After nine years and five hundred interviews, I will be leaving One Plus One - and the ABC - in mid September 2019.
I'd like to say that my mainstream journalism career as a reporter, foreign correspondent and presenter has been a complete privilege. One Plus One is my baby and you don't leave something you've created without a heavy heart. This was my decision alone.
I'm leaving because I need challenge. After years of learning from my interviewees, inspiring people who have created vibrant lives from the realities life deals, I too, want to be a little bit brave. I'll be working on my own projects, collaborations and will continue to leading tours with Renaissance Tours and the Art Gallery Society of NSW.
I'm happy to say that One Plus One will continue without me, initially with guest presenters. I will be curating a collection of my favourite interviews from over the years and for my final program (date TBC) - you asked for it - I will be the interviewee!
Much more to come ... xx
(Thanks to my colleague Marton Dobras for the photo)
I saw this tweet from my colleague Kumi and like many of you, I connected with the sentiment she expressed.
A few years I was doing a Q&A with Rosie Batty at a conference. One of the things that stuck with me was something along the lines of how she had always feared losing her only son, Luke. And then the unimaginable happened; Luke was killed by his father.
The Kelly family, like Rosie has been through the unimaginable.
Hearing about the attack on Thomas Kelly in July 2012 felt sickening.
That his younger brother Stuart would take his own life in 2016 was another incredibly cruel low for the Kelly family. How could such loss strike twice?
At the time I hadn’t followed the events between Thomas’ death and Stuart’s suicide too closely, but I know about these events intimately now, having read Too Late Too Soon, Kathy and Ralph Kelly’s blistering, heart-breaking book which has just been launched.
Two weeks ago I interviewed Kathy for One Plus One which airs this Friday on ABCTV.
When I heard my show had been offered the interview with Kathy, a part of me froze.
How was I supposed to face a woman who had been through the unimaginable. Twice.
First I had to deal with my own dread. What if something like that happened to my family? How would we survive? What would it be like emersing myself into Kathy’s world? How does anyone move on?
I read the book from cover to cover. The first chapter ends with Thomas’ death. It had a pace that puts you right in the scene. And it was utterly harrowing. I put the manuscript down and cried.
But as I progressed through the story, scribbling my thoughts down in the margins, the sense of dread receded. I searched for anchors. There are many experiences in the nearly 500 interviews I've done and the places I've travelled to. I've had friends and family who have stories of great suffering and great restoration. As I crafted my questions, I read poetry (mainly Mary Oliver) about loss and meaning. I read up on resilience, and noted how Kathy said she and her husband Ralph dealt with grief in different ways.
I now had a pathway. I tidied the questions into a neatish road with a beginning, middle and end.
I’ll never be ready, I thought. But then I never think I am.
I’m usually thinking up questions to the last possible moment.
Before I knew it, interview day had arrived and Kathy appeared in the studio. We chatted briefly. She was cheerful and seemed to be in a good place. I liked her instantly.
Did I hit the mark with the interview?
I’m never the best judge. But now when I think of Kathy I don’t think of her as a sad person with incomprehensible loss weighing her down. She is someone with multiple dimensions. I think of her walking the dogs in the park. I think of a partnership she's held together, of nurturing her daughter Madeleine. I imagine her having dark moments as well as times of clarity and lightness and joy.
For me that feels better than the cocoon of sympathy we sometimes wrap people in.
“Christmas tree!” My daughter yells as we step onto the escalator at David Jones. It's October and it's a timely reminder that the end of the year is about to hit me with light speed.
The Christmas tree sighting releases a small surge of panic, but I’m thankful to DJ’s for triggering my annual burst of planning for the next year. It doesn’t matter when you initiate this. Another great time is as soon as the 2019 diaries start to appear. Go for the diaries which start in December because in my realm, a year is thirteen months.
It can be stressful to hit the road in January. I know. I should have posted this in November.
With a bit of forethought you can ease into the weight of expectation, excitement, inspiration, order, chaos or introspection that can overwhelm us in January with the start of another new year.
