About Boy Under the Bridge

On a journey to the brighter side..

Where the heart is

partyrunch

The heart is where home is. That’s why it hurt so much to leave.

As nice as it was to see everyone and everything that was familiar, I was reminded about how much I have, and will, miss as time goes on.

As the birthday boy and the one visiting town, I had much to share. But there is a downside to being on the move. When everything is new, nothing has the chance to grow old. There are some things that only get better with time. Some of them we eat, like wine and cheese; others we experience, like relationships.

I’ve relocated my life twice. On both occasions I believed it was in the best interest of my personal development.  I’ve become a better person, but I need to share that…  like cake batter – another thing that’s eaten.

A few friends expressed their interest in taking similar steps. I responded by reminding them how great it is where they already are.

Then, alone last night, it dawned on me. Perhaps all this fondness I feel in my heart has something to do with the distance I’ve travelled. In that case, the hurt is worth it. If you’re reading this, go.

Home is where the heart is. That means it’s a feeling, not a place.

 It’s a feeling of comfort, belonging, and most importantly contentment – not wanting to be anywhere else. When we fall out of love with the place where we are, we are no longer at home.

Adjusting is another thing that takes time. However, if it turns out I move back, there will definitely be no regrets about leaving. Leaving home just might be the only way find it… And in some cases, it means finding out you didn’t have to leave, but it’s for the best that you did.

 

The coming of days. The passing of years.

passing of days

I’ll be twenty-eight in approximately sixty minutes.

Keeping me up is the ridiculous concern that, in accordance with the sun rising tomorrow, so will the world’s expectations of me. Ageing and anxious.

Two decades earlier, I was young and free. I couldn’t wait for the light of day and the permission it granted for me to open my presents.

It seems insecurities can gatecrash any party. Even our own.

I start rummaging through my memory, looking for those plans I wrote under the enchantment of teenage naivety: ‘Life at 28’.  I scrunch it up and throw it onto the pile with editions 24, 25, 26, and 27.

A smirk, a flick, and it’s all up in flames.

I don’t oppose having plans. But it is said, you can’t control the direction of the wind; you can only adjust your sails.

I still remember the week I turned 26. A gust came through from a future I never imagined to lead me to where I am today. My curiosity allowed me to be carried me away. But what if my fear kept me fixed to all that was familiar?

Regardless how drastically different our decisions are, they all raise a similar question… what if.

Perhaps a wondering mind is the sign of a wanting heart. Some people love almost every moment of their lives, and only wonder how they got so lucky. I hope that’s you.

I’m me –  someone who spends a lot of time wondering where they went ”wrong”. Especially on my birthdays.

But not this year.

I’ve learned a few things over the last two years. Mostly from my own experiences – going overseas, moving states, working in the mental heath field, and addressing my own issues. And from people who have pieced together their dream life; people that have lives that are in pieces; and people like me, who are somewhere in the middle. I even met a guy who was pronounced dead after suffering a brain aneurism while having sex – luckily coming back to life (no pun).

As old and wise as we feel, we’re still children of chance. There’s no stopping the world from turning, seasons from changing, or our hairs from graying. Before wishing it could be better, we should be grateful for all the ways it’s not worse. Time is precious and what ifs, worries, and waiting on God to answer our prayers only wastes it.

For that reason, this birthday, I’m cutting myself some slack with my cake, and I’m saving you a slice of both.

It’s The Little Things


little acts

October is the offical month of mental heath awareness. It’s a trending on social media, and I even had the chance to attend a live Q&A segment on depression – which is experienced by 1 in 6 people at some stage in their life. As the state of our mental health becomes increasingly recognised as a problem, more attention is being paid to seemingly ‘smaller’ solutions. One such solution is kindness. And the idea that, even in small doses, it can make a big difference in how someone feels.

ABC has been crowd sourcing for stories about kindness, so I’ve decided to share a bit of my work. In the large sprawling city where I live, people rush on by while appearing to be trapped in their heads. Sometimes their expression says everything they aren’t saying.

To avoid coming across as confronting, I’ve been leaving little messages behind for those who need them. Through the gift of technology – and without directly crossing paths – these are some of the people who’ve made my day, by telling me that I’ve made theirs.

Tomorrow

20151003_092354

5 years doesn’t fit into 60 minutes. But this morning, I tried.

