"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Look at you;
Hovering like a
Great, slimy insect -

Tell me,
Do I look like Damocles to you?

(What power do I have except over you?)

You forget;
I am Anne (sans tête)

Are you my Boswell or my Cromwell?
(Or possibly my Bothwell?)

Either way;
I have not tired of a life on one's knees, yet

Some men stand on their feet
And some on their hands
But all that matters is the gown on your back
And the hat on your head;

(And you, my Henry,
Have always worn a hat of someone else's choosing)

I am not afraid of you.
(I feel it, but I don't have to fear it)

There is only one terrifying spectre here.

You are the sword;
But I am the void.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am a gush
It is everywhere
From my lungs
Between my legs
In my hair

(I see you
I see red)

Parched throat and trembling hands
Swarming flies and swimming eyes

(I see you
I see red)

I am all strange colours
Grey skin
Purple bruises
Pink eyes
Green tears

(I see you
I see red)

I have become a haggard old hag
The skin peels
The lip splits
The feet crack
The itch becomes a throb
Becomes a burn becomes black
And then it goes

(I see you
I see red)

You can cling to life with a fist
Only to have it drain away between your teeth
But my robot heart and zombie brain
Thump on, heartless
And so it goes

(I see you
I see red)

The bed is too small for me
My sorrow
And your ghost

(I see you
I see red)

I used to be oceans
But now I am just

Worn away by red rivers.

Friday, October 07, 2016


I want to tell you why
I live my life on my toes

Because this world is for big people
And I am small

And two,
Because you demand silence
And I am predisposed to roar.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


Well, now-
The die has been cast

Please keep in mind-
I hold the cards

My ace of spades
Is that I am not a game

My body is not your chequerboard
Your princess is in another castle

I am not your pawn
I was not made from stone

The ball is in my court;
But I will not play.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

dark cloud.

Now Playing: Sommeil by Stromae (et si je compte et je compterai pour toi, je te conterai mes histoires, et je compterai les moutons, pour toi) 

Ever since little me tripped and fell in love the first time and then cried her little heart out, people have been asking me what a tough modern girl like me was doing, crying over boys.

To be honest, I never understood it, either. I want to fall in love and get married in the same way I want a PhD - I know it's not for everyone, but it's what I want, at least for now, and it'll take a lot of work and also a lot of luck to make it all work out, and it might not work out after all. But either way, in love or not, with a doctorate or not, I recognise myself as a fully realized human being. I am not and never have been incomplete. I'm just ambitious.

The cold truth of the matter is that the end of a relationship, a crushing disappointment, the knowledge that people don't follow through simply because they don't care enough to...has always been a trigger for depression. My penchant for blue hour romances comes, at least in part, from this fear that I will fall down the rabbit hole again; when I was young enough so that my friends weren't getting engaged and married and pregnant left right and centre, I put off any notion of a long term relationship. My happiest, healthiest relationships are the ones that transitioned smoothly to friendship or even just vague acquaintence, but always with a lot of respect from all parties involved. It's really...it's really not that hard. Some of them even managed to do it as a) teenagers and b) quite drunk. I'm not the kind of person to expect or even want forever and always from every beautiful stranger on the street. I was just raised to have a shred of empathy and a touch of self-respect.

When you're a smart girl, people expect you to think rationally - but that's absurd. Young people are not rational; it's not easy to think about the solid benefits of a good education compared to the fleeting comforts of what once was when you're suddenly deprived of the rush, of the literal high. It's not easy to keep in mind that there will be time, later. I spent too long living in the now, I forgot about my whole childhood of coolly planning for the future.

When you're someone like me, with a lot of privilege but also with a lot of things working against you, you learn from a young age to take control of your own life. My life has been one shrewd decision after another, the decisions one can only make when one is fairly level headed, fairly self assured, and fairly insulated from such pesky notions as financial inviability of ones' ambitions. I have let my imagination run wild on what I can do, on what I can be. I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and I remember, vividly, being fifteen, being stuck somewhere I didn't really want to be, under the authority of people who really had no business having authority at all (my school principal was Literal Umbridge). But back then I had this immense capacity for hope. I lived almost exclusively in dreams or in daydreams about the future. I wish I could ask my fifteen year old self how to do that, because I think I've forgotten. Because the truth is, as you get older, it becomes harder and harder to make shrewd decisions. When you're young and arrogant (and you have a formidable mother and Actual Dumbledore as your favourite teacher) it's easy to feel like destiny is just waiting for you. But the stakes get higher, the chances of failure get bigger, and some of the decisions you make...are not so shrewd after all. I am so used to my choices resulting in some benefit, in some improvement on my life, that when they are decisions concerning something so volatile as other people I am still not used to the shock of failing. I am well acquainted with failure, of course, but that's a personal thing; eating humble pie is a solitary task. Taking the fall for other peoples' stupidity is a misfortune I've never really reconciled myself with.

So, truthfully, I am depressed. I am constantly fatigued, but sometimes I can't will myself to fall asleep, or stay asleep. I struggle immensely with writer's block and anxiety and imposter syndrome. I'm afraid of the dark and long silences and loud noises. And sometimes I just cannot get out of bed, not even to just make a cup of tea and curl back up. I see my friends message me and all I feel is guilt at not responding, but not the actual drive to actually reply. I try to escape, try to plan for the future as I used to, the endless hours of pretty aimless research that used to bring me so much pleasure. A long, long, time ago, I felt this hollow. I can't remember when or how or why it ended, but it did. And that's the only light at the end of the tunnel for me, that dark clouds must eventually give way to the sun.

But I will no longer let myself feel ashamed about feeling this way. All my life people have made me feel guilty for the audacity to have feelings, to act on them, and to sometimes get hurt. My happiness is not contingent on the whims of others; but people should understand that actions have repercussions, and we all have a great capacity for cruelty and that all people - smart or not, rational or not, shrewd or not - will eventually find the straw that breaks the camel's back.

I am not weak for my demons. I am brave for overcoming them, for knowing that the only way out is through.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Other Weird Sister

I am the daughter of whores;
But greater men than you
Have kept better faith with us

You may not fear me, love
But you should fear blood
I am the kingmaker's daughter

What good is goodness here?
Man is a wolf to man;
Much less the lamb

Fair is foul and foul is fair;
When the hurlyburly's done
I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do

I have no breath for the wretched
'Tis too late for pity

I am Fury;
Fear me.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

It is four days til spring;
Already the sun has strength to it
(The rain is quite indignant)

Summer was a lifetime ago
And you are half a world away
In the autumn gloom you faded
I lost you to the winter chill

But it is almost spring, now
And my heart is full of wildflowers
In your tampering, I was tempered;
I bury my childhood with you.

One day, when you are an old man
You will think of summer
But I always dream of spring.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

treading lightly.

Now Playing: Clean by Taylor Swift (you're still all over me like a wine stained dress I can't wear anymore)

I try to tread lightly in this world.

I think people underestimate how much happiness and pain we can inflict in very short spaces of time; so I tried to tread lightly. I like to think that when my former partners think of me, if they think of me at all (and I give them total leave to forget about me entirely; blue hour romances by definition rarely outlive the sunrise) I hope they just think of me with a smile. Like damn, that was a crazy night. I have been hurt so badly by the careless, thoughtless actions of others that I try very hard not to do the same.

Minimizing drama isn't minimizing pain, by the way. If you've hurt me every man and his dog is going to know about it. But the reason why I was single was to spare myself some pain; I never seriously entertained ideas of commitment and I resent people who jump to that conclusion. But sometimes a good night is just a good night, and the leaving, the letting go - you should make that painless, for yourself, and yes, for the person you just met. You don't owe them anything but this.

It's so easy, by the way. I realized that as I got older. Intimacy gives one such power, it's so easy just to rip a fresh wound for the hell of it. It's easy to cut the people close to you without really realizing it. It's easy to let people fade out of memory without giving a thought about what scars you left, and whether they are still fresh.

Not pursuing someone seriously isn't the same as not taking someone seriously. I'm all for relationships that are not meant to stretch into the forever and always; but you have to keep in mind that no matter what happens or how you feel, they will continue. They will live on when you are not a part of their lives and if you don't want to be an active, physical presence, the least you can do is not be a ghost in the shadows.

I'm just feeling very vulnerable at the moment. In my younger and more vulnerable days I had such a cheerful attitude towards being young, being single, being reckless, of naively assuming that people took pleasure in good faith, that when someone cares about you, no matter how little, no matter how ephemeral, it at least meant they wouldn't actively hurt you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Hi, I have a Gender Studies degree.

Now Playing: Drop the Game by Flume & Chet Faker (give me things that I wanted to know, tell me things that you've done) 

People think that because we all deal with gender and sex and sexuality on a daily basis, we all have a general idea of what we're talking about, and people who end up saying 'as a Gender Studies student...' are wankers.

But here is my defence of the humble Gender Studies student.

Firstly, gender isn't easy. Just because we all have a gender doesn't mean we all understand all of it - in the same way that we're all made of atoms and chemicals and hormones and whatnot and I definitely do not understand any of that. You wouldn't think it from the way that Gender Studies programs are willy nilly pulled together and then wrenched apart, but gender is a mind-bogglingly complicated thing to study. It is a constantly-evolving interdiscplinary field of study that nobody claims to understand fully except for Beyonce fans who spend a lot of time on tumblr but who are actually finance majors. Saying 'I am a Gender studies student' is less of a boast and more of an acknowledgement of the rabbit hole that gender is. Studying Gender Studies, especially as an honours student, has been mostly a constant Jon Snow-moment: I know nothing. All I know is I know nothing.

