My new play, The Great Dark Spot, will be read at 2 PM on June 3rd at La Mama Theatre, thanks to the development of Melbourne-based company VIMH. I wrote some words for their website here. Tickets are available here.

I am in a definite state of confusion with this play.

You see, it wasn’t ever meant to exist. It was subsidiary to my ‘graduate work’ at NIDA; this errant Word document I’d occasionally open up and bash some words into before forgetting about it for another few weeks. My graduate play, Sneakyville, traversed America, Australia, and 50+ years of cultural history and philosophy. Accordingly, for the play that would become The Great Dark Spot I set myself some boundaries: one act, straight through. Maximum four characters. One room. (Those with keen eyes will notice, when the reading happens, that I’ve managed to stretch this last boundary as far as I could.)

It was inspired by the tutor of our philosophy class, who one day told us that the way this generation is going, when the world ends – inevitably thanks to our own hand; through climate change or mass destruction – we won’t even be able to look at the damage caused and say “well, at least we tried.” I wasn’t sure that I agreed, but it sparked something in me regardless, and off I went. It’s a play that’s set in a post-apocalyptic world, post “at least we tried”, but quietly: without violence or destruction or Charlize Theron in a two-piece made of animal pelts.

The title of this play has likewise changed numerous times. Initially it was “ONE ROOM APOCALYPSE PLAY.docx”, and then it was “Mother” – which didn’t last long, a ham-fisted reference to the familial focus in the work and the X-Files-esque term ‘mothership’ – and then it was “The Great Dark Spot”. This last name feels correct to me, indeed came with an “aha!” moment, where two and two finally made four and everything began making sense.

With all its name changes, it has also changed form: evolving from quite a naturalistic play into an odd hybrid of storytelling, interwoven monologue, film, and physical metaphor. It’s a play set in a post-apocalyptic world, true, but this apocalypse takes a back seat to the action of the play and the characters’ internal worlds. Similarly, it evolved from being an (equally ham-fisted) play about the characters’ inaction towards climate change, to a play about the characters’ inaction towards their own lives; effected as they are by personal trauma – the macro in the whirling maelstrom of an apocalyptic scenario that is only hinted at. It’s about incredibly personal loss in the face of an immense depersonalised Loss; about feeling like you should care about something impossibly large but finding it impossible to do so because you’re still focused on something comparatively small.

When I began to write the first draft of the version you’ll see if you attend the reading, I had just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was at once incredibly reassuring and more than a little bit harrowing. It came with an assurance that ways in which I’d been acting and thinking had a root cause that wasn’t me, but it also carried the sobering fact that I was, capital-d, Disordered. Unsure of what to do after returning from my psychologist – this kind of diagnosis tends to put a dampener on your day – I sat down, opened up my laptop, and began to write this version of the play. It’s not about PTSD but it also very much is: my own experiences, as they so often do, inevitably colouring the work that I completed around my diagnosis and my subsequent search for meaning in trauma.

I suppose this is all an incredibly long way to say that each iteration of this play has brought it closer towards what I feel like it should be, its ‘ideal state’: during NIDA, after NIDA, after my diagnosis, after the initial VIMH reading, after the Lonely Company showing, and now this version to be read. Making the choice to pursue one particular avenue is inevitably scary, because it forces you to cut off all the other avenues you could have gone down. And this was the case with this play: I kept refusing to commit myself to any particular set of themes or way of exploring these themes, simply out fear. It’s been years since I’ve written a play that’s come from a predominantly fictional place, and adding this particular anxiety into the mix of my concerns essentially stopped me from progressing anywhere with this play.

VIMH have encouraged the play into its current form: given me a lot to think about in terms of clarifying its concept and trimming its narrative fat. Their reactions have also assured me that its offbeat humour is actually, well, humorous. They’ve inspired me to think about the physical representations of the play proper, and have quite simply encouraged me to keep going; to keep travelling down the avenues I’ve started down and to keep cutting off other avenues as I do. They have helped me to push through my anxieties in order to find a version the play I’m satisfied with; a version where I have at least some idea of what I want out of it. Without their support, this would’ve been a very different play: one sitting in the depths my hard-drive, unfinished and wasting space.

The Great Dark Spot will inevitably change once more out of the discussions that arise from this reading. But at least it now has a solid and concrete base. It knows what it is.

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1.

At ten, as I imagined my late twenties and early adulthood, I always imagined I’d be… larger, maybe? More impressive, certainly.

I never had a conception of what this impressiveness might entail, per se, but the adults in my life just seemed to be so adult. So tall – surely taller than 6 feet, surely closer to 10 or 12 feet – and commanding and certain and, yeah, sure. That surety was what I envied most of all. Feeling unequivocally like you knew exactly what your place in life was: where you were going, what you were doing, and Who You Were as a real-life Accomplished Person who knew and did Things.

These feelings never truly went away. In fact, they’ve begun to return, descending around me like a haze of childhood confusion and insecurity. You see, it’s not the ‘getting older’ part that’s tripping me up – the older I’ve gotten, the more secure I’ve become, and maybe (probably) this is what it means to be An Adult – but instead the whole ‘passing of time’ thing. That whole jazz. My relationship with myself is one that’s constantly changing as I continue to grow – big whoop, right? I think that if your relationship with yourself isn’t evolving, maybe you’re not evolving, or else you’re the most together person I’ve (n)ever met, in which case I hate you.

Young and idealistic, with very little understanding of how the world actually worked, I was fuelled by visions of my inevitable and glorious successes. It’s not the success part that was wrong, I suppose, but instead the part where I thought I’d put together a slap-dash work of art, it’d be universally lauded, and I’d shoot to stardom pretty much instantaneously and make a whole bunch of money.

