A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

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Jeff Whinger would’ve been a less likeable lead.

You know how you sometimes get in a dark mood because of one thing? How all your focus goes to that one thing at behest of everything else that’s going on in your life? Those times where enough of your energy is spent trying to think of anything else, that you’ve used up any resources you had to do so? It feels like that’s been my past few months. I know I’ll emerge out of this dark hole eventually and in doing so, marvel at the fact that light exists, absent as it’s been.

Look, I’m not vaguebooking here. The only thing I hate more than my job at the moment is my inability to propel myself towards something else. Despite knowing that my job isn’t a big enough part of my identity for it to be absorbing the majority of my mental energy, I still have an inability to phone it in. Little as I care about the position, I just don’t have it in me to not do a good job. I want to not give a shit, barely tow the line and be astral projecting when I should be in the office, but I can’t. I keep doing a good job and my “reward” is that they keep heaping more work on me. It’s all kinds of shit.

Geez, when did this place become a whinge zone? I used to use it as a contemplative space to muse on happenings and curiosities. I’d let my mind unfurl and ramble. I’m not saying it was good writing, but it was a hell of a lot more compelling than “I’m 30 and I’ve realised I’m just as mediocre as I always feared”. I travelled and got invested in the world around me. There was some sense of personal development, progress as I challenged long held ideas. Instead I became Eeyore, but less adorable. Things have been going downhill for a while and I’m waiting for the upswing.

(Ready for the ill-advised Winger-esque monologue?)

Obviously that’s the problem, right? I’m waiting. Staying static doesn’t create momentum and I don’t know why I thought it would. I didn’t take advanced science in high school, but I’ve read the dictionary and as such I know that inertia is the opposite of progress. I’ve become paralysed by indecision and my lack of direction has me spinning in circles. Sure, spinning creates a certain kind of energy, but all it’s managed to do is burrow me further into place. What I need now is a propeller. Something to hold onto that can lift me out of the hole I’ve created for myself. I know there’s light out there, but it’s become hard to remember what it looks like. I need to figure out where I’m going before I have any hope of getting there.

Or, y’know, give up and have a kid. It works for some.

It’s Black Friday. I wonder if I can find a sale on concrete boots…

It’s been a while since I’ve used this space for some good ol’ fashioned venting. I tried to book an appointment with my therapist, but every session is taken between now and year’s end. Alright then, here goes.

I’m miserable at work and it’s my fault. Of course this prospect doesn’t fill me with joy, but I’ve gotta face facts. The only one who can take the necessary steps in order to get me on the bath to career fulfilment is me. I was on the path years ago, stepped aside and haven’t found my way back since. Today is my three year anniversary with my current employer. Co-incidentally this parallels three years being in the same job. It’s the longest I’ve held a singular position. Wait, that sounds like I got fired. Not so much. In each case I’ve stepped away in favour of better pay or better work. I’ve usually left one company and headed to another. I figure this is pretty symptomatic of my generation. Company loyalty doesn’t exist like it did for our forebears. There’s no incentive. There are restructurings, mass firings and general shifts of instability once a year. If the company is only loyal to us until a better option comes around, why stick our necks out for them?

This time around I’ve been keen to stick with the same company. They’re not a bad company and many of the other options are worse. The company was much more enjoyable to work for pre-merger, but that doesn’t suddenly make everything shit. If I was doing something that wasn’t so dull, I’m sure I’d be on board. Here’s where the lack of blame comes in. It’s nobody’s fault that I’m still where I am. Everyone around here is pretty friendly. My bosses are supportive. Sure it’s a corporate entity looking to tow the line, but without drinking the Kool Aid I can see that the higher ups care at least a little. If I’ve asked for help, I’ve usually been steered somewhere with best intentions.

