Plans and the Unplanned.

There comes a time when you look at yourself and think … why do I even bother making plans.

But without planning ahead, you’re just living life without purpose. And if you don’t have a purpose, then why live?

2022 was a year of startling purpose. It was a year of spite, perseverance, and ultimately a whole lot of luck was deployed and taken away at the same time.

There are many important lessons I learned throughout the year. The meaning of equilibrium. The approach I need for relationships. The depth of desperation. The cruelty behind good intentions. The cost of luck.

But the most critical teaching of them all, was the radical nature of change.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, 2022 was a formative year for me.

So allow me to break down why 2022 was such a dramatic year by the lessons I’ve listed.

The meaning of equilibrium.

I was born lucky. That’s an objective truth. From the moment I took breath and was delivered into a healthy, middle-class nuclear family, there was no mistaking I was lucky. My parents are attractive people, which in turn meant I have turned out decent. They don’t fight often, and are surprisingly affectionate and loving towards each other and me. They support me in everything I do and have instilled in me a sense of duty, sensibility and relatively quick intelligence.

Throw in the fact that I seem pretty lucky at cards, am graced with incredible friends, live in Australia, am surrounded by a city with the most sophistication in the nation and a whole lot of other countless elements, it is unequivocal that I am lucky.

My entire life, I’ve coasted along with this luck. Even in the pandemic years of 2020 to 2021, I was still lucky. I was promoted to retail sales manager just before COVID struck, which meant I could keep my job and still head out to work, whilst so many others were confined to their home. There were ample parks near me I could use to exercise … my mother is an excellent cook … the point is, despite the entire world current suffering, luck was still on my side.

So, you can imagine my rude surprise when I finally learned what it felt like to be marked by luck. To actually understand that there is a cost to everything and I had to pay for it, like everyone else.

I named this phenomena … equilibrium because 2022 truly proved Newtonian laws to me.

It became such a common theme, that it almost transformed into a disease in my mind. Whenever I was experiencing some good luck, I immediately braced myself for the inevitable bad luck that would sour whatever fortune I had.

Equilibrium for me ranged from the minor to the major. On my final day in the retail industry, a customer came back after I closed up shop and annoyed me for an exchange. There were payslip issues on my final week. During the course of a game, I would get my player out onto the board, only to be instantly removed.

But nothing compared to the biggest emotional whiplash of them all, when I had 4 of the greatest days of my life, at the Formula 1 2022 Grand Prix, only to be raided by the police the literal day after, turning my excited buzz into one of instant mortification.

Over the course of several years, as a military enthusiast, I had started a large collection of gel blasters. From my pride and joy, an all-metal HK 416 assault rifle, to a lovely Lee-Enfield No. 4, these guns were a passion project that was technically illegal in my state of Victoria, but perfectly fine in Queensland.

I knew the risks of collecting these, and in all honesty, felt no ill-will towards the officers who came in to claim them. After all, I had been mentally bracing myself for this moment, ever since I bought my first one.

But it didn’t lessen the sting of losing them all.

That was the true moment, the lesson of equilibrium struck me with all its force. Everything good came at a price. I was no longer exempt from this rule. The cliche: freedom isn’t free has never quite rung more true to me, than it does now.

The seriousness of my crime, of owning 18 “imitation firearms” was not lost on me. I was to be called in to court, face the Magistrate and explain myself. The possible sentence ranged from a diversion all the way to proper jail time.

When the officers left my home, guns in tow, I knew I was finally marked by bad luck and that 2022 was going to be the year, where I had to re-evaluate my relationship with Lady Luck herself.

Which brings me to my next lesson that I learned.

The cost of luck.

Lady Luck’s problem with me, was that I had taken her for granted. 27 years of life on this planet, and now, she decided she has had enough with my lack of gratitude.

So, she marked me and forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with her. Lesson after lesson of equilibrium came barrelling in and my thick head did not understand the intent behind them.

I was bitter, confused and puzzled. I had such a privileged quarter life, that it didn’t even occur to me that some gratitude was in order, that Lady Luck truly was blessing me with her presence for such an extended period of time, when she ignored so many others.

It wasn’t until the final months of 2022, I finally understood her. The goddess I had chosen to worship wasn’t some genie I could command at whim. She was fleeting, like a soft wind. When she was there, you appreciated her and took advantage of everything the lucky wind had to offer.

The soft chill, the gentle rustle, the quiet whisper.

But she was temporary.

Lady Luck is not some permanent fixture in your life. She had other places to be, other people to visit, more crucial things to do. But when you felt her close, it was time to bet big.

In my case, it was $2750 large. That was the cost of my lawyer fees and the fine I had to pay to earn my freedom back and essentially walk away scot-free from my crime. I was granted my diversion, due to the fact that I was cooperative with the police during the raid and my character references vouched for me.

Freedom isn’t free.

What I’ve noticed though, is that right after this massive stroke of luck, my relationship with Lady Luck has now been repaired. I am now just sincerely grateful for when she comes by my side, and no longer demanding.

This improvement in attitude is what has redefined every single friendship I’ve made.

The approach I need for relationships.

Extroversion comes at a price. You only have a finite amount of energy in a day.

Best to chose wisely who you want to spend that energy with.

2022 wasn’t just the year where I started to hang out with my friends more, it was also the year where I prioritised who I wanted to hang out with more. I started to develop a better social calendar, plan catch-ups, and view friendships in different ways.

I became more selective of the vibe I wanted from people. Those who had my back, those who didn’t.

I’ve always been pretty picky about who I let into my inner circle of trust. But, because I started to go out with people more, I decided to widened it.

It was a bold risk, that paid off for some, and cost me dearly in others. In the grand scheme of things though, I would say that the circle growing ever so slightly has been a good thing. It’s nice to know that I can talk to more of my friends, to bring some much needed estrogen energy to balance out all the testosterone that I surround myself with.

In fact, it has been all the women in my life that have helped me the most in difficult times. Without their strong support, I’m not sure where I would be right now.

Their sensible advice on how to navigate matters of the heart have been invaluable and touching.

It’s also allowed me to understand them more and appreciate how unique they all are to each other. Some give me advice that is personal to them and others, opt for more conventional rules.

This identification of unique qualities in them, has also lead to be redefine some of my male friends. I can now positively identify what benefit each friend brings to me and how they can enrich me with their presence.

So many friendships over the years have been lost, simply because I wasn’t paying them due diligence and actually positively identifying why I was friends with them to start with.

To relate back to the theme of purpose, this was the year where I really examined everyone I knew and their purpose in my life. What I was willing to let slide, what I was willing to confront them over, and most importantly, what they meant to me.

By deconstructing my friendships, my personal relationship and how I interacted with people, I’ve truly learnt a lot about myself and the people I surround myself with.

Which brings me to the next big moment …. my personal relationship.

The cruelty behind good intentions

Saying goodbye to a partner of 6 years was unimaginably tough. Beyond the severance, there was the awful acknowledgement that there would no longer be any more shared memories between us.

But that was the biggest fallout of my critical reexamination of everyone in my life and what they meant to me. It costed me my girlfriend. A part of me couldn’t love her anymore, once I critically looked at her and that inner voice couldn’t be silenced.

So I had to let her go. I didn’t want to waste her time any longer, nor did I want to drag anything out further, especially if it was going to just cost us even more.

Saying the last goodbye to her, was the moment where I learned just how tough and relentless you had to be, to stay strong on your course. No matter how good my intentions were, the process was still cruel.

I’ve likened it to a stabbing, only I had to keep twisting the knife.

It was awful. The tears, the pleas, the broken heart … all of it tore away at me, and I still cannot believe how I held onto the knife and kept stabbing away.

The quote the road to hell is paved with good intentions have never rung more true to me, than when I broke my partner’s heart.

It still frightens me, just how harsh I became in that moment and how much it cost me to do the right thing.

I knew, deep down, that this was the humane thing to do, that prolonging anything, any further was the truly callous act, because she deserved a partner who loved her from top to bottom. She deserved better than what I was giving.

But it didn’t make it any more right, when I said goodbye to her for the final time.

The guilt may never fade away from this scar.

But that is the price I have to pay for making such a horrible call for both of us, and in a way, its why I have to make all these changes, worth that sacrifice.

Speaking of expenditure …

The depths of desperation

Whilst I might have been lucky during COVID-19 lockdowns, I was still robbed of 2 years, just like everyone else.

Which meant my actual life plans were now postponed by two years and to say that I was furious, was an understatement.

My once wishy-washy nature regarding my career, was now one of an unhinged desperado. From the very beginning of the year, I made a vow to get out of retail as soon as possible.

