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

Defined by Disability

The conversation was the sort you wished you never engaged in.  

Short, stilted, stifling and stillborn.  

Working at the Melbourne International Film Festival, which prides itself on its accessibility and diversity, I struck up a conversation with one my volunteers, who was partially blind. 

I opened it the same way I would with anyone else, a quick question about what they do for a living, what life was like for them beyond the context of this festival.  

He said that he didn’t do anything.  

Undeterred by the curt nature of the answer, I asked about what made him chose to be a volunteer at MIFF. He said he wanted to do something.  

Now actively struggling with the lack interest in the conversation I gave it one last chance.  

I asked about what sort of films he liked. He replied a bit more genuinely with “exploitation movies” but when pressed, did not elaborate further on what was his favourite sub-genre.  

Looking at his body language, I knew that the conversation was as dead as it could be. His curt, succinct answers, the evasive body language, the nervous twitches and the way how he seemed to beat himself up after every answer … 

It was time to just slip into silence and make it as comfortable as two strangers sitting in close proximity could make it.  

A feat that was easier to accomplish than one would think, because silence was golden. It was one of those rare things, that I never felt awkward about. Sometimes the presence of a person was enough.  

The resentment he felt about his blindness was obvious. He blamed it for everything that was wrong with his life. It showed in the way how he refused to use his walking stick, putting it away as soon as possible. The way how he stared at his phone, trying to hold it as far back as possible. His tone of voice, gruff and bitter, whenever asked about his disability and whether we could help in any way.  

I never treated him any different to a person who could see, never asking once about his blindness or whether he wanted any special treatment.  

But his resentment was all consuming. He didn’t acknowledge my efforts, lumping me in with everyone else.  

His situation and attitude was all too understandable of course. If I had sight, and began to lose it, there is no telling how I would react as well. Probably the same as him. My world would soon fade and be covered in darkness. Memories would lose their potency, faces, once so distinct and sharp, now a blur.  

How terrifying. 

Would I let it define me though?  

It’s strange, because I was born partially deaf. I am unable to hear high-frequency sounds, hence my actual voice has a lisp to it, because to me, words don’t have a tsch, sch, or sh sound.  

So I don’t know what a world with those sounds, actually sound like. It also doesn’t greatly affect me. I’ve normalised it so much, chose to live life without hearing aids, and just crank up the volume on things that I don’t really see it as a disability.  

Sure, whispers are a struggle and I understand it’s frustrating for people to repeat themselves, but it’s never been viewed as a proper disability in my head.  

I consider myself lucky, if anything, to suffer such a minor inconvenience. I’ve been blessed in a lot of other ways, that more than make up for this tiny shortcoming.  

But for this random blind guy, he was consumed by the trauma of his disability. He was unable to let it go, choosing to let the pain define who he was as a person.  

I know I am making huge assumptions about the guy, but there was such a strange sadness to his behaviour, I couldn’t help but feel pity for him.  

It reminded me of a very modern problem, where people define themselves by their past instead of their present.  

The way I see it, there’s two types of people, those who spend their lives trying to build a future and those who spend their lives trying to rebuild the past.  

People who define themselves by the past find it easier to view the world as a place that owes them something. Whether it is a traumatic event, some ancient history related to their culture or something that happens to be trending and resonant to their values, these people find their worth in the past.  

It’s a terribly backwards way to live. Defined by your past, never truly letting go of issues that shouldn’t affect your future. But for these people, it is all they have to live by. At their core, these people will never truly move on, because the world is to blame, and the world has to change to suit them.  

Which of course is nonsense, because no one is beholden to anything, nor anything to them. You make your own way, no matter how difficult or easy the road is.  

But that is the deceptive beauty behind living in the past. You can make your own way easier, by blaming external factors, instead of the fact that you are the one not moving your feet in the right direction.  

You can manipulate the world into blaming itself, guilting itself to fit your narrative, your own personal story.  

It is these sort of people who, without conscious effort, will invariably self-destruct. 

To live in the past, is to always travel backwards, and stifle personal growth. You are defined by your past, thus you are unable to let go of it.  

