Going the distance

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
― Audre Lorde

I wasn’t going to write about moving to Sydney, I’m not the first and I definitely wont be the last young woman to go to university. I don’t want to write about public transport, or sharing my home with one hundred and thirty strangers; or ending up in the northern beaches on my way to the inner west (I was hungover give me a break) definitely not discussing ordering and eating a big brekkie and my card declining in front of a cafe in Randwick (crying real tears right now).

This is an attempt to share my internal monologue with you, of the small moments of loneliness, of self doubt and anxiety, of my grief and how it changed once I only had myself to take care of. To explain all the adrenaline of receiving love and support on making the move- but not wanting to leave bed or eat for days on end.

I’ve been here for three months now, caught between the excitement of what is new, and the residue of my home and all that it gave to me, I am slowly growing into myself. I am happy here, not because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the right fit for me. I am more than excited to be learning again. To see myself in the communities around me and feel like I am seen here, for my authentic self and her interests; I appreciate that.

There were times however, when I felt cut off from the love that I received so consistently that I questioned my self worth. This previous term was the first thing I have done academically in over three years, I often felt inadequate next my peers in lectures and in class.

I felt pressure to make this move work, inadvertently in my family’s missing me, in the friends, work and partner I left behind. I know I put this pressure on myself, but on the days I missed home most I felt embarrassed to be vulnerable. I didn’t want anyone to know that after all of this fuss and excitement, I was sad.

This post should be titled I hate, I mean absolutely despise long distance (was advised against that one). Ben and I were in such a specific place when I left town. We spent a hell of a lot of time together and moving was a major shock to the system.

Falling in love was like pouring honey, a thick black treacle; the golden syrup you tilt slowly and then all at once. for reasons no one can quite pinpoint, and I was young. I was eighteen when I met Ben, and even though I barely knew what it meant to date a man- I have not been as sure of myself as that time of my life.

We are nearing on three years together and I hope I know him as well as he knows me. I think learning an individual’s love language is the deepest privilege. I refer to us often in my posts but I think the labour of a relationship, the magic of a shared experience is between the two people involved.

 

I can however admit this, in addressing all of my relationships platonic or otherwise. I hated having to know the people I love in hindsight. Catching up on our day, recounting our weekend, FaceTiming our dinner it made me want to come home once every couple of days.

Thinking about it now, in a healthier mind set. I am so lucky that the people I love want me to come home, that my partner travels to see me, that my friends keep me in the loop. People put less effort into the loved ones they share a home with- who am I to demand certain kinds of love right?

I did two things that really worked, at a time I needed it most. the first was attending an induction at my local headspace and allowing myself to open up to the idea of getting help, the second was something my younger self taught me. I wrote a list of all the things I wanted and then I wrote what that would look like.

It started off with things like “I will eat more” and that looked like me going to my common kitchen. Then I wrote things like “attend every lecture” and I did this genius thing where I got the hell out of bed. Some days it was harder, like exploring the city or finding the right job.

I started to write “I’m going to get a distinction” instead of “I need to finish this essay” I found comfort in my new friends, some old friends and the genuine electricity of the city. With the work I did alone, and the help I got (am still receiving) I acknowledged that my grief had taken a new shape.

Much like the rest of my family I would prefer to address my feelings in private. I committed myself to tasks and called that grieving. Initially there was a funeral to plan, family to console, friends to help. Then I had a job to focus on, an exciting relationship, fun to have. I had nieces and siblings and beautiful over the top friends. Until I didn’t, until they were hours away and we missed each other’s calls and I was really bloody sad.

If you want your come back to be fiercely strong, you need to be fiercely true with yourself. I know this now, and I know manifesting a vision is not the same as sitting and dreaming. You have to tell yourself you’re amazing and capable and worthy but what’s the point of all of that power if you’re hiding in your college room.

I am so incredibly uncontrollably happy, I am stimulated and challenged; I feel welcome and I’m sad, I am antisocial and anxious- but I’m working on it.