This meant that I committed to an insane 6 day work week regularly, and countless hours to build up my connection to the event industry, where I wanted to transition to.

Because my full time retail job wasn’t that taxing, I was able to relax at work, before charging into an event on the weekend or sometimes right after the store shut for the day.

Work became my life, because it was all I could focus on. The rewards were also triggering my mind, associating happiness with work, because I would receive such a dopamine rush whenever I could grind at an event.

This vow to grind away in events, started in March, with the very first event I found through a Facebook network. The first ever gig with the Untitled Group, For the Love. My first taste working for an event company and I was hooked ever since.

Events is where I belong.

After working the For the Love gate entry shift, I threw myself in with an reckless abandon that made me almost appreciate the slower pace of retail.

But that near-appreciation didn’t last long, because I was soon racking up so much experience that it was impossible for me retain that job any longer.

August was my final shift for Miniso, and I was never happier to leave such a dreary industry and enter a much brighter one.

It goes without saying that if I wasn’t so desperate to get out, I wouldn’t have been so motivated to push myself so hard through over-working.

There was a strange sense of despair to my desperation that made me put aside my physical health, mental and even self-reflection to get out.

The freedom that I’ve earned now as an event operator, only occurred because I pushed myself out of fear from becoming the very thing I despised … a guy who hates his job, but won’t move on from it.

That is not the prison I aspire to nor will ever want to be trapped in again.

It was that disconsolate drive to get out of a shitty job that powered me through almost everything.

From 24 days of straight work, to an incredibly busy social calendar where I barely saw my own home, my life transformed dramatically from lazy retail work to overworking in events.

Which meant that I also changed a lot.

The final lesson: the radical nature of change.

To identify the current Damocles is to acknowledge that 2022 improved him in almost every single facet. He is currently fitter, tanner, stronger and more driven than any version of him in the past.

He is also incredibly confident, but relaxed about his own self-worth and knows exactly just how valuable and useful he is to his friends, his employer and to himself.

This is such a radical departure from the earlier version of him, because in all honesty, the desperation, drive and purpose in which he decided to completely revamp his life would not have existed without the pandemic.

COVID-19 had a lot of far-reaching consequences, but for me, it completely changed the way how I viewed my life. 2022 wasn’t just about exiting the pandemic and trying to reassemble what once was.

It was about seizing an opportunity to completely change the way how I lived. Events were now coming back and they had just lost a lot of workers.

It was the perfect storm for a guy like me to come in and make my mark. So I seized it with both hands and then some.

I wouldn’t be working for Federation Square and Melbourne Showgrounds, if I didn’t take job interviews on my lunch breaks in a shopping centre.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if I didn’t have the drive to push forwards, despite the heavy workload and long hours.

I wouldn’t have the events experience I do now, if I didn’t take a chance on multiple companies and start to seriously build my work portfolio.

The Damocles that stand before the world today, is a direct result of hard work, grit and insane luck that happened throughout the year

I’ve become a radically different person. More extroverted, less prone to repeating mistakes, highly driven and still ambitious. If I can achieve this much change in a year, what can I do more in 2023?

That is the question that will need to be answered by the end. It’s a vague plan, but those are the ones that can truly tackle the unknown. Anything more specific and I’ll be unlikely to see it through.

I learned a lot of lessons in 2022 and all of them have been harsh and life-altering. But at the end of the day, they’ve improved me far more than I could have hoped for.

If I can survive that much development, then I am eager to see how much I can push this year.

As a 22nd squadron once proclaimed proudly …

Who Dares Win.

And I’m ready to defy the odds again.

~ Damocles.

Mythology

Midgard ….

Perhaps without ever realising it, I’ve always been long fascinated by religion.

In a world where so much is explainable by science, there is little regard for the wonderful stories that used to be humanity’s science to explaining how the world work.

Lighting … associated with Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. The passage of the sun across the sky explained as Ra’s journey into the underworld. Dreamtime as a creation myth.

When you start studying so many different myths as I have, you start to notice that there are quite a few similarities between them all. Almost all of them mention some type of “Great Flood”, which is a curious coincidence. In addition, the idea of a “giant serpent” whether is Quetzalcoatl, Jormungandr or the Rainbow Serpent, is quite prevalent.

But really it is the story-telling that grips me. These were some of the earliest stories ever told and shared amongst many people. The story-tellers have not survived, but these myths have and continue to grip me with their morals, twists and strange lessons.

In particular, I am partial to Norse, Greek and Egyptian mythology. There is so much to unpack in many others, such as Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Aztec, Mayan or even Russian folklore, but the three most famous ones are my own favourites.

What I’ve always found fascinating was at what point does a religion become a myth and is there really any difference? Is there any more power in praying to God, when he resembles Zeus? Does the sanctity of the Temple Mount hold any more real sway over that of Stonehenge? Is all the bloodshed sacrificed in the name of God, any more real than those of human sacrifices made in honour of Mayan Gods on their step-pyramids?

As a child, I was quite religious. When you have attended Church as much as I have, and read the Bible for fun, it’s difficult not to believe in a higher power. Throw in a father who was on his way to becoming a Jesuit, and a mother who was born in a strictly Catholic family, it was inevitable that I become a religious son.

This actually transitioned all the way into my teenage years, when I bought a much more teen-oriented Bible which had useful annotations that “dumbed” down the story and added amusing and slightly edgy interpretations of famous stories, such as the Prodigal Son or Abraham’s sacrifice.

Perhaps it was a sign of concern though, that I was only fixated on the earlier stories of the Bible, in particular the Torah. The stories of battles, blood, vengeance held a lot of appeal to my imagination and all the stories in the New Testament just never quite held my interest as much.

Ironic really, considering how Christianity was formed around the teachings of the New Testament. Even then though, I was confused by the wildly contrasting tones the two Testaments had to each other. After all, if God is so infallible and perfect, why did he undergo such a huge character transformation between the two time periods?

From a vengeful, spiteful God who loved to destroy other ethnicities than his own chosen people (which begs the question why did he create other ethnicities to begin with …) to a much more loving God who was apparently willing to forgive certain acts, but only in certain circumstances, which if not met, would doom you to Hell anyway.

At the end of the day, religions are created by humans, who are contradictory, complicated and inconsistent. It only makes sense that religions, which originated from stories that have been passed down mouth to mouth, reflect humanity’s nature.

It eventually took a conversation with one of my best friends (more like an argument) for me to really allow the scales of religion to fall from my eyes though. After that fateful argument, I became an atheist.

It’s hard not to be one, when you learn about all the horrifically horrible things that have occurred in the name of a deity that shows little signs of existence. As a keen student of history, it’s hard to fathom just how much blood has been spilled in the name of Gods.

The scale of sacrifices made in the name of Gods and other spirits, only increased the moment religions became a power of their own. Suddenly, a Pope became an Emperor over hundreds of worshipping souls, a Caliph could and would move armies across Europe to gain more territory and an Inquisition willingly suppressed learning and teachings.

In many ways, religions were the original mega-corporations, with a hierarchical structure, a CEO that oversaw the entire company and wielded huge amount of influence and power. They even started marketing as a concept.

If you thought the Inquisition was an old, outdated concept that was most famous in 1478 Spain, then you’ll be surprised to know it exist today as the Diecastery for the Doctrine of the Faith … the first and last line of defence against heresy towards Roman Catholicism.

It’s always fascinated me how blind some people are to their religion though. For so many believers, they only see the local image and refuse to acknowledge the larger picture. The people beside you, the community outreach programs, the youth services. Never the larger corporation that runs them, the shady deals made by bishops or priests with their local population, the grey existence in which laws can and cannot touch religion.

To study your religion beyond what the priest, rabbi, monk or imam tells you, is a dangerous experiment, as the history of the religion proves time and time again, it makes a mockery of what it preaches to you.

But as I stated above, religions are made by humans. If they didn’t contradict themselves, it would actually imply that a religion was made by something not human.

Despite all my research though, I suppose I am still quite spiritual, despite not practicing any one religion. I am scientifically inclined, although I quite like the idea that in studying science, we are studying how God(s) creates and form life.

Which is why I always revert to the stories that I loved as a child. Because these stories helped me understand the world better and its rules. If knowing we are carbon-based life-forms help me understand my own place on Earth, these myths do the same with strange occurrences that have happened to me.

After all, why would I create 4 Goddesses in my mind that I speak to regularly? Eris the Goddess of Discord, Melbourne the Lady of my home-town, Athena who guides my wisdom and Lady Luck who bestows upon me all manner of fortune.

We all secretly believe in some mystical power. Reading your horoscope is a sign of that belief, as is engaging in superstitious practices before Lunar New Year or doing a tarot reading.

