Can we go back to the ones where I have super powers?

Like most every other human around, work sucks at the moment. Day after day it feels like death by a thousand cuts. The thing I always respected about my job was that it was something I could ignore. Punch in, do the work, punch out and go home. It was breezy and stress free. I knew full well my job didn’t matter and I’d be replaced by machines in sub five years, but that was fine, I’d be gone by then. Increasingly since the merger, more systems and procedures have been put in place that’ve micromanaged my day to day and needlessly complicated things. With dwindling autonomy, I’m beyond ready to leave the job I already wanted to leave two years back. So far the opportunities I’ve gone for have all come back blank. I know things will get better eventually, but for now it feels like I’m gonna be here in ten years with every day being that same shade of mediocre or worse. Barrel of monkeys, it ain’t.

The last job I had before leaving home was as part of a fascinating project. I was digitising and cataloguing a massive archive of National Radio content. It’d all been recorded onto open reel tape and cassette. I’d port the content into a computer, then go through and export each individual show as a separate file. While the duties of the job itself remained the same, the material would vary wildly. Recordings would differ in audio quality and clarity of content. Early recordings were some professor recording the radio haphazardly and left no record of what was on each tape. So I’d have to sleuth them. Going to the library and looking up old radio schedules. Listening out for snippets of time checks, familiar hosts’ voices, or world events we’d be able to date by pouring over Google News archives from the 60s forward. Even when it was difficult, it was fascinating. My boss was this lovely old guy who’d dedicated his life to audio technology and preservation techniques. He was so patient and wise, always happy to explain something no matter how many times it took to sink in. Very sharp thinker. He was the life of that archive and so passionate about what he did. I remember him sadly remarking to me once that he couldn’t bring himself to retire, since there were very few people in the country who’d be knowledgeable enough to continue his work after he’d gone. He wanted to hold on long enough to do everything he possibly could so future generations would have access to the wealth of material.

I had this dream last night that felt all too real. Like, nobody had the head of a fish or overabundant limbs or anything. I’d left my job and returned home to New Zealand, tail (metaphorical only) between my legs. Rather than spending time with friends or loved ones, I went straight out to find a new job, picking up where I left off. I went straight to my old boss to see if there were any projects he’d need a hand with. He told me that once I’d left they couldn’t find anyone to take on the VCR project he’d hoped I would’ve picked up, so he’d be able to put me straight on that. I gratefully took him up on the offer and started straight away. I got into a rhythm and soon enough months had passed and my old normal became my new normal. I’d always liked the job and time away hadn’t diminished it at all. My boss though, seemed less animated than he had last time around. Less passion and more feverish working late into the night. I became worried that he wasn’t doing so well and made a point of checking in on him regularly. He said he was fine, but things really seemed off. I continued plugging away at my work, but with a nagging feeling at the base of my brain.

I looked up an old co-worker who’d helped us out on the project. Wonderful older woman who’d had endless amazing, fascinating life experiences. She said that a week after I’d left, my boss’s​ wife had passed away without warning. He’d taken it hard and his grief had transitioned to workaholism. He’d been throwing himself into trying to finish whatever he could before he too passed and his knowledge died with him. He hadn’t even been leaving the office recently. I went back to work, took one step in the door and begun sobbing uncontrollably. I woke up trembling and all day I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind. I know it was just a dream, but I can’t get rid of this sense that it wasn’t.

Plus then I wouldn’t have had access to the internet. What would the point of life be then?

I don’t think it would’ve made sense for me to be born any time before the 50s. I’m trying to think of a society I would’ve prospered in, but they all fall apart. Knowing who I am, how much I enjoy complaining and how flimsy my immune system is, I’d be ill suited to a life that existed before widespread inoculation. In medieval times I would’ve fallen for the first round of black plague, or been mowed down in the initial rain of arrows. I’m not an inherently brave person, so unless I lucked out and was born into a family of means, I’d be pretty much fucked. In the Wild West I’d no doubt contract dysentery, and in the Wild Wild West I’d stand no chance against a giant mechanical spider. I can’t see myself having excelled in the Victorian era, given my lack of concrete skills. I probably would’ve been the lackey of some merchant or an apprentice candlestick maker. The 20s through 40s were all filmed in black and white and I don’t know if my eyes would pop enough, so they’re out. In fact, if not for the age in which I was born, I think the only place for me would’ve been as a disaffected member of Gen X.

