2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 7)

Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (questapartments.com.au)

Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (questapartments.com.au)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

October
September became October, and my new job continued.

There were some initial hiccups – there was a delay in getting my first pay, and I came down with a persistent cold for a couple of weeks – but otherwise, life in general went well.

And as the weeks passed, life kept on getting better.

Part of it was the job itself. As I mentioned in my previous post, the work was familiar and it was a good environment with nice people, some of whom I became quite friendly with. In all the time that I would spend working there, I would only ever have one really bad day there (and it wasn’t that bad – it was resolved the next day without major issues).

Another part was being able to live in Canberra for a while. As well as my fondness for Canberra since my late teens, the pace of life in the nation’s capital was a nice breather for a while from Sydney.

But the biggest part of why I enjoyed my time there so much was where I stayed, at Quest Canberra in Civic.

Overall, it was a wonderful combination of living in a cozy hotel with great staff in the centre of a favourite city with pretty much everything I needed within a 10-minute radius by foot – work, Greyhound coaches to and from Sydney, groceries, the latest version of one of my all-time favourite bookstores, two cinemas, many restaurants and more.

That more included an unexpected discovery I made shortly after I arrived at Quest Canberra. One morning, I walked around the corner from Quest to the southern side of the Melbourne Building to find something that made me laugh – a big men’s clothing store. Indeed, everything I could possibly need or want was close by (and, yes, I would eventually buy something there).

And as for my hotel room itself, it was grand – not only because there was so much room and I didn’t have to worry about things like housework, but also because it allowed me to live a minimalist lifestyle for a while.

And because there was very little to worry about when not at work, that also meant there was less to worry about at work…

…except for the only persistent problem I had while in Canberra. I don’t know why it happened, and eventually I came to grudgingly live with it, but it caused some trouble at first and it always nagged me.

It was the return of one of my life-long problems.

Insomnia.

*

When my time in Canberra began, I was prepared for some trouble with getting back into a workday routine of waking up early (blah) and going to bed at a more reasonable time than my usual 1am-2am bedtime (blah).

Funnily enough, though, when I look back now I don’t recall that first week at Novotel Canberra being memorably bad for lack of sleep.

But it was during my second week, when I began staying at Quest Canberra, that I recall the dreadful pattern beginning.

At first, I found myself getting tired and going to bed at around 11pm – which I wanted, as it meant that I could possibly get up to eight hours’s sleep before getting up at 7am and getting to the office by 8am…

…but at 2am or so I would always find myself waking up, and then spending the next five hours falling in and out of sleep every 30 minutes or so…

…and for pretty much every other Canberra night that followed, and no matter what time I went to sleep (sometimes as early as 10pm, or as late as 1am), I would always wake up after only two or three hours of sleep and spend the next few hours falling in and out of sleep.

It drove me nuts – especially as I suspect it partly (if not mostly) contributed to that bad cold that blighted my first weeks in Canberra.

I was having a great time in Canberra with few troubles in my life – SO WHY COULDN’T I GET A GOOD’S NIGHT SLEEP?!?

I cursed my subconscious for undermining my life yet again for whatever fucking reason (or reasons), and tried to live with it as best as I could.

But that did mean that for a while, even on weekends I felt like doing very little – which was a shame, because I had plans for long-walking in Canberra. But for several weeks at first, on many after-work nights I barely had enough energy to even watch TV.

As well, although I did buy more Lego as I’d initially hoped to do, I had little and then no creative energy to build MOCs. I began one project that after two sessions spent the rest of its time in Canberra sitting half-finished on the dining table; and most of the other Lego I bought was never opened.

*

While I was in Canberra, I made several trips back to Sydney.

A couple of times, I had to go back to get some things I needed, which wasn’t so bad – but there were also the two weekends I had to go back for an unwelcome reason: prepare my flat for a real-estate inspection. Fortunately, despite all the clutter still in my place, I passed (at least it was clean and tidy clutter).

Another couple of times, my small and cluttered apartment got on my nerves when compared to my grand residence in Canberra, and so did the noise and crowds in Sydney.

But what never bugged me about those travels to and from Sydney were the three-and-a-half-hours each way by Greyhound – and in fact, I always looked forward to those coach trips.

It was partly because they were very comfortable, with two seats to myself and USB ports that ensured my iPod and iPad never went dead.

And it was partly because I knew that whenever I headed north from the Jolimont Centre or headed south from Central Station, all I could do for the next three-and-a-half hours was relax.

And I did.

*

In late October, not long after my two-month contract passed its halfway mark, I got some very welcome news – an extension until 24 December (although I would later use Christmas Eve to travel to Queensland for Christmas with family).

I would now be working and staying in Canberra for three months.

Things just kept on getting better and better.

*

There was also the money I was earning.

Staying at Quest Canberra took about half of it.

I was also still paying rent and monthly bills for home back in Sydney.

And there were the several Greyhound return-trips I made.

But even after all of that, I never lacked for anything in Canberra.

Apart from a few big Lego purchases, and an iPod Touch to replace my iPod Classic after its long career finally came to an end, I didn’t live extravagantly – but I was able to live very comfortably.

As I have previously mentioned, there is the chance that for my next tax-return I may be able to claim back most of the money I spent staying at Quest Canberra and Novotel Canberra – but even if it turns out I can’t, I don’t regret spending it for a working holiday that I enjoyed very much.

November
October became November, and my new job continued.

And although my fucking insomnia persisted, I was feeling less and less like a zombie.

So on weekends, I had begun doing more.

One weekend, on a whim, I decided to get on a local bus and visit a part of Canberra that I hadn’t seen since 1993 – Belconnen, where I’d lived while attending the University of Canberra. And thanks to unexpectedly putting some Lego on lay-by while I was there, I would make two more trips to that place from my past.