So people are incredibly arrogant about gender and the study thereof. People argue with Gender Studies students and academics about gender in a way that you would never argue about physics with an actual physicist. Our degrees might not mean anything to the money-grabbing uni admin satan worshippers, but we don't spend all those years staring at a wall. We're academics. We're not in it for the money. There's no fame or glory. We just want people to acknowledge that studying something for years on end will give one the privilege of a somewhat-learned opinion.

Speaking of privilege, the acknowledgement that one has a degree in anything should not be taken purely as a token of intelligence or big-headedness. It is an admission of privilege, as well. The fact that I have a degree probably says more about my privilege and my interests than what I actually know, and that's okay. But I don't think people say 'as a Gender Studies student...' with the intent of intimidating people into shutting up and listening.

People sasy 'I have a Gender Studies degree!' out of exasperation because we want people to understand that the things we know, the things we study, were patiently explained to us by much, much smarter people in the disciplined environment of a classroom, and even then there was fiery debate and people struggled with words. The things and terms that people throw around on social media are not really things that can be explained in a Facebook flame war or in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Just as white people demand that people of colour teach them All the Things on racism, people demand a lot of emotional labour of gender studies students to basically regurgitate their entire degree for free on the internet to an obscenely hostile audience. We just think that if you want to talk about really complicated moral quagmires like sex work or abortion or whatever you might actually want to do your homework first; or at least not tear down the people who have, and have a flimsy bit of paper and no job security to show for it.

Monday, August 01, 2016

C v. P

Now Playing: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire (sometimes I wonder if the world's so small, then we can never get away from sprawl) 

Both Canberrans and Perthians seem to operate under the impression that Canberra and Perth are fairly interchangable, in that they're both small boring isolated places treated with equal disdain by potential tourists and locals alike. But, to paraphrase Tolstoy, all exciting cities are alike, and each boring shithole is boring and shitty in its own special way (I'm an English student, we're great at paraphrasing). I've been living here for six months now, and here are the examples to suggest that Canberra and Perth are not clones divided by the inhospitable desert.

1. Perth is bigger. 

Perth is small. Everyone knows that. Every disgruntled disillusioned suburban Perth child knows that. But Perth is 2 million people small and Canberra is 380,000 people small. You begin to appreciate things like actually having a city centre (a shopping centre doesn't count) and the glories of Transperth-facilitated shenanigans when you move to a teacup. For what it's worth, despite frequent trips to Melbourne and Sydney via the Greyhound, Canberrans don't seem to think that Canberra is small, but Perthians will tell all and sundry about how claustrophobic and monotonous Perth is.

2. Canberra feels impermanent. 

Canberra is, for the most part, students and politicians. Everyone here is from somewhere else, and almost nobody plans to stay here forever because quite frankly that's a terrifying prospect that I refuse to entertain for my own sanity. Part of the oppressive joy of Perth is that it really feels like a place where people are born and live and die whilst the rest of the world pretends that Australia is All The Sydney All The Time.

3. I goeth down, I yelleth Tinder

I was a happy single pringle in Perth. Every semester break we would 'go out', which was really just a euphemism for 'get laid'. I met my partner on Tinder and met everyone else at uni parties and/or on sleazy dance floors. The beach plus the mining boom plus the aggressive anti-intellectualism does tend to attract colourful characters from around the world, and Teenage Me loved all the pro-Brexit/country bumpkin/borderline insane weirdos with the cool accents.

Here I'm practically falling over hand-holdy, face-licky couples, although I might be biased somewhat by the fact that I'm still in the 'everything is a lie unless its pasta' part of the breakup, and I live on top of a bubble tea establishment. Still. Dating here is a thing in a way that it wasn't a thing in Perth, or at least it seemed very optional and just another part of the buffet rather than the set menu. Speaking of food, people here don't eat by themselves. Treating myself was an activity in Perth but an anxiety attack here. Every time I try and eat out on own hairy emancipated don't need no man feminist lonesome I'm treated like some kind of leper, including the nice lady putting my plate of pad thai in front of Mr Imaginary across the table from me.

4. Canberra is prettier. 

The lake. The mountains. The strategically planned city planning and the fucking arboreteum. Is pretty. Is pretty, okay? I'll give you that. I mean, Perth has a beach, and 'Acton Beach' is 300% Not A Beach, but there's only so many times you can consent to brining yourself and slowly rotating over the hot sand like a rotisserie chicken before you lose the plot.

5. Canberra is the well-connected cousin 

I've driven to Sydney and Thredbo from Canberra with no more inconvenience than packing an overnight bag. Drive in any direction from Perth and all you'll get to is Nowhere, Middle Of the Ocean, or Halfway to Singapore. Then again Canberra uses its neighbours as a crutch - anything Canberra doesn't have, you can just nip off to Sydney. It's not like Perth can rely on Bunbury for anything.

6. Perth is the better wannabe 

Both Perth and Canberra are Melbourne Wannabes, but Perth does it slightly better. I am biased, because I like ramen, and Canberra doesn't do ramen.

7. Canberra seems more family friendly 

But I am not the Virgin Mary.



(8a. In Canberra's defence, Perth summers are unbearable. A city that close to Antartica should not be so fuckin hot.)

9. Bagging on Perth is so fun all the Perthians join in 

Moaning about Perth is a favourite Perth pastime. 99% of the whinging about Perth is by people who live there. Canberrans seem a tad too attached to Canberra for this baffled Perthian.

10. Perthians are much better at whinging. 

Perthians whine. All the time. But whining gets shit done. We can't fly to Sydney every time we want dim sum or ramen, so we have our own. You can't walk ten steps without running in to a Mecca, of which Canberra only has ONE, and it isn't even a Maxima. Canberra would get better if Canberrans learned the art of the whinge.

Friday, July 29, 2016


There is a beautiful sunset tonight

Two hours later the same sun will shine
On different clouds

A single tear will fall to the earth
And then up to the heavens
And then down on you

The wind will carry away
Words we cannot speak.
And drown out words we must not hear

The earth turned away from us, from our summer
The cold winds rise and sweep away our beauty
All the constellations conspired to drive us apart.

(We were the sunburnt, star-crossed lovers
But now my heart is buried in the ice)

Two hours later the sun will shine
On different thighs

I am one eye open
And you are two eyes blind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I had to leave.

I don't know if it was fear or courage;
But it was not my choice to make

You don't know.
You don't know the little girl I left at home
Each time I got in your car

She doesn't have time for you, and me.
She gave up on her white knight a long time ago;
She has no energy for destiny.

I had to go, for her.
Because she never leaves, and they always did
When I am alone, she is with me, and I have to carry her
I owe it to her.
I owe it to her red brick, brown thistle childhood
When words clawed at her flesh like thorns
When they tried to break her
And she refused them all.

She taught me that all you have is whatever you make
And you are a monster of my own creation
You are the love of my dreams and you haunt my nights
And I am sorry I made you.
I should have left you to the heat.

And when you killed me, she clung to life
You snapped me in half, but she survived

You are the deafening silence
You are the hooded figure in the shadows

Perhaps you do not exist.
They always took great delight in tormenting me

You are not the worst;
You will not be the last.

But still, I bleed.

When I lost you, they wouldn't let me cry
And when you killed me, they wouldn't let me die.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


I was born on a faultline
(I am your fault)

Heaven and earth-
Wrench me apart

I am a liar
I don't know where my loyalties lie

I loved you
You were the only concrete thing in my life

I was born on the border
(I gave suck on barbed wire)


I loved you your arrogance
In your certainty I thought I saw destiny

I was born a traitor
Come, come, friendly fire

The enemy of the enemy is another enemy

I am your hazel eyes
I live such a hazel life

I have always disappointed
Look, see
I have my papers
Never mind the name

I made a deal with the devil
I was four;
You had marble hands

It's so much safer, on your own
I remember your marble hands around my throat

I've always been on my own
Hands up, hands up, hands up where I can see them
(You can't see them in this light)

he's dead now.


(thus, without a kiss, I die.
fire and ice, etc.
see, I am one of you, after all
burn me with all my books, please.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

I don't remember your face, anymore
Your eyes were green, I suppose

I remember your form in the moonlight
Like a statue, marble and indifferent

I only remember your arms
How your skin burned in the icy night

There is a difference between you and I
The spark cast a warm glow on you

And cast me in shadow

I am plain, but you are barefaced;
With bared teeth

What is it about you and your need
To pick wings off flies?

Did you resent my lonely skies?

You can hardly envy now
My lonely nights

They say all men aim for the sun

I am only another body for you to climb over
(I thought I was the sun)

I don't remember your face, anymore
Your eyes were green, I suppose
But I saw your true colours fly

Monday, July 04, 2016

Do not console yourself
With ideas of how strong I am
When you poise to strike

Do not soothe yourself
With ideas that I might survive
When you aim the killing blow

Do not fool yourself;
I am as soft and sweet
As you remember me to be

I have only a dog's courage --
To bite back when bitten

If you aim for my life
You do not do it because I am strong;
You do it because you can  

Do what you will;
But I am not strong enough to excuse you

And when it is done
I will not be strong enough to forgive.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

the call of the mundane

Now Playing: Fast Car by Tracy Chapman (you've got to make a decision, leave tonight or live and die this way) 

All my life, I've been different. Weird. Unique. Talented. Pariah. Extraordinary. Freak.