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Imperfect Circles

“Just give the insecurity thing a rest” as if one picks such a thing from the shelf; only to dust it off and sit it back in place. I tilt my head, hoping perspective would fix it. I wonder if we ever truly know, just how much of our parents we carry with us.

I was raised by a single mother, long before they had ever signed the papers. I know my mother like the back of my hand- she makes a routine of herself. My father however, I have only ever known through a tainted scope. Head tilted, I see my father- if only for a split second- and I know I have started tracing circles into the weaving of my choices.

I haven’t written for a while, mostly because I would rather post a resolve than a rant. For months I’d hoped the few scribbled sentences I had been carrying around, would give me an insight into what is actually going on with me. I believe, just like many of you reading right now, that I am a collection of cycles. I see myself rounding in and beginning again in a lot of the choices I have made. In the repetition I have found a nostalgia of sorts- with this projection into my past I can’t help but try to navigate the moments and people that have shaped me.

It begins and ends with our fathers, no matter the nature of the relationship. They become the men we model ourselves to be, or the character we try to avoid. They are the type of men we fall in love with, or perhaps we find a love that takes care of us better than our fathers ever did. For a long time I believe I was affected by the mess in which he caused. Quick to anger, hesitant to trust. I see traces of it still. I am ambivalent, I see things in finite phases, I am constantly adjusting.

The home that wrapped its arms around me, was warm- soft to touch and the first to say “I love you”. Dinner time was loud, and Friday night footy was louder- and it mostly included my dad. One person’s fears and shortcomings, cannot boil down to the actions of another individual. I know this.

This scope I seem to measure my dad’s love on is never in his favour. I have fathers, I have fathers ten times the Dad he ever was or could ever hope to be.

My mother is one hundred and fifty percent, from the moment she wakes to the moment we sleep. In anger, or joy, excitement, sheer pride. She is there, with her whole conviction, attention and heart. She taught me to love, to respect, to persevere.

My maternal uncle has taught me that my mind is my biggest tool. To fuel it, train it and speak it. That even as I’m learning, even if he has his own battles- he will be there. My eldest brother, he taught me to keep some things for myself. That the goal was always further than here, the picture always bigger than now. At the time I thought his expectations were unreasonable- but all he ever wanted was for me to work hard, keep my modesty, my dignity and my drive.

I am half of my father, in all it’s undeniable rage. It is unreasonable to say he wasn’t there, when clearly I remember him present. There is a significant difference, however in taking up space physically- and giving weight emotionally.

Growing up I felt, never quite good enough for him. He just couldn’t manage to get to an assembly on time, never really made a fuss of birthdays, seemed too busy to make it to a netball or basketball game. The love he did show didn’t make sense to me, now I look back I know it was there- but it wasn’t enough to make a twelve year old feel safe or wanted or cherished.

On the day I was accepted into university, he sent a “congrats” gif on messenger. This was the first contact made in three years. At the time his attempts fell short, they still do. Seventeen year old me really took it to heart, in hindsight I believe we can only ever exercise a love we are capable of. My mother greeted me at the airport with a bunch of balloons and roses- because that’s the love within her.

I think about him a lot, inadvertently and uncontrollably. I know deep down the circle you trace is a result of all the different kinds of love you receive- and so I watch what I give and receive everyday. I hope I am adequate company, kind enough to my peers, interested enough in my partner. I hope to pay the attention my dad didn’t, in all facets of the things I do.

In this tracing of circles I am short tempered and forthright. I’m not angry anymore, how could I waste such energy while I’m basking in the love I get today. In the bigger deeper, more deserving love I’ve lost. No, I am quick to cut people off- friends, family, partners- because I know what mediocre love feels like, and that is a circle I refuse to begin.

A letter to my sixteen year old self

I’m sure you feel boxed in, I remember it- that yearning. I’m sure you feel like the good days don’t matter, trust me the sooner you learn to be present the lighter you’ll feel. There’s higher highs than this, you always knew there was more to come. What you can’t possibly imagine is the pain you learn to carry, the strength you have to find.