I saw Graham, a psychologist, for a free one hour consultation. My plan was to explain all that was wrong in half that time, giving him the rest of it to tell me how to make things right. But anyone who has ever had one of these spill-it-all conversations – with a professional, close acquaintance, or total stranger – knows they’re no straight road.

Nearing my late twenties, I wasn’t sure where to start. I can’t remember exactly when the clouds started rolling in. I just know they’ve been following me around and raining down more frequently than usual.

Stumbling over several stumps of silence, I got out a ‘bit about myself’.

Then, thinking of this time as too precious, I took control of the conversational wheel, making a sharp turn towards the topic of my desire of certainty and my disgust of anxiety.

Halt.

Graham was quick to point out – having volunteered in a developing country, and most recently moved states – my actions have a remarkably different tone to my words.

I lost at least 5 minutes to silence after that.

Before I knew it, he was explaining my options for moving forward: The costs, the rebates, his limited availability during the week.

This isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate his help. He is the only professional I’ve ever come across that offers a service for free. He had some great points… but he didn’t have the answers.

Maybe, no one does. Maybe some songs just have to play themselves out.

As I walked out into the streets, the sunlight hit my face. A ray of optimism came over me. I hoped today will be a good day.

But if not, there’s always tomorrow.

Only tomorrow knows what today doesn’t. If you give it the chance, tomorrow can bring you what today didn’t.

 

 

 

Hospitals and perspectives

20150916_162853

Hospitals are too white. The lights, the walls, the sheets, the coats – even the smell – are all so pristine. It can be kind of sickening. 

It’s important to keep things sterile and simple, but few scuff marks and stains here and there would certainly help to lessen the contrast that otherwise screams and points at the patients who lay in the middle of it all.

At least that’s what I was thinking during my last moments before falling asleep.

I then awoke to a nurse softly repeating my name. After several tests, they still didn’t know what was causing my chest pains and difficulty breathing; but they ruled out the possibly of it being related to my heart. Given my state of delirium, it was then politely implied that there was no emergency, and therefore no need for me to be taking up bed.

“What about my hospital fairytale ending” I asked.

“Well, we don’t know what’s wrong with you, but we found out what’s not wrong.”

I was disappointed. Despite all their gizmos, gadgets, and medical degrees, they had failed me. But as I passed the other patients in the ward, my mind changed as quick as the sheets I was just curled up in. The certainty I wanted could come at much greater cost…

As I left the hospital, I made a mental note to remember what the nurse had said. It was applicable outside of the white walls of the hospital, and in the messy, confusing, crumbled, shit-smelling world where everyday life takes place. (My sour sentiment is the result of waking up in the middle of the night with this unexplained injury.)

Focusing on what’s not wrong, can help us to notice those blessings in disguise, and be a little bit more patient in our quest to have all the answers. Sometimes that answer we want, isn’t the answer we need.

As I write this – the next day after – I’m still pain… but I’m going to live.

There’s a lot of white things in hospitals, but there’s no white lies.

Have you ever been sick or had similar changes in perspective ? Comment below 

The Weight of a few Words

 

DSC02419

R, U, O, and K.

4 letters aren’t much. But they can be enough to stop someone from making the devastating decision to end their own life.

Like the fingers on an outreached hand, these 4 letters can save someone from forever falling through the floorboards of their momentary fragility. With the curvature of a thumb, a question mark can ensure a secure grasp by providing context and genuine concern.

Figurative speech aside, actually saving a life with one’s hands may require a prestigious vocation; but there is still great potential in our everyday vocabulary.

Unfortunately, when it comes to asking for help, the words can be harder to find…

Honesty can be a hurdle; a face, a smiling facade. But bouncing over and breaking through, a matter of simply asking someone how they are.

I know because sadness is a season I’ve survived several times. Most recently, I’ve relocated my life twice – overseas and now to another sate. Such momentous moments can stir emotional earthquakes and dust like desperation. But when it all feels like a bit too much, calm has always come through the most casual of conversations.

I’m lucky to have family and friends. And I want you to know that starting a life-saving conversation requires you to be neither. You only need to care – a capacity we all have.

