Trauma

As a person who regularly moderates and observes his own mental state and emotional range, even now I am struggling to comprehend what happened yesterday, on the 11th of July, 2021. The gambit of emotions I have run through in the past 24 hours is testing every fibre of my resolve.

From a cold, objective perspective, what I witnessed yesterday was a systematic, calculated and Machiavellian plot to take down an elder statesman in the community.

It was … honestly, brilliant. A rather remarkable display of politics, insinuation and calculated slander. Always hinting, never directly targeting the blame. Always skirting the issue, yet the problem is clearly labelled.

A textbook example of how to ruin a man, whose untouchable reputation in the community was ironclad and ensure his fervent supporters were powerless to stop the slow decay of his mental state.

As the elder statesman bore more and more of the blame, of the fact that people despised him, despite his previous achievements, his stature and reputation, the head got lower and lower, until it finally reared itself from his hands, in a final, explosive burst.

He was all alone when it happened but literally seconds later, he was surrounded and pulled in every which way. A mob had surrounded him, his family desperate to tear him away from screams, hands and pleas to the car, as cameras filmed the entire debacle.

That elder statesman left in a blaze of anger, depression, trauma and scorned pride. Never before in the community, has a man been so humiliated, publicly decried and cast out in such a dramatic fashion.

The entire debacle was quite possibly the most divisive, destructive and pathetic thing I’ve ever seen and as a dark horse myself, it was also surprisingly illuminating into how politics work. I had flashbacks of infamous assassinations in history, from Caesar’s betrayal to Trotsky’s death.

If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared – Niccolo Machiavelli.

This injury was so severe, the man was hospitalised soon after, his entire world upended by the past 4 hours.

It just so happens, that the man who left the public inquiry, (more or less a public trial) in hysterics and tears was my father.

Speaking from a more emotional side, and as his son, I am torn between 70% pity and 30% resignation.

I pity the man and am sorrowful for his mental collapse. This is a man who has sacrificed everything, including his family, for the Vietnamese community.

All his work, passion, thoughts and energy went in service of the community. Every second sentence out of his mouth, was about how much he loved serving the community, how much he despised the Communists for taking over Vietnam and how his current project, a community centre in Victoria, meant everything to him.

He lived, breathed and now …. sacrificed everything for the community.

The other part of me, is resigned because this was a long time coming. His passion sometimes fuelled his pride too much and caused clashes with other headstrong individuals in the community. His inability to apologise for faults of his own making, and words had created dangerous enemies. There is a stubbornness of an ox in him, and naturally it was bound to cause division.

The past 7 months, he has become a brow-beaten individual. I have witnessed a incredible decay slowly tear away at him, from the inside. At first, I thought he was recovering but now … he is finished. Finished in every sense of the word. He has given up the fight inside of him, and is now more or less on autopilot. He doesn’t sleep properly, nor eat, nor can properly string together sentences well.

To provide context into what has caused the downfall of my father, you need to be aware of a couple salient facts.

  1. He is essentially one of the toughest individuals I know. Stubborn, resolute, honourable … his moral compass is unwavering. He has passed on better paying jobs, because he refuses to bend his moral code.
  2. Sacrifice is almost normal for him … only recently, has he really opened up about how he feels tremendous guilt for not being there more for my brother and I when we were growing up. This devotion to the community, has nearly robbed him of his family too.
  3. Stoicism is another trait of his that has really developed some questionable mental health issues that should have been treated long ago. Whilst I describe myself as stoic, I am also highly aware of my own emotional issues and perform weekly mental checks to be aware of my own state. From the moment I am awake, I am always hyper aware of my emotions and my consciousness works tirelessly to ensure my sub-conscious does not take over. My father does not have that level of self-awareness. He is ill-equipped to deal with his own failures, successes and his own mental health. Thus he hardly ever opens up, preferring to build upon the rot that is taking hold of him from the inside. This is a quintessential old man attitude to problem solving.
  4. He has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to the Vietnamese community. He is revered by many and respected by almost all.
  5. Lastly, were you to meet him in his prime, the only real way to describe him is a fervent revolutionary and patriot. Whilst I am sure he would object to the word, a fundamentalist is not an inaccurate term. For him, the world is very black or white, friend or foe, hero or villain.

Hence to accuse this pillar of the community, with suspicions of embezzlement and poor management is an incredibly deep blow to my father’s reputation. This is in light of his already touchy trigger point when it comes to money, due to a 2-year long lawsuit several years prior in which another member of the community accused my father of embezzlement.

His short fuse, becomes essentially a trigger, the moment any mention of money is involved and this was in the context of the community centre which he has ran from decades and is his biggest passion project. To strike so deeply at his very core, shook him immensely. It didn’t help one iota that these accusations came from his best friends, his proteges and people he had known for many years.

Naturally to have an public inquiry into his conduct, only one man had the power to call for such a open discussion into my father, the President of the Vietnamese Community, a man, my father once called a brother and personally groomed for the role, after his own retirement from the role.

Much like the Cain and Abel story, the current President had transformed into an entirely different person, his conduct becoming more political and phony, with every conversation I have had with the man, dripping with condescension, arrogance and insincere remarks. He behaves as if he is always standing in front of a journalist, with a mic in front of him …. his political double-speak and roundabout ways of describing things, a rather sickening aspect of his personality.

It doesn’t help that he lacks many loyal supporters, is indecisive and far too pedantic about small things, to really see the larger picture and the futility of his angry actions.

Petty, cowardly and spineless, the current President pinned the blame for an increase in land ownership payment squarely on the shoulders of my father, a move that is typical of his ilk. The irony of the entire situation was not lost on me, as in a move to try and cement his power, he underlined the weakness of his own, for in failing to address this payment it only highlighted the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of his leadership.

It would be amusing, if it wasn’t all so pathetic.

In the lead-up to the trial, my father had become so distraught and lost, that he ventured down a very dark path. Constantly watching samurai films, reflecting on the potential loss …. indulging in nihilistic thoughts … it came to a head that he asked for a family meeting and handed us his suicide note.

I ended up being the only one who read it, having had experience in writing and reading other people’s final thoughts before.

My brother and mother couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

When you view someone’s note, it always make for heart-wrenching reading. The whole note reeks of desperation, a plea for help and a futile helplessness that always ends up making the whole experience pathetic.

Because in many ways the truth is pathetic.

Everything we do is small in terms of the universe and such a concept is too humbling because we lose ourselves in it. Hence when you read someone’s final thoughts, you feel wretched reading it, and you know that the person felt equally terrible writing it.

But my father held on for this Sunday’s public hearing.

He had this hope that justice would prevail.

However, when I walked in and observed how the trial would go, I instantly clued in to the trap.

The facilitator was a compatriot of the President. The President didn’t seemed fazed by the video testimony of my father’s. My father’s supporters had their time cut short, due to “time constraints” which honestly had zero merit nor meaning. The facilitator would ask his own questions, chiming in to the interrogation and shouting over answers which his ridiculously tone-deaf attitude.

Then there was the hostile public, who often asked questions that had zero relation to the context of the meeting, and in a stereotypical Vietnamese fashion, would ask the same question in a different manner, just to have their ego stroked. This ensured the meeting went on much, much longer than necessary, a tactic that would be applauded by interrogators world-wide as it ensures the mental strain is enhanced by the slowness of everything occurring.

My father’s already fractured mental state would have broken even more under the constant barrage of questions which is again, another well known interrogation technique used in questioning suspects.

This trial wasn’t really a trial. It was essentially a trap designed around breaking down my father to a raw emotional state, so that it seemed that he was too emotionally distraught to make any rational decisions, thus nullifying his power and position as the lead of the heritage centre.

In contrast, the President would seem cool, rational and saintly, for having tolerated such an emotional subordinate for so long.

How could such a trial be a trial, without a clear outcome at the end? What was the purpose of this actual meeting? Why present my father before the public, as a scapegoat if the outcome was to prove/disprove his innocence? No such answers were provided at the end of the meeting, only political manoeuvring and heavy insinuations.

Instead, they asked the public to contribute questions on how to fundraise more money. That was none of the public’s concern. It was the committee’s job to think about how. Not the public.

But it did provide the opportunity for the public to ask even further questions and drag my father’s name further in the dirt.

It worked.

Because up until now, it seemed OK. My father was holding it together. The trap wasn’t too horrible to bear. Then they asked questions about one of his closest friends and before she could probably answer, the overbearing, pompous facilitator interrupted her, cutting her off.

