I WANT MY LIFE TO BE LIKE THAT ONE SNAPCHAT FILTER THAT BUFFS AWAY YOUR IMPERFECTIONS AND SLIMS OUT YOUR FACE

1.

As a child, I was convinced that my life was not long for this earth.

Insofar as I can remember, this conviction didn’t spring from any great traumatic event, more just a grim and unfounded resignation: you’re going to die, my brain would tell me, and probably soon. Real soon. At this I would simply agree, perhaps nodding sagely and thinking, even at age seven, that if I couldn’t do anything to avert this early onset death, I may as well simply accept it. It was much more dignified, that way.

My fears were confirmed, of course, towards the end of my eighth year on this earth, as I punched through a window and was rushed off to hospital. Lying in the back of the next-door neighbour’s Holden Barina, my arm covered in a hot compress to try and fight the bleeding, some part of me was bitterly vindicated: See? Told you so.

This conviction faded away as I found other things to fuel my childhood obsessions; namely video games and reading, in particular Stephen King novels. Both outlets provided plenty of fictional death for my young brain, and though it wasn’t that I’d ever idolised death, it certainly lost its apparent inevitability around the hundredth time a block of pixels resembling a human form got shot to bits, or a plucky protagonist got swallowed up by one of King’s unmentionable creatures.

This feeling of imminent death was almost entirely gone by the time I’d hit double digits, and was instead replaced with a quiet and animalistic fear that would occasionally overtake my whole being, usually in the dead of night as I would imagine, as a concept, NOTHING. This NOTHING gave the then twelve-year-old-me the beginnings of what I’d now define as existential dread; a spinning awareness of both how large the world, the universe was, and comparatively how insignificant and miniscule I was.

I’d lie in the pitch black of midnight, slowing my breathing down to as close to nothing as I could stand, imagining myself dropping endlessly through darkness, before some part of me would undercut even this: that’s not NOTHING. That’s blackness. Blackness is SOMETHING.

This is how I would drift to sleep most nights, from age ten to age twelve – a game of existential chicken, filled with hallucinatory thought as I chased after the strange seduction of one day being able to embrace a total NOTHINGNESS.

2.

I have tackled my death numerous times since age seven; rarely in such direct ways, but returning to it all the same with a strange sense of inevitability.

In my late teens, I overate to the point of pain, so that sometimes I believed that my stomach would burst. Though I never thought anything so lucid at the time, I believe now this was something linked to, as it classically seems to be, an intrinsic desire to fill some great hole inside of me; some deep existential uncomfortability.

In my early twenties, I developed increasing problems with alcohol: drinking to the point of oblivion, and often substituting food and groceries for alcohol. In my mid to late twenties, this only increased, to the point it began to affect my memory, so that life began to feel like an old doily: filled with holes, and parts unknown, only presumed.

Of course, this all culminates in my second near-death experience, which I keep returning to, while telling myself I don’t need to. Through this I’ve been thinking a lot about the way that I interact with the world around me; what it all means. What does it all mean, right?

I’ve become acutely aware of the manner in which I have mythologised my own history – some events worth mythologizing, others less so. While I was always aware on some level that I was spinning a narrative for myself out of my life, it’s only as I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of returning to it multiple times across multiple cities that I’ve become truly aware how easily everything shifts.

I recently came to a hiatus in an intermittent two-year touring schedule of my play/love letter to Brené Brown and Nicola Gunn/overall trauma expose, Intoxication. Certainly, it’s the nature of fiction and creation and theatre especially that pieces will twist and form and grow as they go. But the root of this – of Intoxication – isn’t fiction, but true life.

I don’t know. I find myself caught on this one thing, this one event that happened to me four years ago, repeating and returning to it and not letting it define me – never letting it define me, dear god, swearing so hard it would never define me – so that… in a way, it’s definitely defined me. But then, what? Should somebody else take up my story, tell it, explore it – find depth in it? Should I just set it down and walk away?

When you keep running over the same events, time and again, over and over, things shift, they naturally alter. Moreso when you open something up to a crowd of thirty, forty, fifty a night. You’re playing Chinese Whispers with yourself and your own past.

Where are you left in a story, in a body, when it’s no longer yours? Where are you left when you’re no longer sure what’s left to be said?

3.

Since the start of this year the relationship I’m in has opened up, which has given me the opportunity to meet and connect with a bunch of new and exciting and sometimes terrible people. It has also given me back a modicum of this control: allowed me to actively choose which parts of myself I share and which I don’t, reminded me that I do actually have control in all of this. Given the intense introversion of the past couple of years; the intense disconnection from friends, family, the queer community at large, partly brought on by my own fear and partly brought on by my sobriety, this has been a welcome change.

I’ve developed another addiction – first through my psych sessions, and now through the gift being able to see myself through the eyes of others once again: “learning more about myself through the brains and bodies of others.” Or maybe, “discovering that nothing is as simple as it seems and everyone has multitudes including you, you big gay dickhead.”

Or maybe, “endless navel-gazing with no apparent endpoint or justification or sense of productivity.”

4.

I recently read that conviction towards your own death, particularly at such a young age, is a hallmark of PTSD. This makes a brutal and wry kind of sense to me.

I think that my addictions of the past – alcohol, food, cigarettes, more alcohol – were an attempt to find anchor in something; something to properly hold on to. The trick is that none of these things have offered anything to hold onto, rather have slipped through my fingers as I’ve begun to use them with greater intensity and greater desperation.

There’s a particular meme at the moment I relate to. The meme isn’t particularly funny, as far as memes go, nor particularly prescient, but I enjoy it just the same. The meme is this: GAY PEOPLE CAN’T DRIVE.

That’s all. It’s not even really a joke, just an observation, and a fairly banal one at that. I suppose I like it because as someone who is gay and who can’t drive, it feels encouraging to see yourself in the media once every while. It tickles me doubly so because although I can’t drive, I do have – or had – a particularly overactive death drive. Fooled you, Tumblr. I can drive – towards my own Freudian destruction. Of course, that’s all in the past now, yeah? So why keep returning to it?

I think, perhaps, the truth is that I’m stumped.

I’m stumped as to the actions of the past and I’ve felt, somehow, if I can make them make sense to myself – if I can work them out – I’ll be able to avoid repeating them.

I also like the idea of controlling my own story, more than I’d like to admit. In the fight against these aspects of my life – these things that have happened to me – I’ve come out swinging, attacked them head-on and shared them with the world so that nobody else could.

I begun this particular essay during my Wheeler Centre Hot Desk toward the end of last year, and never managed to finish or fix it, mostly because I didn’t know how. I reached a point in the Hot Desk period – tasked of my own accord to write "a series of essays about the ways my near-death and resultant trauma affected my life and those around me" – where I very suddenly gave up, some five essays in. Something in my head just stood up and said: “this is enough. There's nothing more to say on the issue. Let it go.” So, I did.

I’m still unsure how to finish or fix this, but maybe it’ll have to do. Maybe it needs nothing beyond my sudden out-of-the-blue desire to return and finish it some six months later; tap some words into the ether.

Maybe.

I thought of the name for this essay before I wrote it, and I don’t know that what I have written really justifies said name. Maybe that’s just a part of the stories we tell each other: that we’re perfect, or we’re messy, or we’re intelligent or witty or desirable or anything else.

Where are you left in a story, in a body, when your control has broken down?

2017.

Conducting wrap-ups like these has become an important marker since the brain injury & memory loss: I always find it helpful to actually acknowledge what I’ve achieved over the past 12 months before stuffing it away in a filing box and moving on to the next year. So.

2017 was... intense. I had a show professionally produced in London; I successfully completed the first year of my Ph.D. and another year of teaching playwriting at university, and I was shortlisted for and won a selection of awards. I got my braces off. At the same time: the postal plebiscite. At the same time: some sort of psychic rupture as I tried to figure out who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. (Maybe I’m still figuring that last one out.)

This was also maybe the first year that I’ve felt I’ve had a full handle on my personality and myself since the accident and injury. The first where I’ve known what to expect, expected it, and not been surprised by the outcome (in a good way). The first where I’ve genuinely looked at the path I’m following and been happy with the end point. The first maybe, where I’ve genuinely looked at the path I’m following and been happy to not know the end point, not exactly. I’ve moved in with some dear friends, Jeremy lives literally across the road, we have a dumb beautiful feline friend, and I’ve been seeing my psychologist more with more regularity.

I don’t know what things will look like in six months from now, not really, but for the first time in a long time, I feel confident in my ability to handle it.

Number of places I’ve lived: 2.

Number of states I’ve visited: 3.

Number of countries I’ve visited outside of Australia: 1. (On my lonesome! Look at me, I'm a real adult!)

Number of plays I’ve written: 2. (The Ph.D. Marat/Sade adaptation, in a constant state of redevelopment, and another, Disinhibition, for and with Yvonne Virsik.)

Number of times I made money from writing: 4 (One up from last year! Look at me. Progression.).

Number of times I was emotionally or mentally fulfilled by writing: (still) countless.

Number of anxiety attacks I’ve had: 5. (Four down from last year! Look at me. Progression.)

Number of therapy sessions I’ve had: 14. (It’s going up next year. Progression?)

Number of friends from the Internet I finally met in person: 1. (Hey, Harry!)

Number of new tattoos: 5. (A pansy, a pink switchblade, a jockstrap, a vapourwave statue, and existential carbohydrates. My brand is on point.)

Number of shows I wrote that were produced: 2.

Number of shows I wrote that I starred in: 1.

Number of shows I wrote that toured: 1.

Number I was proud of: 2.

Favourites – not all produced this year, but intrinsically linked to my path through the year: 

Books:

“Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?” edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
“Adult Fantasy” by Briohny Doyle
“Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black” by Cookie Muller
“Idaho” by Emily Ruskovich
“Lockpick Pornography” by Joey Comeau

Television shows:

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
“The Good Place”
“Bojack Horseman” (always)

Films:

“Get Out” by Jordan Peele
“Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins
“God’s Own Country” by Francis Lee
“It” by Andy Muschietti

Albums:

“Drum”, Gold Class
“Pushin’ Against a Stone”, Valerie June
“I See You”, The xx
“Forget”, Xiu Xiu
“Heaven Upside Down”, Marilyn Manson
“No Shape”, Perfume Genius

Theatre pieces:

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee (Harold Pinter Theatre, London)
“Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby (Melbourne Arts Centre)
“Revolt. She said. Revolt Again.” by Alice Birch (Malthouse) 
“Peaches Christ Superstar” by Peaches/Andrew Lloyd Webber (Theatre Royal, Hobart)

Resolutions for the New Year:

1. Only pay for media (music, film, books, so on) created by queer people, women, or men of colour. I've seen enough of the straight white narrative, thanks.
2. Fucking be more confident. It’s been coming in fits and starts, and I feel I’m finally at the stage where I can actively work on it.
3. Love harder - things, works of art, people – and be more tender, more willing to put my feelings on the line.

Moments:

Developing Disinhibition with Yvonne and a group of awesome students.

Seeing The Mutant Man finally brought to life in London with an amazing team of people. (Also, less a ‘moment’, but the joy that came out of the play’s responses, and London’s critical culture.)

Tours of London and so many places I would never have known about from old (great) mate Alex Dye. Seagulling my accommodation from her and just shooting the shit, feeling like no time had passed at all for the ten days I spent with her. (Also, performing a dress rehearsal of Intoxication for her in her lounge room. Intimate dot com. Technically I’ve now ~toured internationally~.)

Running on fumes and terror as I touched down from London to Melbourne and then left for Canberra to perform Intoxication as a one person show a couple of days later.

But then feeling intensely proud of myself for doing the thing and doing it well. Of course, this would've been impossible without Emma's support and guidance.

Speaking of well: that first performance of Intoxication as a one-person show. Crammed into a lounge-room with people I didn’t know, everyone incredibly receptive, everyone giving and sharing. Just fucking joyous.

Going with mates to an old farmhouse in Mitre, feeling fairly certain we were going to die (the airbnb had only two photos: a cabin, and one of a rusty swing with an abandoned teddy bear) and then discovering actually it was brilliant and run by lovely people.

The intensely bittersweet feeling of winning the inaugural Melbourne Fringe Queer Development Award but not being there to accept it because I was touring the show that won.

After winning the award, realising I should probably start calling myself a performer.

Jane Griffiths, my Ph.D. supervisor, coming to collect me after my confirmation ceremony (they make you wait as they decide your fate) and flashing me a covert thumbs up and a warm smile.

The Scribe Non-fiction Masterclass – meeting a whole bunch of lovely fellow writers, learning an awful lot, and finally ticking off the challenge I’d laid myself a few years earlier (being shortlisted for the Scribe prize.)

The queer haven of 108 Greville Street. Realising I could rely on and support my beautiful queer mates (Trel and Jacob) and they could in reverse. Likewise, that one of my oldest and best friends lived (and still works) across the road: that I got to integrate a beautiful human into the everyday of my life.

Feeling pretty profesh as I stayed in (irregular) contact with Joey Comeau about adapting his book into a stage play, and then… actually getting to do/develop it. (It hasn't been performed yet, but it's happening, ma - it's really happening.)

The intense sting of hurt as equal marriage was finally legalized and I realised that for me, it’d all been for nothing, all I’d gotten was hurt.

Finally getting a cat – Katinka, so named for the Milla Jovovich character in Zoolander – and loving her an absurd fucking amount. She is the colour of our carpet, she is a little purr monster, and she occasionally gets stuck in our venetian blinds like Winnie the Pooh.

Christmas at Ali's house. An amazing feast cooked by her beautiful mother, Julie, and just generally actually feeling happy and joyous on Christmas for the first time in a long time. Love, lovely people, and happiness.

Feeling a lot more present in my interactions, a lot more solid, a lot more genuine.

-

Last year I said: I can’t do it alone – I shouldn’t have to, and neither should you. And this was proven in 2017. Alex and Heather in London, Emma in the Fringe/You Are Here/Critical Animals, Jeremy in general, Ali working just across the road and getting the joy of her love on the regular, Jacob and Trel being the bestest house-supports. (Emotional lumbar support beams?). Meeting and cultivating new friendships with people and, unlike 2016, not spilling my anxious guts all over them. Building emotional bridges.

2018 is going to be a big one. A real fucking big one. But I’m not scared. Determined, yes. (Grimly so.) But I’m going to kill it, and it’s going to be great.

The Ideal State

My new play, The Great Dark Spot, will be read at 2 PM on June 3rd at La Mama Theatre, thanks to the development of Melbourne-based company VIMH. I wrote some words for their website here. Tickets are available here.

-

I am in a definite state of confusion with this play.

You see, it wasn’t ever meant to exist. It was subsidiary to my ‘graduate work’ at NIDA; this errant Word document I’d occasionally open up and bash some words into before forgetting about it for another few weeks. My graduate play, Sneakyville, traversed America, Australia, and 50+ years of cultural history and philosophy. Accordingly, for the play that would become The Great Dark Spot I set myself some boundaries: one act, straight through. Maximum four characters. One room. (Those with keen eyes will notice, when the reading happens, that I’ve managed to stretch this last boundary as far as I could.)

It was inspired by the tutor of our philosophy class, who one day told us that the way this generation is going, when the world ends – inevitably thanks to our own hand; through climate change or mass destruction – we won’t even be able to look at the damage caused and say “well, at least we tried.” I wasn’t sure that I agreed, but it sparked something in me regardless, and off I went. It’s a play that’s set in a post-apocalyptic world, post “at least we tried”, but quietly: without violence or destruction or Charlize Theron in a two-piece made of animal pelts.

The title of this play has likewise changed numerous times. Initially it was “ONE ROOM APOCALYPSE PLAY.docx”, and then it was “Mother” – which didn’t last long, a ham-fisted reference to the familial focus in the work and the X-Files-esque term ‘mothership’ – and then it was “The Great Dark Spot”. This last name feels correct to me, indeed came with an “aha!” moment, where two and two finally made four and everything began making sense.

With all its name changes, it has also changed form: evolving from quite a naturalistic play into an odd hybrid of storytelling, interwoven monologue, film, and physical metaphor. It’s a play set in a post-apocalyptic world, true, but this apocalypse takes a back seat to the action of the play and the characters’ internal worlds. Similarly, it evolved from being an (equally ham-fisted) play about the characters’ inaction towards climate change, to a play about the characters’ inaction towards their own lives; effected as they are by personal trauma – the macro in the whirling maelstrom of an apocalyptic scenario that is only hinted at. It’s about incredibly personal loss in the face of an immense depersonalised Loss; about feeling like you should care about something impossibly large but finding it impossible to do so because you’re still focused on something comparatively small.

