For me, the first half of 2018 felt like a six-month-long colonoscopy: painful, never-ending and kind of shitty. I started each day with a deep groan as I pulled myself out of bed, sluggishly going through the motions until I could return home to eat some carbohydrates, put soft pants on and tuck myself into bed.
I was working in a job that I wasn’t particular good at, I wasn’t taking care of my mental or physical wellbeing and I was living in the share house from hell (one of my housemates used to shave his entire head and leave a pile of his hair in the middle of the bathroom floor for hours on end).
I could feel myself slipping further and further away from the adult life I so desperately craved (and felt I had earned); I was complaining to my friends about the same things over and over again: ‘I hate my house’, ‘I’m no good at my job’, ‘I’m sick of going on terrible dates’, rah rah rah.
It was time to make a change, but I couldn’t do it alone. In order to do a complete overhaul of my life I was going to have to call upon the expertise of five special men: Tan, Jonathan, Karamo, Bobby and Antoni. The Fab Five.
The job scenario
While culture guru Karamo usually gives his protégés something small to work on: like writing a poem for their loved one, doing a session at the gym or overcoming their deeply embedded racist ideals (okay, not so small), I needed the courage to do something big. I was going to leave my job of two years without having a new one to go to.
This was terrifying. I frantically applied for jobs at every spare moment, dreading the idea of having to return to my family home, suitcases in hand, when my rapidly decreasing savings finally ran dry.
Alas, after one week of fun-employment I was hired for a new role – something a little more up my alley. I’m not always springing out of bed, gushing with excitement to go to work, it’s still a job and some days are a drag, but having more autonomy in my work has made the world of difference and had a domino effect on the rest of my life.
The house scenario
Next step was to get the f**k out of that share house. I couldn’t handle one more passive aggressive post-it note and the site of hair shavings is still triggering for me. I needed the guiding hand of Bobby Berk to make this happen.
I’d been searching for a new place for months. I spent my weekends and evenings going to open houses, making awkward chit-chat with potential housemates and trawling through housemate Facebook groups trying to make myself stand out from the pack (I’m just an easy going girl who loves a glass of wine but respects other people’s space). But nothing was lining up.
When I stopped and asked myself what I really wanted, I listened to the only-child within me. She was saying I should live alone, it’s what I’ve always wanted. It felt like somewhat of a romantic goal. Sydney rent is expensive enough when sharing a space with six other people, I couldn’t imagine what a studio would cost.
After I sniffed around in the right places, I found something that was almost within my weekly budget. A (very) small apartment in funky Inner Sydney. When my friends and family heard the news, they all asked the same question: “how are you going to afford that?” I work in media, not the most lucrative industry.
Well, family and curious strangers, I did something that no one really tells you that you can do. I haggled with my real estate agent over the price of my rent, offering $50 less a week than they were asking for.
Surprisingly, it worked. I’ve also made some adjustments to my lifestyle. There are some things I’ve had to give up, but the pay off has been so, so worth it. Having my own space, decorating as I see fit and being naked while I make pancakes has had dramatic effects on my wellbeing.
The fashion scenario
Next, I paid a visit to Tan, the clan’s dedicated fashionister. Some of the clothes I owned had been in my life for years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We should be shopping sustainably, opting for quality clothing that will stand the test of time, but many of the items in my wardrobe were dated and ill-fitting.
There’s nothing like an uncomfortable pair of underwear to put you in a bad mood.
So, I decided to edit my wardrobe (and buy new underwear). I gifted many old favourites to the prying eyes of my friends and sold a few other items online, minimising my wardrobe to just two small storage containers.
I had grand plans to take a bunch of my clothes to my local swap shop and exchange them for a trove of vintage get ups. Much to my dismay, the trendy shop assistants weren’t interested in my tattered clothing and I left the store with less money than when I’d arrived (I bought a cute top).
Now that I’ve got my wardrobe down to its bare minimum I’m slowly building it back up with beautiful, ethically made clothing – one pay cheque at a time.
The food scenario
My avocado king Antoni, I love him so. I’ve always had a pretty healthy relationship with food and my diet is medium level healthy, so I didn’t need to make drastic changes to my food routine. What Antoni did help me with was regaining an appreciation for where my food is coming from and planning meals ahead of time.
When I go to the grocery store I take my time choosing which lemon to buy; I smell, feel and inspect each one. Yes, I’m that crazy woman at the store sniffing all the food. It’s a good practice in mindfulness and it’s important to take the time to consider where your food is coming from. With the recent strawberry/needle debacle, my heart really went out to the farmer’s affected by the tampering – it’s easy to forget that people actually make a living off our daily smoothie addictions.
Now, I try and slow down, sparing a moment of thought to the people behind my food.
As for cooking meals in advance, it makes sense on two levels. Firstly, I’m able to plan my week and manage my budget, rather than wasting money with four trips to Woolies each week. Secondly, you’re less likely to let food go bad. With the Victorian government recently finding that 18-24 year olds throw out approx. $115 worth of food each week, it’s time we got serious about managing our weekly shop.
My Queer Eye journey ends with everyone’s favourite, Jonathan Van Ness. To mark the four month anniversary of when I first started implementing change, I took myself to the salon and got my hair did honey. A fresh pop of colour and a nice trim can do wonders.
While the Fab Five may have inspired me to write an article about my #journey to self fulfilment, what I’m most proud of is that it wasn’t them at all. It was me. I felt myself sinking into a well of mediocrity and decided to do my darnedest to claw my way back out.
It’s nice to know that you can count on yourself when things get tricky. When times feel tough again in the future – and they will, that’s just the ebb and flow of being a human – I’ll remind myself that somewhere deep inside me, there are five gay men who are willing to pick me up off the floor, joosh my hair and tell me I’m fabulous.
Kate Neilson is the founding editor of Twenty Something Humans. Lurk her @katiepotatierose.