What I learned from my breakup

I was slightly stunned last week when I realised that it’s been nearly three years since the end of my most serious relationship.  That breakup ripped me up in the worst possible way.  I’ve never felt quite so adrift as I did in the weeks and months following that event.  But as horrible life events often are, my breakup was a real learning experience.  At the risk of sounding utterly trite, I learned so much about myself and about love from the aftermath of that breakup.  And now that I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I’d like to share some of those hard-earned insights with you.

 

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There is no such thing as “The One”

For years I hung onto the idea that there was a single person out there for everyone.  I think it comes from being raised in a family with two happily-married parents, with happily married grandparents and aunts and uncles who have long and happy marriages. In addition to my home environment, pop culture was also a guiding force in my firm belief in “The One”.  And for a very long time I believed that my then-boyfriend was The One.  And when that relationship ended I felt utterly shattered because that’s not what’s supposed to happen.  I worried whether I was wrong about him being my Person.  Or if he was my Person and that meant that I didn’t get another One.

 

After a lot of reflection and dating, I’ve come to the conclusion that The One is a myth.  There will always be people who are so compatible that you believe that the two of you were made for one another.  And for some people, that feeling comes only once in a lifetime.  Some people find it multiple times.  And some people don’t find it, or perhaps aren’t interested in romance.  I truly believe that my ex-boyfriend was The One for me from the ages 17 through 27.  But after that we were no longer compatible.  And I believe that I’ll get to have that feeling again.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is tear everything down and start fresh

After our final fight, I left and found a flat for me and my two cats.  I had almost no furniture because I’d sold most of my shitty second-hand stuff when I’d moved in with my boyfriend.  So I spent many, many nights in a very empty flat feeling alone, bereft and very sorry for myself.

After a long period of wallowing, I started working on filling my flat and my life.  I took a full-time job, which ultimately led to my current job which I really enjoy.  With the money I earned I bought furniture and household items that I actually liked.  I spent time with my friends and made new mates.  I started exploring new interests.  I did some online dating and had a series of incredible experiences there.

But the point is, I would never have done those things if my relationship had remained on track.  I would never have needed to buy new things or meet new people.  Although it sucked at the time, stripping that floundering relationship from my life made room and space for things that have made me feel happier and more “me” than ever before.

Fear of failure is worse than actual failure

I’m a very anxious person.  For years one of my biggest fears was that my relationship with my partner would end.  Even when our relationship was good, I would sometimes lie awake at nights freaking out about how awful it would be if we broke up.  And when we did, it was like a nightmare had come true.  Only it wasn’t as awful as I’d imagined it would be.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty fucking brutal.  But it wasn’t as all-consuming and insurmountable than the scenario my very active imagination had created.  I managed to deal with it, survive and thrive.

 

This realisation has helped dramatically with my anxiety.  When I’m about to take a risk or I feel scared about something, I reassure myself with the knowledge that the fear is worse than the actual scenario of failing.  And that’s not just a cliche that I placate myself with. I know that to be true.

 

Letting a partner be your plan for the future is a mistake

I did a very dumb thing during the course of my relationship.  There were many moments when I should have been planning for my future, and I’d brush away those scary thoughts about superannuation and mortgages and let Future Vanessa deal with them.  You see, I thought that my relationship would last forever, and I thought that meant I’d be set for life.  My partner worked hard and had a well-paying job.  He knew what he wanted from his career and I was happy to just go along with that, getting away with working part-time because he earned enough to take care of the bigger, scarier expenses.

 

But then we broke up.  And I realised I was screwed, financially.  I’ve always been good with my money, but I’d never earned much.  I’d saved some cash, but I never thought to put anything into my superannuation, or worry about my financial future.  My plan for the future was to let my boyfriend take care of it.  I’m ashamed to admit that, but it was the truth.  And I paid dearly for that error.  But after some panicking and nervous crying I got my butt into gear.  I took on a full-time job to better support myself.  I opened a dedicated savings account.  I put money into superannuation.  I started researching investments and cutting my discretionary spending.  And now I’m in a much more comfortable financial position.

So now, if I wind up on my own for good, I’ll be set up to take care of myself.  And if I do end up getting married down the track, I’m coming into that union with a solid foundation and the knowledge that I’ve got my own back.

