the beginning at the ending of everything

This week marks the end of six months of freedom and concentrated introspection. After having spent the last seven days shifting my life to the other side of town, setting up house and settling in, I’m currently making ready to throw myself into preparation for the job I’ll be commencing in precisely one week’s time. Even as the days fall away, I feel the potency of reaching the end of something. The existence I’ve come to know and love is about to come to a sudden and absolute close, and will be replaced once more by someone else’s rigidly dictated schedule. There will be no more days filled with writing, no more afternoons spent running. I’m finding myself busy coming to terms with the fact that in the very near future I’ll be re engaging with the machine. Although I’m excited for the change, a part of me is less than sure about what it all might mean.

The thing is, six months ago I was convinced that throwing in my job would prove the answer to all my problems. I was certain I’d been shackled by the constraints and necessities of a society obsessed by economy and was sure that if I wanted to reclaim my happiness I would first need to demand my autonomy. But in all honesty, even as I prepare to reinstate myself as a cog, my distaste for the system remains a constant. Although I’m excited about my job, I’m not disillusioned; it was primarily necessity that motivated me to seek it. I was running out of money.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t think we should have to work or contribute. On the contrary, I think it’s important we all strive to make this life a better experience for ourselves and others through the giving of our gifts. Truthfully, slaving over warm words has always been my singular most personally fulfilling experience. I suppose in a nutshell my belief is that we should all be striving to find something to give about which we feel passionate. I’m convinced this is the secret to personal wellbeing and contentment.

So even as I make ready to re enter the work force, I know that this is simply a stop gap solution. While it will be grand for a while, in the long term I need a job that will allow me to practice my craft; something that feels like a natural extension of my self. After the past six months, I’ll never stop pursuing the ultimate goal of being free of the conventional work / life unbalance that seems to govern the most part of our brief lives.

This is simply yet another beginning. Happily, I guess there’s one at the ending of everything.

 

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catching chances

I’m an advocate for the belief that living a rich and remarkable life largely depends on taking risks and catching chances. It makes complete sense that we can never get anything different to what we have unless we first change some element of what we’re doing. Last week I asked you for your thoughts regarding when is too soon to consider moving in with a partner and during the week we decided, after much deliberating, reading, talking, umming and ahhing that we’re going to give it a shot. Like many of you pointed out, living together will either force a making or a breaking, and I have a good feeling. Of course, this is a big deal for me and I’m a little bit afraid. Still, this year was always going to be about pushing comfort zones, embracing vulnerabilities and taking the less obvious path, so this is just one of the ways in which I’m realising that objective.

As is often the case, once a decision is made, things seem to move quite quickly. Already we’ve been accepted for a cute little unit that we inspected on the weekend and we’ll be picking up the keys on Friday. We also made our first joint purchase; a rug for our living room floor. It really is exciting times. : )

 

When I moved to Melbourne at the beginning of January it was without a plan. No one can tell the future and it’s harder still when you’re at a total loss regarding what you might want for yourself. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy with what I had and I needed to do something about it before my battered spirit was damaged irreparably. I suppose I imagined that if I threw it all in and sought a clean slate, some magic might happen.

Six months and countless ups and downs later, I suppose that’s exactly what’s occurred. After some radical twists I’ve started paving myself an altogether different path to the one I was aimlessly wandering in 2011. When I reflect on the year to date, I think the biggest difference between my now and my then is that I’ve awarded myself a most precious gift: the permission to seek change.

For so many years I knew what I wanted to do (or rather what I didn’t want to do), but I lacked the courage to act. I don’t know what I was afraid would happen; perceiving it from my present state of mind, it’s hard to understand how I could have thought quitting my job and moving interstate would potentially herald the end of the world. But I guess at the time it was my fear of the unknown that was holding me to ransom. For whatever reason, back then I didn’t feel free.

In the last six months I’ve come to realise that one way or another, things will always work out. Also, you shouldn’t ever be afraid of failing because there is no such thing. Rather, there are simply limitless turning points that when taken will inevitably lead us in varied directions. And there are lessons. By golly, are there lessons.

In this life we can choose to remain on the one road, safe in the knowledge that we’re familiar with its contours and what might be over each rise, or we can take a chance and mosey off in a new and different direction. Sure, it might be risky, but there are sure to be wonderful things to see and to do. As for myself, let me always be the brave explorer. Because there is always that chance that the things we uncover really might be golden.

