Growing up a girl

I was just 11 years old when I was catcalled for the first time.

I was walking along the main road near my house to meet my friend before we’d walk up to the corner dairy together and spend whatever money we’d managed to scrounge off our parents on lollies  – half of which we’d hide from said parents when we returned home.

I didn’t really understand it at the time. Mostly I just remember feeling frightened at the sudden beeping of the horn and indistinguishable yelling from the male occupants within the car.

That was just the first of many incidents. It happened many more times on that road, and on others. Whether I was by myself or with friends. It didn’t matter whether I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, a skirt, or jeans and a jumper.

At some point, I learnt that I should take the yelling and the beeping as a compliment because it meant the car occupants found me attractive. “It’s just what happens to attractive girls,” I was told.

As I grew older, men on the streets would whistle and leer at me. Again, I was told to take it as a compliment. They didn’t mean any harm. I should be flattered. After all, it’s just what happens.

 

When I turned 18 and began going out clubbing, the verbal admiration turned physical. I was groped on the dance floor, spun around and held against men while they ground against me with no regard for my uneasiness or desperate attempts to break away to rejoin my friends. But hey, I should really just take it as a compliment because that’s just what happens, right?

When I was in my second year of university, something inside me clicked and I realised I’d had enough. I passed a construction site on my walk up to uni and heard wolf whistles from the workers quite openly checking me out. “Hey sexy!” I heard one of them shout. I stuck up my middle finger as a response.

“Fuck you then, bitch” he shouted. I was shaken, but kept walking.

I was 21 when one of my best friends was raped. It happened at a party I was also at. The rapist, a friend of hers, had spent the night making me uncomfortable before I finally shook him off. The police prosecutor told me that from what she’d heard from my statement and from others who were at the party, I was the initial target. Fortunately – for me at least – I wasn’t particularly in the mood to party and had only had a couple of low-strength wines so that I could drive home. The case went to court and I testified at the trial.  Unfortunately, the defence had a very aggressive and very ‘good’ lawyer. I, along with the victim and the other female witnesses were made to sound like attention seeking ‘sluts’. The rapist got off scot free.

It so easily could have been me. To this day, I partially blame myself for what happened to her. If I had stayed the night like she’d begged me to, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe there would have been safety in numbers.

When I was 22, I attended a concert for one of my favourite bands – an all ages concert, at that. I was sober, bar a couple of wines I’d had with my friend before we’d left and we were just milling around the general admission floor section waiting for the band to appear when I felt someone grab my butt. This wasn’t your accidental tap when trying to move through a packed crowd, this was a very deliberate hand-on-butt-squeeze. I whipped around, my eyes furiously darting around the group of boys surrounding us – who barely looked 18 –  to see who had thought groping me would be fun.

We were surrounded by drunk teenagers falling into each other – as tends to happen at all ages concerts – and the group of boys behind us only looked about 17 at the most. I couldn’t pick out the culprit and so continued on with my  night, albeit feeling pissed off and slightly shaken. They were drunk, I told myself. Boys do dumb things at that age, I thought.

 

 

I was 24 when I had my scariest experience yet. I had a male friend who I’d known since primary school. He’d always had a thing for me and hadn’t really made a secret about it. Likewise, I’d never made a secret of how I thought of him as a brother figure and that I wasn’t interested in him sexually or romantically. I reminded him of this whenever he made comments about how attractive I was and how well he would treat me if only I gave him a chance. When he moved back from overseas to finish his law degree at Victoria University, he begged for me to fly down and visit so when cheap flights to Wellington appeared on Grabaseat, I didn’t think twice about booking them. I had other friends from uni working down there who I was looking forward to catching up with and  besides, I genuinely liked Wellington as a city. He insisted I stay on the couch at his flat. I reminded him I was coming down simply as a friend. He said he knew that – hence why he offered me the couch, which I accepted.

The day I flew down, we had a good catch up after seeing each other in person for the first time in almost 10 years. As we sat together on his couch, I began to feel uncomfortable as he inched closer. His arm draped over the back of me to pull me in. I reminded him of personal space boundaries and offered to find another place to stay as I planned to go out and catch up with my friends from uni over a BYO that night and warned him I might be home late. He said he would be staying up late to watch the rugby anyway so it was fine.

When I got back to the flat I was staying at, I’d had a few drinks. I was drunk – but not the messy kind. I could walk (fairly) straight and I could hold a conversation. I was fully aware of what was happening around me. As I walked into his room to grab my belongings to shift to my bed on the couch, he pulled me on to his chair.

