I’ve Been Counted

Back in early 2014, before venturing overseas, I took part in my first photoshoot. A series of diverse photos were taken to capture ‘who I am.’ As I intended, these photos also became an core component of the book I was planning to write titled Living in Cream.

Just recently in early 2015, I ran into Shane, my photographer, at a careers fair on a local university campus. I was there to represent the organisation that sent me overseas, and he was there on behalf of the software engineering firm which he worked for as his full-time job. It was so unexpected and random, yet still so fitting.

The coincidence was perfect as Shane informed me that he had just submitted one of my photos into a renowned photography competition. As honoured as I was to be selected as  one of his submissions, I’m even more honoured to learn that the photo was given a gold award!

Personally, the most enjoyable part of the opportunity was hearing others’ interpretations of the tattoo, the pose, and the finished photograph. If you visit this link Watch AIPP QLD – Portrait – Room 2 and skip 2 hours and 1 minute into the video, you can listen to the discussion. In particular, one judge can be heard saying:

He left me asking so, so many questions.. about forgotten children.. a racial thing.. um.. I don’t know. There were so many questions there that were raised […]

So allow me answer.

It was back in early 2013 that I got the tattoo. It’s the handwriting of a girl I once knew. I know tattoos in reference to ‘lovers’ are usually horrible ideas, but this was 3 years after we had split… which probably makes less sense. But given that it was my first serious relationship, and my age at the time; the whole experience was undoubtedly going to have a defining impression on my future and how I interpret myself as well as the world.

Having eventually processed my emotions, gotten to know other girls, and most importantly, myself; I decided on getting the tattoo. I recall it was specifically triggered by a situation where I questioned what the ‘old me’ would have done. She doesn’t know and I don’t want her to. We haven’t even had a conversation in 5 years so explaining it wouldn’t be easy… or necessary. As truth be told… it’s not about remembering her.

 

remember

From my personal journal the day I got the tattoo

tattoo scan

The original note from her

Heart Shaped Rocks

10957412_606416726159089_865398460_n

 

I’m surrounded, but the one I want seems so hard to find.

Yet I keep looking, amongst the wrong, the close, and the not quite.

Because I’m after perfect, the one worth my time.

Not that I’m picky or a perfectionist…

I just seek to thank you for the moments you were gone…

It was these moments that kept me alive.

Challenges in Coming Home

DSC01985
Men dream more about coming home than they do about leaving – The Alchemist

I still remember being in the kitchen with my house mate, casually dicing ingredients of our dinner, when he cut through the silence… rather bluntly.

“You don’t want to go, do you?” He cared not about offending me, certain in the fact that he knew me. A sign of true friendship.

“Of course not,” I replied. Relieved to let out some honesty like the kettle and its steam. I wanted to stay. I didn’t always like what I had, where I was; but I felt safe in the familiar.

After an initial culture shock, Tonga – where I spent 2014 – also became familiar. It was only when I returned home to Australia, that I realised that Tonga, once dreaded and unknown, had also become a place I felt safe.

The year away presented me with so many different experiences: Good times, bad times, better days and worse ones. One thing that kept me going was knowing that I was coming home. So why aren’t things as great as I envisioned?

It’s explained online that some  of the negative experiences of returning home may include:

• Feeling like family and friends don’t understand how you’ve changed and have tired of listening to your stories
• Feeling like you don’t have anything in common with your friends anymore
• Rejection of your own culture, particularly consumerism and affluence
• Constantly comparing practices in Australia with those in your Host Country
• Uncertainty about the future
• Difficulty making decisions
• Feeling misunderstood
• Boredom
• Loss of identity
• Feeling overwhelmed or disorientated

The technical term is “reverse culture shock.”

The most shocking – rather scary – thing to me is how easy it is to fall back into old routines; to be the same old person. Forgetting all those promises I made about changing as the sun would set over the ocean – a shared treasure in Tonga, but a luxury here, reserved for those with water-front homes.

And here I am back in the suburbs, surrounded by things I now know I don’t need, while uncertain about what I need the most. I’m making changes though: no longer going to the gym as much, focusing on development, speaking to a psychologist, spending less time with certain friends, spending more time with my family. So it’s definitely been good to be back – but not as great as I thought it would be.