Visiting Belconnen was quite an eerie experience. Some of it looked very much like I remembered, while some of it had changed dramatically – especially Westfield Belconnen, which was huge back then but was monstrous now.

Another weekend, I revisited another place that I also hadn’t seen since my uni days – the Australian War Memorial. It was less than three kilometres from Quest Canberra, so I walked out there.

A fellow contractor I was working with said I would be amazed at how big the Memorial had grown – and he was right. I was out there for four hours, and I only got to the end of the Second World War.

As I had been over 20 years before, I was engrossed, moved and unnerved by what I saw at the Memorial.

After I left, I did something I hadn’t done before – walked down the eastern side of Anzac Parade to visit the series of memorials there. Similar to my previous four hours at the Memorial, and especially as I was alone for the whole time, it was a very interesting experience.

*

After that visit to the Memorial, I wanted to return another weekend to finish seeing all of the exhibits and visit the memorials on the west side of Anzac Parade.

Alas, it was not to be – but I did make another walking trip that I will always remember fondly.

A Sydney friend who had worked in Canberra a few years before recommended visiting the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston, on the south-eastern side of Lake Burley Griffin. It was about the same distance by foot as the Memorial, so I decided to walk there as well.

I followed Commonwealth Avenue south across the lake, and then headed south-east along the foreshore to Kingston. It was a great sunny day for walking and seeing some of Canberra at its best.

About half an hour later I reached the Old Bus Depot Markets. Although I’m not really a markets person, they were quite pleasant and I enjoyed the history of the location.

As well, the Markets gave me the excuse to visit nearby downtown Kingston for lunch. From previous experience I knew that Kingston was renowned for its restaurants, and although this visit’s choice was disappointing food-wise the staff and venue were pleasant.

After lunch I retraced some of my past once again by crossing Telopea Park into Barton, where I’d had my first experience of working in Canberra back in…yikes, 2003. On a whim, I then decided to head south-west into Manuka as I vaguely remembered shops from my last visit there in…yikes, 2009.

I’m glad I had that whim because I liked Manuka shops a lot with their lively Sunday-afternoon vibe. I especially liked the local Gelatissimo which was the right place to visit on a hot Sunday afternoon, and then the local bookshop where (I admit) I spent up to an hour showrooming in their history section alone.

After that, I headed north-west through Forrest towards Parliament House and followed Capital Circuit back around to Commonwealth Avenue which took me back across the lake. Finally, I ended my walk at a local institution where I ended many of my Canberra days – Happy’s Chinese Restaurant.

It was one of my favourite long-walks ever, and yet another reason why I didn’t want my time in Canberra to end.

But end it would have to, alas…

December
…although as November became December, there was some hope that my contract might be extended once again.

A couple of hopeful weeks passed – but, alas, it wasn’t to be. 23 December would be my last working day in Canberra (or so I thought).

I confirmed with Quest Canberra that I would be checking out on the 24th. I booked a Christmas Eve flight to Queensland. I made a last trip to and from Sydney on the weekend of 12-13 December to take most of my stuff at home.

And then, on 16 December my employer advised that my contract was now finishing on 18 December instead.

Although three last days of income before Christmas Eve would have been welcome, it wasn’t the end of the world – and I could now spend those last three days holidaying in Canberra instead.

I spent my last day at work attending two separate Christmas functions, which was good fun.

The next week, on my second-last day in Canberra, I once again crossed Lake Burley Griffin to see a place that I had last visited in 1986 on a high-school excursion – Old Parliament House, now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Before I crossed King George Terrace to get to the Museum, however, I visited a place directly opposite that I don’t recall visiting in 1986 – the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. That was a humbling and moving experience.

The Museum was also very interesting. It was amusing and fascinating to think that Australia was once run from a building that had originally been designed for 300 people and to last for only 30 years, but instead it functioned for over 60 years and had up to 3000 people working there when it was retired in 1988.

*

I spent my last night in Canberra having a final dinner at Happy’s, and packing.

The next morning, I bid a fond farewell to Quest Canberra and hoped that one day – and sooner rather than later – I could return.

A short bus-ride later, I was at the airport.

A couple of hours after that, I was flying north to Queensland.

*

A week later, after a pleasant stay with family, I returned to Sydney on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

I had spent most of my previous 31 Decembers alone at home, but this time I would be spending it with a friend and his family in Sydney’s inner-west.

And so, I saw in 2016 with good company – and most of all, happy with how my 2015 had turned out.

It had been one of the most challenging and change-filled years of my life, but also one of my happiest and rewarding – especially during those last three months spent in Canberra.

I will remember that time with great affection for the rest of my life.

Epilogue
2016 began, and I hit the job-hunting trail once more.

A few weeks later, I landed my first (and I certainly hope not my last) job for the year. It was for only four weeks, but one good thing about it was that it was only 20 minutes’ walk from home in the Sydney CBD.

Another good thing about it was that it was close to a pleasant club where I would eat most of my meals for the coming month.

And another good thing about it was the people I worked with.

But a bad thing, however, was the work itself with a difficult client. By the end of the first week, I was already hating it.

At the end of my third week, I was offered a four-week extension and the possibility of further work beyond that – but I’d had enough, and I politely declined.

I did give some thought about whether it would be more prudent and sensible to stay there – after all, it was paying work – but I decided to take a risk and try my chances elsewhere, because I could still afford to and I wanted to.

And as I write this, there are a few potential opportunities.

One of them is a full-time job only 20-30 minutes’ walk from home.

And another is perhaps the chance for a 12-month contract in Canberra.

So there is hope.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

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Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Having a Laugh, Hope, Inspiration, Life is Good, Travel | Leave a comment

Poor Man, Rich Man: Bankruptcy – Year Five

2015-2016

Year One
Year Two
Year Three
Year Four

It’s Valentine’s Day again, which is an important date in my life.

As long-time readers will know, however, it’s not because of love or romance.

