Thursday, June 5, 2014

No Direction and that's OK.

A couple of weeks ago I had afternoon drinks with a friend. She had a glass of Sauv-Blanc, and I had the Shiraz. Like grownups we caught up on life like we had been out of school for years. Like kids on a budget, we didn't order food and we took tiny sips from our seven dollar drinks to last the two hour rendezvous. I listened to her speak about her worries for the future; falling behind, her dissatisfaction with university, her life choices, her relationship and the lack of excitement and passion in her life. I was watching an 18 year old go through a mid-life crisis and I was disheartened. Mostly because of her plight, and also because I was more than halfway through my wine –the best remedy for ‘heavy shit’ –and we still had another hour. It is conversations like these, where I would like nothing more than to have my internal monologue unfold like a fantasy sequence from Ally McBeal, entailing a well-deserved slap and insisting she would just breathe and pipe down. 

After a while she asked in a tone that was a little condescending; ‘so what have you been doing with all your free time?’ I fumbled. This was because I had nothing particularly exciting or tragic to share.
The first few months of this ‘gap-year,’ were incredibly unproductive. Whilst my former high school buddies were completing assignments for their respective university courses. I was lazing away, watching TV shows back to back, reading a lot, waking up to what I would call brunch, and taking aimless walks around my suburb. Whenever I answered with ‘nothing really,’ I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be ashamed and feel sorry for myself. On the other hand whenever I answered ‘nothing really,’ I'd develop this sickening satisfaction at seeing their reaction. I sensed their worry for my pathetic lifestyle; no obligation, can’t drive, unemployed, uninvolved. I find pleasure knowing that they think I’m a depressed hermit with no long term goals.

I take pride in not conforming to society’s emphasis on growing up and becoming an adult. I hate that collective conscience the month or two after graduating high school, life suddenly transforms into game show format; cut throat, the be all and end all, ‘Is it door one, or door two?!??!’ Stop. My brain has much to develop. I have yet to register your talk of ‘career paths,’ and ‘direction’. Stop pressuring me to have it all figured out at 19. Come on, I just finished thirteen years of schooling give me a break! Yeesh.  
During our conversation, I expressed my thoughts on extending my gap year for another year just to see her reaction, I know…I’m an absolute fiend. She said, like a worried mother, ‘I don’t want you to waste another year,’


If there’s an article that best describes my current sentiments it’s this one from Rookie. Lately I've enjoyed feeling lost, rediscovering old loves, discovering new passions and just taking in whatever life hands to me. I have learned more about life through literature these past few months than in my entire life, from Allende to Augusten Burroughs' memoirs and his contemporaries. The films I watched taught me a lot of things from truth and fictional storytelling to passion and determination (namely Jiro Dreams of Sushi…freaking brilliant!).  The daily walks I ventured on allowed me to appreciate the nuances in seasonal transition, those changes –sorry for the ‘E-harmony,’ description –are incredibly beautiful and breathtaking. Waste of time? Don’t think so. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m enjoying ‘smelling the roses’. I mean really smelling the roses. Not some wimpy half-arsed whiff. More like a long and greedy inhale and boy does it feel great!

During my walks. I love temperamental Melbourne weather. No sarcasm intended.  
Since meeting up with this worrywart, I have slowly –in the traditional sense of the phrase that I hate so much –‘gotten my life together,’  I have found a job at the movies (romantic right? I love it), completed a two week course, started driving and joined an amateur production. I hope this doesn't contradict everything I've mentioned; I have yet to seek out such responsibilities subsequent of a wariness for the ticking life clock. No. Granted, the year has been quite slow in its momentum, but I’m picking up responsibilities as they come with open hands. I’ve decided that living in comparison to how fast everyone was moving, would cause unnecessary stress. It’s better to move at my own pace. Slow and steady but I feel like I'm winning. Screw it, pour me another glass! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The art of pretending.

I wouldn't say that I'm an actor in the professional sense of the word. But by the standards of a young theatre geek, I have willingly (though I will admit, looking back, some are noteworthy of ultimate cringe) acted, danced and sung in my share of school musicals and productions. Everything about it is so appealing; the excuse to slather on mounds of makeup, COSTUMES, the virile shot of adrenaline upon curtain call, the ephemeral sense of pride during the final bows and the chance to pretend to be someone you’re not for an hour or two. I think that's the most satisfying part.

I read this interview with acting coach Larry Moss in which he made an interesting point about the application of pretending and acting in everyday life. He says, ‘we often don't say what we feel, and a large part of life, necessarily, is lying. You hold back the truth in order to save feelings… we act all the time’. I began to wonder if this pretending thing outside the theatre was just plain sad and miserable or if it could be justified.  I was never conscious of it at the time but I utilised acting in my life as a tactic for survival.

Knowing that you are gay from a very young age and attending schools with faith-based education -Evagelical and Catholic, forces you to shroud yourself in secrecy and lies. You get used to pretending, but not in the liberating sense in the context of performance but in the social arena of the schoolyard. I was blatantly different; I had effeminate mannerisms both physical and vocal that I was bullied for. Subsequently, mostly in primary and middle school, I pretended to have crushes on my friends who were girls, or I would take part in objective conversations with my straight peers about girls we found to be ‘hot’.