I know because, in addition to this post, other pieces of my writing (such as my book) have received heartfelt responses from complete strangers. I may never see them smile, but at least someone out there still gets that luxury. I know I’m thankful to people that I’ve never met.

forum rep

This is the kind of weight that words can have: Impactful when spoken, but also too heavy to get out at other times.  So, this September – be it through an online message, phone call, letter, or direct conversation – save another’s life and your own. Ask and answer the question, R U OK?

 

Do you or a loved one need help? Find help now.

R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging and empowering all people to ask “are you ok?” of anyone struggling with life. Our vision is a world where everyone is connected and is protected from suicide. Find out more: ruok.org.au

T.I.A

1524640_10153686442865397_645189585_n

“This is ass,” he would often say.

Each time in reference to something different – usually an unpleasant situation or outcome. A classic was bad food tasting ‘like ass’. Even better was his facial expression: anger mixed with a slight, but undeniable, presence of amusement.

Eventually, I got it. Sometimes, shit just happens.

I even stopped wtifully questioning how he even knew what ass tastes like. Hang around someone enough, and soon enough, their strange becomes your standard.

He was my housemate. Then, as we became separated by the ocean, and now state lines, we’re back to being just mates… But we’re better mates than ever.

On a day like today – where I woke up late, made mistakes at work, forgot my gym clothes, managed to pee on my leg, got drenched walking to the bus stop, and can hear the sound of hail pelting my car outside – I unfortunately don’t have my mate here.

But I’ve still got that sense of humour he shared with me. Just enough of it to be able to smirk through my sadness and say myself, “this is so ass”.

Keep keeping on.

Rusty and Regretful

20150815_150840

I’m far from perfect – aren’t we all?

Recently, I’ve been dealing with some less-than-pleasent emotions. Regret seems to be the most corrosive of them all.

Sometimes I wonder – not just why things happen – but rather, why we have to feel the way we feel about them.

There is a theory that certain behaviours and traits are closely linked to our survival as a species; without them, we wouldn’t be here. I’m sure the family trees of those who felt no fear – and therefore had a tendency to pat saber tooth tigers – didn’t grow too far.

Regret is definitely useful as a reminder, and a reason to have make different decisions in the future. But apart from that, I think holding onto it is not only useless; it makes us useless. We’re better off devoting our energy into taking responsibility and some sort of action. I try to think that, just like when dealing with a busted pipe, it’s all `gota go somewhere.

But sometimes, we are busted pipes, and just no longer fit for purpose… But purpose can be lost, found, and even made. This pipe can’t hold water, but as supporting structure, it can hold weight.

It turns out that I’m a bit rusty at my job. I’ve got a lot of personal shit going on, but I’m making more effort than excuses.

And if things don’t work out – as they sometimes don’t – it doesn’t mean that we’re useless; maybe we’re just more useful somewhere else. 

Sydney Month 3: Spring is Coming

20150807_122148

These words brought a smile to my face, which was far from my expression when my doctor suggested I go on Zoloft; and nothing like the looks my co-workers had when I arrived at the office in thongs, with a smell emanating from my feet as a result of that morning’s plumbing problems.

I left my housemate with a mop in hand and feet in sewerage water as I hurried to work. But not without first returning with a fresh muffin from the cafe down the road. It wasn’t much, but it was what I could do.

When I got here 3 months ago, I didn’t feel the same way about making it through winter. I honestly thought I would crumble; break; snap – or one of the many physical depictions of mentally giving in.

It’s been a challenge. The transition from a slow island in the South Pacific to Australia’s biggest city isn’t easy – or easily explained. To many it’s all ‘just another day’, but I can’t help being put off by the overpowering cold, cement surroundings, and presence of consumerism.

So understandably, there have been many nights where I’ve been left asking myself: “Why did I come here?” But truth be told, a few months ago, there were just as many sleepless nights spent keeping company to the thought: “Why stay here?”

But as my new housemate rightfully stated:

“You can’t run.”

I feel it’s important to mention that this experience has introduced me to what share housing is really like. Previously, I’d only lived with close friends. I’ve since learned that differences are to be expected, but also traversed through honest conversation. In this instance – despite our differences in where we’ve come from and going – we discovered a rather unexpected mutual understanding. It’s that wherever you go, so will whatever you’re trying to escape.

I know the importance of properly addressing ‘issues’ rather than avoiding them. I work for a non-profit organisation that promotes positive mental health… yet I’m having trouble staying positive – and worse, staying me. Bascially, failing the advice of one of my inspirations, Robin Williams:

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. Don’t lose it.”

