time is a funny thing.

    I’m sitting in bed with what I’m sure is the beginning of freshers flu and mulling over the concept of time. Time is a funny thing. Bending and stretching and twisting. It has only been a week since I arrived on campus at Lancaster Uni, but it simultaneously has been the fastest and most forever week in my life.
    It’s a funny experience that. And looking back. Just over a week ago I knew no-one here. I was worried I’d make little-to-no friends. But now i have Grace and Hannah and Lydia and Lily and Ben and Freddie and Cole and Rich and Harrison and Alex and James and Tom and Michael and Vazz. I have my flat, Flat 8 – Ellie and Anna and Frankie and Em and Lucy and Will and the rest. The reps and the JCRs and pretty much the rest of Bowland. Not to mention the hundreds of drunk girls I’ve made friends with in various bathrooms. From getting-to-know-you drinking games to sweaty nights out to movie nights in with everyone’s legs playing a game of Jenga on the coffee table.
    It’s beautiful and lovely and almost terrifyingly serendipitous. The speed at which you can get to know people. A year can go by and you can barely get to know someone. A week goes by and you feel like you’ve known each other for yonks.
    It’s fickle and it’s gorgeous and it makes you realise all the seemingly small things that have brought you to this.

a long metaphor with no real payoff.

People will sometimes ask why you haven’t written in a while. They’ve been keeping an eye on your website they’ll say. Writer’s block? they’ll ask. Like it’s that simple.

Sometimes.
Sometimes it’s just too sad.
Sometimes it hurts too much.

To write is to think and feel openly. To bleed openly. Like galleries where you can walk through and look at the artworks one by one. Examining them for meaning. To read into the use of the colour blue. To write is to try and use varying combinations of just twenty-six different letters to describe human emotion and experience.

Sometimes to write is to throw everything you have onto a wall hoping that something will stick for you to throw a frame around and say tada. Throwing everything you have in a series of different ways trying to eloquently put into words:
I am spent. This is all of me.

And after a while all the pictures in the gallery start to look the same. You can’t see, you can’t feel, any growth. Just the same story, the same questions asked in every way. And it breaks you. It breaks you in a way you wonder can ever be fixed.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. I have no epiphanic answers. No closing statements that tie together metaphors to bring a succint ending. Again I have what feels alot like nothing. A piece that is about not writing pieces. Like florals in spring, groundbreaking.

I don’t know.
Maybe a piece about nothing is better than nothing at all. At least it’s still writing. Right?

it’s not happy and it’s not sad.

I’m trying to put it into words but the phrases elude me. I can only define it by what it’s not.
Because it’s not happiness and it’s not sadness but it’s something in between.
It’s almost like the feeling you get when someone plays with your hair and you get all warm and fuzzy and loved and sleepy. But right on the edge is the knowledge that it won’t always be like this. But there’s acceptance in that. There will be bad days and good days all of the days of your existence. Some days will be bad due to monstrous things which should never be mentioned but will be with you always. Other days will be bad for reasons you’ll never be able to explain, not even to yourself. Days that should be acknowledged but slept away.
But you’ll also experience the best days of your life. First and last loves, the big momentous days to be spoken of and celebrated forever. But you’ll also have days which seem like nothing at all happens but are inherently beautiful and lovely.
And as long as you can know and accept that, you’ll be okay. There are days that must happen to you. But there are days that you’ll be privileged to live in. So embrace that warm and fuzzy feeling, and give that polite nod to the knowledge, sitting right there on the edge of it all, that it won’t always be like this.
Celebrate it all. The mornings that you spend in the cafe with your best friend reading books. The ritual of a cuppa, just sitting there drinking it in your lounge room, marvelling at the talent of friends. Flipping through different books on your bookshelf trying to find a description that encapsulates how you feel. And then sitting down and trying to write one for yourself. The evenings walking along the beach in gumboots (so you can walk in the shallows cause that’s much more fun) and staring at the stars and planets shining above. Looking out at the horizon and feeling ever so tiny and insignificant and alone. Embrace it. Because it’s not happiness and it’s not sadness. It’s beautiful and it will break your heart. But it will also put it back together.

something different. spoiler: it’s a rant

The Liberal government’s war on young people has become an actual freaking joke. And “war on young people” aren’t my words, actual real-life paid writers and journalists have been bandying it about for a couple of years. I am near-livid that the government who is supposed to both represent and do what is best for its people has done this. Cause they’re not. They’ve gone and skipped a whole freaking generation of care and respect and duty. And young people should know about it.

