you have caused someone else and you want to make it up to them. An apology should not be about you getting closure from what you said or did, or about you trying to smooth ruffled feathers because its inconvenient. Apologise and mean it, from the bottom of your heart, and then try to act in ways that show you are following through on your words.

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Yuppies of the Twenty-tens

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I live in a generation of Yuppies. They walk with a confidence born only in the lap of luxury, toilet trained with 3-ply hypoallergenic toilet paper and a golden-plated potty for all I know, and years of never wanting for anything. They worked student jobs to pass the time and buy extravagant gifts for their girl/boyfriend rather than supporting themselves. Because what else are parents for but to sponge off and stock the fridge right? Young Urban Professionals. You know the type. The upwardly mobile, affluent 20 somethings who drive around the city – strike that – hi-tail it for the tram in the mornings – because let’s face it, they’re also pretentious assholes who want to prove they’re reducing carbon emissions and lowering themselves enough to get public transport with the plebs.

I live in a generation of Yuppies and contrary to the sincere attempts I make in loving the body I live in and the life I lead, I feel embarrassed about the fact that I shop at second hand stores, when in reality, this is something that I enjoy doing and am proud of. Against the deep-seated pride that I have in my ability to support myself, to pay for my own education, travel, and the long term investment in myself, I find myself ashamed that I don’t spend as much as my peers, for the fact that I budget, and that I am judged for this.

I recently got involved in a mentoring programme for students from a regional high school, many of whom have no plans to go to university, and some who have never been to the city and seen people working in a professional environment. I find myself wondering what we can possibly offer them that will empower them to dream bigger dreams but still be relatable to their lives and families, and the more I look at the people around me the more I feel like our lives collectively are so far removed from the reality of many of these families. How do we, with our neatly tailored corporate suits, touch screen laptops and carefully manicured shellac nails (except me – I’m still an old fashioned do-it-yourself girl) – how do we say anything that can remotely relate to these students who are struggling with the idea of a sense of self, of the logistics of moving out of home and living in the city, and perhaps do not know of anyone in their family who has done so.

I live in a generation of yuppies. Over the last few months, since I moved out of home for the second time with a new awareness of the differences between me and my peers, I have noticed things I didn’t before. This heightened sense of awareness is the result of growing older partly, a slightly better grasp of self-possession (because you have to learn the rules before you break ‘em) and the time and space to observe social differences when the demands of life at its most basic level have settled.

I’ve had people ask me with slow surprise if I am financially independent from my parents. The short answer to that is yes. And then comment that they can’t possibly imagine what it would be like to be financially independent from their parents. While that is refreshingly honest, it is also shockingly ignorant. As a woman in her mid-twenties, it is somewhat expected that I would be working full-time, be flatting, or have my own place. That I’m able to pay my bills on time, cook and clean, hold down a job and possibly a relationship at the same time. It’s what most people around the world do. Would I change it? No I wouldn’t give up my independence for the world. But would it be easier to take a backseat in my own life and be financially dependent on other people – yes of course. So comments like ‘wow I can’t imagine what that [being financially independent] would be like’ only entrench my own sense of self-sufficiency and yet emphasise the disparity I feel exists between my values, beliefs, goals and stage of life and that of many of my peers. I’ve thought long and hard about it – this difference I am so aware of. And the answer is that I live in a generation of yuppies and I struggle to relate to them and they cannot possibly relate to me.

We all have different dreams and aspirations, financial commitments and goals, but there is this strange illusion that we are all the same. It was my goal to move to Australia and get a job in a Big Four or Mid-Tier company. The consequent results of that such as paying off my student loan, moving out of home, paying rent and bills etc, are part and parcel of the decision that I accepted. Luckily, I have parents who taught me to save, so working from the age of 17 and saving by habit helped me. I have trouble understanding the concept of ‘saving for something’. I am constantly asked ‘What are you saving for?’. It’s difficult to answer that I’m not really saving for anything right now but I’m saving for all the things I will no doubt want in the future so I find myself giving socially acceptable answers like ‘travelling’ and ‘buying a car’. I didn’t know I would have to pay off my student loan in 10 months time but I did, and luckily I had the money saved to do it. I don’t know what wants and needs I will face 10 months from now, but I know that if I save now, I will have the resources to do it. Frankly, I do not need to justify my decision to save money, or put away a part of each pay check.

I have lived vicariously in the past, booked international flights spontaneously after grabbing a brochure off a Flight Centre wall. There have been times when I have literally only had enough money to last me for groceries until the next payday but these were all decisions that I made and I look back and I’m glad that I booked those flights, that I travelled to those countries and had amazing experiences. But the days of booking flights on a whim are gone. For the time being. I am at a completely different life stage than I was two years ago and this is a natural part of growing up. You change, your wants and needs change. And the choices that served you well in the past, may now no longer be viable. While I understand this all too well, I have a strong suspicion that many of my peers do not. I constantly feel the need to justify my decision to not go out for dinner or a show – yes it is $25 I know but is it worth going into my savings for it and losing my bonus interest (this is then followed by a conversation trying to explain how bonus interest works on a savings account).

