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Second Introductions

This is not my first blog.

Yet, I intend for this one to not get eaten by the internet and its dark vastness and my inexperience!

My name is Ashley, and I welcome you to my new blog!

Over time, I know we will become very acquainted with one another but let me start with a brief introduction.

I am currently a full-time diesel mechanic, having commenced my apprenticeship after completing my high school career with academic results in the top 5% of the state.

If you’re thinking: “what?!” then you are among the people who asked ‘why aren’t you studying to become an engineer?’. If my decision to become an apprentice confuses you, then I implore you to keep following, because to-date this decision remains the most significant life decision I have made.

Beyond my career, I have ambitions to become a published author.

I am a writer, published or not. Writing is in my blood, yet even passion requires work and commitment.

Through this blog I aim to impart some of my experiences to you, and along the way share some magic through the joy of story telling. But, ultimately, I seek to refine my skill, connect with people, and grow as an individual and writer.

If you are on this journey with me, thank you! I look forward to getting to know you.

Ashley Beeby

How to create shared savings in a relationship.

Photo by Michael Longmire via Unsplash.

There will be a time when you and your partner are ready to commit to a financial goal outside your daily capacity. Whether it’s a fast car, a fancy apartment, your fantasy holiday or the forever-house, saving money becomes necessary.

Please note: this is not an article about how to start saving, how to manage your money, or how to create a daily budget. This is an article about how to preserve your relationship when you begin saving together, as two individual people.

When I went through this transition with my partner, it became apparent to me how quickly the discussion could dissolve. We had different ideas about money, different ideas about saving, and different financial situations. How could we ever save money together when our circumstances were so different?

My financial situation:

– Recently moved out of home.

– On apprentice wages.

– Increased expenses due to living alone.

– Earning more.

My partner’s financial situation:

– Still at home, rent free.

– On apprentice wages.

– Very few expenses.

– Earning less.

Even though I received the larger fortnightly pay check, because of my living circumstance I had less money left over each fortnight than my partner. Did that mean my partner should contribute more to savings?

I didn’t think that was ‘fair’. He agreed. Yet, realizing this didn’t bring us closer to the solution.

So, what is ‘fair’?

From a young age I have appreciated how unreliable ‘fair’ is as a concept. This is because ‘fair’ is a matter of opinion and therefore different for everyone. Yet, it is still a notion that directs us to create a situation that is agreeable between two (or more) people. It is essential when deciding on saving with your partner to honor the notion of ‘fair’.

This quote from Cormac McCarthy captured the importance of ‘fair’ in his interview with Oprah Winfrey while discussing the nature of his writing:

“You know, you always have this image of the perfect thing which you can never achieve, but which you never stop trying to achieve. But I think … that’s your signpost and your guide. You’ll never get there, but without it you won’t get anywhere.”

Cormac McCarthy, 2007.

The solution.

We needed a solution that could be transferable across the numerous chapters of our lives. While I earned more when the discussion first came up, I knew that could never remain the case indefinitely. To save ourselves the discussion every time a pay check changed (which was fortnightly due to overtime hours we both worked) we created one simple rule.

The rule: contribute the same percentage from our individual paychecks every fortnight.

This rule can be easily adjusted for your financial situations by filling in the following sentence:

Contribute the same percentage, [__%], from our individual paycheck every [pay cycle].

All that is left is to determine what the percentage is.

This required an awareness of our recurring expenses, spending habits and expect-able income for each pay cycle. We each calculated the income and expenses in each pay cycle and determined the amount left over. Room for personal spending was included in expenses, creating enough breathing room that the percentage remains ‘sustainable’ and doesn’t generate unnecessary stress on either party. Once we had both calculated the numbers, the remaining income was converted into a percentage.

For example:

Person 1:

Income per paycheck: $2,500

Expenses per paycheck: $1,800

Remaining amount: $700

Percentage remaining: 28%

Person 2:

Income per paycheck: $1,600

Expenses per paycheck: $1000

Remaining amount: $600

Percentage remaining: 37.5%

Whichever percentage is lower becomes the percentage both parties honor. The reason for this is to create sustainability for both individuals. Setting a percentage which is unreasonable for one person while comfortable for the other disregards any notion of ‘fairness’.