“You can have the bed, I’ll take the couch,” he said.

“Honestly I don’t mind the couch, I’d actually prefer it,” I argued.

At some point in our argument over sleeping arrangements, he’d pinned me down onto the bed and began kissing me. I folded my lips inward so that he couldn’t kiss me properly, I turned my head away and I repeatedly and verbally told him no but he didn’t stop. As I physically struggled against him, I began to genuinely worry about what might happen. There was no way that I, a slim 53kg female with minimal muscle power, could overpower him – a solid build rugby player who probably weighed twice what I did.

Eventually, he stopped and left the room to sleep on the couch and eventually, I drifted off to sleep. The next morning he barely spoke to me. I spent the day exploring the city alone before my flight home that evening. When I returned to the flat to pick up my bags on the way to the airport, he still refused to talk to me. I ended up getting to the airport two hours early because being alone in an airport terminal was more fun than being made to feel guilty for refusing unwanted sexual advances.

Girls are taught from a young age that we must dress to avoid being raped. We must keep our wits about us in public. Never walk alone through a dark alleyway at night. Don’t lead boys on. Keep our car keys sticking in between our fingers as we walk to and from our car at night. Be ready to run, scream, call 111, where to hit if we happen to be grabbed from behind.

I’m done with hearing that women are “asking for it”. I’m done with the excuse that men can’t control themselves. I am SO done with people insisting catcalling is a compliment. I’m sick of the only way to fend off men in clubs being to tell them you have a boyfriend. Why does ‘I’m not interested, sorry” not cut it? Why it it only when they think they’re encroaching on another man’s territory that they decide to leave? Even then, some guys only back off reluctantly if another man isn’t in sight.

Why should I have to pretend I’m in a relationship with male friends while out just so that I don’t get preyed on? Why should I feel guilty for saying no? No to sex, no to a kiss, no to anything I’m not comfortable with. Why should I be made to feel as if my worth is in how many men find me attractive?

 

It’s fucking hard to speak out. Sometimes it’s hard to even let the thoughts come into your head. I have secrets that I just don’t have the courage to think about, let alone say out loud but I stand tall and proud with every single person who has put their hand up to say #metoo.

 

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Big fish in a small pond

Do you ever feel like you’re a big fish in a small pond? Like the pond’s only getting smaller and smaller? Do you ever feel like there’s so many different directions and paths your life could take and yet you feel suffocated because there’s nowhere to go?

I have dreams of skiing down the Swiss Alps, climbing the Eiffel Tower and of pushing up the Leaning Tower. I dream of floating through Venetian canals and wandering aimlessly through cobbled streets in a city I can’t pronounce.

I want to ride to the top of the London Eye, I want to ice skate in Central park, I want to cycle around Amsterdam. I want to stroll through Hyde park, coffee cup in hand, breathing in the fresh air. Appreciating every leaf, every blade of grass, every bird chirping among the trees. I want to experience sunsets in every corner of the world and just as many sunrises.

I have a burning desire inside of me to suddenly relocate to the other side of the world. To start fresh and move to a place where nobody knows my name. I yearn for new experiences. I’ve fought the urge to buy a one want plane ticket out of here too many times, desperate to get away from the two degrees of separation and suffocating smallness of New Zealand. I wonder what it would be like to walk down the road and not see five people I know?

I have lots of dreams, wishes and ambition. But I also have fears. Silly fears, like embarrassing myself in front of people I’ve just met, or creepy crawly spiders.They may be small, petty fears, but they are fears nonetheless. Then I have big fears. Fears I rarely express out loud for I know I will be told they are stupid and irrelevant. That because other people have things worse than me, my worries are invalid. How dare I be scared of failing in my career or not enjoying my career when there are girls who are dying fighting for an education?

I’m scared of failing. I’m scared of only ever being mediocre. I’m scared of anything but success. I’m scared of only ever being second best. Scared that one day I’ll wake up in the same place I’ve always been. Stuck in a rut, in a job I hate, going nowhere. I’m scared of loving and being loved and then being hurt. Scared of being alone yet craving to be by myself. Sometimes I worry that I’ll never find ‘the one’. I worry that I’ll find the right one at the wrong time. I worry I’ll find him and push him away. I worry I cannot possibly compete with so many other girls who are so much prettier, smarter, confident.