I’m 25 years old and I have never bought anything from a vending machine. I do not eat out unless I’m eating out with other people, as a social thing (unless I’m travelling of course). I never get takeaways and I try my best to avoid buying water (water should be free if you can drink it out of a tap wtf!?). I love finding bargains and buying clothes from second hand markets and vintage stores. I cook all my meals and usually take lunch to work most days, unless there is a group lunch I’m going to. I do not own any shoes over $50 or clothes over $100. I am often faced with a mixture of thinly veiled derision and pity that I bring lunch from home more often than not. I don’t know why because I have always done it, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Unless you have ever been broke, or known what it is like to struggle to find work, watched your parents move countries and struggle to find jobs to support their children, you will not understand the hesitation to spend money on something that you do not need.

These are all decisions I’ve made for myself that work for me, and that I’m proud of. I do not flaunt these choices because they are mine, it has nothing to do with anyone else. It is each individual’s right to exercise these choices. However, questioning my choices and assuming that I’m cheap because I choose not to go out for dinner because it’s not within my budget, or because I choose to shop at second-hand stores or my decision to take a packed lunch to work, only illustrates your inability to understand that every individual has different financial commitments and goals for the future. While I do not expect an explanation for other people’s decisions to spend most of their salary drinking, eating out, and buying luxury clothes and perfumes, I do not expect to have to give an explanation for my decision to pay for my own travel, education, to go to plays and musicals, to save for the future, and live within my means.

When I, a woman in my mid-twenties, find myself having to justify my financial choices and goals, then how are we, as adults who cannot grasp the idea that people are not the same, that we all have the right to make different choices, that not everyone is born in a lap of luxury – how are we to relate in any way to children who have grown up in a low socio-economic background, who believe their fate is to leave school and go into trade jobs, who work part-time jobs to help their parents support younger brothers and sisters. I do not come from an affluent background. I’ve been brought up with the ideals of working hard for the things I want, to live within my means, save for my future and to provide a good education and stable life for my children when I do have them. The choices I make are influenced by the childhood I’ve had, by the fact that I am a child of immigrant parents, by my own experiences with living out of home and my readiness for stability and space to put down some roots. I hope that in time, the affluent youth, the ones that clearly have no need to save as they look out at the view from their parent-funded Southbank apartments, are able to recognise that not everyone is the same, and not everyone has had the luxuries that they take for granted.

I recently heard Kyle Vander Kyup speak at a National reconciliation week event and I was inspired by his story of growing up black in a white family, trying to be proud of his culture and ignore the taunts of children at school. It’s a story I’m familiar with, moving to a western country at the age of eight and feeling like I looked different, talked different and definitely was seen as ‘other’. But the strength of his adopted mother in seeking funding and support for her athlete son in particular is what moved me. I guess the disparity that exists between people is two-fold, three-fold. It’s that of money and status, it’s a disparity in race and socio-economic groups, it’s a disparity that exists between normative expressions of sexuality and those that lie in the parameters. What I’m trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that there are many differences between people, and affluence is just one of them. However there is an intersection of wealth, race, and ‘normative-ness’ that is by far the most ethnocentric group of them all and it’s important that this group recognise the differences in each of us as individuals, in our goals and aspirations and the decisions that we make because of it.

Is ’planning’ nature or nurture?

I’ve often been told that I plan too much and while this might be true, I think that what non-planners often don’t realise is that we, those who love to plan, to tick off checklists, to diarise and schedule – we get as much satisfaction out of our planning as we do the activity. It’s almost unfair that we get to live through something more than once, simply by virtue of the time and effort we spent planning it. And if you’re like me and you document every event in your life whether privately or on a public forum, you know you can always go back to it and it will bring back all the memories of what once was. I like to think of planning as ‘Take 0’. It’s the time you allow yourself to go through the holiday/ interview/ speech/ grocery shopping in your head and do it once before you actually do it. It could be as simple as writing down your grocery list before you go to the supermarket, it could be as detailed as planning a function with the performances, speeches and menu timed to the minute.

It’s almost like an athlete visualising stepping up to his mark, the roar of the crowd, the blowing of the whistle, and his feet pounding on that track, before he even steps into the stadium. Planning is not just a safety net though, there is a satisfaction you gain at your own skill and capability in what you forsee as a great performance, or a gold medal at the end of the finish line – before you’ve even run the race. You allow yourself a little bit of self-congratulation even as you plan, before the act has begun. Its positive reinforcement, its self-motivation, its giving yourself a little pat on the back as you look at that list with everything ticked off. What could possibly be wrong with that?