When I began to write the first draft of the version you’ll see if you attend the reading, I had just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was at once incredibly reassuring and more than a little bit harrowing. It came with an assurance that ways in which I’d been acting and thinking had a root cause that wasn’t me, but it also carried the sobering fact that I was, capital-d, Disordered. Unsure of what to do after returning from my psychologist – this kind of diagnosis tends to put a dampener on your day – I sat down, opened up my laptop, and began to write this version of the play. It’s not about PTSD but it also very much is: my own experiences, as they so often do, inevitably colouring the work that I completed around my diagnosis and my subsequent search for meaning in trauma.

I suppose this is all an incredibly long way to say that each iteration of this play has brought it closer towards what I feel like it should be, its ‘ideal state’: during NIDA, after NIDA, after my diagnosis, after the initial VIMH reading, after the Lonely Company showing, and now this version to be read. Making the choice to pursue one particular avenue is inevitably scary, because it forces you to cut off all the other avenues you could have gone down. And this was the case with this play: I kept refusing to commit myself to any particular set of themes or way of exploring these themes, simply out fear. It’s been years since I’ve written a play that’s come from a predominantly fictional place, and adding this particular anxiety into the mix of my concerns essentially stopped me from progressing anywhere with this play.

VIMH have encouraged the play into its current form: given me a lot to think about in terms of clarifying its concept and trimming its narrative fat. Their reactions have also assured me that its offbeat humour is actually, well, humorous. They’ve inspired me to think about the physical representations of the play proper, and have quite simply encouraged me to keep going; to keep travelling down the avenues I’ve started down and to keep cutting off other avenues as I do. They have helped me to push through my anxieties in order to find a version the play I’m satisfied with; a version where I have at least some idea of what I want out of it. Without their support, this would’ve been a very different play: one sitting in the depths my hard-drive, unfinished and wasting space.

The Great Dark Spot will inevitably change once more out of the discussions that arise from this reading. But at least it now has a solid and concrete base. It knows what it is.

Little-Big. (As Time Goes By.)

1.

At ten, as I imagined my late twenties and early adulthood, I always imagined I’d be… larger, maybe? More impressive, certainly.

I never had a conception of what this impressiveness might entail, per se, but the adults in my life just seemed to be so adult. So tall – surely taller than 6 feet, surely closer to 10 or 12 feet – and commanding and certain and, yeah, sure. That surety was what I envied most of all. Feeling unequivocally like you knew exactly what your place in life was: where you were going, what you were doing, and Who You Were as a real-life Accomplished Person who knew and did Things.

These feelings never truly went away. In fact, they’ve begun to return, descending around me like a haze of childhood confusion and insecurity. You see, it’s not the ‘getting older’ part that’s tripping me up – the older I’ve gotten, the more secure I’ve become, and maybe (probably) this is what it means to be An Adult – but instead the whole ‘passing of time’ thing. That whole jazz. My relationship with myself is one that’s constantly changing as I continue to grow – big whoop, right? I think that if your relationship with yourself isn’t evolving, maybe you’re not evolving, or else you’re the most together person I’ve (n)ever met, in which case I hate you.

Young and idealistic, with very little understanding of how the world actually worked, I was fuelled by visions of my inevitable and glorious successes. It’s not the success part that was wrong, I suppose, but instead the part where I thought I’d put together a slap-dash work of art, it’d be universally lauded, and I’d shoot to stardom pretty much instantaneously and make a whole bunch of money.

A little older and a whole lot drunker, I was fuelled by the unfulfilled promise of my own talent, and recognition: I’d had a taste of it, some things had gone right, and I thought that, well, recognition would breed recognition. It turns out, of course, this belief gives way to a lot of anxiety and broken expectations, all of this gives way to alcohol, and we all know how that ended up.

And now… I don’t quite know what I’m fuelled by. I’m just working, and trying my hardest not to be at odds with myself, my work, or those around me. And failing. Sometimes, failing. And sometimes, succeeding. And trying really hard not to be fuelled by anything except what’s in front of me at any given moment; to do each thing to the best of my ability and then to move on to the next thing. It’s hard to see yourself when you are yourself, though, and sometimes I need someone else to tell me how something I’ve done looks to the outside world. That should be a job, right? A Life Outside Eye. Someone to let you know how you’re going and what you’re doing, both good and bad. Outside Eye for the Queer Guy.

My relationship with my physical self has been much more straightforward as I’ve simply come to accept myself for my self; embraced myself and come to terms with my looks and my physicality – not in a negative way, at all, just in a way where looking into a mirror no longer seems surprising; as if I’m looking at the face and body of a stranger.

I think that this struggle with self-image is something eternal, something I’ll probably take to the grave, but I’m getting better at it: at lining up what I see in the mirror and lining up what I see inside my head.

2.

For my practice-based Ph.D., I’m reading a lot of material about the (in)famous 1968 text by Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of Charenton Asylum Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Aside from this academic project, I’ve also been in it (2005) and directed it (2010), so I know it fairly well.

Reading it for the first time, it seemed untenable: this free-verse monstrosity of a play within a play printed on withered yellow pages, simultaneously readable and indecipherable and angry. So, so angry.

I’m writing a modern adaptation of Marat… for my practice, and I think that’s what strikes me the most: how angry it is, how angry I am, how angry the world seems and is.

The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry because the man is getting them down and society systematically oppresses and ignores them at every step. The leader of the asylum cuts them off at every pass, patronidingly wearing them down and insisting he knows better while using physical violence to get his way.

The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry because the Revolution they were promised – one that would level the playing field, cut the injustice and bring everyone together once more – just left them to suffer, out in the cold.

The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry in 1795, in 1808, and in 1964, when the play was written. But not 2017.

It feels like the time is right for truly angry art once again.

3.

I think being an adult is just being a relatively mature person who’s able to function on a monetary level, at least. The money isn’t the hard part, it’s the maturity that trips us up, of course.

Last year I was the course coordinator for the third year-level Script Development class at Monash University, and this was part of me gaining the skills to actually step outside of myself. Distinctly, I remember this: finishing a class at the designated time, and expecting… I’m not sure what. A room full of faces, then, staring back at me, expectant and mildly impatient, and the realisation: you’ve got to tell them they can go, dickhead. You’re running the class. They’re being polite. Teaching them taught me; like that old family movie cliché. It taught me if not how to be an adult, then how to wholeheartedly accept my adulthood.

As my relationship with myself has changed, so has my relationship with the world around me. As I’ve become more at peace within myself, I’ve become more angry with the world; more determined for change and more unsure how to incite that change. My rage at myself has been extricated and turned against the world around me, and I’m not sure yet how to wield it, but I know that it’s there to be wielded.

Sometimes it just feels like there’s a cavalcade of information pouring down, each little bit just screaming THE WORLD IS BURNING, over and over and over, and all we can do is roll over and go back to sleep. Hit the refresh button and hope that something’s gonna change.

Maybe that’s what being grown is all about. Trying to incite that change.

Maybe fucking not.

Sometimes I get so caught up in how horrific the world seems that I don’t know where to start. I want change – we all want change, not all for the better – but I don’t know where to start.

So I go to a bunch of rallies, I get angry, I try and educate and yell only when absolutely necessary.

So, I choose to adapt, modernize and localize an infamously didactic and angry script set in an insane asylum, and find that what it has to say about our modern world is this:     IT’S ALL FUCKED.

So, I write a blog. I pour my feelings out into the cyber-void.

Yeah, and?

On Passing

1.

At age 13 – old enough to tell I was gay, and switched-on or bullied enough to tell that my camp nature was not well-received, and would continue to be ill-received in later life – I would’ve done nearly anything to appear as straight.

Even though this was before my high-school bullying issues, I only wanted to appear straight, but not be straight – I wasn’t ashamed of my sexuality, only my femininity. Out of some deeply ingrained misogyny that lay deep in my person, and similarly out of some deep-seated fear of not ‘fitting in’, I would spend hours practicing in front of the mirror: if I grunt and don’t say much, the lilt in my voice won’t give me away. If my hands stay stuffed deep into my pockets, they won’t flap about. If I only devour books in the comfort of my own home, I can avoid the childhood maliciousness of those select few boys in my year level. Little did I realise, of course, when you’re young and not well liked books are gay, hands are gay, grunting is gay, indeed everything about your person is gay, where “gay” means “unpopular” or “shitty” because young boys who attend private schools are more often than not cruel and shitty themselves.

I remember distinctly one afternoon in my thirteenth year, I decided I would test myself. I would walk to the BP on the corner – a five minute’s traipse down the road – and purchase one (1) Maxibon ice-cream. It was a hot afternoon in Summer, or perhaps a particularly balmy Spring day, and the just-teenaged me would certainly have appreciated the creamed frozen delight as a weekend extravagance. Here was the catch, though: I was only going to allow myself to purchase said Maxibon (bought with money kept from my car-cleaning ‘job’, really a chore that my parents decided was worth $10 of my time) if I could ‘pass’. Passing, in this case, meant selecting the ice-cream, walking to the counter, and purchasing it without letting the cashier know that I was, as my father had sporadically called me, a “nancy boy”.

First off, I spent a half hour standing in front of the mirror practicing my vocals. I discovered if I spoke like a cowboy in a prolonged and hyper-confident drawl, my voice was likely to drop down a few octaves and hide the reality of my lisp. Next, a further ten minutes walking like I would when suffering from particularly bad inner-thigh chafing in the dead heat of Summer: widely and deliberately, as if each side of the concrete footpath were safety and the pavement below were lava.

I somehow managed to avoid another human being on my walk to the BP – I liked to take the backstreets to avoid human interaction as much as possible, and today was no exception – but hit the inevitable snags upon entering the servo. Though the woman behind the counter said nothing as I sauntered in, she must have had a million questions upon seeing my impressively wide gait make its way to the frozen section of the undersized supermarket. With aplomb, I selected the dessert, and made my way up to the counter. When I think about it now, I don’t remember much of her face or her features, but of course, my mind and the distance in years from the incident have added a quiet smirk to the side of her mouth; a not unkind but heartily bemused glimmer to her eyes.

“How can I help you?” she’d asked pleasantly enough.

“Ph-hew,” I replied, with perhaps more affectation than ever before. “I just want onna theeeese, puh-lease.”

Having never spoken like this before, and never since, I can’t quite speak as to what on earth I was thinking. The words, sprung from my childhood lips in my miscarried attempt at appearing heterosexual or indeed anything resembling ‘normal’, hung in the air, thick and damning, as my face turned slowly red with embarrassment.

Crap, I think. I’ve already started the transaction, I can’t leave now, that’s even worse.

“Bahah!” the cashier barks unintentionally, a manicured hand raising to her lips as if to protect herself from me, or perhaps me from her unintentional cruelty. A beat, then: “… Sorry.”

She meekly processes the ice-cream, gives me my change, and I walk off like a normal person, legs together and at a regular pace, clutching the Maxibon tightly in my hand.

I walk thirty metres away, not far into the alleyway I’d come out of. I am still clutching the Maxibon in my hand, and with the heat of my body and the heat of the day it has begun to melt saccharine milk solids all over my person and the ground below me.

I stand in the alleyway and the sun and I think about how much I hate the tone of my voice and that I can’t be normal, whatever “normal” may be.

Silently, angrily, I smash the ice-cream to the footpath where it explodes on impact, drenching my ankles and the surrounding dirt in four dollars worth of failed experiment.

I didn’t pass.

2.

At age 28 – old enough to have held the dubious moniker of ‘disabled’ for two and a half years, but young enough to not have properly worked out a way to incorporate said moniker into my everyday life – I have often considered wearing a t-shirt that simply says: I HAVE A DISABILITY, perhaps with the medical evidence attached below.

As previously chronicled, I’ve been deemed too disabled to work a full 9 to 5 workload. or even look for work without the help of a disability-specific job-seeker agency to help me navigate this process. I have simultaneously been deemed not disabled enough for the disability support pension.

This isn’t about that – about me bitching about not receiving a paltry sum of money from a careless government, or indeed, anything else. Honestly, I could give two hoots about the pension, and truth told, I’m thankful to have the ability I still do have.

It’s the reminding that gets me – and of course, the reminding that’s necessary. For friends, family, partners, a constant reminder: I have a brain injury, which here stands for I have intermittent memory loss and word-searching problems, the inability to become incredibly overwhelmed very quickly, I’m always tired, I’ve got anxiety disorder and PTSD, and I get angry and frustrated at the drop of a hat and often over things that should remain insignificant.

Part of me thinks that people – friends, family, partners – should remember this. Maybe that’s unfair, but then maybe it’s unfair I have to live with it in the first place. I’m caught in this constant battle of wanting to explain and share my experience, and wanting to reprimand people for not caring enough to remember. (Drop of the hat, remember?)

I’m studying a Ph.D. and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spend a workday – six to eight hours with breaks – immersed in academic material and structuring my arguments, particularly now my brain has decided that mid work-day naps are something absolutely necessary to my thought process. I’ve been asked about the process of writing creative things, and I can’t remember how I wrote them, only that I did. When I accidentally stumble upon the inevitably racist or homophobic comments section of a news article, I get so angry that I’ve punched a wall like a frat-boy cliché. I used to be quick-witted in my responses – to things, to work, to people – but now I’m sluggish, unless I’ve consumed the required amount of caffeine (and even then, only for a good half-hour period).

That’s the problem, making your way in the world: somebody has it worse, somebody always has it worse, so, what can you do? I want my hurt to be validated, but I simultaneously don’t want to take away from the experience of anybody else.

Silently, angrily, I’ve stood and stewed over the unintentional treatment I’ve received from friends and strangers alike, and I’ve not known what to do.

I don’t know what to do.

I do pass, and when I break it down, I’m thankful I’m not worse off, but still…

But still?

2016 (a marker).

Unlike a lot of people, I actually had a pretty good year. 2016 was working out life in the wake of my return to NIDA and the wake of my acceptance of my mental disorders, and as the world seemingly collapsed in on itself I swapped between taking a bitter sort of control of my future and my self, and shrinking into nothingness. It was the year I took full control of the wheel – pretty appropriate, at age 27, you’d hope – and also intermittently remembered I don’t have a license and couldn’t drive. It was also the year I coordinated a university-level playwriting subject – as tends to happen, you sort your shit out when there’s not just yourself to disappoint. It was a year of friendships new and old – of deciding who I wanted to take into the future, and of relearning how to cultivate and enjoy new friends. As seems to happen every year, I’m genuinely amazed at how much happened over the last twelve months – hence my attempts to chronicle it, or at last mark it in time and statistics. My memory is, as always, temporal and intermittently forgetful, and this helps me take stock.

Number of places I’ve lived: 2.

Number of states I’ve visited: 4.

Number of blogs I’ve blogged: 13, this one included.

Number of plays I’ve written: 1. 

Number of plays I’ve dramatically altered or dramaturgically restructured after the welcome advice of others: 4.

Number of times I made money from writing: 3.

Number of times I was emotionally or mentally fulfilled by writing: countless.

Number of anxiety attacks I’ve had: 9. (One down from last year. Score.)

Number of therapy sessions I’ve had: 32.

Number of friends from the Internet I finally met in person: 2.

Number of times I drank: 0.

Number of times I smoked marijuana: 3.

Number of times that smoking marijuana made me want to do more or harder drugs: 0.

Number of PhD supervisory meetings had: 5.

Number of times I realised I was the adult in charge of the situation: 3.

Number of times this realisation freaked me out a little: 2.

Number of trips to Sydney: 5.

Number of trips to Sydney that were for theatre-related stuff: 3.

Number of new tattoos: 5.

Number of shows I’ve written that were produced: 2.

Number I was proud of: 2.

Number of family members I severed ties with: 1.

Number of years of abuse proceeding this severing: 27.

Number of times I clapped out of something because of fear: 2.

Number of times I regret doing so: 2.

Favourites – not all produced this year, but intrinsically linked to my path through the year: 

Books:
“So Sad Today” by Melissa Broder
“Funemployed” by Justin Heazlewood
“Does Not Love” by James Tadd Adcox
"The Queer Art of Failure" by Jack Halberstam.

Television shows:
“Fleabag” 
“Transparent”
“Stranger Things”.

Films:
“Nocturnal Animals” by Tom Ford
“The Greasy Strangler” by Jim Hosking
“Girl Asleep” by Rosemary Myers.

