I am like other girls.

I am like other girls. I change my hair after a break up and I am in love with Timothée Chalamet. I binged watched Love Island but also Annabel Crabb’s Mis-Represented. I can talk for hours about deuxmoi and pop culture but I can also talk to you in detail about the Rwandan Genocide and how it represents the long term impacts of colonisation, how imperialism has devastated third world countries, and how little responsibility we, as westerners, have taken for our actions.

I can tell you all the reasons I am in love with Drew Starkey but also all the reasons why Australia’s refugee policy makes me ashamed to be an Australian, violating the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and taking no time to acknowledge that it’s pure, serendipitous luck, that we were born into white privilege and not into their war torn and persecuted countries.

I will post endless selfies on Instagram but also my writings, opening myself up like a cadaver on a table to be inspected and learned from. Or implorations to politically educate yourself, trying to provide insight into Australian politics so that, come election, we know the ramifications of who we vote for.

I enjoy wearing make-up and dressing up for a night out, but I will also post make up tutorials while talking about living with anxiety. How I manage my depression and that it is only through seeing a psychologist and taking medication that I have started to take active steps in looking after my mental health. Or I’ll switch my neon orange heels for sneakers, marching and protesting for what I believe in, as I scream, “black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter.”

I will go to the bathroom with other girls to gossip and talk about how cute X looks tonight and, “no you should not text Y, babe you deserve better,” but also because there’s safety in numbers and we girls feel unsafe when alone at all times of the day, no matter the situation.

I am like other girls. I post fire emojis and say, “yes queen,” and my DMs remind me of a nightclub bathroom with the amount of women hyping me up.

I am like other girls in that I love fiercely and openly and proudly.

I am exactly like other girls and I am so very happy to be.

Please understand the weight, my darlings, in standing on a pedestal in the middle of a town square, to open yourself as a gallery, a museum to walk through. To publicly bleed, publicly heal, so that others may watch and know themselves better. To put yourself on display, saying, “here is where I am broken. Here is where someone stole my heart. Here is where I hurt myself. Here is where I have slowly glued pieces of myself together, and learned to love the absence of the parts of me that will always be missing.” Because people will come and observe you, take what they like of you, and not always return it. There is blood streaming down and all I can hope is that people will see it and think it beautiful, helpful, lovely and brave. The tears fall thick and fast but I choose not to mask them. Here is every shade of me. I wax and I wane but like the moon I stay here, still showing my face.

There once was a gallery. In this gallery, there were just two displays. One was a intricate vase made of ceramic, the other equally intricate, but made of wood and steel.

People came from miles around to look at the two exhibits. Both had been created with love and effort and sweat and tears, the artists pouring all of their soul into each creation.

One day, there was an earthquake. Both vases fell off their pedestal. The wood and steel had some minor chips and fractures, but was for the most part, intact. The ceramic vase, however, shattered into a dozen pieces. It took the artist a week to put it back together, but once again it was whole.

Time passed. Some didn’t like the cracks and stresses evident in both works. But what is a few fine lines in a magnum opus.

One day, there was a flood. Both vases fell off their pedestal. After the earthquake, the wood and steel artist had added some reinforcing. This time, it resisted any calamity. The ceramic vase, however, shattered into a two dozen pieces. It took the artist a month to put it back together, but once again it was whole.

More time passed. The ceramic vase was now riddled with cracks. Compared to the wood and steel, it looked worn and tired. The crowds around the ceramic vase grew fewer.

One day, there was a fire. Both vases fell off their pedestal. After the flood, the wood and steel artist added more reinforcing. Once again, it resisted any calamity. The ceramic vase, however, shattered into a hundred tiny pieces. It took the artist a year to put it back together, but once again it was whole.

The ceramic vase sat on its pedestal next to the wood and steel one. Compared to its stronger friend, looking as new as it did the first day of its exhibit, the ceramic vase spidered with thin cracks, chips, and shards missing not to be filled in. Less people came from far and wide to see it. It was more, a cursory stop on the way to the gift shop after admiring the vase that could withstand it all.

“My friend,” said the woodworker, “you have toiled and toiled over this ceramic vase. I see the love you put into it. But the universe seems to have other plans. Please, use some of my steel. Take some of my wood. Your vase will not survive much longer like this. I see the way people look at your vase. Pointing at the cracks, sneering at the gaps. Every day your queue grows shorter and mine longer. Please, I implore you.”

