Reignite the spark

I WANT to talk about Albany.

Albany has been dubbed many things; a tourist hotspot, a retirement village, a backwards country town.

I for one, thought the best thing I could do for myself after high school was to leave Albany in the rear-view mirror of my car and head towards the promises of the big smoke.

Recently I met someone who is convincing me of Albany’s beauty, after I complained there was nothing here for me (sorry Mum).

They aren’t doing this consciously, but their efforts to show me beautiful things around Albany have been noted.

Last weekend, we drove to a secret spot out near Frenchman Bay (maybe it’s not a secret anymore).

We watched the most stunning sunset dip below the horizon, the tracks of our footsteps the only evidence of human presence.

I had a Nicholas Sparks moment.

You don’t get that in big cities.

A few weeks ago, we explored a 4WD track I had never seen nor heard of before.

Panoramic ocean views, fresh air and crystal waters made me feel a newfound sense of peace.

You don’t get that in the hustle and bustle of big cities either.

Albany gets a lot of lip from people, particularly young people.

We say Albany doesn’t give us massive shopping centres, or grand food halls, or big festivals and events.

#confession: I say this sort of stuff a lot.

I constantly complain there is nothing to do, everything is the same, nothing exciting happens.

But I’m looking at the negatives, aren’t I?

Am I bothering to look at the positives?

Nope.

Albany is a unique place and I think if we take a more positive approach to it, we can make it better.

So instead of just complaining all the time, I pledge to actually go out there and explore.

Albany is renowned for its scenery, and that’s what it does best.

Albany knows how to put on a heart-melting sunset, a beach with clear turquoise waters, a warm spring day that requires only a light cardi, not a jacket or coat.

Have you ever taken the time to look at the Torndirrup National Park coastline?

It is rugged and dramatic, dangerous and beautiful.

You can walk through bush full of wildlife and escape the noise of town, whilst listening to the crash of the Southern Ocean against the peninsulas.

There are stunning lookouts and walking trails at Jimmy Newells, Stony Hill and Bald Head, to name a few.

While the weather has been quite horrific, technically spring is on the way.

Did you know there are more than 50 places in Albany alone, to get something to eat or have a coffee?

50! That’s insane!

That doesn’t even include all the cool little places throughout Denmark and Mt Barker, which really aren’t that far away.

These places are always changing their menus too, so really, we have more than 100 places to eat, as some places are just like new after you haven’t visited in a while!

All you need to do is stop and take in everything around you.

Albany has a lot of known and hidden beauties within its town lines.

My challenge to you is this: find an untouched spot of nature or a place of special meaning to you and take a photo.

Stick it to your bedroom wall or mirror and when you next go to complain about how lame Albany is, take a deep breath and look at that photo of serenity.

Remember Albany’s beauty.

Let me know how you go.

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Time to reach out

OK guys, serious hat today.

Yes, Ash the crazy, nugget-and-cheeseburger- loving “adult” is being serious today.

There is something we need to talk about.

Have a read, yeah?

Have you ever been ignored? I definitely have.

Happens all the time.

By my parents, if I am whinging about the internet stream lagging. By my friends, if I am complaining about not getting my hair done before a big night out, or about a lack of nugs at the fast food outlet just up the road.

But have I ever truly been ignored? Like I wasn’t worth the effort of looking at or talking to?

No. I haven’t.

Every morning, I wake up and mumble to my fam. I go online and engage with people with likes and comments and tags and tweets. When I walk into work, people will wave or nod as I lope to my desk.

I am visible. I’m not ignored. I get to go home to a warm, safe house where I have ready access to a meal, a bed and Netflix.

I don’t have to worry if I am hungry, because I know I have money to buy lunch.

The people around me are pretty much all the same. We are happy (relatively), we have family and we have each other.

We are pieces from the same puzzle.

That isn’t the case for a lot of people in Australia, including those in little ol’ Albany.

Homelessness is a serious issue and we can’t continue to sweep it under the rug.

I visited a working port city a few months ago and was shocked by the number of people taking refuge in café corners and alleyways.

I saw grown men covered in old newspapers, dirtied by the dust and muck of the street.

One came up to me and asked for the scraps on my breakfast plate.

I didn’t know what to say or how to respond. I mean, what is the right thing to say?

Having homelessness look you straight in the eye is confronting.

We hear all the time from charities with age-old phrases like ‘how would you feel if…?’.

Can we comprehend what it means to be homeless?

What does it actually feel like to crawl through the day, knowing you don’t have a warm place to sleep on those disgusting wintry nights?

Living with the pang of hunger as a numb and constant reminder?

What happens when you’ve worn out your welcome couch-surfing?

The harsh reality is no – we as part of society generally struggle to comprehend the challenges of homelessness for those on the fringes.

We live in a consumerist world where having the best for ourselves has become a priority.

Granted, I am simplifying here, and I do not mean to imply all people are selfish in nature.

But it seems to be the general gist of humans.

Our default setting is to survive, and in doing so, we tend to focus on ourselves.

We may try to help others by dropping an extra coin in the charity box or donating a couple of tins of soup, but how far are we really reaching out to those in need?

The thing is, a lot of people can’t break the cycle of homelessness and they are crying out.

So, for Homelessness Awareness Week and any week in the year, don’t just donate and walk away.

Realise how lucky you are to be in a position where you can apply for and hold a job, have access to clean water and hot food, and be a visible part of society.

Don’t let homelessness become another issue placed in the ‘too hard’ basket. Start with a simple smile.