The key points:

– Calculate your income and expenses allowing for personal spending and breathing room.

– Contribute the same percentage from each pay cycle towards savings based off the lower percentage.

– Watch your savings grow, together.

– Bonus points: set a financial goal to create further incentive to honor saving arrangement.

Following this arrangement means each person is contributing the same portion of their income to a joint cause. Saving via a percentage also honors each person’s individual freedom to their own income. Any additional contributions towards the joint savings then comes from an individual’s free-will, free of expectations.

With this arrange we can minimize the tension between ourselves and our partners when breaching the topic of joint savings.

Share this article with any couples you know who are beginning this chapter of their lives!

Good luck, and happy savings!

How to be original as a writer.

As a writer, both of non-fiction and fiction works, I am often challenged with my own nagging voices of doubt. As most of my fiction writing is a collection of incoherent notes, random images in my mind, and barely-started manuscripts, it’s easy to feel isolated in my passion. Reading other works offers inspiration, but can also offer the double-edged sword.

What if I don’t write well enough? Or, what if my ideas aren’t original enough?

I struggled with this idea prior to finishing my first manuscript in high school. Yet, I determined a conclusion for myself that didn’t fuel my doubts. Instead, my new perspective dissolved the doubt of ‘originality’ entirely.

It started with a simple question: What is originality?

Photo credit: dictionary.com

Naturally, I stared with a definition: the quality or state of being original. Yet, this answer led me to further my question. I thought, “Maybe, it’s better to ask, ‘what is original’?

In hindsight, I can determine what ideas were un-original in my youth. Those ideas were re-writes of my favourite books with a name change – maybe – and a few “new-ish” ideas. That was back in the days I didn’t know to start a new paragraph for dialogue. I also failed to detail who was speaking – let’s just say, those works are ineligible to me now.

In this day and age, the ability to preserve mediums is better than ever before. There are more books, movies, shows and productions, with much wider access. How is anyone meant to think of anything original?

I learned it was all about perspective!

If we reduced every movie, show or book, we engaged with into five words, there would be a lot of forms with the same descriptions.

Love, war, friendship, sacrifice, bravery.

The first series that comes to mind is: A Court of Thorns and Roses (my current read). The second is: The Hunger Games (my boyfriend’s current read). I could go on, but I imagine you have more examples yourself, which proves the point.

Imagine if any of these authors stopped writing because their ideas were similar to someone else’s. I know there would be a lot of fans devastated by the worlds that would cease to exist – including me.

Looking at any idea, or any story, in the macro, there will always be a lot of competition. That’s why I stopped looking at the macro level.

Every writer has their subtle nuances, both in writing style and in the pure creativity of their worlds. I came to recognise that it was the smaller details that impacted whether I loved a book or merely enjoyed it. The micro of any writing is in the characters, the world and the relationship you develop with the text. At a micro level you will find something original, even if the only original aspect is the new relationship you have formed.

When this idea dawned on me, all doubts regarding originality dissolved. Sure, there are more doubts to fill in the void – they don’t go away, but you stop giving them as much of your attention. But, when it comes to originality, I don’t worry.

At a macro level, the similarities are good. They allow you to connect with people and communities that enjoy common topics and literary genres. At the micro, that’s where your originality will shine – even if you can’t see it yourself yet.

So, if you’re an aspiring writer and you’re reading this, trust in your own writing. Don’t let doubt cloud your creativity. There are people out there who want to read the words you have to share!

Qualified.

I am now a qualified Heavy Vehicle Technician, seven months earlier than my anticipated completion date, and work feels the exact same!

Am I disillusioned?

No. I knew it would feel like this.

For the last three and a half years my identity has been ‘apprentice diesel mechanic’. I never called myself just a ‘diesel mechanic’, the title of ‘apprentice’ was affixed to my identity like superglue on skin and I didn’t have the confidence to peel it off.

I knew that somewhere along my journey I would have to stop calling myself an ‘apprentice’. Not because one day I would qualify, but because if I didn’t stop calling myself an ‘apprentice’ I would never believe I was ready to identify as a ‘diesel mechanic’.