I’ve applied for many positions. Constantly. I’ve been close a couple of times, but they’ve gone for other people (also it’s not their fault for being qualified. There’s no blame here). It’s hard and demoralising. I’m looking to get back into a production role, but they’re prized (and rarely prised) jobs. I’ve got a decreasingly relevant audio reel and audio jobs are even harder to find. I had a job that I recently applied for, really wanted and got in touch with the relevant departmental persons to convey my interest pre-interview. Then two people on my team got the job and I didn’t even get to the interview stage. It’s frustrating and hard not to take personally. So I’m still stuck in the same job three years later and it makes me want to walk out a window.

At the same time I know it’s uncharitable to complain because some people don’t have jobs. Some people would love to have my job. I’ve got benefits and I’m not struggling outside of my professional existence. I’m sure that’s a pretty desirable position. I recognise all that, while also recognising that I’m the kind of person who finds it hard to have a clock in/clock out style job. For some it’s easy to go to work, come home and shut off. That’s not what I want. I desire having creative input. I desire for my job to be relevant to my identity. I don’t want just a job I want the work that I do to be an extension of myself. Even if it only shines through every once in a blue moon.

So what’s happening right now is I’m clocking in, doing the work and dying a little on the inside with every passing day. I’m trying not to fall into the trap of medicating with escapism, but I’m struggling. Of course if I’m not happy I’ll want to be anywhere else, whether this is through substance, food or pop-cultural consumption. If I don’t want to face my problems, ignoring them seems so much easier, right? It’s also the easiest way to wake up in 2037 and wonder what I have to show for my lost years. If I want to be doing work that fulfils me, I need to be able to convince people that I’m capable of doing it. Or I need to create the job that I want. Both prospects are vertical climbs and I’m terrified of dealing with the heights. I’m already using my time outside of work as a refuge from the world, but realistically I need to take on more extra-curricular activities. I need to learn software, make things. I need to write with intentionality. I need to be the person who I want to be in order for others to see me as such. In order to work, I need to work.

Nobody else can do that for me.

Coincidentally, “Better” was the only half-decent track from the legendarily delayed Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy.

CW – Rape, rape culture, entitlement #notallmen-tality

Hey guys (and I’m talking to the men here. I have nothing valuable to teach women that they don’t already know), still listening? Lest anything in my tone yesterday came off as self-congratulatory, I’m here to hopefully expunge the thought that I have things to congratulate myself for. We saw countless women come forth yesterday and bravely divulge what they’ve been through. Siting back and say “I’ll try to be better” rings a little hollow without divulging any of my own shit. So here’s a thing. Strap in, this is gonna take a while.

I was 100% on course to become a full fledged, trillby tipping #notallmen-onist. Late teen/early 20s Leon would’ve been all over that shit. Many of you haven’t known me that long. Many of you have. Apart from all the commonplace egregious shit (feeling like women owed me anything at all, judging women based on how they dressed, befriending women largely with the hopes that it could lead to sex/intimacy), I sure did love some Devil’s Advocate or tossing out rape jokes. Grade A genius edgelord shit. Of course I thought rape was abhorrent, but I did love me a good rape joke. Why? Because to me (and I’m pretty sure I used these exact words many a time) rape was an abstract concept. It was a stand in for the worst of the worst. Comedy came from the chasm between expectations and delivery. Accordingly, if I was looking to spice up an innocuous set up, rape was an amazing out of nowhere punch line. I didn’t want anyone to be raped, but I did want people to be shocked.

Yep, I’m reading how fucking stupid this shit is as I’m typing it out. You don’t have to bear with me here. It’s the logic of a moronic twenty-something who knows it all while simultaneously has barely experienced the world.

Thing was, to twenty something Leon rape was an abstract concept. It wasn’t something I had to deal with in my everyday life. I could walk the streets at night without fear, but my life sucked because nobody wanted to fuck me. Yep. Super proud.

It’d be nice to say that I just grew out of it, but I wasn’t (am not) that smart. I got frequently taken to task by more intelligent Women who’d tell me how problematic my behaviour was. I’d engage in endless Devil’s Advocate arguments in an affort to prove some kind of intellectual superiority, then when my shitlord tactics provoked an emotional response, claim the intellectual high ground. This went on for years. Cracks in my bullshit appeared slowly, but let’s not overstate things. I still acted like a total piece of shit.