But for me, the reason why I collected so many books about folk tales, myths and legends is because they are incredible stories that have survived through the ages. There is a wonderful timelessness to them, regardless of culture, background or era.

The story of Thor disguising himself as Freya to get Mjolnir back is hilarious. The symbology behind the lucky number 7 still makes me believe in it. The epic behind Zeus’ overthrowing his father Cronos is a fable about prophecy and how fate is determined for us.

The destruction of the world through Ragnarok showcases how sometimes the world needs to be destroyed to be made anew. The fable of Momotarou, the Peach Boy who went on an epic journey to defeat a demon and bring riches back to his adopted family is just an incredible adventure story. The story of Osiris and Isis is a touching love story about how a woman fights to get her beloved husband back.

The tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves told in the context of One Thousand and One Nights, is the first example of a cliffhangers done right. The strange surrealist nature behind Puss in Boots, speaks to the odd nature between man and domesticated pets. The Monkey King is a fascinating story about redemption.

There are so many folk stories and myths that have continued to fascinate me today. Bluebeard, The Bunyip, Dracula, the Golem, Scrooge, Princess Mononoke, Rowan of Rin …. these names have been burned into my mind, because of their fascinating and dark stories.

In particular, I love the twisted ones, and am all too conscious about them when certain moments in my life made me question what would happen if I didn’t have such a good moral compass?

A great example is the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Despite my serious demeanour, I seem to have a natural affinity that draws children to me. They quiet down in the midst of crying when they see me, they smile broadly when I wave … in short, they just look happy whenever I acknowledge them.

Could I repeat the Pied Piper’s skill and lead children away to disappear entirely?

Of course not. But that is the strange moral lesson that echoes in my mind whenever I notice how easily children are won over by me.

It is that echo of a lesson that speaks to the enduring legacy of these stories.

It also explains why I love Neil Gaiman’s take on so many of these stories and how revisionist folklore has grabbed me just as much as historical fiction books have.

The Shrek franchise, Gaiman’s American Gods, my own current experience with the God of War games … I love how they have twisted and made fresh these stories that I am familiar with. New interpretations, new meaning, new ways of looking at these old tales … that is why these stories have persisted and are common knowledge.

These stories are always in a constant state of flux. Their meaning may be the same, but the way how they are told are always different. We all put our own flavour and meaning into them when we hear them for the first time and the repeat them to others for the last time.

That is the beauty behind myths. At its core, they are the same, but everything else … is subject to change.

Which just makes it all the more disappointing when you meet an overzealous religious believer who insists on an “official” version of a famous tale.

Because the story loses its lustre, it loses the unique flavour that could be imparted on it, and more importantly, the human element, the story-teller themselves is missing from the tale.

You can learn so much about a person from the way how they tell a story. It is the oldest, common and special ability humanity has … to tell a story to another.

Which is why I love myths but even more so, I love how people tell them.

~ Damocles.

The Journey to Letting Go.

Sitting alone on the beach at night, with a note in my hand, I took out my lighter and watched it slowly burn away in the cold wind.

The song that has defined 2022 for me, No Time to Die by Billie Eilish instantly floated into my mind. The whispered lyrics rang out in my mind as clearly if Eilish herself was next to me.

I should’ve known
I’d leave alone
Just goes to show
That the blood you bleed
Is just the blood you owe

We were a pair
But I saw you there
Too much to bear
You were my life
But life is far away from fair

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

I felt like crying, but no tears came running down my cheeks.

I was dried out. But that’s OK, because I was still grieving though, in my own way.

Tears have never truly been my outlet. To me, the big emotional waves that manifest itself physically though heaving sobs and tears, have never truly been big enough to threaten such a reaction from me. I genuinely do not know if I am capable of crying any more. I have regulated my emotional responses so much over the years, that it is difficult to tell if I can actually experience such extremes.

Which is why I’ve noted that whenever I am suffering from distress, I resort to the one thing that has sustained me for the entirety of my life.

Anger.

Anger has always been a defining element to my personality. I’ve learned to tap into that source of energy a very long time ago, when I realised that anger can be used in a healthy manner.

Being angry all the time, meant that I could channel a certain amount of aggression into everything I did.

But it also taught me how I could sustain it, hold onto that anger and really power through obstacles that would stump others. And if I did it right …. that anger could keep me going through the toughest of shifts, the hardest of work, the most menial of tasks.

There is no end to anger’s utility and usefulness. I can take so much, because of how angry I can become.

So, in this case, my anger was turned against me. I used it on myself. I couldn’t cry, couldn’t break down … so instead I got furious at myself. I shouldered most of the blame, understood that I was the architect of all the pain I’ve caused to others and myself and squarely deserved to feel shit.

There was no redeeming this, no apology big enough for the hurt I’ve caused, the time I’ve wasted and the grief I’ve designed.

No escape from the immense guilt I feel.

This is what it means, to hurt someone and I can’t really forgive myself either.

However, just because I can’t forgive myself, doesn’t mean that I will let this poison me.

My anger won’t allow it.

For you see, I was furious at myself for being so selfish, so unbearably cruel, but then I realised that I will never truly get over myself for this and that this awful feeling was now going to be a part of my life forever.

I had chosen to accept this guilty cross as part of luggage that I will carry till the day I died. That was the consequence for hurting someone else, in return for me being unbearably selfish and being freed from a healthy relationship that wasn’t quite enough.

I didn’t know that, of course at the time, that the burden of this guilt was initially far too heavy for me to carry, let alone walk.

But that is where my anger comes in. Because it forces me to shoulder the load, to learn to accept the load for what it is and find a way to make it feel lighter.

I was now angry at myself for throwing too long of a pity party.

I needed to get over myself and really start the process of healing.

I made my decision, faced the consequences and now it was time to move on.

To delve too deeply into this pain, meant that I couldn’t do anything. It was time to go back up for air. I was sick of drowning.

It’s why I wrote a note to her. Because no words, no essays, no speeches would be enough to convey how terrible I felt.

On that note, were two words that I knew would never come true. Forgiveness is an element that is beyond my own control. To be forgiven, needs to the blessing of another.

I am never going to get that blessing. But that is the curse I chose when I broke things off with her.

Even now, nearly 2 months later, I am still reeling from the effects of what I’ve done. A casual joke can sour my mood instantly and cause me to relapse into a fugue of sadness, guilt and regret. It opens an internal floodgate where feelings I’ve thought I put to bed, come rushing back and threaten to overwhelm me.

In many ways, this experience has taught me how impossible it is to truly hold onto happiness when you are threatened constantly by negative emotions. They will sour every moment, poison your thinking and threaten your sanity.

But that has only galvanised me to work harder to fight against the wave of sadness. I now hold onto my happy moments even stronger; I force myself to shoo away those negative thoughts and I am actively striving to ensure reflective moments are more positive than negative.

It’s the only way for me to hold onto sanity and really allow myself to move past. It takes a conscious effort to ensure I am not constantly threatened by sadness, whenever my friends want to discuss my former relationship or there is a light joke made about a break-up. But it’s something I have to do, because anything else isn’t healthy nor rational.

Being able to let things go to me, isn’t so much about forgetting nor ignoring the past. It’s very much an acknowledgement of the past and ensuring that I don’t look back on it with malice, regret or anger.

Letting go, means I need to leave behind my anger, my pain and my guilt. It’s a slow process, and in many ways, with no destination at the end. All that matters, is the journey itself and whether those negative feelings truly abate with toxicity over time.

Much like nuclear waste half-lives, this is an infinitely slow process, but it is the only way to rid myself of these feelings properly. Without forgiveness to lighten the load, this is something I have to come to terms with slowly, carefully and with proper examination.

It won’t take another relationship, nor some fancy mental trick. Nor will meeting her again solve anything.

This is a cross that needs to be taken apart piece by piece, splinter by splinter, nail by nail, over many, many hours of reflection and examination.

This is the only way I can look back at my actions, my relationship and my choices without feeling an overwhelming amount of pain and guilt. Those feelings will forever remain, but I will be able to look at myself in the mirror and be at peace with what I see.

Writing that note and burning it alone at a beach, is just one tiny step in that journey to letting go.

It may take months, years, a decade even … but in many ways, when it comes to self forgiveness, there isn’t really any other way of dealing with it.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy, nor carefree. I can still enjoy the moment, embrace the present and get excited by the thrill of a new journey.

It’s important for me to remember that, and truly acknowledge it.

I’m not beholden to my past, my choices and the consequences that came with it.

As long as I learn from them, and never repeat such an error again, I know that I can shorten the journey a bit.