This was the final straw. My father whose hands were covering his hand, could no longer stand by idly. Something inside of him snapped and he screamed at the entire crowd, before rushing out. His closest friends tried to stop him, afraid that he would do something rash. Opponents also rushed him, demanding him to stay and answer questions. My mother and brother screamed at everyone to let him go.

Utter chaos, mass hysteria.

I was frozen, unable to comprehend that sheer panic that had just happened. But I did note the expressions of his detractors and noted the smug expressions. So I merely picked up my father’s belongings, my own and followed the mob out, shutting off phones in the process, and staring at my father going stark raving mad.

I managed to push my way through to his car, and opened the door so that my family could get in. I only had just shut the door and said sternly, for everyone to Fuck Off when one of our closest family friends got in and drove off.

He was admitted into hospital literally 20 minutes later.

I followed suit in my car, with my best friend beside me. Everyone was concerned about me, but I knew that I had held everything together. I wasn’t going to get emotional, despite what I had just saw.

I was in control still.

A brief glimmer of pride blossomed inside of me, before it was instantaneously replaced with concern. So I followed my family to the hospital, where thankfully my father had calmed down enough.

There are some things that are traumatic to witness from a child’s perspective. Seeing your father essentially go crazy for a brief period, with hands grabbing at him constantly is one of those things. Tears, screams, wails and crazed expressions are horrible.

Fathers, for all their stereotypes, aren’t meant to weep nor show strong displays of emotions. Even in the family meeting he was subdued. But here my family and I were, confronted with a true image of the demon that controlled him inside.

Even now, I get the feeling I will never shake that image out of my head.

There is a reason why I am writing all of this now, because first and foremost, writing has always been my greatest therapeutic asset. I write when I am stressed, nervous, afraid, concerned, or confused. It allows me to recognise, sort and decipher all the complex emotion I am experiencing.

Even now, as I type these words out, I can feel my mind coming to grips with what happened yesterday better and better. I don’t have any particularly strong feelings of revenge, like my brother and mum. I am purely focused on helping my dad recover, to rediscover himself and find a new purpose.

He had sacrificed being a human being, with a curiosity for the world and other worldly pursuits for the community. I was determined to ensure this wasn’t going to happen again.

A big part of why he had turned into the shell of his former self, was because he devoted every waking moment to the community and the fight against Communism. He had no other pursuits, no other hobbies, nothing to take his mind off his work.

He was curious as to how I knew so much about fashion, about history, about guns and militarism. I told him flatly that I wasn’t devoted to just one thing, like he was.

I took him golfing, because as a man in his 60s, he wanted to keep up with me in tennis, but his body wouldn’t let him. So what better sport than golf? Out in the sunshine, beautiful greenery and swinging a club …. he could actually relax and focus on something different entirely.

He told me he had fun.

I told him, that fun was crucial for a good lifestyle.

He desperately needed a hobby where he could detox away from his phone and responsibility, and thus learn to appreciate the small things in life, whether it be a fine wine, the sensation of club against ball or the scent of rain.

He had lost his zeal for life, and thus when his only purpose was taken away too … he had nothing to live for.

The classic salaryman issue that plagues a lot of Asia.

Working with him, to rediscover himself, won’t be easy. But he is a strong man, and I have faith in his strength that he will get over this setback. The war might be over for him, but in a way, I am sure, deep down he is happy he can finally retire from it all.

It is always a freeing feeling to be away from toxic people and there were no better examples that those in the community who cast him out, despite his achievements.

Perhaps one day, I shall go into detail why the Vietnamese Community in Australia (Victoria) is such a toxic and poisonous chalice, but understand that it has a lot to do with the fact that many of its members are older generations Vietnamese, who had arrived to Australia with little in common with the host country. From English, to possessions, many Vietnamese people scrabbled to make a living, with many successfully doing so.

But the issue itself are the members within this community organisation, whose Anti-Communist rhetoric often falls upon deaf ears on the younger generation of children who are born with a foot in both worlds.

But then who can blame the children, whose very existence never knew the humidity of Vietnam’s jungles, nor the waters of the South China Seas. They can only imagine the world their parents describe, and then count themselves lucky to be born in a country that is technologically generations ahead of their parent’s homeland.

This inflammatory rhetoric only serves to alienate the two generations further. The feeling of isolation and the peculiar sense that time is running out to see their homeland free, causes many members to develop strong fundamentalist and patriotic views towards a country long deceased and forgotten in history; South Vietnam.

This ironically leads to many people, including the President himself, to copy and enforce rulings that are often seen in place at Communist parties.

From restrictions on language, silencing those who disagree, creating an atmosphere of fear, the community has long turned its back on nurturing the younger generation to take over and now exist as a shallow version of itself, focused only on pleasing the egos of the hardliners within.

It is without certain ironic amusement, that I note how my father have become an almost Trotsky-like figure, in which his critiques of the current administration are scathing and annoying. Then there are his loyal supporters, who range from young to old, a far cry from the current President’s popularity which only exists in a opportunistic, and controlling sense from the more old, ultra-nationalistic side.

Now with his banishment, engineered by a Stalinist-type ruler, I can only say that history often has a cruel sense of humour about how things play out.

Irony, upon irony … it’s often funny how no matter whether you are communist, or anti-communist, betrayals and political machinations have the same flavour anywhere and any time in history.

Doubtless my father will probably give me the biggest scolding, for comparing the current situation he finds himself, to the one of the founders of the Soviet Union, but that is the historical comparison I can best find off the top of my head.

But then, the current community itself, is as splintered and dangerous as the Soviets were in their formative years, so perhaps I am not too far off.

On a more personal note, I have decided to resign from the Lunar New Year Festival that has come to define so much of my personality and drive. There was a key moment for this decision.

Shortly, after my father was hospitalised, I wanted to prove something for myself. Such a faux trial scheme clearly took planning and a certain je ne sais quoi to pull off. I would admire it, if it wasn’t my father in the crosshairs.

But what had eluded me was the motive. Understandably, some people need no motive to see a man suffer, but in the case of the President I had to know why he had chosen to take such drastic action against his mentor and former brother-in-arms.

So I rang him. I decided that I would not be angry, nor emotional. I was completely civil, earnest and polite.

I started with a direct question, unwilling to tolerate any bullshit. After all, the trial was already 4 hours of bullshit that I was sick of hearing.

Why do you hate my dad?

The President was silent for a heartbeat, no doubt incredulous. He asked me to repeat my question.

OK, look, I want you to be completely honest with me. I can take it. I just want the truth.

Why do you hate my dad?

I don’t hate your dad! exclaimed the President.

OK fine. A bit of a harsh question, fair enough. Fine. Why do you dislike my dad then?

I don’t dislike your dad either! shot back the President.

Then what was the point of this whole thing today? There was no outcome, the entire thing was pointless. You …

He cuts me off indignantly, about how he didn’t say much, despite my own eyes witnessing him take the mic more than 20 times the entire session.

I cut him off again, and ask him why he was avoiding question. He replied with the statement

Look you’re being too emotional. I don’t think you’re in the right state of mind.

I scoff at the obvious statement. “A son has his father hospitalised and he’s emotional. Quite. Yet here I am, sensing you are the emotional one.” I think to myself before saying soothingly.

OK fine, you don’t dislike my dad. That was wrong of me to assume. If you don’t dislike my dad, then just tell me a couple of things you like about him then.

The President goes silent. In my own mind, I’m laughing at the ease of the checkmate.

Look, your dad and I are very different people. We don’t have to like or dislike one another to work together …. I

I cut him off. Political speak has always given me a bad case of allergies. I didn’t want him to exacerbate it further.

OK, I see how it is. You can’t tell me. It’s alright. Look, I just want to say that I am resigning from the TET Festival, effective immediately. You understand?

I …. OK.

I see how this is now. Thanks. Have a good night *click*

As I hung up, I knew that I made the right decision to call him. I wanted to prove without a doubt, that I was dealing with a man as slimy as I saw up in front of 100 other people. I was offering him an olive branch, a chance to see his morals, and how he would react under real pressure. After all, this is the son you are talking to, the son of a man you hospitalised. I wanted to see if the man was as phony behind closed doors as he was in public.

A villain would have snatched the opportunity to rub it in further. He would have laughed at my pain, and explained his motive. I hurt your dad, because he once stole a candy bar from me!

