Where the heart is

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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.

 

Hospitals and perspectives

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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 

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?

Why we doof

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“Originating in the Sydney post-punk electronic music scene of the early 1990s, the slang term doof or bush doof refers to a type of outdoor dance party.”  – Wikipedia

My plan was to spend Saturday checking out two of Sydney’s biggest art galleries. But due to a timely collision between the circumstances of my intended companion being unwell and a psychedelic art exhibition being held across the road, I ended up spending the night chatting to a group, which could be suitably described as a new wave of hippies.  I was curious and they were young, energetic, and eager to share with the world, the reasons ‘why they doof.’

To those passing by, the strobe lights, loud psy-trace, and unrestricted dancing only suggested one thing; and the wafting smell of weed from the backroom sealed the thought. Undoubtedly, this deterred most people from coming in; but it was only from the inside that you could hear the discussions about different environmental and human rights issues, as well as the guided meditation session. The artwork on display – the majority completed under the inspirational influence of a ‘trip’ – also told stories that were only revealed by speaking to those who created them.

It’s definitely true that these things don’t actually require being high (with the exception of smoking). But it’s highly likely that what specifically made one individual’s particular experience (a morning spent on the beach doing yoga and watching the sun rise) so extraordinary, was the acid. Likewise, the night before, MDMA gave him the energy to dance the night away and experience the music and the companionship of his friends on a level that he claims to be unattainable while sober. Others mentioned how weed  and psilocybin mushrooms allow them to ‘bypass the ego’ by becoming more self-annalytical, thus serving as a tool of self-improvement.

There is research to support these claims (MDMA is being trailed on post traumatic stress disorder patients). Of course, I can’t say that this group always had these kinds of intentions, but it sounded like they were having a damn good time with it all – something I believe we are all entitled to have as long as it doesn’t impede on the rights of others…

As I typed that, on the ABC2 channel, the father of Anna Wood is telling his story about loosing his 15 year old daughter to an ecstasy overdose. I’m sure her intentions were just as innocent… And now I’m unsure of my intentions with this post.

I’m well aware there are many sides to this discussion, and that this post has only scraped the surface of one of them. It’s the one that I saw on Saturday night, which is that when it comes to taking drugs, there is more to the experience than we may realise.  It’s not just about getting ‘fucked up’ or indulging in immediate gratification – especially for these loving doof-lovers. Whether these experiences are worth it in the long run is another whole blog post all together.

A Note-Worthy Weekend

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In the past, ‘perks of the job’ have been things such as fuel cards, gift vouchers, and generally edible. This weekend, my new job gave me something new; it was an experience. Unlike the time I rolled around in a zorb-ball having an unnecessary amount of physical contact with people I didn’t even share my lunch-break with – this was an experience I want to remember.

It’s also an experience that I can’t directly put monetary value on, but it was honestly the perkiest thing an employer has ever done for me. But here’s the best thing: it wasn’t specifically anything done for me; I was doing something for my employer. In other words, I was just working.

I was co-faccilitating a workshop for group of youths who were assigned the task of producing multimedia content for my organisation to use. To ensure they were on the right track, several guest presenters were called it. I won’t list names, but they are definitely regarded as experts in the areas of video, audio, photography, and much more. Technical skills aside, they were also understood the complexity of life. A subject for which, there is no specific lesson plan, manual, or fool-proof solution for – but there is advice.

Here are a few of the things that I heard over the weekend that really stood out to me. Sure, they’re repeated in articles, videos, podcasts, and books – but we go to live gigs because there is something that digital platforms can’t give. Likewise, I really feel like I got something by hearing these things said.

“Shit. Before this,  I had 40 – 50 jobs.”

“You might have to work for free but everything comes full-circle. Invest in people and things.”

“The energy that you put into this will come back, it’s a universal thing.”

“Sometimes, you say yes before you know you can do the job. Then you learn as you go.”

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

“Always write down your ideas.”

“Enjoy the struggle.”

“Don’t be attached to the outcome, not everything will work.”

“Do one thing each week to lay the foundation.”

“Find a day job that gets you closer or near to your passion.”

“Free writing. Just write. It’s like taking a big dump of your constipated mind.”

“You have to get a job. Because to financially support yourself is to also artistically support yourself.”

“Surround yourself with people who inspire you, not energy drainers.”

“Have coffee with contacts.”