 

on finding your way

discovering the void in ourselves is just the start of the journey…

When I moved to Melbourne I planned to do a lot of writing. I imagined that this would be my biggest challenge and in a lot of ways it has been. For quite some time I found I couldn’t write. I’d get up in the mornings and sit at my desk ready and willing but no matter what I did, the words refused to join me. It was terribly distressing; I felt like a failure. It didn’t make sense. I knew what I wanted to say and was prepared to put in the hours, but it was as if the timing wasn’t right, as if the words weren’t ready. I didn’t just sit there of course, I did write some things. But everything I scribed seemed clumsy and jarred. Kind of like someone had taken a song I knew well and then played it back, slightly out of key.

And then poetry reared its pretty head. On the day it arrived, writing became easy. Now I can sit and pen two pieces over my muesli. It’s like whatever wind is blowing them in will not be stilled or quieted. Unfortunately, poetry takes a person nowhere but to the warm cave inside of themselves. It’s awfully snug, but it’s not the type of writing that can be rationalised; there’s no chance these words will prove in any way self sustaining.

And now I have a bigger problem. I am running out of money. Surprisingly, finding work in the city is difficult. Initially I’d imagined that supporting myself with casual teaching would be simple. I visited stacks of schools and was sure I’d soon begin to hear from them. I started waking at six am in anticipation for the phone call and I would iron my clothes in the evenings in readiness for a last minute rush. But no one rang. I sent follow up emails and heard nothing. I broadened my scope by venturing further afield and still the line remained silent.

The dwindling of finances has left me certain that contentment doesn’t come from opting out. Being poor is stressful. Jobs are necessary. The challenge isn’t in figuring out how to avoid work, but rather finding an occupation that will allow you to keep the actual fire burning while also fueling your spirit, making your insides warm. I miss working. I enjoy time spent writing but I miss the sharing. I miss other voices and the laughter. I miss making someone else a cup of tea and seeing the smile that thanks me. Truly, writing can be such a lonely pursuit.

So a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to begin to change some things. More than anything I suppose it was necessity that began to bump me outside of my box. I began applying for all types of jobs; not ones for which I’m acutely qualified, but ones I could imagine enjoying. This fortnight I have applied for upwards of ten non teaching jobs and I have grown unexpectedly excited by the prospect of being granted the opportunity to try something completely different.

This sudden feeling of hopefulness and exhilaration has led me to realise that somewhere along the line I’d lost track of what this year was about. To an extent, I’ve been waiting for fulfilment to kind of just rock up and join me while I go about the business of living. But I was being silly. If you want to be happy, you’ve got to bring it about for yourself. I don’t know why it’s taking me so long to realise that being passive doesn’t make things happen. I truly am the slowest of learners.

In the twenty first century it’s estimated that a person experiences an average of seven careers within their lifetime. These evolutions aren’t necessarily all radical; they may involve a promotion, for instance, or a change of duties within a profession. But the bottom line is that movement is an entirely normal element within the employment sphere. I’d come to this city searching for a change in scenery. It’s well and truly time to experiment with something new.

Some time after starting this journey, I forgot the point to it all. I’ve been dwelling on my need, rather than seeking my solution. This week I’ve come a little closer to synching with my purpose. And it feels good.

 

Have you undergone a career change during your working life? Were you glad that you did?

Peace and poetry, x

 

the new black: you and your quarter life crisis

When I decided to run away at the end of last year, throwing in my job to commence a desperate search for contentment and meaning, I had never felt so alone. At the time I was convinced I was the only person to have ever experienced the poignant feelings of failure and inadequacy that were undermining my identity. Yet from the moment I began writing about my journey, I became aware of an entire generation of people in the same position; feeling despondent and confused. Believing, as I did, they were lonely islands. Since the commencement of this year, I’ve received many emails and messages from people who’ve been where I am. Sadly, due to commitments and responsibilities, many find themselves in a state of stuckness, unable to break from the blue. But others answered the call for change and have shared stories of wonderfully positive personal outcomes.

There’s no shortage of research on the subject of the quarter life crisis. In fact, scientists and psychologists agree that the condition is nearing epidemic standards in the western world. Growth in levels of insecurity and depression are now affecting approximately one third of people in their mid twenties to early thirties, with educated professionals deemed most likely to suffer.