There are times when you can plan too much however. And I think this is what most people are getting at. I plan a lot, but I often change these plans as I go when I realise that what I planned may not have been feasible, or if better opportunities come up, or I meet people along the way who give me better advice. For example, on my first time travelling alone I had planned my time in Bangkok in great detail, but finding myself confronted with language barriers and the cultural scepticism facing women travelling alone in an Asian country, I decided to abandon well-laid plans of taking local buses and stuck to the MRT and BRT trains which had clear routes and maps, taking tuk tuks to places were further away. I grew tired of temples and decided to get massages instead. I found that I fell in love with markets so I spent my time searching for unique local markets and trying to fresh fruit there rather than going to a historic house I had planned to go to. Plans change all the time and that is what is great about them. They are prospective – they haven’t happened yet. The great thing about a plan is that even if things change, you can still feel proud of a great plan.

But what makes some of us feel the need to plan and others travel more spontaneously, not knowing where they might spend the night or which city they will be in the day after? All along I thought I was a planner because I’ve watched my dad plan holidays in great detail, and my mum label and categorise boxes in our house with lists and cross-checking items. Yet after my trip to the States, I realised that I am actually the biggest planner in my house. I’m the kid with the five-year plan and the ten year plan, the 25 going on 40 year old who researches superannuation schemes and books car rentals 5 months in advance. While I left most of the cities on my trip as mostly unplanned with a rough idea of the things I wanted to do there, I planned my time in New York in great detail. I could easily live in New York for a month and still not do everything I wanted to do. You can imagine how hard it was for me to cram a lifetime of New York living in 7 days.

I started off with a 23 hour day (which is far too easy to do in New York), ended up getting sick and crashing after 6 weeks of non-stop travel and found that my body was not as superhuman as I’d planned for it to be. Evidently after six weeks of sleeping in a different city every night, eating out everyday and drinking almost as often, it had decided it was time to call it quits. Imagine my disappointment when I had created detailed hour by hour plans of all the things I wanted to do in New York, with my 7 day New York pass and annotated map of the city. Now, if I was a non-planner, this would have me unphased. Sure I would’ve been annoyed, but I probably wouldn’t know what I was missing out on. Being the planner that I am, I had already lived my week in New York in my head. I already had vivid ideas of what I would be doing, the places I would see and the experiences I would have. And then I realised another important fact; when your plans are altered, it is only good if the change is better than your plan. If it is worse, you are better off never having planned at all. Sour grapes huh.

When I realised this I decided to do some research to get an understanding of why I love to plan – need to plan almost, and many other people don’t. I realised that this was harder to decipher than I thought it would be (a simple google search didn’t come up with anything much). I found articles on things like ‘Why successful people plan’ and ‘Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them’, but nothing on why people in general are more likely to plan and others more likely to lurch into the unknown with no plans whatsoever. So I decided to come up with my own list, based on myself, that could be universal – or not.

• I am the eldest child – being the first child in a family makes you naturally take responsibility, you suddenly have someone younger than you to boss over, to take care off, to be a role model for. Even with a year and a half year difference, I enjoyed my position of being the older one and lorded it over my brother, ‘teaching him’ how to cut his own birthday cake, and beating up anyone who bullied him at school. Being the eldest, prepared me to have to think for others, to protect, to watch over – and ultimately – to plan.
• That protection thing is quite a powerful element. I believe we all have a tendancy towards fight or flight whether we have realised this or not. And it depends on what the situation is. If my brother or children were threatened, I would fight. I am the snarling cat with lips curled back and bared teeth, the fierce mama bear if those I love who are weak and defenceless (bebitos) are threatened – or in the case of my brother – someone who I have spent my whole life watching over by habit. This need to protect – this fear for the lives of others or need to watch over – makes us plan subconsciously. We are always alert for what could happen, even on a less life threatening level. It’s probably what drives us to book flights and accommodation months before our holiday or look up menus to a restaurant before we go to dinner. It’s what prompts us to plan our career, map out a route and check bus timetables, and look up a movie on IMDB before we download it.
• The habits of our parents – I’ve touched on this already but I’ve seen my parents plan my whole life so naturally, I have been raised to plan ahead.
• Culture, and cultural difference from the society you are surrounded in. Being of ethnic background, in a predominantly Western society, I find that the way I was raised is so different from many of my peers that as I grow older, I almost exaggerate some of these habits that have served me well, as a defence mechanism. For example, I compare prices of a general list of food items across three supermarkets and take photos of the prices of groceries at cheap Asian stores so that I will remember to go back there for it when I need it. Having been broke in the past, being financially independent, and watching my parents struggle as new immigrants as a child, are all factors that have ingrained a deep sense of caution in me. I’m the 25 year old that categorises her expenses and actually checks them back against the budget. It’s not to say I don’t buy the spontaneous plan ticket when there’s a sale on and plan a holiday around it. But even that involves a plan.
• The type of family we are in. By this I mean a nuclear family, or a single-parent household, a home with many half siblings and step siblings, only child house, etc. I come from a nuclear family and I have a younger brother. The fact that I have seen my parents plan together financially, discuss bills and support each other, facilitates the idea that planning around money is something that families do together. The fact that I have a younger brother as opposed to sister, means that I would naturally plan for both of us. Not to be sexist, but I have noticed with my experience of boys by and large that they are terrible at planning. Notice how most PA’s are women for example. It’s a fact you can see in the workforce all the time. Women are just better at synchronising schedules, planning events, and organising people.
• What people expect from you. When push comes to shove, most people will step up to the plate. People do what they never thought they could do all the time. We are constantly surprising ourselves because we have very little faith in ourselves. That’s why its so helpful having people around us who think we can achieve more than we believe possible, because more often than not we will step up to the mark because we don’t want to fail them, and in the process surprise ourselves as well. But what about planners? I strongly believe that often people who are able to plan may not really want to, but they do it because no one else will. Think about a group of friends planning a holiday together. Who is the person who finally does the lions share of the planning? And does that person really want to or is it just because everyone else is too lazy.