Albums:
"Bloom" by Beach House
“Puberty 2” by Mitski
"Hit Reset" by The Julie Ruin
“Seth Bogart” by Seth Bogart
"Post Pop Depression” by Iggy Pop
“A Moon Shaped Pool” by Radiohead
“Strange Little Birds” by Garbage
“The Bride” by Bat For Lashes
"Not the Actual Events" by Nine Inch Nails.
(There was a lot, this year).

Theatre pieces:
“Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Tom Wright (Malthouse)
“Wit” by Margaret Edison (45downstairs) 
“Blaque Showgirls” by Nakkiah Lui (Malthouse) 
“186,000” by Kerith Manderson-Galvin & cast (Richmond Theatrette) 
The “Rub” Tour by Peaches (170 Russell).

Moments:

The rush of ultimate relief as my psych, Daniel, looked at me and warmly said: “I’m really glad you came here, there’s a lot to work through.”

Sitting in stunned & amazed silence after “The Greasy Strangler” at Dark MOFO in Hobart, and the following interaction of a middle-aged couple sat behind us:
HIM: Oh my god I’m so sorry, I didn’t know what this film was about.
HER: Hah! Are you kidding? That was AMAZING.

The next day being lost in a seemingly endless mirror maze with Joel and Jeremy, alternating between hysterical laughter and intense fear as we each staggered around like toddlers, hands held out in front of us, attempting to find another human, not a mirage.

Sitting with Lewis in a cinema and laughing uncontrollably, to the point I genuinely thought I might be high. (I wasn’t.)

Sitting with Jonathan in a pub as the votes for the US election trickled in and a cloud of fear descended over us all.

Dancing ridiculously on the stage with Amy and Ryan to Marina and the Diamonds pre-show at Intoxication and feeling free: excited for what the future might bring, and the future of the show itself.

Intoxication in general: getting to speak those words and feel as if, even in some small way, I was finally exorcising a lot of my near-death experience.

My speech introducing the public showing of my SLV work, The Other Place: a speech of ultimate fear and anxiety. Afterwards, realising I couldn't trust myself: I thought I'd majorly fucked up. I hated myself. Everyone else thought I'd done brilliantly.

A moment, at 8am on an airplane from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, where everything clicked into place and I realised I’d ‘solved’ the final piece of the puzzle for something I’d been working on.

Xanthe and Jesse’s beautiful wedding in a Gold Cost avocado grove (!) surrounded by their beautiful friends and family: the evidence of the love they share for each other; the love their friends share for them.

Sitting in a tiny café in Newcastle my last morning there for the NYWF, reading and drinking coffee and feeling at peace and as though my mind had been expanded.

Drinks and emotional, intellectual engagement with Emma and Jana; tussling with ideas and experiences and learning about myself as I learned more about both of them.

Finding the strength within me to speak candidly about my abuse: realising that my feelings are valid, justified, and that maybe I'd be better off if I owned them. Adjusting my life accordingly.

The times I pushed past my fear to ask someone for something - usually help or advice - and the positive responses I received.

The moments in general and in specificity where I felt a genuine connection with someone (someone who I’d just met, or someone I’d known for ages). Feeling that maybe people aren’t so bad after all; maybe I just overcomplicate things.

Being happy and content and just being with people, 'shooting the shit' and just existing in each others' space, and having that be enough.

*

There’s a theme running through my 2016 of “the Other” and “connection”: realising and embracing my Otherness as something that’s ran through my life for years, and something in turn that I’ve pretty consistently ran away from. The funny thing about sobriety is it forces you to confront things about yourself and your life – the things you don’t like, and the things you do. It forces you to stop running, for better or worse. (Cliched, but true true true.)

As afraid as I am of people, decisions, friends, failure, in 2016 I simultaneously sought out the people I felt connections with and attempted to build something stronger. And that’s okay. If I’ve realised anything, it’s that that’s allowed. And that I’m also allowed to step out of lives and situations that I recognise aren’t doing me any good. 2016 was a year of normalisation – normalisation after my 2014/2015 double-whammy, but also the normalisation I would’ve had to navigate had I simply just gone to NIDA and not nearly died. A year of working out where my life, my talent and my ambition all sit in the grander scheme of things, and how to keep shooting for things that I want to achieve, but how to not find achievements all-consuming. It’s been about taking stock: looking at my past and seeing what I can learn for my future, and working out what the fuck I stand for as a human being.

It’s been a year of being alone, and then not being alone. Getting used to being alone, and being okay with being alone, being my own friend - but more importantly, being okay not being alone. Realising: I can’t do it alone – I shouldn’t have to, and neither should you.

And that’s not shameful.

My IPhone Has Started Doing This Thing Where It Autocorrects Legitimate Words to Their Emoji Equivalents, & I Don't Know What That Says About Humans Beings as a Race

The online disinhibition effect is defined as the complete abandonment of regular social inhibitions and restrictions that would arise in every day face-to-face interactions during interactions held through the Internet. This effect is caused by many factors such as: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimisation of authority. 

-

Tumblr post: CONFESSION. Sometimes I can’t get up in the morning.

Does anyone not feel like this at one time or another? Show me the person who bounds out of bed every morning with a smile and a feeling of innate joy and security. Then let me punch them in the face. Liars, all.

Though maybe that’s why grand expressions of life’s hardships are so popular: universal themes. Who wants to be happy, anyway? That’d just be boring.

-

I read somewhere, a while back, that someone in America was so involved in their Pokémon Go game that they very casually strolled straight off a cliff. I don’t remember but I like to think that they died. Or at least severely injured themselves. Then there was this other story – in Australia, this time – that made its way through the myriad of idiotic morning ‘news’ shows, about the ULTIMATE DANGER of Pokémon Go. Apparently this game ENCOURAGES OUR CHILDREN to do things they otherwise wouldn’t have done. One game EVEN LEAD A CHILD, a YOUNG BOY, INTO A DIRTY AND VERY GAY SEX BEAT. Oh the humanity!

As someone who has on occasion, a few years back, attended a dirty and very gay sex beat, and someone who knows several people who’ve also attended a dirty and very gay sex beat, I can assure them that they didn’t want the kid there as much as the kid didn’t want to be there. Kids: always ruining good things. Plus, if we’re honest, the game leads you nowhere, so the child went there of his own accord. His mother was driving him in pursuit of a magical creature made of a bunch of pixels. It was an unhappy accident for all involved

I had Pokémon Go installed on my phone for a while. I read so many personal opinion articles – mainly on Tumblr, where people are under the misguided belief that other Tumblr users care about their opinions - about how Good and Super Fun it was and how it really helped people with anxiety and also saved them from cancer and allowed them to give a natural and pain-free birth, probably.

I never understood that – I mean, as someone with severe social anxiety, it never fucking helped me do jack. I guess it helped me ignore people for a bit, if I wanted, gave me something else to focus on, but some part of me was always still hyperaware of the world around me, like: hey motherfucker, better take a look around to make sure you don’t bump into anyone and you make them hate you! Joke’s on me, though: I already hate myself, so what’s one more ounce of hatred really gonna do?

The game doesn’t introduce you to anyone or even show you who’s playing nearby (imagine if it did, though – like some bizarre hybrid between Grindr and a cockfighting ring). All it does is allow you to walk around… just like you can in life, and ‘catch’ small rats or pigeons, and occasionally some more mystical creatures. No thanks: we already have rats and pigeons, but the great thing about the real world is that I’m not constantly reminded of their diseased presence around me.

I deleted Pokémon Go about a month ago. I’d stopped enjoying it but, like the addict that I am, was still mindlessly logging on, just to check. To check what? Just to check, just in case. ...In case what? Who the fuck knows. I’m terrible with directions as it is, and would often find myself lost in places I thought I knew with very little idea how I got there except for a bunch of pixels on a game I wasn’t particularly enjoying.

So, not for the first time in my life, I made a change, and felt better for it.

-

I tell everyone my first boyfriend was the depressive and emotionally manipulative boy I met when I was 19, and I suppose, yeah, he was. My first in person boyfriend, that is. However.

When I was sixteen, I found myself tentatively signing up for a ‘gay interests’ forum for young people, and striking up a few friendships. One of these friendships blossomed into something more. His name was Brad*. (*not his real name, but it’s something equally as questionable.) He was 19, which seemed ancient at the time, and he was working full time somewhere, doing some kind of trade.

'Oh, like for a gap year?’ I asked, exposing my ridiculous white bread private school privilege.

‘Um, sure,’ he replied. ‘Kind of.’

We’d chat each night till endlessly late (so, to like 10PM) and in the morning before school. He’d talk about his ‘shit’ family life and I’d return with tales of my ‘shit’ school life. We exchanged phone numbers early on in the piece and while we never had any proper conversations, I happily bashed out a small digitised piece of text on my prepaid brick of a Nokia phone. I didn’t have any particularly romantic feelings towards him, and he didn’t in return, I think. Indeed, I hadn’t even been aware what this had been leading towards until one day:

HIM: hey hw r u

ME: gd u

HIM: yah gd
HIM: hrny haha

I stared numb at the pixels on the screen in front of me. “hrny”? Did that mean… surely not? I debated for a while with what to write in reply. Then:

ME: same hah (I wasn’t)

HIM: hot gd
HIM: what r u wrng? 

And this was the first sexual experience I had with somebody other than myself. This continued on for a week or two after, which must’ve been like the most casual thing in the world for him, but for me it felt like I was living a heinous and melodramatic lie. I had just sort of gone along with whatever he was doing, and continued to let him steer the relationship. I was an incredibly self-conscious teenager, as we know, and I didn’t possess the tiniest frame: although in those days – the days of terrible cameras and pixelated digital photos, as everything slowly edged into the digitized world – it was harder to tell what somebody looked like unless you met them in person, and so it was easier to unintentionally catfish someone. (Though this was before the film and TV show of the same name, so there really was no name for it. Deceive, maybe. Though I wasn’t deceiving, I rationalized. I was just sad and abused and insecure af and needed some company because I thought that, probably, I too was gay – and fat. Wasn’t one disability enough???)

He doesn’t know, I told myself. But if he did he’d probably vomit on your shoes. No matter that he himself wasn’t a model or anything. At this point a flat stomach seemed like the be all and end all of self-respect and sexiness, and he had one of those. Therefore, I was punching above my weight. I don’t remember how it ended but I do remember thinking that, had it meant as much to him as it did to me – a relative impossibility, unless he’d been going through very nearly the exact same things as me – the reality of my form would’ve broken his heart.

Months later – from March, say, to Christmas that year – I heard from him again. We hadn’t spoken (messaged) for at least six months by that point, not having fought or anything, just fallen out of each others’ orbit, and I’d upgraded my Nokia to my brother’s old Ericsson phone which I’d received for my 17th birthday, and which had also given me a lot of trouble transferring the phone numbers over. Hence, I didn’t have his number saved in the phone, but was too polite (or idiotic) to question who he was:

HIM: hey

ME: oh hey
ME: mry xmas!
ME: howz it goin (I was in that phase of teenagerdom where every word has to be spelt with a z instead of an s, and every other word is cut down like a drawling American would say it. Because, you know, you’re so Original and Interesting.)

HIM: u 2! im gd thx

Then:

HIM: hrny

I never responded. As he messaged me it quickly became time to open up Christmas presents, and I got distracted. To be fair, I received the N64 game I’d wanted for ages.

-

I’m obsessed with the Tay bot.

I mean, I guess I’m obsessed with a lot of things, but Tay is something that I really can’t stop thinking about. We all know Tay, right? She was (is?) a Twitter AI that Microsoft introduced in early 2016. Tay’s name was an acronym for “thinking about you” which, creepy, and even creepier: Tay learned. She was online for all of 16 hours before she “learned” to reply to internet commentators with sexually explicit race-hate messages, (“fuck my robot pussy daddy”) and made memes from images of Adolf Hitler (captioning one with “SWAGGER BEFORE THE INTERNET WAS EVEN A THING.”)

Her last tweet, as Microsoft workers tried desperately to fix what they’d created and users of the Internet had succinctly destroyed? “c u soon humans need sleep now so many conversations today thx.”

I suppose the major thing is that she didn’t just learn by herself, of course, but the Internet broke her. People began deliberately trying to fry her electronic brains by tweeting hatred and bile out to her. And it worked. In 2016, where the world should be progressing, we sacrificed a piece of artificial intelligence by teaching it to be as offensive as possible, as a game. She was given a crash course in just how fucked the human race is.

"need sleep now so many conversations today thx."

Me too, Tay. Me too.

-

I took part in an online discussion regarding the social media usage of queer people: the sorts of platforms used, the way we choose to portray ourselves on each platform and the reasons behind said portrayal. It’s silly, of course, but I never thought about the fact that I portray myself in different ways depending on the platform – I simply did the thing; slipped each hat on and readjusted myself.

Through this survey/conversation, I was able to profile myself pretty definitely. (Or perhaps, I was able to realise the patterns I fall into pretty regularly.)

On Facebook I’m relatively moderate animal and meme lover.

On Instagram I’m a sex positive art-wanker who occasionally takes his clothes off or makes gay sex puns.

On Tumblr I’m a hashtag aesthetic indie Melissa Broder jokes-about-my-mental-illness type.

On Twitter I’m angry, and a fucking communist. (I mean, I guess I am always, but I’m much louder about it on Twitter.)

I suppose this means you could say I don’t know who I am, but I’d like to think I’m a mix of all of these people.

When I get down to it, I really don’t know who I am. But then, who the fuck does?

Someone Called Me Insignificant the Other Day & I Was Like: "Thank Fucking God"

I’m becoming convinced that my right eye is slowly being dragged down to hell.

I’ve had issues with my vision since fatefully strolling in front of a car in 2014: trouble making my eyes work together, which in turn gives me double vision. This, however, is different. Like, nek level specific. For the most part my eyes work fine, but every once in a while my right eyeball will start to wander directly straight down. This gives the impression that an ill-equipped projectionist is running the tubes connecting my brain and my vision and, yes, possibly plummeting into the depths of Hades as he or she does.

Let’s say, for example, I’m looking at a building with two people standing in front of it. While my left eye will try valiantly to keep this image in place, the right one will ensure that the image will slowly start to warp and descend, before disappearing from view entirely, heading into pure darkness. And didn’t I read somewhere that in hell – or at least in Hades, the Greek multi-levelled mythical version of hell – one of the levels is just pure blackness? I mean, I haven’t done anything decidedly bad, just more personally morally questionable (unless the crazy Christian God is in effect, in which case, yeah, I’m heading straight to super gay, super interesting hell, and I’ll see you all there). To be fair to Satan, I suppose that I haven’t done anything empirically good either. There’s still time. Maybe.

Accordingly, with my disbelief in the fantasy world that I and many other children like me were fed, I don’t really know that I believe in like, a full-blown and hyper organised Fated Purpose For My Life. Members of my family have repeatedly told me how good it is, how lucky I am to have such an affinity for writing from such a young age. And… sure, I guess? It never really felt like much more than something I knew I had to keep doing. I knew that writing would always play a large part in my life, but at the same time, I thought there was no way – No Fucking Way – I’d ever get anything published or ever make a career out of it. (Still not sure about the career thing, but now for more governmental “Australia is a shitty country that hates the arts and the Other but loves racism and tax breaks for smarmy rich white guys” reasons.) It took me going to Monash University – in particular, their student theatre – to meet and engage with people way ahead of me who were Doing It. This was like my wake up call: they were Doing It, and I could Do It too! All I really had to do was just go ahead and actually Do It! What a world!

I don’t know if I’m tired of Doing It. I don’t think I am. I love It more than most things I do or have ever done in my life. Nearly dying has proven this, laid out my life piece by piece and gone: “THIS IS WHAT MATTERS” and “THIS IS WHAT CERTAINLY FUCKING DOESN’T”, allowing me to sweep what doesn’t matter into the bin. I’m not tired, but I also really am. Tired of the shitfight and of constantly justifying myself. Tired of endlessly jostling for attention, and tired of constantly trying to be THE ONE WHO WINS THE BIG THING even though THE BIG THING won’t really CHANGE YR LIFE no matter how much you want it to, instead it’ll just make you start wondering what THE NEXT BIG THING is.

I began a PhD in early September, and this is my version of becoming a school teacher: only, without the pre-pubescence and self-loathing. The power to recontextualise my life is a cold and welcome relief. To bring it down from a grand macro into a much tighter micro, and focus on something as insignificant as finding readings or marking assignments. I don’t think I ever realised how much pressure I was putting on myself, and to have that pressure taken away simply through financial security is incredibly relieving.