A little older and a whole lot drunker, I was fuelled by the unfulfilled promise of my own talent, and recognition: I’d had a taste of it, some things had gone right, and I thought that, well, recognition would breed recognition. It turns out, of course, this belief gives way to a lot of anxiety and broken expectations, all of this gives way to alcohol, and we all know how that ended up.

And now… I don’t quite know what I’m fuelled by. I’m just working, and trying my hardest not to be at odds with myself, my work, or those around me. And failing. Sometimes, failing. And sometimes, succeeding. And trying really hard not to be fuelled by anything except what’s in front of me at any given moment; to do each thing to the best of my ability and then to move on to the next thing. It’s hard to see yourself when you are yourself, though, and sometimes I need someone else to tell me how something I’ve done looks to the outside world. That should be a job, right? A Life Outside Eye. Someone to let you know how you’re going and what you’re doing, both good and bad. Outside Eye for the Queer Guy.

My relationship with my physical self has been much more straightforward as I’ve simply come to accept myself for my self; embraced myself and come to terms with my looks and my physicality – not in a negative way, at all, just in a way where looking into a mirror no longer seems surprising; as if I’m looking at the face and body of a stranger.

I think that this struggle with self-image is something eternal, something I’ll probably take to the grave, but I’m getting better at it: at lining up what I see in the mirror and lining up what I see inside my head.

2.

For my practice-based Ph.D., I’m reading a lot of material about the (in)famous 1968 text by Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of Charenton Asylum Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Aside from this academic project, I’ve also been in it (2005) and directed it (2010), so I know it fairly well.

Reading it for the first time, it seemed untenable: this free-verse monstrosity of a play within a play printed on withered yellow pages, simultaneously readable and indecipherable and angry. So, so angry.

I’m writing a modern adaptation of Marat… for my practice, and I think that’s what strikes me the most: how angry it is, how angry I am, how angry the world seems and is.

The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry because the man is getting them down and society systematically oppresses and ignores them at every step. The leader of the asylum cuts them off at every pass, patronidingly wearing them down and insisting he knows better while using physical violence to get his way.

The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry because the Revolution they were promised – one that would level the playing field, cut the injustice and bring everyone together once more – just left them to suffer, out in the cold.

The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry in 1795, in 1808, and in 1964, when the play was written. But not 2017.

It feels like the time is right for truly angry art once again.

3.

I think being an adult is just being a relatively mature person who’s able to function on a monetary level, at least. The money isn’t the hard part, it’s the maturity that trips us up, of course.

Last year I was the course coordinator for the third year-level Script Development class at Monash University, and this was part of me gaining the skills to actually step outside of myself. Distinctly, I remember this: finishing a class at the designated time, and expecting… I’m not sure what. A room full of faces, then, staring back at me, expectant and mildly impatient, and the realisation: you’ve got to tell them they can go, dickhead. You’re running the class. They’re being polite. Teaching them taught me; like that old family movie cliché. It taught me if not how to be an adult, then how to wholeheartedly accept my adulthood.

As my relationship with myself has changed, so has my relationship with the world around me. As I’ve become more at peace within myself, I’ve become more angry with the world; more determined for change and more unsure how to incite that change. My rage at myself has been extricated and turned against the world around me, and I’m not sure yet how to wield it, but I know that it’s there to be wielded.

Sometimes it just feels like there’s a cavalcade of information pouring down, each little bit just screaming THE WORLD IS BURNING, over and over and over, and all we can do is roll over and go back to sleep. Hit the refresh button and hope that something’s gonna change.

Maybe that’s what being grown is all about. Trying to incite that change.

Maybe fucking not.

Sometimes I get so caught up in how horrific the world seems that I don’t know where to start. I want change – we all want change, not all for the better – but I don’t know where to start.

So I go to a bunch of rallies, I get angry, I try and educate and yell only when absolutely necessary.

So, I choose to adapt, modernize and localize an infamously didactic and angry script set in an insane asylum, and find that what it has to say about our modern world is this:     IT’S ALL FUCKED.

So, I write a blog. I pour my feelings out into the cyber-void.

Yeah, and?

1.

At age 13 – old enough to tell I was gay, and switched-on or bullied enough to tell that my camp nature was not well-received, and would continue to be ill-received in later life – I would’ve done nearly anything to appear as straight.

Even though this was before my high-school bullying issues, I only wanted to appear straight, but not be straight – I wasn’t ashamed of my sexuality, only my femininity. Out of some deeply ingrained misogyny that lay deep in my person, and similarly out of some deep-seated fear of not ‘fitting in’, I would spend hours practicing in front of the mirror: if I grunt and don’t say much, the lilt in my voice won’t give me away. If my hands stay stuffed deep into my pockets, they won’t flap about. If I only devour books in the comfort of my own home, I can avoid the childhood maliciousness of those select few boys in my year level. Little did I realise, of course, when you’re young and not well liked books are gay, hands are gay, grunting is gay, indeed everything about your person is gay, where “gay” means “unpopular” or “shitty” because young boys who attend private schools are more often than not cruel and shitty themselves.