I've never had much by way of normal. I have a weird body and a weird brain and I'm always compelled to do weird things. Doctors stare at me in amazement, and I've been 'the clever one' for as long as I can remember. I am very, very obviously Asian, but not typically Asian. I've never sat comfortably with ordinary things. I've always had things people can't have, or don't want to have, and I always find it impossible to procure what everyone else seems to have.

I thought I had made peace with my oddities; to the point where I no longer feel comfortable blending in. But the call of the ordinary has been...an extraordinarily difficult thing to wrestle with.

When I was younger I wanted what all little girls wanted. I wanted to be admired and adored and suffocated with love. I've been reading A Song of Ice and Fire and I'm an avid Game of Thrones fan and as much as little Sansa Stark is an insufferably annoying character, I see so much of myself in her. I had crazy dreams because I had given up on the ordinary ones. But I never stopped wanting.

Being a late bloomer is weird. Just when everyone else is getting tired of it, you're just getting started. When life is calling you to difficult, complicated, adult things, you're that little woman with the wonderful boyfriend with a fast car, only you're not such a little woman anymore. They don't give prizes for how long you can stay in bed with someone. Sweet nothings are not diplomas or job offers or career opportunities. But they are so sweet, and wrenching myself out of that reverie has left scars that don't seem to be healing anytime soon.

I don't think anyone has really appreciated how lonely I have been, my whole life. I remember being thirteen, sitting at the back of my new classroom, trying to inhale all the set texts everyone else had already read. I remember sitting alone, reading alone, doing everything alone. I remember admiring, loving, lusting, craving from a distance, not even daring to put words to the abstract ache. I remember how easily a younger and more vulnerable self fell into the most obvious traps, of pretty words and pretty smiles, desperate for attention. I remember using my loneliness as armour, finding such solace in fleeting blue hour romances, never daring to get too close, always wanting to end up alone, because being alone meant being safe. I look back at all the times I have succumbed to the call of the mundane and been burned.

I've wanted to be extraordinary my whole life. It was the only thing that kept me going. I wanted to become so big and tall that nobody would ever touch me, nobody would ever hurt me, I wanted to look down on everyone and spit on them all. Admitting to myself that I really just want to be happy, that maybe becoming extraordinary and becoming happy aren't the same thing, that maybe a lot of the reason why I am so unhappy is because I am so isolated...it's not an easy thing to wrap your head around, when you've formed your whole identity around being different.

I've always rejected being ordinary. It was easy for me to sneer at the mundane, because I never had it. The white middle class life was never something I could aspire to; I grew up always being reminded that I am not one of them. I took it in stride, during my lonely, angry childhood; if I couldn't be one of them, I'd be a whole other thing entirely. But now as I get older, as the challenges ahead are harder and the rewards I reap are not always wonderful in a wonderfully uncomplicated way...I do feel old, childish insecurities creep in. I keep telling myself that armour is not the answer, that turning myself into a block of ice, whilst I probably have every right to do so, will only hurt myself. But people take being warm and sweet as weakness, and there seems to be no shortage of people willing to exploit perceived vulnerability.

Girls my age are not meant to worry about dying alone, and I don't. I really don't. I know how my life is today is not how it's going to be forever, for better or for worse. But loneliness is a real, present, thing, right now, and I'm sick of it being constantly invalidated. I have started on a long, lonely path, and I don't know if I'll make it. And I don't know if I'll like where I end up.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

남자들 (II)


I thought of something to say to you
And then burst into tears

Because I turn, and it fades away
And you're not here

My love was unconditional
But not at the expense of my dignity

It was at the expense of all of me.

*          *          *


I was afraid, you know
During my break

Because you were bleeding
And I wanted to fix you

I wanted to hold you in my arms like a child
And I was afraid you would push me away

It meant the world to me
That you crawled into my open arms

*          *          *


I was drawn to you
Like a moth

Drawn to the flame

But I think tempers that burn so hot
Can burn anyone

And so I died
Joan of Arc

*          *          *

You.  H. 

How afraid I am
I am not afraid of

Tangled bodies
And knotted bed sheets

I am afraid that you will touch me
And it will leave scars

That nobody will see
But me

~ originally published March, 2015

Sunday, June 05, 2016

여름, 햇빛, 사랑

I miss the sun.

I miss the sun streaming through the car window
On bare thighs;

I miss your sunglasses and crooked smile.
I miss the sun.

I miss the sun and the warm black bitumen
On puppy paws;

I miss the amber Perth 4pm on your driveway
I miss the sun.

I miss the sun on the river from the sleepy train
On lazy Sundays

I miss sundresses in a heap on faded carpet
I miss the sun.

I miss the sun.

He slept a summer by my side
But he was gone when autumn came

And now it is cold, and grows colder still

And I miss-
I miss the sun.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Why I will stand by Amber Heard

The recent media shitstorm about the breakdown of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's marriage and Heard's domestic violence allegations has dug up a lot of old, painful memories for me.

A few months shy of turning sixteen, I started an abusive relationship that ended when I was seventeen. 

A few months after, I was sexually assaulted. 

I clung to my abusive relationship even when I knew it was falling apart, even when I finally accepted, after months of denial, that he was bad news. I defended him when people started asking questions. And I think part of the reason why I didn't cry wolf as soon as I realized I was eyeball deep in shit I couldn't handle is that I knew I would be vilified. 

Not to the extent that Amber Heard has been vilified, of course. Neither of us were rich or famous. But I heard it all, and I was only seventeen. I was the other woman. I was a shameless social climber. I was a clingy, whiny burden. He's such a nice guy.

He's still a nice guy, of course. Some of my friends insist on remaining friends with him, even though they know what happened and claim to believe me. Through our relationship people had been pestering me to break it off, to just quit, to air out all the dirty laundry, but as soon as everything fell apart it was all on me. 

I've learned, as an abuse survivor, and as someone who has listened, patiently, to many, many other stories, that there is always something for people to cling to, some proof that the victim was in the wrong. For me, it was being the 'other woman'. It was okay for this person to abuse me, apparently, because I'd been that woman who he had cheated with. My victim blaming was tied up with slut shaming until eventually, I shut up. I was tired. I was hurt. I had lost my best friend, my reputation, and any notion of a balanced mental state. And as bad as he hurt me, I don't think anything hurt more than that. 

After I was sexually assaulted, the victim blaming started again. I'd been drinking. I'd been flirting. Did you see what she was wearing? Why didn't you say anything? 

I didn't say anything because I was drunk and disoriented. I didn't say anything because I was scared. I didn't say anything because I was a virgin and I didn't really know what was happening. I didn't say anything because I have anxiety and I was intimidated. 

The things that happened after only increased suspicion. I got attached to my assailant, which is very, very common - our cultural sexual narratives are so violent that victims often confuse assault with affection. I didn't act the victim. 

A lot of people also try to minimize it - oh, he didn't mean it. He's so socially awkward, he probably didn't know how to ask. It was only one time, you're over it now, surely? Sure, it's only one time - until a few months later when you do consent to sex, and you can't do it. Then it's only two times, when that happens again. Three times, when you have to explain to yet another partner what's wrong with you. Four times, when you're older and braver and you push another guy off you. five, six, seven, eight times, with your first boyfriend, who is very patient but it's still very scary and unpleasant. Abuse and assault aren't one off things - they don't end when it ends, it doesn't end when they finally walk away, or drive you home, or sign the divorce papers. Scars linger.   

I'm not seventeen anymore, and I'm made of sterner stuff now. But the victim blaming and slut shaming I endured, the relentless attacks on my character that were seen as part and parcel with being 'that girl' who was stupid enough to get herself in hot water - they have left a lasting impact. Whenever there isn't a shitstorm in the media, when the headlines of one celebrity beating up another celebrity are a few months past, people drone endlessly about how victims should 'just leave' or 'just speak out'. But I feel like this 'choice' that we have, to speak out or walk out, is no choice at all. It's a choice between having one person hurt us, or the world. 

I stand by Amber Heard because I see so much of my own story reflected in hers. I stand by Amber Heard because even though she is a rich, privileged, famous woman I have never met, I felt an enormous rush of empathy when I saw the same things that were thrown at me thrown at her, only in a much more public and vicious way. I stand by Amber Heard because I know how hard it is to stand up to the popular kid who abused you, or someone older and bigger than you who assaulted you, much less Johnny Depp. Because it doesn't matter who you are, survivors recognise each other in the crowd, and we can't help but want to hold each other tight - because nobody else does. 

Friday, June 03, 2016


I let go of my own anchor
To be an anchor for you

Do you ever stop and think
Ever stop to ask
'How is she, today?'

'Is she alive?
Does she still have Game of Thrones hair

And frightened eyes?'

I do;
I ask, every day

I read, I think, I wonder

If you have drowned
In a puddle of your own making

Because I am not a liar like you.
When I said it, I meant it

I am not smart like you.