I’m being deliberately silly of course, but as I started typing my objections, I pondered how impossible it would be to predict how I’d be in any early generation. With my personality so utterly shaped by my culture (my sum of lived experiences up to this point), I’d be an entirely different person. So much of me has been sculpted from parental influences, the specific friends I’ve grown up around, my home country, my education, relationships I’ve had and (let’s be honest), the media I’ve consumed. This concept of who would I have been is erroneous from the start, because the simple answer is that I wouldn’t have have been me. I’d have been an entirely different person, a creation of my surroundings.

When I start to think about the “whys” of who I am, it wigs me out. It’s a matter of pulling at threads and seeing how far they go. I’ve changed so much even since I arrived in Toronto. For instance I was always sex positive to a point, but connections I’ve made here have led to further understanding and education of what that means, engaging in experiences I would’ve otherwise likely not had. The friendships I’ve made through the community have constantly caused me to question and restructure held beliefs. People I’ve met have introduced me to others who’ve become hugely important parts of my life. Most of which I can track back as the lasting effects of going on one particular date (of the many I’ve had in Toronto), which kick-started a chain reaction. There’s a point here where anyone could jump in and say “yes, but getting to where you are required a tacit buy-in at each new juncture”. I had to say yes at every step of the way, otherwise I likely would’ve headed down a different path. The further back I go, this only increases the massive range of who I could’ve been.

At the end of the day, picking apart how I’ve become who I am doesn’t change who I will be. Errant navel gazing doesn’t serve meaningful progress. Concurrently it’s not like the viewpoint is a total waste. Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Further consideration of actions taken could help shape who I become. Which is a fine idea in theory but useless in practice. Who wants to think about things all the time?

That’s how you wind up with a project like I Have My Doubts.

Maybe I did and this is what heaven feels like. Can you get sinus congestion in heaven?

I could’ve died.

Out of happiness, that is. Surrounded by friends accumulated through the first twenty or so years of my life. My best bud, who I met at age one. He pulled me out of a rip once. A smattering of kindergarten mates. Friends from New Entrants and primary school. My friend whose Malaysian family practically adopted me ages 11 through 17. Community theatre friends. The gal who’s tying the knot tomorrow. Close university friends. The guys I flatted with, three doors down from my parents’ place. My Magic/board gaming buddies. Old high school friends I hadn’t seen in years. Friends’ new boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives. A table covered in salads, deliciously marinated chicken, a delectably charred side of barbecued beef. Endlessly flowing wine, beer, cider and spirits. One room crammed with my favourite people in the world.

I could’ve died happy right then.

There was a sensation that’s hard to describe and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it so acutely. Standing in the kitchen having fixed a drink, I looked around and was stunned, deer-in-headlights-style. I didn’t know where to go. I could take a step in any direction and be engrossed in conversation with anybody in that room. Every single person there was someone I could’ve eagerly spent hours talking to. The fact that I couldn’t have dense quality time with had me almost paralytic. Fear Of Missing Out in its most profound. A special concoction of anxiety interleaved with high-octane bliss. I was having trouble functioning because I was so monstrously enraptured. Whittling away the moments I had by mourning the time I never would.

So I flitted around, airborne on whimsy. I stopped haphazardly, in love with every conversation I had no matter how short. I got distracted and jumped from friend to friend, like a frog adrift in a pond covered with lush lily pads. I breathed in the most exquisite snuff of old memories. Had I the chance to relive that night ad infinitum, I could have never lived another and died happy.

I decided not to read my speech, ill-content to cause anything that could jostle the evening’s calm sailing. Until I was press ganged into it. Decades worth of goodwill led attendees to sit through my sub-ten minute speech. It was heartfelt, earnest and surprisingly well received. Then the music came back on and I was shaking with something resembling eternal contentment. Hashtag blissed.

If fate deigned a moment for me to go, it could nary choose better.

See, reading this was time you will never get back. Lesson learned?