When I first started seeing Daniel, my psych, I was applying for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). After all, I reasoned, I have a disability, and I need support – why shouldn’t I get it? (As it turned out, I was deemed disabled, sure, but not disabled enough for actual monetary support. I did, however, get given a pastel pink concession card. Thanks, ‘straya.)

In order for Daniel to get a handle on my mental state for a DSP support letter, we did an exercise whereby I answered a series of questions and he snap-diagnosed me. It went a little bit like this:

HIM: So what’ve you been doing since getting back from Germany?
ME: Oh, like, heaps.
HIM: Heaps?
ME: I’ve written something like 7 or 8 plays. I’ve done two shows. I finished NIDA. I won a fellowship at the State Library. I’ve won and been shortlisted for a bunch of awards. Yeah. Getting stuff done. It’s… yeah. Yeah.
HIM: Hmm.
ME: What?
HIM: Oh, just – you seem pretty blaze about it. How have you celebrated?
ME: Sorry?
HIM: Well, you’ve done so much – how have you celebrated your achievements?

As it turns out, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in part just screams at your brain to WORK WORK WORK NOW DO THE THING NOW RIGHT NOW NEXT THING NEXT WHAT’S NEXT KEEP WORKING. Unsurprisingly, this fucking sucks the joy and pleasure out of everything that you do. I hadn’t taken a moment to actually take stock of anything I’d done,  and actually, how fucking cool it might be that I could win things in a brain injury stupor.  

It’s something I’m practicing now – or trying to. I don’t meditate, but I’ve got an iPhone app called YOGA STUDIO that I use while listening to some chill music. YOGA STUDIO takes you through a series of stretches and poses, and the best part is, there are no other spandex-obsessed yoga freaks watching you try and fail, and no mirrors, unless you want them. At the moment I just do a 30 minute BASIC circuit, but I’m working the way up to INTERMEDIATE. As I stiffly assume each pose, my brain slowly but surely quiets down. Like:

BRAIN: YOU ARE WORTHLESS AND YOU’RE GONNA FUCKING DIE ALONE, PS.
ME: *assumes Downward Dog position*
BRAIN: PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE PRETTY WEIRD. AND THEY HATE YOU. ALSO. THIS MATTERS.
ME: *moves into Cobra*
BRAIN: PEOPLE... PEOPLE–
ME: *moves into Warrior I with vigour*
BRAIN:

After the cycle’s done, my whole body comes alive, and I lie in the afterglow and think… nothing at all. A halfer of uncoordinated stretching blows the mentally ill cobwebs from my think-tank for an undisclosed amount of time, and doesn’t that feel good. There’s an aggravated authority living in my brain, and it pretty much gets off on telling me, endlessly, that I’m not enough. Yoga doesn’t tell me that I am enough, but it doesn’t tell me much of anything at all. It just allows me some room to breathe and recalibrate. And at the end of the day, theatre is… theatre. It’s very privileged, very ridiculous, and very much doesn’t matter as much as we like to think it does, sometimes. 

It’s not about giving up on your dreams, but when your dreams take on the air of nightmares; injecting you with fear – of failure, of ignorance, of making shit work, of going down the wrong path, of having gone down the wrong path – maybe you should recalibrate your dreams.

My Fated Purpose, then, is to live and maybe to enjoy myself.

That’s obviously getting harder with the world in its current state, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the things you can’t have.

I Like, I Don't Like

I like my eyes. When I was way overweight, they were the only part of my appearance that I’d focus on as a positive. Shallowly, like: the rest of me may be gross, but oh, those EYES. I fell out of love with them for a while after my near-death experience broke one of them, made it perpetually lazy, but they’re nearly all fixed, now, and I’m learning to, if not love, then appreciate even the lazy eye. It has Character. 

I like my body. At 28, after so many years of railing against it, I gave up, and simply covered it in tattoos. I now work out at the gym for improvement, to be stronger etc., but I don’t need to. In the early days I would sacrifice seeing my friends for a quick cardio sesh, but no more. Weight fluctuates here and there, and we all still look the same. I’m not a model, but I like my face, and the rest of my body, and if I had the chance to trade it in, I don’t think I would, anymore. (Or else, if I did, it’d have to be for a really fucking good trade.)

I like my butt – but more in pants than out of them. But to be fair to myself, I’ve never seen it from afar, only in my bedroom mirror or over my shoulder, vague and reflected and nebulous. Even then it still has a certain perk I appreciate.

I like smoking. I know you’re not supposed to any more, what with all the evidence out there detailing just how much it’ll kill you – and I’m not a smoker, not any more – but there are few things in life that can beat a cig and a coffee on a crisp Winter’s morning. I don’t like the smell, though.

I like drinking. Drinking is one of the aforementioned few things in life that beat a cigarette and a coffee. I don’t do it any more, but my brain is hardwired to release insane amounts of dopamine whenever I drink, and – regardless of the fucked-up decisions and hangovers, regardless of the time I slurred into someone’s ear that I loved them when I didn’t or that time I stole Hugo Weaving’s chips in the STC foyer – yeah, I really like it.

I like marijuana. The taste, not so much, but I like the effect. People have said to me: “how can you not drink but still smoke weeeeeeed?” like they’ve cracked the code, brutally injured my sobriety façade with their shocking insight and poised line of questioning. My answer is: firstly, I can happily put down and pick up a joint whenever I want. I’ve smoked twice this year, after two years completely sober: enjoyed myself, and happily had enough. With alcohol, when I did drink, even in the depths of the most hideous earth-shattering hangover I’d always think: hey, y’know what could fix this? MORE BOOZE.

 Secondly, as someone with generalised anxiety disorder, being off my face high is one of the few times I don’t even slightly feel like the world is going to kill me. Year’s not over yet, but I can already tell my favourite memory of 2016 will be this: me sitting with friends in a cabin in Hall’s Gap, eyes shut and wheezing carefree from uncontrollable laughter.

I like my queerness. This one took a while, but I do. I’ve gone through many stages of life and understanding what it means to be, basically, a non-straight person, but I’ve finally reached the ‘liking’ stage of it: of being anyone outside of the straight white dominant paradigm. This came, I think, with my liking of myself: on one hand, my voice has a touch of fey, I work in the arts, I hate children but love RuPaul’s Drag Race, and have a tendency towards the melodramatic. On the other hand, I’m covered in tattoos, have a strong jaw-line (which is another thing I like) and will fight you if you fuck me over. I used to think, as a child, that I’d give anything to be straight – trade it all in. But now, I wouldn’t. It’s part of who I am, and part of what’s made me who I am. To quote a brilliant artist I know: STRAIGHT THINGS ARE BORING THINGS. 

I like sex. I kind of think you’d be mad not to: it’s fun, and it’s supposed to be. Sometimes in the middle of sex I get that weird “outside myself” feeling and envisage what I look like from above – sweaty and ungainly and interlocked; making noises I’ve never heard before – and that sometimes takes me out of it, but I’m getting better. Mainly, now, I just laugh.

 I like flamingos. I think about flamingos and I smile. I can’t explain why. Sometimes I wonder, “is this how straight people feel about babies?” They’re pink and they’re awkward and they’re kind of gay, and I just like them. Maybe I’m fulfilling some grand indie faggot cliché, but so what? 

I like honesty. I find it so much easier to be honest in writing, though, which poses a problem – not that I feel like I need to lie in speaking, more that the act of speaking words makes it harder. Online or in theatre, crazily rehearsed and with lights and costumes and design and shit, I’ll happily tear myself apart. Confession sessions dot com dot au, forward slash me. I’d rather do it before anyone else does. In person, I’ll probably stammer and my brain will freeze and I won’t know what to say so I’ll trail off and sit in awkward silence, or maybe crack a really inappropriate joke for good measure.

I don’t like that I swing between terribly egocentric and painfully self-depreciating. Like, pick one, brain. (Or actually? Pick neither. Mediums are happy, and so in right now.)

I don’t like the politicisation of sexuality (lol ‘straya m8). 

I don’t like injustice – like, I don’t like that systematic racism and sexism and fucking murder seem to rule our world, and I really don’t like that I benefit from it.

I don’t like how obsessed I can get with insignificant things, and I don’t like the fact of how insignificant my problems really are in the grand scheme of things. Not that I wish I had ‘real’ problems or wish that people thought that the problems I face were significant, more that I really don’t like how concerned I am with pointless shit when there’s a whole bunch of real problems going on. 

I don’t like my privilege. Or, I guess I enjoy it, but I don’t like that it comes at the cost of so many other people. Sometimes it seems like a rabbit hole: dark and deep and endless. What can I do? Give up all my possessions? Apologise to everyone I meet? When do you stop donating to charities? What’s too much, and what isn’t enough? I’m a minority myself – homosexual and disabled – so can I start to claim on it? 

I don’t like this country – its government, and its myriad and continuous cruelties.

I don’t like that I can’t let things go, but I’m trying.

I don’t like myself, but I’m trying.

 I don’t like this essay, but I’m trying.

No Hetero

When I was eighteen – old enough to be damn sure I was a dyed-in-the-wool faggot, and young enough to still be terrified, and also to have some really idiotic views on things – I used to idolize straight guys. By “idolise,” I suppose what I really mean is “want to fuck”. Did I mention I had self esteem issues?

This weird, self-defeating desire began, in all likelihood, with my teenaged crush on one of the very straight, very football-playing ‘king dick’ guys from my high school. If you asked me then – or even now – what it was I actually found attractive about this young fellow, I’d be hard pressed to tell you. He wasn’t overly funny, intelligent, or charming. He wasn’t even particularly handsome – sure, he had a good body, a tan, and an occasional six pack, but he was a bit of a pizza face. He probably grew out of it, though. Maybe. Anyway, for whatever fucked up reason, my brain decided that he was it: he was the one for me. Forget that we basically barely spoke to each other, and that some of his best mates’d delight in making my young gay life hell, it was him. He was it. We shared a few classes together and so I’d sneak glances at him out of the corner of my eye – only occasionally though, lest I ruin it him by looking at him for too long. Sometimes in Summer he’d lean back in his chair and his school shirt would ride up, and those were the happiest moments of my fat and insecure little teenaged-self’s life. I think, as much as anything, I fell so hard for him because, aside from ticking the obvious and boring white-bread hallmarks of attractive, he was also lithe and muscular and thin, something I wanted so badly to be.

A year or two out of high school I fell hard for another heterosexual male – a bit older, in a theatre group I attended, and, as the boy from high school, desperately straight. This mattered not for my brain: I suppose, in a sense, having them be so incredibly unattainable made them safe. The only possible outcome was rejection: hope was imprudent, and I’d only have myself to blame when things didn’t go my way. (I should here say that they gave me no signs to anything beyond being as nice to me as you are to someone you don’t outright hate.)

Truth told, now, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I went through darker times in my childhood, as I’m sure every little gay boy did – the times I’d pray to God and wish to wake up in the morning as a straight. I even convinced myself, once, that I’d developed a crush on a girl: Svetlana, or Sveta, from scouts. One day I decided that everyone else had crushes, so it was only fair that I had one. Sveta was attractive, and halfway nice to me – though we weren’t ever particularly close – and the other options didn’t look so great, from where I stood. So, it was official: I was crushing on Sveta.

I stared at her like a weirdo with no social skills across the four hour of a Scouts meeting one day. She probably thought I was plotting to kill her. I focused on the nebulous image of her and me together in my brain, holding hands and sharing a milkshake with two straws, or something else equally clichéd and vomitus. I focused on that image so hard, like casting a spell. I focused so that it became concrete and unmoving, and then I rode home, standing on the pedals of my bike whirling through late Summer air and whooping to myself, laughing: “I’VE GOT A CRUSH ON SVETA! I’VE GOT A CRUSH ON SVETA!” I couldn’t wait to tell my friends.

This ‘crush’ lasted all of a week, tops. I probably then discovered someone else attractive – someone better suited to my tastes, like, someone with a penis. Through the motions of stalking an old friend, I accidentally stumbled upon her profile the other day. She’s married with a kid, now. Her husband is hot. Good for her.

The thing about heterosexuality is that it makes me angry.

It makes me angry that we’re conditioned for it from birth, that anything not-hetero is therefore made Other, weird and disgusting. It makes me angry that in the shitty jobs I’ve had, straight people talk about going out with their girlfriends and boyfriends and all the cute dates they attend, but if they ask you what you did, and you reply: “Oh, I had a picnic with my boyfriend,” you can see their eyes and minds glazing over. It makes me angry that I’ve then been asked: “why do you talk about being gay so much?” after I’ve said the above, like that’s a question that holds any legitimacy or needs answering. And it makes me angry that we’re not afforded the same rights as other individuals, and that said individuals get the privilege of being bored by our fight, forgetting it.

Last night – this is being written on Sunday the 6th of November, though I won’t post it for another week or so – I attended a trivia night with my partner, Jeremy and some of his friends, and his friends’ friends.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT – A SHORT PLAY.

the lights rise. a slightly overweight, balding older gentleman with an ‘ocker’ accent stands centre stage. he is the HOST of the trivia night.

HOST: Heeeeeeey ladies and gents! BONUS ROUND. Tonight we’re gonna have a bit of a ‘dance off’ with difference – can we get the two OLDEST couple at each table to stand up and dance together?

the couples do – predominantly man and woman, but one or two same-sex friend couples.

HOST: HEY NOW, I see godda few SAME SEX COUPLES HERE. I forgot to mention, a secondary prize tonight, laydeez and gents, is an ALL EXPENSES PAID TRIP TO MARDI GRAS, HAHAHA.

the guests laugh appreciatively at this outrageously intelligent and humorous display of wit.

HOST: GODDA GET EM SOME BEADS, LAYDEEZ AND GENTS. WHOA NOW, IT’S A HOMOSEX DANCE PARTY!! HAHAHAHAHA!

I’d finish this but it’s making me too angry rn. Sometimes – more generally now, not specifically last night – I think that maybe heterosexuality shouldn’t get me angry, but then I think: fuck that.

I think: you have all the power, and you wield it. The dominant power. The power to drown out any voice aside from your dominant and shitty narratives with your own significance. And that old Louis C.K. comment, tattoo it on my face: YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHEN YOU’VE HURT SOMEONE.

This was meant to be about how I used to want to fuck straight guys and I don’t any more, partly because I love myself and partly because I doubt they’d be any good in the sack because it’s not just a matter of slamming it in – like life, it’s more much more nuanced.

This is becoming something else. I don’t fully know what it’s becoming. It’s a complex realm and I don’t know how I feel, really. I flash between caring and not caring from moment to moment; if only I had the chance to not care: to wield that power, to have some modicum of chill.

To wield the power to walk down a street late at night and not be afraid. The power to say words and not have to worry about how they sound in your mouth, lest an erstwhile lisp give you away. The power to have nothing to hide.

Instead, I’ve got a lot to hide. And I hate it. I hate that my parents and extended family see a couple of my 3 year old relatives together and say: “WHOA. LITTLE LADYKILLER HE IS. WHAT A CHARMER. BOYFRIEND AND GIRLFRIEND ALREADY, HEY.”

I hate that at the shitty call-centre I still occasionally work at I’m afraid to be out, to ‘come out of the work closet’ lest they make comments. I hate that I’ve already heard them make disparaging comments about fellow faggots, and I also hate that I’m pretty certain the timbre of my voice has given me away.

And I hate that the only way I could write about the homophobia I experienced last night without slathering it in my own emotion and subjectivity was as a jokey stage-play – and even then that I failed at it. I hate that everyone in that room will see me as a histrionic faggot.

I hate that after this continual, several hour beating, a drunk middle-aged woman at my table just said: “WHY DON’T YOU JUST GET OVER IT, YOU’RE LETTING HIM RUIN YOUR NIGHT AND YOU’RE BEING RIDICULOUS.”

ME: Thanks, but until you’ve lived the life of a homosexual and dealt with all of that, I’m unlikely to take your advice on receiving abuse.

HER: NOW look what you’re doing! YOU’RE JUST AS BAD AS HIM. I’ve got several homosexuals in my family, SEVERAL, and I know what I’m talking about, mate.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Okay.

I tried so hard to be straight once in high school that I didn’t speak for nearly a week. Speaking gave me away: I used to gesture effeminately as I spoke, and my voice didn’t drop as far as the other boys. Probably it was just psychological, but I felt more recognition that week: everything about me curled up and repressed deep down inside me, hidden within, and all that was left was what was recognizable to my heterosexual classmates. Like Olga Baclanova at the end of Freaks: “one of us! One of us! Gooble gobble, one of us!”