A hero would have tried to lessen the blow. I didn’t mean for it to go this far. I only did this because I believed your father was stopping our community from progressing.

The President of the Vietnamese Community in Victoria, was neither of those things.

Even in victory, he was a coward.

I can work for a villain or a hero. They have motives, purpose … reason.

But I can’t work for a coward.

A man who idly let everyone else do his dirty work? A guy who stands from afar at the mess he creates, letting others fight his battles? That’s not a leader, that’s a hyena. A pathetic scavenger.

A coward representing me? That goes against every single piece of military history, advice, and rule I hold dear in my heart.

So I quit.

Even now, I am still shocked at my decision to let go of a festival that I have bled for (literally), for nearly 7 years.

But I knew that I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I worked for a shitty boss. I am my own man for a reason.

And I’ll be damned if I let some spineless sonvuabitch throw me under the bus, much less be forced to have a conversation with that SOB lest my allergies crop up again.

The only issue is the team that have loyally helped and supported me over the years. They deserve to know everything and why I chose to quit and leave them alone finally for a year. I will make a solemn promise though to immediately call upon them and offer payment for services rendered when I am finally my own event manager. They are far too talented, skilled and studious to abandon to the whims of a madcap President.

After yesterday, there is definitely some bizarre trauma still etched upon my psyche. I have no doubt that I will get over it soon, judging from my own emotional performance yesterday, but like a scar, I will always look upon it and remember the circumstances that came with it.

But right now, it is not my mental well-being that needs help. It is my father’s.

If you are reading this, Dad, you should be aware of the Macchiavelli maxim.

Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.

I think you should be proud that everyone you ever met, always experienced what you really are.

~ Damocles.

The Well of Sorrow

Uzumaki – Junji Ito

Every so often, when I find myself stuck for ideas, I like to hold up a mirror to my face in the dark and stare.

The darkness that surrounds my face, magnifies what I really want to see … the darkness within, bubbling away on the surface of my subconscious.

The mirror is warped in my mind’s eye and all I can really see is the bizarre and twisted visage of me, when I am grieving, sad and self-destructive.

The Damocles that stares back is hideous to say the least. His eyes are completely black, with strange viscous liquid pouring from the corner of his eyes. His mouth is an endless void, devoid of teeth, the blackened lips opened in a soundless scream. The face of this Damocles is always desperate to tear itself free from the black void that surrounds it. There is always something that tears at him and he never seems to have the strength to free himself.

This is the Damocles that reminds me how to embrace the darkness within.

It is this version of myself that really gets me going and being creative again.

If you are asking why … that is a valid enough concern. I’m not a suicidal person. Nor do I consider myself depressed or particularly anxious.

Far from it … I’ve learnt to master a lot of those excessive emotional states when I was younger. Mostly through an extreme combination of rigorous mental deconstruction and egotistical arrogance.

Nowadays, I love myself too much to consider death, learnt to channel anxiety through a heightened sense of paranoia and observational awareness and gotten through depression by voiding and ignoring all thoughts of nihilism, in pursuit of personal glory.

What I believe though, is that this odd state is what happens, generally, to creative people when they are stuck. You need to be in a strange state in order to create. For me, it is staring deep inside and acknowledging the twisted version of myself.

I like putting myself in a state of fear, a strange paradox where the only thing I am truly afraid of … is myself.

If that sounds odd, then I would argue that within us all, is a bizarre desire to be self-destructive. Why else do we do extreme things to apparently feel something? Drinking, Gambling, Speeding, Toxic Relationships, Unhealthy Work-Life Balance … the list goes on.

In fact, I suspect the main reason why it is so difficult to remain healthy, in any period of history, is because we are always in a state of self-implosion. We always seem to be in a rush, always eager to do something rash and foolish, despite the dangers that our subconscious warns us about.

Take a good hard look at yourself, and wonder … why do you do the things you do? Beyond money … is there a real purpose behind your work? Your life? Your daily choices?

It is out of nihilism that you find purpose and meaning to defy the treacherous arms of that type of thinking.

This is why I choose to fear myself, above everything else. By putting myself in that state … I can find meaning and purpose and ideas.

Out of the void, comes light.

What is difficult for me though, is maintaining the right balance of dark and light. I can’t draw too much from this Well of Sorrow lest it consumes me and push me onto a path I don’t want to travel down.

After all, a big reason why people are afflicted with so much mental problems is because they continue to draw from their own personal Well and drink so much of it, that it clouds their thinking, causing them to lose purpose and drive.

It is all too easy to lose sight of oneself, when you are always in a state of drowning.

Bathe if you must, but never submerge yourself.

I used to wallow in my own Well. As an angry, despondent and purposeless man, this seemed like the best mental state to be in. Nothing mattered, little things would cause anger and resentment and I couldn’t laugh at myself, arguably the biggest sin of them all. I took everything with a seriousness it didn’t deserve, and would lash out frequently at friends, family, and strangers.

This is what happens when you indulge in the Well too much. Your ego becomes fragile, your confidence disappears, and anxiety, not awareness, turns into paranoia and self-sabotage.

You blame the world for your problems, not realising that your choice to drink from the poisoned chalice is what is truly causing everything to go wrong.

So why is it addicting? Why do I need it to be creative?

It is addicting, because it is so easy. Life seems easier knowing that you have nothing to do with it, you don’t contribute, you don’t participate nor engage with life. Nothing matters, says your twisted mind …

How wrong that all is. Of course things matter. Your health matter, your self belongs somewhere and you have value. You just need to create and become something you know you can be. You need to find work that fulfil and sustains you, your lifestyle and your health.

You just need to learn how to enjoy life. Let the money flow, the good times roll, and your body relax.

There needs to be a lovely cycle, where you work strenuously and efficiently, hard and well … so that when the end of the week, when you relax and actually enjoy a good meal, a drink and a pastime, it all feels worth it.

Learning to appreciate finer food, after dieting for a week, is a great way to recover your mental energy.

But life isn’t always perfect like that. Sometimes, I get this incredibly annoying sensation that I am not doing enough. This bereft feeling will drive me insane until I have this urge to write.

However, what do I write about? How do I enter my flow state, where words, mind, paper and pen become one? Only by indulging in the Well of Sorrow, by having a small drink, do I unlock my ability to write semi-well.

But that is the thing about the Well, every time I drink from it, I feel vaguely disgusted with myself. There is a strange symbiotic relationship that I have with the darker version of myself. It is almost parasitic even.

I do wish I could be frequently creative and able to enter the flow state at a whim without resorting to the Well of Sorrow, because whenever I do drink from it, it always seem to take a lot out of me at once. I can’t sleep, I don’t eat properly and there is only the insane desire to write.

This isn’t healthy nor conducive to my full-time work nor my overall health.

I especially wish I could use my creative ability under pressure. There are only rare occasions when I have to use my writing ability under the clock, but every time I am left with a piece of work that is disappointing and poorly written. I truly and honestly, wish I could be more workmanlike with my skill, as would make life a lot easier.

Especially when it comes to something fun, like the 48HR Film Project, which is a fun challenge that my friends and I like to do. But every time I am under that type of pressure to write a screenplay or a script, everything seems to fall apart, much to my dismay and annoyance.

I suppose that is why this blog is so eclectic in its content. Only when I am soul-searching like I am now, or gripped in the vices of the Well of Sorrow do you see new writing appear.

I just hope one day I can put that Well to rest and find some new ways to inspire me to create.

~ Damocles.

Hell Week …. Embracing the Suck

Drown-proofing.

This week, I’ve finally experienced some form of burn-out at work.

May has started with a weariness I didn’t expect, especially after the high of the end of April. This week, from the 3rd to the 9th has been one of bizarre lethargic shifts, lack of athletic prowess and a low-energy vibe running throughout the entire experience.

My lack of fighting spirit resulted in multiple days where time seemed to stretch on forever, and even now as I write during my shift, on Mother’s Day, this 4 hour stint at work has dragged on for what seems like infinity. I suspect if I die and am sent to hell, and I’m not a very religious guy, my personal hell would designed around a sheer lack of speed and efficiency. I would go mad with insanity at the pace in which life seem to drag on forever.

But let’s avoid giving the ruler of the underworld any more ideas.

This week has served as a crucial reminder to me to get a move on with my life. The conditions at my retail store has deteriorated to such a level, that I am now desperate to quit, instead of sticking around for longer.

