Greatest hits (and misses) of 2018

Hmm. January 10th. Is it too late to do a year in review? Nah. Let’s go!

Here are the highlights and lowlights of my (blogged) life so far, plus some updates on how things have progressed since I posted about them. Let’s tie off some loose ends before we move on to 2019!

  • I started this blog! I toyed with the idea for a while but in late April I took the leap and made my first post. I claimed a url, and I learned how to write a post! With 34 posts including this one, I reckon that despite some inconsistency, it’s off to a good start 🌞
  • I learned to bake. While I haven’t made a regular habit of it, I’m counting this as a hit rather than a miss because I baked my way through my first bag of flour and my first tub of coconut oil! I’ve got a basic muffin recipe figured out and I’m confident enough to adjust it to make different flavours.
  • I built some muscle. I’ve made gym workouts a semi-regular habit and I’ve made noticeable gains: I can lift, press, and curl double what I did on day one! And I can carry my groceries home without stopping for a break. Most importantly, I now have a consistent, flexible, and sustainable routine that will hopefully bring more gains this year!
  • I made broken umbrella photos a thing (or at least more so that they were before). There’s even a subreddit for it now – check out r/WellyBrollyFails!
  • I sorted my meal plans. I discovered the joys of Sunday Meal Prep, motivated by some banging tunes, and I still follow this formula now. It’s saved me heaps of time and effort!
  • I ran a onesie day! I plucked up the courage to wear an animal costume to work, convinced some colleagues to do the same, and (thanks to some very generous office folks) filled a bucket of cash for charity! And I enjoyed the toastiest winter of my life.
  • I cut back on alcohol. I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but I realised that even the little I was having was affecting me. Thanks to some quality alternatives, I’ve cut back to almost zero. At one point I hit three months dry! While we’re on the topic of beverages, I’ve dropped my caffeine intake too, and I still keep to my one-coffee rule most days.
  • I explored a little more of my backyard. Besides Matiu/Somes Island, I also checked off the Southern Walkway, Makara Beach, and the Brooklyn wind turbine, as well as Zealandia for the first time in six years. On top of that, I sampled dozens of local eateries and bars for the first time. The vast majority of these ventures were organised by the wonderful folks at r/Wellington. The staycation itself was a flop, but I’m more than happy with the ground I covered over the year!
  • Mental health. I’ll be brutally honest; my anxiety is no better now than it was a year ago. I’ve searched my soul multiple times, I invented a new holiday, and I even took an entire month off. I’ve learned a lot about mental health and about myself. I’m better off than I was in a lot of important ways – physical (barring disease), social, financial. Yet I still choke up with fear on a disturbingly frequent basis. I don’t know what to do about it, but one thing’s for sure: whatever I do, I’ll Do It Badly.
  • Social media. I still spend dangerous amounts of time zombie scrolling, autoplaying, and falling down rabbit holes, all while bathing in unrealistic expectations. Reddit et al. are the keys to my social life, but they’re also bottomless pits of meaningless “content”, and they’re addictive by design. Again, I don’t know how to deal with this, but I’m sure there’s more I can do. On the plus side, I stopped gaming on Sundays!
  • Travel. I didn’t make it to Fiji; in fact I didn’t leave New Zealand all year. The farthest I got (apart from one workday in Auckland) was Tauranga. Unlike mental health though, solo travel isn’t essential – who’s to say it’s even the right thing for me? I was well-travelled as a kid, so overseas holidays don’t hold the same novelty they otherwise might. I need more of a reason to go somewhere these days. Like, say, some friends to go visit… Not making any promises though 😉
The real greatest hits: Music (and other sounds) I discovered in 2018

Music has been a constant companion throughout the year, as evidenced by the many song quotes and links in my posts. I even put together a playlist of my top 50 mood-lifting tunes. What those don’t show is that 2018 was a great year for me in terms of discovering new sounds. Below is the best of what I found – in my opinion, of course!


