Too short at Twenty-two

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Today was just another day for many; the birthday for someone I know; and the 5 year anniversary of the day that someone I used to know, lost his life.

At 22 years old, Andy was gone before life gave him the chance – or rather unfortunately, there is reason to believe it was the other way around. Who knows what was behind  those passing clouds… if he just waited in the rain.

Instead of brighter days, he’s getting flowers laid.
Instead of creating new memories, he’s fading in ours.
To someone I could have saved, I apologise with a visit to his grave.
We already know this: nothing is promised.
So don’t just live life as if it’s a gift..
be one, so you’ll be missed.  

 

He’s High On Life (Yasmin)

Yasmin
We all know that person with that extra bit of buzz and bounce. “High on life” they call it.

Sometimes we’re that person. Maybe we just started a new diet, are going on a deeply desired second date, or in our naivety, accepted candy from a friendly stranger at a party. It’s all good. I’m sure he seemed cool enough.

Yasmin is one guy that is always cool, chill and cheerful.

I’ll admit I don’t know much about him, but I know what I can expect. Sometimes when we’re meeting new people, that’s enough to win us over. I can expect him to smile, laugh, and dance. Almost like he’s infected.

Character is contagious. But in a good way, because I definitely feel that little bit higher when I’m around him.

Meditation. My thoughts.

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It’s like house keeping. Best done daily so things don’t get too messy.

I start by following my breath. Closing my eyes to focus more on the internal environment. Then I let go. I fall. But without the fear…

I reach out for the textures of my fears and anxieties. I can’t find or feel them in this way because they aren’t real.

But I hear a sound. The beating of my heart is more than a reminder of its existence. It says something about my existence. That I’m human, which means I can love. It also means I am loved, because I’m already a miracle. One of such complexity could not be created without the care and appreciation that is love.

I am miracle. I deserve to be here. I whisper it into the breeze hoping it’s caught by the loved ones crossing my mind. I can take comfort in that fact, or contemplate out how miraculous the life I’m in, can be.

This is where illusions are replaced by visions. Illusions are clouds of fear. Visions sparkle with clarity. Made of the same elements of dreams.

This is when the deepest parts of me gets the chance to speak. The voice echoing up to my awareness. These parts are not the biology that make our hearts beat, rather the spirituality we call upon when our biology may fail us.

These instructions are read now, but felt when carried out. As essentially you’re blind, but somehow travel great distances. Even fly. You start by falling, then you’re light enough to elevate..to escape.

Just make sure to return. It’s now time to clean up your life.

 

 

The Boy turns 1

 

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When I opened my blog 1 year ago, I adopted an anonymous identity and opened an expressive outlet. I wanted to figure out the puzzle life is, and with all the peaks and valleys, I wanted to know the destination of the journey it was becoming. I’d been writing in my own journals for a few years, and figured going online would give others the chance to chip into the conversation of one. Honestly speaking, In the back of my mind, I felt nobody would care too much about what a ‘nobody’ has to say.

I chuckled to myself as I wondered “let’s see how long this lasts”. Well, it has lasted. When I got my first comment and had my first conversation with a random girl from the UK, I started to think differently about the potential of this hobby that was originally just for my own benefit and enjoyment.

Oddly, she cared about the 40 simple things that I enjoyed. Another person from Melbourne took a keen interest in the 13 lessons 2013 taught me, sharing her own experiences. In between, I’ve had many other comments, emails and private messages from other people from around the world. Most notable is a friend from Hawaii, who shares my middle name, and took an interest in my life because I remind him of a younger version of himself. If you’re worried I’m talking to weirdos of the internet, well I’ve even met someone very like minded in Brisbane before I took of for Tonga and he went his way to Cambodia.