At some stage, a close friend of mine was raped. I didn’t know what to do. I felt stunned. I was heartbroken at what she’d been put through. I’d never been an angry person, but I had nothing in me but rage. I wanted to kill whoever it was that did it, but had no idea who he was. I physically trembled with no way to manifest the fury inside of me. It just stuck around and with no choice, I sat with it. I had literally no idea how to handle those feelings. I was fortunate enough to have access to a work supplied counsellor who talked me through it. It took time, but having sat with this foreign feeling, it was impossible to see the world in the same way.

Please please PLEASE, no sympathy. Why wasn’t I already blindingly furious? It’s shameful and abhorrent that this is what it took for me to stop seeing rape as an abstract concept. The “know it all” persona didn’t last for long after I discovered just how little I knew.

I started listening more, arguing less. At some stage I started learning. The older I’m getting, the more I’m understanding how little I know. As time goes by, I’m trying to listen even more. I’m trying to learn, but there are still so many little things I’ll never truly understand, because I don’t have to face them constantly on a daily basis.

I’m so sorry for all the shit women have had to put up with on my behalf. I’m sorry for the years of emotional labour to pull my shitty lizard brain to a place of burgeoning understanding. I’m sorry for the shit that I still put women through, even unwittingly. I’m sorry that apologies don’t make things better half as well as action does. I’m sorry that I don’t act nearly as often as I should. I’m thankful that so many women somehow never gave up on me. I should not have been your burden to carry. I still shouldn’t…

 

I don’t know how many men are still reading, but there’s something I want to talk about. I saw a lot of bullshit from self-righteous men yesterday when women were coming forth with their manifold admissions of trauma. There’s some bullshit regressive stereotype still permeating our society that logic is the domain of men and emotion is the domain of women. If this is still relevant to your life, maybe ask yourself why. What’s wrong with being emotional, having the capacity for compassion and empathising with others? Why is it more important for you to try and score “points” at the expense of someone else’s emotional wellbeing? When you’re engaging in these arguments, is it causing you to relive painful emotional experiences? Or are you just doing it out of some self-imposed duty to be “right”? Why do you think it’s #sobrave to poke and prod at the traumatic experiences of others when you haven’t had to repeatedly deal with the shit we men put women through. Because so many of us still believe that women owe us anything. That women exist for the purposes of our pleasure. That a woman’s humanity is secondary to what she can do for us. What is the value of this apparent logic that’s so obsessed with the notion of “winning” through technicalities and loopholes.

In what way is this “right”? It’s right in the way that both Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi were not guilty in the eyes of the law, because the trials were predicated upon discrediting the testimonies of these brave (but unfortunately “emotional”) women. Do any of us really doubt they did it? Does that sound like justice to you? Does that seem like the “right” kind of society you want to live in? One that protects predators and makes victims relive their trauma in the hopes that when exposed to scrutinising light, the most miniscule loophole might shine through?

Men, we still have so an unfathomable amount of work to do to dismantle the bullshit biased society we’ve assembled. If that pressure is too much, let’s start small. The next time you’re about to start/join an argument about something a woman has gone through/is going through, ask yourself some questions: “How much of a personal stake do I have in this argument?” “Do I have tangible lived experience with what she’s talking about?” “What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t engage?” “If I listened instead of talking, could I possibly learn something from a point of view that’s outside of my own?” If any of the answers to the above questions are remotely affirmative, try sitting that one out. See what happens.

I know you’re certain that you have a totally unique point of view. I can assure you that nine times out of ten you don’t. I see the same arguments from men again and again. Why did #notallmen gain such groundswell? Because with no exaggeration, every day I see some supposedly well-intentioned dude pop into a discussion about shitty things that men do and say “yeah, I support what you’re saying for the most part, but I’m not like that.” If you’re not like that, she probably wasn’t talking about you. If she wasn’t talking about you, why would you pop in and make it about you? Do you think that any of your female friends talking shit about men think that you’re the scum of the Earth? Why then would they be your friends at all? If you’re so assured of your logic and intelligence, use that big brain and think about it. You’re not helping.