It all started on Monday, when out of the blue, without any real warning, there was a call to consolidate stock across the entirety of Victoria and relocate excess stock found in one store to another lacking it.

This meant that I, on my own, had to pack over 100 different SKUs (stock keeping unit) into boxes and have them individually sorted for 13 different stocks across Victoria.

I was given until the EOD (End of Day) Tuesday to accomplish this task.

24 hours. Solo. 7 hours per shift, and still having to serve customers, up-sell, get membership and tell customers about promotions.

I was not given any extra help, because my staff were unable to come in on such short notice and that is not how my company operates.

They took items away from my store, that I knew would sell and boost my sales numbers if they had stayed. Now, instead of being a highly productive and profitable store, it would suffer due to the lack of stock. They had leveled the playing field, so that instead of several good stores, we were now all equally shit.

I was livid.

They were asking the impossible, demanding the ridiculous and cavalier with their care for staff. I knew my area manager would never order such an unreasonable request. It had to be higher up.

I immediately voiced my complaint to her in the weekly meeting. She was diplomatic and hinted that it was upper management’s fault.

I gave a very strongly worded complaint to the head of HR. It was ignored for 2 days before they came back to me. The answer was corporate bullshit, barely apologetic and served only to irritate me further.

I ended up pushing my physical limits in my shift of Tuesday to finish the job. EOD Tuesday meant that surely they would pick up the huge stack of boxes I had made by that very night right? What was the point of putting such a ridiculous deadline if it wasn’t urgent?

To my incredulity, they didn’t bother to pick it up until Thursday evening. I was extremely unhappy. I talked shit about the company to my group of friends I had made. I complained and whinged to other managers. One of them was sympathetic and had been vocal in her defence of her staff. The answers she received back showed her the true colours of upper management.

“We don’t care about the morale of your staff. My boss told me to get it done and so now I’m telling you to do it.”

She was so shocked and embittered that she decided to hand in her resignation. They didn’t even thank her properly. Just wished her well on whatever next journey she would take on.

She is the manager of one of the flagship stores in Melbourne. An invaluable asset. An incredibly hard worker, with the ability to turn any store around into something special. She had inherited the flagship store when it was in utter shambles and doing remarkably poorly. It was she who stabilised it, molded it into something neater, fuller and more profitable.

She was let go without a second’s thought. As if, someone of her experience and work ethic would just come along and take over her role with ease.

I couldn’t believe it. This was bordering on the ludicrous. Verging on the very edge of lunacy.

This corpo style of swapping out people like tools was like an anathema to me. In all my years of being a leader, I had always prided myself on looking after my people. I would treat all my volunteers, from newbies to veterans, with all the same care and loyalty. I liked to inspire people to follow me.

I didn’t see them as tools. I saw them as important friends and people that helped me achieve something special. I would never swap them out if they didn’t want to quit. If they left, I would say no hard feelings and accept it. If they stayed, I would reward them and make sure I looked after them.

My retail store offered neither of these experiences.

All these revelations occurred on Wednesday as I walked around the store, oddly despondent and lackadaisical. It was like a getting hit with a emotional hammer. I had kind of enjoyed my new role as a manager. It was difficult and tough, but I thought I was doing alright and that the company kind of had my back, despite the hardships.

I couldn’t be more wrong. Even worse, the flagship manager actually used to run my store that I had inherited. Upper management, upon hearing I was willing to accept the role, had forced her to move onto the current flagship store. She didn’t have a say in the matter.

To dump guilt atop of the righteous anger I felt … honestly broke something inside of me. I thought she was willing to move, that she was ready for an upgrade to something with even more responsibility. But now, it turned out, I had forced her aside and now she was quitting …

The shame I felt, lasted throughout this entire week. It threw me off my usual exercise routine, off my athletic ability in my weekly friendly game of badminton, off my diet and off my overall energy levels.

Only this part of me, the writer inside, continues to be strong, channeling all my emotional distress into something creative and therapeutic.

To top this entire shitty week off, my obsession with Formula 1 races was ruined by a man who keeps on winning and dominating the sport, in a dominating car and whom the world keep singing praises of constantly.

Having said all of this though, I do feel a bit better. The major lesson I’ve learnt from all of this horribleness is that I need to get a move on and finding a job in the events industry which is where I want to stay for the rest of my life and career.

It is in events that I became something of a leader and innovator, and where I can really help my friends and raise them up with me.

I cannot wait to quit this damn job in a couple of months and wash my hands of this terrible management style.

Somehow, no matter the job, I will always be displeased with someone from up high giving me orders.

Perhaps I really do have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

I will always be the odd one out and disobedient and vindictive towards authority.

Associate it with arrogance … define it as defiance … name it non-compliant .. hell, indicate it as insubordination but I’d rather go down swinging than blindly obey orders.

Especially when they don’t make sense and they come from a person who I don’t respect.

I’m a recalcitrant sonvuabitch … and I’ll die that way, being a pain in the ass than meekly accepting my fate.

I’ll take the whole world on, if I think it is wrong.

That is the only way I can come to term with how much things suck. By being headstrong and unruly.

I’ve been here long enough … it’s time to make a move and get the hell out of Dodge.

~ Damocles

Reflections on a Quarter of 2021.

My dream retreat … a place lonely and quiet enough to hear my own thoughts.

I used to greet my reflection like it was a stranger.

I didn’t recognise the face that stared back at me as my own.

However, ever since I started the Before 30 (B30) Challenge, I’ve slowly become accustomed to my own visage. As strange as this sounds, but before I started the B30, I never liked looking at my own reflection.

I couldn’t come to grips with the idea, that, that was who I looked like. In my mind, I didn’t really have a strong idea of what I looked like, and that somehow the mirror was showing me a mirage. I could hear my own words, feel my own feelings … but you can’t see your own face unless it is reflected.

To verge on the philosophical … I didn’t trust the mirrors, the image I saw of myself. They were reflections, not true visualisation of who I am. A very strange insecurity to have.

I am a very … accommodating person when it comes to beauty. If I hang around you long enough, there is a chance I will eventually come to the breakthrough that there is something inherently attractive about you. It’s not difficult for me to identify why they could end up with a partner. Yet for all my generosity, I could never truly pinpoint what made me attractive.

Even when I struggled to find an answer, I kept reverting back to my force of personality. I assumed most of my charm laid in my sense of humour, my confidence and my inherent charisma. I never once considered that my facial features was capable of attracting anyone.

I’ll be honest … deep down, a part of me, despite getting more and more comfortable with my facial features, still think I blend in as a very average looking Asian male.

This is a reflection about change though. Much has changed since the lockdown ended in my beautiful hometown of Melbourne. I’ve become obsessed with tennis, a full time manager of a retail store, am currently undertaking a part-time course in event management to up-skill my considerable experience and am engaging in weekly badminton sessions with my friends.

Throw in a strange desire to be more extroverted than ever before, and I wonder what happened to the Damocles of 2 years prior, the man who would be too tired to go to anything after a casual, dull 5 hours of work and preferred to spend his time in a digital city known as Los Santos.

That Damocles before COVID-19 is now long gone. The hermit has finally shed his shell and is now more eager than ever to embrace life after having an entire year stolen from him, without his permission.

In a lot of ways, I hit the ground running the moment COVID-19 lockdowns were over. I was actually furious. An entire year stolen away from me, an imposition of further retail work, when 2020 was meant to be the year I quit the damn company and be my own boss.

I think a lot of the changes that have occurred, from my rather drastic weight loss, to my inherently poor decision to adopt one of the most frustrating sports in the world (tennis) … have all stemmed from a critically furious part of me inside, that is resentful, bitter and arrogantly spiteful that the world has somehow dared to interfere with my life plans.

So, in reality, this is me accelerating everything I have ever wanted to improve upon. I rarely feel tired nowadays, so invigorated by this angry side of me, that I am pushing myself for rapid growth.

I am greedy for life.

I want to lose more weight and achieve some type of peak fitness that enables me to chase down cars travelling at 40km/h or lift a girl up easily over my shoulders.

I want to play tennis competitively and win some type of trophy.

I want to resurrect my business, Tofu Events and become my own employer and man, responsible for my own livelihood.

I want my own apartment and so have been psychologically been planning out my days, so that I can realise what it is like to live on your own.

I want to attend more events and spend less time at home.

I want to be a better conversationalist.

I want to do a side flip, a front flip and eventually a parkour Kong Vault.

I even want to get better at singing and dancing.