Everything must seem so big. The boys you fuss over, the friends you lose, the assignments you refuse to address. Slowly- as if watching a rose unravel- you learn what it means to be a good friend. We’ve not yet blossomed, i’m still learning. The girls that leave you behind won’t ever rise with you, give it time. Find yourself, that’s how you find your people.

Your friends now, they know you, even in the darkest corners of yourself they understand. Deep down you know all about those boys, and you end up making the right decisions- I’m thankful for that. Don’t stray too far from home for what you think you need.

A good man is not determined by the degree he holds, or the money in his account. It’s the decision he makes every day to learn what it means to love and be loved. Those assignments, there’s more- plenty of them. Use the drive you have to learn and turn it into a passion to execute. Sooner, rather than later please.

At the moment you’re still mourning Momo Joe’s passing, I wish you’d open up. There are people willing to listen, don’t ever be too proud to ask for help. That anger that you feel about dad leaving, that’s mourning too. Tap into how loss makes you feel, it makes it easier to appreciate the love you get given everyday. You lost two father figures at once, and I’m so sorry but neither of them come back.

You do have Junior, hold onto him tightly. Squeeze him when you hug, apologise even when you know he’s in the wrong. Agree to the Brandi and Ray J joke. Give him the bloody south Sydney jersey on Christmas day, he steals it anyway. Tell him how much he means to you and thank him for stepping up when others stepped out.

Hold onto all of your siblings, as the family grows and endures it gets hard to check in. As you all grow up and mum gets older, the things that you have to face, it changes you all and you miss them.

Even if you hate being wrong, even if you don’t see it- listen to mum. She knows what she’s talking about. Unfortunately the heartache and adversity you endure, she’s been there before. Listen, watch, respond to what plays out before you.

If I could advise anything, it would be to stay true to yourself. Authenticity is freedom, you meet so many parts of yourself very soon. It’s exciting and scary and sometimes its heartbreaking. The relationships you forge however are so special, you find those people- the ones that love you or hate you- through being that authentic self. Nothing and no one is worth compromising her.

I read a quote from Solange Knowles a few months ago that explains you and the woman you’re becoming perfectly. “You will take the long way to get to these Orions. the long way will become a theme in your life, but a journey you learn to love.”

I don’t want to spoil too much for you, the magic of the next few years is in the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s your 21st year now, you’re in an airport waiting to go home. You’re going home to some new editions to the family, with some old ones on your mind- but you’re doing alright.

Tell me who I have to be

Q: How long do your people have to live with the consequences of your European ancestors’ actions?

A: As long as my people do.

Triple J changed the date of their hottest 100 yesterday- and the world moved forward. The radio station renowned for it’s progressive, forward thinking complex stayed true to form. With the announcement came a sigh of relief for the part of me that too wants to celebrate- and I sighed for my ancestors.

Triple J changed the date of their hottest 100 yesterday- and Australia seemed to of jumped back in time. The lucky country renowned for it’s laid back approach, to have a fair go. The nation built on mate ship forgot to put on its politically correct mask. With the announcement came the building up of walls- and I sighed for the babies I have to raise here.

There’s a quote about being Indigenous that compares our bloodline to tea. You see you can add all the milk or sugar you like. It can be infused or mixed with flowers and nuts and berries. It’s still tea. I have a part of me that I’m slowly learning to love- and I think it took me so long to address it because I spent all my time defending my indigenous bloodline.

I’m tired of that, your ignorance is not my business. I know I’m proud of this part of me. The good the bad, and the ugly ugly history painted of me with a white man’s brush. I have so many other parts of me I need to figure out, to defend and to love. The 26th rolls around, and suddenly I drop everything. To prove to you, I am better than the credit you give us.

I talk about bloodline because I want to stress that I’m black every day of the year. There are no ifs or buts. That these conversations are sparked by the 26th of January but these opinions are formed over a lifetime.

My opinions resonate 365 days over and over. I take mine with me. Which means yours must be in your back pocket, as you greet me with a hug any other day of the year. There are no ifs or buts.

I watched Jesse Williams speak at the BET awards, I remember unravelling on my bed. Although he was speaking to black America I cried for black Australia that day. He says,

“The burden of the brutalised is not to comfort the bystander — If you have a critique for our resistance then you’d better have an established record, a critique of our oppression.”