I’m sure there are lots of other factors but these are just a few I can think of at the top of my head. After a long 25 years of living *chuckle chuckle* I think I’m well and truly sick of planning. I’ve done a lot of it over the last few years and now that my career has begun and my life is relatively stable, I would like to take a backseat, and let life unroll. Unfortunately, after establishing myself as a capable planner, this is harder to do than I thought it would be. When you have to plan your own birthday because your friends are too lazy and well, you always plan everything for them – you know that it’s time you hang up your hat and call it a day. Right now, I would like nothing better than for someone else to plan a weekend for me and organise everything – the bookings, the activities, everything. And all I’d have to do is just show up, not a plan in mind.

Conversation

Friday 11th March

It has been a while since I last blogged and I guess it’s because life has been moving so fast – at least relative to my past – that I haven’t had time I’ve just been too busy absorbing it all. I was having dinner with an old friend last night and we were at one of those tiny Asian places in Mid City Arcade on Bourke Street, sitting at a shared table, trying hard not to overhear the conversation of the people sitting right next to us although our elbows kept bumping together (side note -Investment bankers phewfff reowr), and they were trying hard not to listen to us. It was a funny moment, because snippets of their conversation that pricked our ears e.g. Tinder, and salsa dancing, set us off on our tangent and vice versa. While we were not strictly dining  – I feel like our separate yet parallel conversations influenced each other in a symbiotic relationship.

It got me thinking about conversation, how it ebbs and flows, how it is orchestrated for a purpose at times, how we can manipulate conversations and direct them towards a certain topic, and how sometimes they just evolve of their own free will, like living breathing creatures. Sometimes a good conversation is simply the silence between two people, the words that are never spoken and don’t need to be.

I don’t want to be one of those couples that finish each other’s sentences – I like talking too much for that and frankly I would get annoyed if I could never finish a sentence because boy this girl can talk. I’d like to think that even 20 – 30 years down the line, I am still a mystery, a force to be reckoned with, and I can surprise the love of my life with the ridiculousness that comes out of this mouth.

Some people are attracted to physique, others to athletic prowess, or musical abilities. I fall in love with words. Give me a guy who knows a word with over five syllables and you’ll have me swooning. There is something about well-read men – well-read people in general – that is really charismatic. I love people who can pick up on the references I throw out there and they get exactly what I mean. I once knew a guy three years ago who was on crutches because he’d torn his ACL, and I casually said ‘Hey Tiny Tim’ and he greeted me with ‘Hey Scrooge’ and it was such memorable moment it’s still stuck in my head. Because someone actually got it and it made my day!

I love conversations. I collect them like some people collect stamps. I love the rapport that builds, the banter between two people who have amazing chemistry and you can see the sparks fly off between our words that are creating something between them long before our hands actually touch hesitantly. I love the conversation that takes on a life of its own and I go over it afterwards in my head, reading words between the words, meaning between the lines and the words in the spaces spoken with our eyes.

Words can hurt, but words can also heal. Words can set a war into motion, they can save a life. I believe words are our strongest asset and I will never stop loving them.

What I know for sure

What I know for sure

I recently read the book ‘What I know for sure’ by Oprah which is partly based on her weekly Newspaper column of the same title. It got me thinking about what I know for sure in my life – short life so far – and I thought I’d make a list of what I know to be true for me.