I guess the truth is that we can’t run – from ourselves or from our responsibilities. Sure, I’ve come back – but with all intentions of going forwards.

 

 

 

 

Month 10 in Tonga

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.46.44 am

Rather than tasting the batter, let me first describe how I beat this post out.

  1. I flip open my journal (not to be confused with a diary).
  2. I find the start of the month just past, and read my way to the current day.
  3. I make all sorts of facial expressions and sounds (not to be confused with my coming toilet break).
  4. I experience an array of thoughts flavoured from, “I’ll always remember that” to “f*** that sucked.”
  5. I close the lock on my journal with its matching glittering plastic pink key, snort four crushed up valium tablets and fall asleep to Jamie Oliver’s audio cookbook (not to be confused with a serious statement).

But on a serious note, the process can either be hectic, easy, or a well-suited challenge. But I still do it, regardless. I do it because, to understand the world, you have to first understand the filter which you perceive it through: yourself. I do it because, when all I see is pieces, writing helps me put the puzzle together – to form and gain clarity on the bigger picture – which is my life.

As Hemingway said, “Writing is a lonely existence.” So as much as I would like company, it’s not expected. But when I come back to this page in a few months, finding another set of fingerprints in the digital dust, and maybe a kindly left comment, certainly wouldn’t deter me from the habit.

So, let’s get into the month, starting with the little things.

I rode close to 50km on a trip (a lot for me). I volunteered at Tonga’s only international school, answering the many questions eight-year-olds have. I organised a fashion show for my institute’s students at a popular local bar. And I also joined another fashion committee which is hosting an upcoming show. I’m not particularly a ‘fashion’ person, but I’ve enjoyed the insight into their challenge of introducing contemporary clothes into traditionally conservative culture. To illustrate, one of the girls had her family say that they felt ashamed after seeing a photo of her posing in a bikini on a beach.

I had an experience of freakish serendipity. I went to the local flea market and just happened to find the exact book I was looking to download a few days ago; a book of famous poems, which I also wanted; and a jumper of a favourite band, where I only needed something to keep me warm in my upcoming trip to New Zealand.

I got a few postcards from home and had a great Skype call with someone I hadn’t seen in over 1 year. Someone who I only met in person once before I left for Tonga. Someone who I only met because of this blog. It was great to hear about his travels to Asia and tell him about my journey so far. Both experiences reminding me of the value and importance of longstanding relationships as well as like-minded company.

Now, the bigger things.

I had an early farewell at the technical institute where I volunteer, crying more than they did. I’m not sure why. Possibly from a volatile mixture of emotions, from missing people back home, the anxiety of returning, to my own doubt in my effectiveness of being here. So when a particular teacher said that I’ve made a “dream come true” for them by organising their cruise ship tours, it was enough to catch my manly mannerisms off guard, and to tip the ‘tea’rs that I knew were filling, but I was trying not to spill.

The farewell also helped me accept that I won’t have the same kind of impact as some of the other volunteers, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve had an impact.

Now, the biggest thing.

I finally completed by first video project! After standing at the cliff for a while, eyes shut, using my imagination to visualise the possibility of what I could create – I dove… well, I was pushed. Attending a recent community film festival where new video makers were showing   their creations, was the push I needed. It’s true what they say about inspiration: it’s contagious.

There’s also a truth about the creative process: its possessive. In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explores the Ancient Greek myth of The Muses. In summary, there were nine daughters of Zeus who each governed a specific creative art form. And when a mortal set out to create something in one of these forms, he would be guided and inspired by its Muse. Truth aside,  I think it’s beautiful. It also reflects my experience of writing my ebook so I was glad to be under a kind of ‘creative spell’ once again.

“The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” – Steven Pressfield

Once I just started my video project – even without a set plan – everything just fell into place. Editing and filming over 3 days, I couldn’t slow down nor stop until I had finished it. And finished it I did.

Like the short films I had watched at the festival I attended, my goal was to capture and share a certain unseen side of Tonga. I also chose a subject that really resonated with me personally – and I did it in a way that reflected my personality. The feedback has been great: many current volunteers have used it to show their friends and families back home what Tonga is like; the soon to arrive volunteers have been thankful for a chance to see what their new home is going to be like; and other people around the world now know about this tiny island they never knew exited. My favourite remark however, was, “I can’t help but smiling the whole way through it.” As such was my goal..