Once I hit 100 posts, I had the idea of taking my favourite 5 and putting them into an ‘ebook’.  But I had come so far, I felt I had keep going in that direction. I had an idea come to me, and I felt I could do better than just writing a typical book. With a lot of hard work, my ebook Living in Cream was completed in April 1st this year. I felt so proud of myself, that the responses to come wouldn’t matter. But once again, its been great to hear from people I know, and many I don’t. In as many ways technology can push people apart, it can bring us together.

I was initially worried about running out of content, but it’s when I run out of days, that I’ll run out of pages. Writing has truly changed my life, and allowed me to help others in the same way, in turn, adding more value to my life.

I’m far from ‘viral’ or making any sort of living of this. Many may wonder why I bother (..maybe the same kind of people that spend their time sharing memes). I’ve often wondered that, but every now and then I get reminded why. Beyond website visitors and Facebook likes, there is something real that you can’t quantify, but you know it when you feel it.  Writing has helped me to find it. I encourage you to do whatever it is that helps you do the same.

We don’t become somebody. We are somebody. We all have a story, and you’ll be surprised who listens when you find the courage to share yours. We’re all in this journey together, and you’ll be surprised at who is heading in your direction. Regardless if you ‘make it’ to the destination, you’ll be glad to have those people by your side.

It’s not the destination, it’s not just the journey, it’s the company.

I’m just getting started, but thank you for the support.

websitehttp://www.boyunderthebridge.com

ebook – http://eepurl.com/RxP5f

3 Months Update

DSC00532Three months

In addition to my first feelings of home sickness, my third month away saw the inventible decline in the novelty of my experience. Situations such as when I found myself far from home at midnight with a flat tyre, or bed ridden and immobile for three days due to a virus, certainly didn’t slow things down. But it was once this novelty had started the wear off, that I got to see things for what they really are. Not what Google Images and the tourist brochures showed.

Doing something like this, sure, there are inconveniences and challenges, but there are also people willing to help every step of the way. Having my boss call to check on me every morning, another volunteer cooking me dinner and others always offering a hand, the concern shown was genuinely touching. My Host Organisation / co-workers made me realise that my assignment objectives are secondary to my wellbeing, and I should hold nothing in greater importance of theirs.

In my other twenty seven days of better health, there were some great times. Including the incident which led to my illness. It started with an early dawn Anzac Service followed by breakfast at the NZ High Commission residence. Then to celebrate the birthday of one of the Tongan teachers I work with, the night was spent camping on an isolated beach, by a fire and under the stars.

The scenery was beautiful, but my personal highlight was joining another volunteer on a walk to check out the surrounding areas, only to take a seat in the sand and have a conversation that saw five hours pass seamlessly. The others were relieved that we had not gone missing, I was relieved that even miles away from home, there were still people I could really relate to.  It’s just a matter of being open and welcoming. Since then I’ve met more Tongans ( including a group that rap and sing)  and even volunteers from other countries such as American Peace Core Unit.

Through technology, I also got the chance to talk to those I am miles away from. Two separate videos calls made a difference to this month that is pretty hard to capture with words. But I’ll say that the contrast of having people in your life and then suddenly removed, makes you realise a lot of things you otherwise would not notice. It’s true, every experience exists through contrast. There is also that saying about only knowing what you got when it’s gone, so I can’t help but sometimes  wonder about the kind of difference that people notice since I’ve been gone.

Either way, life goes on. One mate heads overseas to Europe for 5 weeks today, another moved into a new place, another is busy studying. Had things gone to my original plan, I would have gone on a contiki tour of the USA instead. Spending and consuming, rather than volunteering and giving here in Tonga. As upsetting as it was to cancel my trip, I was hoping I would one day get the chance to say this – “I’m glad it didn’t work out” I can also say that while I was originally hoping to land an assignment in a more prestegious or larger country, “I’m glad I’m here” 

Spending the hours that I do by the waves and the water, you learn things. Not just from my books – such as,  sometimes you just got to go with it. This applies to the times I find myself trying to decide on my next move, will I head to Asia for another assignment, will I return home to work, another state, or will I look to further my education and return to study. Just going with it for now.