The kicker is … I want ALL of these things to happen before I am 30.

That gives me 2 years to achieve everything.

Not impossible. Especially if I keep on working hard and making sure I am kept as busy as possible.

I realise now that the reason why I was more introverted, was because I wasn’t really taking control of my life. I treated friends sparsely, when really, to celebrate their company, I should be spending more time with them, making them laugh, think, and smile.

I’ve also realised just how much confidence I’ve gathered by being more fit. Perhaps too much, because I need to be careful that I don’t become some narcissistic asshole, which is all too easy for someone as arrogant and asshole-y like me.

I keep catching myself looking in the mirror more, when I really should stop. The obsession with looking good is such good bait. It keeps you going, pushing harder in your exercises, but I’ll also freely admit, that I need to be aware of how dangerous that is, especially if I keep going to the point of injury.

There is no point in injuring yourself, because you’ve just denied yourself another rep.

It is an incredibly weird sensation though … to look at yourself in the mirror and go … “Hey, that’s not bad.” As a guy who has never step foot in a gym before nor lifted a single weight, I was always averse to gym culture.

But I think I have a good understanding now and why it is addicting. It is visible improvement you can see, and something like that is its’ own motivation.

That being said though, I’m still not going to step foot in a gym. I prefer to run outside and get engaged in more sports. I will also admit, that I have an obssession with speed and have been really trying to improve how fast I can accelerate, thus my use of a plate carrier to load up more weight, thus when I take it off … I should really be flying.

Which has definitely been proven correct, because I think I am now faster than ever before. The world seems to stand still when I accelerate to my top speed.

Throughout my journey so far, I must be thankful to 2 fictional characters: Rocky Balboa and Steve Rogers. They are the two men that have steered and pushed me to even further efforts while retaining my own identity and forging my own path, regardless of the obstacles in the way.

Through Rocky, I learned to never give up and acknowledge that the grind is always worth something.

Through Steve, I learned to push my limits even further than I thought was possible, to try and get some kind of feeling in being superhuman.

I’m always reminded though, of how much of a good person I should be, whenever I channel Steve Rogers. I’m still shaking my head at the moral compass, the character of Captain America always seems to instill in me at random times.

Such as when I was running, completely out of breath, struggling to breathe under the weight of the plate carrier after a 200 metre sprint, and yet I still had to stoop down to pick up rubbish. It was just a random thing I felt like I had to do. I will also admit to being a bit protective of the gardens that I do laps around now, because it is such a lovely park, to see it polluted just seem wrong, especially when there are ample bins everywhere.

The power of superheroes … making you conscientious even when you shouldn’t be.

But it was Rocky that really began the journey to losing weight and getting fit. His music and story never fails to get me amped and I can directly correlate my ability to push harder to his character. I never thought I would relate to a guy like Rocky, but his story is universal.

I even attribute my dieting to him as well. I knew from the get-go, that losing weight wasn’t about working or running hard. It was about learning to control my eating habits that had balloon up at crazy times.

So …. that means no eating until 2pm every day, and making sure it is light, so that my body can learn to convert that into energy, instead of storing somewhere. The same goes for dinner at a relatively late time at 7.30pm.

2 meals a day, plenty of water and exercise. This is the way forward for me and … it’s not that easy, when I know there is so much good food out there. Culling my snacking was the worst transition.

Staying lean and mean ….

What has been the best thing about this whole journey so far, is that I can tell that I am making improvement in my own life. I can actually see changes happening and that if I keep working this hard, something will swing my way soon.

I’m going to sound cliched, but at the moment … life is looking good. But that doesn’t mean I can get complacent. After all, moods can swing rapidly and one lousy day can set back months of progress.

Life isn’t easy with discipline but it is a lot more rewarding.

With winter now encroaching upon Melbourne, I am definitely feeling the chills. But if Rocky can do it, that means I got no excuse to slack off, thanks to a little cold.

P.S. A small insight into this reflection piece … if the image above of the house by the lake sticks with you, then you are looking in my mind palace. This is what I always project when writing these pieces.

Imagine a guy in a totally dark room, with only the moon reflecting off the lake for light, and he is writing slowly but surely in a book. He is dressed casually, but with a white-grey wolf fur kaross adorned across his shoulders for warmth. Soft jazz is scratchily played from a record player and the sound of water lapping the ground underneath the veranda adds another melodic atmosphere to the room.

As dramatic as this is, that is what makes me write so well in any circumstances, imagining myself all alone in a glass house, focusing only on the scratching of my pen on paper.

~Damocles

An Eventful Return ….

Brewers Feast 2021 – Abbotsford, Melbourne.

Yesterday, straight after work, I ended up being a volunteer at a festival. Something I haven’t done in over a year now.

I have forgotten how thankless, tiring and draining event work is. No one really appreciates the effort that goes into making an event come to life. But that is the song of chaos and control you must dance to as the event organiser.

It was also a blast to be back.

All the usual hectic activity was happening. When an event is underway and the initial set up is complete, it is a breeze. All you need to do is ensure the program runs smoothly and every single person is aware of their duties. The event essentially runs itself. There is no need to be running around.

Instead you rest, relax a bit and soak in the atmosphere you’ve created over many painstaking months. You chat to patrons, volunteers and rub shoulders with the band.

My volunteer shift started with the shitty job. The part of the festival that is never fun and involves a lot of frustrated and tired people: bumping out.

I knew exactly why my tutor (the general manager for the Brewer’s Festival) put me on for the bump out. He was aware of my experience in the past in dealing with festivals and in particular, angry stall holders.

So he made me the gatekeeper. The first man to be yelled at and assaulted by sponsors, food vendors and tired festival workers.

I had honestly forgotten how you can get the biggest spectrum of reactions from people. You can always tell who did the worst at the event and the ones who were successful. You can also always tell those who just want to get the hell out of there, safety and people be damned and others who are understanding and know the realistic situation everyone is in.

Those who pull rank on me, I despise. “I talked to Trevor! (not my tutor’s real name) He SAID that I can come in and do this, in front of these people here. I don’t care what others are loading, they’re not loading a 1.6 ton cart onto a trailer with 6 people. Why can’t you just let me in?” whined the ice-cream man who clearly made something of a loss.

Then I’ll get other responses like “Hey mate, all good man. I get it. I don’t mind waiting. You got a pretty good job though hey?” the relaxed cider guy would say with a sarcastic smirk.

Finally, the last typical response would be “Ahhh shit. Not much you can do right? Alright mate. Keep me posted” the tired whiskey man would say with a deep sigh.

Customer service skills, are something I still need to work on. It’s not easy, stroking the egos of so many different types of people and making them all happy. But then I will confess that I have always struggled when I am a “volunteer”, unsure of how much authority I am allowed to stamp out. As the boss of my own festival, I know that I am a firmer character and stick less to the rules. I am more flexible, relaxed, preferring the “rule of the jungle” than trying to impose any sensibility into a chaotic time, like bumping out.

“First come, first served” is more my style, as it takes the blame out of the organisers and there is more competition between the stall holders to see who can get to their stall first. I can direct traffic better this way, than being more rigid and sticking to a time slot.

But that is not the rules of engagement I was handed with and so I had to be a dutiful soldier and follow orders. I still ended up being a bit flexible in who I let in, but it was within reason and I think the bump out process went as smoothly as it could have.

I struck multiple deals though. Promising to help this stall out, by carrying half their load up a small hill. Reassuring another lady that she would get through soon, after this guy sorted his stuff out.

I only ended up fulfilling half of them. But that is the nature of the chaos that always descend during bump out.

I must say, overall, it was fun to be working amongst hard-toiling volunteers. There is a camaraderie that is struck up so quickly and naturally, and despite being amongst complete strangers, it was fun to share a bit of banter and work.

I stuck to my usual default “silent & strong” mode, chiming in only with a quip or offer for help, the words of eternal wisdom: “better to be silent and be thought of as a fool, than to open your mouth and prove them correct” echoing strongly in my mind as I kept working.

I was also curious to find out that I was still the best equipped volunteer there, my faithful companion of many years, the Pelican flashlight proving to be an invaluable asset as night fell over the venue, as well as the Mechanix Cut gloves I always pack in my EDC (Every Day Carry) bag. I would be remiss to not mention my other faithful friend, the Leatherman Skeletool multitool that honestly …. I have lost count the number of times I have used it at events and aorund in life.

