Peta Landman: Counsellor

What I really love is the village feel of Surry Hills. I have been here for 25 years. You can walk around greet people you know and say hello. Everything I need is here. I go to the shops, yoga, the gym. When I was a child I had never gone to a school two years running, so now, I really love that connection to the community. Our daughter grew up here and that made her more street-wise and appreciative of diversity.

Being part of the community is important. You do have to work hard to make a community. When we first moved here we lived in a terrace house and made a real effort to get to know our neighbours and organise street activities. It’s more difficult in an apartment. But I have tried to embed myself in community, I have worked as a homework tutor at the Boys and Girls brigade on Riley Street and I have seen some kids go from kindergarten to adulthood and it’s great to run into them on the street. For many years I did volunteer counselling at the community centre and ran a shared reading group. Now we have a dog and we have met a whole new range of people.

Surry Hills when we first moved in was full of people who were born here and had lived here all their lives but now that’s changing. When the Eastern distributor came through, that changed Crown Street for the better. I worry that too many warehouses in the garment district will be changed to apartments. I like that mixture, that people have spaces to work here. There should be more space for creativity. But Surry Hills changes around you. That’s part of its vibrancy. Change is a given.

I was born in Malaysia. I lived overseas until I was nine years old and that makes you aware of the country you live in and what’s important in life. I was living in Melbourne when I met my partner, otherwise perhaps I would not have come to Sydney. I have worked in book publishing, as a writer,an editor and an arts manager. I’m also a practising sculptor. Recently I wanted a change and trained as a counsellor and it really opened my eyes to the positive changes it could bring. I looked into the connection between anxiety and writer’s block in my Masters degree research. So my life has come full circle. After working in the arts I now counsel creative people who might be struggling with anxiety and self-doubt.

I am a self-reflective person. I think that being anxious is a natural human state, that there is too much of a focus on happiness. Maybe some structural things in society make us anxious and we should sometimes address those. I think people expect not to feel anxious or have self-doubt. But we have to live with that so that we can know what joy is. Sometimes anxiety is an impetus in life, so I think it’s important to acknowledge our sad and anxious parts. We have to accommodate the full gamut of what it is to be human.

September 22nd 2017

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