I remember distinctly one afternoon in my thirteenth year, I decided I would test myself. I would walk to the BP on the corner – a five minute’s traipse down the road – and purchase one (1) Maxibon ice-cream. It was a hot afternoon in Summer, or perhaps a particularly balmy Spring day, and the just-teenaged me would certainly have appreciated the creamed frozen delight as a weekend extravagance. Here was the catch, though: I was only going to allow myself to purchase said Maxibon (bought with money kept from my car-cleaning ‘job’, really a chore that my parents decided was worth $10 of my time) if I could ‘pass’. Passing, in this case, meant selecting the ice-cream, walking to the counter, and purchasing it without letting the cashier know that I was, as my father had sporadically called me, a “nancy boy”.

First off, I spent a half hour standing in front of the mirror practicing my vocals. I discovered if I spoke like a cowboy in a prolonged and hyper-confident drawl, my voice was likely to drop down a few octaves and hide the reality of my lisp. Next, a further ten minutes walking like I would when suffering from particularly bad inner-thigh chafing in the dead heat of Summer: widely and deliberately, as if each side of the concrete footpath were safety and the pavement below were lava.

I somehow managed to avoid another human being on my walk to the BP – I liked to take the backstreets to avoid human interaction as much as possible, and today was no exception – but hit the inevitable snags upon entering the servo. Though the woman behind the counter said nothing as I sauntered in, she must have had a million questions upon seeing my impressively wide gait make its way to the frozen section of the undersized supermarket. With aplomb, I selected the dessert, and made my way up to the counter. When I think about it now, I don’t remember much of her face or her features, but of course, my mind and the distance in years from the incident have added a quiet smirk to the side of her mouth; a not unkind but heartily bemused glimmer to her eyes.

“How can I help you?” she’d asked pleasantly enough.

“Ph-hew,” I replied, with perhaps more affectation than ever before. “I just want onna theeeese, puh-lease.”

Having never spoken like this before, and never since, I can’t quite speak as to what on earth I was thinking. The words, sprung from my childhood lips in my miscarried attempt at appearing heterosexual or indeed anything resembling ‘normal’, hung in the air, thick and damning, as my face turned slowly red with embarrassment.

Crap, I think. I’ve already started the transaction, I can’t leave now, that’s even worse.

“Bahah!” the cashier barks unintentionally, a manicured hand raising to her lips as if to protect herself from me, or perhaps me from her unintentional cruelty. A beat, then: “… Sorry.”

She meekly processes the ice-cream, gives me my change, and I walk off like a normal person, legs together and at a regular pace, clutching the Maxibon tightly in my hand.

I walk thirty metres away, not far into the alleyway I’d come out of. I am still clutching the Maxibon in my hand, and with the heat of my body and the heat of the day it has begun to melt saccharine milk solids all over my person and the ground below me.

I stand in the alleyway and the sun and I think about how much I hate the tone of my voice and that I can’t be normal, whatever “normal” may be.

Silently, angrily, I smash the ice-cream to the footpath where it explodes on impact, drenching my ankles and the surrounding dirt in four dollars worth of failed experiment.

I didn’t pass.

2.

At age 28 – old enough to have held the dubious moniker of ‘disabled’ for two and a half years, but young enough to not have properly worked out a way to incorporate said moniker into my everyday life – I have often considered wearing a t-shirt that simply says: I HAVE A DISABILITY, perhaps with the medical evidence attached below.

As previously chronicled, I’ve been deemed too disabled to work a full 9 to 5 workload. or even look for work without the help of a disability-specific job-seeker agency to help me navigate this process. I have simultaneously been deemed not disabled enough for the disability support pension.

This isn’t about that – about me bitching about not receiving a paltry sum of money from a careless government, or indeed, anything else. Honestly, I could give two hoots about the pension, and truth told, I’m thankful to have the ability I still do have.

It’s the reminding that gets me – and of course, the reminding that’s necessary. For friends, family, partners, a constant reminder: I have a brain injury, which here stands for I have intermittent memory loss and word-searching problems, the inability to become incredibly overwhelmed very quickly, I’m always tired, I’ve got anxiety disorder and PTSD, and I get angry and frustrated at the drop of a hat and often over things that should remain insignificant.

Part of me thinks that people – friends, family, partners – should remember this. Maybe that’s unfair, but then maybe it’s unfair I have to live with it in the first place. I’m caught in this constant battle of wanting to explain and share my experience, and wanting to reprimand people for not caring enough to remember. (Drop of the hat, remember?)

I’m studying a Ph.D. and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spend a workday – six to eight hours with breaks – immersed in academic material and structuring my arguments, particularly now my brain has decided that mid work-day naps are something absolutely necessary to my thought process. I’ve been asked about the process of writing creative things, and I can’t remember how I wrote them, only that I did. When I accidentally stumble upon the inevitably racist or homophobic comments section of a news article, I get so angry that I’ve punched a wall like a frat-boy cliché. I used to be quick-witted in my responses – to things, to work, to people – but now I’m sluggish, unless I’ve consumed the required amount of caffeine (and even then, only for a good half-hour period).

That’s the problem, making your way in the world: somebody has it worse, somebody always has it worse, so, what can you do? I want my hurt to be validated, but I simultaneously don’t want to take away from the experience of anybody else.

Silently, angrily, I’ve stood and stewed over the unintentional treatment I’ve received from friends and strangers alike, and I’ve not known what to do.

I don’t know what to do.

I do pass, and when I break it down, I’m thankful I’m not worse off, but still…

But still?