On 14 February 2011, I was declared voluntarily bankrupt by the Australian Government.

Ever since, I use Valentine’s Day each year to look back at how far I’ve come financially during the past 12 months.

And after my fifth year of bankruptcy, I’ve come a long way and a good way…

…although it began in a disappointing way, with my job of 19 years being made redundant and ending on 27 February 2015.

Although having to look for work again sucked – especially as the last time I had job-hunted was way back in 1996 – there was also opportunity, especially with my redundancy payout.

My payout was about the equivalent of a year’s pre-tax income. Thus far, it has been the biggest sum of money I have ever seen in my life.

After some delay, the payout finally arrived in my bank account in late March 2015.

And ever since then, for the first (and I very much hope not the last) time in my life, I haven’t had to live from pay to pay.

It has been a very liberating experience, indeed.

*

As I have been describing in my other series ‘2015: A Life Odyssey’, my redundancy payout kept me going during seven months of unemployment during 2015. It also allowed for some large stress-free purchases like my first-ever suit and $1000 worth of Lego.

As well, it allowed for two different outcomes from two experiences that had driven me nuts back in 2014.

In my Year Four entry, I talked about how my trip to Canberra Brick Expo 2014 was almost brought undone by a late tax return and temporarily clouded by an unexpected safety deposit at the hotel I stayed at.

In 2015, however, I didn’t have to rely on a tax return to get me to Canberra Brick Expo 2015, and this time I could pay the safety deposit without it biting into my trip (although I think that safety-deposit policy is nonsense and I wish Australian hotels didn’t use it).

*

As for 2015’s tax return, my redundancy payout made another impact.

In 2014, I had done my tax as early as possible in the hopes of getting my return as soon as possible – but for reasons which the Australian Tax Office never fully explained to me, it took them three months to deliver my return.

In 2015, partly because I didn’t need my return as soon as possible and partly out of annoyance with the ATO’s previous slackness, I didn’t do my tax until only a week or so before the deadline.

Yet this time, I got my return in barely two weeks.

And not only that, it was the biggest return I’ve ever received.

And thanks to having my redundancy payout, I decided to do something special with my return.

Soon after I got it, I put all of my return into my first-ever term deposit.

And months later that term deposit is still there, renewing each month and gaining interest.

So not only did my redundancy payout keep me going for most of 2015, it also encouraged me to start investing.

*

After five months of job-hunting, I finally began a new job in late September 2015.

As I will be describing in detail in Part 7 of ‘2015: A Life Odyssey’, that job paid well and helped contribute to one of the best times of my life.

*

As I type this, a little of my redundancy payout is left.

For this year’s tax return, however, I’m hoping to claim back some money from last year’s job and add it to what’s left of my payout.

As well, if other opportunities arise during the coming year, I hope to add more money and continue investing.

In Year Five of bankruptcy, I began to thrive.

And in Year Six and beyond, I hope to keep doing so.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies, My Story, Poor Man Rich Man, Resources | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 6)

Novotel Canberra, Civic ACT (Wotif)

Novotel Canberra, Civic ACT (wotif.com)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Sunday, 20 September 2015.

Once again, I arrived via Greyhound at Canberra’s Jolimont Centre just after noon. It was a nice pleasant day in Civic.

Soon I was at the nearby King O’Malley’s pub, sitting down to my ritual ‘arrival lunch’ of a Mexican King pizza and jug of diet cola.

About two hours later, I checked in at Novotel Canberra to find that I had been given a cozy room for the next five nights.

My room at Novotel Canberra looked similar to this (accorhotels.com.au)

My room at Novotel Canberra looked similar to this (accorhotels.com.au)

I can’t remember what I did for the rest of that afternoon – perhaps I ironed shirts – and I also can’t remember where I had dinner that night.

But overall, despite some apprehension about what might lie ahead, I was happy and hopeful.

*

Monday, 21 September 2015.

I awoke at (ugh) 6am.

Next, I did something that I also don’t like doing early in the morning – have breakfast. Well, it was barely breakfast – just a cup of yoghurt washed down with some chocolate milk. Still, I thought that whatever lay ahead, I would need more energy than what I got from my usual glass of chocolate milk (although I usually didn’t drink that until after 9am, when I had usually gotten up for the past few years).

I packed for work, showered, shaved, dressed and hoped that the day ahead would go well.

Shortly after 8:15am, I left.

Barely 10 minutes later, after a short work across Northbourne Avenue and north up a nearby street, I was standing in the lobby of the building where I would be working for the next two months.

One ‘phone call later, I was met by a pleasant young woman called Rebecca.

By 9am, I was seated at a desk and starting to set myself up.

Suddenly at 9:30am, Rebecca asked me to accompany her to a workshop that was about to begin on another floor.

And soon, my new job truly began.

*

I spent the next day and a half at that workshop writing as many notes as I could about a process that needed updating.

And after the workshop finished, my next task was to illustrate that updated process with Microsoft Visio.

It was just like being back at my previous employer.

I was greatly relieved, and even happy – my experience and skills were still valid, and drawing flowcharts in Microsoft Visio is (mostly) fun.

*

The week before back in Sydney, the agency who’d hired me had told me to show up for work in a full suit.

Thus, because I still only had one tie, I went and bought four more. Although one voice at the back of my mind suggested that I could wait to see if my job required ties every day, I typically fretted that I may not get an opportunity to buy more ties in Canberra during work hours, so I loaded up in Sydney.

That first day of work, I saw only one other person wearing a tie.

I asked Rebecca if I had to keep wearing one, and she said it wasn’t compulsory.

And that day became the first and last time I would wear a tie to work in Canberra.

*

There was another item in my new work wardrobe that I would stop wearing as well, although it would take me a couple of weeks before I replaced it.

Having to wear a suit didn’t bother me, but I quickly came to dislike my jacket.