I’m having my 30th birthday party tonight, a few weeks early of my actual birthday. I thought I’d write something for the occasion.

Now that I’m approaching 30, I’ve had a lot of time to make mistakes. Nigh on three decades of fucking up, gathering the pieces and reforming opinions. I think that’s called learning (at least in the curriculum of the school of hard knocks). It might seem narcissistic and self-indulgent to write a speech for my 30th but you know what? I write every day. If it wasn’t this, it’d probably be a listicle of my top 7 shitting secrets to success. As the years have passed, the more I’ve grown, and the more years that pass, the more I realise I have left to learn. I swear it’s some kind of pyramid scheme, or at least can be blamed on the illuminati. As my body slowly degenerates, I hope I’m coming off on top trading youth for wisdom. So approaching 30, here’s some stuff that’s stuck with me. Let’s see if I can ace this without sounding like a “Live Laugh Love” Lululemon ad:

 

1. Time 

We trade so much of our time for money, but money will come and go. Time is the one thing we’ll never truly be able to get back. Aside from Georgie Pie that is. We’re all getting older and moving on with our lives. Some of us are getting married, having kids, buying homes and other stuff that’s supposed to be the domain of “adults”. We’re looking back at past years with a rosy fondness. Hitting peak nostalgia, which leads us to believe egregious things like Georgie Pie having had any semblance of quality. The ball pit was great, the pies were shit. Let it go already.

We’re not the only ones getting older. As we bring new life into the world, our parents are getting on too. Some of us have already said goodbye. It’s sad, but it’s also part of life. We can’t do anything about that. We can, however, spend time while we still have it. Time is the one thing we can’t take for granted. Please don’t add your loved ones to that list. It may sound cheesy, but cherish the people in your life while you have them. Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them what you have while you can. Which leads me on to the next item.

2. Pooping (and yes that was a pun)

Perhaps the most important lesson of them all. If you want to have easy, smooth poops, try raising your heels and bending over to grab your ankles. It’ll change your life.

3. Presence and intentionality

It’s so easy to be distracted. We carry around small beeping, flashing computers. Eye catching advertisements are everywhere. Our society is geared towards capitalising on all our mental stimuli at all times. There’s always something to do and being bored is a luxury left to eras long past. What’s harder these days is being present. Remember when I was talking about how important time was? (Hint, it was item number one on this speech) Well you only get the chance to live each moment once. Until we invent time travel and this whole speech becomes defunct, anyway. Over the past few years one of my most important discoveries was how my interactions grew with intentionality of presence. Putting the phone down, directing my focus.

Instead of using conversation as an excuse to say things and wait until I could say more things, I started asking questions and listening to responses. Authentically being with the person seated in front of me. The inverse of this sits too. If you’re not invested in the people around you, if you don’t care about them and aren’t interested in what they say or think, why are you with them? Be intentional and seek out the people who enrich your life. Then when you’re around them, be there. Save Twitter for when you’re on the toilet. You know that’s when you think of the wittiest tweets anyway.

4. Empathy

There’s nothing quite like having your opinion heard and respected. It feels great when people agree with you. Thing is, not everyone does. I know, for one, that there are people who got defensive when I shat on Georgie Pie earlier. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Even people who believe things that to you seem abhorrent. The world is made up of a spectrum of moral compasses and just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t make them a monster. Your culture is the summation of the entirety of your lived experiences. Everything you’ve seen and done has in some little way shaped you towards the human you’ve become. It’s what makes you, you. It’s also why you see the world the way that you do. Nobody else has your distinct perspective, but that’s why the world is such a fascinating place full of myriad people. Do I sound patronising yet?

Here’s my point. If you truly believe that someone is behaving in a morally repugnant fashion, you cannot ever hope to change their perspective without first acknowledging it and seeing it from their point of view. If you start a conversation by telling they’re an asshole, they’re never gonna agree to anything but to disagree. It’s very rarely easy to put aside your views in order to understand someone (especially if they’re being a dickbag), but if the overarching hope is to be on the same side, it’s essential. Empathy. People are much more likely to be ignorant than malicious and they certainly haven’t lived your life. Consider others and it may change people in your mind from being “bad” to “different”.

