Just the motivation I kneeded.

I had one of those moments today where I realised what a sloppy garbage person I can be. I’d been for my run and felt both physically exhausted and sweat soaked. I’m lucky, in that my sweat is rarely that pungent. Still, something smelt stale. Was it me? Nobody else in the office had been recently active. My clothes had a “damp” odour, but nothing distressing. I looked over at my knee brace that I’d left to dry out. My eyes narrowed. I picked it up and took a big huff. My innards recoiled. Bingo.

Did knee braces need to be washed? What was mine made of? Some kind of compression fabric with metal bands sewn in for support. Would that rust? How would it handle a washing machine? A dryer? It was a $350 piece of apparel that I greatly need. The notion of ruining it holds no appeal. I thought back to whether I’d ever washed it. Presumably each year after Tough Mudder to get the copious mud and grit out. So maybe twice in almost two years. I entered a Google search string long enough for it to presume I wasn’t human. “Can I wash my knee brace in the washing machine?” earned me a captcha. I got a full page of answers and clicked a few. I was to leave it soaking in warm water and dish soap or vinegar. I was to hang it out and let it air dry. So no on the washing machine/dryer combo. Pity, despite my propensity for jogging, I clearly enjoy taking the easy route.

How often was I supposed to wash it? That depended on the severity of activity. If it was light work such as gardening or short walks, once every three or four uses wood be sufficient. For anything more intense it was advisable to wash it each time. Each time. Per use. I gave a quick thought to how many uses I’d have had in that past year. What was I using it for? Jogging, obviously. Hey lower body workouts for sure. I wear it when I go out dancing. Often I’ll use it for two intense physical sessions in a day. So altogether I’d possibly use it four or five times each week. So maybe I’d given it 200+ fewer washes than it needed? How was it still intact? Why had it not disintegrated into filth? How was my knee not a cluster of lesions and necrotic flesh? I was surprised the connective tissue had yet to become gangrenous. How the fuck hadn’t I smelled it yet? Boxing wraps I’d wash after each use or otherwise risk a nasty fungual infection. Yet I was fine leaving this harbinger of infection clasped around my second favourite leg joint?

I strongly desired sterilised tongs and a hermetically sealed clear plastic bag. This thing needed to be sent to a testing lab to examine the emergence of nefarious new lifeforms. Why are scientists wasting their time on teleporting photons to the edge of space when an all new lethal pathogen has been discovered on my knee brace. Wait, is this finally it? Am I patient zero? Can I finally go and loot sport stores to stockpile for the inevitable zombie apocalypse?

Oh boy, daddy’s gonna get himself a boomstick!

If my arm falls off I’m getting a robot one.

My brain feels dead. After two days of constant stimulation, sun and very little sleep, I need to recover from my holiday. I slept for almost 11 hours last night and woke up achy and shambling. There’s a non-zero chance that I’m now a zombie, but I can’t confirm. My skin doesn’t seem necrotic and I haven’t consumed any human flesh, but all body sensations point to the idea that I’m rotting away. I just sniffed myself and it wasn’t pleasant. If I begin compulsively itching, I may just have to find a personal guillotine.

Speaking of which, I just had the idea for a cheese guillotine and I’m happy to report that it already exists. Good thing, as I lack every skill required to birth a product into existence. I have no design or construction skills, I couldn’t begin to understand the physical requirements of such a utensil (what kind of pressure would it have to be able to withstand? Would it cut hard and soft cheeses alike? For thematic reasons, would it be necessary for it to work on head cheese too?). I have very limited marketing skills, and distribution networks are a mystery to me.

I’ve been having issues with reality today. I’ve been having trouble with telekinesis. For some reason I’m always very empowered while dreaming. Telekinesis is a constant, but flying and Spider Man powers are pretty frequent too. At breakfast this morning I legit tried to invoke telekinesis but to no avail. I wish I was joking, but waking up was a shock to the system. I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet. I was checking the microwave and gestured to a spoon on the other side of the room. For a full second I was confused when it didn’t fly towards my grip. My regret (not at attempting, but failing) lasted thrice that. I begun to consider just how much easier life would be if unbound by the need to physically interact with objects. Cooking, for one, would be tons simpler. There’d be no fear of hot objects. Imagine, I could fry bacon naked with no fear. Cut onions with no tears. I’d have no need for oven mitts. Think of the savings!

I’ve often wondered if possessing telekinesis would mean you could fly. I guess it’d depend on your weight capacity. If you were able to levitate large objects, why not yourself? Or if for some reason you couldn’t move yourself, could you make a physical platform big enough to stand on and levitate that? Or a seat?

Ugh, my mind feels like sludge right now. Maybe it’s the necrosis setting in. Perhaps I need to eat someone else’s brain to augment my own ailing intelligence. Yes. Brains. Mmmmm.

As if clamping down on porn will lower national terror levels.

In today’s no-brainers, holy shit, that London attack was awful. As far as I understand, three men plowed their van into several pedestrians on London bridge. They then left the vehicle on foot armed with knives, wearing fake suicide vests, and begun to attack passers-by, injuring at least 48 people. Within eight minutes the police had shot and killed all the assailants. While usually I’d say that I could only imagine the horror of being stuck in the middle of that kind of scenarios, brief Reddit browsing uncovered first-hand experiences. A local at the popular Borough Market Wheatsheaf Pub said they heard screaming, saw someone stabbed in front of them and everyone in the vicinity began fleeing upstairs. A few minutes later, police showed up and told them to flee the building. I’d expect for that to have been some combination of terrifying and surreal. Seeing that kind of savage violence in front of your eyes would be nightmarish.

I’m not familiar with British parliament, but Theresa May seems to have come of as alarmingly ignorant. Claiming that Britain is far too tolerant of Islamic Extremism, that it’s imperative that extremists are shown the superiority of Western values. She also criticised The Internet for breeding safe spaces where these extremists can communicate. She proposed greater internet censorship as a method of fighting this kind of rhetoric. Seriously? Internet censorship is the answer? Britain is already one of the most surveilled countries in the world, does she think stripping away the personal online freedoms of its citizens will do anything to combat terrorism? As long as the internet exists, people will find ways of sourcing privacy. Extreme measures of clamping down on the information flow would more likely impact the general population that minority cells of terrorists. The level of censorship required to actually make a dent in terror attacks would more likely start breeding discontent on home soil. If any country would likely tell those in charge to sod off over an idea like that, it’d be Britain.

It’s refreshing to see the difference in coverage between UK and US media over an attack such as this. It’s more likely a function of the online streams in which I swim, but overwhelmingly the British response seems to be radiating love and support. Sentiment seems to be fucked if I’m gonna let this get in the way of my Sunday rather than hysterically overplaying the gravitas of the situation. It was awful, but if Britain does anything well, it’s to keep calm and carry on. I mean, they created the initial meme after all.

I’ve gotta say, with a number of friends in London, Facebook’s safety check in system was something of a relief. It seems to have been widely adopted and was a great way of putting ill feelings at ease. Despite the majority of new changes working against the user, this one gets my support.

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.