One reason I didn’t like my jacket was that the feel of padded shoulders drove me nuts.

But most of all, I couldn’t stand how useless my jacket was.

Yes, I mostly wear L.L. Bean travel vests festooned with pockets that I fill with all sorts of items I think I may need (and often use) – and, yes, I appreciate that a suit’s jacket is a different type of garment altogether, and that I don’t need to carry around pockets of gear all of the time…

…but, along with those blasted shoulder pads, I couldn’t stand how the jacket’s pockets were barely able to hold my iPhone and wallet.

As well, the jacket felt flimsy.

So a couple of weeks later, I decided to switch back to my travel vests.

No one said a thing, so I kept on wearing them.

It felt much better, and right.

*

As well as the welcome familiarity of the work I was starting to do, another factor that I liked about that first week in Canberra – and would come to like more and more in the weeks ahead – were the people.

Like Rebecca, they were easy-going and pleasant to deal with.

As well, they were very helpful – especially other contractors I met, who provided very useful advice about the contracting life.

For a timid introvert like myself, I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to begin a new job in.

*

That first week passed, and the beginning of what would become a series of routines during the next weeks emerged:

  1. Get up at 6am
  2. Get to the office at around 8am
  3. Work until noon
  4. Have a moderate lunch mostly at the nearby Canberra Centre shopping mall until 1pm
  5. Finish work at 5pm and returned to the Novotel to change into relaxing shirts and shorts
  6. Have a restaurant dinner from 6pm-8pm or thereabouts
  7. Return to my room and spend a quiet night until bedtime at around midnight

It was all starting to come together quite well.

I was greatly relieved.

*

On the morning of Friday 25 September, I checked out of the Novotel and wheeled my luggage to the office.

By 6pm that evening, I was back at King O’Malley’s, this time having a Pepperoni pizza for dinner and enjoying the ambiance of a Friday night in Civic. Part of me was a little disappointed that I had to spend that night travelling back to Sydney, but I had several more opportunities for Friday nights in Civic ahead.

By 9pm I was back at the Jolimont Centre to board a Greyhound back home.

And just after midnight, I was back there.

*

Saturday, 26 September 2015.

It was back to David Jones to man my display at the Lego show, and help out elsewhere where needed. Apart from the usual small number of ratbag parents and children, it was good fun once again.

At day’s end I packed up my Lego and wheeled it all home.

While at the show I’d also bought more Lego, with the idea of taking it back to Canberra with me and spending some of my spare time over the next seven weeks building more MOCs.

And of course, I could buy even more Lego while I was down there – especially now that I was earning an income again.

Canberra was looking better and better.

*

Sunday, 27 September 2015.

Once again it was back to Central for another 8:00am Greyhound to Canberra.

Shortly after noon, it was also back to King O’Malleys for another Mexican King pizza and diet cola.

But this time at 2pm, I headed to Quest Canberra at 28 West Row in the historic Melbourne Building, which is a very short walk from the Jolimont Centre and the Novotel.

The north-west corner of the Melbourne Building, Civic ACT http://dailyphotocanberra.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/melbourne-building.html

The north-west corner of the Melbourne Building, Civic ACT (http://dailyphotocanberra.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/melbourne-building.html)

The idea of staying at a hotel in the Melbourne Building was intriguing – and as I approached Quest Canberra, I was also pleased by the number of restaurants that were on the north and west sides of the Melbourne alone.

The lobby of Quest Canberra was also pleasing, with its blend of the Melbourne’s original 1920s styling and the present day.

The young man who checked me in – and who, along with his colleagues, would become a very familiar face in the weeks to come – was also very pleasant. It was amusing to see him do a double-take when he saw how long I was going to be staying.

And soon after, I was very pleased with my new temporary home.

An example of a one-bedroom apartment at Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (questapartments.com.au)

An example of a one-bedroom apartment at Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (questapartments.com.au)

I had been given the equivalent of a one-room apartment that was about three times the size of my studio apartment in Sydney (and last week’s room at the Novotel).

Again, it retained some of its original 1920s charm (like the massive non-working fireplace and mantelpiece) along with plush modern styling (like the massive shower, about twice the size of mine back home).

I couldn’t believe it.

I was going to be living in a great-looking hotel apartment for the next seven weeks (or so I thought) in the centre of one of my favourite cities, with my workplace and pretty much everything else I needed (and more, as I would soon discover) within a 10-minute walk.

Last week, my new job and staying in Canberra had gotten off to a good start.

And that Sunday afternoon, things were looking to get even better.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Confidence, Fear, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 5)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

August
July became August, and the job-hunting continued.

And there was another big task for August – building a Lego display for Canberra Brick Expo 2015, at month’s end.

Lego 60097 City Square (legoshop.com)

Lego 60097 City Square (legoshop.com)

A few months before, I had gotten excited about the big new 60097 City Square set, pictured above. Originally I had planned to buy two of them and combine them into a larger My Own Creation (MOC)…and then it became three sets…and finally I decided to splurge and get four sets. After all, I now had the money to buy $1000 of Lego in one hit…and I would eventually get a new job, wouldn’t I?

And what made this situation even more exciting was having to wait – the City Square set wasn’t available until 1 July. If I bought it online, that is – the set wasn’t due to reach Australian stores until late August or early September, which would be too late for Canberra Brick Expo 2015.

And in the weeks leading up to 1 July, what made this situation even more and more exciting was the prospect of maybe getting that job in Chatswood (see Part 4). Not only would getting that job provide greater justification for spending $1000 in one hit on Lego, but it would also be a nice celebratory present for myself.

But after going to the 17 June interview and being told that that a final decision was weeks away, I knew that I would have to buy my Lego as soon as possible after 1 July, to allow for two or more weeks’ shipping time from Europe.

I waited a little longer after 1 July in the hope that a decision about the job might be made earlier.