Here are some thoughts to get you started...
Holidays. A good place to start is to block out your leave/holiday dates on a single page calendar or your new diary where the whole year is on a page or a double page. Using different colours and annotating what you intend to do helps to lift the spirits as you anticipate the journeys or events you’ll make in the coming twelve months. It’s motivating as it’s always good to have something to look forward to.
Do you keep a diary? My friend keeps a diary which he writes only throughout the month of January. I see him having lunch on the benches of the high-rise building where we work. He writes long-hand in an A4 notebook and the look on his face as he writes is one of calm and accomplishment. Then January is over and the the exercise book is put away for another year.
Academic Paul Dolan is a Professor of Behavioural Science in the UK and has advised the UK government on wellbeing. In his ground-breaking 2014 book Happiness by Design, Paul describes how being happier means allocating attention more efficiently; towards things that bring us pleasure and purpose.
After interviewing Paul in 2015, I decided to do my own annual happiness stock-take, which I’ve done for the last three years. I keep the lists in a locked file on my phone.
Doing an annual stock-take gets me thinking about what’s important to me.
The more I look at the list, the more resolved I feel.
One thing I noticed was that I did quite a few projects for people, simply because they asked me to. Sometimes I took things on, because there was a decent payment attached to it. Often, it wasn’t really work I wanted to do. So I decided to draw up some rules about the types of projects I wanted to take on. I also learned that if I didn’t want to do something, I should let people know immediately. These two strategies allowed me to say ‘no’ to work that didn’t align with my intentions.
The start of the year tends to move slowly for some of us. At around this time some years back, I asked someone I respected if I could meet them for a coffee to discuss a few career-related issues. Now I schedule coffee-chats or quick lunches throughout the year. You could even suggest a walk-talk. In many cases, if you explain that you a) admire someone’s work b) want to learn c) you are patient with their shortage of time d) can be focused about what you want to gain from talking with them, it’s unlikely they will turn you down.
Related to the coffee-chats is a habit I was taught when I did a life-coaching course a decade ago. Our tutor asked us about self-care. She told us to make a list of people we enjoyed seeing and other ways that we could look after ourselves. We were urged to put regular dates in the calendar: exercise sessions, massage or hair appointments, lunch-dates during the working week with interesting/inspiring friends. When I told my friend about the strategy, over one of our lunches at a Japanese restaurant (where we sit at the same table each time ;)) she gave me some extra tips which I am passing on: “Life is about choices," and "every little bit counts.”
Whether you are saving for a something, trying to lose weight, or attempting to start a big project, making small inroads is better than fretting about the mountain which lies ahead.
In my neighbourhood, someone started a public wishing hedge. It's a lovely idea but to make your wishes come true, you have to make a plan.
I am always feel a little low at New Year. The introvert in me makes an appearance. So I won't wish you a happy 2019, but a thoughtful one where planning can make a difference. Do the stock-take and let me know what you think.
I recently went to the 2018 Byron Writers Festival as a guest moderator. I planned to use my downtime to write. A children’s novel. Very early stages.
The hotel had a resident dragon to keep us entertained and two of my favourite things for breakfast: sourdough bread and peanut butter.
But something in me shifted. Maybe it was the magnificence of the lighthouse. Or the encouraging warmth of the air. Something was telling me NOT to shut myself in a room and tap away on a laptop.
It wasn’t the time to be a hermit. I was meant to connect with other people and take in their wisdom. This was no time to hide.
Here are some of my Byron encounters:
Selina had the best job title of anyone: New Zealand Poet Laureate. We talked about finding time to write. She talked of gifts, or objects that tell us stories. She left me with ideas and two recommendations:
I met another poet. His name is Lemn Sissay and he took my breath away performing his razor-sharp poem Hanging On, to an audience under the marquee. I like the way he pronounces the 'g' in the middle of 'hanging'.
Alas, I didn’t write my novel, but I met 97 year old Nina who’s a One Plus One fan… she told me that if there’s a stem of roses covered in thorns, she only ever sees the roses. I’m glad I listened to the universe.