5. Fulfillment

We all have needs and tending to each and every one feels almost impossible. Ask Maslow and his illuminati pyramid. Learn how you operate and it’ll do wonders to fix your mood. My girlfriend has helped me create a mental checklist that comes in handy if I’m ever grumpy.

  • Have I eaten recently?
  • Am I dehydrated?
  • When was the last time I was physically active?
  • Have I slept more than seven hours in the past three days?
  • Have I been able to switch off and decompress at all?

Or in IT speak, have you tried turning it off and on again? Learn what you need around you and life becomes easier to deal with. My biggest fulfillment lesson in recent years was how to find a creative outlet. I’m a creative person and it’s been a while since I’ve had a job that allows for creativity. Since I can’t exercise my creativity through my professional life, I’ve been leaning hard on external sources. I write every day for at least half an hour. It’s been massively helpful in expression and sometimes wrapping my head around difficult situations. It’s made it possible to cope at times where I would’ve otherwise crumbled. This last year I started a podcast (www.airbudpawdcast.com. Sign up for your free 30 day audible trial at audibletrial.comp/PAWD, that’s audibletrial.com/PAWD) and it’s allowed me to rediscover parts of myself I thought I’d lost. I feel more like myself than I have in years. I’m not telling you to start a podcast where you analyse the irreverent adventures of a sports playing dog and his incorrigible lineage (frankly we don’t need the competition), but have a think about what you need in order to be your best you. You won’t regret it.

6. Love

We don’t tell one another that we love each other enough. In western society we make the mistake of assuming love has to be romantic. If there’s someone in your life that gives more than they take, whose mere presence has made your life richer for having known them, isn’t that deserving of love? I’m so fortunate (#blessed) to be surrounded by people who inspire me. People funnier, smarter, more gracious, caring, witty and insightful than I am. I love that I can stand here talking to all of you, the people who shaped me and allowed me to be this person right here talking to you. I love you, sincerely, for having been part of my life.

Thank you. I love you.

Also thanks for indulging this extended wankfest of a monologue. Cheers to each and every one of you, you magnificent bastards.

As always, remember to buy the merchandising rights. That’s where the real money is.

2016 was A Tire Fire.

2016 was The Worst.

2016 was Literally Hitler.

2016 was a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!

2016 was a lot of things to a lot of people. A lot of awful things did happen in 2016. Big political asteroids like Brexit and Trump left a crater in everything many of us believed possible. Our faith in others was shattered and the “Us vs Them” mentality crevasse widened to a gorge. A lot of people died. From the horrific deaths of Syrian refugees to the brutal violence committed on the black population of North America, 2016 was a pedestal for atrocities perpetrated through power imbalances. So many dead beloved celebrities. People who gave us hope and inspiration passing away in rapid-fire succession. So much grief, processing, acceptance.

2016 was also the opposite of doom and gloom in many ways. New discoveries, environmental reclamation, aid for those suffering. While there were infinite instances of sexism, racism and gender based conflicts both online and throughout society, isn’t it amazing that this discourse is finally making it to the mainstream? Five years ago did the vast majority of society even know of non-gender binary as a concept? Had “rape culture” joined our vocabulary? I’m not saying that we’re past any of this stuff. There’s a long road between awareness and acceptance. Many of the conversations we’re having now won’t pay off for years yet. Still, at least we’re having them. That’s gotta be worth something.

I wonder how much of 2016’s “worst-ness” was defined by social media. It feels uncommon to witness this much suffering in one rotation of the sun, but then again have we ever been this interconnected? The concept of online life as an echo chamber is not new. The notion of negative news drawing more attention than the alternative certainly isn’t either. Still, something’s gotta be up when we only hear that “world hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years” in an article basically telling us ‘not to jump’. In times of crisis, social media has become emotionally draining. It’s one thing to wallow in a puddle of grief, it’s quite another when you dive into an ocean of pooled tears. Fear, anxiety and sorrow amplified by a deafening chorus of voices. While it should be comforting that people share your views, it often instead doubles down on them, adding an inescapable weight. It’s hard to find hope when you’re surrounded by dense darkness. This isn’t to negate or downplay the seriousness and validity of people’s emotions at all. I have my doubts (shameless plug) over how much it helps.