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.” – Steven Pressfield

Then came the worst thing: man down.

Out of nowhere, my enthusiasm’s gone – like someone tripped on the cord, pulling it out and taking all my energy with it. Everything’s a drag, I even consider deleting this blog. I won’t elaborate like I did in this post – but this particular time, it was bad enough for me to seriously consider how these seasonal states effect the quality of my life, what triggers them, and most importantly, what I’m going to do about them when I return home.

“You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is a place where you’ll get any work done.” – Cheryl Strayed

I guess, there is a lot on my mind. There are a lot of forks in the road, and the uncertainty is as threatening as a knife.  But to quote Strayed again, “Self-pity is a dead-end road.” So here is something more optimistic out of my own mouth..

“Life may not be a piece of cake, but you’ve still got to bare your teeth and take a bite.”

So I’m going to spend my last 2 months here chewing: doing what I have to do. There are also still many experiences to taste: people to meet, things to learn, sights to snorkel, coconuts to drink.

– Boy out.

PS – Neat song

Lessons from Louie

louis_ck_660

Louis CK is undoubtedly my favourite comedian.

Given today’s talent, that’s quite an accomplishment, as the size of a crowd trying to get on stage can be just as large as the one that’s in the audience. However, there are still a few ways for an individual comedian stand out from the rest.

Most commonly, it’s through their unique delivery, facial expressions, or the relatable nature of the jokes they make — things related to comedy. But how Louie particularly wins me over is through his honesty, rawness, and bravery.

In his self-titled TV series, “Louie”, he plays himself living his actual personal life as a comedian, single parent, and a decent guy just trying to get by and navigate his way through the franticness of New York. And no matter what’s going on or what he’s going through, he manages to be exceptionally funny through all of it.

This concept has sustained three enjoyable seasons. So it was unexpected to find that the latest fourth season of Louie wasn’t as funny — and even more unexpected when I found it to my favourite season yet.

It was because Louie did something, which for a comedian, is definitely different. He changed his winning formula. He fixed what wasn’t broken; he tried being less funny.

There were several episodes presented with little to no humour. I felt that this approach made the show more serious and confronting at times, but also more demanding of my attention and deliberation because it was easier to relate to Louie. As a result, I became more invested and interested in seeing this particular season through.

As I reached the final episode, I felt that, despite being a comedy, the season was surprisingly deeply moving. There were also a few issues brought up, that I’d definitely consider important, if not, life lessons. So if you’re not a Louie fan, here is what you missed:

1) Sex Doesn’t Mean Seriousness

Louie meets Amia, a Hungarian women who’s temporarily visiting the US. She can’t speak English, but through their own methods of communication — chemistry develops. After a few dates, Louie starts to feel strongly about her, but is convinced by others that his feelings are not valid unless they’re having sex. So they do. Rather than bringing them closer, it only creates more distance and confusion.

This plot reminded me of the first time I had sex without any similar pre-established conditions. Particularly about how naive I was at the time — and disappointed afterwards. I thought it meant far more than she did. Actions don’t always speak louder than words, because there are some words that just have to be said. This is what Louie and Amia eventually do through a translator, and the outcome is far more meaningful.

2) Love is Pain

Once Amia leaves, Louie finds himself depressed. He knew the hurt was inevitable. He knew the company wasn’t going to last, but he still wanted it so badly. Why? I know because I was in a similar position earlier this year. Except, I was the one leaving.

As the date of my departure neared, the girl of my interest became less and less willing to spend time with me. Maybe she knew something that I didn’t — or that I just didn’t want to think about — which was the risk of getting attached and therefore, hurt. In his show, Louie is a lonely guy. In real life, I’m that guy too. So speaking for myself, I know how it feels to just want someone’s company — regardless of the conditions, such as that it’s not for long.

When Louie consults the unwelcoming-but-wise doctor that lives in his apartment block, he gets the following advice: “Love is the pain. It’s when you’re apart from someone, and you’re hurting, that you know how truly deeply you really were in love. You know that what you had was real.” The doctor goes on, “You lucky son of a b****, I haven’t had my heart broken in years.” It’s something to think about. It helped Louie, and there’s certainly times, we can all feel as low or lonely.