By Friday 10 July, however, I still hadn’t heard about the job, so I gritted my teeth and paid my $1000.

On Monday 13 July, I finally got word about coming “VERY close” but not quite for the job.

And just over two weeks later, my Lego arrived.

My four City Square sets (and two free bonus sets) outside my apartment, 29 July 2015 (Black and Blue Man)

My four City Square sets (and two free bonus sets) outside my apartment, 29 July 2015 (Black and Blue Man)

And for the next few weeks after, I spent a lot of time enjoying myself as I built my way through those four big sets. There were some creative stumbles along the way, of course, but once again like in April I had the time to afford them (see Part 3).

From time to time there was a little concern about having spent so much money without having a job, but mostly I didn’t regret it.

*

Meanwhile in early August as I began building, I was contacted by another recruiter via LinkedIn.

This recruiter was a colleague of the recruiter who had rung me when I had visited the zoo a few weeks before (see Part 4). He was based in Melbourne, but he also looked after opportunities in Sydney and Canberra.

On Friday 14 August we spoke on the ‘phone, and he suggested that we also meet via Skype. After that, via email, we arranged to Skype on the morning of Monday 17 August.

So I installed Skype, went out and bought a pair of headphones with a microphone, and wondered: what should I wear to our meet on Skype?

It wasn’t a formal job interview, more of a get-to-know-each-other chat…but even so, would it still be prudent to wear a business shirt and tie?

I thought about it over the weekend, and on Monday not long before our meeting I finally decided that, although I did shower and shave, I would only wear one of my best polo shirts. To me, “dressing up” felt like overdoing it.

A couple of hours later, our meeting went well. He was very pleasant to talk to (and wearing a business shirt and tie), and we even had a couple of laughs.

Nothing definite came out of it, but there was some hope.

Like my getting to the interview stage with the job in Chatswood…yikes, two months ago to the day now, it was another step closer towards getting a job.

*

Soon, the end of August arrived.

I carefully packed my display and other stuff into two suitcases, and once again headed down to Central Station for another 8:00am Greyhound for Canberra – to find that Greyhound now offered wi-fi and USB ports on their coaches, which made that pleasant familiar journey even better.

What also made the prospect of this visit to even better was that, unlike some unexpected financial restrictions that had placed a cloud over last year’s visit, this time money wouldn’t be an issue.

No, I wasn’t planning on going stupid – but it would be great to relax and know that money wasn’t something I had to worry about.

And relax I did…enough, in fact, to spend around $70 in a way that I never thought I would ever do.

On set-up day at the Canberra Brick Expo 2015 venue in Woden, I finished putting together my display earlier than expected, so I thought that there might be time to visit one of my all-time favourite Canberra haunts – Clouston & Hall Booksellers in Civic.

So I looked them up online to check their hours of business…and I was stunned to find that they had closed their Civic doors only a couple of months before.

The last time I visited Clouston & Hall Booksellers at their former long-time address in Garema Place, Civic ACT, 22 August 2014 (Black and Blue Man)

The last time I visited Clouston & Hall Booksellers at their former long-time address in Garema Place, Civic ACT, 22 August 2014 (Black and Blue Man)

I was stunned…but soon relieved to find that their Fyshwick warehouse was still open.

Okay, so Fyshwick was a little out of the way for a Woden-staying car-less bibliophile like me, but it was reachable by bus…even if it was about an hour each way, but it would be worth the whole round-trip…

…yet the next day, when I made my way to Fyshwick and back, I went by taxi instead. Which only took about 15-20 minutes each way, but cost about $35 both times.

Looking back now, I can’t remember when I made the decision to go by taxi instead of by bus, but I don’t regret it.

And I was out at Fyshwick for over two glorious hours, patiently making my way around the huge warehouse-store (it was a booklover’s paradise, indeed) and making a long list of books to perhaps buy from Amazon.

Yes, part of me felt slack for doing that showrooming once again. That is not the fault of Clouston & Hall Booksellers, however – their range is great and their prices are very good (and, in almost all cases I’ve found since 2011, comparable to what I pay on Amazon – and sometimes better). The reasons I once again showroomed that day was that, since 2011, ebooks suit me much better for portability and reducing hoarding.

As for Canberra Brick Expo 2015, it was yet another fun occasion to see the amazing work of other Lego fans, and also meet up with Adult Fans Of Lego (AFOLs) from Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. I had a great time.

September
August became September, and the job-hunting continued.

There was another Lego show coming up, this time at the iconic David Jones department store in the Sydney CBD. Fortunately it was only 20 minutes or so away by foot, and I would mostly be reusing my Canberra Brick Expo 2015 display (but with some additions that I hadn’t been able to include down there) so I didn’t have to worry so much about building in time for the show.

And then suddenly, something else happened.

In doing my research for this post, I found that – amazingly – I didn’t record on what day it took place or who it was who called me – the first recruiter who had called me at the zoo in July, or his colleague who I’d Skyped with in August.

But whoever it was, and on whatever day it was, I got a call offering a job opportunity that had unexpectedly come up in Canberra.

It was only a two-month contract.

But it was right in Civic, which was very appealing.

And it was working with a federal government client, which I was interested in doing.

And it would pay the hourly rate I had decided to charge – unlike any of the previous contracting jobs I’d applied for or been contacted about in Sydney during the previous five months.

And most of all, it was a job and I could start leaving alone my redundancy money.

I said yes without hesitation…

…even though my first week of work would also be the week of the Lego show at David Jones.

That wasn’t a problem in that I could still set up my display on the preceding weekend, but it did mean that (a) I couldn’t help out at the show during the week and (b) on the following weekend I would have to return to Sydney, dismantle my display and head back to Canberra.

So much for a weekend unwinding in Canberra after working again for the first time in months, and in a 9-to-5 office-environment for the first time in years.

But life is what happens when you make plans 🙂

*

And during that last week in Sydney before my new job would begin, things moved very busily.