Those who celebrate on the 26th are one of two things, uninformed or intentionally ignorant. Those who celebrate and tell me to be quiet better know every detail of why I am making all of this noise. Sit down. If you have a record of our oppression and choose to celebrate anyway. If you celebrate but don’t know why I mourn.

If you roll your eyes at survival day posts, status updates, this blog. That’s fine, but I will no longer be hushed by an inept opposition. Fighting with brick walls is useless. An opponent so dense will never waver.

To further quote Mr Williams, “But freedom is always conditional here. ‘You’re free!’ they keep telling us… Freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but the hereafter is a hustle: We want it now.”

A change of date wont fix racism, it wont solve systemic oppression, the gap every one’s talking about will probably widen. It doesn’t change what’s happening in remote communities, in the middle of Sydney, on the other side of town.

It doesn’t take back the first time I was called a coon. The last time I had to explain that you don’t get free houses or cars because your black. It wont stop me from demanding better, for my people, from myself.

A change of date is a step in the right direction, are you sick of standing still?

A Brief Interlude 

I grew up spending my afternoons at the local PCYC, my dad would teach boxing lessons to younger kids, men and women through out the week. Every day he would take the time to coach my brothers and after that he would teach my sisters and I.

The room was clean in a way that suggested there was no tolerance for outside clutter, dated in a way that reminded me it wasn’t about how you looked but what you were doing.

At the time I wanted nothing more than to be on the other side of the building in dance lessons. Boxing was a chore, synonymous with long trips to backwards towns, early morning weigh-ins and copious amounts of discipline.

I didn’t take much in, how to focus my breath, to jab and uppercut. I learnt to wrap my hands, to take care of my gear. I learnt that following instructions saves faltering in the long run- if you listen while you exercise, sparring will come easier.

I learnt that my brothers may work as hard as they physically could, run longer, eat better, train harder and still their opponent could show up on the day and do better. I also learnt to take that loss and turn it into an even longer run, a better meal, more hours in the gym.

Still, I hated every second of my afternoons there. Once my brothers got in the ring however that was a different story. They were the toughest versions of themselves yet I’d never seen them move so gracefully. I feel everything when they’re up there, pride and anxiety, stress, awe. I exhale every ounce of worry when they’re doing well and inhale it all again if they’re caught on the ropes. My father and I didn’t agree on much growing up, but we did end up settling on boxing.

I’m thankful for everything it taught me, and I regret ever straying from something that seems to trickle through my family’s veins. As my family changed, my relationship with the sport did too- and now it seems to be a reminder of a world none of us can reclaim.

I read books over and over again in the hopes that I get taught a new lesson, well in recounting my love affair with the beautifully vulgar sport- I realise the one lesson I need right now in my life.

You figure out what your next move is and you put every ounce of energy you have into it.

I’ll be honest my initial years after school didn’t end up anything like I imagined. I projected into the future with all the might and wonder of a fully inspired uncompromising teen.

Today, and most days I can’t find it within myself to participate in the hours ahead. Some days I can’t find it within myself to be the same version of me people are familiar with. I am at times rude and intolerable and uninteresting- and when I say things or do things out of spite I feel the effects the last year or so has had on my heart.

Sometimes when everything is quiet and I’m the only one awake I take a moment to look at myself. Not in a physical sense at all- it’s usually two o’clock in the morning and everything is as dark as it is still. I look at who I am, when it all comes down to it, who I am not.

I couldn’t ever get past who I wasn’t, I wasn’t a uni student yet, I wasn’t a home owner, I wasn’t a traveller or a party girl, a sporty girl. I wasn’t who I planned to be, and I was so emotionally drained I couldn’t even mimic someone, or anyone around me.

I told people to trust the timing of their life, and yet I had a checklist of the things I should’ve done eating away at me. Life happens, you work as hard as you physically can to prepare for the good fight and somehow your opponent does better.

I can usually sleep through the night now and I can sure as hell tell you what I am, I am that little girl shadow boxing in a sweaty room. The girl that would wrap her brother in garbage bags when he needed to drop a weight division.