3) With Parenting, Less can be More

There is one episode where Louie catches his eldest daughter smoking a joint. When she asks about the “big lecture” she is going to get, the extent of his response is, “Just know that I’m here for you.” Relating to my own experiences as a teenager, feeling constantly confronted and criticised definitely doesn’t help a young person understand the things they need to. But knowing that their parents are someone they can just talk to — does.

4) Responsibility is Important

In a flash-back episode, a younger Louie steals $2000 worth of equipment from his school. A younger me did that same amount worth in damage to my own school during a mindless act of vandalism. Like Louie, I also thought I was safely protected by my age. I learned that once you cross “the line” — you aren’t. Sure, age limits expectations, but more importantly, actions still carry consequences.

Being responsible also isn’t just a matter of being caught; it’s owning what you did. The investigation gets dropped but Louie still chooses to confesses to his teacher. It’s clear that decisions like these helped mold Louie’s main character into the respectable adult that he is. This episode is a reminder that being a good person is part of the process of being committed to becoming a better one as we work through our mistakes.

5) Success isn’t about being Special

When Louie finds himself envious of his friend’s recent success and doubting his own abilities, his girlfriend Pamela offers this advice: “None of you guys are special or magical. Some of you are luckier, and some of you work harder than others. But you’re all just guys.” Things don’t get much more truthful than that.

And that’s it.

TV shows make for great escapism and entertainment, but Louie proves that even through a comedy based on another person’s experiences, you can learn things too: about life, and about yourself. Even if you’re not a Louis CK fan, I hope this post encourages you to at least think about what you’re getting out of your favourite show (not to devalue the broadsword training Game of Thrones provides).

A Letter from Luke

Note from Luke

Meeting Luke was a reminder about how even the most straight forward of roads have their forks. As we have choices, which are also – not as straight forward.

After placing my fork and knife down, I planned to just go home after dinner. As I was walking back, I decided to deliberately pass closer by to a group of guys seated by the beach. Maybe I just wanted a proper conversation. Another chance after the dinner I had just sat awkwardly through.

A timid and tentative “What’s up guys” was replied with a confident “Yo Boy.”

That’s how easy it is for a fork to appear.

It turns out I knew just one of the guys, and it wasn’t long before I knew them all pretty well. Well, at least it feels intimate when you’re stumbling home drunk and sharing a cigarette.

I did think about the important Teacher’s March I had to participate in the next day – but I also thought about the other things on my mind.  Specifics aside, there was regret, worry, fear, and doubt. The typical shit. I thought a drink or two would help ease me up.

And that’s how easy it is to take the wrong turn.

The rest is a blur. I remember offering my couch to Luke, who I had just met that night. I can’t remember what we spoke about exactly, but I’m sure it was the kind of conversation I wanted to have because I do remember singing this

“I never conquered, rarely came
16 just held such better days
Days when I still felt alive
We couldn’t wait to get outside
The world was wide, too late to try
The tour was over we’d survived
I couldn’t wait till I got home
To pass the time in my room alone”

(Adam’s Song -Blink 182)

Before we could make it through the whole song, my head went from banging to hanging – over the toilet. I threw up – several times, before passing out. In the morning Luke was gone but this note was left in my journal.

He had gone his separate way, and I was left to decide which way I was going to go. What choice I was going to make: to suck it up and go to the March, or to stay home. However, it was obvious I had already made my decision last night. I was in absolutely no condition to go anywhere, let alone, move much. I missed the March. I fucked up. In more ways than one, I really felt like shit.

Despite the hangover, I experienced a sense of clarity regarding the next choice I had to make. Since I valued honest conversations, it was time I had one with my supervisor. Someone I knew well. Someone I had also lied to; stating food poison as the reason I was sick.

The irony is, I’m not only back on the right track, I’m further along it. The conversation gave me a chance to be honest about a lot of things. It really improved our relationship.

Of course, my decision to get drunk could have easily been followed by a worse one to lie about it – but it wasn’t. Of course, I could have also gone to the march and still had that conversation I needed to have – but – I didn’t.

