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Two books to bump to the top of your reading list

Are you feeling…flat? Lacklustre? A bit frazzled at the edges?

Despite what it may sound like, this is not an ad for hair care.

This my friends is a public service announcement.

I have, completely by accident, or perhaps by the work of some divine being, stumbled across the most inspiring, motivating and energising duo of books to ever exist.

It’s exciting, no? I feel giddy with power just thinking about it. I feel like with these two books in my arsenal (ahem, on my coffee table), why, I’m almost invincible.

You see, I too was feeling flat, lacklustre. I was feeling frazzled.

And then a friend gifted me a book.

And then I gifted myself a second book.

And everything kinda shifted.

I was given a fresh, new perspective.

So what were they?

How to get over European summer envy in the depths of an Aussie winter

It’s summer in Europe and seemingly everyone you’ve ever met is holidaying in exotic locations, tans deepening by the day, the sun and the salt giving them that carefree glow you can only ever know on a summer holiday.

Meanwhile, the few sad, cold and pale folks left behind with no option but to hunker down through the Australian winter are mad about it. Sure they’re mad that their friends are on holidays while they’re shivering under three blankets, a set of flannies and bed socks. But most of all they’re mad that every time they take a sneaky Instagram break, a quick little reprieve from their cold little lives, they have to endure an endless scroll through holiday happy snaps plastered on walls and feeds and stories by smiling, carefree holidaymakers.

It’s true that the majority of my winter Instagram feed has been dominated by photos of sun-kissed travellers perched on mountain tops overlooking hidden beaches or gazing pensively out to the bluest ocean you’ve ever seen from a whitewashed Greek village. A hefty chunk of the remainder has been filled by gloomy posts about gloomy winter, and how terribly cold and gray and unfair the whole situation is.

Bald dating: one woman on dating with a shaved head

You might remember Jordi from this post about her experiences travelling the world while working for various international aid organisations. These days she’s back in Melbourne getting ready to tackle her PHD next year.

When Jordi came to me with her post about dating while bald, she wasn’t sure I’d think it was a good fit but, as you’ll read, hair is about more than just hair and provides an interesting perspective on the expectations placed on women and how they live their lives – something I’m grateful to be able to explore here on TMA.

Keep the conversation going in the comments, or you can connect with Jordi on Linked In or Instagram.   

Many months of trepidation went into deliberating whether to shave my head or not and, in all honesty, my main anxiety over the state of my hair was the impact it was going to have on my dating life.

To clarify: I am an avid dater. I see people. We do things. It’s the 21st century, ya know? “Freedom and liberation” is the flavour of the millennium and tentatively available for the masses and I ain’t complainin’. While I am fully aware that dating is not the most serious issue to be concerned with when it comes to bodies and gender roles, it has taken me a long time to fully dissect the varying aspects and intersections of my shaved-head experience in relation to bodily autonomy, femininity, as well as conversations surrounding racial and class tensions.

Yet, in the age of The Bachelorette, dating sans hair is the aspect of my lived shaven experience that friends were most curious about. And really, I don’t blame them. So, I have bowed down to peer pressure and have begun to make sense of our systemically entrenched gender norms by writing your daily dose of clickbait in the form of this piece.

The BS of comparing ourselves to others

Comparison is the thief of joy. I had to Google that to make sure it was an actual saying (I love a mixed metaphor). Turns out it is, and it was ol’ Teddy Roosevelt who made it famous. In my experience, it isn’t far from the truth.

Plenty of everyday occurrences can trigger negative self-comparisons but there are a handful of special events every year that really haunt me.

How to overcome new year’s resolution fatigue and cut yourself some slack

2017 was a good year for me but it was also bloody hard.

In the last few days I’ve seen a raft of social media posts paying tribute to the year that was 2017. It was nice to see people reflecting and taking time to celebrate the year, except that some of it felt disingenuous and left me feeling somewhat like I’d been left behind.

Dripping in a sickly sweet veneer, some posts presented a perfectly crafted year to go with a perfectly crafted Instagram feed. The blood, the sweat, the tears, the grit and grime of daily life cropped out of frame, filtered into oblivion, only the sparkly bits left behind for the world revel in.

It was overwhelming.

The best thing I’ve done for my brain this year

Recently I broke up with non-fiction. I couldn’t do it anymore.

Reading is one of my hands down favourite ways to spend time. But somewhere along the line it started to feel less like a pleasure and more like a chore.