You can though. You can help. Instead of pouncing into an argument and loudly taking up space, listen and learn. Read what women are saying. Re-read it until it sinks in. Consider how these things make them feel. Do they sound frustrated? Angry? Why do they feel that way? Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their view point. Would you be angry in their situation? Would you just get over it if it was happening constantly? If you didn’t only have to deal with this shit, but when you expressed your frustrations, people told you that your feelings weren’t valid? Would that make you angry? Would it be possible to see their experiences as more than an abstract concept?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

Take note of how other men treat women online. Does any of their behaviour seem strange to you? Do they seem like they have personal experience with the matter at hand? Or do they just seem like they’re trying to prove a point in order to prove a point? Does that seem strange to you?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

Does the way that men carry themselves online still make sense to you. If a guy says something about a woman’s experience that shows little to no empathy, question it. If you know him and feel like he’s a decent dude, call him in. Send him a private message asking why feels that his opinion is more valid than hers. If you can’t call him in, try calling out that behaviour. Tell him that it doesn’t make sense for him to be telling a woman she’s wrong about something he doesn’t experience. Because that doesn’t make sense, right?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

These are ellipses, not fullstops, because this is an ongoing thing. There’s not gonna be a point where you know everything. The more you learn, however, the more you can educate other men. If we’re gonna get anywhere, we’ve got to get there together. It shouldn’t be the job of women to make us work on our own shit.

Because we need to own our shit. Nobody else can. Be better. That’s your job, not theirs.

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!

A foot in the door still needs to climb eventually.

Screw the preamble. I was at my group mentorship meeting today and the general themes were limitations. What was holding us back from being where we wanted to be? Our “homework” was to watch a TED talk on why most people would never have a great career. It intimated that the vast majority have good careers in lieu of great ones. Those “lucky” enough to have great careers find their way through pursuing passion, saying yes to opportunities and forging ahead even under stormy clouds of doubt. Fear, he said, was the prime reason that truly great careers evade so many of us. It’s not a new idea, but it certainly resonated deep in my gut.

In the mentorship meeting they asked what we were afraid of. I thought about it. I’ve known that I have a debilitating fear of failure for some time. I dug deeper. Why was I afraid to fail? What did failure represent? I have constant ideas, but what stops me in my tracks? I realised that I talk myself out of opportunities all the time. Why? What is it that paralyses me? I dug deeper. When something pops into my head I think hard on it. I conceptualise what form it would take. I consider the steps it’d take to bring it to being. These pile atop one another. More considerations flood in and the pile becomes a towering monolith. A singular entity. All of the tasks combine into an overwhelming obstacle. Fear takes root and it’s too much. How would I be able to tackle all of it? I have a job. I have a social life. I’m afraid to lose precious time on a project that could fail.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t a smooth obelisk, it was a collection of steps. Yes, I’d have to climb to dizzying heights, but the process would be one step at a time. Developments don’t have to happen in an instant, otherwise they’d be called occurrences. The work would consume me, but in the mean time I wouldn’t lose everything I had, it’d fade into the background temporarily.

But still, what if it didn’t work out and it was all for naught? If putting the time and the effort in left me back at square one with nothing to show.

The mentorship facilitator said something that struck me: That while we often think we’ll end up back at square one, we rarely do. We don’t lose the lesson when we lose. I thought how fervent I was when I arrived that I needed to go out and grab opportunities. I said yes to everything because I had no other choice. In doing so, I prospered and grew. I shook myself out of stagnant habits and tried something. I’ve reached a plateau of safety. I don’t have to act out of fear and desperation. You know what though? I accomplished a bunch out of desperation and it worked out great. It didn’t happen instantly, but I got there even if I was afraid. It’s not like I have so much to lose that it’s not worth the risk reaching further.

So I did. After the meeting finished I talked to my mentor. I told him what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I asked him if there was anyone he could put me in touch with to workshop it and make it a reality. He said he’d set something up tomorrow.

What have I got to be afraid of?

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?