Thanks largely to my Youtube wanderings, I was introduced to:


I’ve had new sounds on heavy rotation from:


I discovered the wonderful world of podcasts, and among my early favourites are:

  • 99% Invisible: Stories of hidden design and quirky history.
  • Freakonomics Radio: Counterintuitive findings in economics and psychology.
  • Future Perfect: Exploring controversial but rational solutions to big problems.
  • By The Book: Hilarious attempts to live by the advice of self-help books.
And the greatest hit of the year, based on cold, hard data

I don’t even have to think about what my most-listened song was in 2018, because Spotify tracked it for me! According to Spotify Wrapped, this is my number one song for the year, and I have to say, it’s a good choice. Drum roll please…

Summer Sounds: Birds of Tokyo – Lanterns

Lately I’ve found
When I start to think aloud
There’s a longing in the sound
There is more I could be

As I alluded to above, Birds of Tokyo cover a lot of thematic and emotional territory. They have as many moods as they do albums – that is, five so far. These range from death and apocalypse (BRACE) to the polar opposite, life and hope (March Fires). Lanterns belongs to the latter.

If I had to pick a theme song for the blog, it would be this. It hits on the same themes that I aim to address in my writing. Finding light in the darkness. Holding on to hope. Facing fear. Embracing the new. Learning from the past. Growing up. Moving forward. Finding yourself. Becoming a better person. Wanting more, and – just maybe – getting it.

Oh, and it’s a blast to sing in the shower too. That counts for a lot in my book.

On we march
Till we meet the dawn
We will light our way
With our lanterns on

And that (belatedly) is a wrap on 2018.

What does the new year hold? Well, just quietly, I do have some projects in the works… but I won’t go into them now, lest I end up overcommitting like I did with the gym! But if and when I make good on those plans, you’ll know!

Until then: Here’s to another year of sunshine! ☀️☀️☀️


What were your greatest hits of 2018, musical or otherwise? What worked out for you? What didn’t? What did you discover? Let me know!

Do It Badly: An antidote to perfectionism

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

– G. K. Chesterton


As an anxious person, I tend to think a lot. Often to the point where I don’t actually do the things I need to do. This is known as overthinking or perfectionism and is a hallmark of anxiety. It can impact all areas of life, and for me in particular, I believe it’s a major cause of my recent burnout at work.

Sounds like you? I’ve got good news. There’s a way past this. Continue reading “Do It Badly: An antidote to perfectionism”

Stop. Summertime!

I had the most frightening dream. The walls were closing in and I was hopelessly trapped. A storm rolled in, the rain poured, and I had no shelter or protection. The water was rising and I was drowning. Suffocating, freezing and choking, I desperately clung on, hoping against hope for a miracle, for someone to come and save me.

Just as I resigned myself to fate, a hand reached out, grabbed me by the wrist, and pulled me from the wreckage. At that moment, overwhelmed by the struggle and overcome with emotion, I blacked out.

When I woke up, the storm had evaporated, the sun shone brightly in the sky, and I was safe in my own bed. It was the start of summer.

But I couldn’t help wondering: was it really a dream? It felt so real… Continue reading “Stop. Summertime!”

Eight years on: My Christchurch earthquake story, part 1

On this day, eight years ago, Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a magnitude 7 earthquake. This disaster, along with the earthquake of February 2011, stand as defining moments in New Zealand’s recent history. Their effects are still being felt today.

Many residents of Christchurch have shared their stories through projects such as Quake Stories, as well as countless news pieces and books. (For a poetic take on the first few years, I can recommend The Villa at the Edge of the Empire by Fiona Farrell.) But there are many stories yet to be told.

Like mine.

Until now.

This is my Christchurch Earthquake story. Well, the start of it. This turned out longer than I expected!

Disclaimer: Human memory is fallible. This happened eight years ago!

Saturday, 4 September 2010. 4:35am.