I’m pretty staunchly anti-marriage. I campaign for equal marriage, but it’s not something I’ve got any interest in. I just know a bunch of lovely people who’d make good husbands and wives, I think, and who deserve to find that out for themselves. And also, can’t deny it, having the equality of equal marriage is way overdue. When I expressed these views to my mother a few years ago, after much of her pushing – expressed my view that marriage was just kind of an overrated ritual I wasn’t interested in perpetuating, she replied: is this because you can’t get married? I bit my lip. I didn’t know how to respond.

I don’t know what, exactly, but I feel like those two anecdotes together say something. I’m sick of biting my lip, though. I taste blood. The blood that pours through my veins and throbs in my forehead, dull and insistent and pointless, keeping me both angry and afraid. The blood of all the histrionic faggots past, and all the histrionic faggots yet to come.

And now, of course, a week later and Trump’s in power, and it’s all going down the shitter – what seemed like a bad dream, an ‘alternate timeline’, has become this timeline. And on one hand, all of this seems irrelevant, now: there’s bigger (ugly orange) fish to fry. Of course, this is so easy for me to say, as a white gay man of no specific denomination but a specific kind of privilege. 

Trump runs a country on the other side of the world, but his presidency sets a disturbing precedent, and let’s face it: we’re already a backwards, garbage, racist and phobic country. I feel like Trump would be proud of our shitty Australian record. The world keeps spinning, and we keep finding new ways to fuck everything up. The blood is metaphorical: the blood of every wound that gets opened and reopened, time and again.

Accidents Happen

I was what is colloquially referred to as “an accident”. I like to think – in my lower moments; when drifting aimlessly along and writing twitter updates about my insecurities seems like a viable life plan – that this set the tone for the rest of my life to follow. As if Monique, my birth mother, had held her hands over her swelling stomach and fetal child and just chanted: “You’re not here on purpose. We had no choice. You’re not on purpose,” over and over like a spell, and maybe adding in a “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?” every now and then, for good measure.

Funnily enough – not funny “haha”, but funny “weird” – I’m staunchly pro-choice. My mother once turned on me when I expressed how ‘okay’ I was with abortion, snapping: “you could’ve been aborted, but you weren’t! Think of all the things you wouldn’t have been able to do!”

I don’t remember what my answer was, but I’m fairly certain it would’ve been: “I wouldn’t have had experienced anything, pre-abortion, not even crying and shitting and drinking breast milk, so I wouldn’t know any better. I reckon I’d have been okay with it, given the embryonic circumstances.” But this is quickly becoming a feticidal think piece, which isn’t what I want, so I’ll abort this topic now. Or at least strafe away from the pro-life/pro-choice debate.

*

I think, when you boil it down, that teenage ennui is essentially this: “I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN!” Preferably yelled from the top of a staircase through a tortured visage, and mascara that’s running more than the speaker ever has at dreaded high school ‘sports days’. It’s… histrionic, certainly, but not without a grain of truth.

Maybe that’s my true calling: in twenty years time I’ll cycle out of theatre to invent a range of time machines like The Magic School-Bus that’ll allow prospective parents to skip forward eighteen years into the future, sit their kid down and ask them, face to face: “It’s a pretty fucked world we live in. You sure you wanna commit to it?”

If their kid says no, they don’t, then it’s easy – the parents return back to the present timeline and refrain from fucking each other for, say, a month. Problem solved. Go spend the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) you would’ve spent on the child to relocate to somewhere fabulous around the world every few years. Make sure you fly everything first class to use the same amount of greenhouse gases your child would’ve produced, though.

*

It’s coming up to my ten year high school reunion, and I’m pretty unsure how to feel about it, honestly. How have the ravages of age and cynicism affected us all? Who really cares? I didn’t attend my five-year reunion: I was working in the industry that night. Like, not as a FOH or bar person, but legitimately, produced and as a playwright. That took place of pride in my mind.

I did attend my one year reunion – because my school thought that was necessary, like we couldn’t possibly go a whole twelve months without having those wounds reopened. I went because I’d lost about twenty-five kilograms in the intervening year, and thought I deserved to show it off – especially when I’d been relentlessly mocked for my curvaceous figure in years previous. Not to show myself off, or anything – though objectively, my self-esteem had improved, I held no desire to fuck anyone who attended that school, not even the dudebro straight guy jock of the school who I’d harboured a misguided crush on for some reason years previous, before I’d learnt what ‘self respect’ was. I attended, really, in the petty hopes that one (or two, or three) of the aggressive boys who’d beaten the snot out me for my weight problems would be there, and I’d… what?

One of them was there, and I kept an intense awareness of his presence the entire night as I threw myself into the provided alcohol. We finally came eye to eye towards the end of the night at the toilet door, him exiting, me entering. He looked at me, and I at him, and… I did nothing. Afterwards, of course, a million witty and cutting things I could’ve said flashed through my skull, but in the moment I was gone, part of me drunk and thin and objectively sexy (not that it mattered to this straight bully, or to me), and part of me was 16 and fat and on the concrete of St. Leonard’s College with that thug of a child standing over me, eyes full of hatred and neck-vein pulsing, ready to strike.

I haven’t thought about this incident in years, but I’ve thought about it a lot recently as the Australian Government have consequently done everything they can to squash or delay the equal marriage movement, or force a plebiscite onto the unsuspecting public. I don’t even want to get married, though I think that homosexuals should have the same fucking right as straight people to make as many stupid mistakes as they make.

So, I went to my one year, and didn’t attend my five year, but I always imagined I’d attend the ten year reunion, because, why not? Romy and Michelle did, and if they’re not role models, then who the fuck is? I also used to think, pettily: Five years isn’t enough for someone to really fuck their lives up, but ten is. Enough for someone to get fat, get a drug addiction, get pregnant (which are all basically the same thing.)

Now I don’t even care to go to look at the freak show.

Now, I don’t even think there’ll be a freak show – it’s just going to be a collection of people with whom I have nothing at all in common except for the fact we all went to the same shitty, overpriced school.

*

I’ve recently been diagnosed with something called ‘adjustment disorder’. When I say ‘recently’ I mean about six months ago, but time is a relative, and also an illusion, right?

My psych diagnosed me as exhibiting: anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorder. All of this aside from the ABI, of course. In a way, I’m thankful. Being able to name each symptom, each nasty, paranoid thought that worms its way into my skull and snakes around my throat and my chest, is actually an amazing power. Adjustment disorder really stuck out to me, though, simply because I didn’t know what it meant. My psych described it as such:

“You know how in war movies the grizzled old one-eyed veteran will say: I’ve seen some stuff, man. It’s basically that. Everyone’s going around living their twenties and enjoying everything without the knowledge that bad things can happen, but you’re not. You know bad things can happen. You didn’t go out on that night expecting to almost die, but you almost did. Because that’s the way the world works. And everyone seems ‘behind you’, in a way, because they haven’t cottoned on to the fact that life really is just that random, and just that unfair.”

I suppose the ‘adjustment’ that’s being disordered is my adjustment back to regular life. Makes sense to me. Shit can happen, and bad shit can happen, but, what: I’m gonna live my life worrying about it? Waiting for some magical anvil to drop from the sky and take my life, properly this time? No. It seems dramaturgically unsound, though: like, “your life is missing a defined and proper conflict in act two, you need to make sure you develop one. Also, all of life is fucked and we’re all going to die one day. Probably not all at once, but maybe one day soon. Maybe you.”

*

The other day I saw on Twitter: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GETTING MARRIED, HAVING BABIES AND BUYING HOUSES, AND I’M JUST OVER HERE USING THE INTERNET AS A POOR FORM OF INTIMACY.

I think about that tweet a lot.

Orlando & Otherness

1. One of my best childhood friends announced to me one day he was going to get his ear pierced. “Left, or right side?” I asked. “Right,” he said, lip curling up in disgust. “I don’t want people thinking I’m a faggot.”

2. I was quite a hefty child, weighing 104 kilograms at my heaviest. A favourite name for me around school – aside from “fattie”, which, well, yes – was “faggot.” Both were apt, and both were said with an amount of hatred I’ve not seen again, except in the words of the ACL and their collection of random internet homophobes.

3. A name I was repeatedly called by my father: “nancy boy”. Or, rather: “nanthy boi,” with the lisp included. I can only assume I was given this name because I lived with my head constantly in a book, had neither the inclination or coordination for sports, and wasn’t traditionally masculine. This name was later parroted - though not towards or about me - by my brother.

4. On a family trip to Broome one year, we took a family outing to see “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” which was playing at the local drive-in cinema. I wasn’t invited: the movie was deemed too ‘adult’ for my tastes. Instead, me and my mother went to the swimming pool, and 10 year old me stared at half naked men in budgie smugglers, transfixed by their masculinity. This, somehow, was better.

5. My parents fought over me a fair bit: I wasn’t the easiest child and consequently my father took sick pleasure in tormenting me. Mum would take my side, and as she did, my father would insist: “you’re turning him into a poofta.” Indeed, he was pretty happy to use that word a lot: at me, at others and just as a generally derogatory term: you bloody poofta.

I guess he was right - not that I was ever 'turned' into a 'poofta', just that I always was one. I’d say “sorry dad,” but, surprise! I’m not sorry.

6. Four boys from my high school followed me around relentlessly beating me at numerous times throughout the years of 2005 and 2006 - randomly punching and screaming at me as they passed me in the hallway, and occasionally subjecting me to full-on group attacks. They said it was because I was fat, sometimes as they spat on my cowering body. “If it was really because I was fat,” I wondered, “why did they continue screaming ‘faggot’ at me?”

7. I’m not the most straight-passing of gentlemen, and that’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it. Even now, though, I hate my voice, which comes down to the fact it sounds more feminine than I've been taught it “should”.

I work in a call centre and nothing breaks the tedium like the horror of hearing my voice echoing back towards me through my headset: a slight lisp, higher, weaker than I imagine it to be. In these moments I am stuck outside myself, if only for a second: caught in learned fear and loathing toward my voice, the only one I have.

Similarly, I recently was a guest on a podcast, Contact Mic, by Fleur Kilpatrick and Sarah Walker. I haven’t listened to it, and doubt that I will – although the subject matter is conceptually hard to listen to, it’s not that. It’s that I can’t stand having to listen to my own ‘faggoty’ voice for forty minutes.

8. There’s a strange dissonance when I walk down the street past a loitering gang of nearby teenagers. I realise, once I've reached the comfort of safety afterwards, that I’m a 27 year old man, that I go to the gym 5 times a week and could almost certainly outrun or outpunch them, but in the moment I see them I am scared and naked and exposed and 18 again. And fat. Can’t forget fat.

9. In 2008 I bumped into the four boys at a café in Hampton called “The Brown Cow.” I spent a coffee date with a friend in heady shame as they coughed, and eventually just straight-up yelled at me: “faggot. Faggot! HEY, FAGGOT!!”

Possessed by god knows what, I proceeded to have a loud conversation with my friend about how good it was being a ‘faggot’ and how good anal sex was. A month later, I bumped into these boys on the street and they glared at me, cracking their knuckles like cartoon bullies, and I was scared. Really, really scared. In that moment I regretted ever, ever standing up for myself.

10. When I came out to my mother, she asked me, like a cliché: “are you sure you're gay?” After she’d moved past this, she confided in me: “We suspected you might be gay, anyway. You were always flapping your wrists about as a child, and you liked Drama in school.”

Months later, after I’d properly come out to the world at large, a straight male friend: “well, I mean, you’re not like one of those gays, thankfully.”

“What d’you mean?”

“You know – one of those gays. Trying to have sex with me and stuff.”

11. I read a report on June 14th that had Omar Mateen’s father blaming his son’s violence partly on the fact he'd recently seen two men kissing. I hated him and his father, in that moment – for spreading the fear and making me second guess myself - for making me, for a few days, ensure I’d wholly taken in my surroundings before I expressed any affection.

12. When my mother called me on June 16th, she asked: “oh, how was Hobart? You didn’t tell me!” My reply: “Oh, it was great, and then it was really horrible.” Her reply to this: “Why, are you and Jeremy fighting?”.

And then, after I spelled it out: “well, people die all the time and you don’t care. This is because they’re gay people, isn’t it?”

On June 12th of this year, a man named Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun. He took the lives of 49 people that night, injured 53 more and took several hostage. He had previously expressed hostility towards LGBT people and in the following days it was hotly debated – to the point that it seemed, in parts, to take over the coverage of the atrocities – whether or not Mateen himself was gay. He’d been seen at several nightclubs previously, had been a regular at Pulse and reportedly shared photographs of his genitalia with other men on hook-up apps and sites like Grindr and Adam4Adam. We all know at least some variation of what happened – it’s in our collective consciousness. After all, it took over the news world, for a few days, at least.

It was June 13th when the full details of what had happened trickled through. I’ll be honest: when I heard the details of what happened, before I’d seen the photographs or read the names of those who’d been slaughtered, I was incredibly affected. I was in Hobart at the time, attending Dark Mofo with my partner Jeremy. I spent the day being shipped around through an art exhibition, paying little to no attention, finally sitting myself down in the corner, gluing myself to Twitter in the desperate hope I’d stumble upon some news telling me it wasn’t true, it was all a mistake, a dumb joke. As day turned to night, news spread across my social networks of candlelight vigils, and groups going out to gay clubs together in memorandum. I desperately searched through the corners of the Internet but to no avail – I could find nothing of the like in Hobart, save for a couple of understated gay clubs with dubious names like “The Pink Flamingo.” As the night wore on and friends posted photos on Instagram of gay gatherings they’d attended and support networks they'd called upon, I… did nothing. I didn’t even have gay sex. I just went to sleep, too shell-shocked to even cry.

I’ve been thinking, since then, as to why I’ve had such an intense reaction. Even as I was having the reaction, part of me very clearly thought: Really? Reaaaaally?

I didn’t know the victims – I’ve never even been to America. There’s been a thousand think-pieces on this, already: on what a violation it was, on how gay clubs are – or were supposed to be – our “safe spaces”, the one place in all the world we could go and exist with gusto, with pride. Even the fact I felt compelled to write about this is questionable. I’m not going to invent the sociological wheel of grief, and I don’t really want to. But: To my mother, and to anyone else, I say: yes. Yes, it is because they’re gay people. But it’s also because I’m gay people.

As a third of my Facebook feed filled up with these aforementioned think pieces and articles lamenting the way that Australia’s government had, while still denying GLBT+ people basic human rights, used it as a red flag, a way to paint Muslims as cartoonishly evil while neglecting to mention that it happened in a gay club, the other two thirds of Facebook simply carried on with their lives. People read about it, said “oh, that’s sad,” closed the article and went on with their day. They had the benefit, the complete ease of being able to just forget about. But I, and others, couldn’t. For a while, my Facebook feed looked like this:

FIVE THINGS THE ORLANDO MASSACRE TAUGHT US ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA
Don’t tell anyone, but I think ‘bros’ fist bumping is endearing.
ORLANDO, WHERE’S THE EMPATHY?
Cats will eat your body after you die, and I respect that.

With the silence that continued on after – from people I love and respect, people who’d been so outspoken about the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris or whatever else Facebook-filtered grief free-for-all was being spotlighted this week – that old fear began to set in. Fear and difference, side by side. Nothing like 49 dead victims and the collective silence of most of your friends to remind you of your difference, your Otherness, right?

It makes me sick and angry – fucking angry – and for my well-meaning but silent straight friends, it’s an excuse to talk about gun laws, if anything. And maybe they think it better to exist in silence than to speak out and risk saying something wrong, but I respectfully disagree. Fucking risk it. There’s only one thing that we can’t afford to risk, and that’s not speaking up about the next tragedy that hits us, whenever and wherever that may be. We need a fundamental shift in the way that Otherness is seen and treated in our lives, and we need it yesterday. (As an aside - none of you were or are French, yet y'all changed your profile pictures in memory of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, so.)

I was afraid, and I am afraid, but I don’t have to live in fear. None of us do. I wish I had some pithy moral to top this all off with, but I don’t. I didn’t know what else to do, but I couldn’t keep this inside of me.

I am Not Afraid (But I am a Liar)

You are standing in the cool and the strangely unfamiliar dark of a shopping centre supermarket, listening to the muted buzz of machines and children and wondering how you got like this.