Author and expert Damian Barr suggests that in the twenty first century, people in this age bracket are experiencing pressures not previously endured until our forties. “Our 20s are not, as they were for our parents, a decade of tie-dyed fun and quality ‘me’ time,” Barr explains. “Being twenty something now is scary – fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and finding time to juggle all your relationships.”

As well, we’ve been raised by a media obsessed with granting us the empty promise of limitless possibilities. From the youngest of ages we’ve passively received the message that success means achieving everything. All at once we crave celebrity, yearn travel, strive to look excellent, desire to be experts in our field, attempt to develop and maintain quality relationships. This perception of what it means to be successful inevitably leads to a period of radical disillusionment when the superman mentality proves impossible. At this point, we’re either broken by our inability to do it all and are left feeling like failures, or else we’re torn by our seemingly unnatural and ungrateful lack of whim to have everything and seek things we don’t necessarily want for fear of being left behind.

Thankfully, there are some positive trends for quarter life crisis sufferers. Wonderfully, research suggests that these transitional dilemmas, which typically last around two years, often lead to individuals building and concreting for themselves greatly improved lives.

Researcher Doctor Oliver Robinson from the University of Greenwich in London posed four stages for the quarter life crisis. The first is characterised by an illusory feeling of being trapped within a job or a relationship; logically you know you can leave, but emotionally you feel that you can’t. The second begins with the realisation that change is possible, leading to emotional conflict and upheaval; a difficulty which proves a vital catalyst for positive change. The crisis then shifts into its third stage; the structuring of a new, alternate life and seeking broader personal clarity. The fourth and final stage consists of cementing fresh commitments which more closely reflect your inherent interests, aspirations and values.

Experts suggest that the way to emerge from the crux of a quarter life crisis is to plan for success and make clear goals. If you feel you don’t have enough direction to make long term goals, they suggest you start with shorter termed ones and work your way up. Having a creative pursuit has been found to help people through quarter life crises, providing an emotional outlet as well as a medium through which to explore and expose thoughts and feelings. Experts propose using this time of transition to pursue interests and the things you’ve always wanted to do. And of course, if you feel you need professional guidance, don’t hesitate; seek it. In life, we only ever get that for which we ask.

Though I currently feel no less lost than I was four months ago, I’m beginning to feel much more hopeful and certainly less alone. I truly think we’re going to be okay, guys. When I’m feeling particularly confused, I find it helpful to remember some words an old friend once gifted me. She said that nothing that is for you will ever go past you. So que sera, sera; what will be, will be. Just make sure your eyes and palms are ever open, quietly waiting.

 

 

If you’re interested in reading more, here are a couple of the articles I read while perusing the subject.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/05/quarterlife-crisis-young-insecure-depressed

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/life/surviving-the-quarterlife-crisis-20100405-rmat.html

 

the fruit of courage

On Monday I delivered my very first spoken word poetry performance at the local pub’s fortnightly meeting of Passionate Tongues. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been on a natural high ever since. That I had the courage to stand on a stage in front of many dozens of people and share my words is a concept that’s hard to fathom. It’s not that I wasn’t scared; I was freaking terrified. But I’d told myself this was something I could do and I needed to know that I was right.

‘I’m new to Melbourne; fresh from Newcastle, NSW’ I told an audience of raised eyebrows. ‘If you’ve never been, it’s the kind of place where if you write poetry, you mainly keep it to yourself.’ Back when I was at university, I wrote a lot of poetry. I enjoyed the way you could be sparing with your words yet still say so much. But after being awarded a measly credit by my creative writing teacher, I decided poetry clearly wasn’t my calling and turned to wordier varieties of self expression. Nevertheless, poetry has remained a guilty pleasure, and when I discovered that Melbourne was home to so many awesome poets, my excitement was tangible.

I was the tenth speaker on the open microphone, which meant I was beckoned after the stage had been warmed by feature poet Skye Loneragan and several other established writers. After a weekend of nervous anticipation, suddenly all eyes were on me. To my complete surprise, I remembered all my words and performed two poems entirely from memory. When I finished, the room began to applaud and I was consumed by an absolute euphoria. I felt as if I was on fire. Members of the audience and fellow poets were patting me on the back, praising my efforts; it was the best feeling I have ever had.