What I know for sure:

• I will always love my brother and he will always love me regardless of what happens or where the years take us
• I will be an amazing mother. I will doubt myself later and second-guess my parenting decisions when my children are teenagers, but ultimately I will be an amazing mother to my children
• I will never regret money spent on travelling or new experiences, if they are choices I have made without undue pressure from others. These experiences have only enriched my life and I am sure will continue to do so
• The rules I made for myself and morals I held myself to when I was younger were useful at the time. Some of them are still decisions I continue to adhere to and guidelines I hold myself to. Others are not. Our standards and values change as we get older and that’s okay. I do not need to feel guilty for evolving from the ideals I had when I was younger.
• There are things in life that require closure. Unfortunately, we may not always receive it. In time I must move forward anyway. There are some questions that may always be unanswered and doors always half open and I will just have to accept that.
• Regardless of what I believe love is or what it feels like, I will not experience what truly unconditional self-sacrificing love is until I have children. And I will probably be blown away by how my heart is tied to them.
• My family will always be there for me and love me no matter what. It may take them some time to understand my decisions and choices at times but eventually they will come around.
• Global warming, terrorism and poverty are happening whether we choose to see it or not. It is better to open our eyes to the problems we face in the world than bury our heads in the sand.
• I will always love to read and write because it feeds my soul and I will squeeze out little pockets of time to write because I need it to feel emotionally and mentally fulfilled.
• There are books, places, music and art that will always remind me of people I have loved over the course of my life. It is more beneficial to my emotional health to see them as a gift, a remnant of what as, a token from time to be grateful for rather than memories to grieve over. I need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

If you’re going to San Francisco

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Had an early flight from Newark Airport to San Fran, where Rohan and Savini came to the airport to get me which was very nice of them. Didn’t realise they were going to get the train there. Then went to Shailas, saw Viaan and I carried him for ages and he was laughing in my arms. What is it about babies that make you immediately happy and the world just a little bit better. Was nice spending the afternoon at home with everyone and hanging out and then went to Off the Grid with Rohan, Vivek, Savini, Sanjay and met up with some friends of theirs at Off The Grid. Was really cool – heaps of street food, different stalls and cuisines. Had a lobster hot dog, some other drink, and a bay breeze and some spiced wine which was really nice. Went to a couple of other bars and some guy at the bar started talking to me, said I was a ‘very cute Indian Kiwi hybrid girl’ which is the strangest but probably one of the most genuine compliments I’ve ever received, mostly because he was a bit drunk I think. Compliments are such a confidence boost whatever they are, not gonna complain lol. Went back to Shaila and Sunil’s place and were up talking for ages.

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Woke up early at 5:30am the next day – couldn’t sleep. Had to wait until 6:45 to get dressed and stuff was really bored. Rohan called me an Uber and I went into the city to Taylor Street to do my day trip tour. Went across the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped on the other side and took photos, then to Muir Woods and did a 45 minute walk through the Redwood Forests which was really cool. Loved the air in there. Stopped at Sausolito for lunch and I bought two dresses at a tiny little shop I found for $10 each which was a great find. Was a lot of confusion and got freaked out that I’d miss my ferry to Alcatraz because our bus going back broke down but I managed to go there and get a replacement ticket for the next ferry to Alcatraz. Met a bus driver called Miya Strong who was a Samoan from Compton (literally straight outta Compton) who drove me back to San Francisco by bus. I almost cried, thought I’d missed my ferry to Alcatraz and wouldn’t be able to go. Some people are blessings in disguise. He was so kind to me, just goes to show you shouldn’t judge people based on whether someone is suited up or covered in tatts.

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He drove me back to San Fran and I got the 3:15 bus Ferry out to Alcatraz. Was so incredibly happy. Did the Audio Tour which was really cool and walked through the Prison, saw the place where the inmates broke out of and the tunnel they dug. Great views of San Fran from Alcatraz at the top of the island. Then got the Ferry back and walked around Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Met Rohan, Vivek, Savini Sanjay and Jacob and went to Golden Gate Bridge Park. Drank a few small bottles of wine in the car on the way over and had a hilarious conversation that I don’t remember in the car. Thank God. Then went up to Golden Gate Bridge park and ran out of the car, jumped on Sanjay and started spinning around, was really fun. Went to Maccas and had chicken burgers, possibly. Walked into a glass door which accounts for the bruises the next day. Lets just say I had an early night : )

 

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Really grateful I have such nice cousins who looked after me even though I was a mess, and they haven’t seen me for 12 years.

Woke up late the next day feeling extremely sorry and guilty, bummed around at home and went to church with Rohan, Vivek and Savini after breakfast. Vivek left after lunch, and we went to a Korean BBQ place which was pretty good. Then came back home and played with Viaan, dressed him up in different outfits was really cute. Then after dinner, had fun hanging out with Sunil, Sanjay, Shails and Aunty Freeda. Sanjay was talking so fast it was like spidermans web shooting out with his hand.