There were several days of email traffic and completing paperwork, including having to suddenly one day get someone’s signature – but fortunately, one of the few neighbours I knew in my building was in that morning.

My new employer helped me book most of my upcoming accommodation in Civic, at a place I was unfamiliar with called Quest Canberra. Because Floriade 2015 was in full swing and Canberra was filled with visitors, I couldn’t get a full eight weeks at Quest Canberra so the first week would have to be elsewhere…so I gritted my teeth and booked an expensive stay at Novotel Canberra. Despite that upcoming big cost, however, I was excited – I would be spending a couple of months in hotels; I like Novotel Canberra; I could eventually claim my stay back on tax (I hoped); and I was looking forward to seeing what Quest Canberra would be like.

I made another trip to the store where I’d bought my suit back in May, and loaded up with more shirts and ties.

On Friday 18 September, I wheeled two Lego-filled suitcases down to David Jones and spent a few hours setting up my display and helping out with other stuff.

On Saturday 19 September, I returned to David Jones to keep an eye on my display and nearby ones by my colleagues.

Very early on Sunday 20 September, I got up and packed for the week ahead.

Less than two hours later, I was once again down at Central Station boarding another 8:00am Greyhound for Canberra.

I was nervous about what could lay ahead during the next five days, and beyond that the following seven weeks – but I was mostly excited about returning to Canberra for the next two months.

And that, I told myself, would help me to keep calm and carry on, and take my new situation one day at a time at one hour at a time.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies, My Story, Travel | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 4)

May to July

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

May
Monday, 11 May, 2015.

My job hunt began…

…and included one application that was rejected only two hours after I had submitted it.

*

Despite that very sudden setback, during the next few days I continued applying for jobs online and contacting recruitment agencies.

*

Thursday, 14 May.

Fortunately, some promising developments had appeared.

First, one recruitment agency lined up a fact-finding interview with a potential client in a week’s time for a possible one-month contract due to start the week after.

Second, the day before I had applied for a job in Sydney – and that day I got a call from their Canberra office, asking if I would be interested in being considered for a full-time position there. I said yes, although I informed them that I could possibly be working for the next month in Sydney. They said fine, and that they would get in touch with me again.

I then spent the next few days preparing for my first interview, which included research, buying my first-ever suit and visiting YouTube to relearn something I was stunned to realise that I hadn’t done in at least 15 years – wearing a necktie.

Finally, the day of the interview arrived – Tuesday, 19 May.

Overall, I had spent several hours preparing for a pleasant-enough interview that went for barely 20 minutes…

…and the next day, I was told by the agency that they decided that someone with more relevant experience would be more suitable.

*

Meanwhile, back on the morning of Friday the 15th, I rang another recruitment agency to find out more information about another job. I was told that the person I wanted to speak to was busy, but that he would call me back as soon as possible.

But he never would.

And neither would the Canberra office who had called me on Thursday the 14th.

*

So, at the end of my second week of job-hunting, there had already been some disappointment.

It was far from the end of the world – and based on previous job-hunting experience and what I’d been told at Right Management back in May, I was prepared for these sorts of things happening.

I have to admit, though, that I was quite annoyed by that recruiter I’d called on Friday the 15th who’d never called me back.

So I struck that agency off of my list, and continued looking elsewhere.

*

On the afternoon of Friday the 22nd, I had another interview at the local Centrelink office regarding my application for unemployment assistance.

Although I’d previously submitted a lot of required paperwork, I had to return in person with enough points of ID to prove my existence – despite having previously supplied them with ID like my passport.

What took place was the worst experience I would have during my job-hunting, where unfortunately I was interviewed by a condescending and unhelpful arsehole who claimed I didn’t have enough points and rudely turned down some ID examples I did supply.

I kept my cool and restricted myself to commenting that I had found this whole process “infuriating” – but at the time, and ever since, and including now as I type this months later, I was furious.

At the time I was far from desperate financial straits, so I didn’t yet need assistance that (as I had been told when this process had begun back in March) I wouldn’t be able to (maybe) get until March 2016…but I was looking for work, and in the future if I hadn’t found work I could need assistance indeed.

But with this rotten face-to-face experience, and previous incidents like ‘phone calls to Centrelink going unanswered and dealing with their cumbersome online system, I was thoroughly fed up with applying for unemployment assistance and have given it little thought ever since.

(Several months later, I would read in the news that not only had there been many recent complaints about Centrelink in general and their online system, in the previous year a staggering 26 million ‘phone calls had gone unanswered)

*

A couple of hours after that lousy Centrelink interview, I met up with some former work colleagues for dinner.

Because it was great to see them again – I’ve known most of them since the late 1990s – and I wanted to enjoy myself, I didn’t say a word about what I’d just experienced. Thanks to what I’d learned from dealing with my depression, I focused on the now and enjoyed myself indeed.

My former colleagues were all still at my previous employer, and they reported that the situation there was getting grimmer. Redundancies were continuing, unfortunately.

June
May became June, and the job-hunting continued.

Increasingly, more recruiters were contacting me – and especially via LinkedIn.

There was one amusing incident where two recruiters from the same agency called me within 15 minutes of each other about the same job opportunity – but which I declined because I didn’t have relevant experience. One of those recruiters thanked me for my honesty, though, because recently there had been an embarrassing incident with a candidate who hadn’t been honest about his experience.

There was another opportunity that initially I didn’t think I would be suitable for…but after almost a month of job-hunting, I had now adopted the attitude that the worst that could happen about applying for any job was being told no (or, as I was finding in most cases, getting no response at all). I would be no worse off than I was, and in the future it could even lead to something else (like that Canberra office contacting me).

So I applied for that job, and shortly after I received an email from that company asking me some interesting and challenging questions.

I answered them honestly – and not long after, I was asked to come in to their Chatswood office in north Sydney for an interview.

