Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

I’m thinking of buying myself a ring. A really nice ring, to wear on the ring finger of my right hand. I don’t wear a lot of jewellery – usually costume style necklaces and earrings, if anything, but recently I bought a watch from Fossil – one of those trendy ones (well I think so anyway) with a white band and bling around the watch face. It’s such a pleasure to see it twinkling on my wrist that I’ve been inspired to bling it up a bit.

So this afternoon, after a pleasant hour reading Romulus, My Father, (have you read it? What a book!) I’ve been googling images of rings and wow there are some gorgeous ones out there, like this

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and this

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and this

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Obviously I’m not just into diamonds, but I do like chunky things that catch your eye and it has to be white gold, like this:

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So now I’ll start keeping my eyes peeled for something that’s in my budget. I’ve been feeling lately that I’m at the age now (32 on Thursday! *gulp*) where I can start to buy myself nice things. I’ve lived in op shop clothes with second hand furniture for so long that it feels a bit naughty to ‘waste’ good money on expensive things, but then again, buying cheap jewellery so often that then tarnishes or breaks quickly isn’t cost efficient either.

So I’ll start looking in earnest for a ring for myself soon. All ideas welcome!

A Writer’s Fest

Last weekend some friends of ours, FF and I went up to Bendigo for the Bendigo Writers Festival. My friend had rung a couple of days earlier to say that she had won tickets for four people to attend the festival, including the keynote speakers Ita Buttrose and Don Watson, accommodation at Quest, high tea at the Hotel Shamrock, a mine tour and a trip on the talking tram. I was so excited when she rang – best news ever! Anyone would have thought from my reaction that she’d won a trip to Europe.

Anyway so FF and I headed up Friday evening and our friends followed soon after. The accommodation was really lovely and it was just so nice to have an unexpected almost free weekend away. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, life’s been a little stressful lately, in no small part due to the fact that I was spending most of my free time studying for the MBA admission*. This surprise offer was a forced study-free weekend that was very welcome!

This was the inaugral Bendigo Writer’s Festival and it had been pretty widely advertised. I devour books, but there’s never enough time in the day to read, so many of the authors on the program were unfamiliar to me. Although we had tickets to Ita Buttrose, we decided instead to go see the Q & A session with Tony Birch, an Australian author who writes “beautifully bleak” short stories and one novel so far (Blood, winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin literary award). It was great to hear Tony speak about his childhood in Melbourne and the way he writes about men and their relationships in his stories. I was inspired, as I always am when I hear people speak passionately, yet thoughtfully, about what they do. After the session I bought his book Shadowboxing, which I’ve read already and I loved.

After Tony we went and saw a panel discussion on social activism and writing. The question was basically how much writing could influence social change. The panel – Alexis Wright, Hanifa Deen, Sulari Gentill and Arnold Zable spoke really passionately about how reading has influenced their world view and how they balance their activism (for a variety of social causes including Indigenous rights and refugees) and their writing. Alexis Wright was the only one I was familiar with and ironically she had the least to say, we thought – lots of umms and aahs. The others are now on my reading list and I left that session day-dreaming, not for the first time, about whether I could actually one day write a book, and what the hell it might say. Imagination and inspiration are such enviable qualities, don’t you think?

On Sunday (after our high tea which was a blissful way to start the day) we went and saw Don Watson interviewed before a fairly big audience (a sea of grey hair – just like every other session we’d seen that weekend 🙂 ).  He was talking mostly about his time as Paul Keating’s speech writer, captured in Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, a book which I’ve not yet read but was sad to hear has caused a rift between Don and Paul Keating. Don Watson is something of an Aussie icon. A political figure who’s been hanging around the edges for years. I really enjoyed it but FF slept through the hour, not being familiar with Australian politics.

The afternoon session was another panel discussion, this time about horror writing – the only woman on the panel pronounced horror “howwa” and couldn’t remember what year we invaded Australia. Um…. really? It was boring and tedious so we snuck out half way through. Really it was just a bunch of men comparing their favourite horror films. Yes, films. And it was a writer’s festival.

We could have been to more events but wanted to relax and enjoy the weekend away with a bit of sightseeing too, not just attending sessions. We saw enough to get a creative and intellectual thrill out of it. What I appreciated most about it was that listening to other people talk about their craft was a gentle reminder of how much there is going on in the world. It took me right outside of my own head for a weekend and that was timely and very welcome!