The confidence to leave the title ‘apprentice’ behind came at the start of my fourth year.

I started recognising my own certainty in diagnosing truck symptoms and fault codes, began to appreciate when I focused, I achieved more than I expected each day and I felt equipped for every job given to me. This awareness led me to feel I was ready to call myself a ‘diesel mechanic’, but it didn’t fool me to into thinking I was all-knowing or any more experienced than I had been the day before.

When the day finally came that I left my title as ‘apprentice’ behind I felt the exact same, came with the same amount of experience I had when I finished work the previous Friday and knew that the only real change that had occurred was in my title.

Finishing my apprenticeship early by seven months was an extremely rewarding feeling. It proved to me, once again, that a strong work ethic and positive attitude towards work and learning pays off, even if motivation fluctuates.

More than anything, I hope that my early completion can be an inspiration to the apprentices that follow me and an example that qualifying doesn’t mean the end of learning.

Ashley

Please note: the included photo was taken before COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

Spoilt.

Inside, a part of me always recoils when the word ‘spoilt’ is used against me. Yes, against me. Against me as if the word is an attack – although the user wielding the word often doesn’t realise it’s a weapon.

I doubt anyone is foreign to the phrase ‘you are spoilt’, I know I am guilty of wishing people ‘get spoilt’ for their birthdays like it’s a beautiful state of being. It’s a phrase I grew up hearing around birthdays, Christmas, and any other gift-giving situation. Even then, there was something about the phrase that irked me: why would we use such a negatively connotated word in a situation where our actions are positive by design?

Gift giving is an act of generosity, love, and celebration. In my life, I have learned to be appreciative and accepting of all gifts – even the ones you dislike at first because they didn’t fit inside your idea of a ‘gift’. In the end, those unexpected gems tend to be the most rewarding.

In stark comparison, the word ‘spoilt’ suggests that the recipient receives ‘too much’ or is undeserving of whatever is gifted to them. So why are we using this word and dismissing the beauty of gift-giving for all involved?

When I think of the word ‘spoilt’ I think of food that has gone off, so when the word is used against me, I find myself thinking ‘I’m not an off person because of this gift’. In response, I often verbalise: I have worked hard as a defence against the word as if I need to prove I am deserving. No one should have to prove they are worthy of a gift; we are innately worthy of love and generosity. It’s not about the size or price of the gift and entirely about the act of thinking of another and appreciating them with a surprise.

I often gift my family and friends with sweet messages and notes about how much they mean to me, or how inspiring they are. Those gifts cost a two-dollar card or a few minutes and are the most rewarding gifts I have ever given.

I’m practicing more awareness around my daily language and how words make me feel – especially the word ‘spoilt’ – as our body’s responses are the most honest conversations we can have with ourselves.

Comment below and let me know what word you’ve taken out of your vocabulary and why!

Ashley

The Subtle Step Outside.

It wasn’t until I sat in the room with a couple-hundred other people, preparing myself to stand on stage in front of them, that I understood. I hadn’t known where the courage to say ‘yes’ to speaking came from, but it turns out it’s a very ordinary source…

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the Wyndham City Council’s Women in Business luncheon event earlier this year alongside two other women (one who was also in the transport industry, and one who was in the medical industry).

Naturally, I said yes.

I’d spoken in front of people before and often looked forward to opportunities to get excursions from the workshop and experience new environments. (Of course, I was also enticed by the promise of lunch that came with being invited to a luncheon event.)It wasn’t until I arrived at the event on the day, with bullet point responses memorized in my head for my five minutes on stage, that I began to feel nervous. There were more people in attendance that I had anticipated and I typically experience some nerves and excitement before anything that isn’t entirely in my comfort-zone – and this definitely wasn’t. Yet… I’d still said ‘yes’ quite easily.

It wasn’t until that lunch that I asked myself: how did I have the courage to say ‘yes’ to speaking in front of a large audience?

The question gnawed away at me through most of the lunch but, eventually, the answer dawned.

While speaking in front of the couple-hundred people at the event was outside of my comfort-zone, it was still a task I believed I was capable of completing well. Reflecting back over my opportunities since beginning my apprenticeship I realised that slowly, steadily, I had been sneaking outside of my comfort-zone a step at a time.