I have dreams. I have wants, hopes and deep, burning desires and I have fears. But one day I will set out and accomplish these dreams. I will ski down the Alps, I will learn to snowboard and I will learn to surf. I will order coffee in another language, in a city I don’t yet know. I will tick my way down my bucket list, through the big and the small things because right now I choose to believe that nothing is a waste unless you let it be. I choose to believe that one day, I will be happy. Truly, genuinely happy. That my battle with depression will one day be a distant memory, my scars a reminder of the mental battles I have fought. I choose to believe that one day, I will make it. And one day, I’ll be okay.

#ThanksJohn. For everything. NZ farewells a legend.

When you’re a young, fresh-faced uni student sitting in a dark corner of the TV studio, not many people take notice of you. You don’t expect them to either. But John did.

When you’re the youngest person around by a few years, so far unqualified and inexperienced and working in potentially the most entry-level job there is in television, you don’t expect someone of the calibre of John Campbell to come sit down and ask how things are going – and genuinely want to know. But John did.

At 22 years old, I’ve grown up with TV3 and thus John Campbell. From fronting the 6pm news through to his very own show, I’ve been watching through it all. First as a 5-year-old not having a clue what was going on outside of my barbie dolls and imaginary world to being a slightly older inquisitive child beginning to want to know what things were happening in the real world. I idolised the newsreaders. John Campbell, Carol Hirschfeld, Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts and so on- and I still do.

Fast forward 10+ years and I’m lucky enough to be offered a part-time job at TV3. I’m ecstatic beyond belief. I genuinely jumped up and down when I got the interview let alone the call offering me a job. I’m blessed and proud to still be working there among the very same people I grew up idolising.

John Campbell has been one of the main driving forces behind me getting into journalism. Growing up watching him on TV and all the incredible work that he along with the rest of the team has done has inspired a nation and many other young people like me to pursue journalism as a career.

Throughout the entire 10 years, through set changes, sponsor changes, production changes, staff changes, all those style changes and haircuts and more, one thing has never changed – John’s enthusiasm and passion for what he does. The glaringly obvious fact that he genuinely cares about every single person he comes across.

When I talk to John, I never ever feel that he’d rather be doing something else or that he’s not listening. I’ve never ever seen a hint of insincerity – and I don’t think I can say that about many, if any, people I’ve ever interacted with. It’s clear that no person is too small for him. He interacts with the same genuine friendliness with everyone from top level management down to the cleaners. Unlike many other high profile New Zealander’s, John doesn’t come off as being ‘too good’ to deal with the little people.

John came into AUT to speak to my course last year about journalism and the media in general. Everyone I spoke to after that talk was full of admiration. He gave an open and honest talk, shared his thoughts with us and openly answered all our questions. He even stuck around for a decent chunk of time afterwards to meet people, take photos and answer more people. That small act was hugely appreciated by many awestruck uni students who watch your interviews as examples in classes and look up to you.

Campbell Live has done so much and touched so many people it’d be silly of me to even try explain how much. Every single member of that team that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with is a genuinely incredible person. Without such a solid, fantastic group of people behind it, the show wouldn’t be what it is today.

Thank you to the entire Campbell Live team. For pouring your heart and soul into everything you do and making a difference in New Zealand. For giving a voice to those who don’t have one. For being fantastic company around the newsroom.

John, you have done more for this country than anyone else. As hard as it is to see you leave, I know you wouldn’t be unless you 110% believed that it was the right thing to do. As a colleague earlier put it – “it’s like a death in the family.” We’ll miss you. A lot. So thank you for standing up for the little people. Thank you for inspiring me continuously. Thank you for being my role model. It’s been an absolute honour working with you and I am so privileged to know you. Please come back soon.

Haere rā and Ka kite anō John. You’ve been marvellous.

celebrations and commiserations

Sixteen years of continuous education is about to come to an end.

I, along with my classmates and countless other students are about to finally enter the real world.

The late nights and all-nighters, tears over stupid ambiguous assignments, the relief when you turn up to uni on zero sleep on your 20th cup of coffee and manage to hand in an assignment, the casual visits to Vesbar in the 5 hour gaps between classes, the group messages on Facebook the night before an assignment or exam – all of you in the same boat and wondering why on earth you didn’t start when the lecturer told you to – it’s all about to finish.

For my entire life, I’ve felt like I’ve known where I’m going. Ever since kindergarten, I knew I had plenty of time to figure things out. High school was an eternity away and university didn’t even register – it was so far into the future that I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like.

I worked my way through primary, intermediate and high school, each time I finished I was nervous and excited about the next stage. Finishing high school felt like a big deal, like I was really an adult. By this stage I knew where I was going, I was beyond ecstatic to be accepted into my degree and I felt like I was heading in the right direction but those 3 years ahead of me felt like they’d drag on forever.