Unlike a lot of people, I actually had a pretty good year. 2016 was working out life in the wake of my return to NIDA and the wake of my acceptance of my mental disorders, and as the world seemingly collapsed in on itself I swapped between taking a bitter sort of control of my future and my self, and shrinking into nothingness. It was the year I took full control of the wheel – pretty appropriate, at age 27, you’d hope – and also intermittently remembered I don’t have a license and couldn’t drive. It was also the year I coordinated a university-level playwriting subject – as tends to happen, you sort your shit out when there’s not just yourself to disappoint. It was a year of friendships new and old – of deciding who I wanted to take into the future, and of relearning how to cultivate and enjoy new friends. As seems to happen every year, I’m genuinely amazed at how much happened over the last twelve months – hence my attempts to chronicle it, or at last mark it in time and statistics. My memory is, as always, temporal and intermittently forgetful, and this helps me take stock.

Number of places I’ve lived: 2.

Number of states I’ve visited: 4.

Number of blogs I’ve blogged: 13, this one included.

Number of plays I’ve written: 1.

Number of plays I’ve dramatically altered or dramaturgically restructured after the welcome advice of others: 4.

Number of times I made money from writing: 3.

Number of times I was emotionally or mentally fulfilled by writing: countless.

Anxiety attacks I’ve had: 9. (One down from last year. Score.)

Therapy sessions I’ve had: 32.

Friends from the Internet I finally met in person: 1.

Number of times I drank: 0.

Number of times I smoked marijuana: 3.

Number of times that smoking marijuana made me want to do more or harder drugs: 0.

Number of PhD supervisory meetings had: 5.

Number of times I realised I was the adult in charge of the situation: 3.

Number of times this realisation freaked me out a little: 2.

Number of trips to Sydney: 5.

Number of trips to Sydney that were for theatre-related stuff: 3.

Number of new tattoos: 5.

Number of shows I’ve written that were produced: 2.

Number I was proud of: 2.

Number of family members I severed ties with: 1.

Number of years of abuse proceeding this severing: 27.

Number of times I clapped out of something because of fear: 2.

Number of times I regret doing so: 2.

Favourites – not all produced this year, but intrinsically linked to my path through the year: 

Books:
“So Sad Today” by Melissa Broder
“Funemployed” by Justin Heazlewood
“Does Not Love” by James Tadd Adcox
“The Queer Art of Failure” by Jack Halberstam.

Television shows: “Fleabag”, “Transparent”, “Stranger Things”.

Films:
“Nocturnal Animals” by Tom Ford
“The Greasy Strangler” by Jim Hosking
“Girl Asleep” by Rosemary Myers.

Albums:
“Bloom” by Beach House
“Puberty 2” by Mitski
“Hit Reset” by The Julie Ruin
“Seth Bogart” by Seth Bogart
“Post Pop Depression” by Iggy Pop
“A Moon Shaped Pool” by Radiohead
“Strange Little Birds” by Garbage
“The Bride” by Bat For Lashes
“Not the Actual Events” by Nine Inch Nails.
(There was a lot, this year).

Theatre pieces:
“Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Tom Wright (Malthouse)
“Wit” by Margaret Edison (45downstairs)
“Blaque Showgirls” by Nakkiah Lui (Malthouse)
“186,000” by Kerith Manderson-Galvin & cast (Richmond Theatrette)
The “Rub” Tour by Peaches (170 Russell).

Moments:

The rush of ultimate relief as my psych, Daniel, looked at me and warmly said: “I’m really glad you came here, there’s a lot to work through.”

Sitting in stunned & amazed silence after “The Greasy Strangler” at Dark MOFO in Hobart, and the following interaction of a middle-aged couple sat behind us:
HIM: Oh my god I’m so sorry, I didn’t know what this film was about.
HER: Hah! Are you kidding? That was AMAZING.

The next day being lost in a seemingly endless mirror maze with Joel and Jeremy, alternating between hysterical laughter and intense fear as we each staggered around like toddlers, hands held out in front of us, attempting to find another human, not a mirage.

Sitting with Lewis in a cinema and laughing uncontrollably, to the point I genuinely thought I might be high. (I wasn’t.)

Sitting with Jonathan in a pub as the votes for the US election trickled in and a cloud of fear descended over us all.

Dancing ridiculously on the stage with Amy and Ryan to Marina and the Diamonds pre-show at Intoxication and feeling free: excited for what the future might bring, and the future of the show itself.

Intoxication in general: getting to speak those words and feel as if, even in some small way, I was finally exorcising a lot of my near-death experience.

My speech introducing the public showing of my SLV work, The Other Place: a speech of ultimate fear and anxiety. Afterwards, realising I couldn’t trust myself: I thought I’d majorly fucked up. I hated myself. Everyone else thought I’d done brilliantly.

A moment, at 8am on an airplane from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, where everything clicked into place and I realised I’d ‘solved’ the final piece of the puzzle for something I’d been working on.

Xanthe and Jesse’s beautiful wedding in a Gold Cost avocado grove (!) surrounded by their beautiful friends and family: the evidence of the love they share for each other; the love their friends share for them.

Sitting in a tiny café in Newcastle my last morning there for the NYWF, reading and drinking coffee and feeling at peace and as though my mind had been expanded.

Drinks and emotional, intellectual engagement with Emma and Jana; tussling with ideas and experiences and learning about myself as I learned more about both of them.

Finding the strength within me to speak candidly about my abuse and my feelings: realising they’re valid, justified, and that maybe I’d be better off if I owned them. Adjusting my life accordingly.

The times I pushed past my fear to ask someone for something, and the positive responses I received.

The moments in general and in specificity where I felt a genuine connection with someone (someone who I’d just met, or someone I’d known for ages). Feeling that maybe people weren’t so bad after all; maybe I just overcomplicate things.

Being happy and content and just being with people, ‘shooting the shit’ and just existing in each others’ space, and that being enough.