I am a daughter, I am a sister and I’m an aunt to the most magical children I’ve ever witnessed. I’m a friend, a girlfriend and a coworker. I study, even if I don’t get that piece of paper as soon as I’d like- and I get back up when I lose, I train harder and do better.

Boxing will never ever mean what it did to the old me, but that’s okay because the new me has figured out her next move and she’s putting every ounce of energy she has into it.

The Trouble With Love 

I’m at that stage of my teenage years that demands more sweatpants than it does cocktail dresses. It’s cool though, I’m not complaining. I’m that girl that suggests coffee or dinner but you and her both know she’s lying.

During this stage of self inflicted solitude I’ve learnt that binge watching is the only way to watch a TV show. Don’t get me wrong slowly meandering through OITNB an episode or two a night with my better (?) half is delightful but I’m the sort of gal that likes to cut to the chase- or in this case the life altering yet fictional plot twist.

Spoiler alert this entire post has been inspired by the episode in season one of Insecure where Issa cheats on Lawrence. More spoilers this is her boyfriend of five years who admittedly is being less than amazing- but my girl Issa really shook my moral highground with this move.

The whole first season I was sitting in my pajamas with my Afro out loving the black girl bliss set before me. I adored that these women and that this series wasn’t just apart of the pop culture phenomenon that plays into the boujee angry black girl stereotype.

These women were strong and funny and sassy, yes- but they were nervous and unsure and vulnerable as well. Hopefully you can imagine how heartbroken I was when Issa slipped up. Not only did she slip up on a grand scale it almost felt like the narrative was set in a way that we, the lonely girls with big hair on the couch were supposed to empathise with her decision? (?????)

This begs the question, or rather I beg the question. Are we entitled to react so dramatically when love doesn’t go our way? Is Lawerence really the worst in the world because he is having a rough (lengthy) period? I would never ever cheat on Lawrence, or a real person for that matter- but would I feel it valid to leave a commitment I didn’t initially sign up for?

I’ve stated before that it’s against my nature to work in absolutes. I am however slowly learning that what we are taught as little girls does not set us up to be emotionally prepared lovers. Love is not a whirlwind fairytale where your Prince Charming is the perfect man everyday. Sometimes the Lawrence you fell in love with doesn’t show up.

Sometimes he’s tired or unwell or just a down right prick and that’s okay because you aren’t the perfect Issa either. I want to love someone completely, for everything they have to offer even if I have to learn new ways of loving.

I am not a damsel in distress I don’t want to be saved or swept off my feet. I want a reliable, loyal, earnest love. I want a love that pays bills first then checks to see if we can eat out. I want a love that spends time with my little brother. I want a love that can tolerate my ability to cry over the RSPCA add. You know what happens when you’re swept off of your feet? You’re unbalanced.

Relationships are butterflies and date nights, first kisses, meeting his family and cuddles and all of the sappy shit Nicholas Sparks can think of. It’s also trying not to correct him when he gets the context of a word wrong, pretending to care when the Broncos lose. It’s fighting over an un-ironed shirt, insisting it’s a worthy argument and following a footy code you have no bloody clue about purely because he plays.

I love him when he buys me roses and when he buys me dinner. The grand and public gestures are super cool. When he makes me a cup of tea though or he’s mowing the lawn and minding his business. When he waits for me to finish my chapter before he turns the light off. That’s when I know for sure I can work in absolutes. No amount of mediocrety allows a shady move like Issa pulled.

Love is completely and utterly underwhelming some times. If you truly love him though you won’t mind that Lawrence doesn’t always want to go to that new art exhibition or the lavender farm or even to dinner with your friends- I can write my own fairytale, let’s just finish Orange is the New Black before I’m twenty.

All The Guys I’ve Almost Dated

I’m impartial toward most things in my life; a real love it or leave it type complex. Evidently overlooking my respect for Katy Perry, my interest in group activities and bad coffee. I honestly do try to avoid bias, especially when experiencing new things, I’d much rather figure out what I like for myself and then work backwards if things go all Roman empire on me. What happens you see, I usually choose what is right and what is good, a yes first, think later kind of dingbat.