Long distance besties

I recently discovered a new podcast to add to my ever growing list of faves.  

It’s called “Call Your Girlfriend” and it’s dedicated to long distance besties everywhere. Ahhhh. It’s no wonder I was instantly drawn to it. It’s all pop culture weaved in with politics and feminism. Total slam dunk, IMHO. 

It got me thinking back to those first few months adjusting to life without my lifelong besties being within reach (aka a 20 minute car ride). 

It was tough! I’m not completely naive, I knew moving would be tough but I think the bulk of my energy went into thinking about how this would impact my family relationships. 

But life without my girlfriends – I was unprepared. 

All Abroad: Living and working overseas, an interview series

At one time or another, many of us have thought about packing up our things and buying a one way ticket out of Oz in the hope of discovering ourselves overseas. However fleeting, the thought of escaping your hometown for a change of scenery can be pretty enticing. As more of my friends are making the move overseas or heading home after time spent abroad, I wanted to share the varied – but equally inspiring – experiences of four wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women who today take us through the highs, the lows and the how-to of living and working overseas.

From chasing the corporate dream in New York City, to designing your very own gap year  to test out a potential career path, to balancing professional development with your unbounded desire to explore the globe, there are many ways to scratch that work/travel itch. And while their journeys have taken each of these ladies in very different directions, I keenly observed a thread of similarity running throughout the four interviews: the need to embrace experience over things.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the London edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Bianca. Melbourne girl, physiotherapist, passion for travel, the outdoors, books and red wine. Decided to make the move abroad for two years with my partner.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the NYC edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Joy, a 27 year old identical twin originally from Melbourne. After completing a commerce degree at the University of Melbourne I worked in professional services both in an accounting and consulting capacity. I’m a chartered accountant who likes numbers and am nerdy at heart! Besides Melbourne, I’ve lived and worked in Sydney and am now based in New York. I love the outdoors, socialising, keeping myself active, and anything turtle-related.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the international development edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hey there! I’m Jordi – an avid feminist and societal chameleon who spends a lot of my time talking about dating and craft. I’m currently completing my honours degree in Commerce. When I am not freaking out over my research, you can find me delivering workshops and hanging out with young people as part of my side gig with The Reach Foundation. I also mentor high school students, work with TEDx Melbourne and spend a bit of time floating around One Roof, a co-working space for women-led businesses. In my spare time, I teach bullet journaling at Laneway Learning, hit up the local bouldering gym and dance to Beyonce relatively regularly. I care a lot about people, building and strengthening community and working for effective social change.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the Asia edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi, I’m Monika, and I’m someone who’s made travel  the focus of my life. I love teaching and am a bit of a grammar nut! But my work is not my life. I put people and my interests first. I’ve been a vegetarian for 10 years and love animals very dearly. I love to cook, read, go to the movies and wander through new places.

A love letter to emails (a love email?)

It’s a bit of a lost art, emailing. I’m not talking about quick “notes” or “FYIs” that we flick out to our colleagues or friends. They don’t count.

Proper emailing, like letter writing, is a form of storytelling. It’s reaching through your computer, your words washing gently over your reader, be they a few meters down the road or on the other side of the world, as you share a piece of yourself with them, thoughtfully and carefully typed out, letter-by-letter, onto your screen.

Yep, emailing really is something.

Does growing older mean I’m getting old?

I turned 28 on the weekend. I’ve never minded getting older. I guess I’ve always felt old beyond my years anyway. An old soul.

When I was a kid, I preferred sitting at the adults table catching up on the daily gossip rather than running around with kids my age.

When I was 18 I went clubbing a few times but it really wasn’t my thing. I made the swift transition towards low-lit, quiet cocktail bars, and later wine bars, before I hit 20.

I gave up on music festivals and even my favourite ‘youth’ radio station not even realising I’d happily replaced them with weekends in wine country and a constant soundtrack of The Beatles and The Bee Gees in the background.

But it’s never bothered me. I’ve never shied away from announcing my birthday or my age, however, I’ve noticed a few things in the last few years though that have surprised this cool-about-aging-laid-back-chick (Ha! Yeah right!).

Please stop wasting my time

This is a story about how I learnt to stop wasting my time on, well there’s really no other word for it, losers. I wish it was a happier story, but unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses because it involves me feeling like I’d somehow betrayed my own good sense.

It started when a work acquaintance asked me to join him for lunch. We weren’t really friends. We had at some point sat on the same floor at work. I imagine we met at the printer or tea room. I like to fill awkward silence with awkward chatter. I meet a lot of people that way.