“My darling. There is bravery in accepting the fragility of our vase, knowing what the earth will throw at it. To every day wake up, committed to maintaining the vase and respecting its form, to spend days and hours and weeks putting it back together, there is no better use of my time. So thank you, but there is courage in the choice to stay breakable.”

it’s not a duck unless someone tells me it’s a duck.

The saying goes, if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. This is a logic I’ve applied to much of my life.

I suffer from high anxiety, low depression, and I battle with low self esteem at times. I will perceive any slight, snub, side comment or small snicker as deeply personal.

I have a deep-seated fear that all my relationships are living on a knifes edge. At no fault of those I’m in a relationship with, even friends I’ve had for decades. I constantly fear that I’m one ill-timed comment, one inappropriate joke, one mistake away from causing the end of a friendship.

It’s one of the things I am in therapy for. I know I’m a cool gal. The amount of selfies I post shows I back myself (selfies have actually been a huge personal help for me. Accepting my body and face as actually being not a bad sort with the right lighting and angles. I am the opposite of a selfie shamer). I am confident and I know that someone one day will think I’m worth loving and having. But I also know that I’m a very specific cup of tea. I’m not for everyone, a bit difficult to love.

I have worry that my love is disposable, so I am constantly trying to give people a reason to let them stay in my life. I used to get panic attacks, worrying that people found my presence overbearing, a burden to be endured. If I feel like someone’s going to leave me, I’ll bend over backwards in an effort to make them stay. I ameliorate myself, begging people without words, “please let me stay in your life.”

And so anytime anyone starts to leave, I take it to reflect who I am. It’s me who forced it to end, who didn’t deserve it, didn’t do enough to warrant them staying.

But I’m starting to change my inner narrative. Difficult to love, but worth the effort. I love wholly and openly. Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. And if someone wants to leave I’ll let them, I deserve someone who will fight for me.

Until someone tells me it is a duck, says, “it is you, and the way you are,” I’ll choose to believe the best of myself and them. I’m learning it’s the only way to be truly happy.

I am a historian of my own life.

I spend a lot of time in my own mind. Hours, days, weeks amassed, looking at the sky or the ceiling, trying to piece together my insides. I have a very logical approach to emotions I think. I try and map it out, organise it. Rearranging, trying things on for size, annotating and collecting. I changed my instagram bio recently to, I am a historian of my own life. It’s more apt than I realised.

I think the only way we can know another is if we know ourselves first. Why should someone else have to go to all the effort of making sense to the coterie of thoughts and emotions and wants and needs that we are, if we haven’t first done it ourselves. We’re not an archaelogical dig, waiting for someone else to be the first to unearth us, discover us. We are a museum, a gallery. And I have delicately pieced together myself, I stand proud by my discovery.

I recently was in love. It’s a love we have decided not to progress. And part of me wants to pull apart the entire tapestry of our four months together, decide what errant thread led to the disarray. Find where it went wrong. But CS Lewis once said, “to know what would have happened, child? No, nobody is ever told that.” And I am choosing to agree. The first word out of my mouth today was, “don’t.” It broke the silence in which my mind was spiralling. To focus on the what ifs and the whys will only break a heart and confuse a soul, with nothing to be gained and everything to be lost. Instead I choose to delight in what was. I fell in love.

I had stood proudly in the museum of myself. I was thrilled to show someone my discoveries, telling the tales of what had gone into the work. Here is where I came to love myself. There is were I decided that courage is staying soft. This moment is where I realised I was ready to share my life with another. To know oneself is to stand in a room surrounded by your hard work and be proud of what you see.

And it is also to understand that your room and your gallery and your museum is not for everyone. To tie yourself to another is a big ask, and not to be taken lightly. A polite decline does not reflect poorly on you. Instead it is an understanding of the weight of it, the gravity of the request. I am sorry, I cannot do you justice. I have loved your museum and the time I have spent in it. I have marvelled at your discoveries and am proud to have added to your collection. Together we added more rooms. There are paintings of my own in here. But my time is done. Not everyone is forever.

We cannot know what would have happened. But we can appreciate what did. We can take pride in what it brought us, to have the chance to share ourselves with another. To understand what that will look like, and to relish in what others can bring to us, what they can add to us.

To know yourself is to understand the sanctity of yourself.

Dear Paul Scully.
Today I read an article in the Guardian that informed me that Parliament had passed a law that would allow them to indefinitely detain a refugee if their visa application had been rejected, but it was too unsafe for them to return to their home country as they would face persecution, or worse. I am writing to you to convey my deepest disappointment in our government.