 

2 months

 

2 Months Title

Its been 2 months since I’ve had a can of tuna. Perhaps the triviality of this detail is worth reconsideration after I assert that had I still been at home, I would have consumed no less than 120 tins over the same period. With hopefully less ‘ass’,  I can assure everyone, the dolphins and sea cucumbers aren’t the only ones benefiting from my departure.

I’ve changed. Growing up? Well, I’ve just let pictures of myself half clothed and covered in ice cream, loose on the internet. I’m not expecting to go Kim Kardasian viral, but rather like her chances of being elected the president of the National Girls Scouts Association, I just know I’m not getting them back (that’s  a lot of ass in that sentence).

As evident from the completion of the book that is accompanying the mentioned photos, I’ll just say that I’m definitely ‘growing’. Behind my piece of work that possibly makes no sense, is a newly polished set of skills and abilities that turned a concept into reality. The saying that, “It’s not what you get from reaching your goals, it’s what you become”, suddenly has application in my life. Regardless if it leads where I want it to, I already have reasons to be proud of my accomplishment.

I also got to better understand the concept of the creative process. Artists and authors alike, have described it to be an almost out of body, possessive, and even spiritual process. It may have been the fact that I was forgetting to eat, and refusing myself the right to sleep or take breaks, but while typing through the night, I often felt a slight sense of detachment, as if a witness to what was unfolding. It could have just been sleep deprivation, but at least the mosquitoes joyfully draining my blood can vouch I was definitely to some degree, ‘somewhere else’.

Now, proving that I did in fact leave my room, are some other updates on my experience.

My tropical island fantasy has encountered an altercation with the reality of the ‘rain season’. Add in the noisy neighbours, church bells, roosters, dogs, and the mosquitoes, and it’s easy to make an island out of a molehill. My rescue was a revised mindset, courtesy of the advice that, ” not everything happens to you, somethings just happen”. Definitely true.

Regardless where you go in the world, its remarkably easy to get stuck in the mindset that you are still the centre of it, forgetting it doesn’t revolve around you, it revolves even without you. Sometimes you just gota dealwithit.jpg, through being both proactive, patient and practical as the situation requires.

The piece of foam blocking the gap under my door, labeled in felt pen, “Anti-Cockroach Defence System” isn’t my only accomplishment.  Challenges in lifestyle, culture, and also work, have equally facilitated my development of these characteristics.

Having been introduced to my workplace, colleagues, residence, and social circle, my goal for this month was to fit in and form a routine. Now spraying myself with a combination of insect repellent and deodorant, reading at  wharf, playing jenga with students at lunch, and cake and ice cream catch ups at Lynda’s Cafe on the weekend, are all part of a normal week.

I’m mostly happy I’ve got to integrate with the community more. I’ve joined a youth group, dance group, and even hang out with a group of artists who spend their nights drawing and listening to heavy metal in their clubhouse. They’ve given me the nickname of “Groupie” which is what my last name translates to in Tongan. Given that other volunteers ended up with “Naked” and “Mentally Stupid”,  I’m rather grateful.

Through my integration into the community, the culture shock I originally experienced has started to subside. In addition to the natural process of habituation, as the influence of the west becomes more apparent,  i’m starting to feel more at home. However, with these western ideals and ambitions, the country’s youth are clearly at a crossroads with the directions that the older and more traditional generations are providing.  My conversations with other volunteers who have traveled indicate that it’s a common situation all around the world.

Despite the size and location of their island, far from isolated, Tongans definitely have a keen interest in these situations and the rest of the world. There are even more Tongans living outside of the country than in it! This statistic is open to interpretation, but i’ve arrived at the belief that ‘it is what it is’. I’m also proud to be working in the education sector, helping more people in the country have access to these opportunities. Due to difficulties in finding work in Australia, I sought opportunities outside my home country, so I’m nothing but understanding of anyone who shares a similar mentality.