Those whose eye is on the future, will always outshine those who live in the past. Because to live a full life, is to understand that you are always continuously improving. You aren’t defined by your past, moulded slightly by it, affected deeply by it, but never defined.  

You are more than your past, more than your mistakes, greater than your trauma and far more capable than your previous self. Every day, should be a step forwards in improving a part of you, discovering a new element within your complex and pushing your boundaries.  

It could be found in a new way of talking to a friend, reading a book about new psychology, exploring a new topic of interest, listening to different viewpoints or even pushing your comfort zone at work.  

This is what it means to let go of your past, because you learn from your mistakes, do your best not to repeat them and take on board the lesson.  

We’ve all been despicable at some point in our lives … what makes us better, is understanding the route to that mistake and not repeating the error.  

Similarly, we’ve all been slighted by someone before. Why should their folly define who we are as a person?  

At some point in that person’s life, they too will be challenged. If they let their past define them, they will never grow. Just like how if you allow that person’s attitude and behaviour towards you define you, you will never evolve.  

Don’t let the past define who you are … learn from it and look to something greater in the future.     

~ Damocles.

576 Hours of Performance.

24 Hours of Le Mans

Tuesday 12th 2022 0900HRS ——- August 4th 2022 2000HRS

24 Days of Non-Stop Work.

In what has to be the worst scheduling conflict of my entire professional career, I had accidentally booked myself in for work every single day.

I didn’t even stop there either, I made sure my calendar had social agenda items, space for deep emotional talks and time to work out.

Looking back on it, I’m not even sure I remember exactly what I did. Certain moments stand out … crucial make or break flashpoints that defined how my mental state was going to cope with the next day.

Mostly, the 24 days were filled with what I call “Operational Fugue:” 80% boredom followed up with 20% of sheer panic.

Which means that I don’t really remember any strong details from those 24 days, because they all started to blend together into an miasma of constant work.

All I knew is that I had to keep trudging along … right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot … until I could finally wrap it all up.

So if the days start to blend together, what are the flashpoints do I actually remember?

Go-karting was one of them. As was the RUN MELBOURNE Marathon event I worked at. EDUTEST was another. A run-in with a friend I hadn’t seen in nearly 5 years. An emotional break-down. Donating blood.

And finally saying goodbye to my retail job.

When I look back at my calendar, that is surprisingly accurate. These are all the main flashpoints that really defined the 24 day work stint.

So perhaps my memory is not as shot as I originally thought it was.

However to truly understand why I embarked on such a long working stint is to appreciate that my event career is finally starting to take off.

Traditionally for 2022, I have been working 6 day work-weeks. I will do my obligatory 5 days at my retail store before giving myself an opportunity over the weekend to work at some event. Which meant that my Saturdays would be booked for an event gig, before heading back in to retail for a shorter Sunday and recovery on Mondays.

Everything was quite well balanced, all things considered, because the work load at my extremely quiet retail store was light. I also thought of my event gigs as a mini-holiday, a welcome reset from the drudgery of retail, because the energy and vibes of an event was so adrenaline-soaked, that it reinvigorated me for the week.

So … because I was working that extra day, I started picking up gigs left, right and centre. It didn’t matter what kind of event it was, if it was paid, I was going to be the known as the ever-competent, strong Red Bull Mercenary.

Why Red Bull? Because my event uniform, regardless of any event I attended, was the same. A Formula 1 Red Bull polo shirt, with dark navy cargo pants, a drop-leg pouch on my right thigh with cable ties and a Red Bull can sitting comfy inside, two multi-tools and a torch on my right side and a pair of Mechanix gloves on my left hip.

Besides being a stunning, loud and professional design, the Red Bull polo shirt instantly created a certain a myth around me. It was my personal brand. This was a conscious statement, that you could rely on my experience and abilities. It also spoke about my passion for motorsports, and could even be interpreted as a further testament to my love for all things precise and mechanical. Finally, because the polo shirt was just so loud, it also acted as an low-key high-visibility shirt. Everyone couldn’t mistake it for anything else.

It meant that everything I did was scrutinised and noticed … and I had no issue with being nicknamed “Red Bull” whenever I was needed.