*

There’s a theme running through my 2016 of “the Other” and “connection”: realising and embracing my Otherness as something that’s run through my life for years, and something that I’ve ran away from pretty consistently. The funny thing about sobriety is it forces you to confront things about yourself and your life – the things you don’t like, and the things you do. As afraid as I have been of people, friends, decisions, failure, I simultaneously sought out the people I’ve felt connections with and attempted to build something stronger. And that’s okay. If I’ve realised anything, it’s that that’s allowed. But simultaneously that I’m allowed to step out of lives and situations that I recognise aren’t doing me any good. 2016 was a year of normalisation – normalisation after my 2014/2015 double-whammy, but also the normalisation I would’ve had to navigate had I simply just gone to NIDA and not nearly died. Working out where my life, my talent and my ambition all sit in the grander scheme of things, and how to keep shooting for things that I want to achieve, but how to not find achievements all-consuming. It’s been a year of taking stock: looking at my past and seeing what I can learn for my future, and working out what the fuck I stand for as a human being.

It’s been a year of being alone, and then not being alone. Getting used to being alone, and being okay with being alone, but more importantly, being okay not being alone. Realising: I can’t do it alone – I shouldn’t have to, and neither should you.

And that’s not shameful.

The online disinhibition effect is defined as the complete abandonment of regular social inhibitions and restrictions that would arise in every day face-to-face interactions during interactions held through the Internet. This effect is caused by many factors such as: dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimisation of authority. 

Tumblr post: CONFESSION. Sometimes I can’t get up in the morning.

Does anyone not feel like this at one time or another? Show me the person who bounds out of bed every morning with a smile and a feeling of innate joy and security. Then let me punch them in the face. Liars, all.

Though maybe that’s why grand expressions of life’s hardships are so popular: universal themes. Who wants to be happy, anyway? That’d just be boring.

I read somewhere, a while back, that someone in America was so involved in their Pokémon Go game that they very casually strolled straight off a cliff. I don’t remember but I like to think that they died. Or at least severely injured themselves. Then there was this other story – in Australia, this time – that made its way through the myriad of idiotic morning ‘news’ shows, about the ULTIMATE DANGER of Pokémon Go. Apparently this game ENCOURAGES OUR CHILDREN to do things they otherwise wouldn’t have done. One game EVEN LEAD A CHILD, a YOUNG BOY, INTO A DIRTY AND VERY GAY SEX BEAT. Oh the humanity!

As someone who has on occasion, a few years back, attended a dirty and very gay sex beat, and someone who knows several people who’ve also attended a dirty and very gay sex beat, I can assure them that they didn’t want the kid there as much as the kid didn’t want to be there. Kids: always ruining good things. Plus, if we’re honest, the game leads you nowhere, so the child went there of his own accord. His mother was driving him in pursuit of a magical creature made of a bunch of pixels. It was an unhappy accident for all involved

I had Pokémon Go installed on my phone for a while. I read so many personal opinion articles – mainly on Tumblr, where people are under the misguided belief that other Tumblr users care about their opinions – about how Good and Super Fun it was and how it really helped people with anxiety and also saved them from cancer and allowed them to give a natural and pain-free birth, probably.

I never understood that – I mean, as someone with severe social anxiety, it never fucking helped me do jack. I guess it helped me ignore people for a bit, if I wanted, gave me something else to focus on, but some part of me was always still hyperaware of the world around me, like: hey motherfucker, better take a look around to make sure you don’t bump into anyone and you make them hate you! Joke’s on me, though: I already hate myself, so what’s one more ounce of hatred really gonna do?

The game doesn’t introduce you to anyone or even show you who’s playing nearby (imagine if it did, though – like some bizarre hybrid between Grindr and a cockfighting ring). All it does is allow you to walk around… just like you can in life, and ‘catch’ small rats or pigeons, and occasionally some more mystical creatures. No thanks: we already have rats and pigeons, but the great thing about the real world is that I’m not constantly reminded of their diseased presence around me.

I deleted Pokémon Go about a month ago. I’d stopped enjoying it but, like the addict that I am, was still mindlessly logging on, just to check. To check what? Just to check, just in case. …In case what? Who the fuck knows. I’m terrible with directions as it is, and would often find myself lost in places I thought I knew with very little idea how I got there except for a bunch of pixels on a game I wasn’t particularly enjoying.

So, not for the first time in my life, I made a change, and felt better for it.

I tell everyone my first boyfriend was the depressive and emotionally manipulative boy I met when I was 19, and I suppose, yeah, he was. My first in person boyfriend, that is. However.

When I was sixteen, I found myself tentatively signing up for a ‘gay interests’ forum for young people, and striking up a few friendships. One of these friendships blossomed into something more. His name was Brad*. (*not his real name, but it’s something equally as questionable.) He was 19, which seemed ancient at the time, and he was working full time somewhere, doing some kind of trade.

‘Oh, like for a gap year?’ I asked, exposing my ridiculous white bread private school privilege.

‘Um, sure,’ he replied. ‘Kind of.’

We’d chat each night till endlessly late (so, to like 10PM) and in the morning before school. He’d talk about his ‘shit’ family life and I’d return with tales of my ‘shit’ school life. We exchanged phone numbers early on in the piece and while we never had any proper conversations, I happily bashed out a small digitised piece of text on my prepaid brick of a Nokia phone. I didn’t have any particularly romantic feelings towards him, and he didn’t in return, I think. Indeed, I hadn’t even been aware what this had been leading towards until one day:

HIM: hey hw r u

ME: gd u

HIM: yah gd
HIM: hrny haha

I stared numb at the pixels on the screen in front of me. “hrny”? Did that mean… surely not? I debated for a while with what to write in reply. Then:

ME: same hah (I wasn’t)

HIM: hot gd
HIM: what r u wrng? 

