No Time to Die (2021)

For the first time in a while, I needed an alarm to wake up.

Normally, I am up by 0700HRS, ready to face the day. Six hours is all I really need to function properly. Any more, I become a sluggish mess, unable to face the day properly.

But today was different. I slept fitfully, afraid of the future, unsure of my place in history and feeling for the first time in a while, the burden I was carrying.

I hadn’t realised it, but slowly, ever so gradually, pressure has been building up in my life. A force that weighs heavily down on my shoulders and it’s everywhere. Friends and family, lover and enemy, work and desire.

I’m not even sure where I should be looking anymore to fix things. Life has built up so much tension that it’s now almost accelerating beyond my control. I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions, agreeing to, too many things, over-committing to a new lifestyle.

Perhaps, I am too greedy to live at the moment. I literally feel like I don’t have enough time. I’m forgetting little tasks, am becoming incredibly reliant on my calendar to remember certain objectives and I’m been committed to this insane 6 day work week for the past 2 months. I almost can’t catch my breath because by the time I do, I’m already sorting out the next item of work I have to do.

In a lot of ways, I’m truly living life at a pace that shouldn’t be sustainable. Already I can see the smoke billowing out from the frayed edges of my mind, my mental threads catching fire as they desperately try to put out the constant fires that keep popping up in my life.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure I know how to relax anymore. I’m living life almost purely in the moment, reacting to everything, instead of planning ahead for them. I’m swimming furiously against the rip tide that is slowly taking me further and further away from the safety of the shore and I can tell I am getting tired.

Yet for all the pressure that has been mounting on me, I can still sense that I’m not that far gone yet. There is a part of me that is still clawing away, clinging on by my fingertips and refusing to give up. Whether it’s misplaced arrogance or sheer stubbornness, I don’t want to let this new lifestyle beat me.

In fact, I want to own it.

However, it would be foolish for me to not acknowledge all the emotional turmoil that my life has thrown my way. That is the purpose of writing everything out after all. I need to do this, whenever I am struggling, to help me see the way out. To cleanse the palate of all its trouble and prepare my mind for the solution, no matter how tough it is to execute.

If I had to really identify all the sources of tension in my life at the moment, it would boil down to those six elements I listed above. Friends, family, lover, enemy, work and desire.

Friends are easily one of the trickiest ones to deal with at the moment. Some are forlorn individuals, people who I feel compelled to help out of their current mental predicament. Others are now classified as enemies, people whose very presence I am challenged by.

They are all long-term projects that are ramping up in intensity. Some are coming to a head and others are just starting to depend on me. All of them, rely on a simple equation from me. To be as strong as a rock, to allow these people to dash themselves against me, in a storm.

I don’t know what it is about me, that I feel compelled to help so many people, despite the inherent stress, additional energy and strain on my daily life. But like a moth drawn to a flame, I can’t resist the urge to bring others up. I want the people I care about to be on my level of confidence, self-assuredness and health. Perhaps its terribly vain, but I only want the best for my friends and if they are truly happy with themselves, then I can relax around them, knowing that I did my part to help them reach a certain mental nirvana about themselves.

However, being that rock, that foundation in which people can rely on me, no matter the circumstances, is surprisingly taxing. Looking back at the last 6 months, I’ve never realised just how stable and reliable I am, to so many people.

Which, as an aside, is incredibly disappointing to recognise that so many people are helpless without a Damocles to sort them out. I don’t like being deemed necessary or crucial to success.

A naive part of me, still believe in the best of people to properly solve their own issues, but a cynical voice will always arrogantly counteract that naivety with a stern rebuke: without you, a lot of people are lost.

So much of what I do is under scrutiny all the time, which creates additional pressure to perform. Not that I’ve struggled very much under the spotlight, if anything, the drama queen in me, relishes the moment. But it does add an extra weight on my shoulders, knowing that people are always watching what I do, what I wear, and what I engage in.

Which brings me to my lover. An awkward situation has arisen and on our anniversary, now everything has been put into question. We’ve been doing long-distance for nearly 2 years now and there is this sense of inevitability of choice about it all now.

What will we do?

One of us has to give to support the other and it’s an incredibly difficult decision to make.

This neatly ties into the next two elements: desire and work.

My events work is finally taking off. I am inundated with work, my value is finally being recognised and people are now actively searching to hire me. The dream is now becoming a reality. My excitement over this prospect is genuinely palpable and all I want to do is work more, more and more.

I am currently engaged with almost 5 different events companies. My own company, Tofu Events, being that almost. Each company has given me an absolutely wide breadth of experience and work to engage in.

JT Production Management has offered me the best look into the corporate style of events as well as a firm grasp of how online conferences operate. They are growing fast and are undeniably professional and fun to work with. Their camaraderie is infectious.

UNTITLED GROUP has given me the biggest breath of fresh air I’ve ever felt, offering a totally alien environment to me. With just three events, I’ve transformed from an introvert to an extrovert, relishing meeting strangers and having an absolute blast at their House events. This Australian company is recognised everywhere, are consummately cool and I am forever grateful for being a small cog in their vast machine. The crowds at these events are the people I’ve always wanted to meet and it’s been an amazing and eye-opening look into how non-Asian companies operate their large-scale events.

Melbourne Showgrounds is the latest event venue that I managed to score a contract with. Having worked with them before for my Lunar New Year Festivals, I am all too aware of their prestigious history and am eagerly anticipating getting stuck into one of the most iconic Victorian events of the year, the Melbourne Show. The venue is a vast behemoth to walk, and I recall averaging close to 40,000 steps per day just serving my tiny festival in just one location of the Showgrounds. Whatever the job they’ll ask of me, I’m eager to see if its as physical as it appears to be, because at the end, I’d rather do physical labour, under a hot sun then sweat away at a keyboard under air-conditioning.