You are a coward
And I am a fool

I let go of my own anchor
To be an anchor for you

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I am your reanimated

What do you know of death?
No more than me, surely

I was a child when I looked Death in the eye,
And snarled 'not today'

I know what it is to live in spite
I live in spite of Gods and Men

I was made a corpse, but I survived

I know what it is to live, when you should be dead
I know what it is to live, when you dream of death
I live in spite of myself

I am your reanimated
I am your zombie love

I know what it is to lose faith
And yet battle on, battle-strong

There have always been voices
Calling me to the void;
My own is the loudest of all

I was born a ghost
With haunted eyes

It will take more than poisoned words, my love

You cannot break a broken heart
It will take more than what you are to break me.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


I will teach my son to say goodbye
I will teach him that mistakes happen
And he will cause endless, bloodless hurt
Hearts break like shattered glass

I will teach my son to say goodbye
It will be cold, and hard, and cruel
But kind.

I will teach him that death -
Death of a person, place, or thing
Should be quick.

That neglect is not a swift or kind poison
And indifference is no anaesthetic

I will teach my son to swallow his pride
To have more backbone than you.

I will teach him that real men look people in the eye
I will tell him why he is my son, but not yours

I will teach him to say goodbye.


There were so many cages.
There was the bed.
There was your arms.
There was the room updown two flights of stairs and a locked door

There were fingers
There, and there, and there
There was the car.
There was the backseat and deadweight and deadly smiles

There were promises

There was faith
(I think you knocked down that door)

There was love
(You knocked down that one, too)

There were so many cages
But now I am free

With clipped wings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

love & duty

Now Playing: Sprawl II by Arcade Fire (they heard me singing and they told me to stop, quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock) 

I feel like there is a misunderstanding of Asian kids, particularly Asian Australian kids, who rely heavily on their parents.

My parents became what the government considers a high income household through hard work; we didn't always have it so good. I remember pinching pennies as a child. But my parents worked hard so that my sister and I would have the good life, the good life that is promised to all immigrants and their children. My mother especially seemed to live vicariously through us, in buying for us everything she never had.

My parents pay for pretty much everything I have; but I have more autonomy than people think. I think it's easy for people to assume that I'm just going through the motions for my overbearing parents, which is certainly what my schools thought when my mother wated me to be pushed on, faster than the rest - all they could see was the stereotypical greedy tiger mother, because old white men struggle very hard to see the multitudes in a woman who looks so different to them, or her daughter. I think now that I'm in a field that my parents never would have chosen for me, it's a little easier to take me seriously; but my choices go back further than that. My parents chose my school, but I got in with no help. I chose my university, and my majors, and then I chose which major to ditch and which other one to take, I told my mother that I felt the ice cracking beneath my feet and I stayed up all hours of the night desperately trying to find a way out. Coming to ANU was all my own idea, and I made it happen. My parents have never attempted to control my life, only to facilitate it.

But there is a sense of duty that comes with being so well provided for. I definitely saw some rich kids fail semester after daddy-funded semester, but I never wanted to let my parents down, especially seeing as I was not making what anyone would consider prudent investments. I'm a terrible student - I'm lazy, I like eating and sleeping too much, I get distracted, anxiety makes me procrastinate for hours on end, and I struggle endlessly with self doubt. Any nerd will tell you of the pervasive anxiety surrounding marks and grades - I cried whenever I didn't get a grade I wanted, in the same way that the athletic kids used to cry if they didn't get blue ribbons. So I always pull through, through temptation, through anxiety. The only thing worse than having a kid who is a shit investment is having a kid who is shit at the shit investment. When you're a gifted kid, you feel this uncontrollable need to live up to expectations. When you're a gifted Asian kid, or a bit of a loner, a bit of a weirdo, the need to prove everyone wrong is all-consuming. People think I am easily distracted, by pretty things and by pretty people, but I have never wanted anything or anyone more than my own success.

When you're all grown up, when you have children of your own, love and duty are all tied together - my parents push through with their difficult jobs to provide for their already-grown children, so that we have some hope of establishing a career in an increasingly depressing job market; we live in a virtuous cycle of duty and obligation to each other. But when you're young, like me...sometimes love is the death of duty.

Home was full of temptations that were not in the least bit tempting in the abstract; I used to think about love and happily ever after in the same abstract way that kids talk about the moon. I don't think I met the right person, but I met the right idea; the pervasive idea that I could give up my career ambitions for other, simpler, ambitions. The scariest thing, for me, is that I came dangerously close to throwing away the security of my parents' steadfast support...for what? The hardest lesson to learn is that you cannot trust anyone.

And yet I still can't shake off the feeling that I have given up something big. I probably haven't. But I'm young, and I don't know any better. I don't know of anything that could be better.

My friend told me that part of adulthood is wondering; because sometimes you do have to choose between two good things, sometimes when you choose one path you don't know if it's the right one. You spend your life wondering what your life would be like, if you had chosen differently; and there's no way of telling which way was right.

It's a great folly to be young and try to love; because we are still at that time of life where love is the death of duty. We are so...self serving, and I don't know if I can judge other people for hurting me in their selfishness; because I am equally so. My affection is not as pure and innocent and kind as the people who wax poetic about it think; I have my own agendas. I only really cry when I've been outwitted at my own game. No-one serves without ultimately serving themselves; and why the hell not?  Above and beyond duty to others, I have a duty to myself. The only thing that has kept me going these past years has been this idea that I can make something for myself, that I can let go of a lot of the bitterness and resentment that existed alongside the temptation and happiness of home. The people of my past may have been wonderful, but I can't trust them farther than I can throw them. We rely so much on other people, to give us jobs, to educate our children, to love and marry and stay with us...but first you have to rely on yourself, to know that you can still hold your ground even when things fall apart. Things have fallen apart in the smallest way, and I fell apart with it. I am learning, slowly, to be content with my choices, to be sure of myself, and to pull it together when you draw the short straw. Because the only constant in your life is yourself, you know? Nobody else has ever shown me otherwise.

Monday, May 16, 2016

new chapter

Now Playing: Third Eye by Florence + the Machine (I am the same, I'm the same, I'm trying to change) 

I guess it's no secret that I have started a new chapter of my life, and I'm doing an exceptionally terrible job at adjusting.

I spent the last twelve hours I ever had with my partner screaming. Quite literally screaming. I went from the girl who took half an hour to get ready to this red faced, ugly crying, bawling mess who screamed for an hour straight, passed out, woke up, and started crying again. To his eternal credit, he didn't also have an enormous breakdown and/or kick me out.

That's the thing - I have a lot of mixed feelings about my partner. When I'm scared it's easy to imagine him as the wonderful person that he was to me, for our time together - but that's so incongruous to the utter mess he's left me in now. And it would be so easy to hate him - I don't think anyone would begrudge me for utterly loathing him - but that's also very incongruous with what I know. I try and do that thing people say to do when a chapter of your life ends, to smile that it happened and not cry that it ended, but the way it ended...I think anyone with any heart would cry at that.

I've also swapped mental illnesses, as it were. When I was a young teen I suffered a lot through depression, but then in my late teens I got okay at managing depression but became very, very anxious. And anxiety was part of my relationship - it was all new, and I'm not great at new things, and anxiety informed a lot of what I did and how I felt. I thought I'd be more anxious, here, living on my own, doing things that used to trigger me, but I didn't expect depression to come back after so many years of just laying dormant. I'd forgotten how truly awful it feels.

My usual way of dealing with my issues is just to be very candid, because through talking and writing and thinking I find ways of understanding and accepting and moving on - I feel like, in the heat of the moment, I can't think straight, I go along with things I shouldn't, I don't say what I'm really thinking, and I don't really mean what I say. It's only in retrospect I can gather myself again; but there's so much I can't say. I have no qualms dragging my abuser through the mud because, quite frankly, there's very little about him that I would say is nice or redeemable, and I don't think he deserves my praises. But this time is different. People contain multitudes, and not all sins are unforgivable. I am hurting, badly, but I don't think I am in a position to just set someone on fire to make myself feel better. It's been difficult to convey how much of a difficult time I'm having without people assuming that my partner is the scum of the earth, because he's not. I refuse to believe he's a bad person, and I don't want to paint him that way when he isn't here to defend himself. But then again, it was his choice to not be here to defend himself, to not give me the answers I so desperately need, to leave me alone to come to my own conclusions, even though they are thin and unflattering.

I think the only thing I can say is to not judge people who are having a bad time. When I was young people couldn't imagine why I was depressed, and constantly tried to guilt me out of it - but depression is not really about what you lack, and definitely isn't about what you have. But I feel like I can't talk so freely about being depressed, here, because I feel like people will judge me - to have it all and still cry seems colossaly ungrateful. I am trying, very hard, to be thankful for what I have, and to learn to accept and enjoy this new life I have found myself in but I just wish people knew that, no matter how wonderful someone's life or career seems, it's never easy: change is never easy, even if it's for the best. And as much as you feel like you know someone, you don't know the whole story; you don't know someone's deepest insecurities, or everything they've sacrificed to get to where they are, or how much they miss things from their old life, even if their old life was thoroughly unextraordinary or ultimately unsustainable.