In the past couple of days the Liberal government passed new legislation to decrease the HECS repayment from $52,000 to $45,000 a year. That means that anyone earning over roughly $730/week will have to start paying it back. Even if they’re still undertaking those studies. That’s only $10 more than the minimum wage. AKA what has been determined as the necessary amount of dollars to live.

In June of last year penalty rates for those in retail and hospitality (aka the bread-making industry for nearly all young people) were set to be cut in a series of financial years. So in 3 days time that’s going to take a hit.

Adding fuel to the fire are the bunch of tax cuts which help mainly, surprise surprise, the wealthy, with an increase in benefits for those earning $180,000 and above. Clearly they need it.

All this comes from a government of whom the majority didn’t have to pay for their university degrees. Turnbull has admitted that he didn’t pay a cent for his 5 year long Arts-Law degree at Sydney University. For which the dude now makes roughly 500k/year.

This government’s disdain for young people is evident. The Minister for Youth was scrapped from the cabinet in 2013. Any complaint is retaliated with contempt: “we’re spending too much on smashed avo”. The price of existing has never been higher and don’t even get me started on real estate. There are more UNI graduates than jobs, our income doesn’t increase with the cost of living. Paying over $1.50 for petrol is the norm. But our generation is clearly entitled and doesn’t know what it means to work hard.

People, especially young people, should be informed and aware. Politics affect us. Hugely. Evidently. Come voting time, I so often hear, “I don’t really pay attention. I’ll probably just donkey”. And sadly, we are the ones bearing some of the brunt of policy and policy changes. Even more sadly, the majority of the brunt is shouldered by refugees. Which if you aren’t educated on and don’t find repulsive and aren’t a little ashamed to be Australian, then I have zero existence for you. But we need to know what’s going on. Cause it will impact us. A lot.
Here are the references if you want a closer look, or further reading:

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/australia-s-young-people-are-under-attack-20180418-p4zaa3.html
https://www.spectator.com.au/2017/08/war-on-young-australians/
https://www.buzzfeed.com/aliceworkman/free-ride?utm_term=.swYqaRP63#.xb3avmDz5
https://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/penalty-rates-and-allowances/penalty-rates-changes-2017
https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/graduates-on-730-a-week-to-pay-back-loans-after-government-strikes-deal-on-student-debt-20180626-p4znsv.html
https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2017/03/04/charting-the-war-young-people/14885460004299
https://www.hospitalitymagazine.com.au/new-hospitality-penalty-rates-from-1-july/
https://theconversation.com/most-of-the-benefits-from-the-budget-tax-cuts-will-help-the-rich-get-richer-96348
https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/03/26/australia-really-needs-a-minister-for-youth-mps-say_a_22012970/
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/15/australian-millionaire-millennials-avocado-toast-house
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/17/australian-wages-growing-more-slowly-than-cost-of-living

norman.

It happens when you’re driving home one evening and daylight savings is over so it’s already dark and for some reason it reminds you of your childhood. Maybe it’s because winter nights in your childhood seem more memorable for some reason. Driving when it’s dark and cold and you can use your breath to mist up the windows and draw pictures. And in this moment of nostalgia you find the frequency for ABC radio, which you listened to a lot growing up. Especially Norman the Quiz, with its distinct theme song, and sound clips that have etched themselves in your memory, like the way they said multiple choice.

So you’re driving along and it’s an especially cold and clear night where you can see the same stars you could see when you were little, and the quiz comes on. But it’s got a different host and a different theme song and they use a different sound clip to announce multiple choice questions and it’s this sudden reminder that you can never go back. Those memories of sitting around the dinner table with the family, listening to the quiz and getting excited when you think you know one of the answers. Never again will you hear James O’Loughlin’s banter, or count on your fingers how many you got right or wondering if you should call up because maybe, with your whole family as a brains trust, you could win this round, make it to the end with its iconic fanfare.