I find Australia’s stance on asylum seekers abhorrent. We are the only country in the world that has mandatory detention for all adults and children during the process of their visa application. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” However, the Australian government has labelled those that come to our country as ‘unlawful non-citizens’. The prime minister himself, when he was the Immigration Minister, famously stated in an orientation video that was played on Manus Island and Nauru in 2014 that asylum seekers would never be resettled in Australia and should consider returning home. “If you choose not to go home then you will spend a very, very long time here and so I urge you to think carefully about that decision and make a decision to get on with the rest of your life.”

Instead of amending our practices, we quietly introduce new laws. Indefinite detention being made legal, contravening international law, is a direct response to a federal court case the government lost, with the court deciding that immigration detention must be for a purpose. AJL20 was a child refugee fromSyria whose visa canceled on character grounds because of criminal convictions as a teenager, and he was detained by the government. He could not be returned to Syria as he faced persecution there, so he faced potentially limitless detention. The court ruled his detention unlawful and ordered him released.

A prosecutor of the International Criminal Court described the duration, the extent and the conditions of detention as a crime against humanity. We are a signatory of the 1988 Rome Statute. But we are also a country that supposedly prides itself on being moral and just. PM Scott Morrison recently spoke of how God called him to lead our country. As a Christian myself, I wish to ask him why he has forgotten Mark 12:30-31. Jesus has been asked which commandment is greatest. He replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

As ratifiers of the Rome Statute, as a country part of a global community, as people who are supposed to be led by morals and ethics, as Christians, we should be committed to helping those who seek help. We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet we spurn those who are willing to risk their lives to come toour shores in search of a better life.

But instead we pass acts such as the Australian Border Force Act (2015). The ABF makes it an offence to disclose “documents and information about the provision of services to persons who are not Australian citizens.” The law effectively prevents employees from recording or disclosing instances of ill-treatment or abuse witnessed in detention centres. Julian Burnside called it a law that makes it “a criminaloffence to report a criminal offence.” Organisations working in detention centres are also asked to sign a ‘performance security’ clause as part of their contracts. This clause involves the payment of a bond – in the case of human rights organisation Save the Children, this bond was $2 million – that is relinquished if the terms of the contract are contravened. One example of contravening is speaking to the media without the governments approval. Save the Children chose not to sign the clause and their contract was not renewed.

I stated at the beginning of this email that I was disappointed in our government. But that doesn’t seem to encompass it. I’m furious with them. The profound shame that I have to feel as an Australian, with a government that passes these laws and treats asylum seekers in a way that has been condemned as a crime against humanity, and all in my name, fills me with contempt for our leaders. Christopher Rau, brother of Cornelia Rau, stated that, “There are atrocities being committed in our names. We are not stupid as a society. So when we elect governments we must – by our indifference – be complicit in the bullying and ill-treatment of others, as long as we can stick our heads in the sand.” But I refuse to stick my head in the sand. As a voter, and a citizen of this country, I have a duty to be aware of what is being done in my name. And I am disgusted by it.

Sincerely,

Taylah Britt

2020.

To be a writer is to have a weight on your shoulders of things both unsaid and words uncoupled in your mind. Strings of thoughts and concepts swirling around, fighting to organise them in both succint and beautiful ways. Pouring yourself out onto a page, cracking open your ribcage and having your heart on display.

I’ve always struggled to label my writing style, how to define myself as an author. Lately I’ve been settling on creative nonfiction, or personal essay, or poetry without the flowers. It is writing that is deeply personal, fictious only to blur others identity, or for a little creative licence, to make life seem funnier or more profound. I write selfishly, I write personally, I write in order to arrange my own thoughts and to make life feel more beautiful.

And it is hard. Sometimes I think it almost an act of love. To be so at peace with the self to willingly display the innards to another. Comfortable enough with the actions of the heart to discuss them publicly.
But also an act of torture. There is an episode of Vikings where they perform a ‘Blood Eagle’, which is itself is considered not fictional. The back it sliced open, and the ribcage chipped away until your insides are on display. It was considered the most painful way to die, and a Viking could only enter Valhalla if he endures the punishment without crying out or screaming for mercy.

But the lighting in my apartment is lovely and the breeze is the perfect temperature and I’m playing just the right music to feel nostalgic.

While time is just a construct and a year is an abstract amalgamation of so that we can keep track of our existences, its easy to reminsice at the end of a ‘year’. To look back on the experiences of the past rotation of the earth around the sun. And it can make you happy and it can make you sad but there is much to be garnered from it, if we choose to.