I'll be okay. You know me. I just keep swimmin'.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

defensive assholery

Now Playing: Third Eye by Florence + the Machine (there's a hole where your heart lies and I can see it with my third eye) 

I cannot count the number of times when I've been alone, privately, with a guy - pillowtalking or whatever - and they suddenly announce, quite randomly, out of the blue, that they're selfish, or that they're 'a bit of an asshole' or 'you know I'm a dick, right?', or start recounting a story of how they mistreated one of their previous partners. And I just sit and listen in stupefied silence, thinking 'where the hell did that come from?'

I'm all for putting one's cards on the table, and I obviously don't think that people are flawless bastions of decency. But I cannot for the life of me understand why men are socialized to make these sudden, self-deprecating statements with no context or apparent purpose; as if they have this big secret and they just decide to blurt it out before the cat's out of the bag.

I think guys know what they're up to more than they're willing to admit. Because, in that situation, what am I supposed to do? Hop out of bed, get dressed, shake hands and say 'it was lovely meeting you, but we clearly have insurmountable issues and this relationship is insufficiently serious enough to try and tackle them'? Of course not. I just have to lie there with this self-proclaimed selfish, heartless bastard, and probably reassure him that he's not nearly as selfish or heartless as he claims he is.

One of the first people to do this was my abuser - it was by far not the worst thing he did, nor were the other people who did the same necessarily abusive. But when we were having our huge, horrible falling out, he said 'I don't know what you expected, I told you I'm a dick'.

Yes, you did. Once upon a time, when we weren't fighting and had no reason to fight. In a calm, peaceful, serene moment you calmly and coolly explained that you were a Colossal Asshole, knowing full well that if I had run for the hills then and there I would have come off as completely batshit insane and become just another one of your crazy exes. That was, apparently, warning, for the shit to come. And my socially contracted obligation to stay because you weren't in that moment acting on your apparently intrinsic douchebaggery was apparently consent to being messed around. It's like proactive victim blaming.

Here's another thing; selfishness, being a shit person - these are not unshakable character traits that define the core of one's very being. It's understandable in a sixteen year old who's just fucked up his first relationship because he fell down a porn hashtag rabbit hole on tumblr, but it's less forgivable in a twenty-something man who is making the same mistakes from nearly a decade ago.

Since when has it been okay to suddenly advertise one's negative attributes, anyway? I don't, in the post-coital haze, start recounting the story of that one time when I was ten and won thirty games of Uno in a row by making up rules against my gullible playmate, or that for reasons unknown I have kicked a few boys in the balls totally unprovoked. And I don't then use That One Time I Told You Stories About My Past to retroactively claim that you're okay with me cheating or giving you blunt testicular trauma. You move on from being the cheating, violent kid and try to make yourself into something of a respectable adult and halfway decent partner and you try, very hard, not to hurt the people you care about. Sometimes you're gonna fuck up, and that's okay, but these people and their little trips down memory lane and strange manipulation of peaceful couple moments...I feel like they're not even trying.

And in all this kerfuffle I feel, ultimately, disposable. I have to constantly tell myself that I did okay, that it's not my fault, that I didn't accidentally consent to being messed around and bullied by someone who claimed to care about me. I have to be okay with the fact that I'm probably another one of your 'crazy exes' who just 'didn't understand you'. And I have to be okay with the fact that, as wonderful as you apparently thought I was, you were okay with losing me because you didn't have the balls to grow up. That maybe, one day, you'll get bored of throwing women away and be the person I always knew you were, and some other lucky woman will have that version of you, and all I got was a wonderful boy who somehow thought that jealousy and selfishness were core to his very existence, rather than things he could have given up, for me.


It was easier caring for you
Than it is now to care about myself

I remember your heaving shoulders in my arms
I wondered, even in my multitudes
If I was strong enough
For the times I gladly carried you

I was never afraid of you, you know
I was never scared of your long white hands
Or your teeth against my skin

But now I live in breathless fear
Of your contempt;
You and I come from such a tiny village
And gossip tears through it like the plague

There's a strange void between my hips
But not in my heart;
You are still there, it is still the same
Cracked and bleeding

My faith, once broken...
It was all I had to give

The bruises have faded, and yet you still linger
Like smoke in the curtains
Of some faded rockstar's fifth floor motel room

And I am curled up on our wine stained sofa
Catastrophe is its own kind of balm

Why regret what could not be?
(because it feels like it never was;
I have only the memory of a memory of a reverie)

Friday, May 13, 2016


Now Playing: I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables (he slept a summer by my side, he filled my days with endless wonder, he took my childhood in his stride but he was gone when autumn came) 

I find it really weird to be at the end of a relationship and not fully own the story; it's the story of us, not just the story of me and Some Guy. My ex, like me and everyone else, contains multitudes; and I'm not going to share those multitudes with just anyone. It's strange to be hurting, so badly, but still not feel free to discuss as openly as I am accustomed to.

Here's the thing - I'm a bit of a love slut. Lovebug, is how everyone politely puts it, but I love very freely. People often think bad of me, or think that I'm too stupid to see flaws in people, or that I naively think everyone deserives to be loved from the start. But it really...it really isn't like that. I am so profoundly aware of my ex's many, many flaws; I saw them from the start. I'm sure he saw mine. But I loved in spite of it, and I'm trying, really hard, to cling to that reckless delusional optimism. It's the only thing that keeps me sane and keeps me human, especially as I become increasingly bitter about an ever growing number of things and people.

There's a difference between loving and being in love, I think. I don't think I've ever been 'in love', and I certainly don't think I was in love with some boy I knew for six weeks. But I loved, I loved imperfectly and wildly and erratically; and there were some things said that gave me the impression that we were on the same page, in this strange relationship-that-was-not-a-relationship, with this boy-who-is-not-my-boyfriend (I gotta stop doing this whole 'WE CAN'T USE LABELS' bullshit. I'm a writer. I need words). And love is not all fun and games, you know; I've always known it can take you to dark places that you have to endure for other peoples' sake. But since moving here I have been stalked, gotten lost, poisoned myself with mouldy food, and plunged into deep despair - and my friends have been there for me, always. It is hard to accept that someone who claimed to care about me has utterly left me for dead.

I keep finding myself verging on hate; it would be so easy to hate the person who cheated on me, who has broken all his promises, who is not here for me when I desperately need him - and I'm sure nobody would begrudge me this one thing to utterly despise. But it would be grossly unfair, I think - not only to the complexities and subtleties that makes this story much more complicated than I can freely discuss, but also unfair to me. I must try to be happy, despite the circumstances. I did nothing wrong.

We live in a culture where people, especially young people, and especially young girls, are taught to blame themselves entirely for any calamity that befalls them. It is hard not to think that maybe I should not have been so free with my affections, maybe I should have braced myself for this fall. But it would be a tragically cynical thing to do, you know, to anticipate disaster before the pleasure has even begun. I made mistakes, and I wasn't perfect; but I refuse to believe that I did anything wrong, in loving recklessly - I am not in the wrong, here.

I will love again. I will love as recklessly as the last. And if I hurt, so be it. It will not be my fault. And it's not as if I owe it to anyone to love as freely as I do; I owe it to myself. Because I truly believe that the world is a better place when we love recklessly, even if it has made my world slightly worse, for now. There are many, many things I regret; love will never be one of them. I loved as honestly and as simply as I could, even when it was hard, even when it hurt. And I hope one day I will find someone who can return the favour.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Now Playing: Heavy Crown by Iggy Azalea ft. Ellie Goulding (for everyone who said I'd never make it, oh Lord weren't you mistaken) 

The one thing I love about being an honours student is that everyone is in it purely for the love of it. It's an objectively horrible experience - we are overworked, very stressed, extremely sleep deprived, we're not getting paid for our efforts - we actually pay for the privilege - and we got nothing by way of job security. It's taken us a long time time to get here and it'll take us a long time to get to wherever we're going.

And what are we working on? Papers that basically no one is going to read. Honours students don't publish anymore, which is a shift that happened between my mother being an academic and me becoming an academic. We're not writing bestsellers; we're devoting all this time and money and energy on these things that will, in all honesty, contribute little and be of next to no value. Which is why I mean it when I say we're doing it for the love of it; we're here because we love Austen and postfeminist television and post 9/11 literature. It is a pure passion that defies logic and exists in spite of financial and emotional anxieties. It is the only thing I could have ever left my old, comfortable life for - and even though I've been whinging, a lot, about being uprooted, I have no regrets.

One of the things I find endlessly amusing is the huge gap between how people perceive honours students and the actual life of an honours student. People constantly talk about me getting into the honours program at ANU as me having 'made it'; because I had to reach some arbitrary cutoff point and fill in some arbitrary forms and move from my arbitrary place of birth to the arbitrary location of ANU. And it is in an achievement, to be sure, and a privilege that few people will have. But it also is, overwhelmingly, just the beginning. We are treated and being trained as baby academics; everything is new and strange and scary and nobody has any idea what they're doing. There's nothing glamorous about the honours life; it's probably the most humbling thing I've ever done. But I've always enjoyed the exercise - being good enough to move from a little pond to a slightly bigger pond, and being, at least for a while, not the biggest fish. I knew a guy who, for a while, used to go around boasting that he turned down an offer to my high school, which was academic elite, and went to his local public school, because there he was the best student. I was thoroughly unimpressed. Not because I was the best student at least in one subject out of a dozen; that was irrelevant. But because one of the few good things I remember about my time at school was the challenge, of not being the smartest, of not being bored in every class, in having the experience of failing and having to work hard. I appreciated that same challenge when I started uni and I appreciate it now that I am at ANU and totally out of my depth. That guy, by the way, knew of my distaste - I literally used to call him Big Fish. He's at ANU now. The novelty of being the big fish in a little pond wore off on him too.