Life is a marathon but there is no real clock timing you.

All it takes is some careful application of will, self-belief and a desire to be better and eventually I’ll cross the line.

In a lot of ways, I don’t regret anything. Everything that has happened has made me stronger and that is really all I can ask for, when I am on such a long journey.

~ Damocles.

The Depressing Atmosphere of Monash Clayton

I actually started my career as a music critic. It was the thing I did through university to keep myself sane, as I trudged from dreary lecture to dreary lecture amidst the communist bloc architecture of one of the world’s most deeply uninspiring campuses, Monash Clayton in Melbourne. – Andrew of Time & Tide (Now Magazine: Issue 4 2021/2022)

Having recently bought a Dox SUB 200 as a retirement gift from my extra-long stint in the retail industry, I was gifted a magazine from the Melbourne based store, Time & Tide.

To my astonishment that quote jumped out at me, reminding me of what I’ve felt during my university days.

So, without further ado, let the rant ramble on ….

Monash University has a myriad of campuses, however during my stint there, from 2012 to 2017, life was predominantly centred around the main campus, Clayton.

For those who are unversed in the neighbourhoods of Victoria, Clayton is a large suburb in Melbourne’s south-east. There is literally nothing remarkable about the area at all, except that it is home to the second most prestigious university in Victoria. Cheap Chinese food can be found at Clayton Market, catering towards hundreds of students, and in terms of landscape, there is nothing to see except endless low to middle income houses.

It is an area completely devoid of personality.

Which stands in stark contrast to Monash’s more illustrious competitor, Melbourne University, which is in Parkville. A literal area with dozens of parks nearby, lush greenery nestling between old heritage buildings and the CBD within minutes away. A student could comfortably enjoy a study break amongst tall green oaks, then venture in a castle like building for a lecture before heading out with friends into the city for cheap Korean food.

Meanwhile at Monash Clayton, there is no denying that this is a much newer, modern institute. There is an artificial element to how seemingly convenient everything is, yet if you dig deeper, it is anything but.

Whilst Melbourne University’s Parkville campus is a literal rabbit warren of a place, there is an old-school charm to that. You are meant to get lost in the halls of academia and feel it’s’ rich history, knowing that you are following in the same steps of renowned scholars and academics.

Monash Clayton though, is simply far too open. Going from one lecture hall to the next is an effort in exercise. You can’t get lost at Monash Clayton, because everyone uses the same paths to get to and from places. Travelling from the Arts building to the Engineering area, requires the same path through the dullest name for a campus centre ever …. Campus Centre.

It becomes an almost running joke, how often students must cut through the Campus Centre to get from one end of the campus to the next.

Everything is simply too orderly for an academic institution. The footpaths, are enormously wide, as are the green spaces. But this only creates a strange sense of emptiness, because of how little the foot traffic is. The green spaces are often not that used, due to Melbourne’s inclement weather, and are poorly protected against the elements, because Monash deemed it unnecessary to have many tall trees all around the campus.

What this creates this, is this strange atmosphere of emptiness and life on the surface of the campus.

The main reason for this though, is because everyone is inside one of the three libraries available to students at Monash.

The Law Library, which is tiny and futile.

The Hargrave-Andrew Library, which is an exercise in how much space is wasted on books that no-one ever reads and requires a lot more space for STEM students to study at.

The Sir Louis Matheson Library, which is focused on Arts, and is again, a useless architectural endeavour due to the sheer lack of power points and desks available to service all 50,000 or more students who need them.

So, you can imagine, just how cramped, the libraries get, when every single student is competing with one another for power points for their laptops and notebooks.

And with such a big population crammed within these library halls, it is anything but quiet.

This lies in stark contrast to Melbourne’s design, where almost every single outdoor furniture has a power point waiting for the student beneath.

Thus, alleviating space inside the libraries for students to study and encouraging these sleep-deprived, procrastinating teens to go outside and get some Vitamin D.

The health benefits are numerous for Melbourne University students. The convenience is there too.

Monash students however, get no such luck. Everything is far too spaced out, and few and far in-between to properly enjoy oneself on campus. It does not aid in the atmosphere of the place, when you spend half your day struggling to find a power-point for a laptop battery verging on 2% life, only to then be unable to study or focus properly when a large group of students are celebrating Diwali or protesting about something inane and stupid.

And when you’ve finally given up, and decided you need a break, you go outside, only to realise you are still stuck on campus, and cannot be arsed to go via a stinky bus to nearby restaurants that will give you food poisoning.

So, you trundle back inside the library and do it all over again.

That scenario that I just described, is a typical, miserable day in the life of Monash university student.

Now allow me to compound that misery with some extra salient facts about the Monash experience.

Fact 1.

Monash students are typically insecure. The reason why, is because all of us secretly longed to get into Melbourne, but our grades weren’t good enough, so we had to settle for this backwater campus.

This means that there is a chip on everyone’s shoulder. We all wished we were elsewhere, but we’re not. We’re stuck here for the next three years, simmering with resentment over the knowledge that we simply weren’t good enough for Melbourne University. Our competitiveness with Melbourne doesn’t even stem from a healthy pride in Monash. It’s literally built on jealousy.

Fact 2.

Monash University’s relatively modern existence means that the architecture is shit. And I meant that with a capital resounding S H I T. So many buildings on the Clayton campus are horrifically ugly. My interest in architecture is a direct result of spending far too many years, surrounded by ugly buildings. The worst offender is what the Time & Tide author, wrote about …. the home of Arts on Monash, the Menzies Building.

It is a phenomenally ugly design, reminiscent of brutal, Soviet-era East Berlin communist bloc buildings. How can it be home to Arts, if it is anything but artistic? The Soviets were known for the lack of appreciation for artistic endeavours … the irony of it all, was not lost on me.

Then there is the bizarre mole-hill of a building known as the Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, whose circular nature reminded me of the Teletubbies home hill.

But it is really the unremarkable nature of the rest of the campus that really sells why Monash Clayton is such a depressing place. None of the buildings stand out, none of them have enough seating rooms to alleviate the libraries and they were always so desolate when you entered them. The souls that were inside the buildings that weren’t libraries, were like spectres wandering the halls. They were all too focused on their work, to notice you and you felt strange being in such a huge building, but it was deathly quiet and still.

I haven’t even touched on the lecture halls eithers …. with rickety chairs, crummy stands and entrances that were always clogged with incoming and outgoing traffic the moment the bell rang.

Just atrocious designs all around.

Fact 3.

Whenever the exam period would arrive, Monash would invariably book the Caulfield Racecourse as it’s home for all academic grading.

Not only was this inconvenient to get to, but it was also a stark reminder as to how the Caulfield campus was much, much better than its bigger, uglier sister at Clayton. Caulfield was like the slimmer, happier, sunnier younger sister. There was a central area to the campus that was all lawn, and properly addressed the movement of the sun at any given time of the day. The train station was literally next door to the campus, which meant the most hated form of public transport, le bus, could be avoided.

The campus was architecturally interesting, with a much more contemporary design that had layers. There were less students on campus, which meant more power points were available and the subjects being taught there was much more fine arts focused, which meant workshops and media rooms were plentiful.

Caulfield tempted me so much, that I actually enjoyed my time there much more than Clayton, working extra-long hours to complete my journalism course and actually having a university experience I liked.

It also had a damn Japanese drinks dispenser, which automatically elevates it above Clayton.

Fact 4.

The sad, depressing atmosphere of Clayton is an actual phenomenon that is felt amongst everyone on campus. There is a sense that you are trapped on campus. It is because, it is such an all-encompassing place. You study, eat, sleep, work, play sports, have sneaky sex in the toilets, engage in fights …. all on the one campus.

The moment you get off the bus and get on campus? You are stuck there, with no real means of escape from your timetable. You can’t sneak off to enjoy cheap Chinese with your friends, you can’t take a breather or a walk in the city … You can only leave the same way you came in, on a bus.

And the loop keeps on cycling every single day.

In many ways, Monash Clayton is like the Hotel California of campuses.

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man
“We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave”

Fact 5.

All the above aren’t facts at all, just the rambling opinions of a very bitter ex-Monash Uni student, who hated his time at a tertiary institution and wished he spent those years doing something more productive.

In conclusion, Monash University represents to me a colossal black hole. Devoid of personality, atmospherically depressing and truly a waste of time.

Even the recent swathe of upgrades that Monash has poured into creating new, fancier and architecturally interesting buildings like the Learning and Teaching Building has not done it any favours. It is still a very ugly, lonely place.

My advice?

If you are going to visit any place in the south-east of Melbourne, just go to Chadstone Shopping Centre then high-tail back to the city ASAP. There is nothing here of note.