A “successful” relationship doesn’t always mean “One that doesn’t end”

For a long time I nursed a deep wound caused by the feeling that I’d failed.  I felt that because we’d broken up, my relationship with my boyfriend was all terrible and all wrong.  I tortured myself thinking about all our happy memories, and tainting them with the idea that they were somehow flawed because we had broken up.

 

I had an epiphany while watching How I Met Your Mother.  In the final episode, where Barney and Robin reveal that they are getting divorced after a few years of marriage, Robin mentions that their marriage hadn’t failed, but rather that it was a successful marriage that only lasted three years.  That hit me so hard, because it’s really true.  Not all wonderful, successful and important relationships last forever.  And not all long-term relationships are successful.  For so much of our time together, my relationship with my ex was awesomely fun, romantic and nurturing.  I felt supported and truly happy.  And that isn’t tainted by the fact that our relationship didn’t last.  It was what was right for us for a portion of our lives, but after that we were no longer compatible.  It happens, and it doesn’t make me or my ex a failure.

 

Have you learned any hard lessons from a breakup?  If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

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Working towards financial freedom

My views towards money have shifted pretty dramatically in the last few years.  From the ages of seventeen to twenty-seven I was in a relationship with a man who was in a secure and well-paid profession.  As our relationship was serious, I never gave a lot of thought to my own finances.  I wasn’t too stressed out about saving for the future.  And when that relationship ended, I was faced with the very scary prospect of having to finance myself through my future.  I realised that if I wanted to own my own house one day, or have a retirement plan or be in a position where I wasn’t living hand-to-mouth each week I needed to do something.

 

DSCF7394I made the mistake of confusing having a boyfriend with having long-term financial security.  Please don’t think that I got into the relationship for the money.  Or that I didn’t work hard to pay my own way.  It’s just that whenever I’d considered financial planning for the future, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it because I imagined that my future would include another person who was financially stable.  And it was a rude awakening when I realised that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Once the dust had settled on my break-up, I had to think very carefully about the kind of life I wanted to have.  When I got to thinking about my future, there were a lot of things I wanted: a house, overseas travel, a secure retirement, which weren’t going to happen unless I made some changes and took matters into my own hands.

 

Now I feel that I’m on the road to financial freedom.  I’m nowhere near that coveted place yet, but I’m travelling the right path.  Today I wanted to discuss some of the things that I’m doing to move towards financial freedom because I think it’s a really important topic that not enough people consider carefully.  I understand that I’m in a privileged position and that not everyone is able to take the same steps that I am.  But I wanted to share my own experiences to give you some ideas and encourage you to think about your own financial future.  So here are the things that I do to help improve my finances…

 

Work full time

When I moved out on my own I had a choice: I could continue to work part-time and have just enough to pay my expenses or I could look for a full-time job and earn enough to begin saving some money.  This wasn’t an easy decision for me.  As you may know, I have depression and was very worried about the toll that full-time work would take on my health.  But I decided to give it a shot when an opportunity for a full-time job presented itself.  It was a hard transition, but I adjusted and ultimately I’m very pleased that I did it.  I now earn enough that I can live comfortably and still put aside some savings each week.

 

Live well within your limits.

When I first started my full-time job, I went a bit crazy with my pay cheques.  I started taking myself out for meals several times a week, splurging on clothes and household items that I’d been coveting and buying gifts for family and friends.  It was a lot of fun and I think I earned a bit of play-time.  But after a month or so of this I noticed that my bank balance was at a standstill.

 

If you want to put away money for a rainy day, you need to live within or below your means.  Find ways to save money and don’t go crazy with luxury spending.  You don’t have to live like a miser, but you also can’t live on a champagne budget and expect to save cash.

 

Have a savings plan

It’s not enough to simply decide to save, you need to decide where your savings are going to go.  Last year I opened up a dedicated savings account.  It’s a high-interest account and I get a reward every few months if I don’t make a withdrawal.  I don’t have a card attached to this account so if I want to withdraw from it I have to physically go into the bank.  I aim to put at least a little from each pay into this account.  I have a list of specific big-ticket items that I’m saving for, such as an overseas trip and a house or apartment.  It really helps to have a dedicated account for your serious-grown-up savings that’s tricky to access so that you won’t be tempted to dip into it for discretionary spending.