My personal pride at this achievement goes beyond being happy that I was able to perform for a crowded room. Since ever I was a kid, I’ve been afraid of letting people see me; ignored the pilot light burning within and it’s longing to catch aflame. All my life I’ve allowed insecurities to govern my actions and struggled with an inability to show others my whole self. Now I see exactly how limiting this has been.

After performing my poetry for a full bar, I’m pretty sure I can do anything. I’m no longer willing to keep a leash on my hopes and dreams, withholding that buzz for fear of failure. I’ve tasted the fruit of courage; watch as I eat my fill.

 

 

an uninvited house guest

When you move to a big city and the only people you know are your sister, her partner and your ex boyfriend, it’s easy to feel a little isolated. For the first month I enjoyed the seclusion, revelled in the quiet and the knowledge that I didn’t have to please anyone but myself, immersed myself in my writing and the harmony of words. I guess I’d classify myself as an introvert; I enjoy my own company and don’t require frequent socialisation to exist contentedly. But if you spend too much time on your own, what I’ve found is that slowly, almost immeasurably and without you realising, your contentment equilibrium steadily drops, and you begin to feel heavier. Introvert or not, people need people.

So inevitably, after a couple of months the Loneliness moved in. She took to sitting at the end of my bed, all droopy shoulders and forlornly upturned eyes while I worked on my computer. Or she’d wander in while I was in the bath and sit dejected on the toilet seat, full of sighs and heavy heart. When I was in the kitchen she’d linger at the breakfast bar, staring indifferently out the window and forcing me to question why I would even bother to fix a meal when she didn’t eat and I was no longer hungry.

Soon I began to wonder, whether as a result of her constant mumblings, or my own mind’s manifestations, why I bothered moving to Melbourne in the first place. After all, I was spending the larger part of my time alone in my little studio, secluded from the goings on of a city that was just outside my door. Until now I’d been telling myself that I was choosing to stay pent up; it meant I was being productive. But if productivity was my sole purpose, I needn’t have bothered changing states; I could have written words anywhere. The truth was that I had no idea how to discover or access the activities the grand metropolis had to offer.

I was feeling pathetic and totally dejected; an inevitable side effect when you begin taking life advice from an abstract embodiment of your own emotions. Clearly it was time to get out. Meet some people. See some things. After all, it was fairly unlikely that anyone was going to knock on my door and enquire as to whether I’d like to join them for coffee. Besides, that would be strange and slightly creepy. I’d have to take matters into my own hands. Order my own hot beverages.

If you’ve struggled to shake off the company of Loneliness, you know that she can be a nasty hanger-on. But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to find a number of activities she doesn’t enjoy so much. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think she may have moved out.

What I’ve learned is that Loneliness hates to help people (she really is a selfish piece of work). Seeing that they needed assistance, I started volunteering twice weekly at Lentil as Anything, which is a local vegetarian non for profit restaurant. This place offers three meals a day, serving a combination of vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s not a soup kitchen; guests from all walks of life frequent the eatery. The philosophy is that once you’ve enjoyed your fill, you’re invited to pay whatever you feel your meal and experience were worth, depending on your means.

It’s an awesome place with terrific food and an inviting atmosphere, yet when I was preparing for my first shift, Loneliness made it very clear she had no intention of coming with me. In the end she climbed grudgingly into the passenger seat, but when we pulled up she refused to get out of the car. After a fantastic first shift, I returned to find she’d given up on waiting. It was days before she showed up on the door step, wandering in wordlessly and without any explanation as to where she had been.

The more time you spend with Loneliness, the less you want to; she is quite the wet mop. Perusing the markets with my sister a few weekends back (Loneliness hates group activities. Like a jealous lover, she resents having to share you, so she stays at home, sulking), I stumbled across a woman who described herself as a spoken word poet. It turns out Melbourne has a thriving performance poetry scene. Basically, some dozens of people meet in any number of pubs throughout the week to drink beer and perform their poems for an audience. Once I began getting involved with the spoken word, Loneliness gave up on me completely.