Thus my reputation amongst a lot of different event companies was growing. People were getting impressed and eager to hire me.

Which is how I scored a job at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) and the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Both of which have been extremely fun so far and thus enabled me the exit from retail I so desperately wanted.

But the problem was, because I was full-time in retail … this meant that I had to give 4 weeks notice.

And being the moron I was, instead of taking 2 weeks of leave, I decided to ride it out and somehow balance three jobs in one long 576 hours stint.

This meant that on the days I wasn’t working at retail, I was then rushing to the Melbourne Showgrounds to start my career there, or heading out to see friends after work. I crammed my schedule so tight that there were days when I left the house at 0545 and didn’t get home till 0400 the next day … which meant that I nearly spent 24 hours awake.

Thus those flashpoints stood out very strongly in my mind. Because they were the moments that just stand out above the constant grind.

Go-Karting was fun because I went with two new friends who have never tried it and I was the quickest racer on track, easily lapping many people around me.

It also reignited in me the old spark, of what I still crave, the smell of petrol, the slight loss of control when the back-end flicks out, unable to keep up with my turning angle and the absolute thrill of delivering a clean lap, whilst over-taking slower karters.

But if you asked me to describe the experience in vivid detail, I’ll struggle to do so, because the night became a blur very quickly, because by the time the lap was finished, I was already prepping myself mentally for work the next day.

The RUN MELBOURNE event was unlike any other I have experience. It didn’t help that the day before I was working at the Showgrounds, on EDUTEST, an academic exam aimed at high school students, to assist with their application to better schools.

I saw none of the exams for the record. Arriving at 0650 after a long drive, with an overnight bag slung over my shoulder, I put everything down quickly and was instantly sent to work … traffic managing over 4000 cars.

In the rain. With stupid rules that meant that parents had to leave their child behind in our care and then exit. In which the exit only worked perfunctorily because there was a traffic light that only flashed green too infrequently to allow this sea of cars to exit out of the venue.

Thus creating a huge backlog of cars that stretched for ages and kicked off what I called “the soccer mom” phase, where angry parents, frustrated at sitting in their cars for hours now began to complain loudly and get out of their vehicles to voice their opinion to us, the staff who have nothing to do with the organisers.

And it was terrifying, seeing a flash crowd hop out of their cars, 8 at a time and begin to echo their harassment at you. Soaked, tired, and already close to half of my 27K steps done that day, I mostly resorted to polite pleading, for understanding and pointing out the fact that they didn’t need to be soaked whilst waiting.

Luckily, this mollified most of them, but the complaints were a constant throughout the entire day, and it was extremely difficult to maintain a customer service mien for what was a 8 hour shift. However push through I did, despite the rain, the shitty attitudes and the slow ache in my feet. Because at the end of the day, this was the kind of work I loved and wanted to do for the rest of my life. Nothing else could compare, especially the drudgery of retail to being outdoors, in the elements, working at an event.

But the moment the shift was over, I began my journey to the city, hooking my heavy duffel bag over my shoulder through crowded trains, where I had booked an South Yarra apartment for myself, because in all honesty, what I wanted and desperately craved was space for myself after weeks and hours of work.

And it was perfect. Quite possibly the best highlight of the entire 24 work day stint, because it was spacious, quiet, had a nice view of the city and I was alone. I could truly just let my guard down and just live in the moment, despite knowing that I had to get up by 2am the next day.

So I sorted out my kit, walked out, grabbed nearby Greek food at the restaurant opposite my apartment, did some light grocery shopping; an orange juice, a Red Bull and some muesli bars, and then sat in front of the TV and just relaxed.

Then it was off to bed at 2000Hrs, and I slept fitfully, unsure if I was going to miss my alarm.

I ended up waking up early, staring out at the city view and noting how dark it was outside. I took a shower, downed the orange juice, and put on my Red Bull event uniform, then hunted for an e-scooter to take me to the venue.

Scooting along the road, I caught the remnants of a wild night out for a lot of people at 3am in the morning, drunkards passed out on the street or stumbling along the road. But I was too preoccupied with looking for the venue at Olympic Park to care.