Each time I stepped out of that comfort-zone, what I knew I was capable of and what was in the achievable-but-intimidating grey-zone (after the comfort-zone) grew. That led me from presenting in front of small groups of new apprentices to speaking in front of well-educated business people with more life experience than me.

I surpassed even my own expectations at the event. I spoke of my experience in the automotive industry (and showcased that not all tradies are low academic achievers by mentioning my 95.55 ATAR) and emphasized the desirability of women in trade. The response was exhilarating, the room clapped for me numerous times and afterwards many people approached me to commend me on my personal story and my speaking skills.

So, next time you’re wondering how to find the courage to take a big leap of faith and try something new: remember all the little steps you’ve taken that make you capable of that new opportunity.

The subtle growth is there.

Ashley

Perfectionism

With the current world situation, many life plans have been disturbed, lifestyles have been dramatically altered and even as an essential worker (where the only real workplace change I’ve experienced is work hour adjustments) I feel the increased stress and turbulence myself through the impact it has on my family and friends. More than ever, a discussion of perfectionism is relevant to our current situation and mental health.

When I think of the word perfect and when I think of perfectionism I also think of faultlessness, because that’s what the word ‘perfect’ means, right? No.

Source: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/perfect

‘Perfect’, by definition, has no specification to faultlessness. The notion of faultlessness comes from human ideals where we perceive that it is possible to achieve a state of faultlessness. Whether it’s the faultlessness of this blog post, the faultlessness of a truck re-build, or the faultlessness of your morning drive to work, these ideals cannot possibly exist. The main reason for that is because everyone’s opinion of faultlessness differs. There is no single universal form that dictates the morally right or wrong way to drive to work, eat your breakfast or make your bed, but that doesn’t mean that what you are doing is faulty.

When we have inclinations towards perfectionism it leads us to aim for a form of faultlessness that can never be achieved, because if you asked too many people their opinions on your work or on your lifestyle I can guarantee one of them would identify numerous ‘faults’ in your methodology.

In the workshop as an apprentice I get the opportunity to work with a variety of people and they all have different methods on how to get the job done right, so they all have different ideals for what the ‘perfect repair’ looks like. That’s why, as a perfectionist, or even as a person who aims for perfection in certain aspects of their life, we have to learn to not focus on perfection itself for we risk focusing on faultlessness. We only set ourselves up for disappointment because we aim for something that is unattainable and forget to appreciate how well we have really performed in comparison to where we started. That’s why we need to focus on improvement over perfection instead.

Perfection in itself is an ideal and a barrier. If we believe something is perfect that is to say that there is no way that it could ever be improved, but I believe improvement is infinite hence, perfection is unattainable. It is much better for the mind-frame to instead focus on improvement – not only does that drive us to constantly work towards improving our work, our lifestyle or even our own attitudes towards ourselves, others, or our surroundings, but it allows us to focus on the progress we make instead of the perfection we haven’t achieved. It forces a much more optimistic mindset and promotes motivation and inspiration (and even if we don’t rely on these factors they’re always a welcome boost!)

So, if you’re ever overcome with the lack of perfection of an aspect of your life, a project you’ve created or a task you’re completing, remember to focus on the improvements you’ve already implemented and the ways you can continue to improve instead of the ultimate ideal of perfection. People are inclined to notice progress more than they notice ‘perfection’. If you want to look at perfection from a work-force perspective, it is more beneficial to improve and grow as an employee than it is to remain stagnant and as close-to-perfect as reality allows anyways, so you might as well kiss perfection goodbye!

Ashley

Teachers

Below is a blog post I wrote in the winter of 2018 after attending the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, yet it is still very applicable. In the current state of the world and with our abnormal work and lifestyle circumstances there is still something to be learned and our teachers are still everywhere.

This year was my first experience at the Melbourne Writer’s festival and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from current writers in the industry, whether they were in the fiction or non-fiction field as a profession or a passion. While I received invaluable insights into the industry, tips and tricks I can use in my own writing and new perspectives on topics of writing and life alike, the biggest lesson I took away from the experience was teachers don’t only work in classrooms.