When I say my life as an honours student is unglamorous, I mean it. I found huge chunks of mould at the bottom of my bag of rice the other day - massive chunks the size of my fist of grey, powdery mould with black sticky bits and green fuzz. It was the same bag of rice I'd been eating out of ever since I got here. I totally lost my cool. I called my mother and had a full blown panic attack  and cried at her, wordlessly, for an hour. Which was cruel of me - my poor mother worries about me enough, and it's not easy to help your hysterical daughter from 3000km away. But I did it because I needed to be a child again, at least for a moment, and do that very childish thing of dumping all your problems on your mother. And then, after I had calmed down, I remembered the people in my former life who couldn't do what I had just done, and who had sometimes leant on me instead - and I had tried to bear the weight of it as best as I could. I resent people for many, many, things, but I neve resent them for this. But they don't call anymore, and I don't know why, and it's hard not to take that personally.

Being here, being twenty, growing up - I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be happy, what it means to be successful, and what I want out of life. I don't have many answers yet. amd the answers I do have will probably disappoint a lot of people; but these are the people who imagine my life as an honours student to be so different to my experience of overwhelm and heartbreak and nerdy epiphanies and mouldy rice, so what would they know? This is my life. All I can do is muddle through it as best I can.

alone in your body

Now Playing: Bedroom Hymns by Florence + The Machine (make me your Maria, I'm already on my knees) 

I don't have vaginismus anymore.

Well, at least, I don't think I do. Who knows what this year as a nun, sorry, research student will do to my body.

Here's the thing - pain and I, we've been acquainted for a long time. My life, all of it, is always punctuated by pain that I cannot properly describe, and I have devoted my entire professional life and much of my private life in trying to find the words to describe pain. There's the pain of being a queer woman of colour, there's the pain of being a mixed race second generation immigrant, but then there is pure, raw, physical, sanity-bending, word-defying, paralysing, breathless pain. My family have lived with this pain for as long as they have lived with me, but they still don't and never will understand what it is to be killed and flayed and stitched back together and reanimated, what it literally feels like to be literally heart sick. My doctors have been studying conditions like mine for longer than I have been alive but they are all able bodied old men who have no idea what it is like to live with a condition that they can describe and diagnose and operate on. I learned, from a very young age, that I am alone in my body, and I am alone in my experiences, and I am alone in my pain. We all are.

 I got vaginismus from getting assaulted when I was seventeen. It has been, by far, the hardest thing to write about, and one of the hardest things I've had to deal with in my life. It is not easy to have a sexual dysfunction when you are not in a long term monogamous relationship (because obviously hypothetical male partner deserves the sex more than you ever will) and/or trying to have a baby (you're too young to be a mum, why you wanna have sex anyway?). It is not easy to have a dysfunctional sexual organ when you occupy a profoundly hypersexualized body in a very sexually repressed society that does not like talking about sex or the many ways we fail at it. It is not easy to deal with the physical embodiment of trauma. It is not easy dealing with physical pain when the emotional pain is, as far as it can be, behind you. And no, it is not an easy thing to 'just deal with'. People pestered me many, many times to seek medical help, but let me tell you, doctors know less about sex than you'd think - given that my doctor, in all her wisdom, tried to shove a huge speculum in me, which was about as logical as forcing someone with a broken foot to run a marathon.

I felt very alone in my pain. I had acquired vaginismus through sexual assault, which is not something people like to think about, and something that is very easy to blame on me - I was drunk, I was flirting, etc. And I realized that vaginismus is not like a cold, where doctors know exactly what is wrong with you and exactly what pill to prescribe (incidentally, the same doctor with the Speculum of Fail managed to remove a very stubborn wart off my knee, so it's not like she was a total quack). No one understood what it meant, physically or psychologically, to exist as a sexual being with such a huge sexual problem. I felt lonely and immensely vulnerable and as time wore on I became increasingly panicked that my problem was permanent.

In the end, I overcame vaginismus because it is more a disease of the mind than of the body - which doesn't make it any less real, but I have experience battling demons. My partner was sweet and patient and endlessly understanding, as had all my other partners before him, but it didn't make me feel any less alone. There were no words to describe the strange mix of anticipation and excitement and impatience all mixed up with trepidation and panic and dread. The immense pain that was not immense in the actual physical sensation - I have endured much, much worse - but this overwhelming feeling of wrongness and alienness. I couldn't find the words to explain that I had to stop not because it hurt, which it did, but because I was having a full blown panic attack. I couldn't find the words to explain how slow and stupid I felt in the excruciatingly slow process of learning to associate things with pleasure instead of pain. There were so many words and none of them fit; and the empathy gap was obvious each time I had had enough, because no matter how attentive and considerate someone is there is always a tiny gap between when you call it off and when it actually stops. It's a cruel reminder of how alone we are in our bodies.

It was equal parts empowering and devastating that this was a problem that I had to overcome myself; there was no miracle cure, no expert advice. I often feel so alone in my body, but especially when I am in pain; people just stare in stupefied silence, because pain - both your own and others - defies language, and language is the lifeblood of my existence. I have never been the kind of woman people value for her looks or for how much of daddy's money she can splash; I've always been a woman of conversation, a nouveau Anne Boleyn. So I feel oddly dead when I do not have words, and strangely vulnerable when I am too tired to speak; as if I have been slaughtered. Which, of course, Anne Boleyn was.

I feel like, somewhere in this life of pain, I have learned loyalty. I am not a particularly empathetic person; one of the many side effects of being so caught up in your own pain is that sometimes you ignore the pain of others. But I have learned loyalty, and I think it is because I search for it so desperately and come up empty. Because for me to open up, for all the scars and broken bits about me, for all the moments when I will have to grit my teeth and bear the pain, for all times the people around me are forced to watch on when I am crumpled up and crying; it is a lot to show to the world, and so I think I am not asking too much when I ask for loyalty in return. And maybe that is the real pain of pain; that pain disrupts bonds, it causes people to pick up their skirts and run. Illness repulses, I learned that a long time ago. But a truly magnetic woman, one who genuinely has interesting things to say, contains multitudes; and you will not like all of it. But loyalty is demanded nonetheless.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

what smart girls do.

Now Playing: One Moment More by Mindy Smith (let me have you just one moment more)

It's no secret, I suppose, that I ended a relationship to move here to Canberra. I was open about it to provide some justification for my general mopiness, in the hopes that people wouldn't consider me totally insane.

I'd never been in a relationship before; and let me tell you, I thoroughly do not recommend timing your first break up with the first time you move 3000km from home. It's most unpleasant.

What I wasn't prepared for was the judgement. People constantly ask me why I didn't make our relationship long distance; I'm only away for a year, after all. Less likely things have been followed through. And I am not so young.

The truth is, it was not such a serious relationship. It was barely six weeks old before we strangled it in the cradle. It was not something I seriously considered prolonging for an entire year; I didn't want to tie someone down for a whole year. I did not hope that I could keep it alive that long. I was prepared to let go. But really, I thought a decision like that would be kept personal and private. Had it been a prudent decision to try and go long distance, I'm not averse to the idea of it. It just wasn't right for me, for us, right now. But people will judge nonetheless.

I got a serious case of cold feet just before I left. I didn't know what I was leaving behind, or what I was leaving it for. I was scared and unsure, and I wanted to stay where it was warm and safe. But I couldn't. Because that's not what smart girls do; and I was less worried about letting myself down - degrees get deferred all the time, life gets in the way. But I couldn't; because I was worried about what people might think. I didn't want to be that girl. And so I left.

People think I am very indifferent to what other people think, but moving here has made me realize how ferociously insecure I am; and how much of what I do is simply following the cultural narrative of 'What Smart Girls Do'. Even now, when things get too hard, I never seriously consider going back home, doing something safer. I have to sink or swim here, because I'm so scared of what other people will say. I have never failed at anything, except the ridiculous business of acquiring a boyfriend or inspiring someone to stay faithful for a twenty four hour period (if anything could confirm in anyone a total lack of faith in monogamy, it would be this.)

I've always been afraid of failure; it's a very nerd thing. But my fear of failure is not confined to marks or getting in to good schools; my failures as a partner and as a woman hit home, too. I feel like we have condemned smart, competent girls to these dead lives of total solitude; all the historical figures I was encouraged to admire - Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Hildegard of Bingen - seemed to be revered almost as much for their intact hymens as for their accomplishments. I'm not that kind of woman. My ambitions are not all academic. I loved being single in Perth, but for a few short weeks I loved having a partner. I'm not happy, all alone here. And I will not be ashamed of the fact that I miss my ex, that I'm still bleeding from an extraordinarily messy falling out, that I'm afraid about my future, that I don't fully trust that I can make it on my own anymore, or if that's something I necessarily aspire to. Because I am not just a rookie academic. I am not just someone who is smart. I'm not a machine. I'm an honours student but I'm also just a kid. I am only twenty, and I miss my childhood, and the people who were in it. My heart is broken and my spirit is breaking over stupid, trivial things that have nothing to do with my career; but my life is not just my career. I'm still not sure if I did the right thing, choosing this over that; all I know is that I did it because people expected of me, and because I expected it of myself. Because that's what smart girls do.