 

Put money away for retirement.

Superannuation is unsexy but important.  If you want the best possible deal on your super, you need to shop around a bit. Try to find a fund that works well for your lifestyle and financial profile.  If you can, try to make a voluntary contribution to your superannuation every now and then.  In Australia, if you meet a certain income threshold, the government will match any post-tax super contributions you make.  There are also some super funds which will give you a bonus if you make voluntary contributions.  So it definitely pays to put some cash into your fund from your own pocket wherever possible.

 

 

Make payments off your debts

Debt is one of the biggest obstacles to financial freedom.  I have never let myself have a credit card, so I am thankfully free from credit card debt.  But I do have a fairly significant HECS debt from my time at university.  So I make a point of making voluntary payments off this debt when I can.  Once your debts are repaid, you’ll have less liability hanging over your head.  And then you can just focus on saving.

 

What do you do to work towards financial freedom?  Are your future finances something you’ve given much thought to?

 

1000 posts, and a huge thank you!

Would you believe that yesterday I posted my 1000th post on this blog?  I couldn’t believe it when I saw the numbers tick over.  It’s been four years since I began blogging, and I am so grateful for all the friends I’ve made, all the opportunities that have opened up to me and all the gorgeous people who read my blog every day.  When I started this blog, I had never dreamed that I would still be writing four years from now.  I absolutely adore writing for you, reading all your comments and getting in touch with you.

DSCF8523I want to say a massive Thank You!  to all of you. To everyone who reads this blog, whether on a daily basis, or whether you just pop over every now and again.  I am so grateful to each and every one of you.

I also wanted to thank all the fantastic people who purchased items from my etsy store in the lead-up to my move.  Thanks to you, I had enough money to buy myself a new fridge when I moved into my new flat, which is huge.  Every person who bought something from my store helped me out and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

As a small token of my appreciation, I’m having a sale on my e-books.  You can use the code MOVINGRIGHTALONG to get $2 off the price of each of my books.  That means that each one is just $3!

I currently have four e-books to choose from:

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Nessbow’s Guide to Second Hand Shopping

 

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Nessbow’s Guide to Developing your Personal Style

 

DSCF8169Nessbow’s guide to surviving college

 

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Living Frugally without sacrificing your style

 

All four books are available for instant download via my etsy store.  They’re packed with practical real-world advice that you won’t find here on my blog.

 

Thanks once again for all your support.  Here’s to another thousand posts!

 

New Years Resolutions Update: August.

This month my resolution was to make more money from my blog.  I’ll admit that I got off to a very slow start.  I’ve had a huge upheaval in my life that’s led to me reassessing myself and my goals.  I realised how much time and effort I was putting into my blog, and I felt that it was disproportionate to the amount that I was getting out of it.  So I decided to slow down and give myself a break.

DSCF8559When I wrote about my uneasiness and bloggers malaise, something wonderful happened.  I got quite a lot of feedback from my readers.  In particular, I got a fantastic email from one of my long-time readers that listed a whole bunch of simple tweaks that I could make to improve my blog.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.  When you’re a blogger, you’re in charge of everything that happens on your blog.  While that can be an amazing thing, it can also be incredibly hard.  It’s very difficult to try to improve your work when you’re constantly trying to guess whether people are enjoying your content.  Without feedback from other people it can be so hard to try to gauge how well you’re performing or identify areas where you need to improve.  So I really appreciated getting that little bit of constructive criticism.  It gave me a boot up the bum to really look at how I’m doing things around here.

What I decided is this: I want to keep blogging and I want to make some money from my blog.  But I don’t want to be killing myself to try to do that.  I’m not afraid of hard work, but I want to make my time and effort count.  I don’t want to be pouring my energy into something that doesn’t yield results.  So what I need to do is work smarter rather than harder.

I identified the areas where I currently make money on my blog.  And I looked at some of the things that I’ve tried that haven’t been successful.  My verdict: stop trying to make the unsuccessful things happen and keep working on the things that have been successful.  Pour your energy into these areas, make them bigger and better.  Develop ideas and experiment, but don’t get too hung up on trying to do All Of The Things.