Which brings me to a rather terrifying share; tonight I plan to deliver my very first poem at one of the local poetry gigs. I say ‘plan to’ because waves of nausea have already begun knocking the wind out of me. By the time tonight rolls around, I imagine I’ll be too comatose to leave my apartment, let alone mount a stage. But last week I witnessed firsthand the performance of Sarah Kaye, an American performance poet who I’ve been following for the past few years, and I decided I needed to try. Besides complete public humiliation, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

So spare a thought for me tonight, but for now, enjoy a performance by the gorgeous Sarah Kaye. x

 

 

bad television

 

In our house growing up, we were never allowed to watch commercial television. In fact, it’s almost true that I was unaware stations other than the ABC and SBS existed before I was old enough to begin sleeping over with friends. In any case, I was completely ignorant as to the content they broadcasted. Dad was insistent that if we were going to watch tv, the things we viewed be educationally beneficial, or at the very least wholesome. Starved of the sensational, we’d rise on Saturday mornings before he was out of bed and with the volume down, flick through the channels to watch the programmes aired on other networks. At this time of day it was only ever cartoons, but nevertheless the niggling guilt would gnaw at my grey matter; it was commercial garbage and it was destroying our minds. Nowadays  I don’t own a television, but if ever I find myself watching something intellectually redundant, whether it be a poorly scripted film or a mindless video on YouTube, the all too familiar voice my head loses no time in informing me that I’m polluting my brains and wasting precious time.

Increasingly over the past month that nagging madness of my conscience has returned with a chorus of modified chants, demanding I articulate exactly what I’m doing with myself and to what end. I guess I should be thankful for the respite offered by the two month grace she gave me for settling in after my move, but she’s well and truly arrived now; baggage in hand and expecting answers. The year is lapsing, she points out, yet I’m still unemployed and no closer to discovering the meaning of life, or whatever it was I’d come here so adamant about finding. So what exactly have I been doing?

I’m growing anxious again and the self doubt is back by the bucket load. Is it wrong to be seeking? Does whatever it is I’m hoping to discover even exist? Is this year going to pay off, or is it nothing more than an epic waste of my time? I keep thinking that if I’d worked this year, rather than running off on some kind of self indulgent pilgrimage, by the year’s end I could have saved a house deposit. And all the while, the ceaseless mantra of my inner voice drones on. She’s pulled up a pew in the shadows, and from there she rehearses her extensive, hugely repetitive and less than pleasant back catalogue; something about time and wasting it. I feel like a kid again, guiltily waiting to be sprung watching Home and Away commercials while there’s an informative documentary on another channel.

I went home for a few days last week with all of these worries bubbling just below an apparently stable equilibrium. But after confiding my concerns to an old friend, he told me quite simply that what I need to do is stop fretting and just be. Heard aloud, it seemed blaringly obvious. Surely I just need to get busy living and wait for the moment of dawning and epiphany to rock up to my awesome party.

Meanwhile, though I have no answers, it’s fair to say I’m feeling closer; if to nothing else, then to myself. And for the most part I’m having an excellent time, filled with new experiences and good vibes.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that since she’s stuck around for the past twenty seven years, chances are the voice in my mind is with me for keeps. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Because even if I choose to ignore her, even if she’s rarely right, even if our entire dialogue consists of her criticising and me justifying, it can’t hurt to have someone who’s armed with probing questions and an endless scepticism to keep me from becoming static. Regardless of the fact that she’s just another voice in my head.

I’m also realising that the most likely way of figuring it all out is by calming the heck down. What I’m investing in this year is time. There’s little to be gained by tripping over myself, unsettling everything in my path in my desperate plight to uncover some illusive and precious thing. For me, this will be the most difficult lesson; to go steadily, sit quietly, wait patiently, listen.

 

how to be seen

On the occasional blue moon throughout my childhood, our mother would appear unannounced on the door step. Possessed by a sudden wave of bashfulness, we’d stand staring out at her from the hall, with no words to draw her across the threshold. Then, grinning like a Cheshire cat, she’d break the shocked silence with a gregarious gesture and in an instant a silly excitement would sweep through the house. Regardless of how long she’d been gone, we were always devastatingly pleased to see her. After all, she was our mother.

Never one for answering uncomfortable questions, she’d coat us with her sticky charm in order to avoid having to admit how long she planned to stay. So we’d hang on her every word, for fear it was her last, and furtively cancel our plans, knowing from experience that it would be while we were away that she’d surreptitiously take her leave. Of course we couldn’t avoid school, so after a few days we’d inevitably arrive home to learn that she was gone. Flattened with disappointment, we’d grieve our loss anew. She never stayed long, but knowing that did nothing to ease the sorrow.

