"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

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.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Wonderful Woman

Tell me, ladies, how many times have you been called a 'wonderful woman'?

I'm betting, if you're as young as me, it's not as many times as I've been called that.

I don't really get it, to be honest. I'm not particularly pretty. I'm smart, but that's more privilege and education than actual labour or talent. I'm not even particularly nice - Perthians are infamous for their sarcasm. But over and over, I hear it. You're so pretty. You're so smart. You're so nice, you're such a wonderful woman.

It's bullshit. All of it. Because I don't feel particularly wonderful, sitting in my tiny shoebox apartment in my dressing gown at five in the morning. I feel lucky and ungrateful and lonely, yes, but not wonderful. Because the thing is, I've met some truly wonderful women in my time, and people don't treat wonderful women like this. You don't say that a woman is wonderful and then leave her for dust; you don't adore someone and then don't care if they're alive or dead. I'm not as smart as people think I am, but I'm not completely stupid, either.

People really have no idea what they're talking about. They don't understand that it's a facade, a veneer; all of it. I'm cynical because I've been alone for too long in a world that privileges romantic love and treats single women like lepers - and apparently that makes me funny. But I don't have it all together - I don't think any twenty-something does. This is the first time in my life I've made my own decisions, and I'm terrified. I'm constantly doubting and second guessing myself, seeing my friends take different paths and wondering which of us is doing it right.

I really don't trust anyone who decides that I am a wonderful woman. My friends don't feel the need to sing my praises every five minutes; they see me for what I am, a very dysfunctional, slightly neurotic weirdo who hasn't quite got her shit together and has acne and crooked teeth under the makeup and lipstick. And I'm okay, really, with not being a wonderful woman. Because being treated like one has never been something I've enjoyed, never been something that made me happy. Your friends and family will love you even when you are too tired to say something clever, even when all your clothes are packed ready for Canberra and you show up wearing something quite bizarre, even when your lipstick rubs off and you leave tear tracks in your foundation. I think all the people who started to imagine that I was so much smarter, so much prettier, so much nicer than the norm were so disappointed to find out that I am, in fact, just your average sack of bones and skin and organs, that they have no qualms about washing their hands clean - because the fairytale has finished, and the illusion has been shattered. But even when the day is over, when I put on my sweatpants and run out of money for silk stockings and wash off my makeup and play Candy Crush instead of quoting Shakespeare - I still exist. I still remember things, and people, and all the words that were said.I exist separate to people's imaginary versions of me.

People get very caught up in things - they like to put you on a pedestal. In high school I skipped a grade and did very well in some subjects (and fairly terribly in everything else), so I managed to garner some mild notoriety; and that was all people could see. It was like I didn't exist beyond my grades. I loved English and I loved my teacher and my ego liked topping the class, but dear God, I detested it sometimes. I was young. I was restless. I wanted people to see that I was a teenage girl like the rest of them, with spots and chubby hips and a ferocious need for a boyfriend.

In my undergrad I was fairly un-extraordinary. I did well, but not well enough to have my name splashed across fancy scholarships or whatever. I sometimes failed shit and sometimes didn't finish my assignments and sometimes got a little too drunk, just like everyone else. And it was an adjustment, sure between being a top high school student to a uni kid who has to forge their own lives based on something other than numbers scrawled on papers, but I survived. It was wonderful. I went to parties and wore crazy things and bought makeup I couldn't afford and ditched class with my friends to go eat pasta in the city. I woke up in strange beds with pretty boys.

But I was still intellectual; I started to speak my mind, more, as I got older and slightly less concerned with what people thought of me, or at least gaining the wisdom to realize that sometimes people hate you on principle rather than over that one thing you said that one time. I enjoyed my reputation as a very crass, very outspoken feminist; it was an image almost entirely independent of my academic work, but it still felt meaningful and authentic. And it wrapped around my life, both public and private, and gave me structure and meaning above and beyond arbitrary grades and paltry schoolyard rubbish.