But instead it’s a different lady who seems lovely but just can’t give you what you want. And you try to listen for a while but it’s just not the same and it sets off that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach that you’re not too fond of, that somethings can never go back to the way they were. And while it’s exciting because it means there’s so many ways your life can change and become new and evolve, well, it’s sad too.

stay soft.

We as human beings face much hardship. We must learn to juggle study, work, a social life, good mental health, and all the while pay our phone bills on time. We have to try to be kind to everyone, forgive anyone, and nod and smile at the bus driver even when it’s not our day.

But the hardest thing that we must do is stay soft.

Because the world is sad and life is hard and people hurt us and say things they either did or didn’t mean and the boy you think is pretty won’t like you back and it’ll be for the seventh time in a row. And you’ll have to wonder if it’s the way you look or the way you are cause you’re not sure if you can change either.

And people will see that you’re sad and will ask you why and having to put into words that you’re slowly imploding and loneliness is a tangible feeling right in the middle of your chest below your heart and above your stomach. And when you feel like they don’t understand you not sure in how many ways you can explain that more and more days you can’t feel anything behind your eyes.

And it’s those times that you will want to flick the switch. To turn off any feelings, so that you’ll no longer spend nights lying awake in bed staring at the ceiling wondering why life is like this and when it will stop.

But you’ve got to stay soft. No many how many times your heart may break, you’ve just got to pick up the pieces, again and again. And, to the best of your ability, you’ve got to put it back together the same way. Still just as fragile, still just as soft, still just as breakable.

Because softness is the price you pay. It’s the cost of real and true happiness. Whenever it decides to show up.

“…but do you want to know what I hate most of all?” she asked, taking another sip of her tea.
“I hate choosing it. Opting to stay here. Having to think with my mind all the damn time. Telling myself over and over that it’s for the best. That being alone is better than company which, deep down, I know probably isn’t going to be brilliant. That a short-term of good banter, compliments and maybe even the occasional friendly handshake isn’t worth heartbreak later”.
She was staring out the window now, lost in her thoughts. I didn’t know what to say, how to console her.
She started again, “It just hurts, you know. Saying no to something you want. For the greater good. Especially when the greater good requires you to feel so damn alone”.

your twenties

your twenties have the potential to suck.

you’ve moved out of home, and now have to properly adult for the first time. pay the utility bills, eat food that isn’t junk food, attend classes at uni, submit all your assignments and actually get good grades, turn up to work and work well, never having a bad day, trying to also maintain friendships and maybe, just maybe, also try your hand at love.

it’s a lot to manage. more than one at first realises. and, unless i’m the only one in which case this will be embarrassing, some days it will get you down. the odds are stacked against you on that. you will have bad days.

but this is where your twenties get good. you are surrounded by absolute legends. best friends who will send you funny youtube videos that you can then watch at the same time and send each other their favourite lines and you’ll tell them when you’re crying or “just can’t even this is too funny”. housemates who make you a cup of tea when you’ve had an average day. and not just a normal cup, but made exactly the weird way in which you like it. gal pals who purposefully try to expand their friendship circles to include the guy you think is pretty. friends back in your hometown who send you “how have you been lovely? x” messages, who put up with your LDR that you chose to create.

big group dinners, where some of you cook, some of you clean. playing emperor/scum while it’s in the oven. all sitting around the table, swapping stories and throwing banter. drop in cuppas, having a good old yarn over tea and whatever you can find in your pantry. work mates, ones that you will happily spend free time with, even as far as going to the gigs of the token barista/boy band member.

your twenties are filled with people that you are comfortable with. getting maccas after work and then going back to their house, having a nap on their lounge while watching parks & rec.  getting coffee, going on road trips and small adventures. enjoying each others company, and genuinely being excited for their existence and everything that is going for them.

it’s filled with weddings and engagement parties and birthday weekends and end-of-exam celebrations. but also small, non-descript evenings where you make a throw together meal and have a beer and tell stories and laugh. you laugh a lot. your twenties could arguably be the hardest years of your life. they’re definitely the hardest so far. but they are also the best.