As a result of her sporadic and unpredictable pattern of visitation, I developed an agonizing obsession of imagining every car turning into our street was hers, and I spent my early adolescence sneaking shameful glances down the road. It was all I could do to disguise this secret longing for someone I knew would never come. The painful truth was that as hard as I tried to will her to me, she and I were never connected.

For me, our mother’s visits were both glorious and wretched. While my siblings would willingly open their hearts like well worn books to the page on which she’d last written, I would covet mine in bitter defiance. I was angry that she could come and go as she pleased while I remained here, needing her. I’d learned the hard way that like a wild wind she’d no sooner arrive than she’d be gone again, and I couldn’t bear it. So during these rare and short lasting visits I kept her at arm’s length. I thought I was protecting myself from further hurt, but regardless of how detached I appeared the pain when she left was no less raw.

Since the earliest days of my childhood I’ve struggled with feeling vulnerable. What initially stemmed from a combination of pride and self preservation with regards to my mother is now an integral part of who I am. Perceiving emotional dependence as a brand of personal betrayal, I learnt to greedily guard my weakness. Now I’m wondering whether, had I been more like my siblings, who gladly offered theirs like a gift in open palms, I might possess more peace and contentment.

On Saturday I was at my weekly writing group in the city. A broad spectrum of individuals who write for both pleasure and profession, we meet weekly to discuss what we’ve been working on, offering suggestions and constructive criticism to one another. After having completed a five minute warm up writing activity, we’d commenced moving around the table and sharing what we’d written. Before long everyone’s eyes were on me. I didn’t want to share; what if they thought I was dumb? But I choked down the foul tasting fear and the words of decline that were dancing on my tongue and I began to read my work. Against my instincts, I permitted myself to connect. It felt good.

I’m realising that if I’m ever going to experience freedom in all its brilliance, I’m going to have to allow myself to be fragile. I know I can do it; I’m courageous. I just have to let go of the fear.

I think of how my mother looked as she stood on our front step, giddy with cheerfulness. I couldn’t understand how, after twenty five months of absence, she could show up and act so exuberant. But now I recognise that performance for what it was; a facade behind which she was sheltering her own vulnerability. While standing alone on the other side of the door, a part of her must have worried whether this time she’d be turned away. And she couldn’t bear to let us see how much that would sting. For all those years, I was incensed by her superficiality, but only now do I understand what was happening behind the veil. My mother, like me, was afraid to be truly seen.

I’ll close with an offering of wisdom spoken by Brene Brown, a lady who’s spent years researching the subject of vulnerability and whose uplifting and informative presentation I have included for your pleasure. It’s worth a watch; she’s quite the funny one.

There’s another way. We need to let ourselves be seen; deeply seen, vulnerably seen. We need to love with our whole heart, even though there’s no guarantee. We need to practice gratitude and joy in moments of complete terror and to just be grateful; feeling vulnerable means we’re alive. And we need to believe we’re enough. When we work from that place, we stop screaming and start listening. We are kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

 

 

a past full of wasted present

I’ve always had a very clear vision of what my life will look like once I become a grown up.

I’ll live in an old, light filled house; the kind where if you leave the front and back doors open, a soft breeze flows right through the middle. It will be a calm house in a quiet suburb, with a white picket fence whose paint is peeling off in lazy flakes. In my house there’ll be a room that’s only mine, filled with so many books that they’re piled in the corners, and a fat couch on which I can sit to read them. Days will pass slowly and I’ll spend them nestled at my desk in a nook near the window, writing glorious words. My house will have red saucepans and floral wall paper and out the back a big garden, where vegetables and flowers will grow in a sort of crazy, hap hazard harmony.

In my house I’ll have a border collie whose name will be Mack, and she and I will go running together in the afternoons. And there’ll be nosey chooks that roam the yard and who we are forever shooing out of the kitchen. We’ll string fairy lights along the porch and our friends will visit on Friday evenings to drink bottles of wine. On Sunday mornings we’ll sit on the front steps, listening to vinyls, with bed hair and big cups of tea, and the slightly too long grass will be just one more testimony to our absolute contentment. Life will be so great; I’ll be so happy when I grow up.