I attended a select few conversations that formed a subsection of the festival with the intent of gaining exposure. Engaging with these events with this mind-frame allowed me to pull phrases, tips and ideas just from the conversations of the diverse range of published authors, editors and conversation-directors without any of them explicitly trying to teach.

When I became aware of how much information I was receiving from these events and the valuable insights I was gaining, I realised that while it was a ‘festival’ the title didn’t truly capture the experience.

In the workshop – a vastly different environment from a classroom where noise comes from air guns and running engines instead of children – there isn’t one designated ‘teacher’ and every job is a test of your knowledge and experience. The apprentices learn from the technicians and the service manual, and once the apprentices become technicians there is an unlimited expanse of knowledge and understanding still to be absorbed. I feel it is safe to say no one in the workshop has ever completed a teaching degree, yet a significant portion of their job is teaching and training.

In my experience I have received more from the lessons I’ve received outside of a classroom than the ones I received in them. It’s not just the content that I’m learning, but values of diversity and growth, self-improvement and social interaction, problem solving and work ethic. The extent to which I could have learn those skills in a classroom were limited in comparison to the exposure I receive in a work place or the exposure I receive when exploring new events or situations. My parents, sibling, work-mates, supervisors, friends, strangers at festivals and my own mistakes – they are teachers too. Books, films or T.V. shows (and I’m not just talking about documentaries or non-fiction text) can teach us and introduce new ideas or ways of thinking, and children, with their unfiltered view of the world, are also great teachers of perspective.

Now that I’ve had my vision broadened, I feel more receptive to the lessons constantly being thrown at me. Every day there is another mistake to be made or lesson to learn, and I’m surrounded by teachers.

Ashley

A ‘Female’ Apprentice

Being a tradesperson in the heavy vehicle transport industry as a female is a factor that I will not prioritise while sharing my experiences of work and the world, for reasons you will soon understand, but I cannot deny its influence on my experiences – and it might not be in the ways you’re expecting.

There is a duality in the title ‘female apprentice’ that is both unavoidable and contradictory. Being a ‘female apprentice’ and advertising the opportunity for women to enter non-traditional roles advocates for increased participation in industry and increased gender diversity. Yet, by advertising for ‘female’ apprentices, it still places an emphasis on gender that doesn’t exist for ‘male’ apprentices.

I know that this duality frustrates many tradespeople who carry the title ‘female apprentice’ or ‘female technician’.

Yet, I believe it is a necessary – not permanent – emphasis that can create a perspective shift.

When I made the decision to become an apprentice in heavy vehicle mechanical technology, considerations about my gender were unavoidable. It was important to me that I had equal opportunities, was accepted into the culture of the workplace and supported as an individual (not just as a female). In my experience, the recruitment level is where the emphasis on ‘female’ tradespeople is most valuable as it educates the community that women are desired in these non-traditional roles.

Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to any trade industries. It was by chance that I was introduced to the transport industry in high school, leading me to where I am today. If this changed, and students of all genders were exposed to the potential careers in trade earlier in life then I believe the number of females entering non-traditional roles would increase.

Awareness is the beginning. Yet, recruitment is where the emphasis of ‘female’ can end.

I am grateful for the attitude and culture of my workshop. Once I became a part of the team, I wasn’t a ‘female apprentice’ I was just an ‘apprentice’. My merit was earned based on who I was as an individual – my identity, work ethic and attitude created my reputation and brand – not my gender.

I believe my experience is the ideal outcome of gender inclusion. Although, I can admit that there are times I carry the ‘female apprentice’ label as a way to advocate for women in the trade – that is a sacrifice that I am prepared to make for the benefit of advancing gender inclusion.

Being a female is a part of my identity, and therefore it will always be a factor in my experiences, but it isn’t the reason I have certain experiences, and that is important. My experiences are a product of who I am as an apprentice and as an employee.

It is in these ways that my gender is an influence on my experiences in the transport industry and yet not profoundly impactful. With these experiences and my insight, I can advocate the inclusiveness of the industry for all, even if the use of gender labels, in reality, can be a little contradicting.

Ashley Beeby