I guess my atypical mentality of being “over-prepared” for everything does pay dividends in the long run.

Another strange piece of reflection I had during the bump out, was seeing my trusty combat boots finally get dirty. I had worn these for so long, just as casual piece of footwear, only to now truly see them in their element, keeping my feet comfortable, moving and stable over gravel, wet grass, patches of mud and endless ice from endless beer … it made me grateful I am always seeking the best the military has to offer and buying them for my own use.

It made me happy to see my investments enabling me to work harder and longer without discomfort. I enjoy bringing tools, gear and kit to environments and really testing them and seeing how I can work more efficiently with them.

A point of pride for me, was the fact that my stamina and strength had increased since the last time I was at an event. I covered a surprising 12.5km yesterday, just from walking around at work and at the festival and I felt physically OK at the end of it all. The B30 Challenge and my fixation with tennis paying off.

Overall, the Brewer’s Feast was a good event to attend, even if I was only there briefly. I was astonished at how long people spent there and how everything had a very cosy atmosphere. Despite the amount of alcohol that was flowing, there were very little need for security to step in, and there truly was a family friendly vibe about the entire event. I couldn’t believe how many vendors attended and took the opportunity to showcase their unique alcoholic blends. I liked the layout, the staff, and the vibe.

It wasn’t hard to see why this event had been running for 5 years and still saw massive attendance, even in the twilight hours of a Sunday.

It was just … nice to be at an event again, running around, being busy, physically and mentally and using all my tools again.

The Brewer’s Feast was a reminder that this is truly the industry I want to work in and that while I nearly missed the start of the MotoGP & F1 because I had rush home, and that my dinner consisted of slightly stale McDonalds nuggets … I wouldn’t trade attending a good festival for all the hardships in the world.

The best thing too, was that the night was topped off with an awesome race in Imola by the F1 fraternity.

~ Damocles.

Individual Responsibility

Hamlet (1996) – The film that made me detest and admire Shakespeare in equal measure.
Alas poor Yorick!

The older I get, the more politics seem to grate on me, and I feel myself longing for some type of controlled anarchy.

Before I come across as some type of chaos agent from Get Smart, what I specifically mean by that is a community that understands and values the core principles of individual responsibility.

Fundamental to that ideal, is the idea that you alone are responsible for what happens to you.

It places a greater pressure on yourself to be the very best version of you. It also implicitly blames you for your own choices, poor decisions and failures. There is no pinning the blame on others, on the world or some perceived slight against yourself.

You go through life, keenly aware that everything you do, you did for a reason.

You also fight complacency at almost every step, because you realise that you can’t really afford to make bad decisions without facing some type of consequence.

It breeds mindful people. People who understand that nothing they do can really be taken for granted, that the casual toss of rubbish here affects others, that your decision to snack on junk food today, will mean more tooth decay and adverse health benefits tomorrow.

A society where people are more aware of their own impact on themselves and others can only generate more positive outcomes to the broader community.

This doesn’t eliminate assholes of course, but then nothing ever will. There will always be people whose predilections and outlooks on life offend you. But they can be assholes with a purpose. They understand why they are behaving the way they are, and will actually have a reason why they do the things they do.

In other words, a person with legitimate reason for believing the things they do and can actually back themselves up, regardless of what atrocious or reasonable beliefs they may have.

So why did I use the words “controlled anarchy?”

Well beyond the shock value, and odd juxtaposition of definitions in those two words, I find that the two find a strange middle ground in terms of governance, with perhaps a slight lean towards anarchy.

I like the appeal behind anarchy, because it is all about self-reliance, and it strips away any pretension we might have about each other. It is raw, animalistic and probably the worst and most stressful way to live, because honestly, you’re not living …. you’re just surviving.

Which brings me to a crucial next point. Individual responsibility isn’t just about empowering your beliefs and values. It also helps highlight deficits you think you might have in life, especially with regards to personal health and skills.

Survival skills have been lacking in a lot of people recently. We are now less observant, less healthy, and less prepared than ever before. You can argue that in an urban environment you no longer need to navigate by the stars, or be able to pluck a chicken.

The counter-argument to that is of course, you still do need survival skills. Cars, bikes, construction work, there is still a prevalent need to develop awareness to avoid nasty accidents and injury.

But the most important issue that is being missed, is that old-fashioned wilderness skills are key to appreciating nature itself.

A greater appreciation of earth is never a bad thing, especially with how people treat their rubbish, food waste and daily consumption of goods. Survival skills help you understand and empathise with the living world around us, to help humble your ego and instill in you, a sense of mortality.

Mortality … a word that barely registers in our consciousness nowadays, but really should. We all think we are going to live forever with the advances of science and medicine, but I think the COVID-19 crisis has finally warned us, that we are very, very susceptible to death.

However, instead of reacting in a knee-jerk way, and celebrating the end of COVID-19, should there not be a greater and deeper reflection on the way how we live our lives? Should we not embrace the greater responsibility to self and work to improve and embrace more of the time we have left?

Where is the gratitude for surviving a plague?

Where is the drive to get healthier, to spend less, to see the positives effects of slowing down humanity’s progress to allow the Earth to catch up?

Instead we just chose to resume everything as normal again and ignore any net positives COVID might have taught us.

Individual responsibility is all about realising that change starts with yourself first. Take courage from that fact, because there is nothing more empowering than knowing that the sky is the limit when it comes to change within.

The world won’t move for you, nor will it acknowledge you, but you have all the power within to enact any change you want.

Want to get fit? Start exercising and trimming down your diet.

Want to get fight-ready? Start training with the money you earn, and sign yourself up for a fight in the ring.

Want to be more attractive? Look after your skin, build up confidence in the strengths you have and take nothing personally. Rejection is not a sign of unattractiveness, it’s a signal for you to search elsewhere.

Want to get better at something? Put in the hours. 24 hours in a day, in which you only lose 6-7 hours to sleep, and 8 hours to work still means you got 9 hours to put in the hard yards to learn, improve and inspire.

This is what individual responsibility is all about. It forces you to take a long hard look at yourself and find the strength within to do everything you ever wanted to do. It inspires you to reach higher heights because you alone know how much you are capable of.

Don’t blame the world, blame yourself first. Only you can change yourself, the world doesn’t give 2 shits about you.

Look after yourself, and stay hungry for more and suddenly it will seem like the sun is shining down especially bright for you, whereas for everyone else, the sky is cloudy.

In a world full of people willing to embrace themselves, improve themselves and better themselves, there is no real ceiling that can stop it. You will see unity amongst people, because they realise that they can’t change others, only themselves and that is OK. You learn to accept others, because they don’t really do you any harm.

The world is less offended, more introspective and accepting. You don’t feel the need to preach to others, to get angry at something beyond your control because you look inwards first and then realise it’s OK if something is beyond reproach.

I think in a lot of ways, the society that truly espouses what I am discussing right now, is early America in the wake of the American Revolution. There was an incredible ideology back then that really embraced what I am discussing, the freedoms in which the American people enjoyed were only made possible because people trusted one another to be responsible for themselves.

In particular if you observe the first 2 amendments of the American Constitution;

The 1st Amendment: Protects the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government.

The 2nd Amendment: Protects the right to keep and bear arms.

Cast your mind back to that period of history, where governments and kingdoms ruled with an iron fist and enjoyed suppressing people as much as the next local dictator next door … the very first two amendments granted the people the extraordinary ability to police their own government and prevent any supreme leader from appearing.

The Constitution allows people to protest, bear arms against the government if suspected of tyranny and express themselves however damn well they wanted.

All the things modern governments still very much fear and do their best to control.

If the very first two Amendments are not a glowing recommendation for individual responsibility than observe the 9th and 10th Amendment which explicitly states

The 9th Amendment: states that rights not enumerated in the Constitution are retained by the people.

The 10th Amendment: states that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated or enumerated to it through the Constitution.

Both Amendments further restricts the power of the government and places a greater emphasis on people governing themselves.

Much like controlled anarchy.

However, such idealism would inevitably be lost to today’s world, especially with the prevalence of even more censorship, propaganda and downright lies spread by everyone.

The irony of too much freedom, is that people start to wish for more control.

With more control, only comes more laziness, more complacency and a desire to blame the other instead of yourself.

Reject the controlling nature of the world. Confuse the algorithms, or reject them entirely. Be informed, be smart, be in self-control of what you consume, read and think.

By embracing yourself, by taking on more responsibility for yourself, you create your own world, instead of falling into the prison that others have designed for you.