*

Wednesday, 17 June.

About an hour or so before my interview, I went to the Chatswood RSL partly to enjoy a increasingly rare delicacy for lunch – bangers and mash – and partly to get ready.

As it turned out, I didn’t get bangers and mash because I wasn’t that hungry and I didn’t want to get too relaxed by one of my all-time favourite comfort foods (instead, I had one or two small packets of potato chips washed down with diet cola).

But I did spend a last half-hour or so doing final research at the company’s website, as well as ensuring in a men’s-room mirror that my suit and tie looked just right.

Finally, I went to the office nearby.

I was interviewed by two members of staff, including the person who had emailed me those questions.

We spoke for up to an hour.

And in all seriousness, and not just because I was very interested in the job, it was a job interview that I liked and would genuinely describe as “pleasant”.

As a result, I became even more interested in wanting to work at this company.

I left feeling very good and hopeful, despite one minor issue.

The next day, both interviewers were heading overseas on business for three weeks and they wouldn’t make their final decision about the job until after they returned.

Again, it wasn’t the end of the world…but I hoped that the next three weeks wouldn’t feel like forever.

And, of course, I hoped that in three weeks’ time there would be some very good news.

*

The next day or the day after, I got another call from that company to report that I was on a shortlist of three candidates for the job.

*

On Friday the 19th, I headed down to Wollongong for the weekend to display some of my Lego creations at Brick Fun Day 2015.

Once again I stayed at the City Beach Motel, which had come to my unexpected rescue during a previous stay in Wollongong.

Also once again, Brick Fun Day this year was as fun as it had been last year.

As well, I enjoyed Wollongong itself for two major reasons.

First, since my last stay at the City Beach Motel in 2011, the centre of Wollongong had improved greatly – including the addition of the local outpost of a Mexican-food chain I had recently discovered and become a big fan of in Sydney. I had about half of my weekend’s meals there.

Second, because of my redundancy payout, money was not an issue – not only for being able to indulge when eating out and buying some long-sought Lego I unexpectedly found in a local department store, but also because it made travelling to Brick Fun Day much easier. Instead of a train ride and two long walks each way I would have considered making pre-redundancy to save money, I took $30 taxi-rides both ways.

Because I wasn’t working, I could also afford to stay Sunday night and travel home Monday morning.

During a big breakfast on the way to the railway station, I got yet another call from a Sydney recruiter (although ultimately, again, it would lead nowhere).

July
June became July, and the job-hunting continued…

…and most of all, of course, there was still the waiting for that particular call or email I hoped would have very good news.

*

By now, most of my weekdays had been spent mostly at home with almost all of my job-hunting activity in the mornings.

But that routine was getting to me – partly because the recruiters who called mostly did that late in the afternoon, and some afternoons I found myself waiting too much and falling asleep.

So I began changing things.

Mornings now became a long and relaxed easing into each day, and job-hunting activities shifted to the afternoon.

As well, I decided to take a break every now and then and do more things like long-walking.

I began to feel much better.

*

Late afternoon, Monday 13 July.

Shortly before I headed out to dinner, I got an email from the company in Chatswood.

They told me that in the end it had been “VERY close” between myself and another candidate…but “we have decided not to offer you the position” because the other candidate had been more suitable.

Yet again, it was not the end of the world…but this time thus far, it had felt the most disappointing.

*

Back in March at Right Management, my fellow job-seekers and I had been told that these days it took an average of six months to find a job in Australia.

I had been job-hunting for almost three months.

I wasn’t getting angry or upset or hugely dispirited, only disappointed every now and then.

There had been a few big purchases thus far, like my suit and new shoes and related accessories, and a new iPad, but otherwise my spending wasn’t excessive and there was still a lot of my redundancy money left.

My main concern at this time was that it would be a shame if it took me a long time to find a job and most or all of my money being gone by then.

I was keeping calm and carrying on.

For now.

*

Fortunately, as I mentioned at the end of my last post in this series, a 9 July ‘phone call with a recruiter in Canberra would eventually have major consequences – and how.

But that’s another story for the next post in this series.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Anger, Confidence, Fear, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life Strategies, Resilience, Something to Think About | Leave a comment

Black and Blue Walking Man: The Zoo Expedition (Part 3)

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW (J J Harrison/Wikipedia)

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW (J J Harrison/Wikipedia)

Part 1
Part 2

It was a quiet night as I walked southwards along the Pacific Highway out of Crows Nest and into North Sydney.

I had first made this walk way back in late 2002, from one of the offices that my previous employer had had at the time in St. Leonards to what would become my new work address in North Sydney. That day, a nice springtime Friday, I had gone to St. Leonards for some reason, and afterwards I had decided to walk down the road to North Sydney to see what it was like down there.

Between 2002 and 2007, when I was relocated again, I made the walk between St. Leonards/Crows Nest and North Sydney many, many times.

And now in 2015, this was the first time I was walking this familiar old trail as a former employee.

I wasn’t melancholy, but I did think a lot about what had been.

As well, in my third month of job-hunting, I wondered what lay ahead.

*

Barely 15 minutes after leaving Montezuma’s, I was making quick downhill progress through North Sydney.

And another 15-20 minutes later, I began a walk that I had made many, many more times than the one from St. Leonards to North Sydney.

After North Sydney came Milsons Point, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

On the way to the Bridge, I passed what used to be the site of the office where, way back in 2006, I had made six crucial and life-changing visits.

And not far past that site, I passed where less than a year before I had come very close to completing the 2014 Seven Bridges Walk.

Soon I came to the Bridge, which looks spectacular at night as shown in the photographic example above, and for the several-hundredth time in my life I used it to cross over the Harbour to the CBD.

And after the CBD, and about an hour and a half after leaving Crows Nest, I was home.