 

Ever since ever I was a kid I’ve had trouble living in the current moment, preferring instead to while away perfectly valid years of my life, waiting for things to get wonderful. Impatient as the day is long, I’ve dismissed so much of my present, considering it nothing but a necessary inconvenience which must be endured in order to obtain my fantastic future. Sadly, it didn’t occur to me that by remaining idle I was wasting precious years; that what I should have been doing was getting busy with my here and now.

Since downing tools at the end of last year, things have become a lot clearer. In the last couple of months, I’ve done more to actively fashion my life’s canvas than I’d done in the preceding decade. Sure, I’d played some big cards in that time; a visit to Africa, a few sweet moments in Europe. But when I returned from these adventures, I stupidly settled right back into a sort of passive discontentment.

For so long I believed it was normal for daily existence to be ordinary. During this time I owed my survival and sanity to fleeting moments of brilliance, snatched through rare displays of spontaneity. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I’d do what any conservative soul would do on the verge of a mental breakdown; I’d chuck a sickie. Then, fuelled by the short fused euphoria of stolen time, I’d cram as much living as I could into that single evening. I’d stay up all night, playing music, painting, writing, drinking booze and end it all with a pre dawn stroll through the sleeping streets. Finally, utterly exhausted, I’d crawl beneath the folds of doona, just as dreaded first light forced its way through my bedroom window, reminding me that time never stops and that the previous evening was nothing but a self indulgent, pointless protest. I see now that setting my sights on a distant, romanticised future was my way of enduring what I felt was a deeply unsatisfying existence.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve wasted the best part of my twenties learning a simple yet vital life lesson: if you want to wander off the beaten track, you will have to pave your own path. And for the first time, I’m doing just that. I didn’t know it then, but it was on those rare stolen nights that I was tasting the true essence of living; the rest was nothing but an empty waiting. Now suddenly my life has begun, and I have some serious catching up to do.

 

I watched a speech by the late Steve Jobs this week. He was addressing an audience of young people at their university graduation. What he told them really stuck in my gut. He said that to live a successful life, you have to find what you love. He urged his audience to never settle, and to continue searching until they discover their passion. He stressed that this is the only way to ever be truly satisfied, so once you find what you love, you have to remain true to it, no matter how hard this might seem.

I like it when someone successful says something like that. It reassures me that I’m on the right track; that as tough as it may at first appear, paving your own way is not only possible, but for a life worth living, it’s necessary.

Until recently, my past has been filled with wasted present; years spent waiting expectantly for a future that never arrives. Now I finally understand that it’s impossible to exist anywhere but in the here and now. And you know what? For the first time in my life, that’s exactly where I want to be.

 

 

the problem with god

My Beef With the Big Guy In Two Parts

There are very few topics that are almost certain to cause rifts and divisions, even amongst the closest of friends. Regardless of how delicately you approach the subject, you can almost guarantee that a discussion of religious beliefs will end with somebody feeling offended, marginalised or ridiculed; unless you’re fortunate enough to be talking purely with like minded individuals, in which case it will be less of a discussion and more of an open and shut ‘amen brother’ with either religious or ironic sentiment, depending on the company in question.

Spirituality is something that we take very personally, as it’s a subject on which many of us have spent significant periods of time reflecting in order to articulate, at least on an internal level, how we feel and where we stand. My personal opinions on the matter are many and varied and have endured an almost constant state of flux over the years. The basis of my current convictions can be found below.

NB I think it’s worth noting that the God to whom I’m referring throughout this text is the Christian God; the only one with whom I have any experience. Though I imagine the points raised may resonate for many religions, perhaps especially western varieties.

If you are easily offended, perhaps tune out now. You have been warned.

 

Part One: The Almighty Bollocks

I was raised in an open minded household where we were encouraged from a young age to question the world as a way of formulating opinions that were our own. I was sent to Sunday School every week until I was twelve years old in order that I might be able to make an informed decision regarding my stance on religion. As a teenager, I frequented religious youth groups where the majority of attendees considered themselves to be devout believers (even if many were apparently more than a little confused about what this actually meant). So I guess it would be fair to say that over the years I have more than dappled with religion.

I have a lot of respect for religious parables and the morals of the scriptures; that we should treat others how we would like to be treated and that we shouldn’t steal or lie or covet someone else’s missus are all good ideals by which I am happy to live.