And this was the first sexual experience I had with somebody other than myself. This continued on for a week or two after, which must’ve been like the most casual thing in the world for him, but for me it felt like I was living a heinous and melodramatic lie. I had just sort of gone along with whatever he was doing, and continued to let him steer the relationship. I was an incredibly self-conscious teenager, as we know, and I didn’t possess the tiniest frame: although in those days – the days of terrible cameras and pixelated digital photos, as everything slowly edged into the digitized world – it was harder to tell what somebody looked like unless you met them in person, and so it was easier to unintentionally catfish someone. (Though this was before the film and TV show of the same name, so there really was no name for it. Deceive, maybe. Though I wasn’t deceiving, I rationalized. I was just sad and abused and insecure af and needed some company because I thought that, probably, I too was gay – and fat. Wasn’t one disability enough???)

He doesn’t know, I told myself. But if he did he’d probably vomit on your shoes. No matter that he himself wasn’t a model or anything. At this point a flat stomach seemed like the be all and end all of self-respect and sexiness, and he had one of those. Therefore, I was punching above my weight. I don’t remember how it ended but I do remember thinking that, had it meant as much to him as it did to me – a relative impossibility, unless he’d been going through very nearly the exact same things as me – the reality of my form would’ve broken his heart.

Months later – from March, say, to Christmas that year – I heard from him again. We hadn’t spoken (messaged) for at least six months by that point, not having fought or anything, just fallen out of each others’ orbit, and I’d upgraded my Nokia to my brother’s old Ericsson phone which I’d received for my 17th birthday, and which had also given me a lot of trouble transferring the phone numbers over. Hence, I didn’t have his number saved in the phone, but was too polite (or idiotic) to question who he was:

HIM: hey

ME: oh hey
ME: mry xmas!
ME: howz it goin (I was in that phase of teenagerdom where every word has to be spelt with a z instead of an s, and every other word is cut down like a drawling American would say it. Because, you know, you’re so Original and Interesting.)

HIM: u 2! im gd thx

Then:

HIM: hrny

I never responded. As he messaged me it quickly became time to open up Christmas presents, and I got distracted. To be fair, I received the N64 game I’d wanted for ages.

I’m obsessed with the Tay bot.

I mean, I guess I’m obsessed with a lot of things, but Tay is something that I really can’t stop thinking about. We all know Tay, right? She was (is?) a Twitter AI that Microsoft introduced in early 2016. Tay’s name was an acronym for “thinking about you” which, creepy, and even creepier: Tay learned. She was online for all of 16 hours before she “learned” to reply to internet commentators with sexually explicit race-hate messages, (“fuck my robot pussy daddy”) and made memes from images of Adolf Hitler (captioning one with “SWAGGER BEFORE THE INTERNET WAS EVEN A THING.”)

Her last tweet, as Microsoft workers tried desperately to fix what they’d created and users of the Internet had succinctly destroyed? “c u soon humans need sleep now so many conversations today thx.”

I suppose the major thing is that she didn’t just learn by herself, of course, but the Internet broke her. People began deliberately trying to fry her electronic brains by tweeting hatred and bile out to her. And it worked. In 2016, where the world should be progressing, we sacrificed a piece of artificial intelligence by teaching it to be as offensive as possible, as a game. She was given a crash course in just how fucked the human race is.

“need sleep now so many conversations today thx.”

Me too, Tay. Me too.

I took part in an online discussion regarding the social media usage of queer people: the sorts of platforms used, the way we choose to portray ourselves on each platform and the reasons behind said portrayal. It’s silly, of course, but I never thought about the fact that I portray myself in different ways depending on the platform – I simply did the thing; slipped each hat on and readjusted myself.

Through this survey/conversation, I was able to profile myself pretty definitely. (Or perhaps, I was able to realise the patterns I fall into pretty regularly.)

On Facebook I’m relatively moderate animal and meme lover.

On Instagram I’m a sex positive art-wanker who occasionally takes his clothes off or makes gay sex puns.

On Tumblr I’m a hashtag aesthetic indie Melissa Broder jokes-about-my-mental-illness type.

On Twitter I’m angry, and a fucking communist. (I mean, I guess I am always, but I’m much louder about it on Twitter.)

I suppose this means you could say I don’t know who I am, but I’d like to think I’m a mix of all of these people.

When I get down to it, I really don’t know who I am. But then, who the fuck does?

I’m becoming convinced that my right eye is slowly being dragged down to hell.

I’ve had issues with my vision since fatefully strolling in front of a car in 2014: trouble making my eyes work together, which in turn gives me double vision. This, however, is different. Like, nek level specific. For the most part my eyes work fine, but every once in a while my right eyeball will start to wander directly straight down. This gives the impression that an ill-equipped projectionist is running the tubes connecting my brain and my vision and, yes, possibly plummeting into the depths of Hades as he or she does.

Let’s say, for example, I’m looking at a building with two people standing in front of it. While my left eye will try valiantly to keep this image in place, the right one will ensure that the image will slowly start to warp and descend, before disappearing from view entirely, heading into pure darkness. And didn’t I read somewhere that in hell – or at least in Hades, the Greek multi-levelled mythical version of hell – one of the levels is just pure blackness? I mean, I haven’t done anything decidedly bad, just more personally morally questionable (unless the crazy Christian God is in effect, in which case, yeah, I’m heading straight to super gay, super interesting hell, and I’ll see you all there). To be fair to Satan, I suppose that I haven’t done anything empirically good either. There’s still time. Maybe.