*

My total walk home from the zoo via Crows Nest was one of my shortest long-walks – about 14 kilometres – but it was also one of my most pleasant. A lot of it had been flat or mostly level through some of Sydney’s nicest neighbourhoods, and crossing the Harbour Bridge is always a good way to end a walk.

As well, it had gotten me out of the apartment and away from the dreariness of job-hunting for a while.

*

The next morning, I finally got in touch with the recruiter in Canberra who had called me at the zoo. He was pleasant enough as he told me about an upcoming opportunity down in the national capital, and said that he’d be in touch.

That afternoon, I bought a set of compact headphones for my backpack and the first of two tablet pouches to keep it in (the second pouch took up less room).

Soon, those headphones would certainly become worth it for both personal and jobhunt-related ‘phone calls whenever I was out and about.

It was that ‘phone call, however, that would have a much bigger impact upon my life…

…but that’s another story for another series.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Inspiration, Life is Good, Travel | Leave a comment

Black and Blue Walking Man: The Zoo Expedition (Part 2)

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne NSW (http://www.orpheum.com.au/)

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne NSW (http://www.orpheum.com.au/)

Part 1

The first leg of my walk up Bradleys Head Road was very pleasant. It was a nice winter’s day and there were lots of great old houses to see.

Soon uphill became downhill, and I began descending north-west towards downtown Mosman.

*

As I mentioned in Part 1, I had initially thought about wearing my long-walk hat but in the end decided not to.

And as I headed towards Mosman, it wasn’t that hot at all…

…but it was mostly a very clear sky, and there was quite some glare.

Briefly, I regretted not bringing my hat after all, but soon I got used to it.

*

About 30 minutes after leaving Taronga Zoo, Bradleys Head Road took me into Military Road.

And as I began walking through downtown Mosman, I thought again about returning the ‘phone call I’d gotten from the recruiter while I was at the zoo.

I briefly considered stepping into what I thought was the local public library, because I thought it would be a nice quiet place to make a call – but then I scolded myself. Public libraries are meant to be nice and quiet – but not for ‘phone calls.

I pressed on, looking for perhaps a cafe to step into and get a drink while I made my call.

There were lots of nice-looking cafes along Military Road, but I was enjoying the walk too much.

My returned call would wait, again.

*

Soon I came to the major intersection in the centre of downtown Mosman, where Military Road widens and continues west towards North Sydney while Spit Road connects from the north.

And before I began my journey west, I stopped for a moment, looked up Spit Road and smiled.

It was along that section of road that, over 18 months ago, I had come walking from Manly into Mosman on my first long walk.

18 months ago!

A lot had happened since then.

I replayed a few more pleasant memories from my first long walk, and then I began heading west.

*

Soon, Mosman became Cremorne.

And as always when I’m in Cremorne, I smiled at the sight of the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, one of my all-time favourite cinemas.

But because it was across the road, I wouldn’t be stopping there to make my return call.

Instead, I stepped into a nearby pub.

And I spent a moment trying to find a quiet corner away from the music playing through the speakers.

But I couldn’t find one.

Ah, well. Try, try again elsewhere.

I stepped back out onto Military Road and continued westward.

*

Soon, Cremorne became Neutral Bay, and I realised something.

It had barely taken me an hour to walk here from Taronga Zoo.

And as I came towards the western end of Neutral Bay, I realised two more things.

One, it would take me even less time to walk to Crows Nest.

Two, I would arrive in Crows Nest long before Montezuma’s opened for dinner.

That didn’t bother me, though, In fact, I was amused at previously thinking that this walk would take me two or three hours to complete.

So it wasn’t a very long walk at all.

But it had been a very pleasant one.

*

Just before I left Neutral Bay, I once again considered stepping inside somewhere and returning that recruiter’s call.

And there was one likely-looking cafe I briefly considered – until I saw that it was closing in 20 minutes.

Ah, what the heck. I would wait until after I’d finished walking in Crows Nest, as I would get there well before the end of the working day.

*

Finally, Military Road became Falcon Road.

I followed Falcon Road as it crossed above the Warringah Freeway, and soon I walking along the northern edge of North Sydney.

And shortly after that, Falcon Road took me straight into Crows Nest.

It was around 4pm when I arrived in Crows Nest, only an hour and a half since I’d begun my walk from the zoo.

Montezuma’s wouldn’t open until 5:30pm, however.

So I decided to relax in a local pub until then, and finally return that call.

But first, I decided to see if anyone in Crows Nest sold headphones.

I couldn’t find anyone who did, but while in a local bookshop I decided to try making my call from there as they’re usually pretty quiet.

So I went right up the back to the children’s section…

…which had a music-playing speaker mounted right above it.

Finally, I went to the pub.

It was noisy, but there was one place inside that would be comparatively more quiet…

…until I discovered in the men’s toilets that the urinals automatically flushed every few minutes.

I gritted my teeth, locked myself in one of the toilet stalls, put my back to the urinals, stuck a finger in my free ear and returned the call as the urinals flushed yet again.

The recruiter’s colleague answered to tell me that he was now out of the office for the rest of the day.

I said that I’d call him tomorrow morning.

And after ending my call, I resolved that tomorrow I would buy a pair of compact headphones for my backpack.

*

I spent the next hour or so unwinding in the pub with some diet cola and potato chips.

Just after 5:30pm, I headed over to Montezuma’s nearby.

And for the next couple of hours, I relaxed with yet another pleasant Mexican meal.

Which put me in a very good mood for the next stage of my walk.

It was the walk home from Crows Nest, down through North Sydney along the Pacific Highway and across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the CBD.

It was a walk I had made many times before, but not for several years.

From memory, it would only be another hour-and-a-half or so.

At around 7:30pm, with night having fallen, I began the last stage of my long walk home from the zoo.

TO BE CONTINUED

Posted in Action, Happiness, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies, Travel | Leave a comment