What I don’t like however, is this God character. The original Big Brother, this fellow allegedly has access to all of our innermost thoughts and feelings and is responsible for all the good stuff that happens to us whilst simultaneously staking no claim whatsoever over the bad stuff (which probably occurred as a result of our sinner status to either make us stronger or punish us, depending on which disciple you ask).

I have serious issues with the notion that we’re all dirty sinners who need to be purged through devotion to some omniscient being who apparently created us as a trip for his own ego (‘worship me!’). This is psychological blackmail at its finest. When I was a little girl my mum decided she didn’t want a family any longer and so left for greener pastures, leaving my dad and us four kids to fend for ourselves. After being taught about the power of prayer at church, I prayed to God every night for longer than I can remember so that he might send my mum home. Of course, she never came back. According to the lessons taught at scripture, this meant one of three things: I wasn’t praying for something important enough, God didn’t think I needed the thing for which I was pleading, or I wasn’t a good enough believer to have my prayers answered. None of these reasons are without grim ramifications for the seven year old psyche.

I suppose the point to which I have always returned is that if there is a God, he isn’t a very nice one. War and death, the invention of evil and the alleged role of women aside, the primary reason I don’t think he’s much of a good guy is the way he is trying to trick us. Why should he insist we rest the fate of our eternal lives on a matter of blind faith? Surely he would be happier to know that he had created thoughtful and critical beings who didn’t accept the (let’s face it) whimsical claims written down by some other dude, but rather wanted to know a truth before we would up and die for it. If there was a God, I would have a lot more respect for the guy if he was to come right out and, with a big old PA system rigged up in the clouds by Moses and the roadies say something like: “Look, here I am. I created you guys from nothing but my own mind’s fancy. And I made the sunrise and lady beetles and every single blade of grass, too. Isn’t that excellent? I deserve a bit of praise, don’t you reckon? Think about me on Sundays and try to be good to one another. Then when this is all over, come on up here and we’ll all hang out. Because I love you. Peace out, guys.”

Instead, this God fellow wants us to believe in him for no reason other than just because. And for those of us who weigh it all up and conclude that we think the notion of an afterlife is pretty far fetched, and that the scientific explanations of things sits more comfortably with us? We are punished by an eternity of fire and brimstone. Nah, man. Not cool.

 

Part Two: Making Peace

After fighting with God for so many years, one cannot help but feel a little exhausted. So recently I made a peace with the topic of God and this has resulted in my achieving a genuine sense of inner calm regarding this issue. You see, I have always been a spiritual person, if in a very secular way. Every morning when I wake up, I fill my lungs with air and smile that I am alive. I go for walks in the evenings and get so filled with the beauty of things that I get this uncontrollable desire to yell really loudly and hug perfect strangers with a firmness that could be disarming. Seeing the moon glowing up in that crazy blue and the waves thundering onto the shore overwhelms me to a point of breathlessness.

Recently it hit me that perhaps these are feelings that some people attribute to their God. That for them, these feelings are God; that he is just a word they can use to sum up their love for the world, for their lives, for friendships and family. And I realised, too, that when we die, nothing ever ceases to be; the energies that allowed us to laugh during our time are simply released into the world where they are absorbed by other living things, so that the boom that beats my drum might one day help a flower to bloom or a butterfly to break free of its cocoon, or perhaps something less poetic but equally as deserving. : )

Since time and memoriam religion has had this fatal ability of dividing us all. Surely in the twenty first century we have the mental tools required to realise that as a collective humanity we have more commonalities than we do differences and that this truth extends to religion.

For me, there is no God in the sense that the Bible dictates. Rather, God is simply a metaphor created to explain to small children the divine nature of life. In which case, God is neither good nor bad. She doesn’t favour righteousness over other human conditions, she doesn’t punish or reward and she has no idea or interest in what you are thinking. In saying that, she is very beautiful, and without her we wouldn’t be here.

It’s time to stop being accountable to archaic scriptures and the conventions of organised religion which were set forward to control the masses all those years ago. The folks of the past were unwillingly the ignorant and the indoctrinated. In the twenty first century, the Bible should be considered nothing more than a literary masterpiece and an historical artefact. At this pivotal point in the pilgrimage of humanity, let’s take charge, and allow our minds to be the key to our freedom.