Nothing but the cries of thousands of students who wished they were somewhere else.

~ Damocles.

Bunny.

Yesterday marked the first time I saw the infamous Playboy bunnies in action.

And I felt nothing.

You would think that the sheer amount of eroticism on display would stir something inside of me, but all I felt instead was a strange mixture of apathy and vague appreciation. Seeing so many diverse types of women in scantily clad lingerie and various states of undress, really did not distract me from my work.

But let’s provide some context first. What was I doing at an event where Playboy bunnies were even present?

I was invited by one of my closest friends to assist with a catering job. Being an events operator with a casual schedule and is being constantly bounced from workplace to workplace, I enjoy the randomness of it all, seeing things that I normally wouldn’t and getting paid to do so, to boot.

In this case, the event featured a large strip pole stage in the centre, with tables encircling the stage and about 70 Playboy bunnies that would cater to any taste. The sheer amount of skin on display whipped at me, when I first walked out, holding plates of food for the 200 odd male guests.

There was just all sort of bodies. Tall, slim, busty, curvy, lithe, svelte, petite, voluminous, statuesque, … tattoos could be seen everywhere, from full length sleeves, to a tempting knife nestled between the cleavage of a woman.

The variety of colours was also electric. Neon orange bikinis meant that you were unable to tear your eyes away, electric yellow mesh one-pieces meant that it wasn’t really covering anything of importance, to more classy black spandex that had an exciting severity to it.

Then there was the themes. Naughty schoolgirls mingled with a Harley Quinn, a dominatrix waltzed by, holding hands with a delighted older gentleman and an older Asian woman flirtatiously sat on the lap of a man and dazzled him with her faux accent. I remember staring at this Grace Jones like Amazon, her ebony skin glowing under the flickering lights, her tall, athletic body a work of art.

Every 15 minutes, a new strip tease would come on stage. At first it was a burlesque performance, which was then followed by an sexy routine from a athleisure-clad girl with a basketball. Then came your classic belly-dancing act, from a Middle Eastern woman with dramatic eye-liner and shadow and an equally extravagant crimson sequinned dress that flowed around her long legs.

It was all meant to be distracting.

Yet, there was a dispassionate way in which I viewed every single attractive woman in that venue. I thought that I would be stirred by so much erotic sensuality on display, but instead it was like wandering through a living art gallery, where I picked apart what I liked about what I saw.

In all honestly, there was only one woman that caught my interest, mostly because I considered her face to be the most attractive I saw that night.

Blonde, slender, tattoo-free and wearing a black mesh one-piece that suited her curves, she was covered up a bit more than her sisters, with attractive contouring to highlight her naturally sharp cheekbones, strong jaw and straight nose. She had full lips, brown eyes that seemed a bit more defiant than usual and there was a challenge to her that I liked.

She knew that she was a bit too good to sit on your lap like that. You had to work for her.

Which brings me to the realisation that struck me as I was serving food, amongst so much debauchery …. I really do prefer knowing a woman before seeing her naked.

I need an emotional connection before I am turned on.

It’s strange to have such a deep realisation when you are catering staff in a glorified strip club, but then I can’t pretend that my mind doesn’t work in weird ways.

It also indicates that if I am ever to be married in the future, a stereotypical bachelor party would be off the cards. Strippers do nothing for me, unless it’s coming from a woman I have a connection with, which in this case, would actually be my fiancĂ©.

This also answers the strange question I’ve always had about sex workers. Would I perform well in bed if I ever decided to hire a prostitute? The answer is, unless she somehow magically opens up in the initial half hour of talking and we form a deep emotional bond …. performance would be negligible.

I suppose that is very feminine of me … requiring foreplay and emotional intimacy before sex.

As I looked around the room, I could only feel puzzlement at how easily each of the men were led away for a private strip-dance for a princely sum. I just couldn’t quite reconcile in my head how a few false entreaties for their ego was enough to warrant losing their money to a stranger.

What was so erotic about it?

I have to acknowledge the big caveat here and note that I was in a professional mindset the entire time, running to and from the kitchen, carrying plates away and clearing tables. You really can’t indulge in scandalous thoughts when you have a job to do.

I suppose it didn’t help either that it was my fellow female waitresses that I found more attractive. Call me old-fashioned, but when a girl is more covered up, and it’s just her facial features that arrest you, I find myself a lot more drawn to them.

Because half the mystery is finding out if the beautiful face compliments the body.

Half of the thrill for me is the pursuit. I like breaking down the barriers a woman puts up before me, the genuine flirty banter, the accidental electric touches, the subtle ways we communicate our desires to each other …

It’s why, and as bad as this sound, I will always say that my favourite type of woman is a bitch.

In my limited experience, there is nothing more than I love than encountering a bitch.

To me, she represents the ultimate psychological defence. She knows she is attractive, however her standards for people are extremely high, leaving her disappointed with most of the human race.

She is often abrasive, opinionated, tough, and intimidating in all the right ways. She has a bit of an ego and isn’t afraid to wield it mercilessly.

Despite her brusqueness though, inside is a woman who just wants to meet a partner who can really match her, wit for wit, insult for insult, and just disarm her completely.

She is a romantic after all, despite evidence to the contrary and there is that insecurity about her, that deep down, she knows that she is pushing away a lot of potential suitors, in the hopes that the right one will somehow blast through all her defences and surprise her with how accurately the suitor can read her every move.

The bitch will then get flustered and confused. Her normal confidence will be slightly off-kilter around the suitor, because no-one has ever made it past all her defences.

It is that moment, where the bitch gets her comeuppance, where she realises that she has actually met her match, and that the guy or girl standing before her is able to read her and be her equal ….

I love it.

Because it’s so gratifying to know that your charms eventually won her over.

I can’t get that thrill from a Playboy Bunny.

Attraction is the result of chemistry between two people. You can get that anywhere, from a glance to a conversation.

Seduction is all about conducting a lot of hard research, trial and error and finding out what the other person loves.

Temptation is all about creating something palatable for your partner from all your seductive knowledge.

I live for the moment when I can tempt a bitch.

It’s the best feeling in the great game of flirting.

Nothing will ever top it.

Not even a bunny.

~ Damocles.

29 and on the cusp of prime.

Federation Square from the roof. One of the perks of the job.

My birthday has come and gone in a whirlwind of work.

It so happened that my birthday landed right in the middle of a 3 day work bender, where I have pulled 10+ hours every single day, doing nothing but physical labour. I have ended up pushing myself so hard, that I lost a kilogram of weight, and have had at least 1 Red Bull per day to keep going. On a more positive note though, I am sporting a surprising lack of bruises, a much darker tan and a lack of blisters …

So really, I got off pretty easy.

Waking up today, to a much more relaxed shift, I could feel the pins and needles coursing through my hands and feet, and spent an inordinately long time massaging them with a theragun into a workable state again.

As I sat there on my bed, displeased with the fact that, despite working so hard, my body clock chose to wake me up far too early, so that I was still running on 5 hours of sleep, just like the other two days, I thought about how I started my birthday.

It’s the been the main positive this year. Being kept so busy, that people raise eyebrows as to how I am still standing before them, with a wry smile and decent posture. I’ve pushed myself to massive extremes this year, mostly in a physical sense, because I will always try to ensure I work out at least thrice a week, to minimise injuries at the workplace and make my labour a bit less intensive.

Mentally, it’s bit a lot more up and down than I wanted. But again, if I am looking at things in a positive manner, then I suppose there is denying that I am a lot more capable, tougher and will-driven than a lot of other people.

In my small circle of friends, I don’t know really know of anyone who has quite tackled so much, with so many severe consequences to their future riding on the line. In many ways, my birthday has been so inconsequential in the grander scheme of problems that have assaulted me this year.

It couldn’t even be celebrated the way I wanted to, with a Halloween theme, a nice barbeque and all my friends around.

Too much has happened, most of it self-inflicted for me to really feel good about throwing a big party.

As it were, I had to attend this work event that I was a key part of on the night of the birthday anyway.

That has truly been the par for the course this year. A lot of wonderful things always tinged with a strong melancholy. A lot of brave smiles that is hiding the exhaustion and anger that is simmering underneath.

Exhaustion from work, life, love and drama … anger at it all, because that is the only emotion that can help me keep one foot ahead of the other.

I felt that primal rage yesterday, as I entered the 15th hour of work. My feet, sore, callused and aching, was kept moving lightly across the Melburnian concrete footpath by sheer will. I refused to let myself hobble or limp.

I could march forever, and I was going to do exactly that.