Face it. Don’t fear it. Let’s fix it.

#together

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Get your adult on

THE day I became an “adult”, I spent the afternoon choosing between a six-pack of iced doughnuts and a tier of profiteroles for dessert.

I feel like I didn’t quite understand what being an adult meant.

I mean yes, I get to make the decision between the iced doughnut and the profiterole, but is it the right thing to do?

Adulthood, which sometimes coincides with your 18th birthday, also means the ability to choose to simply eat cake for breakfast. This is a dangerous power for just anyone to possess.

My point here is that there are way too many decisions you have to start making when you turn 18, and to be perfectly honest, it is quite overwhelming.

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time in the magical land of Ash World, there was a girl who turned 18 and was expected to have some clue as to what she was going to do with the rest of her life.

(Spoiler alert, she totally did not know what to do.)

After many nights spent having an existential crisis on repeat and pondering how much money she could make creating lame slogan t-shirts from under the comfort of her electric blanket, the girl finally decided to do the one thing she had absolutely refused to do: ask for advice.

Hours of talking with her mum and best friend (sounds clichéd yes, but it’s true) helped her kind of figure out what she wanted to do.

She decided that instead of sitting around and moping all the time, she would finally get it together.

How that was going to occur, was still a mystery.

Being an adult means taking hold of being entirely responsible for yourself.

This means that you get to decide whether you tackle a tertiary education, try to save for a deposit on a house, move across the country, backpack through Guatemala, buy a cat or decide to live without Netflix.

I’ll keep this one short and sweet.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions; if there is a person at your work or the lady who makes the best coffee at your favourite café that looks like they have it together, ask them how they decided everything.

Figure out what would make you happy.

Do you enjoy learning? Consider tertiary education.

Do you work well with people? Consider looking towards a job in customer service.

Do you often hurt your knee playing footy on the weekend? Maybe it’s time to look for another sport. Do you have a passion for exploring and travel? Maybe check out travel warnings for Guatemala (or maybe pick somewhere else).

Working out when you need to start making decisions and figuring out what decisions you actually need to make is hard.

I decided one day that I wanted to organise a passport, sort out health insurance, apply for cross-institutional study and fix my tangled necklace rack.

All at once.

#mentalcrisis

To be perfectly honest, things will come to you when they need sorting out, and you will figure it out along the way.

No, that’s not an excuse to let everything slide and put off until later.

Just don’t let it overwhelm you. One step at a time.

Adult away my little adultians! (See. Short and sweet).

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Remember…breathe!

Hey, I’m Ash. I’m just a regular twenty-something year-old Albany chick and I’ll be letting you see the world through my eyes over the coming weeks. I love pink, pizza and know every word to Ice Ice Baby. Intrigued? There’s plenty to talk about…

LATE nights, several packets of carbohydrate-packed lollies, an extra sugar in your RedBull… sound familiar?

Yes, it is that time of year again, where year 12 students are gearing up for the scorch trials that are mock exams, before the final WACE (Western Australian Certificate of Education) exams in a few months.

Now the first thing any parent or friend usually tells you is ‘don’t stress out, just focus, make sure you get fresh air and eat healthy.’

Or you could hear the complete opposite, which is usually along the lines of, ‘quit your whining and go study!’

I can honestly say that I received both types of advice.

Predominately the latter.

Many types of dietary and behavioural advice are handed out during pre-exam time; make sure you go out for a walk for 30 minutes a day, eat your two fruit and five vegetables; some of these things just don’t happen during a high stress study sesh!

I graduated from high school a whole three years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

So, when I say I understand how you are feeling, I really do understand how you are feeling.

You feel like the weight of having to know what to do after graduation is pushing down on your shoulders.

If I can suggest one thing, let it be this.

Breathe.

Without sounding like super over-dramatic advice, normally delivered by your hippy aunt, it is okay to feel stressed at this time.

Preparing for up to six WACE exams is intense and sometimes you won’t be quite sure what to do.

For those not preparing for exams and who are just focusing on coursework, assignments can pile up quickly too.

When that happens… just breathe.

It’s easier said than done, but it works.

Let those drooping lungs fill with air until they feel like bursting, and then let it all out slowly, one little tiny bit at a time.

Remember to enjoy year 12.

If there is one thing I could go back in time and say to my year 12 self, it’s just to enjoy it.

Enjoy the next few months of wandering around the auditorium or canteen, watching the year sevens squirm as your six-foot frame parts the crowd like the Red Sea.

Soak up the sunshine on the lawn while munching on a sausage roll. Enjoy every last bit of that extra tomato sauce that you busted out 30 cents for.

Year 12 races past in the blink of an eye and there is not long to go, so put your head down and smash it.

Focus on that assignment you have been ignoring for the past three weeks.

Recite those anatomy terms and be confident that the mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the cell. Remember the function of the centriole. Know the difference between fascism and nationalism. Memorise quotes from that novel you had to read.

Practise the different algebraic formulas and create the best notes pages you can.

Remember, fourth quarter, you’re nearly there.

Year 12 is a crazy time, whether you are taking the ATAR pathway, a VET course or getting an apprenticeship.

There are constant forms and applications to fill out, a million questions about what university you want to get into, what job you are going to apply for during your gap year.

All before you have even sat down in that uncomfortable chair in the freezing exam room sandwiched between a kid with the sniffles and a State champion pen clicker.

So, to sum up:

Breathe.

Enjoy.

Study.

Now hop, skip to it!

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