An Open Letter To NZ High School Students

Dear Young Adult,

For me high school was quite a while ago (class of 2002). Things were different back then, there was no NCEA and internal assessment was only a small component of our final year – everything else was externally examined. Great for kids like me who excelled at memorising information for exams and then immediately forgetting it, and terrible for kids who struggled with rote learning. My year was the last year to have this system; NCEA was introduced the following year.
From my understanding of recent media, one thing that doesn’t appear to have changed is the pressure put on high school students to perform well in assessments/exams as part of a wider fear that your entire life hinges on your ability to score highly at school.
I promise you; your life does not depend upon how many “Excellents” you achieve in NCEA. This is something that school does drum into you subconsciously, but the amount of people out there in the world who had their life plans actually derailed by average school marks is incredibly minimal.
I’m going to assume that the stress people are feeling is because they want to get into university, as literally nothing else takes any school grades into account (trust me, no employer gives a flying fuck how you went in Year 13 art history).
Did you know that New Zealand universities have avenues to welcome almost everybody? Universities are a business and trust me; they want your money.
Achieving Level 3 NCEA is not the only way to get into university. It’s merely the fastest. If you passed Level 2 but bombed out in Level 3 (because let’s face it; the school system is not the most effective learning environment for everyone) yet are a motivated student, you can gain entry to university through completing a foundation year. This will allow you to enter any first year program, including those notorious health sciences.
Perhaps you didn’t do so well in Year 12 either. No biggie – once you are 20 years old, you can apply through special admission – again, if you are the kind of person who really wants to attain that tertiary education, they will most likely accept you. Not only that, but you can use the time in between to save money, go travelling, get life experience and just give yourself a motherfucking break from academic learning (seriously, you’ve been at it for 13 years in a row)!
I’m not advising you to abandon your efforts in high school, because obviously it’s important to challenge ourselves, and passing your Level 3 is the fastest route into university – I just want each and every one of you to know that failure to perform in a system that was designed for the masses does not in any way pertain to your worth, or ability to succeed in achieving the things you want out of life.
I’m a 31 year old who is studying a bachelor of science, involving maths and chemistry papers – I didn’t take any science in high school after 6th form biology, and I scored 23% for Bursary (Year 13) calculus. Yet here I am, studying science, after a solid decade of partying and forgetting literally anything I ever learned at high school. And guess what – I’m (more or less) an A student. Why? Because:
a. I want to be there; and
b. Universities have systems in place to assist people like me – they have papers like “general maths” and “concepts in chemistry” (which are still 18 point papers that count toward your degree) that consolidate the high school syllabus to prepare you for the harder papers.
Universities kind of realise that when we are 15 years old and are expected to know what we want to do with our lives in order to pick the correct subjects for NCEA, we might choose something totally inconsistent with what we end up wanting to do later in life. On that note; do not go to university unless you have a really clear plan of what you want out of your study there. It’s a huge waste of your money if you are just going because your parents expect it, or because you feel like you “should”, for lack of any other ideas.
The decisions you make, and the results you achieve while you are a high school student, will not haunt your future – no matter what your teachers and parents tell you (I promise!). What’s more important is the adult that you are becoming at this stage in your life. A student who might have to work their ass off to achieve a “Merit” is immediately going to be more prepared for tertiary education or the workforce, than the student who is naturally well-suited to exams and rote memorisation, who sails through school without learning about work ethic. Almost everyone I know who got to uni on the latter (myself included), got a very rude awakening and ate a bunch of humble pie when the “Credit/Merit” level students from school were the ones casually beating us out in the competitive programs like law and health sci.
So try to forget the end marks and instead focus on the process of learning. Practice time management and effective study habits – not in order to get the highest grade, but for their own sake – to prepare yourself better for adulthood, whether that involves tertiary education, working, or travelling. Learn at a young age how to sensibly overcome setbacks and perceived “failure” without emotional meltdown – because resilience is one of the most valuable things that money cannot buy. Things will happen in this life that you cannot predict nor change, and being able to deal with obstacles and failures in a way that keeps your stress levels steady and your self-esteem intact is probably the best marker of a great mind. Those are the real-life exams you want to be prepared for.
You have so much to offer the world, but don’t forget just how much the world has to offer you in return. We only get one life, and to spend any part of it getting unhealthily stressed about smaller things within the bigger picture is a real disservice to the wonderful human that you are. Celebrate the great things about yourself and your friends, 99% of them won’t have anything to do with your academic prowess. Enjoy weaving what will be a long and winding path – make it one filled with abundance, and don’t let fear become a motivator.