RUN Melbourne ended up being one of the more interesting events I’ve ever worked at. The staff were all consummate professionals, at first slightly taken aback by my overwhelming amount of kit, but were soon reassured by my own event history and knowledge. I was a 2IC to one of the key organisers, and within an hour, was given a radio, autonomy and a section to look after.

It seemed that whatever I was doing, taking initiative, performing tasks with confidence and competency, was working.

My main role at the event was to spot the podium finishers for each of the races, the half-marathon, the 10K and the 5K run and then help with the pack-down.

Both of which went pretty flawlessly, except for the length of the event itself, which surprised me by finishing by 2pm in the afternoon, especially when you consider that it only started at 6am in the morning. But what really shocked me, was when I looked at my clock at 1000 and realised to my astonishment that I had been up and working for 7 hours by that point.

It was right then and there, I took my first Red Bull of the day.

So for the rest of the day, I was lugging crowd control barriers to and from spots, taking down marquees, and emptying hundreds of litres of water and Gatorade bins.

It was glorious, physical work under a warm sun, and I ended up being good companions with a lot of staff, for my technical knowledge and friendly banter.

By the time 1700 rolled around, I was physically spent and I could feel my legs were shaking from exhaustion, the previous day’s stint of 27K steps, now superseded by 47K.

I ended up consuming 3 Red Bulls that day, the last two, taken one after another, to get me back to my accommodation.

The sleep I had that night was instant and deep, only to be rudely awakened at 0700 to prepare for the Monday’s continued pack-down. It was lighter work thankfully, but it did feel longer, considering how much truck-packing there was and how tired I was after yesterday’s efforts.

But by Monday’s 1400, I was on my way home-home, and ready to collapse for the rest of the day.

Most people would have taken the next day off.

Not me. Tuesday morning, I was in my retail uniform, serving customers again and thinking about how much longer I could keep this constant work performance up.

When I look back at this long work stint, I realise that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. As long as I paced myself, didn’t let the stress of working too much get to me and just slept at regular hours, I knew I was going to be OK.

I’m still surprised that I never got sick once during that period, or even now. With the amount of people I was seeing, the outdoor conditions and the bizarre hours I was eating at, I was sure that at some point I was going to get sick.

But it turned out I was a lot healthier and stronger than I thought.

Long challenges like these remind me that maybe I am a bit more capable than the ordinary person. That maybe, just maybe, if I was successful in enlisting in the Army, I could have survived the SAS’ Selection and become one of the world’s most feared Special Forces warriors.

It’s also touched on a strange nerve I have, about how much I’ve changed into a workaholic.

Because despite some heavy emotional moments, I kept my head up and did what I had to. I went to work. I had tough conversations. I stayed true to myself. I met with friends, despite my exhaustion and I fulfilled my duties.

I don’t think I could have asked more of myself, but somehow, despite doing all of that, for 24 days straight …. I still get this feeling that I could have given more.

But maybe that is just fanciful thinking.

~ Damocles.

To have everything ….

It never ceases to surprise me, how life can still be so lifeless despite having everything.

There is a certain attraction to nihilistic thinking when you have everything you could desire.

When I look at my life, there is so much to be thankful, grateful and appreciative of.

Allow me to list just a few of these elements:

  • A stable family unit – a community leader father, a sweet & loving mother, and a self sufficient younger brother
  • A close-knit group of friends, all of whom are quite respectable people in their own right
  • Working in desired industry and making a name for myself, thanks to my iconic self-branding
  • Relatively fit and coordinated in comparison to a lot of my other friends
  • Decently intelligent, with a focus on quick-analysis and rapid problem solving
  • Live in a prestigious and safe neighbourhood, with plenty of parks and shopping centres close-by
  • Owns a car with decent mileage
  • Does not have any physical defects or disabilities
  • Debt-free, with a decent income
  • Am decently popular with people, and with a reputation for reliability to boot.
  • Has access to a professional network that is quite influential in wider Victoria and a support network that is remarkably generous.
  • Has reasonably good taste in many cultural elements, from food to fashion and broader aesthetic appeal.
  • Am not terribly ugly
  • Am only attracted to healthy women, both mentally and physically
  • Blessed with a lack of curiosity regarding drugs, alcohol, nicotine and other narcotics
  • Seem to have a special relationship with Lady Luck but am not a gambler

When you look at my life, as a considerable whole …. there is very little to criticise. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have steered and be guided in all the right ways.