We’d had a coffee recently, which was ok. Just ok. We didn’t really have any great similarities or anything in common, and I certainly didn’t feel the need for a repeat catch up so soon, but I was doing as many young workers in this society are raised to do – being polite. And, quite frankly, I just didn’t have an excuse…so I agreed.

We met up and headed out for lunch. As soon as we did, I got this feeling like I’d rather be somewhere else – anywhere else. Why did I agree to this again? I mean, it was a pretty benign activity  – work acquaintances heading to grab a bite during the lunch-hour rush. So why did I suddenly feel an urgent craving for the solitude of my desk?

Defining Moments

A few weeks ago, before I moved from Melbourne to Sydney, I was chatting to a work colleague, let’s call her Rachel, about my decision to take this new job in Sydney. I told her that while it was a sideways move, instead of the upwards move I could have expected if I stayed in my old role a few more months, the change in career path seemed more important than a move up the ladder.

She agreed, telling me a story of her first “big break” in the corporate world.

Rachel had been working in a great team with a fantastic leader when suddenly, he decided to move on. Despite being much less experienced, the management team saw something special in her, and she was tapped on the shoulder to apply.

Risk Taking for the Risk Averse Part 2: A How-To Guide

Last post I shared the story of how I found myself unexpectedly moving to Sydney from my hometown of Melbourne. It is a story filled with ups and downs and big questions marks, many unknowns, a few minor freak outs and finally the big decision! (Read here!)

Now, I consider a career change in itself to be a pretty bold move. Couple that with a new city and a move that will impact not just me but my partner, my family, his family, our friends…it was a lot to take in.

For some, moving is just a part of life, but for me it was a huge decision, one that in some way said, I’m putting myself and my career first. And that’s been hard to do. I’ve asked my partner to come along with me. I’ve asked my family to support me (and store all my furniture – thanks fam!). They’ve been amazing but I know deep down they’d love for me to stay. I can’t help but shake a niggling feeling of guilt and sadness about the family occasions or time spent together I will miss. And that’s why it’s so important that I didn’t make this decision on a whim. That I was properly informed. That my reason for moving was solid. That I can back myself, and my decision, even when it gets tough, which it undoubtedly will.

So if you’re facing something similar, I’ve gathered together a few tips, small and simple as they may seem, that helped me lean into this big, crazy, uncertain, risky new life that I’ve chosen for myself.

Risk Taking for the Risk Averse Part 1: New Beginnings

From a young age, we’re taught to favour certainty. To prefer plain, old predictability. To avoid ambiguity. Not to talk to strangers. To play it safe. To stick to what we know.

After all, risk is scary.

Risk opens us up to losing out. Losing money. Losing face. Losing the sense of comfort that comes with what is safe and predictable.

So when we’re faced with a monumental decision that has the potential to re-route our lives and change the course of our futures, to switch up the safety of what is known for something exciting but unpredictable, how do we deal?

How do we learn to lean in and embrace risk when we’ve been conditioned to be risk averse?

New Year, New You? How to approach the New Year if Resolutions aren’t your thing

Happy New Year friends and welcome to 2017!!

By many accounts, 2016 was a terrible year, one of the worst in recent memory.

I don’t like to think about a whole year being “bad”. I’d prefer to think that any year is what we make of it, which got me thinking about New Year’s Resolutions.

I had intended on saying that New Year’s Resolutions aren’t really my thing, but in fact, when I really got down to thinking, I realised that I’ve never made a New Year’s Resolution.

I set goals for myself and implement systems and am always working towards something or other. They’ve just never really coincided with the start of a new year or been packaged neatly into a New Year’s Resolution. I mean, who needs all the extra pressure of the New Year to have our resolutions unraveling before we hit mid-Feb (if we’re lucky), anyway?

But this year, on the trip home from a New Year’s Eve weekend away, crammed into a tiny Holden Barina with some of my favourite humans and about a hundred overnight bags and pillows and snacks piled so high we could barely see over them, my sister decided we should share our New Year’s Resolutions.

Summer Reading: Memoirs from inspiringly hilarious women

Today’s post is all about some of my favourite women of comedy, and more specifically, their hilarious and inspiring memoirs. And while I’ve never claimed to be perfect at book reviews (or anything), I reckon I’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. This little list is perfectly timed to set you up poolside/beachside with a thoughtful dose of reading to get you through your summer vacation (and provide a few fun instagram opportunities – hello fav pair of oversized sunnies and book-of-the-moment care of The Modern Ascent). Plus there’s jusssst enough time before Christmas to drop a few hints to your loved ones about these top notch stocking stuffers.