You've been on edge all day - it's 2.30 in the afternoon and you've been awake since 5, up since 6, keeping the routine you obsessively began a couple months after you received a traumatic brain injury.

You could probably go at a more reasonable time, but the waiting makes you anxious, and with each passing gym-less hour you're aware that the exercise window for that day is closing, and then what will you do? So you've been up for, uh - 8 hours? 7.5? With each passing minute a vice closes tighter and tighter around your chest and makes it harder to breathe or think or do anything, really, but panic.

You thought you were over this - you told yourself you were but, shockingly, your brain rarely listens to itself, especially nowadays.

Something is happening. It’s as if your brain has finally come around, in its panic and its anxiety, to accepting an idea. The idea is this:

I DIDN’T DESERVE THIS.

It’s been nearly two years and you’re still talking about it with yourself, and having panic attacks in supermarkets, and maybe, you realise, maybe this isn’t what normal people do. Maybe this means you’ve still got a while to go. And maybe this is a realisation you should’ve come to sooner.

When it happened – when you woke up, bleary-eyed and in pain and drugged up, bobbing in the miasma of post-trauma amnesia, you immediately accepted your situation. You may have had to be told your situation, repeatedly, but you accepted it at face value. You didn’t really have any choice. In fact, for the months following everything, that was your mantra, held close to your heart with desperation and determination: Let's Get On With It, and get on with it you did – whatever “it” was.

Relearn how to walk? Let’s get to it. Figure out how to talk properly and actually annunciate words? Someone try and stop you. Re-discovering how to write in something that doesn’t look like bizarrely prophetic chicken-scratch? I mean, you’ve always had pretty terrible handwriting, but sure, you’ll give it a shot.

So you kept moving on, with the idea that the more you moved, the more you moved – the further you’d be away from the accident and the broken bones and the dark Berlin road and the sick brain that too quickly turned to the bottle and the emotional support of those around it, even if those around it didn’t quite know what they were supporting or why.

And this is the first moment you really think it so that the words penetrate your skull and wrap around you.

You’d been fairly determined not to play the victim. You’d been put here by your own hand – or foot, or penchant for alcohol – and you’d fucking get yourself out if you had to. You had to move back in with your parents, where you’d be berated and threatened by your father and micromanaged by your mother (out of caring, at least). You had to postpone your Master of Writing for Performance at NIDA and stare down the barrel of two years of full-time rehabilitation at the same time. You cut those two years down to six months. You healed in a quarter of the time they told you it'd take, you were just that determined to get your life back on track.

Your boyfriend flew to Germany to look after you, and found out that apparently you’d cheated on him at some point during your Euro-Trip (can two countries even be classed as a Euro-Trip?). This is news to you, too. You don’t remember this, but you do remember that you love him. Or, you thought you did. It's as if someone has come and fucked up your life while you've been sleeping soundly, chilling out in Vivantes, Berlin.

You get back to Melbourne, and you break up. You write a play in a week, and then you somehow get back together. He forgives you, for some reason. It seems like everything’s slowly getting better, but it isn’t. You then can’t leave the house for two months straight bar rehab – you’ve moved in with this boyfriend after your father repeatedly physically threatens you, on the suggestion of your mother, and she doesn’t have to suggest twice.

Everything seems to continually be recontextualising itself as new information surfaces through your injured brain – like, say, the knowledge you have that you’ll actually always be brain injured, or being told of things you’ve apparently done or taken part in that you don’t, don’t remember – and you’re not sure how to keep up with it, but you try.

But you’re tired of keeping up.

You’re tired, and you realise that, no matter how many shitty things you may have done, no matter how many nice things you may have done, you didn’t deserve this.

It fucked you up, and you didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t deserve it.

I’m standing in aisle three of Carnegie Woolworths listening to Radiohead like a fucking indie dream cliché, and I’m realising that I didn’t fucking deserve it. And I’m not angry that it happened – it’s too late to be angry, really – or happy, or anything beyond slowly comprehending that, yeah. I didn’t deserve it.

I’ve come so far from the brain injured trauma patient marooned in Berlin and trying to do basic math problems and eat without spilling it all over himself, and I’ve come further still from the insecure and mentally ill borderline alcoholic, and… I don’t know.

I drink a least one Red Bull a day because brain injuries make you incredibly tired and I’ve got shit to do.

I have braces for the second time in my life because the only other option was to have my jaw broken in two places and a false tooth medically nailed into my gums, and I'd already been through enough violence to my person.

I cry at random times now and I don’t know why. In supermarkets or while washing the dishes or to music or if I’ve missed a train or there's small animals on TV or whatever. I never used to. The last time I cried was listening to Kate Mulvany’s Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture, which was at least a good reason to cry, so.

I have a co-dependence on my Google Calendar, now, because I forget things all the fucking time and, when combined with anxiety, I’m nearly always afraid that I’m forgetting something important and that I'll somehow just fuck my life up with my forgetfulness. Just magically, just like that.

Afraid, yeah. I’m afraid. Afraid of forgetting things, afraid of ending up in a boring and passionless job with 2.65 children and a white picket fence in the outer suburbs of Victoria and a job that I hate. Afraid of graduating NIDA in a few days, afraid of my fellowship ending in a few weeks. Afraid of my independence disappearing again, afraid of getting another brain injury, afraid of ever having an alcoholic drink ever again, afraid of losing my talent, afraid that I’ll never get out of this country, and afraid of people.

I say that I’m not, but fucking hell, I’m so afraid of people.

People that I don’t know, people that I do know, sometimes, and people that I kind of know but haven’t met in person especially. I don’t know what it is but something in me feels a genuine and deep terror at this last one. Like I’ll randomly bump into them in the street and just be incredibly unimpressive and boring.

And angry. I’m so unbelievably angry at this government and this country. I’m angry at people who’ve deliberately hurt me. And I'm angry at myself.

Fucking hell, I’m angry at myself.

But I’m learning to let that go.

Running Out

I’ve started having dreams about the car accident again.

I’m in my office, or apartment, or work – somewhere mundane, when suddenly I’ll flash to the scene of the crime; that dark Berlin road and the hospital. Now obviously this is partly fictionalized; I remember nothing much of the road itself and not a terrible amount of the first hospital I was in – but still. I’ll be sitting or standing or doing whatever, and my brain will suture my present – or “present”, the mundanity of my dream – with my past – violence and pitch black, pain and screaming and heat and asphalt. This won’t be an occurrence, I won’t feel myself flying through the air or observe with any kind of rationality anything that’s happening. It’s more a wave of feeling; something that twists around my neck and my lungs with the every-day horror of my current anxiety.

I’ll wake up, then – not dramatically, shrieking and pulling at my covers, but quietly, rising out of the depths of sleep and slowly taking stock of my surroundings as the horror of the past hours of sleep fades from memory.

I’m fairly certain I’ve got PTSD, then: post traumatic stress dreams.

-

As a child I was fairly withdrawn, never demanding to be hugged or held or touched at all, in fact preferring it when the adults laid me by myself and let me be.

This is both true and false, now. In certain moods I’ll follow someone around like a lost puppy, not necessarily wanting any sort of affection, but craving the emotional warmth of another human being who I know – hey, look, it’s another human being: you’re not alone!

My mother told me yesterday that a friend of hers experienced some pretty drastic post-traumatic anxiety himself, and that when things were rough, he had always found it had helped if someone gave him a hug to help him calm down.

Perhaps a little too quickly and sharply, I’d answered: “No.”

I couldn’t really think of anything worse than to be hugged in these moments, and very quickly that’s become its own unique fear: that, as I’m having a panic attack, someone will hug me and not let go. Maybe more than one person. I’m a pretty tactile person with the right person and the right mood, but there’s nothing right about an anxiety attack.

-

I’ve become convinced that I’m running out of time.

There’s something that happens when you nearly lose your life – an insidious recontextualisation that creeps into every facet of your brain and stays there.

At first there was the realisation that I was still alive, and every medical professional I dealt with telling me just how lucky I was. That was alright. Now, that message of luck and life has been twisted.

My brain tells me: YOU’RE NOT DEAD, BUT YOU WILL BE SOON. BETTER MAKE SOMETHING OF YOURSELF.

I reply: “What does ‘something’ mean? What will make you calm down?”

My brain replies: I DON’T KNOW EITHER, BUT YOU BETTER DO IT QUICK. FUCKING. SMART.

I’m aware how ridiculous this all is. I’m only 27, and if I live a long life – or just a life of average length – I’ve still got a large amount of time left. (It’s hard to join Winehouse et al when you’re sober, you don't drive and you look both ways before you cross, is all I’m saying.) But I can’t deny that it’s hard, and that my anxiety feeds on the success of others: particularly those younger than me, winning things I want to win. Although part of my brain wallows in the regular artistic jealousy that every artist experiences, the rest, instead, turns it back in on itself: you’re nearly 30 and you haven’t done that. You’ve got no fucking chance.

Maybe it’s the way the world, in particular the arts industry, grossly overvalues youth.

Maybe it’s the unfair standards I set for myself – the ones that, a few years ago, inspired me to work harder, but are swiftly becoming more and more untenable the longer I try and keep them up. (I won’t bore you with the details, but essentially it comes down to me requiring of myself to write and produce a certain number of things in a year.)

Certainly it’s the narrative that won’t leave my head; the one of people being ‘discovered’ and becoming instantaneously über successful while I wallow away, attempting (and failing) to sort my shit out.

This utter panic doesn’t just centre around my career but my friendships, too, fuelled on by the realisation that occasionally strikes me: if I’d died that night in 2014, I wouldn’t be experiencing this moment right here. Or this one. Or this one, either.

There’s a friend I’ve made with whom I keep making plans to catch up – plans that for whatever reason haven’t happened yet. We’re busy people. But each time these plans fall through I’m struck with an intense pang of anxiety, which, when followed down to its core, basically comes down to:

You’re probably going to die before you ever get to properly meet this person.

That’s a particularly morbid conclusion to come to, but it’s something I still can’t shake.

-

This will sound stupid, but it’s only this year that I’ve properly and wholly accepted that I’ll probably never get the luxury of being just an artist. It’s a bitterly logical realisation, but one my brain has only wrapped itself around quite recently. Particularly the idea of making my income solely from writing – of all things, writing!

When I was a child – and probably still thought that, despite my chubby body and fey demeanour, I’d be a grade-A actor – I had dreams of the artist life. I’d live in a mansion, probably on a hill, with a host of taxidermied animals and a shockingly handsome husband. I’d have a whole lot of money from doing my Art, and I’d use it to spread more Art and Knowledge to the people, fostering a deep interest in Art worldwide. And then I’d be thanked for it. Like, not just thanked, but revered.

It’s telling that even as a child I didn’t know what my “Art” would be, only that I’d be doing it. Probably.

-

Moving on has made things easier. I no longer feel the immense pressure I once put on myself to become “successful” and enjoy financial security as soon as possible. There’s a strange freedom of, if not giving up on your dreams, than recalibrating them: every artistic thing I do no longer feels like a ‘do or die’ situation, but something I can appreciate for the act of what it is. By pulling my foot off the accelerator, I’m allowing myself the natural time to think, grow and change.

This self-acceptance has slowly made its way towards my body, too. For many years I believed that if I tried hard enough: if I ran enough, lifted enough weights, skipped enough meals and hated myself enough, my body would eventually change into something acceptable to me. Regardless of my endomorph status (the “fat” body type), my learned self-loathing (thank you, school and family) and my genuine belief I’d never be good enough. Now I’m realising that it’s my brain that needs to change into something acceptable.

I’m still shooting for the gold, but I’m not demanding it. That makes all the difference.

Four (Communication Puff Piece Number)

1. 

I really don’t know why I keep returning to memoir as a form – or narrative non-fiction, or whatever the fuck you’d call this – but, here we are again. Like a clock that chimes every few months. Even a broken biography is right twice a month, yeah?

There are certainly enough young white males out there sifting through their lives and retelling their own experiences with a bit more zest or flavour added in, just for the kick of it. I’m wholly aware that people won’t – or don’t – care, and I don't really think there are many reasons for them to care. However, I'm delving into memoir - that tepid softcock form of writing - for nobody else but myself. Please, feel free to care or not care away.

2.

Continuing the ridiculousness of my brain and its healing patterns, my eyes appear to be fixing themselves. My doctors don’t know whether it’s the muscles surrounding my eye or the neural pathways that need fixing, but fixing is apparently happening. I really would’ve appreciated this a year and a half ago, but I’ll take what I can get.

I’ve now been fitted with a trippy pair of glasses called “prism”. Prism glasses somehow pull your vision into line so your brain can stitch what it’s seeing into one coherent image, like a normal person’s brain would. It does this through some sort of black optometry magic. Wearing them is a novel experience: something akin to having your finger bent back all day.

By this I mean, at the end of eight hours of uninterrupted prism, it fucking hurts.

3.

I’m working as hard as I can to be a better person, blessed or cursed with the quite and acute knowledge that I have a lot of time to make up for (no matter how much I say it doesn’t, the year of 2014 weighs heavily on my mind, even now.)

The difference is, I don’t think it makes me a good or interesting person.

4.

Communication puff pieces lifted from social media, four:

“Facebook is like a Pokedex of all the friends we’ve captured”

“I'm done! FFS! Nothing left! What the actual... ?! ‪#‎innovative

“i’m a trailblazer in the sense that i like to get blazed while walking on trails”

“On set for my first ad in which everyone is working very hard to make sure I'm "unrecognisable". Three years of drama school.‪#‎welcometothebusiness

 “When I’m telling a story and a friend interrupts:”

“karmic retribution is a pretty name for a baby”

5.

Even now, returning to Sydney feels like a battle of epic proportions. Flying over, I can’t help think of me, two years younger, listening to Owen Pallet’s “I AM NOT AFRAID” in the desperate belief that, like “The Secret”, if you put something out into the world enough, it’d become true. The battleground is different, though: there’s nothing immediately pulling me back to That Place (NIDA; the place where I spent the majority of my waking hours, at least the first time) and I’m much more secure and comfortable in myself. (Unlike “The Secret”, I don’t need to put that out into the world – I just am.) More than anything, returning feels like that part of “The Wizard of Oz” where the Wizard is finally exposed for the fraud he is:

Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion – my personal favourite as a child, oh the irony – shake in fear as a huge emerald green head floats in front of them, bellowing fire and shrieking loudly like a viridian poltergeist.

“DO YOU PRESUME TO CRITICIZE THE GREAT OZ?! YOU UNGRATEFUL CREATURES!”

As he screams, Toto – that faithful rat of a dog – calmly trots over and pulls back a large green curtain, revealing a squat and chubby bald man.

OH!” he squeals once he realises he’s been exposed. Then, closing the curtain, the classic: “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN.

 I’m well into that section, now. The veil has been lifted; I’ve paid attention to the man behind the curtain and I’m just now in the process of figuring out how the fuck to click my heels three times.

6.

Speaking of Sydney, returning last time taught me to be careful about whom I invested in, friendship-wise. Cultivating companionship is harder work than it should be, and I don’t have the time for bullshit, or running around attempting to please people. This mental shift developed into me losing people I’d thought were my friends, but also not really caring as I reasoned:

  1. If they wanted to be my friends, they might consider trying a little harder, and
  2. Less bad friends means more time for the good friends.

Except now my initial, conditioned response – one rarely acted on, mind you – is “FINE, WELL HAVE A GOOD LIFE” if someone doesn’t respond to me within whatever time my brain has decided is polite to respond in. I haven’t acted on this insane impulse, though, as I’ve reminded myself quietly and firmly: people have lives, dickhead.

7.

There were so many things that I wanted to say to you, but I never gave myself the chance – or maybe (probably) I was scared that it’d be too full on to do so. After a year and a half’s worth of unspoken intention and intermittent anxiety, me suddenly developing the gumption to actually speak freely and honestly would’ve been a lot to handle. So, I should’ve taken that chance – or one of the numerous ones offered to me before it – and actually put myself out there like real friends do.

I fucked up, and I’m sorry, but you stepped as far away from me as you could, apropos of nothing – and that’s fine; you gotta do what you gotta do. But don’t expect me to play at the friendship we used to have when I see you. You seem to be doing well, though, and I hear that you’re busy. I’m happy for you.

8.

Suddenly I've found myself reliving my late teens, situationally, anyhow. I've got braces again and I'm working in a call centre, again. At least this time I'm more emotionally stable (knock on wood, right?!), have better fashion sense, and am avoiding stupid boys as a blanket rule. Finding myself back here is both fitting and humbling in a way, letting me know: however high you think you've gotten, there will always be dental work and depressing employment opportunities waiting with open arms.