 

coldplay was wrong.
I love that song, but people aren’t a problem you can fix, a mystery for you to solve. they are complete without you.
people can only cure themselves.

the sky was the colour of a musk stick.

The sky was the colour of a musk stick, all pink and sugary. It was getting darker earlier, and the sunset had started to coincide with Charlotte’s walk home. Craning her neck, the clouds looked like fairy floss. She began to mentally raid the fridge. Nothing was there except for garlic, half an apple, and cheap beer. Not even Gordon Ramsay could turn that into a meal. Concentrating on the sky instead, she focused her gaze on its darker edges, and saw a star come into view. When she was younger, she thought it was magic. It still had that thrill to it.

The five flights of stairs up to her apartment had the burn of intense cardio exercise, without ever resulting in abs. Opening the front door took an equal amount of effort. Pulling on it slightly to the left, turning the key with a deft flick of the wrist, and a last little kick in the bottom right-hand corner was a daily ritual. Finally in the house, Charlotte dumped her keys next to the record player, knowing if she carried them any further she’d put them down and never find them again. After some fiddling with the turntable, Debussy started to play through the house. Tripping over a stack of books, she made her way past the bedroom and into the kitchen, putting on the kettle and popping down some toast. Tonight’s meal would be an old staple, tea and Vegemite. Filling up a jug, she watered the plants that were verging on taking over her apartment. It was a small place, but fulfilled every interior dream she’d had, even from that young age of drawing her future home with crayons for her mum to put up on the fridge. Hardwood floors, white walls and high ceilings. But the dream apartment of a 5-year old girl come at a price, and with old charm comes a myriad of electrical, plumbing and spacial problems.

Munching on her toast, Charlotte checked her phone, which she’d found wedged in between the cushions of the lounge. It’d been a whole day without it, and she wondered what social enquiries she’d missed.
Messages: Mum (1)
Email: Work – why are you late again?
She considered putting it back where she found it. It would probably be better utilised there, could even buy a home phone to call it and make a massage chair. She looked around her apartment, trying to fight the feeling that was starting behind her eyes. God, she loved this place. She was proud of what she’d created, furniture sourced from council clean-ups and Salvos store’s. An Ikea lounge, the one brand-new thing, the result of a particulary giving End Of Financial Year. Plants and books scattered around, and prints on the wall from when she’d attempted a Fine Arts degree. The kettle began to whistle. As she poured a tea for herself, always just herself, the feeling behind her eyes began to settle.

She knew who she wanted to be. She wanted to be someone nicer, kinder, softer, brighter. And while maybe she was a combination of all those things, somewhere between her head and heart it got confused. Never finding the perfect way to meld all the different aspects of her personality together, she felt just not pretty enough, just not funny enough, just not smart enough. Everything, but not enough of anything. Grabbing her tea, she flicked off the lights and headed to her room. Maybe Netflix in bed would do her some good.

The sound of her phone vibrating itself off her bedside table and onto the floor was what woke Charlotte.
“Hello?” she answered, still admiring the back of her eyelids.
“Lottie, where are you? We’re supposed to be meeting for breakfast.” It was her best friend Winnie. They’d been friends since school, when they’d bonded over a mutual hatred of the show the Big Bang Theory. Nothing brings people together like a common dislike.
“Yeah, I’m on my way there, calm down.”
“Lottie, I’m outside your apartment. I’m parked in front of you. We were carpooling remember. I know you better than that. So hurry up and get down here.”
“My bad. I’ll be down in five.”
She rolled out of bed and onto the floor. She was glad she’d been lazy and not removed her makeup from yesterday. Wiping under her eyes to get rid of any unwanted smudges, she pulled on a pair of jeans and spritzed her hair with dry shampoo. Checking her appearance in the mirror, she looked like someone who had given up on surface appearances, paired with a hint of 15-year old boy. The perfect combination.