Love, Chelle xoxooxoxoxooxoxoxoxxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate Your Girlfronds Please

Recently my sister-in-law gave birth for the first time, and I was accordingly introduced to the world of judgement that mothers have placed on them in every single aspect of motherhood – from how you decide to deliver, to how you choose to feed, sleep, clothe and entertain your baby. My poor sis-in-law (let’s just call her “Lisa”) was not only sleep-deprived and new to parenting, she was also having to expend energy worrying about what she was doing, due to the myriad of conflicting and judgmental advice flying around the internet, hospital and anywhere that mothers with 2c may lurk. Luckily she has a great bunch of friends who were real and assuring with her about their experiences, but not every new mother gets to have the kind of support network that “Lisa” has.

I was feeling pretty aghast at the bullshit that new mothers get judged on when it also hit me: the judgement starts far before motherhood. As women, our very choice as to whether or not to have children is judged and held up for public opinion at every turn. And it sucks to say this, but the perpetrators are often other women.
As a single 31 year old female, I have been constantly encouraged “not to worry – for I will meet someone to have children with soon!” I’m really pissed off about this. Why? Because literally everyone who knows me should know me well enough to know that I have stated since I was ca. 12 years old that I did not have any maternal instincts. Many people would patronisingly tell me that I would change my mind when I was older – and this is still happening to this very day.

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To be fair, it would be a very lucky baby.

I am so incredibly fucking insulted by this, in ways that I can’t even express.
Who the hell are people to insinuate that I don’t have intelligent agency on my own decisions?
What the actual fuck is wrong with wanting to be childfree?
We don’t live in an age of marginalised population – far from it. We could do with a heck of a lot less people on this planet, and I’m more than happy to refrain from adding to the current population clusterfuck that is pillaging all of our natural resources. Not to mention that I’d much rather take my $250,000 and my free time and spend it on travel, 3D art gadgets, designer furniture, low-purity Australian-grade cocaine, bibles and literally anything other than raising a child.
I have considered telling people that I have some kind of horrible illness that prevents me from having children, just to make them think twice about the invasively judgmental words that come out of their mouths – but in doing that, I would be further perpetuating the notion that women who don’t have children are only that way because they medically can’t. And I’m not even going to waste my breath talking about the injustice of safe abortions not being free and available to every woman on this planet.

So why, in 2016, are women that choose not to have children still considered inherently faulty and suspicious? I promise you; we’re not. (I’ll tell you what actually is suspicious though; chicken nibbles. The ratio of labour-intensive “nibbling” to projected meat payload is a grim travesty indeed. Who is making money from this betrayal? Who is laughing all the way to the bank at your fervent insistence that the nibbling is worth it? We’ll discuss this issue in depth another time.)
I’m finding that the reason feminism still has a long way to go is because there is too much goddamn in-house bickering.
TLDR: Live and let live. Before you go around judging what other people are doing, try shutting the hell up and living your own life. To the womenfolk out there, you are doing a sound job – whether you have kids, don’t have kids, go travelling without your kid, are out of work, don’t breastfeed, co-sleep, go back to uni, work a lame job to get by, work a high pressure job, put your child in daycare, or watch Buzzy Bee in your PJs with (or without) a baby all day. We only get one life and very few people on this planet are incapable of deciding their own way to navigate it. You’re all great, you’re all wonderful and we all have so much exciting stuff ahead of us. Is it not the biggest waste of our beautiful minds to focus so intently on irrelevant shit!? We’re better than that. Call your girlfrans and tell them how rad they are.

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See what we can accomplish when we lift each other up? We could wear pineapples on our heads and everything.