So why is it that I keep getting these urges to throw it all away?

When you have everything, there is this strange feeling that you should have nothing.

Perhaps this emotional response stems from the bizarre notion that maybe in life, I’ve made too many correct decisions, that I haven’t really fell from grace and had a proper chance to learn from my mistakes. I’m almost too responsible, too balanced to the point that I am seeking out cheap thrills to make up for some defect in me that is entirely made-up.

Because when you have everything, you start making up your own problems to solve.

If that concept is true, that I really have made too many right choices, then it would explain why the main complaint about my life is all centered around the notion of boredom.

Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat  – whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.

And when you’ve made as many correct decisions as I have, and live such a sheltered life, it’s bound to get to you. I can’t seem to make mistakes, regardless of how terrible my life might be.

In some cases, even my most severe mistakes are covered off by Lady Luck herself.

Perhaps I am underestimating my own mental fortitude, that others might have fallen from grace even with all the opportunities I have, but I still haven’t quite found that challenge where I’ve felt like I had to give it my all.

It’s why the idea of starting afresh, alone, away and far from everything I’ve ever had seems so enticing. Because there is no greater challenge than trying to make something of yourself with a blank canvas.

I suppose that is why I find writing so soothing. Because I start with absolutely nothing but a blank piece of paper. It is starkly white, devoid of any creativity or thought. It is truly empty.

I’ve reached this strange crossroad in my life, where I feel this urge to just disappear and see what I am truly made of, without help or anything comfortable. It’s strange to reject such a wholesome, perfect lifestyle where I am truly blessed with incredible people and opportunities but that is just how I feel.

I like to think that I am a self-made man. That I’ve gotten this far without any true assistance or hand-holding, that my mistakes were mine to make, my luck is mine to own and that my life is truly mine to control.

But the more I ponder about it, the more I can’t help but feel like I’ve been too lucky. Like the consequences for my life have not been severe enough. It is such a bizarre concept, that even now I have to admit that it sounds like I am making up more problems again, just to justify some stupid insecurity.

I just want to feel like my life is tougher than it currently is. It is hard to hear praise for my current lifestyle, without feeling like some imposter, like I haven’t really truly earned the compliments because deep down, I know I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve it.

I suppose it falls back to the question that I’ve always struggled to answer.

Do I work hard enough?

People around me seem to think so. They’re calling upon me to rest, to slow down and smell the roses.

But I don’t know if I am working that hard. It seems like everything comes so naturally for me. That I got plenty of down-time even during my shifts at work.

Perhaps it’s not work that I really want more of, but stimulation. I want to experience that rush of everything working perfectly in unison, mentally and physically more often. But too often it’s one or the other.

With event work, it’s generally more physically-intensive, whilst with my general hobby of writing, it is obviously mentally stimulating.

Where is the job where it becomes both? I already know the instinctive answer deep down, that I can only find that in the military, but I’ve put those dreams to rest already.

I know that the closest I am going to get to that rush of both mental and physical taxation, is when I can finally organise my own festivals without any interference. My ambition in that sense is still very strong. The desire to create an event that will be remembered and renowned the state over is still burning very brightly.

I just hope that my apparently endless good luck will allow me to keep this original idea to myself, before someone takes it and cocks it up.

However, back to the question at hand …. do I work hard?

If I said Yes … I don’t believe myself.

If I said No … I also don’t believe that either.

So like most of my life so far, it seems like I am merely coasting along, cruising on my luck and genetic talent …

It just feels so lazy, like I am not truly living life as I should be, working much harder to achieve my goals.

In a strange way, I envy so many of my friends for their daily struggles. Life for them, seem so much harder.

It looks genuinely more tiring, more energy is required to survive, whilst I am over here, merely getting by with ease, no problems or issues at all.