“I got ready as fast as I could,” she said, getting into the car.
Winnie gave her a once over. “I can tell.”
“Oh, just shut up and drive.”
Winnie laughed. “Put on some music if you’d like. Though none of that music without words that you like.”
“Maybe I’ll just listen to the delightful sound of you insulting me the whole way there.”
“Suits me.”
Charlotte looked over at her friend. She was gorgeous. The kind of girl that looked worse with makeup. Adding to that, she was kind, intelligent and quick-witted. Too quick-witted sometimes, she had a penchant for insulting Charlotte. “I’m just keeping you humble”, she’d say. Her boyfriend was much the same. They all got along, but Charlotte often felt like she was more their kid than their friend, their being so far ahead of her in life.

“So how have you been?”, Winnie asked. They’d ordered their breakfast, and were sitting in the corner of their favourite café, both facing out for maximum people-watching potential.
Charlotte laughed, and began to doodle on a napkin. “I’ve been good. You know how things are.”
“No, not really.” Winnie’s phone beeped. It was a message from her boyfriend.
God, I love you.
Charlotte checked her watch. It was 10.27AM. What was it like, getting messages like that, in the day. Knowing they’re not sent with the aid of too many beers, or with something other than love on the mind.
Sending back a quick reply, Winnie looked at her. “Are you sure? You seem sad.”
Charlotte sighed, wishing her eagerness for company wasn’t so obvious. “I’m just tired. You know how it is. Work, classes, laundry.” Tiredness was so much easier to explain. That, and she didn’t know how to make, “my heart breaks at the end of every day, knowing that I’m still not who I want to be”, sound not pathetic. Not desperate. She wondered if people could explode from feeling this way. Or would they slowly deflate, crushed from the weight of things left unsaid. “Yeah, I think I’m just tired.”
Winnie’s response was stifled by the arrival of the waiter, but the look in her eyes made Charlotte nervous. She was in for a lecture.
“Who had the pancakes?” The waiter had to be one of the most beautiful men Charlotte had ever seen. She’d recently discovered the secret to making cute men appear: look like you haven’t showered in a week, and are surviving only on toast and beer. Today was no exception. They’d met at a wedding a couple of weekends before, but she’d long learnt not to expect remembrance.
“With the chocolate chips? That would be mine”. Charlotte smiled at the waiter, for a second longer than normal. She heard Winnie giggle, then try to mask it with a cough. Someone else would be getting a lecture now.
“Hey, that’s a good idea. I’ll have to try that on my lunch break.”
“She’s full of good ideas, this one”, Winnie said with a smirk. Charlotte elbowed her under the table.
“She seems to. Actually, have we met before? Your face seems more familiar to me than just a regular customer. At a wedding right?”
“You know, I think we might have.” Charlotte remembered the moment with perfect clarity. She’d replayed the moment over and over, choosing different things to say, wondering which one would have been the right response, the best possible combination of words to make her seem perfect to him.
“And what was your name again? Claire?”
“Charlotte. Lottie for short. And this is my friend Winnie.” Damn politeness. It was never smart to introduce Winnie to a potential male. She wished Winnie’s boyfriend would propose, so she’d have to wear that beautiful diamond ring that reads, don’t bother.
“Well, it’s nice to see you again. I’m Will.”

Back in her apartment, the midday sun was coming through at the perfect angle, lighting up the floors and making the whole space golden with reflected light. Sipping on a cup of tea, Charlotte examined her arm, which Will had squeezed in farewell as they left the café. She wondered if it would ever reach the point where her skin wouldn’t burn at the touch of someone else. If one day it would be so natural that she wouldn’t feel it anymore.
Rifling around, she found her phone in between her pillows, misplaced after this morning’s hasty exit.
Facebook Message (1) – Hey, it’s Will from the café. Would you like to get some chocolate breakfast food together sometime?
Charlotte checked her arm again. She was sure his touch had left a scar, a mark that would signify nothing if not the simple fact that it’s not kissing or sex or sneaking out that she’d warn her daughters about. It’s the boy they find beautiful touching their arm that will end them.