Life is never that straight forward.

Perhaps that’s the blessing in the way we encounter and make choices. At least I learned, in this occasion, sometimes the only way we can make that right turn is by making, what appears to be, a wrong one first.

Writing My First Book – My Experience

Book editing

“I don’t know what the soul is, but I’m pouring it into this book”

Something I had written in my journal six months ago. In contrast to now, it was back when I was losing sleep out of excitement. Back when I was springing out of bed with energy. I was in the process of writing my first book.

I’m not sure what I exactly wanted or expected. It was like I was consciously in the backseat and a mysterious creative impulse of mine was driving. Despite all warnings about getting into cars with strangers – I never questioned it or asked ‘if we’re there yet’ because I was too busy enjoying the ride. I was bettering my writing ability, and becoming an author. Regardless of the context, these are two truly worthwhile human experiences.

Becoming viral or even obtaining a single sale definitely wasn’t on my mind. But success was. That’s because success is subjective. Beyond the sole personal achievement of writing a book, the other metrics I wanted to measure were based around “meaning”… and maybes.

Maybe the people I know will take the time to read it and understand who I really am. Maybe someone I don’t know will read it and want to get to know me. Maybe they’re going through a difficult time, and my book will tell them the kinds of things that I once so desperately needed to hear.

When you give with less expectations to get, sometimes life surprises you. And this is what my ‘may’ came to ‘be’.

My book not only brought current friends closer to me, it brought new people into my life.. founding new friendships. From both sources, I’ve received plenty of kind comments which i’ve treasured. True to Jim Carrey’s 2014 MUM Graduation Speech where he states

 

“The effect you have on people is the most valuable currency there is.”

 

Just like Jim also describes his discovery of comedy as ‘something worth his time’, I’ve realised that writing is worth mine. I never would have considered myself the type to give advice since I’ve got so far to go personally and professionally. But the way I see it now, is that writing and sharing gives new meaning and value to every experience I go through. Particularly my f*** ups. People also say that I have a ‘gift’. If I do, then it’s only good manners to unwrap it.

Here I am still going on that. Surrounded by crumpled paper like a kid on Christmas – months after Christmas morning. I’ve learned that gifts also don’t always come easily.

Since releasing my book online, I’ve found grammatical errors, fixed them… and despite reading over the same pages many times – I’ve found more.  I’ve set up an automatic email system, then realised that 50% of my subscribers never got the book because the campaign paused itself. I sent out an e-mail apologising .. but so hastily that even it had some embarrassing typos. Uggnnhhhhhhh! That’s not another one – it’s the actual sound I remember making. Much much louder than it was just in your thoughts.

Banging my head against the wall would only break the instrument I need to keep this thing going. The fact that I’m posting this means that I didn’t throw my laptop out of the window either. Perfection is a process. We f*** up – then we get up. But sometimes it’s with our faces in the dirt that we find our lucky nickel, or we ourselves, are picked up as a diamond in the rough.

If I never got fired from my previous job, then I wouldn’t have ended up overseas with the spare time and motivation to write my book in the first place. That was my nickel. As a diamond, I’ve been picked up and polished by the generous friends I’ve recently made.

One is an experienced writer and editor, she’s given me assurance in the worth of my work and assistance in making the required final touches. Another friend, who I actually made through my book, is even willing to help me cover the costs of getting it onto the Amazon Kindle store.

Going from a self setup soap box to a shared stage is a scary thought.

But then I remember that how I was once worried about just uploading my book on my private Facebook profile. The photos of myself half naked and covered in ice cream weren’t my worry. It was how vulnerable and exposed my writing made me. But my experience since has given me faith that fortune does favour the brave. So I’ll definitely be making the strides to share what I’ve created with more people. Maybe it will help more people, or maybe, create the opportunity for more people to help me.

I’m so thankful for the support from everyone who has read my book. And even to those who haven’t, but provide inspiration through their own pursuits. Such as the author Kamal Ravikant, who honestly shares this about his book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It

“[I] published it on Amazon, expecting to sell ten copies, max. It took off and became a success. Word of mouth, blog posts, tweets. The book has a life of its own, spreading around the world.