But as I marched from one event venue to the other, from the uneven cobblestones of Fed Square to the rich carpet of Crown Casino, I realised just how sad it was that I had grown older by a year, and yet I wasn’t really paying any attention to it.

My life had devolved into such an endless grind of work, so much so, that the classic milestone of a birthday seemed insignificant.

What happened to me …. it used to be such a special time for me to indulge in my own private event, something fun that I loved to plan and design.

Nerf gun shoot-outs, Halloween costumes, endless amount of candy and snacks, good barbeque, chill fun party games …. long chats about everything and nothing …

It’s been 4 years since I last held a party and there is something remotely tragic about that fact, like I can’t really indulge in my inner child anymore and just relish a day that is entirely centered around me.

It’s funny how nostalgic you become when its’ your birthday. You start reminiscing about earlier memories, thinking about which one was your favourite, which was the best way to celebrate a certain age and milestone. You miss the friends you’ve lost along the way and ponder about what might have been.

I suppose, even in the midst of all this selfish happiness, you always end-up with a bit of melancholia. It’s just natural to mourn the loss of youth.

Celebrating getting older, and being alive for another year seems like such a trivial concept, until you realise that so many people never got to where you are.

There are countless people out there, who never made it to 29 and are immortalised in their family for being forever 26, 22, 15, 7 or even 3.

They never got to survive and live 29 years on this planet.

I used to be more dismissive of my birthday. What was the big deal, I always said. It’s not hard to eat, breathe, drink and just continue on living. It’s really not much of an achievement.

But that was me being dismissive of my luck, my own choices and my health. Many people struggle with one of those three elements or all of them at once.

Some are just incredibly unlucky individuals who were involved in freak accidents that never let them see 29.

Others have made bad choices in life, whether it’d be work, friends, lovers or personal struggles … and took their own lives before hitting 25.

And a select few are just cursed with health problems that make hitting 18 a miracle in of itself.

The older I get, the more grateful I am for the choices, people and environments that I either unwittingly or willingly allowed to be a part of my life. Some of those choices have been tough beyond compare and it has been difficult to truly comprehend the magnitude in which they upended the axis of my orbit. But made them I did and I have to live with the consequences.

A lot of people will never know the impact they had on me, whether it be from a passing comment or insult to a heartfelt compliment. But I know who they are and what they mean to me and how they have improved me, regardless of how large or small their influence was at the time.

I just can’t forget some things, no matter how hard I try. The tears on a woman’s cheek, the sounds of the water rustling across sand, the way how my breath seems to catch whenever I think about something particularly painful ….

It is these melancholy feelings that dominate how I am feeling on my birthday.

Birthdays are meant to be a joyous occasion, but for the past few years, they’ve been nothing but gentle reminders of my past. I’m mourning the old me, but without any bitterness or guilt. There’s no point in adding either of those feelings onto my past, because if I do, I’ll never forgive myself and learn to let go.

I’ve let go of a lot things this year. It’s almost like I am trying to prepare for my 30s in the cleanest way possible.

29 … the final year for me to really get my act together before I can finally put to rest the strangest challenge I’ve ever made for myself, the B30 Challenge.

There is nothing to distract me now. I’m all alone in this fight. No-one is in my corner backing me, and that’s OK.

My eyes are forward and I’m slowly gearing up for my final round.

This isn’t a happy birthday. This is the ring of the bell.

~ Damocles.

Cinis ad cinerem, pulvis in pulverem.

One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened, he knew that, he too, would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognised so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility. Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953)

After being delivered a significant setback to a rather distressing legal case, I’m sitting alone in my room, Italian hard candy by my side, a ice-cold glass of water slowly condensing, and an unlit herbal cigarette in my mouth.

The only sounds you can hear are my hands religiously shuffling cards, the echoes of Fleming’s words causing my brown eyes to squint in concentration as I riffle through them. There is an angry set to my jaw, a muscle rippling along my cheek as I focus my energy and senses.

The very first game is of tantamount importance. It will provide me evidence, reassurance and a semblance of hope.

Four cards are laid out on the table.

The first two are mine, the second pair … the dealer’s.

I can already sense it, before I even pick it up.

It’s a natural 21.

I don’t even hesitate to flip it over ….

Upon seeing the pair of clubs, I allow myself a cruel smile.

I haven’t been bought to my knees yet.

Some things have remained undamaged despite what the world was telling me.

In some ways, I suppose I’ve always been a secret gambler at heart.

I’ve never placed a single genuine bet in a casino before, out of fear of addiction, but there is no denying that I love the call of playing cards and how genuinely exciting playing them can be.

It is a strange experience, at once, very sensual and sensory and cold and clinical. You need to be in touch with your inner thoughts, desires and will, manifesting and imposing your luck into reality, whilst understanding that logically such an occurrence is rare and that you need be aware of the odds.

Luck isn’t a deity that belongs to you. She is flippant, whimsical and elusive.

To catch her, you need all your strength.

I’m beginning to understand how I’ve been approaching my relationship to Lady Luck wrong this year. I’ve been far too worshipful. Far too reliant and slavish.

I need to seize control of this relationship once more. The power dynamic has been far too skewed in her favour, which has made me far less attractive and insipid, causing her to be bored with me.

Lady Luck isn’t a deity you pander to or pursue … you simply accept when she comes into your life and take full advantage of that momentary kismet.

Otherwise, you go back to playing the odds. You need to be clever, clinical and calculated in your daily life. If Luck truly favours you, she will visit you more often than others. But that is not a sign of favouritism. She is and will forever be out of your reach.

I have been slack with my off time, relying far too often on the frequency of Luck’s visits instead of playing the game the way how people are meant to.

It was this realisation that made me win that all important Blackjack hand above. Because I had finally taken ownership of my luck again. I wasn’t relying on a deity any more. It was time for me to create my own luck and then be grateful when Lady Luck steps in and boost it.

This kick to the kerb has been just one of the many that has assaulted me this month, let alone year. If 2022 is plagued with misfortune like I said previously, then let it come. This is just another problem that I have to face with meticulous planning, quick thinking and rapid deployment of grit, determination and will.

And it will be resolved, just like every other damnable problem this year.

If 2022 is truly as horrific as they come, then in the next 3 months I am going to be kicked to the floor again.

So I might as well get used to picking myself up from off the floor because I have ended up down here so many times.

Only this time, whenever I dust myself off, I shall be squarely reviewing my every actions that lead up to the moment and not blaming a mythical deity for my own poor judgement and planning.

After all, there is really no one else to blame except me when it comes to losing.

Fail to prepare … prepare to fail.

Today’s harsh reminder was just another brutal wake-up call about how I’ve gotten complacent in a lot of things. Too much time listening to others, instead of acknowledging my own feelings, needs and desires.

And truly not enough writing.

It’s one of those pitfalls when you literally don’t do enough self-reflection … lessons aren’t learned, self-esteem starts to plummet and you end up not knowing how you are lost, which is important, because knowing how you got to this strange location is the key to leaving it.

We all look in the past for answers to the present. It’s a classic story trope, where characters research clues hidden long ago, to solve modern mysteries.

Self reflection, and in my case, written self-reflection helps me find those clues so that I can resolve my current dramas.

In this case, I’m re-discovering what made my relationship with Lady Luck and I work. I never answered to her … she answered to me when it was convenient for her.

There is a cruelty to our relationship that makes it healthy and beneficial for both of us.

But when she is not by my side, which is far more often than I think, I need to be my own person. I need to be more than my beautiful lucky crutch.

It is said that you need 825,000 pounds per square inch to form a diamond.

Heat, pressure and carbon …. nowhere in that equation is luck.

I can’t be a polished carbon life-form if I am too reliant on luck being in the equation.

It’s time to reignite the passion I used to have for life again. I want to own once more, that same cold, confident and ruthless drive that has propelled me to most of my successes. I need to unlock that potential in me that I know has always been bubbling away there.

As I am writing this though, sometimes, even I can’t quite fathom how fickle my mind can be.

I mean, reading this, you are supposed to believe that one lucky hand in blackjack, is now responsible for the complete return to form of Damocles. That all he needed to get his drive, determination and dedication back was one good hand.

I suppose when you’ve been kicked to the kerb as many time as I have recently, the smallest reversal in fortune is enough for you to keep playing the game, to try your hand again the rest of the table.

The greatest lesson I seem to learn from all of this, is that I truly can be professional, despite feeling like utter shit. There is no denying that there have been incredibly low moments at work, but I’ve had the strength and mental capacity to block out the negativity and sadness and keep on doing my job with a smile.

Composure … it’s something I’m proud to have.

Even when everything around me is falling apart, I’ll always retain my fierce spirit and never compromise on what I think are important.