Speaking of shared mentalities, under the obvious differences in religious beliefs, family dynamics, and social structures, I’ve discovered that as humans, everyone just wants to fit in, be a part of something bigger than themselves, and give and receive love. Sounds simple, but it’s  certainly more complicated where I’m from. Perhaps a conversation for another time.

As for now, I’m off to bed. I’d like to also say thanks for reading. Another discovery I’ve made, is that no matter where you go and who you meet, you can’t replace where you’re from and who you know.

But just saying, if you don’t read my book, you’ll be replaced — > http://eepurl.com/RxP5f

Goodnight

Welcome Home

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Home

Home. Four simple letters and perhaps for the purpose that it’s a word so essential to our earliest and deepest expressions. Any disgruntled child can often be heard screaming that they want to go there.

As we get older we may find ourselves doing the screaming as we detest the very same place. But once the storm of unbalanced hormones and teenage angst settles, as adults we hopefully look at home in a favourable light. Associating it with positive memories, love, comfort and safety.

Eventually we realise that the same wind that blew through the backyard where we played, can take us anywhere in the world.

We fly the nest.

This is when the word we learned at such an early age gets redefined. This happens at different times, some spread their swings much sooner than others.

Since taking flight, I’ve landed in three different locations, enjoying the comfort and company of those heading in the same direction. Never too far from my first home however, I never had a problem settling in.

Then came my latest and furtherest journey, which once again redefined the word I thought I knew. I’m overseas on an volunteer assignment in a developing country which means a very different environment .

As I first struggled to settle in while in temporary accommodation, things turned around once I found a room to call my own, with similar people, and the chance to do the things , that while simple and a few, are the foundation of an enjoyable day. Writing, meditation, dancing, listening to music, exercise, endless joking etc.

So home isn’t the place you grew up. Home isn’t the place you’re currently located or where your stuff is. Home is where ever and when ever it is that you feel at the most, yourself.

Into The Wild

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Into the wild. Against the stream. The road less taken. No matter what I refer to my decision to venture overseas as, it can’t be made any less mind opening, challenging and life changing.

I recall the times I sat in my office looking outside at the sun. Feeling the agitation in my restlessness. Wishing my day allowed more time for nature.

I recall the times I would feel under appreciated for how hard I was trying. Early mornings, late nights, the contribution of ideas were often unnoticed.

I recall the times that what I did accomplish at my job, wasn’t anything I felt proud to tell others about. From early childhood I had a fascination with heroes. As I grew older I learned you don’t need a cape or physical strength to make that difference.

I recall the times I consoled myself by remembering that there are others worse off than me. This made me feel obligated to do something where I could, and when I did, I enjoyed it. From working with youth organisations and at a hospital.

I recall the times, even with the things I had, my life had felt like it was taking place in a snow globe, without the snow.

Growing up in the same area for my whole life, although a place of enormous privilege in contrast to where I am now, in ways, such as through the lack of variety, it was becoming a prison.

Largely inspired by buddhism, I always appreciated Buddha’s decisions to live a life void the pleasures he once knew and took for granted. Having both parents come from less developed countries, as much as I was told that I have a good life, I never understood life being any different given I was born into a country privilege such as Australia.

Similarly inspiring was  Christopher Mc Candles and the movie/book Into  The Wild which details his decision to escape modern / routine life and live amongst nature.

I don’t claim to be saint, I love the indulge, but I also have an interest in personal and spiritual development. For this reason I could relate to the decision made by both Mc Candles and Buddha and often fantasised about ‘escaping’.

It may just be part of the human condition, but even with a daily practice which involved expressing gratitude through my writing, I still felt like I was sleep walking at times. Going through life on auto pilot, missing the beauty in the everyday and everything.

With the diverse and ‘out there’ personality I had, my working life was also rather bland in comparision.  Being unemployed, running out of funds, I was also running out of options. The burden on my shoulder to be ‘successful’ was gaining weight and I was losing sleep. It was a rough period of my life.