 

If anything, the book was a gift to me. It made me cross a threshold, showed me that my voice mattered. Sharing my truth mattered. My life mattered.”

My plan is to have it on Amazon’s Kindle store by my birthday (October 27). Maybe I’ll hit ten copies. Maybe more. But it doesn’t matter. Because – I already know I matter.

 

 

 

6 Months – Halfway Home

sink or swim

“It’s good to be home.”

I said it without much thought.

“….You just called Tonga home,”

proclaimed my friend with more enthusiasm than I could muster at the moment. Afterall, I had just stepped off an airplane, returning from holidays, and coming down in more ways than one…

We quickly moved on to discuss my two weeks in Fiji, but I suddenly found myself with the energy to entertain the topic in my thoughts.

I guess I had finally hit that point where I felt ‘that’ comfortable. Or maybe it was my recent experience away, that through the contrast, had made me appreciate and acknowledge the greenness of this island’s grass. This would be in the same way that living in Tonga has made me more aware of all the comforts and opportunities I had previously been living amongst… for basically my entire life.

This seems to be the best way to learn, which is kind of a shame, but I still take strides in counting my blessings and knowing what i’ve got, before it’s gone. Since I’ve been in Tonga, I’ve been listing 3 or more good things everyday. I call it the 3 dot formula. Try three. It helps. I can attest to that. But I’m sure there is a doctor saying the same thing about apples, and a dentist about flossing. But i’m hoping you can fit it in into your schedule.

The holiday was enjoyable for the most part. It could have gone better in some areas, i.e. getting sick, transport not showing up, the festival  I planed to attend being postponed, but I still enjoyed myself. Like Tonga, Fiji is also an island , but a much much larger one, so the sight of skyscrapers, mountain silhouettes and different cultures was a refreshing change of scenery. The taste of butter chicken and nan bread was like sex in my mouth, almost making up for the sex I’m not getting with the rest of my body. I saw many new faces, heard an interesting array of stories, and told mine on many occasions with pride (note to self – design business cards with my blog address.)

It was also my first ever experience travelling completely alone ( I came to Tonga with other volunteers). I can say that I enjoy the spontaneity and novelty of being forced to make new friends wherever you go. At times I can get nervous about approaches, but I learned it’s always worthwhile to take the chance at a conversation as you never know how much further it can go. In Nadi, three girls I spoke to turned out to actually be from Brisbane, and also friendly enough to invite me to various events and sights. In Pacific Harbour, through two people at my hostel, I got to attend a nearby house get together with a group of dive students from the USA who introduced me to the term of ‘YOFO’ – you only Fiji once. I took it to heart, heading out with them to a full moon party on a beach despite my antibiotic prescription and worsening sore throat.

Then there were the people I didn’t want to spend time with. But when you’re backpacking, you’re playing a lottery with the 8 kinds of people you’ll be sharing an undersized room with. I won’t complain about the smell, mess, noises, state of the bathroom, and just remind myself in general, to put equal consideration into the pros and cons of my decisions. At $20 a night, you get what you pay for.

Towards the end as I felt I had done my share of partying, pigging out, smoking and drinking, I came to understand that there are different types of travellers. You can share a destination, but be under the directions of different desires and intuitions. I can’t wait to travel again, but also make different choices about what I’m there to do.

From there I returned to Tonga to find the once noticeable presence of my housemates replaced by silence. The house was empty, but my mind was full. The realisation that I was half way through my assignment was setting in. That I wouldn’t get another chance at this, so regardless of the fear of uncertainty and failure, I have to give it everything. At that moment, I felt it. Lighter. Liberated.

I spent so long questioning if I had made the right choice by coming here and worrying if I will be able to handle it and have a worthy impact.  Then I finally accepted that I had already made the choice. Right or wrong, the decision’s made. We can carry an amazing amount of luggage in our heads. Weight you can only comprehend by dumping it.

Stress is resistance to what is. I’m here, so, so should my focus be –  you know, that present moment stuff. Thoughts about what I gave up to be here or alternative choices I could have made are the furtherest thing from productive. I’m better off spending my time trying to simultaneously chase the two chickens that live in my yard so I can milk them. Regarding the impact I have, well Kamal Ravikant sums it up when he speaks about effort in his book Live Your Truth ( great book, greater guy for returning my email)

“If there is one lesson I’ve learned from failure and success, it’s this. I am not the outcome. I am never the result. I am only the effort.”