The final event company I am contracted to is the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). MIFF is one of the best film festivals on Melbourne’s social calendar and I’ve been a huge fan of its line-up since it first promoted itself to me in 2015. MIFF isn’t just a chance for me to get paid, watch free movies and be apart of one of the oldest film festivals in the world, it’s also an opportunity for me to reconnect with my love for film and see what movies can do to move me again. It’s going to be a fun August and I’m incredibly glad I took the gamble to quit my retail job to take this opportunity with both hands.

So with work ramping up, the desire to get stuck into it, only intensifies. I don’t know if I’ve become a workaholic, but there is something incredibly fulfilling about maximising every day, as if it was my last.

I exercise lightly every day, with more intensive work-outs scheduled in for 4 times a week. I sense a strange restlessness when I am at home for too long and have eaten a bit too much over my normal daily limit, so I force myself to exercise more or run 2.5km to my local 24HR shopping centre for some strange lonely company.

I strictly adhere to a basic diet, to keep my weight down, whilst indulging occasionally to keep my sanity. I pack my days full of activities after work, because I know that if I don’t, I’ll just let myself go.

There is almost this level of self-punishment or desperation to how much I do in a day. I know, deep down, it stems from this inherent irrational belief that I have lost too much time to a silly pandemic. I’m doing everything in my power to make up for lost life and it’s deservedly being described as overcompensating.

But the desire to keep living life to its absolute maximum is too strong to ignore. It’s like I have my foot jammed all the way down on the pedal and I absolutely refuse to lift off or brake, despite the looming turn.

I’m being undeniably selfish at this point of my life. I’ve riding the dragon and I won’t be bucked off it. I lost the opportunity to go on this wild roller-coaster 3 years ago and this time I will not budge.

But at what cost? Will I sacrifice my girlfriend’s happiness, our time together and all the memories we’ve created to keep riding this career high?

There is no questioning that at the moment, I have incredible momentum. To lose it, will be lose another opportunity to get into the position I want to be in the event industry. My work gives me purpose, drive, commitment and personal satisfaction.

But my girlfriend does too.

What will I choose?

What will she choose?

I got no idea, but there is no denying that I do not want to let this go for myself. I’ll never forgive myself if I do. I suffered terribly once when the Army rejected my application to enlist.

I’m not going to go through that again. Life, at that time, was nothing but ash and echoes. It shook me to the core that I couldn’t do the dream job I’ve longed to do for my entire teenage years. And it took me years to rebuild myself and find a civilian industry where I could truly feel like it was my own and give me all the satisfaction that the Army would have.

Yet, I don’t want to lose her either. Yes, she’s said that she would come back, just to be with me. But instead of being grateful and relieved, I felt worried. She’s a gorgeous woman, and despite many years together, I’ve always felt inferior to deserve her.

My automatic instinct was that: I wasn’t worth it.

Then I also considered the fact that I wanted her to experience the same personal satisfaction in her career. Being by my side, whilst I was living and experiencing the highest career high on my life, was going to be rough on her. She had much better opportunities in her industry where she was. If she worked hard enough, she was going to find people who would give her a shot.

To throw that all away and 2 years of study, just for me, didn’t sit right with me. Melbourne didn’t have the same career opportunities in her industry. It was going to be a much harder, longer and riskier road down here.

And I don’t know how strong she will be. Or how strong I will have to be to support her as well.

My biggest fear is that one day, she will wake up next to me and resent me for sacrificing her dreams to be with me.

I can’t handle that to be honest. My biggest rule when it comes to relationships, is that we walk hand in hand together. Not weighing each other down with additional baggage or one of us pulling the other along.

I’m afraid of the choice we have to make together. That is the biggest pressure on my shoulders right now. There’s no denying that love is the hardest and most difficult element that exists in the world.

What kind of person am I when faced with this type of decision? Whatever I pick, will determine who I will be forever.

There is no greater sense of fear around the question of what sort of man will I be when faced with a decision of this magnitude. This pressure is what caused me to sleep fitfully and need an alarm to rise to meet the day.

It is as much her choice, as it is mine.

That alone is what drives me mad.

I’m always in control of my life, my decisions, even my emotions. To let someone dictate the ebb and flow of my life … it terrifies me. For a lover, I will begrudgingly allow some level of control. For a friend, I will only permit a small modicum. For an enemy, none.

I have to withstand this pressure just for a tiny bit longer. To think that all of 2022 was building up to this moment, from a gentle simmer to a rapid boil, I should have seen all of this coming a bit better.

But that is the price you pay for being purely reactive for so long. You can’t plan for things like this, all you can do is improvise, adapt and overcome the best you can.

They say that diamonds are made under pressure.

They never mention the fact that you need to withstand about 725,000 pounds per square inch to get there and I’m already starting to fold.

The furious and unrelenting nature of all this pressure around me will soon either make or break me. I chose this though, so I will see it all the way to the end, when the world finally relents or this will be my undoing.

Life has gotten to the point where I literally have no time to die.

How very apt.

Was I stupid to love you?
Was I reckless to help?
Was it obvious to everybody else?

That I’d fallen for a lie
You were never on my side
Fool me once, fool me twice
Are you death or paradise?
Now you’ll never see me cry
There’s just no time to die.

~ Damocles.

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