Though various books, I’ve been exploring the idea of life itself being comprised of many instances of dying and being born again. The one requiring the other; letting go being the only way to have our hands open to receive. I don’t feel like the person I used to be (especially at work), but I’m holding onto the belief that it’s a natural process in the same way that a snake sheds its old skin for the sake of new growth.

Vivid, but the thought gives me comfort in what I’m doing: leaving home for the second time to  ‘start again’ and hopefuly figure out myself and my place in the crazy world. Sure, it could be me that’s ‘crazy’. But that would make days founded on coffee, cigarettes, high costs of living, and long crowded commutes… normal.

Maybe it is, and maybe this just isn’t the lifestyle for me. I’ve been exploring the ideas of minimalism and other alternative ways of living. The central theme being that one is encouraged to evaluate their obligations and desires against what they truly need to be ‘happy’. (Whatever that means, it should be defined by the individual, not marketers).

Without a doubt, these are all questions that first emerged last year while I lived in Tonga – a place where people had much less, but smiled so much more. There are Ted Talks on the topic as well as blogs from people like Lauren who are living their answers. (I’ll be Skyping with her shortly!)

It does seem that whenever we leave – and wherever we go – we run the risk of finding more questions than answers. Some settle, and some keep seeking. I don’t think either is particular the wiser. There’s many ways to live this thing called life. I had no idea about most of them until I stepped off the ‘road most traveled’ for the first time in my life last year.  My remaining commitment here in Sydney is 9 months, but I have every intention of making this place my permanent home if I can. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I promised myself I would try.

Before going on medication, there’s certainly things I will try… like following the advice that I spend 40hrs a week ‘giving’.  That means doing things like eating and sleeping well; and getting enough exercise, sunlight, and social engagement. I’ve also found getting enough ‘me time’ to pursue my hobbies to be essential to my wellbeing.

These are all things that definitely make one feel better. Except, ‘feeling better’ seems to be the prerequisite for having the energy and motivation to attempt these things in the first place. It’s kind of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, so we’ll just have to see what hatches. In the mean time – as I have through every dark storm that I’ve weathered over the years – I know that I can find solace between the pages of books.

Philosophy’s main task is to respond to the soul’s cry; to make sense of and thereby free ourselves from the hold of our griefs and fears.  – The Art of Living

It’s possible I might just end up passing through. But then, just like Tonga, I’ll hopefully leave with this place, and myself, being that little bit more better off.

Email Graveyards

The_Elephant_Graveyard

 

I want to tell you about a place.

It’s a place that lies beyond the illumination of the most impressive memories. A place full of fragments from the years past, which are now incomprehensible to even the brightest of minds. This place is the darkness of the digital world.  It’s a place we tend to forget more than we remember – just like that storeroom at your parents’ house.

And like that storeroom, this place houses many different pieces – some accidentally left behind, some simply forgotten, and some originally intended for destruction.  The one thing they all have in common is fitting somewhere in the puzzle that is ‘you’. Unlike that storeroom, there isn’t any issues with space. Infinitely expanding, the darkness of the digital world rather resembles outer space.

It’s depth depends on how long you’ve been digitally active. What you find in there, and whether you dare to go in, depends on you. I’m still as curious as I’ve ever been, so I stepped over several previous-pages and into the area of my inbox that’s become a graveyard to conversations gone cold, romance that’s never returning, and laughter that’s left me in the same way that my favourite red shirt is fading.

Within 1 hour, 70 pages became 1. I could have sped through with the delete-all button;  but I had wanted to take the time to cringe where I was weird, acknowledge where I went wrong, and smile where I wasn’t… anyone else but myself.

The past 7 years became 7 days, but not without firstly moving several messages into a newly created folder called ‘memories’. It ended up being more about gratitude than organisation. It’s really something special to be able to ‘remember through technology’, not just by memory. The same task for my parents would involve digging through dusty old boxes that have surely become misplaced and worn over the years; I just clicked  ‘sort by date’.

But a mouse is no magic wand. I know there’s no bringing back what’s truly gone. But just like an actual graveyard, going back is sometimes a nice reminder of the magic we had in our lives.

What’s in your email graveyard – ghosts or good times?