2020 broke my heart. It is the year of loss. A loss of innocence, mainly. Of hope. Maybe a little bit of ideals, or maybe just idealism. But it was also the year of love and camaraderie.
And to discuss it publicly seems so perverse. But I am learning that it is also how I grow. I’ve always struggled with my emotions. I am a bottler, I often joke that I can only have deep conversations when the lights are off and no one can see my face. I think that’s one of the holistic ways writing has helped me, it has forced me to articulate myself while the sun is still up.

I tried to fall in love in 2020. Multiple times. None of them ever stuck. It is a loss I am getting better at dealing with. I am yet to pull the thread as to why, but I still do think that some boxes are not to be opened and some concepts are not to be explored. I don’t believe that truth is always the definitive course of action. Some things are better not to be known. But there is still a happiness in trying to fall in love, while things are still good. Getting to know someone, and being excited when you discover a commonality. Inside jokes that are funny only through sheer determination to have a secret alliance. First compliments and first kisses and songs that will always remind them of you. Being able to touch someone in that simple way that says, even just for now, you’re mine. A hand on their shoulder, a nudge to their knee. A smile across the room or catching their eye and not having to look away. A permission of public intimacy that I’ve always envied.

But with trying to fall in love comes trying to fall out of it as well. When life conspires for other avenues to take precedence. A sadness that is tangible, a weight in your centre of mass. Its not just of the particular person and the things about them you liked, their smell, the way they stroked your thigh, the nicknames and the way they could make you smile and blush at 10.47AM with a text that shows that, you’re on their mind as well. It is losing the concept of an other, a person specific to you. It is no longer being anyone’s number one. No one sending you photos of the sky when it looks nice, or to ask how your day has been. It is adjusting to a constant lack of anticipation. To being just another lonely person again.

There is so much to be said, however, for the love between people who love and care for each other. And 2020 has been the year of friendship. Times such as these bind people together, as we are forced to realign our perspectives and priorities. And I am a blessed woman. Wine Club and dinner parties and learning to cook new things for new people and spending evenings laughing and sharing wines with so many different people I love. Nights spent watching Taskmaster and falling alseep on friends’ lounges as I’m so comfortable in their presence. Netflix parties and Skype chats and long conversations with besties overseas.Beers in park and nights at the golfy. Walking into Black Cockatoo and being surrounded by friends. Learning that friendships take work and dedication and putting in the effort to create a loving and beautiful coterie of humans. To look around a room on a birthday and tear up at how truly truly lucky you are. To love and be loved by such magnificent people.

And it is these friendships that helped me endure the hardships of this year. The separation of my parents. The shattering of family ideals and values that had, with a heavy hand, shaped my life. With that came anxiety attacks and a depressive phase. An inwardness and a bitterness. But with their love and understanding and patience of the gods, I pulled myself together. A love for me that I’m trying to learn from, paired with the help of medication, and I feel weightless for the first time in a long time.

I keep these little notebooks, Moleskins, and I always have them on me, to jot down any thoughts or ideas for pieces. And with them, it is easy to graph myself. Through those pages you can watch me fall in and out of love, to become happy and sad and angry and content. Some pages have tear stains and others peaceful drawings. Today I rewrote a phrase that comes back to me every once in a while, but has been rare this year:
the world is beautiful, and I am happy.

tell the people you love that you love them.

Tell the people you love that you love them. And I don’t just mean declarations of love for the person you’ve been pining over. In fact, I don’t mean romantic love at all.
Existing on an everyday basis is hard. But there are people who make it easier to bear, with their laughter or smile or touch on the shoulder that says, I’m aware of you.
Either by making you tea just the way you like it, or the mere act of remembering something you’d told them a couple of weeks before. People who buy the chocolate you like, or sending you ‘thinking of ya xx’ texts, or tell you when your hair looks nice or a moment they thought of you.
People who have created a space where you can be comfortable, as talkative or as silent as you need to be. The people who give you that warm honey feeling in your chest.
I have a bad habit of assuming people know how I think of them. We see inside ourselves and assume others see it too.
But I’m trying to be better. More open. Purposeful.
Tell the person you think they look pretty. That their offhand comment stayed with you and made you smile for two days after. That the people you have dinner and read the bible with once a week on a tuesday night make you feel love and supported. That the security of friendship and love of wine club makes you happy on hard days. Binge sessions of British panel shows and feeling so comfortable you’d fall asleep on the lounge afterwards.
Tell the person that their friendship sometimes saves you. Their existence makes yours easier.
Tell the people you love that you love them.