Love, Chelle xoxoxoxoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valuable Lessons From My Mum

Let’s begin this with a shout out to Lynne, who gave birth to me at age 27. The story of my birth is as thus: I was actually planned (whereas apparently my older brother was, to put it politely, “unexpected”). Mum and Dad were living in a big rambling 2-storey brick house in Mornington, given to them by Dad’s parents, because back then, houses cost 6 shillings and a tuppence or some shit. It was the last night of summer in that big old draughty house when Mum felt the familiar feeling of having pissed herself – evidence that Chelleshockk was on the way into this world. Dad went downstairs to get the car out of the garage, while Mum took it upon herself to walk down the concrete flight of stairs to meet the car, with me in her tummy and a barely 2 year-old Brad in her arms.
Because it was Dunedin in the 1980s, of course Mum fell down those harsh concrete stairs and landed on her tummy, while Brad went sprawling out of her arms onto the concrete below. Dad got her straight to Queen Mary hospital (which was the maternity joint back in those days) and Mum was rushed straight into the scanner to check that I was going to be okay. It’s always been a joke between myself and my parents that I was, indeed, dropped on my head as a baby.
Mum would often say that when she turned up to the hospital, her and Dad were given some Looks because she was preggo as fuck and both her and Brad were all scraped up and bleeding!
I was born ca. 6am the very next day – as Dunedin welcomed in the first Autumn of 1985, Chelleshockk was also thrust upon this once-safe, sleepy little town.

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I’ve always loved my bikkies.

The point of this post is not to tell long winyarnin’ tales of my birth, it’s just that I’m really drunk and I like to write tales of wist and detail when I’m all fucked up. The original point of this post is to share with you some of the best advice that I have ever received from my beautiful mother, Lynette Anne Fitzgerald (nee Askerud). The idea came to me about 20 minutes ago while drunk in the shower washing my face, so here it is:

1. “Your face starts at your hairline and ends at your boobs, so when you cleanse/tone/moisturise, you should be covering that entire region.” When I was 12 years old, I was given a Johnson&Johnson Clean & Clear skincare pack (cleanser, toner and moisturiser) at Christmas and I have kept up some semblance of that routine ever since (except that I never take my makeup off before bed because I’m often too fucked up to bother).

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Which is how a 30 year old ends up with this skin. #humblebrag.

2. “Girls can do anything that boys can do (except pee standing up)!”
Well I beg to differ on the “peeing standing up” thing Lynne, but otherwise, I’m happy about this advice.

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LOL, back when I used to embrace being olive-skinned.

3. “We don’t care how well you do as long as you always try your best.” While I’m sure literally every decent parent has at one point said this to their kids, it’s nonetheless an important and popular turn-of-phrase for a reason. Unfortunately for me, I was actually capable of great things if I tried my best, and I quit doing that after intermediate school – so I can understand my mum’s disappointment when I didn’t “apply myself” in high school. However, her advice has stuck with me and I have adapted it to align with my current ideals – if you do your best and your intentions come from a good place, then nothing and nobody can ever truly diss you with reason. Remember that; it’s a great code of conduct to live by.

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What a Betty!

4. “You’ve gotta put your body on the line for the ball.”
Mum played soccer and also coached my older brother’s junior league soccer teams. I ended up playing soccer in my high school years, even though I was straight, and I always remember my mum coaching both my brother and I in the backyard with our soccer skills. Lynne was really adamant that you need to put your body on the line for the ball as a goalkeeper (Brad was the goalie for Otago and I was also goalie for some of my soccer years) because she knew the score. This translates to anything in life really, and echoes some of the common ideas floating around: If you want something bad enough, you put everything on the line to achieve it. No pain, no gain. A small sacrifice for a large goal is worth it, etc. Good shit, cheers Mum!

5. “Save Every Cent”.
OK, while she didn’t actually say this exact line, saving money was definitely Mum’s bae. Thank god it was, though, otherwise Brad and I would never have been given all the opportunities to play any sports we wanted, nor been taken on multiple incredible family holidays! So although saving is boring, I can’t fault Mum for wandering around Pak’n’Save with a pencil stub and grocery list, carefully adding up all the items in the cart to ensure she remained within her budget. Although I didn’t learn the lesson of budgeting until much later in life, Mum was the one who laid the foundations of this incredibly valuable mindset for me!