This date and time are permanently etched in my memory. Like the clock towers in the city that stopped at 4:35, there’s a little clock in my mind that’s stuck on this time, even now. Continue reading “Eight years on: My Christchurch earthquake story, part 1”

Thank You for Today

One of my favourite bands dropped a new album today, and it’s an absolute doozy. It’s by Death Cab for Cutie, it’s called Thank You for Today, and you can make your own album cover! Which of course I had to try out:


Thank You for Today is a statement of gratitude to everyone who’s helped the band to get to where they are now. And don’t we all have something to be thankful for? So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give some thanks of my own.

The “Ol’ Flat Peeps”

Thank you to the two amazing, kind, spirited women I’ve shared a home with for the past 18 months.

Thank you for the laughs and banter, the snapchats, the random car trips, the house parties, the shared dinners, and all the simple joys of flatting.

Thank you for supporting me when I needed it most, and thank you for talking sense into me when I was about to lose it.

Thank you for inspiring and encouraging me to do better for myself. You leave me far better than you found me. You’ve grown too and I’m really proud of you.

You’ve been the greatest “flat fam” a guy could ask for. Missing you already! 😢

The new “Krusty Krew”

Thanks to my new flatmates for being so open and friendly. You’ve made the best of what could have been a terribly awkward situation. And it’s great to be among fellow SpongeBob fans!


Hope you stick around a while. Looking forward to many adventures ahead!

My online community


Thank you r/Wellington for welcoming me during what was a difficult time personally. You’ve opened the door to so many incredible experiences and social opportunities, and it’s no understatement to say you’ve changed my life for the better. This community is truly special and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

Thanks to all the lovely people I’ve met through the site, either online or in the real world. You’ve played a big part in shaping who I am today. One year ago I was a loner. My, how things have changed.

You’ve also been a wonderfully supportive early audience for this blog. Thanks for your encouragement, and thanks for putting up with my advertising!

The musicians

Thanks to all the artists on my playlist (and elsewhere on my Spotify) for providing the soundtrack to my story. Your words and sounds have touched me at a very deep level. You’ve brought me joy, helped me find my purpose, and kept me going in my darkest times.

You probably won’t ever read this, but if you do, know that your work is appreciated down here in Wellington, New Zealand! (Also, please leave a comment!)


And, of course, thank you, dear reader for taking the time to read my posts. It still seems surreal that the words I scribble in my notebook end up on computer screens all over the world (well, the English-speaking world). Even more so that thoughtful comments come back to me. Thanks to your feedback I know I’m on the right track, and I’m convinced there’s something more to this.

It is my hope that this blog will become a resource for anyone living with mental illness or going through difficult times. It’s very early days still, but already I’m finding it useful for my own reference, so maybe it can help you too.


Thanks to everyone who’s helped me to get to where I am now.

Thank you for today.

And thank you, Death Cab for Cutie, for Thank You for Today. (PS: Please come back to Wellington!)


What are you thankful for? Let me know!

And while you’re giving thanks, why not give the album a listen as well?


The [sunshine intensifies] playlist

I’m gonna go to a bar where the jukebox is on

Gonna shut out the noise with a rock ‘n’ roll song

– Keane, Playing Along

Music has the power to change emotions. To turn a bad day on its head. To get me in the zone. Or just to shut out the noise. I take advantage of this on a daily basis.

I’d like to give you the chance to experience that power for yourself. To that end, I’ve curated a playlist of songs that energise me. It’s a mix of hopeful, life-affirming, and rousing.

Give it a listen if you’re ever in need of a lift, and adapt it to suit your own tastes!

What are your go-to uplifting or motivating songs? Let me know!

I’m gonna turn up the volume

I’m gonna turn up the volume

I’m gonna turn up the volume till I can’t even think


Make Yourself (some dinner)

Rev up those fryers, ‘cause I am sure hungry for one – Help! Help! My leg!