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Spent the last day at home, went shopping for a couple of hours at Ross dress for less and picked up a dress, two pairs of shoes for work and some flats, a handbag, pjs, and some tops. Probably the most shopping I’ve done on this whole trip.

The end of my trip came fast and it was very hard to say goodbye to Viaan. He will be so much bigger the next time I see him. Said goodbye to Aunty Freeda and Shaila and then Sunil dropped me to the BART station and I got the BART to the Airport.

Definitely learnt a lot about myself on this trip, glad I got to have all these experiences, meet so many new people, and family as well. Looking forward to the next adventure!

What Dreams are Made Of

I had been waiting for New York like a child waits for Christmas, with bright eyes willing myself to stay awake all night – only when I finally got there, I realised that a part of me had been waiting for New York or what it was a symbol for, my whole life. I have always been independent, even as a child, and over the years lost and gained confidence sporadically depending on what life hit me with, but I had some strange idea, that when I got to a city bursting with life, when I was finally doing it all on my own – it would all make sense and I would become exactly who I was meant to be. In actuality, that wasn’t New York – It was Melbourne. In Melbourne I grew a little bit more, made decisions more fearlessly, rounded out those angles and corners and redirected myself towards the path I always wanted to be on. For the first time in my life, I was an independent functioning adult, working and saving, planning holidays with friends and travelling alone, paying rent, grocery shopping and cooking and amidst budgeting and paying off my student loan. In a way I suppose Melbourne was my New York. It was what I needed to come into myself. But Melbourne only prepared me for New York itself.

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Saturday 5th September

On my first day in New York I woke up at 6am and my Aunty dropped me off to the bus stop and I got the New Jersey Transit bus to New York. I will never forget the confusion of the Times Square Station, the warren of tunnels leading from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to Times Square Station and the heat of the subway it was just above the earth’s core. I arrived in New York by 7.40am and walked to the Empire State Building which opened at 8am and skipped the steadily growing line to go up to the 86th Floor with my shiny New York Pass – shame suckers! Just kidding. Amazing views from the top of Empire State Building, walked up to the upper viewing deck as well and saw all of central park, the Statute of Liberty, Chrysler Building, and Brooklyn Bridge. Then did the Sky Ride which was also part of the New York Pass and it was shit.

Walked down to St. Paul’s Cathedral and had a look there before going to Rockefeller Centre and had some more jaw-dropping views. Unfortunately didn’t have time to do the Rockefeller centre tour which I heard a lot about, even though I got a ticket for it, was pretty bummed about that. Then went to Duffy Square which was cool, saw this kid being filmed and realised he was this little fat kid that was on Ellen – really obnoxious and loud – kinda like a male version of Honey Boo Boo but everyone thought he was cute. Meh. Walked up to Central Park and did my first walking tour which was the Central Park movie tour. Saw a lot of famous places from Gossip Girl, Bridesmaids, Enchanted, Harry Met Sally, etc. Also saw Strawberry Fields, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s apartment building, the Imagine memorial, the ‘Dairy’, and the temporary fair grounds that are converted into the famous skating rink in the winter. Never realised that this was where the Ice Skating scene in Love Story was filmed.

Then had a bit of a rest because I was really tired and hadn’t eaten all day except for a banana and walked to McGee’s Pub where I met the bus group for the second tour. Did the Uptown Movie Tour by bus and saw places from Friends, Seinfeld, You’ve got mail and lots of different movies like rosemary’s baby, and the hotel that had the infamous scene from Almost Famous. Also went to Café Lalo where You’ve got Mail was filmed, and saw some more scenes from Enchanted up around the top of Central Park. After the tour was over, finally got a sovlaki from one of those street food places, and was really looking forward to eating it. Was my first meal of the day at 5.30pm haha. But decided to walk to the Guggenheim first.

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My map of New York was a tourist map and only went up to halfway up central park so I ended up walking from 47nd street to 86th, eating my sovlaki somewhere along the way. When I got to the Guggenheim I was shocked at the length of the line going in but luckily I had my New York Pass so could skip the whole line and spent about an hour and a half there walking from top to bottom with my audio tour. Loved the Kandinsky exhibition.

$31 Metrocard was the best investment ever. I used it so much over that week, definitely got my money’s worth riding the subway everywhere. I took the subway down to Times Square and met up with Rohan, Savini and their friends. Had Pizza for dinner and then went to a rooftop bar in Little Italy that was really cool. Met another group of people randomly and hung out with them. Unfortunately by 2am when we left, I realised that I was sick. Suddenly got food poisoning from the souvlaki I had at 5:30 and spent the rest of the night doubled over in pain in line to the McDonalds Bathroom at 3am. It was like the scene from Bridesmaids – you know the one I’m talking about.