When I came out at 16, I thought I was done with this game of pretend. I wasn't. As an innocent young gay dude fresh out of the closet, your new found openness inclines you to look for relationships. And because there is unfortunately a stigma surrounding stereotypes in the gay community, and the desired masculinity trait or ‘masc-only,’ tends to supersede the content of ones complex character; I mustered all my manliness (or at least tried to) in social situations, where I was surrounded by mostly strangers. I projected that like a true phony, and a try-hard. The undertone of my demeanour in conversation went something like this, “Look I’m here-I’m clearly gay- but not too stereo-typically gay- so I’m your type- and I’m single if you haven’t gathered by my obnoxious loudness- but not loud in that flailing the arms and wrist kind of way- NOTICE ME!”

I carried on this facade for a long time because it was safe. I didn't visibly react or recoil from homophobic comments that were either indirect or directed at me. I even felt uncomfortable when a gay couple were unabashed with their love for each other. But when my eyes reverted, my heart was telling me that there was nothing wrong with that. In actuality, there was something wrong with me. I was totally unprepared coming out of the closet, that all of a sudden another one closed. And I was ashamed at that.

I wasn't sure if I was disgusted or disheartened when a straight peer said to me ‘I don’t normally like gays, but you’re cool, you’re different’. He had a point, I am different. But I’m different just like every other person in the gay community. I guess I happen to fit the general consensus of what gay men are stereo-typically like and that’s okay but I’m also complex, multifaceted and beautiful in a human way, so don’t dehumanise me.
It was clear that this boy didn't understand the intention of his words, so I let it slip. But it was at that point I realised that I was too conscious of my inherent effeminate qualities that pretending was an easy escape and embracing them was much harder to do. I am beginning to take control of this art of pretending as it can be destructive when it compromises the authenticity of self. Now, I tend to laugh at myself/cringe/face palm, at those moments that I put so much effort in to look ‘cool,’ even if ‘cool’ meant sacrificing every essence of who I was for people that were insignificant to –excuse the cliché – the entire landscape of my life.  

Last week, I took part –along with 7 other students from across Victoria –in Top Class Drama, a concert for the highest performing drama students from the previous graduating year. I have never felt more like myself around these people that I just met. We came from different places, cities and small towns; each of our stories crafted by our urban or rural upbringing. But we spoke and laughed in our shared, animated, eclectic, flamboyant and over the top personalities backstage. And we pretended with great conviction on stage. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

An introverted birthday.

Yesterday I turned 19. The awkward age before one is officially out of their teens and the birthday that isn't traditionally as important as 16, 18 or 21. The age of 19 is not a 'milestone,' and so doesn't expect a grandiose soiree of sexy time, reckless behaviour, heavy drinking, and morning after regrets. Poor lame 19.

Surprisingly my birthday this year was my favourite one. Although most of my birthdays were –out of choice –quiet.  This year was especially care free since people don’t make a fuss about being this age, and as a self-proclaimed introvert, that earns double points. I simply spent the day with my best friend, who accompanied me in ‘fast-food hopping,’ taking advantage of the free empty calorie food that you get on your special day (I swear I was 2 kilos heavier by the end). Later that night, I dined with my family at Shakahari a quaint town-house conversion in Carlton that serves amazing vegetarian food that we watered down with a bottle of an organic Shiraz called Battle of Bosworth. Perfect.  

Salad Shakahari
On the notion of surprise presents, I can’t remember the last time I was unbeknownst to what lay beneath the tacky wrapping paper. Turning 19 is no exception. This year, Dad and I went to Ikea on my birthday eve. I went on a manic frenzy, I was my four year old self at Disneyland; wide eyed and euphoric, mesmerised by the intricate and chic showroom. No sarcasm intended, the Ikea experience is never complete without an average tasting meal –cheap cannelloni, crusty mash and Oreo cheesecake with added ‘fridge smell,’ for dessert. Perfect.

Who cares about taste when you're paying less than 11 bucks. 
My last party was my 14th. Weeks of preparation went into one night. I made playlists of songs that I hated. There was an overabundance of untouched food. And I spent the night jumping from one group to another trying to make sure everyone was having a grand time. Never again.  

Since then I’m not one for troublesome, complex, or well thought out displays when it comes to my day. I completely defied the traditions that connotes to the past ‘significant’ birthdays. I did NOT make a dramatic entrance emerging from a large cake at my 16th revealing my face freshly pierced with hooks and bars. Neither did I conceive an ornate gathering Gatsby-esque style to get piss drunk, with champagne fountains and an elaborate dance number on my 18th and I probably won’t for my 21st. I would much rather end the night getting fat, watching an episode of my favourite show –currently The Mindy Project.