Dare to know, dare to challenge yourself and dare to win.

vivamus, moriendum est.

let us live, since we must die.

~ Damocles.

Observance

Yeah, that’s me.

27 years …

Years. What a strange concept time is. If I was to indulge in a bit of mathematics, then that would mean, I have survived …

9,855 Days

or

236,520 Hours

or

14,191,200 Minutes.

Rookie numbers.

It’s strange though, because for once, I don’t feel like I have changed or regressed. Instead, I’m wondering about the futility of it all, pondering about the whole concept of birthdays and spending the earliest parts of the morning getting my thoughts down.

How little all of this actually means to anyone except myself. And even I don’t really give a shit about it.

The world doesn’t stop because I am celebrating my birthday, nor does it even knows I have one. Time is defined by man, so why did we choose 60 seconds to define a minute of our lives?

Why 60 seconds? What is a second?

All I know about time, is really how much pressure it places on everyone. On me. I can’t help but constantly remind myself about how time I’ve wasted. It’s the one crippling insecurity that constantly plagues my mind.

I like to think myself impervious to most types of self-doubt. I don’t have that much of an issue with my physical appearance, nor my ability to adapt, improvise and overcome challenges. I can be extroverted, introverted and everything in between.

Charming, debonair, average, handsome, ruthless, generous, petty or magnanimous … there is little beyond my reach when it comes to my abilities and charms.

But before the endless progress of time, I feel helpless, angry and keenly self-aware of my weaknesses and procrastination of the important things in my life.

I feel like I am wasting my only chance, my life. I get all too wrapped up on my mortality, and the desire to be named a legend in something.

It’s depressing and nihilistic.

The two adjectives I despise most the in world, because they just seem like an anathema to me, a terrible cycle that induces more time wasting.

In a lot of ways, my fear of time is a lot like if I had alcohol addiction …. I drink to forget I have an addiction, but it only fuels it more.

So, are there any plans to celebrate my birthday?

With the way how things are in the world, not really. It’ll probably just be another day that gets blurred with all others, like in quarantine, just with an added bonus of being more moody and reflective.

As I inch closer to 30 though, I feel like I got to work harder nowadays. I do have this fear of not working hard enough and not committing myself more to some type of success.

I guess this is why I am going to start another challenge for myself. I have to address this insecurity about time and learn to commit to a more regular schedule of work.

3 things to do a day.

Raise my productivity, force my creativity out and shed my laziness.

Physical, Mental or Spiritual …. I need to work on at least one of those 3 aspects in my life to improve things.

There is nothing quite like the feeling when you are aware of how talented, intelligent and overall capable you are, and yet cannot muster the energy nor the will to make use of it.

Physical training, Mental conditional and Spiritual awareness.

If I can at least start to address all of these things by doing 3 simple tasks a day, I think by the time I am 29, I might be able to reach some type of epiphany about my fear of time.

Whilst I get that today’s lifestyle and addictions are a result of rapid technological advancements that are supposed to make life easier, I have often found, in reality, it makes life a lot more hollow.

And the hollow feeling you get, is because you know you could be doing more, with more.

That sensation, is probably one of the most relatable feelings anyone today could have.

It’s OK to feel that.

I just wish it would go away.

That doesn’t excuse my laziness though.

So I got to change it.

3 things Damocles.

Just start with 3 things a day.

Maybe one day, your birthday won’t feel like another finish line where you were too slow.

~ Damocles

Melodies, Melancholia, Moods & Melbourne.

Empty Degraves St (Source)

To set the scene … I’m sitting, in a largely silent house, listening to Japanese Jazz, and playing with a folder knife.

Soft amber light is casting my room in a comfortable glow, my legs are sprawled comfortably across my chair and bed and I wish I was smoking a cigarette, despite never having had any tobacco before.

I’m lounging like this, when it struck me that I still got two more weeks of this isolation lockdown, this lovely house arrest after our illustrious Melbourne Premier, announced his “roadmap” out COVID-19 last Sunday on the auspicious day of the 6th of September.

The moment that thought struck me, I felt this strange sense of calm resigned depression overcome my thoughts. Several nihilistic actions happened soon after.

I felt bizarrely like dropping my knife into my thigh. Then I wanted to throw it into the wall. Finally, my fingers moved and just gave the knife a couple of twirls, before placing it down gently.

That’s enough of that silliness said my mind to my mind. I agree said my voice to myself.

Nostalgia soon arrived after, like the scent of spring after a long winter, and reminded me what I missed.

The city of Melbourne.

I’ve always beheld her as some dangerously seductive femme fatale in my mind.

Clad in a appropriately black cocktail dress, Melbourne had enchanting emerald eyes like the numerous parks, long wavy raven hair that sparkled like the Yarra at night and lightly sun-kissed skin, akin to her best side at sunsets.

Her voice would be husky, Lauren Bacall-esque in delivery and cadence. She would be moody, like the weather, able to dazzle with daylight and disparage with hail in a heartbeat.

(Just imagine a Elizabeth Debicki type with dark hair and you’re getting a close approximation of how I imagine Melbourne. Elegant, refined beauty that somehow floors you with mysterious wise eyes. Did you know she is a Melburnian? How quaint that such an extremely tall, statuesque silver screen goddess would come from this neck of the woods. But I always long held the belief that the women in Melbourne were beautiful, like the city itself.)

But Melbourne would always be welcoming, enticing you to explore more of her fun, secretive personality, to discover what hidden treasures she had tucked away for the curious.

I miss spending nights with her.

Finding bars in the unlikeliest places. Scouting rooftops that could take your breath away with the climb, the guards and the view. Appreciating quiet venues with comfortable sofas, a fireplace and transit ambience.

I would always visit her at least once a month. I love my home-town too much, to neglect Melbourne like that. There is always something on offer, always some covert restaurant that promised more delicious food, or some tucked-away club that catered to Cuban cigar aficionados.

You can see the highest of highs in Melbourne, and experience the lowest of lows all in the same night.

I think that is what I am finding difficult to grapple with the most. The slow, inexorable death of personality within, that only happens when days merge into each other, when weeks become confused and foggy, the future offering no light at the end of your tunnel.

I know, I know. This is all very dramatic.

I blame the Japanese Jazz, I’m listening to.

Before I was compelled to write this … whatever this is …. I was playing what I call “lethargic” music, the type of slightly edgy, dark, sensual and atmospheric sounds that lulls you into thinking all type of wrong things. Check out The Pink Room by Angelo Badalamenti or Out of Time by Brian Reitzell if this kind of thing appeals to you.

It only ever does, when I feel like fully embracing nihilism, a very unhealthy thing to do in these times, because feeling like there is no purpose, will only make you more aware of how time has dulled in this lockdown.

Feeling mopey, I then channelled French jazz, the type of songs that make you long for the touch of a woman, a stiff drink, a cigarette and a comfortable bed to partake in all of those things. Dance Me to the End of Love by Madeleine Peyroux is arguably the love song of my entire romantic lifespan. I always indulge in this song, when I crave a girl to convince me everything is going to be OK, with her touch, her voice and her gentle ministrations.

Royal Blue by Henry Macini is the second most romantic song I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Whenever I indulge in fond romantic memories, this always plays softly in the background. The melody always rekindles this feeling of simpler, more maudlin and glamorous times, when life wasn’t quite the shitstorm of stress it is now.

I couldn’t quite stand how emotional I was getting, and the knife twirls were only getting more furious.

So I moved onto Japanese Jazz, in particular the work of Yuji Ohno of Lupin the Third fame.

Quite possibly what I consider the jazz national anthem of Japan, Lupin the Third‘s theme, is iconic in the extreme, but it is the song Mayflower that I really adore.

Calming, slow, with a really beautiful piano melody, Mayflower never fails to relaxes me and let me soak in some kind of strange tranquil ambience.

But by then, I was feeling myself slip into too much of a relaxed state. So I switched it up to the excellent album Cafe Relaxin’ Lupin and ended up really wishing I could be sipping a hot chocolate in a rain soaked alleyway of Melbourne, watching people and cars go by.

It’s strange, because now as I reflect upon these past months of COVID-19, I realised I’ve truly run a gambit and exhausted all options. I’ve spent recklessly, gamed frantically, read furiously, written copiously, exercised manically and watched entertainment habitually … but now all I have left are my thoughts.

I’ve outlasted myself. Robbed myself of anything left to do.