Went back with Rohan and his friends to the place they were staying in in Flushing, Queens. Fell asleep on the subway with my mouth hanging open and was sick as a dog the whole night. Finally crashed and slept at 4:30am so I guess all in all it was a pretty eventful first 23 hours non-stop in New York City.

Sunday 6th September

Woke up at 8am, slept for about 3 and a half hours but felt a lot better but still sick. Left at 10am and started walking towards a general direction of where I thought the subway might be. Found myself in freakin Chinatown or Korea town and tried to ask for directions but no one could speak English. Apparently my sign language for train (choo choo!) wasn’t as obvious as I thought it was because no one could understand me and just shook their head and walked past. Finally a nice man walked me to the subway, where I had to quickly say thank you and bye to him and make a dash for a nearby Burger King and use the bathroom again. I was starting to get terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it back into Manhattan on the subway without having to stop multiple times to use the restroom but turns out I was okay after that, just very very tired and weak.

Took the subway to Times square and then changed lines and took th subway to Spring Street. Did the Soho, ChinaTown and Little Italy Walking tour which was really interesting – seeing the oldest Pizza Restaurant, oldest cheese restaurant, Cast Iron buildings, and mafia and mob streets in Chinatown – Dovers corner I think. It was the street where the real Gangs of New York happened, with the Irish Italians. There was this restaurant where a man got shot in the back by another gang which resulted in the phrase – never eat with your back to the door. Really interesting! Wish I had been well, could have had some gelato but didn’t want to risk it. Just got some rip off Gatorade from Chinatown for $1.50 and kept drinking that all day, was too scared to eat.

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Then went to Madison Square park and saw the Flat Iron Building and then to a near by museum where I spent a chouple of hours. Before taking the subway to Times Square and got the Bus back to New Jersey. Didn’t do as much as I planned to today but I think I learned by lesson after yesterday and decided to just take it easy – no more 22 hour days! Went back home and played with the kids. Aunty Preethi made some really amazing soup which was really sweet of her and I felt a lot better. And hungry! Which was amazing. Went to bed by 10:40pm

Monday 7th September

Woke up at 7:30 and had breakfast, played with the kids and left by 8:25am. Went to Times Square and bought a ticket for the Chicago Broadway show this evening so very very excited, as anyone who knows me that I was obsessed with the movie Chicago in my early teens. Then went down to Tribeca and walked around, home of Taylor Swift – half hoped I would see her just casually walking her cat or something but no such luck. Walked down to Chambers street and saw the Parliament Buildings, then did Brooklyn Bridge tour and walked across the Bridge which was really cool, amazing views of the whole city and the New York Skyline. I would love to live in Brooklyn, just across the bridge from Manhattan. Walked past Dan Humphrey’s apartment from Gossip Girl, saw some street art by Shepard Fairey, and cool old Warehouses and buildings. Just love the red brick and the oldness so drinkable like I could sniff it up like a library.

Met up with Deanne at Brooklyn Bridge Park and had quesadillas for lunch, then walked around Brooklyn in the suburbs. Was surprised at how well everyone dresses, like it is constantly fashion week. I thought Brooklyn would be really indie and hipster, and I guess it is, but it is also very very upmarket in some areas. Saw some houses I would love to live in. Then got the subway back to Battery Park in Manhattan and Deanne and I went to the Jewish Heritage Musuem. Was really nice just walking and talking and seeing her after ages. Both of us liked the Jewish Heritage museum but were moved to tears a lot of the time. Really sad seeing the photos of children who were victims of the holocaust. Then Deanne came with me back to Times Square to pick up my ticket for Chicago, walked through Bryant park and we got banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery which was yum!

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Said bye to Deanne and then went to see Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre. Was amazing I loved it, a little bit disappointed with Velma’s character. I guess nothing could beat Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly. She just had that magnetic personality and the performance of ‘My sister and I’ was a little bit lacking in oomph. Had a good time anyway, though I felt very underdressed in sneakers, shorts and a singlet while there were people dressed in beautiful dresses and expensive shoes. Ah well. I am incredibly grateful that I got to go to a Broadway show in New York.

Got the bus back to New Jersey and Uncle Neil picked me up at 11:50 which was really nice of him.

Tuesday 8th September

Got up at 6:15 and had a quick shower, and Aunty Preethi made me a sandwich for breakfast and I ate it in the Financial District on my way to Battery Park. Had a quick look at the Bull on Wall Street, then got the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty and walked around for a while. Great views of the skyline again and again, it was humbling to be so close to such an iconic statue that has meant so much to so many people. Had a really nice lemonade at the Statue of Liberty.