6. “Thou shalt lift every weight and wear all the white eyeshadow that thou can get thy hands on”.

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Goes without saying, really.

Cheers for everything Mum!
Love, Chelle xoxoxoxooxoxox

 

 

Socially Terrible Yet Probably Quite Effective Parenting Tips From Someone That Hasn’t Got Any Kids.

1. If your child doesn’t want to go to bed, instead of telling them that it’s bedtime and they have to go to bed “because I said so”, why not give them a full explanation of why they need to go to bed? Explain calmly and scientifically how the human body works and how it needs sleep to function. Not only will they respond to being spoken to like a real person, but you’ll probably bore the little fucker to sleep at the same time. Win/Win.

Billions and billions of sleep.

Billions and billions of sleep.

2. If your child can’t stop wetting the bed, cut some MDMA into their night-time milk. Not only will they love you soooooo much, they won’t be able to piss for hours, due to the fact that MDMA releases anti-diuretic hormone! Side effects may include request for Barney night light to be replaced with a strobe. Everybody’s happy, though.

Other side effects may include bush doofing and meth-induced "spirituality" at said doof.

Other side effects may include bush doofing and meth-induced “spirituality” at said doof.

3. Tantrums in public can be solved with a barking collar, thought you may want to hide it under a scarf so that nobody glares at your “tough love” approach to parenting.

Happy as Larry.

Happy as Larry.

4. If your child is concerned about monsters under the bed, I would suggest that you make some hollow papier mache monsters and place them under the bed, so that you can encourage your child to beat the piss out of them, and then whenever they check under their bed, all they will see from then on are some pathetic mangled pieces of shit, that they laid the old 1-2 on back in the day. This will boost their confidence no end.

5. If your child won’t eat their dinner, don’t make them. A hungry child will eventually eat whatever you give it, and the odd skipped meal is nothing in comparison to the agonising hours of trying to force-feed a child that probably isn’t hungry. I’m sure they don’t expend that much energy sitting in a carseat or a pram all day, so it won’t kill them to miss a few dinners. Let the child listen to their bodies and eat when they are hungry – or let them graze at a bowl of food when they feel like it, like a cat.

Like so.

6. If you don’t want your child eating McDonald’s or getting sucked into the marketing traps that McDonald’s set for children, show them Stephen King’s It and explain that Ronald McDonald is actually Pennywise The Clown. Let them know that if they eat McDonald’s more than X(insert your preference here) times per year, Ronald McDonald, a.k.a. Pennywise, will come out of their Happy Meal and drag them down into the drains forevermore.

Imagine Tim Curry in your Happy Meal.

Imagine Tim Curry in your Happy Meal.

7. If your child is having trouble with bullies at school and the usual resolution avenues are providing no results, give them a fiddy of weed to plant in said bully’s desk, and tell them to complain to a teacher that the bully tried to sell them drugs. That oughta get the little jerk expelled.

Welp! Good luck with your parenting, I hope my surefire tips will help many a frazzled parent out there in this fast-paced 90s world.

Love, Chelle xoxoxoxooxoxox

Pampering And Grooming Your Perfect Little Princess For A Lifetime Of Appearance-Based Low Self Worth And Gender Oppression.

Recently it came to my attention that mobile princess pamper parties for young girls are a thing these days. I had a gander at the website of one of these businesses because I was really disgusted and more than a little morbidly curious. The packages (which range from $200 – $600 for six “princesses” for 1.5-2.5 hours) offer pink fluffy robes, skincare tips and tricks, makeup, foot spas and magazines. MAGAZINES. If you read this blog regularly, you’ve already heard what I have to say about magazines and why they are an integral part of female oppression, self-esteem issues and bullying marketing tactics. Also, who spends that kind of money on a child’s birthday party? What is this I don’t even. What happened to fairy bread, Fanta and a trip to the movies or the pool? I’m so out of touch.