Purpose is bereft at the moment. All the lights I’ve tried to maintain are being extinguished in favour of wallowing in the dark of nihilistic sadness.

Thanks COVID-19. Truly appreciate this exploration of the depth of despair.

Hmph.

At least I still got my sarcastic, bitter sense of humour. That’s the one thing nothing will ever rob from me.

I’m not really sure what was the point of writing all of this down was. But it did serve a purpose. It allowed me to vent, to acknowledge the state I am in and feel like I am actually in touch with how I truly feel.

Sometimes, when I write, I just want to write, without rhyme, rhythm or reason.

This is one of those posts.

Utterly rubbish drivel, composed in absurd alliteration, and half-baked similes.

But, this is really how I feel. I’m just getting in touch with myself, through me.

That’s important, when there is so much craziness out there.

Sometimes when we are alone, we have to be our own company.

That isn’t crazy. It’s just logical.

COVID-19 really does strip everyone down to their bare basics.

I feel a bit like Pandora’s Box, my many emotions released into the world like the evils in trapped within.

All that is left is my scornful humour. My “hope” is my cynical amusement.

When Damocles is truly crushed, and fermented and turned into wine …

Acerbic wit, is my distilled essence.

That’s not so bad is it?

No, I suppose it isn’t.

Thanks COVID-19. I hate it.

~ Damocles.

Walking Between the Raindrops

Fin – COVID-19 Final Thoughts

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This is the finale to the COVID-19 Series.

Overall, I rather enjoyed writing broadly and personally about COVID-19. I’ve really allowed myself to vent out my frustration, and also see things in a more positive light than what the news has been assaulting me with for the past 6 months.

“The Great Reset” as I’ve come to coined the pandemic, has really shown the disparity in wealth and culture that globalism and capitalism has wreaked upon the world.

When you are sick, but need to go to work to earn enough upkeep to sustain your life, shit is beyond fucked.

Truly my heart goes out to all small business owners who have been destroyed by this pandemic and I can only imagine the stress and pain they are going through right now.

I’ve been fortunate to keep my retail job, this back-up plan of mine that I was going to abandon by mid 2020, literally saving me from the devastation COVID-19 has wrecked upon people’s livelihoods.

But now, with a Stage 4 lockdown coming in, I am on the same playing field, as everyone else. My store will be closed by tomorrow and I shall be out of work for the next 6 weeks.

It’ll probably feel like a very long month and a half if I am honest. I shall be putting most of my effort into getting “racer-ready” and cutting down my lap times in Gran Turismo Sport.

I’ll also have to continue my dry-firing drills, improving my Spanish and ensuring I actually come to an conclusion with regards to Sol, the sci-fi story I am creating right now.

Now that I’m looking on the mountain of work ahead of me, I’m a bit more optimistic about the stuff I have to do on this break.

With any luck, this toughest lockdown will bring the pandemic under control and some semblance of normality will return to my beloved hometown.

The cynic in me though, is skeptical. The mood here is the most down-trodden I’ve ever seen and often when the collective mood is depressive, things tend to get more self-destructive than better.

Our Premier is losing his command and respect, the people are more openly flaunting the rules, and there is a nihilistic outlook on life.

An attitude that says “if we get it, fine, so be it. I can’t be bothered fighting anymore.” This is naturally extremely dangerous and represents a collective defeatist attitude in the town, something that will only prolong the lockdown.

But, I can’t blame people for feeling that way. There is no crueller and tougher way to bounce back, after a victory felt earned, won and sealed, only for it to be taken away.

We walked away, thinking COVID-19 was defeated, that we, as a team, did our duty and job to the best of our ability. That our sacrifices meant a victory in the long run.

To have COVID-19 come back, rendering all those sacrifices for nothing, and with our bullshit tank empty, we have nothing to cling onto anymore. Hope is lost and once people lose hope, it is very difficult to behave rationally.

That is the mood of Melbourne right now, on the cusp of the toughest and strictest lockdown ever felt.

It’s as dire as it sounds.

This series has left me exhausted and replete with the amount of words and emotions I’ve dedicated to this topic.

I doubt I have much else to say on COVID-19. I’ve truly explored all the topics I want to discuss and can leave in peace.

I now have a lot of work to do and other avenues to explore.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my opinions as much as I felt relief in writing them down.

Until the next post,

~ Damocles. 

Fantasia – Damocles’ Journal in context of COVID-19.

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This journal, has been expanding exponentially since I’ve decided to dust it off when I started my Before 30 Challenge. 

But it was COVID-19 that really allowed me to take this journal to another level and express myself even more.

I felt like talking more, mostly because I was being driven to the depths of boredom at work.

COVID-19 has really also made me wish I had an editor on board, because the keyboard at work is atrocious, and its “stickiness” causes a lot of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

I don’t think I’ve read a single post, whereupon publishing, I would reread it and be compelled to go back and edit out the mistakes.

This keyboard, I am writing on, truly sucks for speed too, as my thoughts often run faster than I can type. I do miss my home keyboard, because it allows my hands to keep pace with myself.

There’s also the frequent interruption to my chains of thoughts, as I have to duck out for a few seconds to serve customers or help them, before returning and struggle to recollect my chain of logic.

It’s a strange mental exercise, but one that I am slowly getting better at. I think it’s an important skill, to hold something in your mind, address something else, and then return to it.

Memory skills are something I really need to train and develop. It never ceases to amaze me, how much I forget in a day, the important details I’ve missed and the crucial conversations I lose track of.

Memories, I feel, are crucial to your overall mental well-being, because beyond its obvious indication that you don’t have dementia, it also serves an important function in reminding you of lessons you need to take heed of.

To err is to be human, to make the same error twice, is stupid.

In context of this journal, COVID-19 has also granted me a boom, in followers. I’ve been really surprised to see the number of people follow and read this blog, and show their support, even in the smallest way with a “like.” I have done absolutely nothing to promote this blog, no tags, no SEO-linkage, nothing at all.

So to have anyone genuinely read my posts, despite the huge amount content out there, still floors me. The fact that I have an audience, no matter how big or small it is, means that I feel encouraged to keep writing and producing stories.

Honestly, I get such a swell of emotion whenever I get that WordPress email telling me that someone reacted positively to my posts. It reaffirms my belief that I am not the most horrific writer out there, that people can actually enjoy reading something I’ve made.

This has been a surprising experience for me as well, because usually I am quite a private person, unwilling to share my thoughts, even amongst my friends. I made the decision to go public with this Journal, because I felt the need to be held accountable for my progress in the B30 Challenge.

“Public shaming” if you will.

I couldn’t live with myself, if I failed in front of people, so that’s why this Journal exists. To keep pushing me to create, be productive and keep practising what I preach.

It’s easy to convince yourself to accept failure when you are alone.

It’s a lot harder to convince yourself that you are doing things right, when you fail in front of people and peers.

I’m really glad I took up writing again, just before COVID-19 started, because it provides me with a reference to my state of mind before the pandemic. As I mentioned earlier, it’s amazing how much the human mind forgets and often, we need a record of ourselves to help enable more personal growth and introspection.

When we look back at ourselves, we should have two feelings: embarrassment and pride. Embarrassed that we were so uncivilised back then and proud that we have grown up and moved past that state.

Seeing progress in ourselves, is what makes us confident and better people.

This Journal has helped me see that I’m getting better, in some ways and worse in others. It lets me identify key problems within, and create solutions to address those issues.

It also serves as a pep talk to myself. I think, everyone reading this Journal can see that, whilst I am extraordinarily harsh on myself, I am also quite encouraging. I know that I’ve made mistakes, that I’ve slipped, but that isn’t a call for defeat, because I can just get back up, take notes on why I made a mistake, and not repeat it.

I suppose you could say, I do reassure myself a lot. Probably my subconscious working to protect my fragile ego.

But if it works, it works, and I’m not one to break from an established procedure that has proven itself.

In a way, COVID-19 has proven itself to be a bit of blessing when it comes to personal development. Whilst the world has gone to shit, I’ve felt more attuned to myself and my needs and my priorities. I’ve focused on making myself resilient and tough in the face of adversity.

And all the pandemics in the world, can’t really take that away from me.

It might seem like a waste of time, a frivolous expenditure of your life, but can it truly be all that bad, when you’ve improved yourself?

COVID-19 might have paused the world, but it can’t pause you.

Work hard, train hard and be hard.

~ Damocles.