“Be ok with being shit.”

“Find what you can do better than most.”

“Find avenues for your level of skills. Somebody needs them.”

“Find the top 100 in your field and learn from them.”

“Show yourself. Every project should reflect a part of your identify.”

“Read ‘The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron’.”

“Talk to people about things that inspire them.”

Best Man & Best Things

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I was one of the chosen few that received the private Facebook message.

He was touring Europe with his soon-to-be wife. I was in Tonga, on a break.. from my life.

A conversation before I left revealed that I’d be the best man if the day ever came. Upon finding out that he was going to propose, I didn’t even wait until the next day to start writing my speech.

I  had plenty of puns, a printed sheet, perfectly sized text, and emoticons as a que for my delivery; he still held a pen in the few hours before leaving for the church.  In his own words: “I hate giving speeches.”

You don’t need my words. I salivate over the smallest crumb of attention, just like when I placed my order at the reception.

The role of best man carries certain expectations – I believe I delivered…

But most memorably, I witnessed how sincerity trumps comedy. How ‘well played’ succumbs to ‘well said’.  And when it comes from the heart, ‘just said’ is all that’s needed.

He thanked his parents for being a quintessential couple. Showing him, throughout his life, how ‘marriage’ should look once the limo get its final look, and the gown’s on the hook.

He called it the chance to “marry his best friend.”

I was the best man, but he said the best things.

David Lynch, Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland, and.. Me.

David Lynch

David Lynch


Me.

Yesterday, I finished up my last season with my therapist before my upcoming move. I began seeing her since returning from my year overseas. It was suggested that it would help me to re-adjustment, and clarify with my decision process moving forward. While I intended the sessions to be future orientated,  practical, and professionally focused; it was inevitable that my past and my ‘true’ personality was discussed as well. It was fascinating to learn how we are not only subconsciously shaped by our experiences, but also limited. Hence why therapy isn’t just limited to those who suffer; it’s beneficial to anyone wanting to better… understand themselves and their decisions. Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t… really understand themselves that is.

Today, I had the opportunity to see how other people explore their emotions via two concurrent art exhibitions. The first was David Lynch’s Between Two Words; the second was Hope In The Present, hosted by the Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland, and showcasing the artwork of numerous artists living with mental health illnesses.

Between Two Worlds.

Lynch understood the psyche can be a conflicted place. Just like I dared to delve into mine through therapy, he took a similar path through his artwork. Utilising mix-media, painting, plain sketching, film, and photography, his exhibition is undoubtedly confronting. But personally, I appreciated its insights into the cryptic corners of human consciousness and the conflicting emotions we can feel. There were several instances where I was disgusted, disturbed, but also strangely humoured. It will pull you into the depths of a different perspective of the world around and also within; there’s no staying safe in the shallow end. But even if it’s not your ‘cup of tea’,  its ticket price will only cost you about three cups… of coffee.

Hope In The Present. 

With just a gold coin donation, Hope In The Present on the other hand was a more uplifting experience. It didn’t dilute the darker emotions Lynch explored, but it definitely left you with a sweeter psychological aftertaste – hence the exhibition’s title. The 200+ pieces were all unique, reflecting the uniqueness (and loneliness) of each artists’ experience of living with a mental health illness. To accompany the story that each picture told, there was also a short biography of each artist. While their individual artistic journeys differed in where they started (ranging from university degrees, technical training, to being completely self-taught), they shared a mutual milestone: a healthier and more stable self. This exhibition is truly about art as a means of channeling emotions and turning the bitter into the beautiful.

Us.

I fight with myself, and I found talking to someone helped. Awkwardly avoiding eye contact with others in the doctor’s waiting room also gave me the assurance that I’m far from unique in how I sometimes feel. We’re not all completely crazy, but we’re certainly cracked in our own ways. These two exhibitions were a reminder that, as humans, we can be fragile and frightening, but we can also be confronting, comforting, and of course, creative in how we keep ourselves together.

Eye Wonder What’s Next?

Free Image Credit: http://wallpaperswa.com

Free Image Credit: http://wallpaperswa.com

Today I had the chance to represent the volunteer organisation that sent me to Tonga. I was one of the two people manning their booth at a university careers fair.