Now I’m at the end of what is pretty much all I’ve ever known. And I’ve been going through a lot of different emotions. Excited. Nervous. Confused. Terrified.  Scared I won’t get a job, scared I’ll get my dream job and end up hating it, scared that I won’t be good at what I do. Also a little bit lost. Since primary I’ve known I want to be a journalist. All these years later and that’s still all I know.  When I started uni I felt like I was finally about to learn everything I needed to know and I’d be 100% prepped and ready to start full time work when I finished. But now I’m here and I don’t feel ready at all.  I’ve got no idea what my next step is. I feel like I’ve hardly learnt anything useful that’ll help me in the real world, despite the thousands of dollars I’ve spent to attend uni.

When semester 2 started this year, there was an air of excitement around the place. Freedom felt so close that we could almost taste it, everyone was excited and motivated to power through the last 12 weeks and finally get out of there. As the weeks have progressed, the environment’s changed into one of stress and concern and lately into nervousness – and at points in between, a clear feeling of ‘Fuck this, I’ll be a stripper’.

As much as I’ve downright hated uni at points and how hard I’ve worked to get to this point, I am so far from feeling ready to leave and I’m certainly not the only one.

In 2 months, we’ll be saying our final goodbyes to university. We’ll don the black caps and gowns with our supposedly-gold-but-really-an-ugly-yellow hoods and most likely drink to excess afterwards. Then we’ll jet off in all different directions.

It’s a weird feeling being on this side of things when it really doesn’t feel like all that long ago that I was starting what then seemed like an eternity of schooling. I freak out every time I hear that someone has job offers lined up but I know there’s absolutely no way I’m going straight into full time work after uni – sounds like a quick way to a mental breakdown.

So what next then?

Me, I guess I’m taking the rest of the year off. Continue working part time where I am and take the rest of the year off. Have an unforgettable New Years with my best friends and then back into the real world. I’ve got dreams of travelling the world but unfortunately not the accompanying bank balance.

Maybe I just need to relax and stop worrying about not having a direct 12-step plan set out to follow. I think I know where I’m going but I’ve got absolutely no idea how to get there.

But all my concerns aren’t going to make the last week go by any slower – it’ll probably go a whole lot faster! I guess all I can do is work hard, aim high and hope like hell my coffee addiction will carry me through.

1200 Calories

This raises a lot of good points. Real eye opener.

Sophieologie

I don’t know why “1200” managed to be the magic number of calories women should consume if they want to lose weight.

I don’t even know how I know of this number. Only that I know it, and my friends know it, and my mom knows it. Somehow, somewhere along the road, I was taught that if I want to have a flat stomach and tight tushy, I need to limit my calories to 1200 a day and do cardio. I don’t know how it got in to all of our collective brains, but somehow it did (if any ladies remember how or when they first heard the 1200-calorie rule-of-thumb for losing weight, please let me know via comment box).

What I do know is that 1200 is the general number of calories health professionals say women cannot drop below without suffering negative health consequences.

Interesting, isn’t it? 1200 calories. The…

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if you can dream it, you can do it

“What are you going to do once you leave school?”

The question that no one escapes from. It starts as a casual, thought-provoking question as a kid and as we grow up we’re expected to not only provide sensible answers- sadly ‘I want to be an astronaut’ doesn’t cut it anymore- but also have some kind of plan thought out as to how we’re going to get there. 

Lucky for me, I’ve been pretty set on my future career for as long as I can remember. I have vague memories of wanting to be a model or a singer and to be famous but thankfully I grew up. I also realised I love food too much to be a model and I can’t sing. I also figured out being famous definitely isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And on top of all that, I realised I had no talent to become famous with.  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a Journalist. I remember the moment that the first seed was planted in my head. I was in Year 6 at primary school and I’d always been really good at spelling and writing and all that jazz. (I don’t want to brag but I was constantly in the top spelling group every year…unfortunately I can’t say the same for Maths.) Anyway, I was standing at my teacher’s desk getting her to mark my work, what that piece of writing was has temporarily slipped my mind but I think it was a creative piece about how the Kiwi got it’s beak. I’m sure it’s still lying around somewhere, at least I hope it is. I seem to remember it involving a magical bird that was a wizard and the Kiwi was granted a beak but at the cost of it’s wings… I had a really good imagination. I remember my teacher reading it and telling me that I had a talent and I should think about getting into Journalism and that she thought I’d be really good at it. At that age my knowledge of Journalism was fairly limited – I think my first thought was reading the news. 

