My journey towards 'slow' - part 1

Author: Gabriella Tagliapietra   Date Posted:16 April 2019 

In listening to the Slow Your Home podcast, host and creator Brooke McAlary tells us of her journey towards a simpler way of life after she was diagnosed with post-natal depression. In the episodes I have listened to it is evident that for many people (though not everyone) the shift towards slowing down has a trigger. This is true for me... and I think there have been several triggers. The first trigger was around 2000 and was caused by complete and utter burn-out, so I've been slowly, slowly simplifying my life ever since, after the doctor actually confirmed I was suffering from burn-out. 

At the time I was completing an under-graduate degree at university and was juggling that around shift-work with Ansett Airlines. I was extending and renovating the family home with my mother (we created a dual occupancy so that I could have my own pad) and on top of that I was in a relationship where we weren't yet living together so there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between both places. Throw in an exercise regime, social activities and all the other things life throws at you and this resulted in complete burn out. Years earlier I had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue syndrome, so it seems my body had been telling me for some time to just slow down.

As a coping mechanism along the way I did have the insight to reduce my work hours to part-time and pulled back on my study load, stretching my degree from 3 years to 4. In there somewhere my partner moved in with me and life progressed to us looking for our own place, which we moved into in late 2001... not long after 9/11 in the US. Prior to moving I had also made the decision to leave Ansett (3 months before the airline collapsed) and found work locally in the Shire. When we moved I was still working on final assignments for uni and once that was over I decided to find work locally so I didn't have to commute over 'the bridge' (from North Balgowlah to Cronulla).

This process produced a lot of tears because I just couldn't bring myself to do mindless work, and my then considerate partner (turned out not to be this way down the track) told me to take my time... and so I did. I eventually landed a part-time role that paid pretty well and was there for a couple of years.

However, at the beginning, having just left uni I was full of enthusiasm to embark on a creative path but try as I might to find work in a creative field... it never quite worked out that way. Having completed an Applied Arts degree it really only equipped us to be practitioners and we all know the starving artist cliche. Having to meet financial obligations I had no choice but to work. I remember discussions during this time with friends and identifying that being creative and seeking financial security were mutually exclusive things, and a constant torment to try and strike a balance between really desparately wanting to be an artist / maker yet wanting the security of home ownership. 

One thing that was very evident to me towards the end of this period in my life was a complete shift in priorities. At the beginning my job with Ansett was everything to me and uni was just something I was doing, but at the end of the 4 years this completely flipped. Ansett was just a means - it paid my uni fees upfront which allowed me to be debt-free at the end of it. It paid the mortgage on the extensions and renovations to the family home and allowed me to secure a loan with my partner to purchase our first home together... but the Ansett magic was gone for me (apart from the awesome people I worked with and were like family!) and I was the now the student (in so many more ways than just being at uni). If I could have continued with studies then I would have.

So I thought I would do the part-time work thing and carve out some creative time in the afternoons but the reality was I would get home from work at around 2pm, have lunch and go for my walk down to Middle Harbour then come home with the inevitable household chores laid out in front of me... and because I had made an unconscious declaration to no longer multi-task I just naturally gravitated towards single-tasking. While life was relatively slow, relatively simple, really quite enjoyable, and I got into a rhythm I still kept very busy and never really got the creative time I wanted - I did dabble but nothing took hold. I was being creative in other ways though, by putting my mark on our home and creating a garden. It was here that I became a passionate gardener - but it turned out this was the first garden I had to walk away from after pouring so much love and energy into it.

Read the next installment in the next post...