But now I feel like I am back where I started. People here get very caught up in the whole 'honours' thing. And I am proud of myself, to be twenty and an honours student at ANU - even though the actual work of an honours student, as an apprentice academic, is actually very humbling. But people get so caught up in it I don't really feel human anymore. I don't feel real. I don't feel like the kind of girl some mildly drunk bricklayer will shimmy towards on a dance floor. I feel like I've killed off a part of myself to let the rest of me take flight; and although I understand sacrifice in the abstract it is difficult in reality.

I want to, one day, be a wonderful woman. But I don't like being treated like one, especially when I am far from it. Because to be a wonderful woman is a woman people are incapable of seeing as an actual human being; people claim to care, but they care so aggressively about one tiny part of my existence that I feel suffocated and adored but lonely and neglected all at once. The boys who met me in the heat of the blue hours, who didn't know anything about me or my life or my grades, were some of the kindest, sweetest people I've ever met, because their kindness was not contingent on or inspired by some specific talent or privilege that I happen to have at any given point in time. Because I don't think wonderful women - or even young, stupid, slightly drunk women - should have to pick up the pieces, alone, because people are incapable of imagining them complexly. That's no way to treat people; especially wonderful ones.

Friday, April 01, 2016

On Grief

Now Playing: Over the Love by Florence + the Machine (now there's green light in my eyes, and my lover on my mind)

On my last day in Perth, I spent some time with an old friend of mine.

My childhood in Perth was full of meteors that soared, blinded, and then left me for dust. Friendships that shattered like glass. Blue hour romances and fiery loves that exploded and drew blood and left scars. But, through it all, I have my dearest friend. Our love is quiet and constant, in no small part because he is vastly more intelligent than I could ever hope to be, and has remained resolutely unimpressed by whomever I happened to be enamored with.

He warned me that I would grieve, that I would go through a grieving process. I didn't really understand. I understood I would miss Perth, miss my family, miss my friends, miss the comfort and familiarity of Perth's staid and suffocating existence. But I didn't understand grief until now.

It comes in waves. It stretches before me like an unending ocean. Everything I do is tinged with an odd mix of terror and madness that is always threatening to tear me apart. It has become so monstrously huge; far larger than its catalyst. I indulge in memories and then lose my mind when I realize that that is where they will stay; in my heart, in my mind, in my past. That what I left behind I will never go back to.

Hate is actually an excellent cure for grief; I suppose this is why I never really grieved anything or anyone before, only felt the rush of love and lust turn to violent rage. But hate is exhausting. Love is always easier. And so I love quietly, because I am tired. I am tired, and lonely, and scared, and I cling to a love I don't think ever existed. I catch myself crying when I am too tired to remember why I am sad. It catches me off guard; at the end of a beautiful autumn day, in the morning when I am trying to find my watch. I feel like I have worked so hard to be happy, and there are moments of pure joy; every now and again, life will remind me that I have done the right thing, that I am on my way. But sometimes I cannot will myself to be happy.

We did not have long enough to love each other kindly, the way that my friend and I have had years to slowly build something that has endured, and will endure, come what may. I know in my heart I do not know him at all; in my mind he is my whole childhood, he is wild reckless nights, he is the twinkling lights of the skyline over the river, he is the balmy summer air and the warm bitumen under my feet. I know it is wrong to build someone up like that, to forget that they are just a person; which is why I have to let go. We were never anything more than indulged fantasies, but I realized that too late, that we don't have it in us to be kind to each other. I feel abandoned. I feel like I was thrown under a bus. I don't even have a shadow of what I had. I do not know if there was any care for me at all.

I don't know if I can become the person I am supposed to be. I know I cannot go back to what I once was. I don't know if I can let go. I can't remember what it was like to live without this guilt; I have cut myself off, like a drunkard cradling a bleeding fist.I have never been so afraid.