Then got the Ferry back and decided not to go to the Museum at Ellis Island. Instead went to the Freedom Tower, and Highline Park up on the east side of Manhattan and walked it for a bit. High line was alright, not that amazing. Then had lunch and went to Hells Angels Flea Market which again was disappointing, and then rushed back to Financial District for my Wall Street Walks Walking tour. Saw the Charging Bull, Trump Tower, famous buildings like Delmonicos, the place where the first terrorist attack occurred in New York City, the old stock exchange building. Apparently it was called Wall Street because a Wall used to exist there and they traded stock over the wall.

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After that I went to the September 11 Musuem which was at Ground Zero, saw the twin tower memorial pools which are these huge pools in the footprint of the two towers, with the names of the victims on the walls around it. There are two waterfalls in each pool. The September 11 Museum affected me a lot more than I thought it would. As I wasn’t personally affected by 9/11, I didn’t think I would be as moved as I was, but it was really sad hearing families leaving messages for each other saying the loved them when they realised that the plane was hijacked and they might die, or messages saying please call me back so I know you weren’t in Manhattan that day.

After that bought chocolates for Tina/ Colin and took the bus to their place which was in Zone 3. Managed to find it pretty okay. Was nice to meet their family and the kids. Slept by 10pm.

Wednesday 9th September

Got up and went to the UN with Aunty Tina. Went looking for Andy Warhol Factory early in the morning before it opened to the public but I couldn’t find it. Walked around the block to kill time and saw parents walking their fat toddlers to school which was very cute. Finally got into the UN after huge issues with scanning my passport and printing me a pass. Then did the walking tour around the UN which was really cool. The UN has so much art that has been donated by countries across the world and it must be such an honour for them to have art from their country displayed at the UN. Saw the General Assembly Hall, meeting rooms, where the interpreters sit, was really cool, amazing art work as well.

Then went to Grand Central Terminal, did some of the audio Tour. But just walked around mostly. Got the subway to the Lincoln Centre and had a look around, then to the Museum of Natural History. Freaked out a little bit by the time it was closing cos my phone was dying but nice security guard charged it for me for a little bit. Saw almost the whole museum, all the stuff I really wanted to see anyway. Spent about 3 hours there was intense, really good, I would love to be able to take my kids there one day. It was really heart-warming seeing families there, parents with a young child with their nose pressed up against the glass staring at all the animals and dinosaurs.

Then got the subway to Harlem and went on a Harlem Walking Tour. I expected it to be a lot dirtier and more visible crime and drugs just based on the stereotypes – harlems reputation preceeds itself. But it was really beautiful, loved the buildings, the character, so many churches and history. Saw the house belonging to Alexander Hamilton. Really interesting backstory about the duel in which the Secretary of State was killed by the Vice President!

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Then went to the Brown House buildings, city college, Strivers Row – where people who strived to exceed their place in life lived. Finally ended up at a Gospel Church service where we had to all hug each other, and it was really upbeat and fun, definitely did some finger-snapping, clapping with the music.

Then went to Times square, picked up some chocolates for Trisha and took my favourite NJ bus to Binoy’s place and met him at the bus stop. Had dinner with Binoy and Nipa, was lovely spending the evening with them at their apartment and playing with Trisha who is very very cute. Then Binoy dropped me to Uncle Eugene and Aunty Tinas place and went to bed.

Thursday 10th September

Went into the city with Eugene and tina, was raining and yuck. Saw Marilyn Monroe’s subway grate (I think), and then got the subway to the Met and got someone to take a photo of me sitting on the steps, in the rain, like Blair Waldorf. Spent 2.5 hours at the Met but only saw the 1st floor and part of the second floor. It is so huge, and theres so much to see I could easily spend a couple of days there. Loved the Ancient Egypt wing!

Then went to Greenwich Village where I did my last walking tour. Saw Washington Square Park, Café Wha where Jimi Hendrix and Dylan Thomas played, NYU, amazing old buildings, site of the gay pride movement. Unfortunately it started raining halfway through which was horrible, more worried about my camera than anything else. Saw the Friends Building, very cool area. Big part of the gay movement, lots of gay bars and night clubs, first place that had black and white integrated bars as well, also the site of the Womens shirt waist factory fire which killed lots of women. Saw local fire pizza places.

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Then went down to the MOMA which I loved. Wish I could spend more time there – saw lots of Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Monet, Picasso, Seurat, cool photographs and exhibits. Then went back home and spent the evening with the kids.

Aunty Preethi cooked amazing food, dinner was awesome. Played with the kids and read to them before bed. Packed and slept.

Friday 11th September

Woke up early and Uncle Neil drove me to the Airport where I got my flight to San Francisco : )

4 days left before returning have to Auckland!