Over the course of 4 hours, I was approached by a large number of students who had an even larger number of questions. Considering I’m still adjusting after my return, it was so strange to now be the one answering questions. The one who has taken the leap into the unknown and survived. And truth be told, even though I did, I’m still the same one who can’t see himself doing something so drastic.

However, what I definitely did see today, was this look. This certain sparkle in the eyes of those I spoke too. A mix of vacancy and attentiveness. It wasn’t just a response to any of my stories; it was them getting lost in their own. Lost in a place they knew of, but hadn’t really thought of until this moment – like the dark side of the moon. Lost in the pages of a book – of which its contents are completely unknown. It was the look of being lost in wonder.

I can only imagine I had the same expression the day I discovered the program. But after today, I know what I have to do: get lost. I need to find something that makes me wonder once again. That which will excite me and give me the energy to leap into something that -while not as drastic – is at least different to where I’m currently heading.

The cliché advice is to look into one’s heart; but I’ll add, check your eyes too.

What’s that Soundwave?

© Justin Ma - Via Soundwave Facebook Photo Album

© Justin Ma – Via Soundwave Facebook Photo Album

Soundwave is Christmas to the rock music community of Australia. Well, there was no chance of snow, but there was also no shortage of super friendly big-bellied long-bearded guys around!

I’ve been going for several years now and I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon… or need to stop. I mean you’ve got everyone from grey-haired grandfathers to purple-haired punk kids in attendance and united by their love of music. Music which originates from as different eras as they do, but is still undeniably fitting all together.

And it’s not just the music that makes the event what it is, it’s the whole atmosphere.

To those on the ‘other side of the fence’ I can understand how it all looks a bit barbaric. There’s growling, screams, heavy breakdowns, swinging fists, tattoos, red faces and devil horns everywhere. It’s certainly the impression my non-rock friends have.

But, here I am giving my first-hand account of what a great day it was.

Once again I saw familiar faces and met new ones. I threw my fists in the air, sung loudly, and jumped when the members of the favourite bands requested I do so… regardless of how tender and sore my body already was.

I had the uncanny experience of seeing certain bands for the first time while simultaneously being overcome by a sense of déjà vu as they played tracks which are stitched into past memories of my life.

I felt the creation of connections with bands that I hadn’t even heard before.

I sprinted around dressed as The Flash yelling “I love exercise,” exchanging smiles, high fives and posing for photos.

I had fun.

I left already counting down the days until next year.

I wasn’t happy paying $4 for a bottle of water, but it was a great day and a reminder that although my taste in music will never be ‘mainstream’ … I’m just a drop in an ocean of many many like-minded fans.

Boy Off The Bridge

Just seeing the words “bungy jump” on the tour itinerary made something in my stomach turn like the disoriented tourists we had passed during our New Zealand road trip (which was in the wrong direction).

Thinking it was just my equally misguided imagination,  I visited the website of the event provider to be unfortunately reassured of exactly how scary the idea off jumping of a bridge was.

I knew there was nothing logical about the idea or shameful about my fear. We are hardwired to be scared and fearful of certain things. Mostly dangerous things.  It originates from a deep primal intuition and responsibility to reproduce… and we can’t do that if we’re dead.

However, modern man – and this brave boy – has a different agenda and set of responsibilities (or lack of them). I knew about the transformative effects of facing our fears; I knew what it’s like to cross that line drawn in the sand to spell “I can’t”; and I also remembered this quote from Walter White, the main character from the TV series, Breaking Bad:

“I have spent my whole life scared, frightened of things that could happen, might happen, might not happen, 50-years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at three in the morning. But you know what? Ever since my diagnosis, I sleep just fine. What I came to realize is that fear, that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So, get up, get out in the real world and you kick that bastard as hard you can right in the teeth.”

So when the morning came where I found myself on the platform – although I was looking at the most appealing naturally flowing water I had seen in my life – as far as I was concerned, I was hurling myself into fear itself: the pure root of all unappealing emotions. And just like the cool air that stood between my free-falling body and my destination, my fear proved to be just as quickly vanishing and almost non-existiental.

Despite the anxiety involved in clicking the website’s “book now” button, and the fear experienced while standing in line – and more so on the platform – it only took a few seconds to completely change how I felt… as well as how I think. Because after those few free-falling seconds, I now understand how our fear itself can really be the worst of it. I also now plan to throw myself, not just specially off more things… but at more things. Especially  if I’m scared of doing them.