New Year, same old me

Women’s magazines love New Year. Their covers are full of titles like “New Year, New You!” and “How To Have Your Best Year Yet!”

This only brings out my inner cynic who, lets be honest, is rarely far from the surface. I recognise the absurdity of these false hopes even as I am drawn to their promise of transformation and the lure of Better.

Let’s face it: I’m not going to transform myself into a gregarious, high-energy style icon with a multi-million dollar business developed in my garage. One thing I do agree with those magazines on is that if I really, really wanted this I could achieve it or most of it. But it’s not going to happen because it’s not something I want.

And here I return to a persistent theme, namely how difficult it is to follow your dreams when those dreams are the antithesis of what the world says you Ought to want.

Dreams and plans and goals that the world endorses are big and bold, active, social and public. I want smaller, quieter, more private.

I want less stuff. I was thwarted in this by my father who gave me a book I wouldn’t buy because a flick through it in the library would be sufficient, and a very expensive designer alarm clock that I won’t use and have no need for. Now I have to figure out how to dispose of these items without causing offence. I realise this sounds ungrateful. It is. But I’d have been more grateful had he listened when I told him I didn’t want anything and if he really wanted to buy me something I’d prefer food or wine that I could consume.

Quieter should be easier to achieve, although it takes some discipline to shut out noise in all its many forms including social media, aimless web surfing, reality TV and the aforementioned women’s magazines. My real challenge will be to stop browsing on my phone when I wake up and to do something a bit more life-giving and positive when I start my day.

More private is entirely up to me really. Many would say I keep pretty much everything to myself as it is. And one has to share in order to have conversations with people and build relationships of any kind. But while I am hardly the type to air all my linen in public I do want to honour my need to keep some things to myself, not because they are scurrilous or shocking but because they are important to me. And I don’t want them tainted by others not treating them as important.

Those are my rules to live by this year. Same old me, really, only more so.

Incidentally I had a lovely Christmas Day with my nephews, no. 1’s partner & child, and my father, probably the nicest family Christmas I’ve ever had. But I won’t lie: it was taxing and I was completely over people for the next few days.


Being my own client – badly

I’m in danger of becoming a bore or a sinner – a single issue nutter. Or a multi issue nutter perhaps. I have detailed conversations with likely looking colleagues about rainwater tanks: in ground, partially buried or above ground? Above or partially buried. Plastic or concrete? – definitely plastic. 20,000litre or two 10,000l? Two tanks are better. And that’s just the water. Solar power systems are occasions for even more detailed conversations with infinitely more variables to debate. And then there’s the issue of household appliances and how much power and water they use and energy star ratings and low pressure suitability. 

This is all important of course to ensure that what I build works, lasts the distance, and doesn’t leave me literally high and dry. But I know it’s way too soon to be looking at appliances. I’m not going to design my entire kitchen around a 4-star dishwasher that’s on sale right now when it’ll be out of warranty by the time it’s installed. 

All my design training flies out the window when I’m my own client. I know I need to start big picture and work in to the detail, but find myself latching into a detail and mentally committing to it without really meaning to, then finding myself constrained by it. 

Partly this is because there are so many factors to balance, and it becomes progressively easier to make decisions for every decision that gets made: when you’ve decided where the kitchen goes, other things logically flow from that. Constraints are the generator of good design – you don’t get innovative problem solving happening when there aren’t problems to solve. When there aren’t enough constraints, it’s very difficult to decide because there are no obvious downsides or upsides to any one option. 

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even got a decent topographic map of the land yet, and I’ve only spent a total of about 3 hours there so far.  I’m well short of what I’d have considered a decent site survey back in my professional design days. 

I think I’ll rent a GPS unit suitable for surveying, and spend a day walking round the land, recording as I go. Not only will I have got to know the land, I’ll have gathered the topo data I need to build a 3D model of the site, draw an accurate base map, and ponder the options for building sites and access. 

Once I have that, I can start to make some informed decisions about where to build. The main constraints will be access, sewage and views. In that order probably. 

Then it’ll be time to start calculating the size of my water tanks and the number of batteries I require for my solar power. At that point my inner bore can have free reign, for a while at least. 

A visit to the farm

I took my father up to see my new land. He was quite taken with it. It’s hard not to be: it was late afternoon when we got there and the light through the clouds was quite magical. 

It was very boggy underfoot though as it had been raining hard for the past 48 hours. We got stuck driving up the access road. So that’s my first priority: grade, drain and gravel the road so it’s passable. 

We wandered around a bit, seeking out views and possible building sites and found a lovely one with views to the ranges and down a gully to the river flats. 

The gullies are a lot steeper than I remembered – too much Google mapping and its pseudo 3D had led me to a false view of the terrain. 

It’s a lot of land. No question. I have moments of panic when I realise just how much land there is, because I have no idea what to do with it all, except that I don’t have to worry about that because that’s what the farmer tenant is for. 

It’s all very exciting. It’s as lovely as I’d remembered. It’s also slightly terrifying as it’s so far outside my comfort zone. Although really it’s more of a return to a zone that I am no longer comfortable in because I’ve been out of it for so long. I’m sure I’ll get used to it again. 

So much to think about and plan for. I’ve never really had a five year plan before and now I really do need one. 

Balancing planning for the future with living in the present

My plans for the land purchase are quietly moving forward. I met with the lawyer, called the estate agent, planned the trip to see it (and another property that looks equally interesting). 

It’s both exciting and a bit surreal (and a little scary) to be thinking that in 5 years I could be living a whole new life. 

It’s also a bit distracting. I’ve still got a life to live day by day. 

Last night I had dinner with my nephew and I outlined to him my long term plans. I told him that he and his brother are beneficiaries of my estate (apparently that was news to him, I thought he knew but why would he as I’d never actually told him.) I explained that my plan was to gift over the assets to him and his brother by the time I’m 85, on the condition they buy me a little retirement unit to live out my days and give me an allowance. 

He was a bit puzzled as to why I was even thinking about things like this. He pointed out this was 30 years away. To which he added, “that’s longer than my lifetime so far”. He’s 28. 

It brought me up short. It’s peculiar how, at the midpoint of one’s life, the second half looks a whole lot shorter than the first. The first half is chock full of experiences and adventures and milestones, while the prospect of the second seems to be a gradual closing down of options. 

This is nonsense of course. And I’m glad my nephew reminded me of that. Thirty years is a long time, plenty long enough to have a whole lot of new adventures and experiences. 

Which is why it’s so easy to get caught up in the planning of the future, the land, the house, the chickens and beehives. It’s exciting. 

But now is good too. There’s plenty to do, and the future goal is a fantastic way to focus my energies and attention on the things I can do now that will help get me there.