So here I am, digging my teeth into things and enjoying the surprising taste of the successes I’ve been having.

I’ll move on to another quote, this time directed at me. It’s from a doctor I visited in Fiji,

“I’ve only just met you, but I can tell you’re missing a sparkle    in your eyes”

And that’s definitely true. Or was. The last six months were not exactly easy. Sure, I’ve survived so far, but rather, I want to leave here being proud that I thrived. Regardless of specific circumstances, there is an honest conversation we can have with ourselves. It’s about effort and the question of wether we can be and do more. If we don’t, then perhaps it just becomes a regrettable story that our eyes tell.

Sure, I’m physically on the flattest island in the South Pacific, but mentally I’m climbing mountains. Down here is my life, but somewhere up there is the peak of my potential – and I’m dying to see how the view looks.

Omitting the oxygen tank, for supplies, I’ve got a large whiteboard detailing the list of personal and professional objectives I want to hit, a bookmark for James Altucher’s blog,  a diet and exercise plan to regain the physical, and mental, strength i’ve lost, enough green tea to fuel 100 meditation sessions (thanks for the care package Sarah), the support of new and old friends, and overall, a renewed sense of passion. In fact, I’m hoping that in my upcoming visit, the dentist tells me that he can

smell the purpose in my breath.’ 

When we face challenges, our options aren’t just sink or swim. I’m done treading water here, and I’m ready to climb to new heights.

See you up there.

5 Months Update

Photo on 1-07-14 at 12.01 AM

The children of Tonga are learning that Santa Clause may in fact be a Fijian Indian looking guy who sounds like Steve Irwin, and on a bike too suave to be bought locally, he randomly pulls up at street corner stores and buys all the kids in line a chocolate bar. He then rides off without saying no more than a grin.

The man of mystery is of course me. What I’ve described is all part of my discovery of how much further money can go in other countries. Not through the weakness of their currency, but through the strength of my generosity.

A another deed was when a student who works at the school restaurant had her husband attending a dinner to celebrate his birthday. I had already agreed to pay for the cake she was planning to surprise him with. Unfortunately, at the dinner they hadn’t prepared the icing. She was devastated, but I took a photo of them, and surprised her with a framed family photo the next day. When I arrived 5 months ago, lost in town, she gave me directions and paid my bus fair, so I was determined to return the kindness.

The whole ordeal cost no more than $15 Australian Dollars, lunch back home, but here it led to a feeling more fulfilling than a full stomach. Of course buying someone lunch back home would still be kind, but along side the volunteering I was doing here and there, previously without a job, that would be the limit of my capabilities. It’s great to be in a position here where it’s so easy to go above and beyond for others. Even with out the beard and belly, the joy I can bring makes me feel a bit santa-ish.

Other involvements in the community include spending Saturday mornings reading and playing with the local children at Kids Klub. It reminds me of the Wonder Factory at the Childrens’ Hospital in Australia, but with the exception of the Playsations, Xbox’s , Wiis, and hundreds of board games and toys. That doesn’t mean the kids in Tonga don’t laugh just a loud or smile as sincerely. I’m really enjoying it, though it’s a challenge explaining how I’m Australian… but don’t look like the others.

Through my involvement in the ICON youth group, I got to participate in a charity day, venturing to some eye opening areas of the country. Regardless of the surroundings, and the fact I was in a traditional Tongan outfit, I still took the chance to break out into a dance when Justin Bieber – Baby came blaring out of one of the teenager’s phones. It seems we all can fit music and dance into our lives. This was another of the many experiences I’ve had here that convince me it’s a language of its own. Commonly understood, and uniting people regardless of their origins or differences.

I wrote more about that specific experience here. Meanwhile, this month allowed me the chance to personally get closer to ICON’s members. I learned about the difference that the group had made in their lives. Giving them a creative outlet and steering them off the path of alcohol and drugs, which is unfortunately so accessible and temping when unemployment is common, and opportunities sparse. To a degree I could definitely relate, dancing and music didn’t save me from anything, but certainly gave me a lot more to look forward too.