Anyway, onto the books. I’ve read most of these over the last 12 months or so, and can confirm that each and every one has it’s own special type of literary addictiveness allowing it to fall into the category of ‘unputdownable’. And while the authors of these books are undoubtedly hilarious, they cover a lot of ground and it’s not all laughs – the writers also cover some of their darker days and struggles. I love them all and hope you will too!

In no particular order here they are…

How blogging saved my sanity (and can save yours too!)

You used to have a burning passion that lit up your every waking hour but then growing up happened and it somehow got lost along the way. Sound familiar? Here’s what happened when I rediscovered my love of writing, and why it might be worth investing in reviving your forgotten passions too.  

I’ve always wanted to write a blog. Pretty much since my sister started hers a few years ago I wanted my own but I never knew what I would write about. I told myself that I wasn’t  interesting or insightful enough. I didn’t know enough about anything. No one would want to read it.

Then one night as I was falling asleep, like a hypnic jerk jolting me awake, the idea for The Modern Ascent came to me. I started writing the next day.

Live, don’t survive

“The only pride of her workday was not that it had been lived, but that it had been survived. It was wrong, she thought, it was viciously wrong that one should ever be forced to say that about any hour of one’s life.” Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand 

Do you sometimes feel like you’re just surviving. Only just hanging on.

I had a vacation-induced epiphany recently where I realised that so much of my life seems to be about just surviving (in the not-living-life-to-the-fullest sense). Just making it through the day. Or the week. Spontaneity and fun are pushed to the back burner while my long list of to-do’s take pride of place.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? It’d help to know I’m not the only one who’s treading water, holding out for the next weekend, long weekend or holiday to get on with all that living I have planned.

Before getting into my whole ‘holiday-epiphany’ thing, there are a few concepts that keep popping up and pushing their way to the front of my overcrowded and overstimulated mind that are in no small way linked to this whole idea of living vs. surviving.

Do you even podcast? Five podcasts you should be listening to

We’ve all heard the old adage ‘You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce’. That may be true but when I’m facing deadlines at work, am setting my alarm earlier and earlier just to squeeze in a 15 minute early morning workout and have to schedule an hour into my crazy week just to wash my hair, time sure does seem tight. So when it comes to finding new and engaging content and ideas to keep my blog fresh and exciting and a hub for golden nuggets of wisdom and inspiration, scrolling through my rss feed doesn’t always seem like the most efficient use of my time.

Enter podcasts.

Money Matters with Wadzanai Nenzou

Come on, admit it. We’ve all been there. Paycheck comes in. Credit card gets whipped out.

And just like that we kiss our paycheck goodbye as those sacred credit card numbers float listlessly through the ether and result in a dreaded ‘debit’ on our netbank statements. And while we become one pair of can’t-live-without-shoes richer (yay!), the effect on our bank balance can sometimes remain…how should I put this…questionable?

While we have no problem discussing these indiscretions with our friends, colleagues, sisters and mothers – so much so that we at times wear them as a badge of honour, almost boastful that our newest Iconic purchase meant we had to live off cup-noodles for five days straight – when it comes to having serious conversations about our finances we run (feet encased in those shiney new can’t-live-without-kicks) for the hills!

From uni to the real world: what I wish I knew

Are you at the end or coming to the end of your university degree?

I’ve found for myself and many of my closest friends that this can be one of the most challenging transitions in your early working life. You’re coming off a brilliant few years of skipping classes in favour of napping on sunny university lawns, two x 12 week semesters a year sandwiched by endless weeks of holidays, and more uni pub crawls, after exams parties, booze cruises and uni balls that you can poke a stick at. Of course there were hard times too, mid-semester exams, end of semester exams, take home exams and the horror that is swotvac (that’s a ‘study without teaching vacation i.e. a one week period of cramming before your exams start, for our non-Aussie readers). I personally find it favourable to suppress those particular memories.

But despite how great uni is, the reason I think so many of us struggle with post-university life is that we hold these grand expectations for what ‘real life’ and our ‘grown-up jobs’ hold for us. For many, that long-lusted-after first real job represents the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising then when reality somehow doesn’t stack up to the expectations we’ve built up in our heads.