As I’ve grown up, the Journalism idea has stuck with me pretty firmly but my understanding of it has changed a fair bit. I’ve always had the idea of going into TV Journalism but when you mention that to someone, most people assume that you’re in it for the fame and glamorous side of being on camera and to be honest, I couldn’t care less about that. Personally I want to get into TV because as cheesy as it sounds, I think TV is a much more powerful medium than newspapers or radio. The 6pm news for example: thousands of houses up and down the country have their TV on, whether it’s in the background or if they are sitting down attentively watching it. Boom, you and your story are being broadcasted into all these homes. Sure, radio has the immediacy factor, but seeing footage of a disaster is so much more powerful than seeing a still picture or hearing about it on the radio. 

Take the Boston bombings for example, when the news first broke on Twitter my first thought was ‘Oh no, that’s bad.’ When the pictures and eye-witness reports started coming in, everything started seeming a bit more realistic and the gravity of the event started sinking in a bit more. But it wasn’t until I saw video footage of the bomb at the finish line going off and wounded people carrying others who were missing limbs away from the carnage. The raw, uncut footage where nothing was censored and it was like seeing everything unfold through your own eyes. That was when it really started hitting how bad things were, it almost seemed surreal.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also formed my own definition about the role of a journalist and what it means to be one. To me, it’s reporting an honest and balanced take on stories around the world. It’s giving a voice to people that don’t have one. 

I feel like some people forget that Journalism isn’t all just standing in front of a camera and reading or sitting in an office writing a story. It’s going out and interviewing people from all walks of life. It’s experiencing sights and situations that no one should ever have to experience. But on top of all of that, it’s also figuring out the balance between being a journalist as an ‘observer’ and being a human.

There’s no shortage of situations where photos or footage has emerged of some disaster, or someone in imminent danger. And there’s always a mixed reaction about it. There’s people who believe that if you’re on the scene, you should be helping rather than simply recording the events. Then there’s also people that believe you couldn’t do anything anyway so you might as well record what you’re seeing and report it to the rest of the world.  

I’ve never been in a situation like that, and honestly I don’t know what I’d do if I was. I like to think that if I was somewhere like a war zone and something did happen, that my natural human response would kick in and I would do whatever I could to try and help. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I watched someone die in front of me and know that I could have done something to help.  But then again if I was watching from a distance and I knew that there was no realistic way that I could help, for example someone jumping from a burning building, I think my role as a Journalist would take over – I can’t help so I might as well do what I can to show the rest of the world what is happening.

Take the case of Anderson Cooper back in 2010. He was the first major news anchor on the ground and during a store looting when things spiralled out of control, he witnessed a boy be struck in the head by a rock and the resulting blood that poured out. Cooper ran into the crowd and emerged carrying the injured boy and tries to lead him towards safety. This is one of the many reasons I admire Anderson Cooper so much – despite the fact he was there as a journalist and to report on the events, he still put his duty as a human ahead of his job. 

Anderson Cooper saves a child in Haiti in 2010

I’ve always been a big dreamer but I’ve also repeatedly been told to have a back up and not get my hopes up. I’ve been told not to aim too high because chances are I’m going to fail. 

But there are so many inspirational journalists out there that I admire and look up to so much and I am one hundred percent sure that one day I will be out there making a difference. I’m not stupid enough to think I’m going straight into the big league and I am more than happy to work my way up through minor and so called ‘small’ stories. I know I’m going to aim high and then fall and I’m also really happy to do that. 

Because I know that if I put my mind towards something, I can and I will do it. I don’t care how long it takes or how many times I fail because in the end I will get there. I’m tired of people telling kids and teenagers to go study something that will get them a job whether or not they’re passionate about it. 

I’ve been so set on Journalism for years and because of that, I’ve never had a back up. I sucked at Maths and Science so a degree in Business or Engineering was out, I couldn’t (and still can’t) draw to save my life so I couldn’t do anything artistic and I had no interest in Geography or History or anything like that (I’m more of a ‘live for the moment’ kinda gal). Because I’ve never had a back up, I think it’s made me more determined to succeed knowing that if I didn’t make it into uni then I really had no hope of making my dreams come true (cheesy I know). 

If you want to do something, do it. If you’re passionate about something then go for it. If you have a dream then do whatever you can to make it come true, no matter how crazy it might seem. 

You are in control of your life. You get to choose what you do and where you want to go. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough, Because you are. And if you’re determined enough and willing to start from rock bottom then anything is possible.

P.S for a Journalism major, my typing and grammar is shocking so please excuse that. I rarely have the patience to go back and edit my blog posts.