That is why when they praise me for seemingly having it all put together, I instantly feel like I am not worthy. I don’t struggle as much as they do, nor do I put in as much as they do.

I don’t suffer as much as they do.

I know … what a stupid problem to have.

These feelings of unworthiness are such a strange issue to have, in my seemingly perfect life, but like most insecurities, they eat away at you and will never quite fade away.

Still, in the broader context of things, it’s a lot better to always feel like you have to work harder, achieve more and be better than hold yourself on a pedestal.

So even now, these feelings can be seen in a positive light, an additional boost of motivation to be better, so that one day I can feel worthy of the things I’ve achieved.

Yeah …. I got too much going for me.

Sorry.

~ Damocles.

K-9.

Recently, I’ve been finding myself longing for a dog.

Perhaps it was just a very trying week I went through, but there’s no denying the fact that I’ve been quite touched by the two pets that have comforted me when I was feeling my most down.

For a very long time, most of my friends have mentioned that I would be best suited handling a dog for a pet. With my active lifestyle, military obsession and fondness for all things expressing disciplined aggression, I suppose it is only natural that a dog, preferably one suitable for K-9 application would be my pet of choice.

There is something remarkably sweet about how perceptive dogs are too, the way how they look at your with their eyes, sympathy pouring out from their pupils and the manner in which they keep you company when you are down.

It is the perfect, quiet companionship that everyone needs once in a while.

Nowadays with where I am at mentally, I’ve never really given as much serious thought into owning a pet, as I do now.

I am all too aware of the cons.

The mess pets leave behind, the cost of owning one, the daily exercise, the fact that I might one day grow to resent the poor animal, due to some of the inconveniences that might arise, fur in general …

But there is just something undeniably sweet about having one nearby to stroke, feel comforted by and sense the unconditional love. It is such a pure feeling, something that I’ve noticed is in short supply nowadays.

I can already picture myself running alongside with my dog, raising it up from a young pup to a grown adult and overall just enjoying my time with a pet in my life.

So what is holding me back?

I suppose it’s the demands of the pet. Working in the events field, I know that I have a lot of long, irregular hours, with some of them stretching multiple days in a row. I can’t bring my dog to every event, in the hopes of exercising it during my break. I also suspect travelling all around Melbourne will keep me away from my pet frequently, which is equally neglectful.

Nor could I see myself feeling comfortable knowing that the poor creature is stuck in a tiny apartment with me, with barely any room to run around, as that is a serious consideration for the health of the pet.

I also fear the emotional attachment, as strange as that sounds. Having a pet pass away is a highly tragic moment in any pet owner’s life and that is a piece of emotional baggage that I could do without. The loss would be devastating to me and whilst I will doubtless recover, knowing myself as well as I do, the world wouldn’t be quite the same without the dog in it.

In a lot of ways, this reflective piece about dogs and the benefits they would bring me, versus the negative effects is emblematic of how I view the world.

I’m afraid of the emotional investment in a lot of things. I struggle with the leap of faith that is needed to dismiss the cons of a beneficial relationship and just appreciate good times for what they are.

Instead I over-rationalise, drive logic in where emotions rules and try to stop things before they have even started.

I mean this is the perfect case in point, all the benefits of owning a dog is clear.

Having a dog would enrich my life, teach me to be more responsible, get me active and provide comfort when none is forthcoming. I would come home to a much friendlier and warmer atmosphere, and enjoy some quiet companionship when I need it.

In a lot of ways, having a dog would do a lot to remove some of the recurring existentialist issues that I seem to have a habit of repeating. A dog would keep me busy after work, forcing me to exercise when I don’t want to, and be my friend when I don’t really have any to call upon.

It would be a wonderful reminder that in spite of all my flaws, problems and issues, I am still loved in some shape or form.

All the benefits of having a pet are there, staring at me in the face.

But I can’t quite accept it.

Perhaps that is the biggest running joke about my life. That I am so used to caring for others, that the moment something can care for me, I shy away from it.

It is almost like I am incapable of accepting help, only offering it.