– Fred the fish, SpongeBob SquarePants

While you’re at it, rev up those vocal cords too. This is gonna get intense.

Welcome to the Sunshine Singalong Cookathon!*

(*working title)

Invite a friend, or maybe wait until you have the flat to yourself – I’m doing the latter…

Tonight’s soundtrack is the 1999 classic, Make Yourself by Incubus. Want to sing along? Hit play and turn up the volume!

Cue the music!
1 Isn't it strange
Isn’t it strange

It may look strange, but it works! I call this the poor man’s sound system. It amplifies the bass to give a deep, satisfying sound.

On the menu tonight: Chicken tikka masala. Get everything out now so you don’t forget anything later!

2 Isn't it weird that a privilege
Isn’t is weird that a privilege…
3 could feel like a chore
…could feel like a chore?

Grab a cup of frozen mixed veges and give them a quick blast in the microwave while you chop the onion and garlic. Chuck the mixed veg and onion in the pan with a little oil.

4 It seems as though I'm going nowhere
It seems as though I’m going nowhere really [flipping] fast
Garlic cooks quicker, so hold it back til the other veg is soft. About now you’ll need to put on the extractor fan – and turn up the music so you can still hear it! Now fill the saucepan two-thirds with cold water and put the heat on full.

6 Experience the warmth
Experience the warmth

Fry the veg til it’s done and turn the heat off. Dump one cup of rice into the saucepan, which should be warm by now. Important: Turn the heat down now or it’ll boil over during the next step! (True story.)

7 Just when you thought it was safe to think
Just when you thought it was safe to think

Time for chicken! Chopping this is probably the most time-consuming part of the process, and the most demanding in terms of food hygiene (wash your hands, folks!). Recipes will typically tell you to cook the meat first, or cook meat and veg separately, but I’m too lazy to wash up two chopping boards and two frying pans. So, veg out, chook in, heat on.

8 If I hadn't made me
If I hadn’t made me, I would’ve been made somehow

This stuff demands your full attention for the next little while, apart from a few quick stirs of the rice. Keep it moving – pink to the middle, brown to the outside. Let all that water (injected to bulk up the weight for sale) pour out and steam away.

9 Hold the wheel and drive
Hold the wheel and drive

When the chicken starts browning, dump everything in the pan. EVERYTHING. Including the sauce. (Drain the rice first.) While that simmers, now’s a good time to start washing up. But scrape the bottom once in a while to stop it burning!

10 Pardon me while I burst into flames
Pardon me while I burst into flames

When it’s no longer soup, it’s time to plate up. And we’re done, midway through the last song! Make Yourself (sans bonus tracks) clocks in at 48:12, so including clean-up we’re talking maybe 50 minutes total. Take a bow and chow down!

Bonus round: How many more meals will I get out of this?
12 That is your privilege
That is your privilege

One medium container and one small container means three more meals ready to go –not a bad haul!

And that’s how I cook.

This method works for a remarkably wide variety of recipes:

  • Meat: Chicken, steak, sausages, mince, or none at all (substitute pumpkins and/or kumara for substance)
  • Carbs: Rice, pasta, couscous, corn chips, wraps (skip the saucepan for the last two 😉)
  • Veg: Frozen mixed, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Sauces: Pasta sauce, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, soy/teriyaki
  • Optional extras: Cheese, sour cream, chilli sauce, mayonnaise/aioli
  • Music: Whatever you like to sing along to!

Some combinations obviously don’t work. Use common sense. Or go wild and experiment!

Ok, but… what?

You might have cringed while reading this. Sauce from a jar? Everything in one pan? What madness is this? Well here’s the thing: I’m not a chef. This is a pragmatic system, honed over years of flatting, and it works for me. It’s economical in money and time, it’s nutritious (I think!), and – crucially – it’s fun. So much so that I no longer dread cooking – I truly look forward to it!

What’s your go-to food-prep playlist? Got any cooking tips for me? Let me know!