So, currently I have a few income streams on my blog.  The ones that I’ve found to be successful are: my e-books, my etsy store, writing sponsored posts and selling sidebar ads.  These are the areas that I’m going to work at developing.

DSCF8169I came up with a plan that included tasks which require less effort, but are more targeted towards my goal.  And then I set aside time to work on these tasks.

And the results?   I had my first ever commission sale in my etsy store.  I sold quite a few e-books.  I nearly finished a new product that I plan to market on my blog and I secured a new sponsor.

So overall, I’d say that this month’s resolution was something of a success.

Do you make money from your blog?  Do you find it easy or is it a bit of a struggle?

Daily outfit 21/8/2013

So today is my grandfather’s birthday.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or if you know me in person), you’ll know that my grandfather, or Pa, passed away two and a half years ago.  We were very close and even though he had been ill for a long time, losing him was a hard blow.  I try to make his birthday a happy occasion by celebrating all the things that made him special.  I try to indulge in some of his favourite treats as well.  So tonight I’m going to be snacking on some liquorice allsorts and raspberry cordial and watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.   The reason I watch that movie each year on his birthday is because the actor that plays Grandpa Joe reminds me so much of my Pa.  Plus, it’s impossible to feel sad when you’re watching that film.

Today I’m wearing a fairly simple outfit with some pretty details.

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I am wearing:

– Grey cable knit jumper from Supre

– Brown trousers (thrifted)

– Brown and gold high heels from Savers

– Faux pearl necklace (thrifted)

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I didn’t really feel like getting dressed up today, but I also wanted to wear something presentable.  This jumper and these trousers are so comfortable, that  they’re almost as good as kicking around in a tracksuit.  I dressed up the ensemble with my heels and the necklace.

DSCF8777I realised that this outfit cost less than $50 in total.  The jumper cost $35,  the shoes were $6 and the necklace and trousers were $1 each.  So in total that’s only $43.  I’m so thrifty!

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So that’s what I’m wearing to celebrate my grandfather’s birthday.  I know that he’d approve of this comfy-but-smart outfit.  In fact, I’m sure he’d have approved if I’d spent the day in my P.Js.  He was one of the most relaxed people I’ve ever known, and he honestly couldn’t have cared less about the way anyone looked.  As long as you were a decent person who could enjoy a good belly-laugh, he’d have thought you were awesome and treated you like family.  I miss him so much, but it’s nice to look back and celebrate on his special day.

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New Years Resolutions Update: April

This month, my resolution was to get rid of my junk.  I had an entire corner of my office that was overrun with stuff.  It was basically the spot where I’d throw anything that I didn’t want anymore.  It was a bit of a disaster, and this month I resolved to sort it out.

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The first thing I did was to go through all the stuff with a critical eye.  I set aside the things that I thought that I could sell, and bagged up everything else.  Ross and I went for a drive and took about seven bags of clothes, toys and books to the op-shop.  With all those things out of the way, my office was already looking so much better!

Over the last month, I’ve been making a really concerted effort to sell the the rest of the things I’ve set aside.  I listed a few things on ebay each day, and sold loads of clothes, DVDs and books this way.  I even added a couple of special vintage items to my etsy store.

DSCF3407This capelet is one of the vintage items that I’ve listed for sale on etsy.  It’s gorgeous, but I just never wear it. I also added some other vintage bits and bobs, so it’s worth heading over for a look if you’re a vintage lover.

I still have a bit of stuff to get rid of.  Some things haven’t sold on ebay, but I don’t really want to donate them just yet.  In the next month or so, I’m going to look into getting a  stall at one of the trash and treasure markets that run locally.  Hopefully that will give me a chance to clear out even more of my things.

So I think it’s safe to say that April’s resolution was a success.  While I haven’t gotten rid of everything that I wanted to, I’ve made a good effort and I’ve got a plan in place to sell off those last few bits and pieces.

Would you like to give me a hand?  If so, there are a couple of ways that you can help out:

– Check out my ebay listings and put a bid on anything that you’d like.  At the moment, I only list items for sale within Australia, to save on postage costs.  If you live outside Australia, or if you’d like to buy something from me directly then just drop me an email and I’ll work something out with you.