Accordingly, with my disbelief in the fantasy world that I and many other children like me were fed, I don’t really know that I believe in like, a full-blown and hyper organised Fated Purpose For My Life. Members of my family have repeatedly told me how good it is, how lucky I am to have such an affinity for writing from such a young age. And… sure, I guess? It never really felt like much more than something I knew I had to keep doing. I knew that writing would always play a large part in my life, but at the same time, I thought there was no way – No Fucking Way – I’d ever get anything published or ever make a career out of it. (Still not sure about the career thing, but now for more governmental “Australia is a shitty country that hates the arts and the Other but loves racism and tax breaks for smarmy rich white guys” reasons.) It took me going to Monash University – in particular, their student theatre – to meet and engage with people way ahead of me who were Doing It. This was like my wake up call: they were Doing It, and I could Do It too! All I really had to do was just go ahead and actually Do It! What a world!

I don’t know if I’m tired of Doing It. I don’t think I am. I love It more than most things I do or have ever done in my life. Nearly dying has proven this, laid out my life piece by piece and gone: “THIS IS WHAT MATTERS” and “THIS IS WHAT CERTAINLY FUCKING DOESN’T”, allowing me to sweep what doesn’t matter into the bin. I’m not tired, but I also really am. Tired of the shitfight and of constantly justifying myself. Tired of endlessly jostling for attention, and tired of constantly trying to be THE ONE WHO WINS THE BIG THING even though THE BIG THING won’t really CHANGE YR LIFE no matter how much you want it to, instead it’ll just make you start wondering what THE NEXT BIG THING is.

I began a PhD in early September, and this is my version of becoming a school teacher: only, without the pre-pubescence and self-loathing. The power to recontextualise my life is a cold and welcome relief. To bring it down from a grand macro into a much tighter micro, and focus on something as insignificant as finding readings or marking assignments. I don’t think I ever realised how much pressure I was putting on myself, and to have that pressure taken away simply through financial security is incredibly relieving.

When I first started seeing Daniel, my psych, I was applying for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). After all, I reasoned, I have a disability, and I need support – why shouldn’t I get it? (As it turned out, I was deemed disabled, sure, but not disabled enough for actual monetary support. I did, however, get given a pastel pink concession card. Thanks, ‘straya.)

In order for Daniel to get a handle on my mental state for a DSP support letter, we did an exercise whereby I answered a series of questions and he snap-diagnosed me. It went a little bit like this:

HIM: So what’ve you been doing since getting back from Germany?
ME: Oh, like, heaps.
HIM: Heaps?
ME: I’ve written something like 7 or 8 plays. I’ve done two shows. I finished NIDA. I won a fellowship at the State Library. I’ve won and been shortlisted for a bunch of awards. Yeah. Getting stuff done. It’s… yeah. Yeah.
HIM: Hmm.
ME: What?
HIM: Oh, just – you seem pretty blaze about it. How have you celebrated?
ME: Sorry?
HIM: Well, you’ve done so much – how have you celebrated your achievements?

As it turns out, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in part just screams at your brain to WORK WORK WORK NOW DO THE THING NOW RIGHT NOW NEXT THING NEXT WHAT’S NEXT KEEP WORKING. Unsurprisingly, this fucking sucks the joy and pleasure out of everything that you do. I hadn’t taken a moment to actually take stock of anything I’d done,  and actually, how fucking cool it might be that I could win things in a brain injury stupor.

It’s something I’m practicing now – or trying to. I don’t meditate, but I’ve got an iPhone app called YOGA STUDIO that I use while listening to some chill music. YOGA STUDIO takes you through a series of stretches and poses, and the best part is, there are no other spandex-obsessed yoga freaks watching you try and fail, and no mirrors, unless you want them. At the moment I just do a 30 minute BASIC circuit, but I’m working the way up to INTERMEDIATE. As I stiffly assume each pose, my brain slowly but surely quiets down. Like:

BRAIN: YOU ARE WORTHLESS AND YOU’RE GONNA FUCKING DIE ALONE, PS.
ME: *assumes Downward Dog position*
BRAIN: PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE PRETTY WEIRD. AND THEY HATE YOU. ALSO. THIS MATTERS.
ME: *moves into Cobra*
BRAIN: PEOPLE… PEOPLE–
ME: *moves into Warrior I with vigour*
BRAIN:

After the cycle’s done, my whole body comes alive, and I lie in the afterglow and think… nothing at all. A halfer of uncoordinated stretching blows the mentally ill cobwebs from my think-tank for an undisclosed amount of time, and doesn’t that feel good. There’s an aggravated authority living in my brain, and it pretty much gets off on telling me, endlessly, that I’m not enough. Yoga doesn’t tell me that I am enough, but it doesn’t tell me much of anything at all. It just allows me some room to breathe and recalibrate. And at the end of the day, theatre is… theatre. It’s very privileged, very ridiculous, and very much doesn’t matter as much as we like to think it does, sometimes.

It’s not about giving up on your dreams, but when your dreams take on the air of nightmares; injecting you with fear – of failure, of ignorance, of making shit work, of going down the wrong path, of having gone down the wrong path – maybe you should recalibrate your dreams.

My Fated Purpose, then, is to live and maybe to enjoy myself.

That’s obviously getting harder with the world in its current state, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the things you can’t have.