I pre-emptively dismiss any help thrown my way, being a stubborn jerk about it, refusing to admit to an extent, how much I actually need help, before turning around and complaining about no-one doing anything to assist me.

How ironic.

I suppose that is all the more reason to invest in a dog. At least their feelings aren’t hurt as badly by my actions, like some of my friends. I can’t resist the sad look in a dog’s eyes, any more I would push away a sultry woman pouting prettily at me.

If that is the case, then I might as well indulge as much as I can into this fantasy.

What breed would I pick for my first dog?

Ideally a good medium sized dog. People have often associated me with the most iconic K9 breed, the German Shepherd, but ever since I watched John Wick 3: Parabellum, I love the size, look and intelligence of a Belgian Malinois.

I wouldn’t be above a classic Labrador Retriever or a Beagle either. In short, my choice of dogs are your classic shepherd breeds, big enough to be fast and strong, smart enough to save you and aggressive enough to take down threats.

What would name your dog?

Ideally my pet would be male but I’m not opposed to a female dog either. If it was male, I would name him Sabre, a call back to my fencing days in uni as well as a small reference to the British military vernacular.

If I had a female dog, her name would be Halle, an obvious nod to the actress Halle Berry and her kickass role in the third John Wick movie.

What would your daily routine be with your dog?

Ideally I would do exercise twice a day. Once in the morning, a brisk, short run and then a longer walk/run in the evening. If I lived near a beach, it would be nice to do laps along the sand with the dog in tow, and using the exercise equipment along the coast. I would naturally feed it around the same time as my dinner and lunch and ensure that it is cleaned weekly.

I think I would also enjoy playing fetch with it too, with a frisbee or a chewed up tennis ball.

How would you treat your dog?

Like a dog. They’re a pet after all and at the end of the day, they’re not going to solve all my problems and be some miracle cure. Owning a dog means that I still have to look after it, and take care of it. There is a duty of care to the animal and I have to take that responsibility seriously.

It’s not a child, nor is it my best friend. At the end of the day, it is an animal, albeit incredibly loyal and loveable.

It will be one of my best companions and I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it enjoys all the benefits of being my friend, but I’m not going to kid myself into anthropomorphizing it further than its name.

What training would you give your dog?

Obviously I want to ensure that my pet is incredibly intelligent and obedient. If I can’t stand stupid people around me, I don’t think I would want a stupid pet either.

To have it do all the classic “sit, stay, play dead” would be ideal, but obviously with my military obsession, I would love to have my dog be trained to the same level as a police/military K-9 unit. To have a dog that can be fun, lovable and cute, and then at the click of a fingers, turn into a fur missile would be incredibly empowering.

It would also just be awesome to see my dog take down a human being.

Would I get another dog or stick to one?

Just one. One pet is more than enough.

When would you seriously consider getting one?

Not until I’ve fully settled down into my new job and moved out properly. There is so much change happening this year, I am not ready to bring in a pet. Even then, I have to settle my misgivings about pets and the emotional investment they require.

At the end of the day, as much as I am suited for a pet and a whole lot of other desirable elements, at this point of my life, there is so much uncertainty that I can’t commit to the idea.

I like doing things right. If I can’t settle other parts of my life, then I should not be anywhere near taking care of another sentient creature.

Still, one can dream I suppose. No harm in that.

~ Damocles.

Sleep with One Eye Open

You need to earn your sleep …

One of the most intriguing side-effects of my extroversion is the new twist on my insomnia.

Perhaps it’s not really a new twist, per se, but more of a confirmation of what I’ve always suspected.

That I need to earn my sleep.

Sleep, has always been an elusive element of my daily life. It’s still a mystery to me, how easily people succumb to the arms of Morpheus. I dislike sleep, because it goes against every single paranoid instinct I have.

I understand that it is a necessity to living, but to be knocked out for so long, without any true awareness of the outside world, has never quite gelled well with my overcautious nature. It’s why I’m so determined to cut down the amount of hours I need.

From 8 to 6, dipping occasionally into 5 … the less I need to operationally function daily, the better I feel overall.