In the context of work and my actual volunteer assignment, there has also been revelations. I created a new revenue stream and learning experience at my school, successfully organising a student-run tour for the guests of a visiting P&O cruise ship. There was also a promising phone call from a CEO, and the start of a relationship with a Marketing Manager whose working experiencing spans the same amount of years that I’ve been alive.

However, things weren’t always so pleasant. I’ve made the mistake in the past of not voicing my concerns to my employers, but with the sacrifices and investments I’ve made, I found it crucial to speak up when I felt my assignment wasn’t progressing as successfully as it could. It wasn’t easy, but the outcome as worth it. Adjustments have been made, and feeling more supported, I’m really excited about what I can accomplish during the final half of my assignment.

I plan to aim high, but the expectations I put on myself, and the attachments I form to specific outcomes,  have unfortunately been at times, a burden, my downfall, and a source of unneeded stress. The stress is a slippery slope, and before long, I’m nervously anticipating where I’ll end up after this, and questioning if I was even correct in my decision to come here. Once I’ve slid all the way to the bottom, I’m almost certain of my failure based on a past that I’m not always proud of.

Helping me climb my way back to the top were the authors Kamal Ravikant – Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It and Brene Brown – Gifts Of Imperfection with  quotes like these and  plenty of more practical advice in their respective books..

 “The key, at least for me, has been to let go. Let go of the ego, let go of attachments, leg go of who I think I should be, who others think I should be. And as I do that, the real me emerges, far far better than the Kamal I projected to the world. There is a strength in this vulnerability that cannot be described, only experience.” – Kamal Ravikant

“Faith is a place of mystery where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty” – Brene Brown

 

After the books are closed, if I’m still not close enough to where I want to be, I can always count on the outreached hands of my friends. They digitally cross the distance between us through phone calls, Skype video calls, emails and the occasional Facebook comments. Of course I’ve also been lucky to meet some great people during my time here. Overall, the acquisition of new friends and the separation from existing ones has shown me how crucial the right kind of company and support is. No matter where you are in the world.

That’s pretty much it for me. Between chilling by the water, playing ultimate frisbee, getting chased by dogs, writing the best wedding speech ever, and planning my holiday to Fiji, I’m getting excited to start my next special project since finishing my ebook. This one definitely won’t come as quickly or easy, as its already been a goal for almost 3 years now. Frustrated and close to giving up on it already, a quote by Layne Norton in his video blog on Happiness and Accomplishments, got me to reconsider, so stay tuned.

“What does quitting do for you? You have a goal but you say it’s too hard or it’s taking too long, so you decide to quit. Do you suddenly magically not want that thing anymore? Of course not” – Layne Norton

For the Boy Under the Bridge, I’ve personally received praise from an author I look up to, had another author post a photo of my book on Facebook to an audience of over 100K, I painted and branded a bin that will be placed in a popular waterfront area, I’ve had more people connect with me on forums, and I’ve even had a skype call with my first ever proper fan from across the other side of the world! She’s quite a number, but I heard staying single is better for sales. I’m also working on a new type of content, so once again, stayed tuned.

At 11.55pm there is 5 minutes until June 2014 is over. I’m sitting in a backyard club house creatively constructed out of an array of materials. It’s holding around 20 Tongan guys, some drinking a traditional drink called Kava, the rest playing the not so traditional game of Jenga which I brought over from Australia. With a laptop full of music, Im also acting as the DJ while I’m typing away. Someone requests Audio Slave, I put on “Like a Stone” and together we all start to sing…

In your house I long to be;
Room by room patiently,
I’ll wait for you there like a stone.
I’ll wait for you there alone.

 

The difference between the sunset & a screen..

 

Something Sunset2 copy

 

This photo was taken down at the wharf where I spend most of my afternoons. If not because of the children playing (without an iPad to be seen) it’s because of the sunset.

It dawned on me one day, that over four months, I had lost track of the amount of sunsets I had seen watched, but experience felt just as enriching as the first ‘episode’

The proportion that the colours blend, the shape the clouds take, and the directions the sun’s rays go, will always be unique, and I know I’ll never see a repeat.