I like my eyes. When I was way overweight, they were the only part of my appearance that I’d focus on as a positive. Shallowly, like: the rest of me may be gross, but oh, those EYES. I fell out of love with them for a while after my near-death experience broke one of them, made it perpetually lazy, but they’re nearly all fixed, now, and I’m learning to, if not love, then appreciate even the lazy eye. It has Character.

I like my body. At 28, after so many years of railing against it, I gave up, and simply covered it in tattoos. I now work out at the gym for improvement, to be stronger etc., but I don’t need to. In the early days I would sacrifice seeing my friends for a quick cardio sesh, but no more. Weight fluctuates here and there, and we all still look the same. I’m not a model, but I like my face, and the rest of my body, and if I had the chance to trade it in, I don’t think I would, anymore. (Or else, if I did, it’d have to be for a really fucking good trade.)

I like my butt – but more in pants than out of them. But to be fair to myself, I’ve never seen it from afar, only in my bedroom mirror or over my shoulder, vague and reflected and nebulous. Even then it still has a certain perk I appreciate.

I like smoking. I know you’re not supposed to any more, what with all the evidence out there detailing just how much it’ll kill you – and I’m not a smoker, not any more – but there are few things in life that can beat a cig and a coffee on a crisp Winter’s morning. I don’t like the smell, though.

I like drinking. Drinking is one of the aforementioned few things in life that beat a cigarette and a coffee. I don’t do it any more, but my brain is hardwired to release insane amounts of dopamine whenever I drink, and – regardless of the fucked-up decisions and hangovers, regardless of the time I slurred into someone’s ear that I loved them when I didn’t or that time I stole Hugo Weaving’s chips in the STC foyer – yeah, I really like it.

I like marijuana. The taste, not so much, but I like the effect. People have said to me: “how can you not drink but still smoke weeeeeeed?” like they’ve cracked the code, brutally injured my sobriety façade with their shocking insight and poised line of questioning. My answer is: firstly, I can happily put down and pick up a joint whenever I want. I’ve smoked twice this year, after two years completely sober: enjoyed myself, and happily had enough. With alcohol, when I did drink, even in the depths of the most hideous earth-shattering hangover I’d always think: hey, y’know what could fix this? MORE BOOZE.

Secondly, as someone with generalised anxiety disorder, being off my face high is one of the few times I don’t even slightly feel like the world is going to kill me. Year’s not over yet, but I can already tell my favourite memory of 2016 will be this: me sitting with friends in a cabin in Hall’s Gap, eyes shut and wheezing carefree from uncontrollable laughter.

I like my queerness. This one took a while, but I do. I’ve gone through many stages of life and understanding what it means to be, basically, a non-straight person, but I’ve finally reached the ‘liking’ stage of it: of being anyone outside of the straight white dominant paradigm. This came, I think, with my liking of myself: on one hand, my voice has a touch of fey, I work in the arts, I hate children but love RuPaul’s Drag Race, and have a tendency towards the melodramatic. On the other hand, I’m covered in tattoos, have a strong jaw-line (which is another thing I like) and will fight you if you fuck me over. I used to think, as a child, that I’d give anything to be straight – trade it all in. But now, I wouldn’t. It’s part of who I am, and part of what’s made me who I am. To quote a brilliant artist I know: STRAIGHT THINGS ARE BORING THINGS.

I like sex. I kind of think you’d be mad not to: it’s fun, and it’s supposed to be. Sometimes in the middle of sex I get that weird “outside myself” feeling and envisage what I look like from above – sweaty and ungainly and interlocked; making noises I’ve never heard before – and that sometimes takes me out of it, but I’m getting better. Mainly, now, I just laugh.

I like flamingos. I think about flamingos and I smile. I can’t explain why. Sometimes I wonder, “is this how straight people feel about babies?” They’re pink and they’re awkward and they’re kind of gay, and I just like them. Maybe I’m fulfilling some grand indie faggot cliché, but so what?

I like honesty. I find it so much easier to be honest in writing, though, which poses a problem – not that I feel like I need to lie in speaking, more that the act of speaking words makes it harder. Online or in theatre, crazily rehearsed and with lights and costumes and design and shit, I’ll happily tear myself apart. Confession sessions dot com dot au, forward slash me. I’d rather do it before anyone else does. In person, I’ll probably stammer and my brain will freeze and I won’t know what to say so I’ll trail off and sit in awkward silence, or maybe crack a really inappropriate joke for good measure.

I don’t like that I swing between terribly egocentric and painfully self-depreciating. Like, pick one, brain. (Or actually? Pick neither. Mediums are happy, and so in right now.)

I don’t like the politicisation of sexuality (lol ‘straya m8).

I don’t like injustice – like, I don’t like that systematic racism and sexism and fucking murder seem to rule our world, and I really don’t like that I benefit from it.

I don’t like how obsessed I can get with insignificant things, and I don’t like the fact of how insignificant my problems really are in the grand scheme of things. Not that I wish I had ‘real’ problems or wish that people thought that the problems I face were significant, more that I really don’t like how concerned I am with pointless shit when there’s a whole bunch of real problems going on.

I don’t like my privilege. Or, I guess I enjoy it, but I don’t like that it comes at the cost of so many other people. Sometimes it seems like a rabbit hole: dark and deep and endless. What can I do? Give up all my possessions? Apologise to everyone I meet? When do you stop donating to charities? What’s too much, and what isn’t enough? I’m a minority myself – homosexual and disabled – so can I start to claim on it?

I don’t like this country – its government, and its myriad and continuous cruelties.

I don’t like that I can’t let things go, but I’m trying.

I don’t like myself, but I’m trying.

I don’t like this essay, but I’m trying.