For me, 2016 like most years had its ups and downs. Work was a low point. Still stuck in a job that feels menial and draining, things have only gotten worse. The defining factors of a job I could phone in (namely amazing benefits, supportive work culture, excellent location and a quick commute) have all taken a nosedive. No part of my job in 2016 has improved and everything has declined. Fingers crossed I get a new position in the new year. On the flip side of that, things with my girlfriend have been flowing along nicely. She moved in nine months ago and we haven’t looked back. Tomorrow we’re getting on a plane to travel half way across the world. She’ll meet my family, friends and see the country in which I was born. While my job has been a bust creatively, I finally took a leap I’d spent years pining for. As anyone who’s read at least one other entry this year will know, I started a podcast. A Pawdcast to be more exact. It’s been a learning curve, a lot of work and at times, trying. It’s also put me back in touch with my audio editing roots and made me approach the format from a number of different angles. It’s been my biggest accomplishment this year by a large margin and a journey I’m proud to have embarked upon.

If it’s any consolation, 2017 is bound to be far worse than 2016. The world may have voted in Brexit and Trump, but we haven’t begun to see what they can do when they’re actually in power. 2016 was the beginning of a dark trilogy. We’ve merely finished the First Act. Expect 2017 to drive us to the edge of extinction, with salvation coming in the dying hours of 2018. I don’t make the rules, just calls ’em like I sees ’em.

Optimistically Yours.
-Leon

Stuff, things and general whatnot.

Helped someone move today and realised something new about myself. I’ve noticed shades of it over the years, hints. My girlfriend and I have a running joke that I’ll never take anything paper if it’s handed to me. There’s logic, of course. Whenever someone tries to hand me a flyer, a coupon or anything that’ll likely end up in the bin, I save the object the trip and refuse it outright. If I know I don’t need it, why would I? That path leads to unnecessary work for recycling factories. Why waste my effort and theirs if I could instead go to a website and get all the same information? Most of the time the concept of holding onto an object for some amount of time in order to save a dollar or so seems like a bad trade off. I could have one fewer dollar, but less overall clutter. It’s cleaner and saves me from sifting through things. On the tiniest macro level, it’s streamlining my day to day operations. On a person to person level, it makes me seem like an officious tosspot. I already knew I hated picking up papers, so what did I learn?

When my girlfriend was prepping to move in, we had a lot of trouble moving her out. She had a great many things. There were piles that’d accumulated over years in some cases. She had a huge room, thus no need to cut down. There are many words you could use to describe this behaviour, She prefers the term pack rat (which makes me assume she was a problematically dominant card during Return to Ravnica era standard). It was a process to get through. It took time, patience and many garbage bags, but we got there. It was far easier for me, having no emotional attachment to the both literal and metaphorical baggage, to throw things out. In fact I delighted in doing so, because it meant the piles were smaller. Eventually the piles got so small that they fit into the aforementioned literal baggage and we threw them into cars and onwards to my place. Now it’s our place. Wait, the question is still unanswered. Why am I being so elusive. Okay, here goes.

When I arrived to help move today, I couldn’t believe how many things there were. I assumed I’d merely see stacks of boxes, but no. There were stacks of boxes, but there was also a lounge full of porcelain figures, antique lamps and trinkets. SO many trinkets. The useful kitchen objects had been packed away. The shelf full of colourful objects of all shapes and sizes had not. The walls were still lined with canvas, prints, photos. So much furniture and assorted objects. There were things that existed seemingly as surfaces on which other things could be rested, in some strange circle of purpose. Deep inside I felt a stirring of existential dread. We were up two flights of steep, narrow stairs. How could the volume of items ever hope to travel along such a treacherous thoroughfare? Why would anyone own this much stuff? Why would people own things at all? What if there was a fire? What if you needed to leave at a moment’s notice? What if you had to get rid of it all for some reason? What if you died and everything you owned become someone else’s burden? Why would anyone willingly make themselves that vulnerably to so many negative outcomes?