On my last birthday in October , almost handed by fate, I was given the opportunity to take a role in Tonga through a Government funded program.  There certainly was a debate wether to accept the position, but quoting the last words I said to my mother before leaving, I knew in more ways than one, “this will be good for me”.

I was familiar with the saying “there is no growth in your comfort zone, and no comfort in your growth zone”.

So here I am, uncomfortable. Very. The mattress is sinking as I sleep, the showers provide no more than single drops of water at a time. The food is heavily starch based, processed and fried. Making the 50% obesity rate expected, but still extremely saddening to see.The sun burns and the insects bite. Time seems to be moving at a frustratingly slow pace, and the condition of standard infrastructure and facilities is a reminder of what a developing country is.

But in contrast to someone who has known these conditions all their life as home and feels rather happy in them. I’m already feeling the change.

I’m already gaining an appreciation of what I do have back home. What and who is the most important to me.  I also feel without my environment, I’ll find out which aspects of my character and personality are internally based rather than dependent of where I am, what I have, or who I am with.

I feel my mind opening to accept other cultures and ways of life. The youth I know back home have iPads and Facebook accounts. Here I’ve met kids who are happy spending their leisure time doing flips off jetties. Families don’t work overtime, they spend time how they wish, because that’s how life is. Having grown up in a large city, I don’t think I’ll ever lose my ‘rat race’ and growth orientated mentality, but I hope to loosen up and remodel my concept of ‘happiness’.

Lastly, I sought to put my name onto something I could not only be proud of, but that would open career opportunities for me based around positive contributions and social / developmental change.

This blog has allowed me to take that responsibility on in my personal life, but work wise, there is an educational organisation here that has asked for someone with my skill-set, so I will do my best to improve their capacity and contribute.

The pacific islands are known as holiday locations, and i’ll certainly get the escape from my familiar town and regular routine.  However, beyond the blue sky and beach, lies a series of challenges. Making new friends, new hobbies, new foods, learning a new language, new customs, basically living a new life without the support of friends and family which I honestly feel I’ve leant on too much at times.

The strength of a species is found in its ability to adapt so that is what I’ll have to do, and find out how strong I am in the process.

What Possibility Looks Like

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A few thousand dollars, my confidence, a lot of missed social events, the cancellation of my dream holiday to the USA , and probably a few extra hairs than normal. That was the cost of losing my job six months ago.

As the months dragged on and I became more desperate, rather than counting the costs, I aimed to change my outlook  by factoring in the possible benefits of my situation into the equation. I felt better.

I thought I would get another normal job, get along better with my co-workers and boss, and  get the only thing I wanted at the stage, a stable job that allowed for a developing career.

Enjoyment or fullfillment were no longer part of the criteria. All that I wanted at the least, was something that paid the bills and gave me the chance to earn more to pay bigger ones in the future. Of course I would do my part by keeping my smart a** mouth shut this time around.

At the high points such as in the middle of the night under the stars, or after a workout, or while in the presence of my friends, I dreamed big. This is when I felt my best.

Unfortunately I had just as many times alone at my worst.

In the mornings waking anxiously to face other day of ongoing applications and rejections, I was desperate to taste the smallest of crumbs of security. I even considered packing grocery bags again, something I did for seven years as a teenager, even to tie myself over until the right job came along.

And its more than a job that has come along.

Spending one year working overseas. It’s an opportunity that will ensure my life will never be the same.

Writing this from an hotel lobby in New Zealand. The reception staff wondering why a guest who has a flight to catch to Tonga in a few hours is still awake.

It’s because perspective and insights like this are like shooting stars. If you don’t take them when you are blessed by the chance, they are gone for good.

When you’re doing the emotional math in your head. Trying to figure if a situation is positive or negative, count as high as you can. Dream big.

Or as  Les Brown puts it “operate from your imagination, not your past experience”

I won’t have much time to dream tonight. But I got a feeling I’m on the path for them to come true.