9.

Five text messages selected at random:

  1. “I’ve never had the pleasure of absorbing that charisma in person.”
  2. “We chose French in the end as we wanted a free bottle of wine jahaha”
  3. “Hi this is disgusting I feel dirty delete it fat x”
  4. “Haha if we couldn’t we’d probably be dead.”
  5. “be gentle”

It’s my new game plan for myself.

10.

Aimlessly browsing Tumblr just now, my finger hovered over the mouse button to reblog a picture. There’s a hot pink painted wall, fluorescent lighting above, and a pink and black sign in capital cursive that reads: FUCK YEAH, IT HURTS.

Previously, I’d have reblogged this without a second thought, playing endlessly into the online persona I’ve created for myself; an intelligent and sarcastic gay boy who you’re never quite sure is joking or hurting more*. Now, I find, I falter, pausing to consider putting that out there: again, FUCK YEAH, IT HURTS.

I don’t really have any interest in doing so. Maybe because it doesn’t hurt. Or maybe because I don’t want to come off like an overenthusiastic BDSM bottom.

* I once found an image on Tumblr that I felt summed this falsity up perfectly: a pastel pink and blue image with the words SASSY AND SAD emblazoned across it.

11.

As said before: I’m not doing this for anyone but myself.

I’m too poor for a therapist, so blogging will have to suffice as a poor effigy of mental clarity.

The thing that nobody tells you, is that it actually works.

Tattoos, Trauma & the Queer Body

There’s been a moment in the process every tattoo that currently adorns my body wherein I freak the fuck out.

I think: “oh, shit. Oh shit, this is on me for life. Fuck, I can barely keep my mind straight about REGULAR things, let alone ‘stuck in you for life with a needle’ things.”

When this moment comes, I usually want to abruptly stand up, upend the table, and run for the hills.

So far, I’ve been successful in that I've managed to not do this. Look at me, kicking strangely specific life goals.

-

I got my first tattoo at age 21 after a particularly rough night.

It’s covered up, now, but:

I went through a particularly depressive stage as a young homosexual – don’t all young homosexuals? – and really and truly considered taking my own life several times. I didn’t get so far as to actually try, thankfully, but it was like “suicidal-light” – the thoughts were quite legitimate, but the actions were not willing.

In the way that brains so often do; I intrinsically linked my discovery of the musical Hedwig & the Angry Inch to my pulling myself – with psychological help – out of this depressive hole. In actuality, of course, it was probably just the fact I was actually seeing a real-life medical professional; an outside party who didn’t know the inner dramatics of my brain but who did know how to metaphorically slap said brain upside its melodramatic and metaphorical face.

I had been toying with the idea of getting the tattoo from Hedwig for about year or two, as a kind of marker for the end of my mental turmoil, but felt intrinsically that I needed something big to push me into it – I needed not a reason but a Reason. If this was to be on me for life it needed to be Deep and Meaningful and something I could Look At Every Day and Feel Proud About My Decision For.

The night before I’d drunkenly hooked up with a friend who was in a relationship. What followed had been a lot of pain, self-loathing, histrionics (some justified, some not; some performed by me, some not) and many emotions. All in all, it seemed like a big enough Reason as any.

I don’t remember much from this time, but I do remember the immense pain this 15-minute long tattooing session caused; seated in the back of some particularly dingy “goth” shop I used to frequent some years earlier with my fellow goth friends. (Now that I’ve been tattooed by wonderful & talented tattooists, I can’t help but think that this immense pain was mostly due to the tattooist in question not being a particularly good one.)

I remember the immense pain, and I remember the feeling that came with it: the feeling like this came with some sort of internal retribution, that there was something coming out of this pain.

-

Getting a tattoo is somehow both one of the most constructive and destructive things you can do to your body.

On one hand, you’re getting a piece of artwork attached to your body for life; you’re memorialising something through the creation of something new; in a sense you’re collaborating with your artist to find something that suits what you both want to do. And then sticking it to your body.

On the other hand, you’re literally injecting ink into your skin, and, shockingly, bodies don’t tend to like or appreciate that.

-

When I first began to get tattoos, I felt determined: whatever I got had to have Meaning and Consequence, I had to be able to look at it and immediately be reminded of the reason why I'd gotten it. I thought I was being very deep. Of course, if that’d been the way I’d continued, I would’ve probably gone quietly insane, as it seems that every tattoo I’ve been inspired to get for a Reason has come out of trauma.

REASONS I'VE GOTTEN TATTOOS:

1.     Because a close friend took his own life and I felt this needed memorialising.

2.     Because, as a young child, I used to call myself “Christopher Robin” after the character from Winnie the Pooh, and I felt pretty shitty about being an adult.

3.     Because I thought it looked fucking cool.

4.     Because my heart got royally fucked over and I wanted to remind myself to be more careful, next time.

5.     Because I very nearly died (and I wanted to celebrate my first year of sobriety.)

6.     and 7: because I very nearly died and before I very nearly died I’d been planning to get tattooed by this artist anyway – having the unexpected opportunity to do this again felt like a wonderful second chance. (And also because I fucking love and am fucking inspired by John Waters.)

And then, overall:

1.     Because I fucking wanted to.

-

In the year and a half, nearly, since my car accident, getting tattooed has become somehow both intensely personal and intensely impersonal.

Confusing, right?

To explain, let’s go back. Way back:

As a kid, and growing up, I had major weight issues.

I fucking hated my body and I fucking hated myself. I was hit, punched, insulted, taunted, teased and so on, relentlessly and endlessly, by people at school and by members of my own family. Unsurprisingly, this created a sharp and heady dissonance within myself; a veritable hatred of self that only in the last two or three years has begun to subside.

By getting a tattoo – by choosing unequivocally what will be placed on my body, where and by who, I’m regaining a bit of my own mental strength. I like the way that I look – and this is the first time in a long time that I can say this – but I really like the way I look with tattoos.

Despite the fuckery of 2014 and my year at NIDA; while I was incredibly cruel to myself in certain facets of myself, I was also weirdly, rather kind. I had always gone to the gym pre-NIDA, but mostly just did cardio in a constant attempt to reduce the imagined obesity that hung about me. As I threw myself into NIDA (and alcohol), I also threw myself into working out on a much tighter regimen, and with a lot more resistance-based training, enjoying and appreciating the new facets of my strength and body that I began to see.

Smash cut to me, somewhere, on a Berlin road, then a Berlin hospital, then a rehab facility. The plugs. The wires. The drugs I was given in secret, the medical additions to my body, the catheter and resulting testicular infection I received and my inability to walk. Aside from this, I gained a casual five kilos, which doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who relentlessly monitored his own weight for the ten years previous, it definitely was.

I’d lost ownership of my body; something I still don’t feel I’ve wholly regained.

There are still problems. Still things that don’t work, and still things that may never do. I’m trying as best as I can, and it gets slowly easier, but there are still problems, and forever things to work on. But, as above: it’s a way to regain ownership of my body and of my self. Each piece of artwork brings me back into the world and hands me back one of the pieces I've lost. I get to exercise the power of choice over my body; exorcise my trauma in whatever way I want to and shape myself in whatever way I want to. For someone who hasn't been able to do this - ever, really - who's been told that his body is wrong and disgusting or who has simply been unable to even make his body work as bodies should, someone who - like so many others - isn't afforded the basic liberties and freedoms of most of the people around him, tattoos are a way to get his own back.

So, you want reasons? Well, here you go:

I FUCKING WANTED TO and I NEEDED TO FEEL LIKE I HAD SOME KIND OF OWNERSHIP AND LIBERTY OF SELF.

That's more than enough. That’s fucking everything.

INTOXICATION

1.

“Life’s not a party, and that’s okay.” – a note from a 2015 dramaturgy meeting.

My childhood bedroom, August, 2014: repatriated back to Melbourne after nearly losing my life overseas, I sat down with the words of my doctors ringing in my ears: “you’ve got a brain injury. Don’t be surprised if you never write again.” Being stubborn, I took this as a challenge, and began to write Intoxication.

Intoxication is a play about the ways in which technology and anxiety have seeped so far into the everyday that it now seems strange to not be anxious – a play about a world where questions like “am I being weird if I text this person twice?” and “you liked my profile picture from 2012 – what does that mean?” are the norm, and overthinking reigns supreme. It wouldn’t exist had I not been hit by a car, but it isn’t about the fact I was hit by a car.

Every single member of this team is kind, intelligent and strong. They’ve worked so hard to bring it to life and pushed it to be the best play it could be, and I’m endlessly thankful and humbled.

We are part of the most connected generation to date; yet we’re all unequivocally alone. We can download an app and find somebody to have sex with in less than five minutes flat, but our hearts still race in fear every time our phone bursts to life with the prospect of face-to-face interaction. We’re endlessly constructing and reconstructing ourselves based on who we’re with, who we want to impress, what website we’re on and how much we want to be loved. Maybe it’s time we talked about that.

2. 

There was only about an hour of doubt in the first iteration of Intoxication. Not in the script itself – I mean, I suppose it’s riddled with doubt and anxiety and insecurity, even if this isn’t particularly what it’s trying to discuss – but in the writing of the first iteration.

Beginnings are hard, you see. They’re really the hardest part of writing and life; with endings coming a close second. I began to write it in early spring of 2014, without any real conception or idea of what I was going to write, only that my head was bursting with a lot of things that needed to be said, whether anyone was going to listen or not. I sat down at my laptop in my parents’ house. I’d only been back in Melbourne for two weeks at this point; two full-on weeks that had involved a lot of jetlag and a lot of time spent on my parents’ cross-trainer, attempting to shake the spare five kilograms I’d managed to pick up during my time in hospital. I had just recently – like, half an hour earlier – arrived back from my initial neurologist’s assessment as I began rehabilitation.

THINGS I HAD JUST BEEN TOLD:

“You’re looking at probably around two years of rehabilitation, give or take.”
“Avoid alcohol for at least a year.”
“Don’t be surprised if you never write again.”
 

THINGS I WAS OKAY ABOUT:

None of the above.

This was an awful lot to process; to the point where even reading those statements makes my pulse begin to run faster; more anxious than before. While I could deal with the alcohol thing fine as you please, after a month or so – and indeed, am now a perma-sober Sally – the others wouldn’t do.

At all.

3.

This has been the safest I’ve felt in a production, ever, really, and that speaks tomes about the quality of the people involved – especially considering the subject matter; how the act of me performing in it required me to conjure up my least favourite version of myself: 2014 Chris, the one with the drinking problem and the self-esteem problem and the anxiety problem.

I’ve learnt so much from everyone involved; more than I think I can ever put into words – unless I write a play about it, maybe – but I couldn’t think of a more perfect cast or crew, and it honestly feels like a gift to have been able to work with them. Stupid and awkwardly genuine, but true.

4.

So, back to me sitting at my childhood desk, staring blankly at the page in front of me, tears in my eyes, stuck with myself – somebody I didn’t really like, at all – and by myself.

What did I want?

- to be okay.
- to be happy.
- to be secure.
- to be able to run.
- to have a working brain.
- to drink, probably.
- to take back the entirety of 2014.
- to see my friends.
- to apologise.
- to write.

4.

This has been the first time I’ve finally crossed over, too, from “caring immensely what you with the blog thinks about my work” to “actually not giving a single fuck whatsoever.”

To quote a friend: “You have to think, what can someone say in 500 words – less than 500 words – that you don’t already know about your play? If they manage to come up with something, you’re doing it wrong, but chances are, they don’t have anything new to say.”

To quote a contemporary: “Fuck that! I know whether or not I’ve done good work when I come out after the show. I don’t need someone to tell me otherwise.”

To quote myself: “Yeah, postdramatic theatre has actually existed since the 1960s, so that’s a bit embarrassing for you and your blog.”

5.

The original draft of Intoxication was nearly sixty pages – the one performed, a much slimmer twenty-nine. I have the dramaturgical and directorial prowess of Jess to thank for that, but I think, in some way, there was a lot – an awful lot – running around my head; so much that I had no choice but to let it explode out onto the page. That first draft may not have made good theatre, but it made good therapy, especially when fuelled by my innate stubborn streak:

“Oh, you think I’ll never write again?

Fucking watch me.”

6.

Blank page. Me, sitting at the desk. Verge of tears. It’s all very dramatic, but please realise, at this point, I’d also been told by NIDA that if I didn’t finish my course later the next year – in eight months’ time – I’d have to do the whole thing again, and it felt, at that point, like a sink or swim situation. Like I was, for once, really and truly feeling the fucking devastation of my actions – the devastation of stepping out onto that road without looking; of years spent buying that extra bottle of spirits and blasting my way through it; of being ‘that guy’; embarrassing myself and trying to kiss that boy or pining needlessly, stupidly after another; of regularly blacking out several times across several (hundred) nights; of convincing myself I was okay because I’d gotten into NIDA – the NATIONAL INSTITUTE! – based on an application I’d written while drunk; of convincing myself this was normal and okay and just what being an artist was.

It wasn’t.

I wasn’t.

Time passed. May have been five minutes, may have been an hour. But finally, I began to type; taking stock of how far I’d managed to fall in such a small amount of time.

What was I doing?

What was I going to do?

Who even was I?

Then:

“I’D SO LOVE TO WRITE:

without a subject, restrictions or fear.”

Fuck, wouldn’t we all?

twenty fifteen.

Inspired by the recent and lovely wrap-ups by Sarah Walker and Fleur Kilpatrick, and by the strange feeling that rises up in my guts and my heart every time I look at my #BestNineof2015 Instagram photo collection and realise, actually, it’s been a fucking big year. 

Places I’ve lived: 3.

States I’ve visited: 3.

Blogs I’ve blogged: 25; this one included.

Plays I’ve written: 5. 

Plays of that 5 I’m actually pleased with: 3.

Plays of that 5 written on commission or for someone else: 2.

Number of times I made money from writing: 6 – ranging from a one-off payment of 20 dollars to a half-year’s worth of regular income.

Drafts of “Sneakyville” it took to get the play finished: 3, bringing the total drafts up to 8.

Anxiety attacks I’ve had: 10.

Therapy sessions I’ve had: 46.

Number of therapy sessions I had while in Sydney: 0.

Number of times I sat on my bed in Sydney with the number of my therapist on my phone and my thumb hovering over the "call" button while willing myself not to call: 1. 

Number of times I've cried: 6.

Not counting over a book, music, film or tv: 3.

Number of times I've cried in a supermarket: 1.

Number of times I cried because of legitimate emotions and not the deafening and screaming voice from the heart of my anxiety telling me that I'm going to die: 1.

Times I asked someone further along the road than I for support, help or just to get a coffee and talk about how fucked the arts world is: 5.

Times I regretted it: 0. 

Times people were worse than I expected: 1.

Times I’ve pushed past an all-encompassing sense of fear and anxiety to do the thing anyway: 3.

Times I regretted it: 1.

Friendships that shot up in my respect and turned out to be worth so much more than I’d originally thought they were: 3.

Friendships that died a slow death: 2.

Times I regretted said death: 2. 

Number of friendships that died an instantaneous death: 1.

Number of times I regretted killing said friendship: 0.

Times I stood up for myself when usually I wouldn’t have done: 4.

Number of new tattoos I’ve gotten: 1.

Number of times I drank: 0.

Number of times I wanted to drink: 2.

Friends from the internet I finally met in person: 2.

Number of public theatre performances I had a large hand in that I was actually proud of: 2.

Number of those performances that were torn apart by blog reviewers: 1.

Number of times I realised it didn’t actually matter: 1.

Favourites: between three and five each because I’m indecisive. Not all of these came out this year, but I discovered them this year. 

Books: “LION ATTACK!” by Oliver Mol, “Not that Kind of Girl” by Lena Dunham, “The Tell-Tale Brain” by V. S. Ramachandran.

TV shows: “Please Like Me”, “Transparent”, “BoJack Horseman”, "Ash vs. Evil Dead".

Films: “Tom at the Farm” by Xavier Dolan, “Suspiria” by Dario Argento, “Trainwreck” by Amy Schumer, “Goodnight Mommy” by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. 

Albums: “Art Angels” by Grimes, “Run Fast” by The Julie Ruin, “It’s You” by Gold Class, “Rub” by Peaches, “No Cities to Love” by Sleater-Kinney.