I understand that parents all think that their daughters are lovely little special princesses….. But parents, you need to keep that shit to yourselves. Little girls who are told that they are beautiful little princesses whilst being pampered and given makeovers, grow up to have a really warped view of women and their places in society, and really poor self-worth focused on appearance. Spa treatments, makeup, magazines, photoshoots and catwalks are adult concepts and should never be introduced to young girls – they have plenty of time to hate themselves and feel like they aren’t good enough later on in life, if that’s what you have planned for them. Although these businesses claim that the parties will make young girls feel like a million dollars, what happens in a few days after the makeup has come off and they aren’t being given pink lemonade in their fluffy pink robes? What about in a few months? A few years? Building a girl up to feel special simply because she is surrounded in pink and wearing makeup (one of these party packages actually refers to the word “makeover”) is not how to make your girl feel special. A makeover implies that there was something wrong with her beforehand, and now she will always think back to the time she felt most beautiful – armed with a buttload of makeup and people surrounding her telling her how fab she is (because they are making exhorbitant amounts of money for doing so).

Later on in life, she treads the path of insecurity, feeling that she isn’t as good as the girls in the magazines, and thinking that only with a perfect hairstyle and flawless skin will she be worth anything to anyone. Eating disorders (of varied severities) and feelings of jealousy toward other women will feed her thoughts as she is now consumed by the new iron maiden – the socially constructed cast that holds women to insecurities, wasting their energy on their looks instead of their potential. The patriarchal system loves this because it is a way to effectively contain women under their own self-imposed glass ceiling. Pay gaps exist because women are taught from a young age not to question or ask what they are worth, whereas men have never been taught that they must quietly accept what is given to them, and will readily negotiate pay rates fiercely. Parents, please understand this: By placing your daughter into the role of the pampered princess early on in life and foisting upon her all of the things that are impressed upon women in society, you are setting her up to create her own glass ceiling, like many before her. You are teaching her that she is nothing but the number on her clothes tags, or the clarity of her skin or the sheen of her hair. You are subconsciously encouraging her to engage in the game of social female oppression as it exists today.

I’m sure that many people reading this are thinking “it’s just a birthday party, calm down”, but the truth is that when it comes to children there is no such thing as “just a birthday party”, “just a bedtime story” or “just a Disney film”. These things are all fundamental in shaping our mentalities from a young age. They all have underlying themes and attitudes which we pick up on in small ways, thus carrying them with us into our adulthood. I don’t know about many of you but I know for damn sure that many things that were said to me in my youth, or subtle messages I received from various stimuli, certainly stuck with me. Just for fun, picture a princess – right now. Got one in your mind?? I bet you didn’t picture a princess with a short haircut, or a princess with uneven skin tone, or even a princess that was any other colour than white. I bet she didn’t have a thick waist or flat chest or any other body apart from a slim hourglass shape. I bet she looked something like this.

Sadly Princess Diana was bulimic - because even she didn't feel that she met up to this expectation of a princess.

Sadly Princess Diana was bulimic – because even she didn’t feel that she met up to this expectation of a princess.

This is what you are imploring your daughters to look like by calling them a princess. This is you subtly telling them that as they grow up, they must try to conform to this ideal, and furthermore you are perpetuating this even further by throwing her a $600 pampered princess party. Children pick up on (and subtly understand) so much more than adults give them credit for.

I know that I seem hardly qualified to comment as I don’t have children, and I’m not trying to give parents marching orders on how to raise theirs – all I want to do is point out some of the things that may not be as obvious to others as to myself. I want all of your daughters to grow up knowing that whichever personal style they choose for themselves is the right one, and furthermore that it is COMPLETELY irrelevant in relation to their feelings of self-worth, for these should in no way be connected. Don’t let them struggle through the same self-esteem bullshit you went through when Cosmo was “The Bible” and we didn’t know any better. Help your daughters smash those glass ceilings and know that they are already da bomb “as is, where is” – it all starts here. Don’t turn your little princess into a little doormat.

Love, Chelle xoxoxoxoxo