Even when handed devastating news, that set everything back by a month and will cause me to get into more of a legal quagmire … I’m remaining steadfast. All my mental training in the years prior …. all my techniques … they’re all best tested and standing up to the test.

I’m not smoking, drinking, falling for loose women or engaging in other forms of self-destructive behaviour.

As the Brits are apt to do when everything goes to shit … make a cup of tea, understate the situation and remain calm.

I like to think that I have the same steadfastness.

And I’m oddly proud of myself for that.

A rare moment indeed, because I’m often far too critical of myself.

So for once, I’m going to say that I am proud that I haven’t broken down, despite all the misery that has befallen me.

As I write that though, just when my pride is hitting the apex of its strut, another curious line from Casino Royale enters my mind.

‘Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles.’ He laughed. ‘But don’t let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine.’

I can’t help but smile cruelly at that. The sheer emotional gambit I have run so far would have crippled most people. I suppose I really am a machine at times.

No point in stopping now to be more human.

~ Damocles.

9/11

I like to categorise age by the September 11 attacks.

It sounds incredibly strange, but to me, 9/11 marks a fundamental shift in how we experience our lives.

I’m at the age where the term “young man” no longer quite applies. To be perfectly frank, if you forgive this momentary ego stroke, if I had completed my enlistment many years ago, I would be a career soldier now, at the peak of my war-fighting abilities and prowess, with quite a few deployments under my belt.

As far as reality is concerned though, I am actually quite close to my peak events operational capabilities. I can almost do every single aspect of event labour, from ropes management to marquee set-ups and about 100 useful other tips and tricks to apply to any event I work at.

I am quite easily, the most experienced events operator at almost any festivities I find myself working at. Marathons, Festivals, Shows, Raves …. there’s almost no situation where I am not useful.

I suppose the point I am trying to make here, is that I am more or less at the top of my game. Which is exactly where I want to be close to the age of 30.

They say it is lonely at the top, and that is scarily accurate when you meet people who are younger than you.

It just seems so strange to me, meeting people who have never experienced the world-axis event that was 9/11.

The world before 9/11 was a much more trusting one. Entertainment was lighter, more colourful and fun. People were less paranoid, less interested in the nitty-gritty of the world and much more trusting. Growing up in the 90s, its also difficult for me to reconcile the quantum leap in technology that has happened in less than 2 decades of existence.

I remember rewinding VHS tapes, seeing pixels animate themselves on the Nintendo 64 and being fascinated with Pokemon cards during lunch breaks. Lego was cheaper, more imaginative, because as a child, I had no interest in keeping sets confined to their instructed sets … I was too busy breaking them apart to make my own things, forging epic battles between ninjas, Jedis, Siths, terrorists and dinosaur SWAT units to care.

The world seemed a bit brighter back then.

Then 9/11 happened and everything became a lot darker. The world became more paranoid, films started to become more grey, airports were now security havens and in general, instead of a positive go-getter attitude that once defined the 90s, the early 00s became more nihilistic. A sensation that has only grown exponentially with the creation of the internet.

In fact, I would argue, that the moment those Twin Towers fell, something inside humanity snapped.

Whether we liked it or not, America at the time, was considered the greatest place to live on Earth. Everyone, in some shape or form, believed in the purity of the “American Dream.” That if you worked hard enough, you would earn your success and buy that picket-fence house.

However, to see America struck so deeply and painfully, dispelled the allure of that dream. It was like the shells from our eyes had fallen away and we were no longer enamoured with the incredible mythology that surrounded America.

Instead, all we were left with was the knowledge that if the mightiest of us can fall … so can we all.

It’s why I pity every single child that has been born post 9/11. They never had an idea of a life that was a lot simpler and less complicated.

The world post 9/11 is a much more traumatised one. We no longer had an ideal to aspire to. In place of inspiration, came politics, which is simply code for division.

Films, music, art, news … everything became a lot more politicised. People scrutinised everything more. The advent of the internet meant that 24/7 news cycles became a lot more pessimistic and harsh. Soon, you weren’t just aware of the tragedies in your own country, you also had to know about the geopolitical situation in a country 12,000 kilometres away from you.

Films, once escapist and fantastical, soon started leaning into grittier, more “realistic” themes. Stories about the government betraying its own people, secretive intelligence programs and whistleblowers started to appear, sowing more distrust in the government and its agenda. Action sequences, once grand and epic, became more scaled down to realistic, tense firefights that showed the “one-man army” approach in a more tactical manner.

Music, got angrier and more heavily politicised, with angry lyrics decrying governments for their actions abroad and domestically. Art followed a similar vein.

What all of this has invariably led to, is a deconstruction of what your country is and how people identify themselves.

It’s not enough to just be an American any more. Now, you need to be an ally of a movement, a political supporter, a pronoun and an activist of some cause.

Imagine being born into this world, where all of this is the norm. You feel enormous pressure to fulfill all of these duties, or else you become a shit person. You can identify as as variant in all of these things, but because they exist only online, they also mean nothing. Everything online is an exercise in nihilism. Your identity, work, personality and careful curatorship of what you like and don’t like, is as unimportant as the next person’s persona.

In becoming all of these things, you just become another byte of data for the algorithm to manipulate and feed.

People who were born after 9/11 have no concept of a reality where none of these terrible things exist.

It really shows. They act seemingly older than their years, because they’ve exposed to a lot more horrible things than people my age were, when we were younger.

I’ve noted that children and people who were raised in a post 9/11 world tend to be diametrically different to people in my age bracket.

In the sense that, they tend to act a bit older than their years and they try a lot harder in general. They care more about certain causes, but ironically because of the internet, can only do so in the most shallow of manners. They will be the first to change their profile pictures, the first to lambast you on the internet for your views and start a hashtag trend going.

They’re also characterised by poor memories, shorter attention spans, less engagement in the long haul and more easily distracted. Throw in additional unnecessary trauma merely for existing and a perchance for overcommitting to things and poorly communicating their subsequent cock-up and you got yourself a typical post-9/11 baby.

I naturally blame the internet, but also how a post 9/11 world has shaped the internet and its’ anarchy.

Because 9/11 truly changed the way how humanity thought, fought and now lives.

It’s just strange for me, meeting people who have no context outside this reality, that to them, the 90s was an historical decade that never existed for them.

They only know this twisted, heavily politicised and strenuous time.

Deep down, I pity them all. If only they had some idea of what life might have been like, when the world was a more hopeful place, they wouldn’t be as confused as they are now.

But then, on the other side, their optimism can be boundless, because to them, a more accepting and hopeful future is coming soon.

Unlike the cynic in me, who whinges about what was lost.

Hindsight truly is a curse.

Better to be blindly hopeful and work towards that aspiration than to be unbelieving that anything good will occur in the future.

Because at the end of the day, hope for a better future is what might create change.

I suppose my role, as an older guy, is to make sure that change is actually a good one.

~ Damocles.

The Cost of Events

Blade Runner 2049

You look tired Damocles. Tired and tanned.

The way how my mother said this to me, expressed pity and sympathy for her oldest son.

I was in the middle of my skincare routine, when she said that to me. There was no malice in her voice. It was just an observation.

As I turned around and acknowledged her statement with a weary nod, I looked back at the mirror and applied my eye cream, something that was supposed to de-puff the eye bags that were starting to darken with each passing day.

Looking deep into my own pupils, I could see the pale hands of exhaustion that marked the creases and folds of my eyelids, the bloody veins that covered the brown iris, and the dark mystery of my soul.

Clenching my jaw, I watched the way how the vein flickered and disappeared along my face with the motion, before applying the final touch of moisturiser to my face.

Closing my eyes, I exhaled deeply.

My hands went to my phone and I started checking over my schedule for the week.

Tired …. fatigued … ragged … these were all good words to describe how I was feeling at the moment. However, my mental strength hadn’t abandoned me yet. There was still a fire of defiance inside of me, that burned bright and true.

It was this brazenness that made me keen to start the long day tomorrow. I had work at the Melbourne Showgrounds from 0630 till 1200. Then came my latest new job, Federation Square: Events Operations Supervisor, from 1300 to 1700.

A 10 hour day beckoned to me. Challenging me. Taunting me to conquer it with some semblance of professionalism.

I can do it, but my God is it tough to do it, when you feel this urgent need to write and write and write, despite knowing you have to be up by 0500 soon.

It’s 2202 at the time of writing this and I know if I can get to a thousand words or more by 2300, and truly express everything off my chest, then I’ll go to bed quicker.

That’s the trick to beating my own mind. I need to be at peace in order to sleep quickly and efficiently. I need to know that I’ve gotten everything off my chest, mind and plate. The thoughts cannot continue to run, or else I will never rest properly.