As someone who values the time they have on their own and tries to avoid overwhelming attention, I made my birthday private on Facebook. I find greetings from ‘Facebook friends,’ (note: ‘Facebook friends’) to be incredibly vain. You get a surplus of meaningless ‘Happy Birthday!’ posts on your Facebook wall. The whole thing feels disingenuous. I mean, if they really wanted your day to be ‘happy,’ they shouldn't need a reminder of having your name embellished with the ‘gift’ emoji. And then feeling obliged to respond to every single one just feels like work.  And the last thing you want to do on your birthday is work. I apologise for sounding like a complete douche. Do know that I did receive the most beautiful heartfelt messages from my closest friends, that made me smile like an absolute dork.  

Even though I’m young the novelty of birthdays died a long time ago. Why do we invest so much time to celebrate life on just one day when we should be doing that every day? Birthdays for me, have become less selfish through lavish means and more selfish through making the day –just like every day of the calendar year –as gratifying as possible, even if it’s as simple as eating your weight in churros with your best friend, or feeling like a child again at Ikea. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Through a new lens.

Drawers are full of history. My mum's nightstand drawer is no exception. Neglected items are stashed away and have comfortably made a home in the dark. Foreign currency rusts away in the corner. Unused notebooks accumulate dust, and an almost full Tums bottle is labelled with a 'best before,' that dates to 2011. But in every sheltered hideaway, one might be lucky enough to find their personal treasure. There, protected in its weathered leather case, was my mum's old (but working) Nikon film camera; the 'One Touch 100'.

I imagined the hype of this thing in its heyday- a tacky 80's commercial using words and phrases like: slimmest, automatic, flash, portable, batteries not included. I giggled. Today it is exactly the antithesis of its description. But there is no denying the sturdiness of this Japanese made unit. And man does it bring back memories. I remember how mum and I would walk 15 minutes down the streets of Kowloon, to get the photos developed at a cosy corner store which doubled as a home, owned by an old Chinese man with the sweetest demeanour- a smile I will never forget. I also vividly remember how my mum scolded me when I opened the back of the camera, and the photos developed with this partial red hue that would have vintage-enthusiasts today to foam at the mouth (I'd like to believe that I pioneered the Instagram filter). 
As much as the thing brought back memories, it obviously documented them as well. This chunky anachronism filled up albums and scrapbooks to the last page. Capturing everything from our overseas adventures to my early childhood years. When I found the camera, we talked about the places it has seen as if it were an old friend. She told me that it is 'older than you and your brother, I've had it for 27 years.' 
My beautiful mum in her 20's, in Frankfurt taken by the Nikon. You can see the strap of the leather case hanging from her hand. 
Yet, despite its rich history she was ready to depart with it. Saying things like 'collecting dust,' 'obsolete,' and 'waste of money,' to buy the film and to get it developed. When did my mother become this hip millennial? Or maybe I'm being too nostalgic, I am a romantic about the past and I always have been. You only need to look at the box of plush toys I've selfishly stashed away in my wardrobe that I've refused to let go. Or perhaps it's my naive retrospective tendencies which make me believe that we have somewhat lost a sense of intimacy in a digital world. I long for a time where I can look over a tangible photo album with a friend over a coffee. Where our personal 'Kodak moments,' were shared only between family and to those we chose. Oh, and of course the dude that works at the photo shop.   

I was annoyed at the fact that my mum doesn’t share my sentiments, it bothered me that she could so easily let go of the camera, the presence of which upon recent discovery I found to be emotionally evocative. But when I looked through the pages of her scrapbooks; each photo embellished with borders, titles, stickers and colourful paper cut outs. I realised that this inanimate thing started and finished its purpose in my mum’s life a long time ago. That is, to capture memories when her children were too infantile to realise the importance of them. I understood that the possession of photos to recall the joyous, the grievous or the bittersweet were more important than any old camera. After our brief talk I slid the camera back into its case, my mum with all her motherly instinct noticed my adolescent melancholy and said, ‘take it, it’s your turn’.

I went down to our nearest photo specialist at our local shopping centre run by an employee who was blatantly disinterested by my excitement. I bought a roll of 35 mm film and loaded this bit of treasure for the first time in a long time. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

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My relationship with writing. Hello.

Writing has always been a dreaded -practice, art, form of expression if you will- thing for me. It's not that I was ever really terrible at it, in fact English was one of my best subjects in high school. Rather, my daunting encounters with writing were invariably linked to deadlines, examinations, anally retentive structure, and the hope of pleasing someone on the assessment side, where the idea of 'poor,' 'satisfactory,' or 'excellent,' is as subjective as ones favourite flavour of ice-cream.
Struggling to find my own creative voice, I have been influenced by former peers and their flawless prose and use of imagery. However, not in a way that was beneficial, but to the extent that it made my writing disingenuous. I was, in all sense of the word... a phony.

With that being said, this is not my first blog. I have dabbled in my share of senseless blogging including; failed style/fashion blogs on this platform, an angst-y Tumblr from my formative teen years (the name of which I will not disclose), to even Myspace blogs (now obsolete, thankfully).
Yes, this is not my first blog. But it IS the first blog where I will hopefully try to honour my voice. There are no gimmicks here, call it 'lifestyle,' if you will. But really, my aim is to share with you these chronicles of my life and to write more, from a personal, sincere and organic place.
Kick back, enjoy, like or hate and just bear with me.