– Visit my etsy store and have a poke around.  It’s filled with whimsical accessories, vintage clothing, customised clothes and winter warmers.  If you see something you like, you can use the code JUNKBEGONE to get a 15% discount on any purchase over $5.

DSCF3608I am so happy to have gotten rid of so much of my unwanted stuff.  It’s so cathartic to clear out the clutter.  Fingers crossed that I do just as well with next month’s resolution.

How to do sponsored posts right.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, chances are you’ve had offers to write sponsored posts.  Sponsored posts can be a great way to monetise your blog.  They can also present a number of ethical dilemmas.  How do you do sponsored posts without seeming sleazy or irritating your readers?  How do you make sure that your sponsors are happy with your work?  How do you choose which offers to accept?  It’s a bit of a minefield, but one that’s not impossible to navigate.  Here are my top tips for writing sponsored posts that keep your readers, your sponsors and yourself happy.

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Choose your sponsors carefully.

When you’re just starting to get offers for sponsored posts, it can be tempting to accept anything that comes along.  After all, any offer is better than no offer, right?  Wrong!

It pays to select your sponsors carefully.  Choose companies that sell products that are directly related to the topics that you blog about.  This serves two purposes.  Firstly, it keeps your readers interested, because the items you’re writing about are along the lines of what they’re used to reading on your blog.  If you usually write about fashion and then you suddenly do a sponsored post for chainsaws, your readers are going to be a tad confused.  Secondly, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to put together a stellar post that will leave your sponsor beaming.  You’ll do a better job of writing a post that’s within your area of expertise than something you know nothing about.

Also, make sure that the sponsor’s message is in line with your own.  You don’t want to start promoting products that contradict the values and voice of your blog.  This will hurt your integrity and turn readers off.

Ask loads of questions before you accept an offer.

Before you agree to write a sponsored posts, do a bit of research about your potential sponsor.  Visit their website and find out a some more about them.

Also, ask loads of questions about what they expect from you.  Do they want you to include specific links to their business?  Are you permitted to use photographs from their website?  Do they want the post to be in a particular format?  How long would they like the post to be?  How much will you be paid and how will you be paid?  Ask as many questions as you like, but do it before you say yes to any offer.  If you feel uncomfortable with any of the answers, either try to negotiate with the sponsor, or politely decline.

Stick to the terms you’ve agreed to.

Once you’ve agreed to do a sponsored post, make sure that you stick to the terms that you and your sponsor have agreed to.  Some sponsors are happy to let you run free and be very creative with your posts.  Others have a very rigid idea of what they want.  The bottom line is, if you’ve agreed to the terms they’ve set out, the sponsor should get what they’ve paid for.  Make sure you follow their instructions to the letter.

Write the post as you would any other.

It’s really important that the sponsored post fits with the voice and message of your blog.  This keeps your readers engaged and stops them from feeling like they’re being shilled.  Make sure that you write the sponsored post using the same voice as you would any of your other posts.  Present it in a way that’s consistent with your usual content.

Always disclose when you’ve been paid for a post.

I always make sure that my readers know when a post has been paid for.  I put a disclaimer on the page which states that the post is an advertorial, or I tell them that a product was given to me to review.  Your readers aren’t stupid, they’ll be able to tell if you’re trying to sell something and it will irritate them if you’re not up front. I personally don’t mind reading advertorial content on other blogs, as long as I know that it’s paid content from the start.  Your readers will appreciate your honesty and transparency.

Don’t do sponsored posts too often.

It’s frustrating when your favourite blog starts churning out nothing but sponsored posts.  The message of the blog is lost and the blogger’s personality gets buries in a sea of ads and product reviews.  It’s up to you how often you want to write sponsored posts, but make sure that you aren’t sacrificing your own fantastic content for too many paid posts.  Your readers come to your blog to read your words, they want to know what you think.  Don’t drown out your own voice by presenting too much sponsored content.

Keep your sponsor in the loop.

Get in touch with your sponsor regularly.  Keep them updated on the progress of your work and let them know when the post is live.  Encourage them to read comments and always send a thankyou email at the end of your time together.

Are you a blogger that does sponsored posts?  What do you think of bloggers writing sponsored posts?