Beyond my usual diatribe about how sleep is a waste of time, and the fact that I dislike knowing an entire third of my existence is spent unconscious, slumber is very much designated an “award” in my head.

In order to go to bed at a reasonable time, I need to be exhausted.

My mind needs to be clear, free of any distracting thoughts and my body needs to be genuinely tired.

It’s a bizarre system.

I can just sense when my body feels like it has not done enough. It refuses to rest, instead it becomes restless. It wants to exercise, to push itself so that it can go into recovery mode and use sleep as a means, not an end.

When I’ve had a lazy day, I notice that I don’t feel as tired, and that my mind goes into this overactive state, where I become too alert, too mindful and thoughtful. I start over-analysing things, and the need to write is stronger than ever.

It is times like this, I know that I need to walk.

The desire to go out, dressed against the elements, anonymous and alone is the only cure for what happens when I’ve been resting for too long.

It is calming, soothing even, to feel the bite of the night wind, listen to the silent screams of lonely cars down the road, feel the soft footfalls against concrete and embrace the solitude behind the myth I’ve created for myself.

The quiet man, walking alone in the dark, fearing nothing.

It is this small exercise that finally allows me to sleep. Without doing it, I feel this strange sense of atrophy. Like I ate too much food and didn’t do enough to exercise it off. Like I’ve wasted my own time or day, simply existing.

Something nocturnal in me just awakens when I’ve spent my day being too lazy.

Mind you, this is only halfway through a consecutive 22 day work stint. For context, the past 11 days I have spent doing multiple things every day. I’ve haven’t really spent any time at home.

Each day has consisted of working either at my final shifts in retail or at my new events home-base, the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Then I’ve pushed myself after, to do something more; working out, enjoying the presence of friends, running errands … there has always been an extra activity after work. I don’t get home until it is quite late and by then I’m ready to do my skincare and head to bed.

So tonight was especially strange. I actually had a breather, a night in. I could just go home and put my feet up.

There was just something so slow and indulgent about the night, that I couldn’t full enjoy myself. I knew that I had earned this rest day, that I should slow down and just soak in the sheer atrophy of the moment.

But I couldn’t. My mind buzzed, as if it was distracted by its own boredom. My body was restless too, as if it was confused as to why it was allowed to recover after the rigours of the past week and a half.

So here I am, writing at the normal creative hour of 2AM, unable to sleep, simply because I felt like I hadn’t earnt that reward yet. There is no other way of putting it. I can’t rest easily because deep down, I felt like I hadn’t done enough to earn it.

Perhaps I have become a workaholic. That only through work, I find purpose, meaning and drive to my life. I love working, keeping busy and feeling like I’ve accomplished something that day.

But in reality, if I was to look at the bigger, darker picture, what have I really done? After all, isn’t existence aimless?

If I was to give that thought, an extra nanosecond of consideration, I would never get anything done. I know that the work I do, is rewarding, fun and gets me out of bed at the strangest hours. It may not be much, guarding a gate for 6 hours or manning an empty store for 8, but it is enough for me to retain something out of my life.

It is that desperate need to cling onto my work, that really drives me forwards nowadays. It’s why I can’t really enjoy my lazy days anymore. My extraverted nature makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time, just existing, instead of enjoying.

Home is now considered a place where I prepare for the day, and tomorrow. If I am at home for too long, I need to leave. I need the company of strangers, the idea that people out there exist and that the world is not limited to my four walls.

Only by knowing how much I’ve achieved in a day, do I reach that calm mental state, where I am too tired, to think, reflect or even react to anything. There is nothing my paranoia can do, because I’m exhausted, satisfied and at peace.

All I can do is sleep now and feel my body work its magic, in repairing itself as I do so.

The phrase sleep with one eye open is a reference to how alert you need to be, to snap awake at a moment’s notice to react to any form of danger.

I work myself to the limit, so that I can finally put that to rest and sleep with both eyes shut.

~ Damocles.

Pressure

No Time to Die (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, I want to own it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But my girlfriend does too.

What will I choose?

What will she choose?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That alone is what drives me mad.

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

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

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

They say that diamonds are made under pressure.

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

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

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

How very apt.

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

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

~ Damocles.