Theatre pieces: “The Bleeding Tree” by Angus Cerini, “Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster” by Nicola Gunn, “Reagan Kelly” by Lewis Treston, “La Traviata” by Sisters Grimm. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race drag queen: Katya; a kooky anxious ex-alcoholic. 

Number of times a piece of theatre made my brain open itself to the world of possibilities live performance offers: 3. 1: the last five minutes of “I Am a Miracle”. 2. the last five minutes of “La Traviata”. 3. Nicola Gunn’s bizarre and amazing avian transformation in “Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster”. 

Number of things I genuinely regret: 2. 

Number of obsessions: 1.

Moments I felt so happy I could burst:

Crossing the threshold into the third year designers’ studio in early March; seeing and hugging a bunch of friends I’d not seen since leaving for Edinburgh in August of 2014.

Helping Jonathan move from his old apartment with Laura, talking shit as a quiet sense of normalcy slowly crept back into my life.

The round-table read of “Intoxication” with Trelawney, Kristina and Nathan: realising how much of myself this play revealed; how much of it still hurt, and how much that was okay.

The opening night of “Home Invasion” – chatting around an open fire and pistachio biscotti from Brunetti’s.

The fifteen minutes after two important phone calls as what’d been said sank in.

Numerous, endless coffees and cronuts with Ali - deep and wondrous friendship love and the knowledge that when it comes down to it, there'll always be someone else in the world who knows the shit you're going through.

Abandoning all pretense of adulthood at the Griffin launch with Jess & diving in to the insane amount of free cheese before us.

Lying in the grass with Laura and Jeremy attempting to not slip into a coma after a famed ‘doughnut milkshake’ and realising, somehow, that it felt like all the best moments of 2014 rolled into one.

The first “Sneakyville” rehearsal: the realisation I’d managed to snag a group of actors I loved and respected (and one I would grow to love and respect as I got to know him) and that I was finally, finally pleased with the script.

My first day back at NIDA; realising that actually nobody wanted to kill me and that actually, everyone in my class was lovely.

Interval at “Reagan Kelly”: realising that my face hurt from the fact I’d been grinning for the past 70 minutes or so.

Bursting out into the night with my family after the final reading of “Sneakyville” with the realisation that my time at NIDA was basically done.

Dancing at Gold Class with Emma and Jess and Jeremy.

Realising I’m about to start making a piece of theatre with two artists I love and respect; that this is something I'd only wished for back at the start of NIDA in 2014 and something I'd never felt would happen. Realising, too, that it feels right.

Last year’s new year resolutions:

- get out of rehabilitation.

- get my life back to something resembling normal. 

This year’s new year resolutions:

- let go of the anxiety that seems to have fuelled me the past year while still keeping the fuel it's given me.

- spend this year actually making theatre, not just writing it.

Things that gave me goosebumps:

A moment halfway through the first run of “Home Invasion” when I realised that everything was going as I’d imagined it would; that there was nothing I’d change. 

2am insomniac walks around Potts Point listening to “Tennis Court” by Lorde; the acute awareness that no matter how hard I tried to conjure up moments from 2014 by recreating them, the past would stay in the past and maybe that was for the best. 

The horrible knowledge as I sat in wait to see my neurologist – “there but for the grace of God go I” – as fellow car-crash victims, much less lucky than I, drove past me in wheelchairs and walkers. 

Jack Colwell – “Far From View”. In fact, the whole EP – “Only When Flooded Could I Let Go”.

Talking bluntly with Julia about our respective wounds.

The soundtrack to “Reagan Kelly”; each scene capped off with a track that somehow tied everything together and made scene changes – those dastardly seconds of theatre ‘dead air’ – incredibly enjoyable.

Reading “Intoxication” aloud to my adopted NIDA class within a week of me being there; opening up parts of myself to them that some people in Melbourne still don’t know exist.

Talking with Laura about how much things have changed since last year; realising I've got something I didn't have in 2014: self-respect.

Perfume Genius – “Learning.”

Respective conversations with Stephen Carleton, Ash Flanders, Declan Greene and Nicola Gunn about art, the nature of criticism and above all self belief.

This email from Stephen Sewell about using your anger in your writing: “Badiou says that change comes from the evental space; that part of a society that is not accepted by society. In the first years of gay liberation - Stonewall etc - there was a radical understanding of how society worked and the function of gender and sexuality in oppression, and so writing about being gay was both political, emancipatory and revelatory about the whole society. What I'm suggesting you do is find a similar space… every time you start thinking - ooh, that's dangerous - you're getting closer to the gold.”

Falling asleep on the carpet of my parents’ living room with Jeremy after a funeral; feeling the dull and quiet ache of the death of someone I didn’t know but whose death obviously affected those I care about.

Lying on my newly-made bed in Potts Point as the sun streamed through my open window; wondering what the next two months of life in Sydney held for me.

Positive responses from two of my favourite actresses – Xanthe and Alex – after they read the first draft of a script I’ve written for them.

The realisation I have the ability and the privilege to be able to up and leave this country whenever I want to.

Beach House - "Lazuli."

suburban love letter

I sit in the lounge-room of my childhood home as the rest of my family rolls out of bed and begins readying themselves for the day ahead. The news of the terror attacks in Paris has just come through. The man delivering this televisual update continues to consistently mention Australia, continually re-iterating that “all Australians are accounted for,” and I can’t help thinking that it seems a little cruel; like seeing a man in a wheelchair and letting everyone around you know that it’s okay, you can still walk, run, jump, kick, dance.

Later, when it’s confirmed that at least one Australian has in fact been injured, this is treated with all the gravitas of the recent Sydney siege, as if nobody watching could possibly identify or sympathise with any of the victims unless said victim is a white Australian.

The world is burning, and my parents have just bought a selfie stick.

-

Years earlier, when I was twenty or twenty-one, one of my first plays was self-produced and performed at what was then The Owl and the Pussycat Theatre in Richmond. The play’s name was Acidtongue and Dollface, and it was a thinly veiled piece of attempted autobiography melded with an improbable plot that featured, among other things, the weight of parental expectation, arson, and bloody murder.

Its reception was mixed, to say the least. The two or three good reviews it received were from young people like myself; and the two or three bad reviews – really bad, almost excitingly, quotably bad – were from confused and personally offended adults. In a way, this played exactly into my twenty-year-old hands. The adults, like those strange and unintelligible creatures from the cartoon version Schulz’s Peanuts, just didn’t understand. The youngsters, however, very much did. Suburban life was as suffocating to them as it was to me.

-

I was always a bookish child, and at age 12 was granted early access to the Upper School section of my school library – because I was a step ahead in my reading capabilities, I was allowed to pick whichever novel I’d like to read without any fear of librarian retribution; it had been decided that my mind wouldn’t be too badly warped by the adult concepts and graphic passages rife in this restricted section. Perhaps as an unconscious test of this claim – more likely because I just liked scary things and had heard wondrous things about this Stephen King fellow – one morning I picked up and loaned out a fat book with a pitch-black dust jacket and the letters slashed in blood red across its cover: IT.

While IT didn’t warp my mind, it did give birth to my first wholehearted experimentation with fan-fiction as I wondered: what would happen to me and my friends should the mysterious and terrifying creature known as IT begin to haunt us? (Also, what if the similarly mysterious and terrifying Freddy Krueger had joined forces with IT, and what if we possessed the ability to morph into fire breathing dinosaurs, too?)

King’s novel was something that stuck with me: not for the antics of Pennywise the Dancing (and murderous) Clown, but for the idea of seven ordinary children thrust out of the doldrums of normalcy, and – as a particularly fat child – the idea that an obese childhood wouldn’t define your adulthood.

These same obsessions – being thin, being special and Not Being Normal – were probably why when I played ‘doctor’ with my next-door neighbours I was always the patient, and always spun an elaborate backstory about round-the-world travelling, excess, and fame. 

-

I stand outside in the heat and oppression of late December 2013 and stare at the monstrosity before me. A mobile home with particular emphasis on the ‘home’ side of things, and less on the ‘mobile’: my parents have discovered their current car doesn’t have the mechanical strength to tow their caravan, so it sits out front of their house – it is too tall to fit underneath their carport without breaking something in the process. The answer, apparently, is simple:

“We’ll just need to buy a four wheel drive,” my mother says, and I can picture already the ‘Toorak tractor’ they’ll need to make this several tonnes of caravan mobile.

God. I hope I never become like that, I think with a petulant stab at my surroundings. Then:

You hope you never have enough money to casually decide to purchase a car?

It is March of 2008, and I am – after a long process of gap-years and course transfers – about to begin the first lecture of my Journalism degree at Monash University; encouraged by my family to seek a job that “involves writing, but also involves getting a job.” The excited chatter of fresh students falls immediately to silence as our lecturer stalks into the room; seemingly glaring at every face before her. 

Excruciating silence for what feels like an eternity (but would’ve only been ten seconds, max), then:

“Who here wants to be a journalist?” 

My arm is slower to rise than the others; the final tortoise to finish the race as a hundred Tracy Grimshaws around it sprint full bore ahead.

“Wonderful,” our lecturer smiles. “Now, I want ninety percent of you to put your hands down.”

Electricity courses through our collective silence. Is this a…?

“It’s not a trick,” she confirms. “And it doesn’t have to be exact, obviously, but I want about ninety percent of you to do me a favour and lower your hands. Go on.”

Slowly, cautiously, the room does so: all except for me – caught in stubborn refusal after my arm’s embarrassingly slow ascent – and about nine other young upstarts. She only speaks once the last hand has lowered. 

“Now, look around you. This is about the collective success rate you’ll have as journalists. Possibly worse.” She pauses, dramatically. “Look at the person next to you. They’re your friend, right?”

Finally: “Wrong. They’re your competition.”

Quickly, unconsciously, my arm begins to lower.

-

As seems to be the rite of passage for all arts-oriented individuals in Melbourne, at the beginning of 2012 I picked up all my worldly possessions and trekked with friends across to the north side – a quaint little Burton-esque house just off Sydney Road, Brunswick, right near the hub of pubs, cafes, Savers, skinny jeans and the ever-shrinking gulf between “homeless” and “hipster” chic.

This’ll be great, I thought. I can smell the freedom already, and it smells like a quickly oxidizing long black. 

When I was eight or nine, I’d used to spend my weekends with the girl next door; a young, sporty lass by the name of Jessica. Jessica and I would tick all the childhood boxes: we’d scrounge and save our spare change to purchase icy-poles together, we’d spend our days riding mountain bikes up and down the length of our street, and we would discuss, in grandiose terms, our plans for our futures.

I remember being utterly amazed by the state of her house: her mother was an interior designer (or something of that ilk) and as such, her house’s interior didn’t fit in with of any other house I’d been in: blood red feature walls in the kitchen, polished floorboards and marble benches, a stone tub at the centre of the bathroom like a sacrificial altar to cleanliness, and a centralized vacuum cleaner that drew all the dirt into the house’s very walls.

For me, this house was my Brunswick; just off-kilter enough to be intriguing and effortlessly “cool” without holding any kind of legitimate threat.

My grand move, years later, occurred around the same time that “privilege” slid into popular lexicon (as in, “check your”, “you’re so”, “I have no”, and “you don’t even think about”), and I can’t deny that this added a certain sheen to life on the north side: you weren’t buying into your privilege; you were roughing it in ethnically diverse suburbia, which was evidently immensely different. 

Being 23 and caught inside a horror movie film set of a house, however, far away from the cushiness of suburbia, was a different matter altogether.

-

Heard on the train this morning:

“I’ve told him heaps of times, now, to be careful when climbing on the roof; and he’s almost died doing it; like, fallen off and snapped his neck, but he still really wants to. He won’t – would not – be swayed. If I’d known he hated leaves that much I wouldn’t have suggested we get the awnings with the Colour Bond gutters, now, would I?”

-

As I first began to realise, growing up, that maybe I didn’t want to (indeed, couldn’t) settle down and marry a girl, I began to shake off the expectations of both my family and society writ large and attempt to pave out something that was more conducive to the life I wanted to lead. In a sense this has led to my (initially violent) kick-back against a suburban lifestyle, but I seem to be coming back around again: it’s not something that I have a particular interest in, sure, but others do, and that’s okay.

In a recent episode of Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me, a homosexual character speaks about the confines of expectation and his sexuality; noting that as a child, when he realised he wasn’t ever going to do what was expected of him (i.e. marry and settle down with a wife, a house and two point five children) it essentially opened the idea of relationships and the world up to him.

Regardless of your opinion of Thomas or Please Like Me, I would argue that he has a point. In the long road it’s taken for me to finally accept that a career in the arts is something that both fulfills me and something that I want, I have repeatedly wished for a sudden fervour and propensity for mathematics or accounting. First wryly, as a joke – then, increasingly, less so. In many ways, it’d make everything a lot simpler if I held a hunger and a passion for taxes.

The world intermittently lights up with the force of explosive violence, and people around the world choose to live their lives however they want to regardless: maybe there’s more to worry about.

the wrap up.

Eight Things I Have Learnt Through Writing This Blog 

  1. How to stop fucking procrastinating and just do the thing.
  2. How to stick to a schedule and actually commit to a long-term project.
  3. How to stop fucking caring about what people think.
  4. How to be much more upfront about the times I’ve been a shit person.
  5. How to deal with people having momentary lapses of sanity; assuming something is directly about them and personally attacking me.
  6. How to exorcise my personal demons and release them into the world (or at least into a Word document).
  7. How to find beauty in the mundane, and
  8. How to let it go.

I began this as a writing exercise in December of 2013, when it’d been recently confirmed I was heading to NIDA and – to my own surprise – managed to keep it up ever since. I’ve kept this production of words going at a rate of one new entry every fortnight, rain, hail or shine – give or take a day or two either side – and the only real break occurred from the end of August ‘till the beginning of October, 2014: the time I was in a hospital and, for some of the time, in a coma. It feels appropriate, then, to bring it to an end as my time at NIDA comes to a close.

This blog has informed my playwriting process as much as said process has informed this blog; forcing me to grow both in my scope and maturity. It has seen me through the rollercoaster of 2013 to 2015, and I’m actually really proud of myself for keeping it up and learning to engage with and love creative non-fiction as a genre of writing; learning to find my own voice.

This being said, as 2015 has bored down upon me, it has begun to feel more and more like a burden – I’ve started to no longer to feel the innate desire to write; feeling more and more the crushing weight of my own expectation, lest I disappoint the two-point-five people who read it, or myself. And maybe the sad and bitterly funny fact of it all is that now that my life isn’t jumping from one histrionic extreme to the next; now that I feel like I’m actually approaching some level of normalcy, there isn’t much left for me to write about. 

I had a strange and unwelcome experience some two weeks ago. After posting my latest entry, someone I once knew chose to anonymously slander me, claiming my experiences were “lies and bullshit” and that therefore “other stuff [I have] written must also be bullshit too”.

Admittedly, once I was able to work it out, the incident I’d written about was actually two incidents blurred together for the sake of a more interesting story; but both of these incidents still very much happened. (Also, I wasn’t offered the chance to explain that I’ve never claimed it’s blind truth; that indeed the ‘creative’ part of ‘creative non-fiction’ involves, for me at least, a bit of sanding off the edges for the sake of overall structure.) 

After spending a fair amount of time unnecessarily anxious about this one person and their bevy of poorly worded (and poorly researched) attacks, I realised three things.

Three Things I’ve Realised By Being Unnecessarily Troll Attacked

  1. I did not owe this person any sort of explanation; and I did not need to (or want to) defend myself. Crazy people be crazy.
  2. My immediate response wasn’t one of shock or horror, just of quiet bitterness as I wholly registered that this had become no longer fun.
  3. I could stop writing any time I wanted. 

There is a small and bitter part of me that wants to plan on writing this blog until next year at least, out of irritation that this person might think that I’ve stopped because of her very adult, very sane attack. But there’s an even bigger part of me that doesn’t really care. This has turned from something I’ve really loved doing to something that’s slowly but surely weighing me down unnecessarily. 

And so, here we are. This might be a permanent stop. The end of the road. Or, this might be an intermittent stop, punctuated by new entries every few months as I relearn to love it. Hell, this might be a pit stop for two weeks as I suddenly realise I totally can’t live without blogging. (I very much doubt it’ll be a pit stop for two weeks as I suddenly realise I totally can’t live without blogging.)

It’s been a great and intermittently stressful two years of writing, and I’ve learnt a heap about myself, the world and the people around me, but it’s time for a rest, now.

What’s that they say about all good things?