Me first

Earlier this year I read a super cool book. It’s not cool in that Sophia Amoruso #GIRLBOSS kinda way. It’s more of a can’t-put-it-down story with a practical dose of political ideology weaved in. Ok, so maybe cool is not the right word but I digress…

I was initially hesitant to pick up Atlas Shrugged which is based on Ayn Rand‘s philosophy of Objectivism. Her philosophy advocates rational self interest and capitalism as the path to economic and technological progress, and individual self fulfillment (yeah…cool is definitely the wrong word) and is explored through the story of a group of pioneering American capitalists in their battle against the socialist reach of the “boys in Washington”.

I loved it but that’s not to say it will be everyone’s cup of tea. The last third of the book is theory-heavy and definitely a challenge to get through. For me, the captivating first two-thirds were such an enjoyable read and the finale so fitting that it was absolutely worth the effort. Not to mention Dagny Taggart (<3) is a joy to read. I don’t often come across such a strong, accomplished and inspiring female character, especially one with such a never-say-die attitude and drive to succeed in a man’s world.

Success wakes up with the sun: why quitting the ‘snooze’ habit should be the top of your priority list

Are your mornings working for you? Or do your mornings belong to your work day? All my life, I have categorically fallen into the latter category.

My mornings are pure determination to achieve one thing and one thing only. To get to work. I get up at the last minute and rush all the way to work. Even my train ride is dedicated to work as I sift through all the emails that have come in overnight.

That is all fine for a short period. It’s fine when faced with a strict deadline or a particularly busy week. But day in, day out, it is exhausting, and it was running me down.

I recently started making a few small changes to my morning routine, almost an experiment to see how it would turn out and how my body would react.

So I started waking up earlier. Earlier than I’ve ever woken up before. And now I do something really strange. I enjoy my mornings!

I love Lenny

I am a massive Lena Dunham fangirl. We’ve already covered that here. Aside from creating, starring in, directing and producing one of my favourite TV shows, she is now bringing joy to my inbox with Lenny Letter, the twice weekly newsletter she created with her writing partner and Girls showrunner, Jenni Konner.

Lenny Letter covers all manner of topics spanning feminism, style, health, politics and friendship, with a common theme of empowering women, and telling their stories.

Some stories are super light and a bit of good old fashioned fun. Lena’s personal confession on her history of terrible Halloween costumes, the monthly Lennyscopes, and a fictional retelling of Lena’s experience at this year’s Coachella with her fantasy feminist band, for example.

More often though, the essays published in Lenny go deeper, covering a wide range of both highly political or deeply personal stories.

The Pressure of Yes

Do you ever find yourself in a situation wondering what the hell you’re doing there?! When your mind is a million miles away thinking about all the other appointments/meetings/catch ups/errands that are piling up as you sit/wait/drive/text/listen/watch/discuss. When you have other places to be/stuff to do/dogs to walk/family to visit/houses to tidy. When you’ve forsaken that afternoon nap your body has been crying out for since Monday or that Netflix binge session to meet up/make up/step up/dress up and be there for your friend/sister/girlfriend/colleague/boss/auntie/neighbour/grandmother’s third cousin twice removed that’s visiting from Europe.

If that in any way resembles what is running through your mind on an average Wednesday evening, then we have something in common. Or at least we did.  

When procrastination takes hold: four tips to get you back to your productive best

Procrastination has a strong hold on me. I’d like to think I’m not alone. We, the social media generation, have endless hours of fun right at our fingertips care of a well timed instagram or facebook stalk, or the shiny new delight that is snapchat face-swap and all those fancy, funny filters that could easily siphon away a whole evening.

Of course, sometimes, a bit of good old fashioned procrastination is harmless (or delicious if you’re a procrastibaker like me). If you work better under pressure and pull out some of your best work when the heat is well and truly on, there’s no harm done, right?

But, if you’re having trouble deciphering the fine line between productivity and procrastination and the results are showing up in cut-corners and missed deadlines, then it’s time to buck up and kick those procrastination habits.

Welcome to The Modern Ascent

Success is not achieved without hard work. But we’re not afraid of a little hard work. We’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty. We’re here because we aspire to greatness. We’re here because we’re ready to swiftly and expertly climb to new and dizzying career heights. We’re ready to break ground and kick arse.

But one women can’t do it alone. Well, she probably can. She’s probably a pretty grade A chic, a lot like you and I. But just because she can do it alone, doesn’t mean she should have to.

And that’s where The Modern Ascent comes in.

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