My favourite second hand bookstore – Book Now – happens to be in Bendigo. So on the Sunday we spent a leisurely hour there and I came away with a pile of books that are on the coffee table waiting for my loving attention. In no particular order they are:

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Fishing in the Styx by Ruth Park

Illywhacker by Peter Carey

Highways to a War by ChrisopherKoch

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston

The Grapes of Wrath by John steinbeck

The Short Novels by John Steinbeck

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie.

Needless to say I’m pretty excited about all the hours of reading pleasure that lie ahead!
Ciao x

*So, after weeks of torturous agonising and studying I’ve decided not to pursue the MBA for now. I wasn’t that impressed with the online program they asked me to do to prepare – mostly because it left so much unexplained that I had to tie my brains in knots in ways I just can’t do at the moment, with a lot going on at work. I’m not closing the door on it forever – just for now. It does mean that for the next little while I can focus on reading and exercise – goody gum drops 🙂

A White Whine

Something’s wrong with me lately. As you may have read in previous posts, I embarked on a crazy scheme to get into the MBA program at Melbourne Business School and I was SO fired up about it. I was convinced that this was the best idea ever, and that now was the time for me to study again. I had all these romantic notions of burning the midnight oil, slaving over the books, having early morning group work sessions and the post-exam self-congratulatory beers with my fellow classmates (I don’t even drink beer. In fact I hardly drink).

Anyway so fast forward a few weeks and I’ve had a bit of a reality check. Firstly they looked at my application and saw that my work and academic history have been pure social science, so they asked me to sit a maths test to prove I’ll be able to handle the quant aspects of the course. I failed it, so the next step was to enrol in a 4-week online MBA-Maths course which is supposed to give me the excel and basic finance skills I need as the basis for the course.

I’m almost half way through the online modules and quite frankly, it can kiss my arse. It SUCKS. I have not felt this unmotivated or this useless or this much of a loser for YEARS. Yes I’m getting that little thrill when I manage to nut out a difficult problem, or finally ‘get’ how that particular excel formula can be applied but it doesn’t last long and the next night when I get home from a really hard day and sit down in front of the computer to face the demon again I just stare at the screen like I’ve been lobotomised. And what’s really weird, and is causing me to really doubt myself, is the massive tantrums I throw when I can’t quickly grasp a new concept. If I feel like one of the online lectures hasn’t explained something well enough I’m swearing at my laptop like a complete bogan and that is just embarrassing.

So yeah, it feels like crap and now I don’t know what to do. My options are pretty simple – push through and get accepted into the course, and from there the hard work really starts, or – quit. I’m almost delirious with the thought that I could stop this mental torture right now. Just not do it. Email the Business School tomorrow and say thanks but no thanks, I’m just not enjoying this as much as I expected to and it’s clearly not for me. But I also have incredibly high standards for myself, and the thought of quitting and feeling like a failure makes me queasy.

There are other options, obviously, that could follow the quitting. I could look for other courses that I could do – other study that would also be useful and upskilling (is that grammatically correct? no? Am I suddenly shit at English as well? Figures…) but that I might also enjoy. I could enrol in that French course I’ve been thinking about FOREVER, and also go harder at my other current hobby – trying valiantly to get myself a body like one of those Olympic hurdlers (random aside but how freaking hot are they??!?!).

I was talking to my sister the other night about this – she’s of the view that I need to take a good look at why I wanted to do this in the first place. There were a lot of compelling reasons why it seemed like a good idea, and those reasons still apply, but the main thing was that I feel like I’m drifting at the moment. I don’t have a goal and my life lacks purpose. The MBA seemed like it might offer a solution and provide a goal. But at what cost? My sanity? Anything resembling a life?

I’ve just had a quick browse around online at other Management qualifications and they all require a solid foundation in mathematics and statistics. Looks like there’s no getting around it, I might just have to suck it up and develop that solid understanding of maths and stats. But maybe I’ll do it in my own time. I’ll find online programs similar to the one I’m doing now and just solidly plug away at it without the pressure of a looming deadline (I have two weeks left to finish the one I’m doing in order to be considered for the January intake of the MBA).

I guess I could try and spin this to tell myself I am learning a valuable lesson here. The lesson of doing something the long hard way. Yes I’ve done postgrad study already and yes that required years of commitment, but honestly, and I’m going to say something slightly controversial here… that felt easy. It was kind of just… offered to me, and I was already in my comfort zone to a degree so it didn’t feel like I had to twist my brain in as many ways to get through that.

So… no decision’s been made yet. I’m leaning towards throwing in the towel – for now. Or, maybe, I’ll get a second wind tomorrow and somehow find the motivation to finish by the deadline. And if I do pass it, I’m going to buy myself the biggest self-congratulatory beer you’ve ever seen and skull the lot.