I make a routine out of polite socialising and the status quo. Until I realise I hate most of the people I’ve befriended and I HATED J Cole’s new album- and so I pick up a novel and don’t text anyone back. I delete the new album and then I drop my phone in water and everything is quiet again. I seem to find some sacrilegious delight in neglecting the routine that I’ve maintained and picking new, exciting most likely temporary things.

This complex, my dear digital friends does not dwindle when it comes to the opposite sex. I once went on a date with a boy that knew by the time we ordered our pasta that I was the one. He was my first ever real date, and to be blunt I only agreed to lunch because earlier that year my mother insisted that if I were a lesbian I would be completely accepted and I really ought to come out.

The notion of being a lesbian didn’t insult me or anything but I decided I should make more of an effort in asserting my interest in males. So here I am opposite pasta boy and he’s telling me what he wants to be when he grows up, and he pays for everything and he holds my hand and look it’s all very lovely. Except that I hate everything about him and his absolute, finality toward his feelings about me.

We were fifteen at the time, still growing into our bodies and figuring out why face scrubs blatantly lie to such innocent souls. I had no idea who I was, how in the world could anybody else figure that out let alone like the concept enough to date it? By that afternoon he had told my mother about our budding relationship, forced my little brother into playing with him and to my absolute horror he did the one thing I would never want a man to do unless instructed by me; he took the liberty of introducing himself to my eldest brother.

At first I thought they were just walking in the same direction, after all the canteen is the centre of the universe at any football match. Alas on a second paranoid glance I see his arm extended and my brothers smirk. Relishing in the boys easy self assurance my brother initiates some kind of interaction and I sink further into my chair.

I can only compare such a moment to that last part in Rogue One when the entirety of Scarif gets blown up and everyone just dies with the planet. Well Scarif translates to my temper and you can only hope the imbecile understands Star Wars references. Pasta boy managed to shed light on a part of me that no amount of anger management could hinder. So you know what I did? You bet it boys and girls, I said yes to a second date.

The year of my sixteenth birthday I found myself another tall dark and handsome- sans interest in prematurely meeting my family. We didn’t have a damn thing in common, but I really liked his lips. Reason enough to go to the movies every couple of weeks and watch him play football I guess. Fast forward to him meeting my friends and then I came to it- the boy doesn’t say a word- which admittedly you would think is an ideal kind of situation. Look I am a talker, and the only thing a woman with an opinion on absolutely everything needs more than a listener; is someone with enough interest in her opinions to respond (nothing too extensive).

If the boy were a flavour he’d have to be vanilla. What he made up for in height he lacked in basic social skills. Are you picking up what my sorry self is putting down? Not wanting to rock the boat, or attend the new hunger games alone for that matter, I continued to meet the quiet boy with lovely lips at the movies and I put kisses on the end of my texts until I bought a new phone and forgot to save his number. oops.

You, my digital friend are probably thinking that my 15/16 year old self is not only young and stupid but very much in the past; but I argue that the habits ring true. Since my first innocent, brief encounters I have always found my self in terrible situations and I always have to be an awful person to get out of them. I’ve let a guy down so easy I ended up asking him on a date (cancelled last minute) I’ve “forgotten”plans and headed to house parties. I’ve conversed with a guy for close to two months purely because I couldn’t think of a reasonable excuse to cut him off. I once let my eldest brother threaten a boy over text because I couldn’t think my way out of the shit storm I landed in.

I do not for a second condone this behaviour, in fact this post is a formal apology to every guy I almost dated. Furthermore a formal apology to the man i’m dating now; not because I haven’t learnt to deny advances but because I still order my usual and regret it once we’ve payed, because it takes me three quarters of a movie’s plot to figure out I don’t like it and because I still say yes to tea knowing full well I wont finish it. Impartial may be without bias but it is so incredibly without commitment. I have no way of fixing this trait and even if I did, when I cut it out of my repertoire, it will happen so suddenly- with such assertion and finality that everyone will be as confused as I am.