The hardest part of any struggle is not being able to speak freely of it. People judge me when I mention how much I miss some boy from my hometown. People judge harder still if I let slip that I have second thoughts about moving here; because that's not what smart girls do. But in spending so much time alone, with my own thoughts, I am more aware than ever that I contain multitudes, and that I suffer terribly when I am stuffed into one arbitrary box or another. I am still the same person that I was last summer; and I have not had the time and space to accept that I must move on, because people are so eager to imagine me as the kind of person wholly unconcerned with things that concern stupider women - sex, men, relationships, domesticity. But I don't think this binary works, you know?

Why do we judge women so harshly for their attachment to men? Would the judgement be less scathing if I were more attached to women than to men? We do not condemn accomplished men to lifetimes of solitude; we do not expect them to perform some petty charade of pretending that they do not want a partner, or just a warm body at night; we don't expect them to hide the pain of breaking off attachments in pursuit of other things. I feel like I have to deny that I ever enjoyed any of my reckless pursuits, that I do not really miss it, when I do. For a woman to want a career, she is expected to accept solitude, even when we understand that for men solitude is unbearable. It is unbearable for anyone with half a heart, even if they have a brain. And every time I put words to my pain, people are quick to rebuke me, that smart girls don't need men. Of course girls don't need men. Women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. But I'm not made of stone. I had a rich inner life, of love and lust and friendship and fleeting acquaintences; the gender of any of the people in question doesn't matter. What matters is that I left it behind, that there were people who were important to me, that I grew attached but I had to leave nonetheless, and I miss it terribly, and that's not being weak. That's being human.

And now I must go back to my work. Because I have made this bed, and I must lie in it. Cold, and alone, and afaid, but at least it is my own doing. Because even though I doubt myself, even though I oscillate wildly between dedicated researcher and daydreaming romantic, this year has taught me one thing; whether I am lonely or not, I can trust only myself.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

I feel as if I have a toe
Over the edge of a ravine

You and I
We know all about tumbling

I am so scared that I almost fell
(And you weren't there to catch me)

But I cannot help but wonder
(the thought of it torments me)

What if, had I not lost my nerve

What if I had learned to fly?

Monday, May 02, 2016

c'est la vie

How do I live with myself,
Having left you?

How do you live with yourself,
Having hurt me?

But yet, we live
Life clings to us like a disease

I know you are alive;
My friend told me
She saw your body

But she could not say if there was anything inside.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Rest assured;
I blame the drink more than you.

I have tried to preserve you whole
Like a fly in amber

In my heart;
Because otherwise

Pieces of you will tear me apart.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

If all you did in my life
Is sit quietly-
I am grateful

And if you must kill me,
Do so gently-
And I will still thank you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the trap of nostalgia

Now Playing: Sommeil by Stromae (Tu n'as pas sommeil, le froid, la soif, la dalle, t'as tout mais tu n'as pas sommeil)

A couple of weeks ago we went on a road trip to Sydney, which is what one does when the oppressive boredom of Canberra becomes too much to handle.

I'm from Perth, so I know all about oppressive boredom; but Canberra has the perk of being relatively easy to escape from. A few hours in a car can take you to the Snowy Mountains, or to the coast, or to the beating heart of Australia: Sydney. A few hours in a car from Perth will literally get you nowhere.

When you live in what Canberrans call 'the city', which is an area so decidedly non-city that the notion of it being the national capital is ludicrous, it's easy to think of yourself as a city girl. Dump yourself in the vast urban sprawl of Sydney, Australia's only respectable metropolis, and you realize you are a small town girl indeed.

I stayed with a friend who is from Sydney, and he generously invited us to indulge in all the decadent glories of Sydney yuppie life; he was once a yuppie, once upon a time. We are both millennials but our lives are vastly different - foreigners imagine Australia to be a rather monolithic place, but the reality is that the cities are so different and so far apart the worldview of a Sydney-sider is very, very different to that of a Perthian. He's also male, and also a few years older than me - I'm part of what people are now depressingly calling Generation K; young women born between 1995 and 2002 who get all the misery of being a millennial with the added bonus of overwhelming gender inequality. We lived up the glorious Sydney yuppie life for a few days, and it was wonderful.

And then, when I got back to my little shoebox in Canberra, I sunk into a deep depression.

I was not happy; but the main misery was that I thought I should be happy, that I had worked so hard to get to where I am and I was so frustrated that I wasn't feeling the happiness I thought I had worked for, that I should have earned. I wanted, so badly, to have my old life back.

I don't really have much to do with the students here; I'm not an undergrad anymore, but neither am I a postgrad. I don't have time to indulge the reckless optimism of my younger and more vulnerable days. So the only people I see, in my pilgrimages to the shops, are tired businessmen and lots of pram-pushing mums. I really felt like I was in the wrong place; I felt like I was wasting my youth. I walk past a lot of fancy apartments, and it's what I want; but I'm not in the right time and place to want that. I realized Canberra is the kind of place I want to be when I am a pram pushing mum, with a nice apartment; but I'm here, and I don't have that, and I'm away from Perth, so I don't have my Perth life either. I was tormented with the idea that I might never have that; I'm not in what you would call a lucrative field, I am nowhere near being remotely financially independent, and Canberra's pitiful population and strange demographics is not conducive towards people I would be keen on dating. For all that I dislike about Canberra, it actually has a lot  to offer - its vast open spaces, the peaceful serenity juxtaposed with eerie silence that is the totally empty streets, the beautiful, beautiful lake. But eligible bachelors are somewhat rare, and I'm at the age where that kind of thing is somewhat important.

But here's the thing; nostalgia is a liar. I was not happy in Perth; I was never happy in Perth. I ran away for a reason. I've been plotting my escape for as long as I can remember. Escaping was not what I imagined it to be - I wanted to go to big, exciting places, but fate has brought me here, to the formidable institution that is ANU and the pitiful excuse for a city that is Canberra. But even though mutiny has not been all that I thought it would be, going home is not an option, nor is it a thing that I should entertain. I remember only the good things about Perth, but nostalgia has a way of erasing the soul crushing misery that I sometimes felt there. I saw my friend indulge every nostalgic fantasy in our time in Sydney, and I could tell that he missed his relatively luxurious, cosmopolitan lifestyle as a yuppie; but one of the first things I learned about him was how much that life wasn't what he wanted, and that he had also come to ANU for a reason.

Canberra is a place where people come to escape, but it doesn't have all the answers we seek. In some ways it is defined by lack, and brings to sharp relief all the things we have sacrificed and abandoned and left behind. Sydney's endless, confusing sprawl and hoardes of people were confusing and disorienting; and somewhat scary, considering Perth is very navigable. Canberra is its own kind of scary; it is a place of quiet solitude and thoughtful meditation, but as John Green points out, being alone with one's thoughts is a deeply unsettling, traumatic experience, even for the most privileged of us.

Nostalgia lets us only consider the pain of the present and the pleasure of the past; but it's so important for me to reverse that perspective. I force myself to remember the suffocating frustration of being a young undergrad in Perth, of not being taken seriously, of the small town mindset and aggressive anti-intellectualism, the endless suburbia that I detested, the river that cut between me and my desires like the green light across the bay in The Great Gatsby. Yes, my life in Perth had many things I don't have here in Canberra - pasta dates with my girlfriends, exciting blue hour romances, the beautiful skyline at midnight, the balmy air and delicious company in the early hours at Kings Park. But if I give up now, not only am I not going to just reappear into my old life exactly as I remember it, given that much of that is now lost to me forever, but I will also return to the gnawing pain that I fought so hard to run away from. I have to remember what I ran from, and to see the small pleasures in what I have arrived at - beautiful sunrises on the roof, long walks around the lake, the independence of living alone.

In Perth I lived my life in endless longing; and that longing drove me to greater and greater heights, both in Perth and in my ambition to get out. But I can't live like that anymore, now that I have the seductive temptation of what once was. I can't look back. I'll lose my mind.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Forgive me, for I live in hope
You are master of the overwhelm

I am strong, but why test me?
I have my buoyant youth, but one day I will sink
Weary old stone

Although I am Odysseus
I will wait as Penelope for you, but

I was born on a magnolia tree
Too high for your mortal reach

A tree with a cherry picked
Can still bear fruit;
Even over a tomb

I am not a trumpet creeper 
Doomed to bloom on forgotten walls
I would rather starve than beg

I am a tigress,
And no hunger will tempt me
To eat grass

*          *          *


The jasmine hangs heavy in the air
As we kiss, consume,
And are consumed by the sprawl

We are in the city of light,
And filth; 
The rain drenched streets whisper smoke and sin

We are young and beautiful;
Ambling the streets addled with gin

It has been many long nights since my long nights with you 
There is a particular violence to silence;
I can feel it like a knife on my cheek 
Three thousand miles away

I do not know if love or hate moves you;
You do not tell me,
This deafening silence says nothing

It just is;
Like the scent of jasmine, it just hangs, indifferent 
And soon, even in its presence, I will not acknowledge it.