That was it. There’s a threshold at which “stuff” terrifies me. The idea that at a certain point the ownership of possessions inverts. You become beholden to the things you accumulate. The more that you own, the more that you’re responsible for. This in turn makes me hesitant to acquire objects. Experiences, you can keep without taking up physical space. Unnecessary clutter does nothing but weigh you down. There’s another side of this, obviously, and that I have yet to work out. Am I afraid of being tied down? Of committing to something? Am I scared that one day I’ll need to escape from a situation and the perceived burden of downsizing will be enough to prevent me moving towards happiness? On some level am I afraid of being subject to entropy, surrounded by objects that aren’t? That I’ll accumulate a prison around myself that will outlive me? To have disposable goods with greater longevity than a living, breathing organism? Does this in turn draw my focus to my own insignificance? How fleeting my existence is in a wider scope? The grand pointlessness of it all? The question of why that lives at the end of each thought?

You’ll one day kick the bucket, but that bucket will still be there after you’re gone.

There’s a difference between venting and seeking validation. As you can tell, it’s pretty slim.

Having one of those brain days where everything feels like a festering pile of shit. It’s fine, because I know I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling normal, in love with my life. Today though, I’m questioning why. So you, the lucky reader, gets pure stream of consciousness. Let’s get back to our roots!

Today I’m wondering how some days I wish my arms were twice the size so I could hug myself all over, then others I question whether it’s possible to loathe myself any more than I already do. I wonder when I’ll be funny enough, smart enough, attractive or desirable enough, informed enough, aware enough and what “enough” even means. How do you decide where you want to be when you have no earthly idea what form that takes? Why persist in this quest to find passion when that feels like too much work, when you could just dwindle away in obscurity instead? Why give a shit about anything when you don’t know what you want and even if you did it would seem too hard? Why do people care when you don’t? Why do people think you have it together while inside you’re crumbling, splintering into pieces too fragmented to ever come together?

I once interviewed an embalmer. I asked her what the worst thing she’d ever had to do was. She said some girl once got hit by a truck. Little girl, somewhere in the range of 5-8 years. She shattered, just came apart. Some of the pieces were smaller than a five cent coin. It was this embalmer’s job to put “humpty dumpty” together again. How do you even do that? Look at this scattered mess of skin, organs, bone, hair and muscle that used to be a tiny human who formerly lived, breathed, laughed, cried and loved her parents and think that there’s any justice, mercy or meaning to any of this? We’re all just bits, so many gross, squishy bits and after all this is done we’re just gonna be bits again.

Why am I doing this? Any of this? Why am I writing every day when I very obviously stopped caring so many entries ago? When was the last time I wrote something I was proud of? That wasn’t putting words on a page to fill a daily quota? What’s keeping me running? Some ill-conceived sense that it’ll lead somewhere? Or just inertia? How am I gonna sit in front of a microphone for an hour tonight, recording the tenth episode of a podcast about a fucking children’s film, that only started because of a one note joke? Why will there be a warm body hugging close to mine tonight when we’re both gonna be nothing but bits in the end? How has she not wised up and left yet?

Why is society such an overgrown rot? Why is anyone ever sure of anything? How do we keep butting heads with some misguided notion that we’re right, or that there is such a thing as being right? When are we going to cede that we’re all a little bit wrong and things wouldn’t be as polarised as they are if we didn’t constantly tell the other side that they’re assholes for thinking differently? How do we think that’ll help? As if calling someone out doesn’t immediately make them raise their hackles and stop listening to what we’re about to say because they don’t want to hear that they’re wrong? How can I say this knowing that people feel real, true, bone deep pain and it’s in every way reasonable that they’re gonna want to lash out, even if it’s the reason that we’re all gonna fail without getting anywhere? Because it’s so easy to confuse hurting someone who hurt you for actually feeling good. That utopia will never be possible because all of us, no matter how open-minded we are, don’t really want that, we just want to be right, affirmed and validated. We want to be heard and told that we’re not the problem, but we all are in some tiny way. Thinking that any of us have it figured out is the biggest joke of all.

It’s fine to not feel okay. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself. Be vulnerable, accept that sometimes you’ll fall apart and that’s just part of picking up the pieces and putting them back together again. We’re all broken and admitting our own weakness is what makes us human. We’re all just bits in the end, right?

Plus, there’s always tomorrow.