I will sleep fitfully, dream restlessly and snap awake at the most inopportune times. Like a few days ago, when I knew I was allowed to sleep in till 0900. So I decided to go to bed later, around 0100 only to bolt awake at 0630, because I couldn’t relax my mind.

It’s strange how all of this work. My methods and techniques in dealing with my mental hiccups and moods are all unique strategies known to me only. They only work on me, because I’ve crafted them to do exactly that.

Writing out my thoughts … listening to certain songs … even sitting a certain way, helps truly relax me and calm me before the storm of my own creation arrives.

And it is a wicked storm that will last 10 hours, before throwing me out of the eye and flinging me God knows where.

Where will I be after tomorrow’s long day?

I suppose it’s also extremely curious the effects of public transport has on me.

I’m a racer at my core. To go from A to B extremely fast, is what drives my passionate side wild.

Public transport doesn’t deliver that rush for me, for obvious reasons.

Instead it creates the strangest sense of purgatory I’ve ever felt.

So much so, that if Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are all real realms, created by your worst fears, then my form of limbo would exist on a train. Destination nowhere, random stops along the way, always in transit and never quite fast or slow.

Because I’m not in charge of the driving element, it is a bizarre feeling for me. I don’t like not doing anything to warrant the speed in which I am travelling.

Nor do I particularly like looking at strangers in a cabin for an hour in the morning and evening. There is just a strange sense of dis-connection that I can’t quite fathom.

It only adds to the strange tired surrealist experience I am currently going through right now.

This is a dreamlike episode I am currently putting myself through. Everything has slowed down, to the point where my thoughts are no longer running away from me, I’m typing at the perfect speed and thinking in sync with the sounds of my fingers hitting the keyboard.

The music, is on a loop, a pair of songs, so alike to each other, heavy beats and the slow strum of a guitar: Out of Time by Brian Reitzell, courtesy of the American Gods score & The Pink Room by Angelo Badalamenti, sourced from the atmospheric Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

It’s putting me in a strange trance, where every thought is loud, clear and almost echoing in my mind.

I’ve chosen this lifestyle.

The events life is characterised by hard manual work, constant patrolling, endless tasks, burning sun, pouring rain, tireless customer service, thankless acknowledgement, strangest hours, stressful situations, long bouts of boredom and the feeling of being completely alone whilst working in a team.

You are surrounded by thousands of people who are there for a good time, that only you can provide if everyone follows the rules.

The priest in a brothel. The chaplain in an army. The designated driver in a bar. The guy who is at “work disguised as a party”.

That is the cost of the events lifestyle.

I’m not joking when I say that I’m truly not sick of it yet.

In spite of the baggy eyes that look back at me, the trance state I am in to prepare myself for the long hours tomorrow, the calluses on my feet and stiffness in my shoulders, I’m still wearing a smile.

It might be tight, weary and a little bemused but it is a smile nevertheless.

I wouldn’t have my own career any other way. I love the down-to-earth nature of everyone in this business. I adore the physical strain against weather, safety equipment and events infrastructure. I’ve even made peace with the fact that events are temporary not permanent installations to be appreciated.

No, I’m not beaten yet. The determined fire within, still rages on.

I’m just need a bit of rest, that’s all.

However as promised, at 2249, I’ve finished writing over a thousand words, cheered myself on and steeled myself for the upcoming days, where I will be at a Marathon, an iconic square and a royal showgrounds.

And am I really out of anything if I can do all of that?

No. I’m never out of the fight against life.

I will bend it to my will.

~ Damocles.

FOMO – F**k Off, Me Only.

Perhaps the greatest gift introversion left me, was my ability to critically self-analyse emotional states in rapid speed.

This self analysis for my mental state has been an invaluable tool in navigating the world of extroversion. Because it is fundamentally a very different way of living for me, it has unlocked a lot of new feelings and sensations that I normally do not deal with.

The key one being FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

I’ve never really grappled with this sensation before. It is as if, being more extroverted has made me more curious and keen to try out new things, that I had previously dismissed.

I find myself considering activities that I hadn’t before, getting upset at not being invited to things, and overall getting irrationally fearful of the idea that perhaps I have been living my life wrong.

Perhaps I am too straight-edged, too disciplined, a person who cannot lose control like everyone else.

Am I boring?

That was the question that was running through my mind, as I realised that my 20s have been spent largely the same way; avoiding the excess of the party-lifestyle, never quite letting loose and avoiding altogether the type of night where you can forget, regret and dissect in bashful tones later.

It was in the middle of this panic, my critical self-analytical side came through and told me sternly:

The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.

It was right then and there, my FOMO disappeared almost instantly.

Why should I be ashamed of my impossibly high straight standards? I’ve chosen to live life this way.

No alcohol. No drugs. No stupid crowds. No environments that will tempt me to be led astray from my own exacting principles.

Whatever it is that normal people do, just because I engage with my friends more, doesn’t mean that I should compromise on what makes me a fundamentally different person to your average man.

It isn’t even a particularly arrogant claim either. There are just too many unique aspects about my character that elevate me beyond your normal person.

There are the surprised looks when I announce that I am a non-drinker. I somehow garner an instant respect that is imparted on my character. Then there is my actual name, which is relatively unique for a guy of Asian heritage. Even my appearance is strange, because of the numerous gadgets that populate my belt, courtesy of the EDC (Every Day Carry) philosophy I hold dear.

I’ve noticed that there are two types of reactions to my unflinchingly harsh values. I either earn people’s respect, or they want to drag me down to their level.

For example, my unwillingness to engage in clubbing or other raunchy debauchery only makes people want to drag me in more. The peer pressure is often intense and persistent. To the point where FOMO actually rears it’s ugly head.

Or they are keen to see me drink, as if witnessing me ingest alcohol will make them feel better.

People might question my standards, asking why I “subject” myself to such tough standards of living. I once met a guy who told he would never get along with me, simply because of my life choices.

“You’re not normal bro. You can’t loosen up.”

Which is true. I suppose I don’t really know how to loosen up the way everyone else does. I don’t drink, because to me, drinking is fundamentally running away.

You can’t find the courage to do something wild, so you need a false sense of bravado that can only come from drinking. It’s the same with drug use. Your creativity is limited, so you need something external to expand those horizons.

I don’t like running away from my mental problems. My defiance despite the mental strain, is what defines me and makes me stronger than the average person. I have confidence, wit, tenacity, will and calm because I refuse to run away from my problems.

I face them fair and square and deal with them on the spot. I don’t procrastinate, I don’t create excuses and I definitely don’t complain about my actions, if I know what the consequences are.

This is what makes me …. well …. me.

It’s why I wanted to address FOMO from a far less subjective way now. I can see now that FOMO is just a part of extroversion. After all, extroverts gather their energy from other people. To miss an opportunity, is to deprive yourself of that energy.

Which is why I am course-correcting my mental state. As a person who prides himself on being balanced and measured in many ways, I need to combat any heavy reliance on one form or the other. We’re talking about a guy who did a science and an arts degree in uni, can enjoy both indie and mainstream movies, loves military gear, whilst rocking a suit.

It’s why I have to learn to expel the emotions of FOMO out of my system. I can control who I want to see, and when I want to see them. I’m not as reliant on people like other extroverts are. Loneliness and solitude have always existed as comforting sensations in my head and I’m not going to give those up for the pleasures of seeing people every week.

I also want to remain fiercely independent. I don’t want to lose the points of differences that make me the person I am today. Rejecting the normal ways of “having fun and being loose” is a core part of what makes me unique.

Drinking, dancing and debauchery doesn’t do it for me. The moments I truly crave are those when the stakes are much higher than trying to score a girl’s number or a free drink at the bar.

Whilst a lot of people want to de-stress, unwind and hang out, I am all about the thrill. I desperately want more adrenaline, more activities that demand all my mental and physical prowess. Paintball, Karting, Urbex, Tennis, Range Days …. that is where I can really enjoy stress.

Perhaps the only true relaxing thing that I like to do, is golf, but even then, it can be mightily stressful getting a ball into a hole.

As I am going on this more extroverted journey, I need to keep reminding myself that the way I was living before, wasn’t wrong, ill-advised or boring.

I chose to live my life the way I want to, and swearing off the usual frivolities that other people engage in was a conscious decision that I made. I don’t have any regrets on doing so nor will I ever have. There are only so many places I can be at, at once and a lot of them don’t have much appeal to me.

FOMO is for folks who want to follow the trends and can’t buck conventions.

I’m never going to be one of those people.

So why should I pretend to be?

~ Damocles