I will be jaded;
To love, to pleasure, to pain.

In my darkest hours I am happy 
Because to feel pain is to feel;
It feels real.

No matter;
I will survive. 
Even in this city of sin 
The innocent jasmine thrives;
And so will I.

I can walk on broken bones.
I can run on shattered glass.

*          *          *


We come from a line of strong women, daughter. 
We were the lovers of kings;
The days belonged to men
But the plum blossom nights belonged to us 

We fought for our place, daughter 
We are war widows and battlefield babies 
They cannot beat the colour out of us;
They cannot bleed out our pride 

Think of all the hearts we had in thrall
When our hair fell to our waists
And we fell to our knees 
Empires fall but blood always rises 

The world is not a kind place for us, daughter
We ladies of the night 
But from the mud the lotus soars triumphant; 
Pure, and whole, and white. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

devil take the hindmost.

Now Playing: Holy Ground by Taylor Swift (and darling, it was good never looking down, and right there were we stood was holy ground) 

I think we would all benefit from adding a little BDSM to our lives.

I'm not saying you have to dive head first into the sensory overload that is breath play and dom/sub dynamics and physical restraint, although that's what I did and I loved it. I just like how it works. Obviously, the BDSM community is far from problem free, but BDSM in isolation can be a really healthy way to structure a sexual relationship, because it's mostly talking.

There's this enduring weirdness in our culture that dictates that talking about sex is weird, or gross, or at the very least unsexy. But I'm a nerd, and I'm a sex nerd. I love talking about sex. It's fascinating. It's also super sexy and also...super important, for a healthy, consensual encounter or relationship.

So BDSM is about talking. It's about talking about consent; and also talking about desire. You have to set up a scene together, playing with fantasy and boundaries. And then you do the scene. And then, afterwards, there's aftercare, where you talk about what you liked, what you didn't like, how you felt. BDSM is sort of dangerous - you're trusting someone with a lot of your bodily autonomy and giving people access to psychological rabbit holes - but I've never felt safer or more intimate than cuddling and practicing aftercare.

This process has also been really important in recovering from experiences of sexual assault and emotional abuse; you re-enact trauma in a kind of charade, asserting control and power over situations you were once powerless in. And then, cathartically, you talk about it with someone you love and trust.

A mutual, planned breakup, when you both plan to shift your relationship to a platonic friendship...is trauma. And trauma needs aftercare. And I think failing to show isn't healthy, or respectful, or acceptable. It seems to me just a gross failure in aftercare; and it's a hard thing to accept, after weeks of respect. And without that aftercare, I worry about people, how they're doing; it feels disjointed and disorienting and very irresponsible of me - even though it's outside of my control - to not know how someone is doing. And as for me...I've been left to bleed out. There are many things that I do that I think other people wouldn't be okay with...but I'm not okay with this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

man overboard

Now Playing: Work by Iggy Azalea (this dream is all that I need cause it's all that I ever had)

I think when you're a child, or even an undergrad, you always feel like you can jump ship.

I know I jumped ship a few times. I changed my mind a lot about what I wanted to do, what was important, what kind of person I wanted to be - I decided virtually overnight that I hated Anthropology and wanted to be a Gender Studies major, I decided that I wasn't going to pursue the relatively orthodox English route and instead go down the scary (and scarily underfunded) Gender and Sexuality route. I decided in my undergrad I was going to prioritize being young and happy over locking myself in a room with books all day, and I'm happy with my choices. I met some wonderful people and had some wonderful experiences and looked after my mental health and all that.

But moving here has been a big shift towards Scary Adult Things; I live in my own, I look after myself. And I was really confused and upset about all the choices I had apparently made, all the choices I had apparently let slip - some friends got married, some went into teaching, some left, like I did, some had babies, some gave up academia or any kind of intellectual life whatsoever. I felt like I had had a choice, at some point, but something invisible had forced my hand to make me make choices I didn't know if I was entirely happy with.

When you're a smart girl, people tell you to focus on your career. People have always been pushing me so hard in that direction that I feel like they forgot that I had a heart, that I had feelings, that I was just a normal girl who fell in love at the drop of a hat; that I was an adolescent running purely on hormones and a reckless need to do stupid things. I sometimes pulled away, did things that 'only stupid girls do' - party, drink, have sex, hang out with boys. I did them because I was young and rebellious, I did them to remind myself that there's more to life than grades and diplomas, I did them because they made me happy, and I did them because I was painfully aware that if I didn't develop myself as a person and as a woman and as a potential partner, in 20 years time when I have fancy degrees and no partner and no children people will turn around and say it was my fault, that I wasted my youth, and beneath all the misogyny there will be a grain of truth in that accusation that will be difficult to ignore.

It's difficult knowing that you can only trust yourself in a society that privileges romantic love, privileges committed relationships, and romanticizes domestic harmony and the nuclear family - and make no mistake, these are all things I want, although admittedly I think more critically about these patriarchal institutions than most girls my age. I always knew that I was a writer; but I always knew that I was a sexual being, and I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I always knew I craved company and love and companionship - not because I'm weak, or because I'm failing as a feminist or as a modern woman, but because no amount of intelligence or emancipation detracts from the fact that we're all social beings; we are a social species, and we don't deny men their desires for other people. But, time and time again, life has always reminded me that, at least for now, I can trust only myself. Relying on other people is too risky, at least for now. I have to make my own way. Because as hard as it is to move out, to pursue paths that are out of most peoples' reach (and possibly your own, who knows)...all of that challenge and risk has always been easier and safer than trusting any of the people who claimed I could trust them. Which is sad, and depressing, and disheartening when you're still just a young girl who was in love for the first time. But life moves on.

People love accusing women of being cynical, to lighten up a bit. And when we do make the oh so stupid mistake of actually taking people at their word, we're blamed for our un-cynical, unironic stupidity. You really can't win, you know? So you know what? I'm cynical. I'm jaded, and cynical, because I'm young and afraid but I have to somehow tough it out. And cynicism is all I know.

So I felt like maybe I wasn't on the right path; that maybe I should have jumped ship. I see my friends all sailing in different directions after twenty years of being confined together in the same city, the same schools, the cheap student restaurants, and I feel an odd mix of guilt and regret and jealousy; it's hard to accept that now we're all grown ups we'll always have things that others don't, and other people will always have things we'll never have. But now I realize that my plans for mutiny were all in my head, that there is nowhere to run, nobody waiting for me when I get home. I can't jump ship anymore, only try to navigate this one away from icebergs and try to catch a favourable wind. I can stay here, on this deck, or I can throw myself overboard. Which might sound depressing to you, but it gives me hope. I know for sure now that I am on the right track, that everything else was just a distraction. I know now that if I see this through, I'll be okay.

Friday, April 08, 2016

I thought you should know that I am depressed.
You know, me:
The girl who stayed up until four in the morning
And held your hand
As the chemicals in your brain told you to die.

I like to think this is you trying to be kind.
But, you know:
Silence is deafening
And now I am deaf, dumb, and blind.
(I'm afraid I'm going mad, and I'm afraid)

I resent you only this:
You had me.
And now I don't have you.

Sylvia Plath effect

Now Playing: The Story of Us by Taylor Swift (I'd tell you I miss you but I don't know how, I've never heard silence quite this loud)

Here's the thing. I don't write when I'm happy. I just don't.

I mostly sleep, to be honest. As an introvert, spending time with people - even people I like immensely - is exhausting. I liked going from one bed with someone to my own bed, alone, curled up, just swimming in my happiness. I don't write. Nothing comes.

It always worries me that I don't write when I'm happy, that my best stuff comes when I am miserable. It's not just blogging; I wrote one of my best essays after screaming myself to sleep and then begging my friend to write with me at uni, an impromptu date that I showed up to wearing jeans and a T shirt with vodka in a water bottle. I needed to take a walk every hour to focus. I was hungover and miserable and frustrated. But I wrote something I'm really proud of.

Lately the nights have been rough. They've all been lonely, but these past few nights have been truly terrible. And, at five in the morning, with sniffling and bawling, I open my laptop and write. I always get these explosions of creativity in times of grief and trauma and despair, and it scares me; because I've defined so much of myself and my life as a writer, and it's my main marketable talent and the thing that people seem to like and value about me. But what if I'm happy? What if I'm happy and it disappears?

This is why I dislike being put on a pedestal so much. I know more than anyone that all this shit could slip away at a moment's notice. I feel like Gatsby, and I feel like people love and criticize me on the courage of Gatsby's liquor. But when the manor burns down and the car crashes and the gun is fired...will anybody love me then? Nobody loved Gatsby then.

You might have gathered that I'm not doing so well. People want to meet me, but I can't bring myself to go through with it. I have this horrible image of comparing them to the golden past that existed nowhere but in my own head; but it's still nothing people could live up to. I just sit here, alone, in my cold room, in my cold bed, licking my wounds. I think of all the things I've left behind, I think of all the broken promises. I don't hate anyone; it's too exhausting. I forgive people for being young and stupid because I hope they can do the same for me. But I can't forgive the pain. Because, make no mistake, I am hurting.