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.


Taylah Britt


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.

The Testing Tree

Someone asked me recently why I read, and why I write. For me, those are the two ends of the same piece of thread. I do it in order to come to a greater understanding of myself. To read and to write is to understand ourselves more, and to realise that many others have felt as we have. F. Scott Fitzgerald said it first, or maybe he just said it best, “that is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” Others have gone before us, and have felt all the happinesses and sadnesses and all the melancholy that we think is so uniquely our burden.

The epigraph at the beginning of Kate Di Camillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is an excerpt of Stanley Kunitz’s The Testing Tree. I have it memorised:
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
it is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.

It is Kunitz who tells me so beautifully that pain is necessary. That the only way to grow is to endure hardship, that a heart that has never known sadness will never truly appreciate how good it is when life is all sunshine and warm breezes. Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life tells me that “the only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by.” To harden myself to the world is not to live, if Malick is correct. Emily St John Mandel in Station Eleven says, “[life] was very difficult, but there were moments of beauty. Everything ends. I am not afraid.” It is through the words of others that I have learnt to find the beauty in life.

I have these little notebooks that I nearly always have on me, that fit into my wallet (the Notes app works in a pinch but its so much less romantic). In them I write whatever comes to mind: beautiful lines to use in a larger story, moments of reality I want to remember, quotes I like, memorials of times in which I felt really and truly happy. I’m onto my 7th now, the first one started in Aug 2018 on my travels.

To write is to open yourself up. To crack open your ribcage, tear out your heart and put it on a museum pedestal for everyone to look at, to examine. To try and to convey thoughts and feelings and emotions with mere words.
In my first notebook, on the fourth page, I wrote:
Love and friendship and happiness and human connection. The strive to not only analyse and understand but also summate. The desire to both comprehend and articulate these most basic tenements. Basic in that they are at the root of all things. They are definitely not basic in that they are easy. To create something that affects people. Something that will resound. Staying in their heads for days and days … I want to change them.
To make yourself a gallery, a testing ground. Here is the way I have experienced life. Here is how it has broken me. Please learn from it.

I flip back through them constantly, remembering how I felt in those instances, or what moved me at that time in my life, the things I thought were worth penning down forever. To read through them is to see how I’ve grown, how I’ve changed. To be able to recognise what moves me, and if it should. To look back on myself and decide if I’m happy with the route I’ve taken, with what it’s made me.

I love to write, even if it sometimes pains me. I like to learn from myself. And for others to learn from me, if they so choose. Even if it is the most basic lesson: I am not alone in this. Others feel as I do. I will survive this. It will make me more beautiful.
And to emulate the gift that authors before me have given me. Kazuo Ishiguro said in Artist in a Floating World, “when I am an old man, when I look back over my life and see I have devoted it to the task of capturing the unique beauty of the world I believe I will be well satisfied.”
And I think there’s a quiet courage and dignity in that.

We must all go through dark and deeper dark. But we must learn from it. Maybe others can learn from it too.

art galleries.

Kazuo Ishiguro, quite rightly, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. His acceptance speech is a beautiful thing. In it, he wrote,
“I’ve been emphasising here the small and the private, because essentially that’s what my work is about. One person writing in a quiet room, trying to connect with another person, reading in another quiet – or maybe not so quiet – room. Stories can entertain, sometimes teach or argue a point. But for me the essential thing is that they communicate feelings. That they appeal to what we share as human beings across our borders and divides. There are large glamorous industries around stories; the book industry, the movie industry, the television industry, the theatre industry. But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?”
Someone recently asked me why I write. And it’s for this reason. To be able to put the mundane feelings into words, so that someone can say, ‘I had no idea others felt this way too.’

I love being a writer. I like doing it, and I think I might even be good at it.
But it’s hard too. They say to write what you know. And all I know is myself. Which doesn’t leave me a lot of wriggle room.

So I have made myself an art gallery for you to walk through. Going through, piece by piece, spotting the inconsistencies, the inspirations. You can look at each work and delineate where it came from, learning what you want to take home with you. I’ve painted myself on these walls saying, ‘I hope this speaks to you’. And I really hope it does.

sometimes I forget this isn’t my diary.

Adapting to loss is strange. Learning what the ‘after’ is like.
No loss is the same – mine is different to yours is different to someone elses.
[Mine is my Dad’s affair coming out earlier this year. We are not currently on speaking terms.]
In the moment it breaks you. There’s less behind the eyes, an emptiness in the chest. A shadow of the former self. It is your day to day reality, a constant blackness.
But then you slowly piece yourself back together, putting the parts of you back in order. Maybe you sigh less, maybe you’re less angry, maybe smiling is no longer a concerted effort.
And everything goes back to normal.

But its not, is it? This is the new normal. It can never be the way it was.

The hurt, months later, will surprise you. A Saturday night in watching Justified, tears come out of nowhere. The emptiness is a shock, a wound reopened. Realising that this is how it is now.

Because you can never be the same. I don’t know if anyone warned me about that. You can’t ever go back to the person you were before, you cannot take knowledge out no matter how much you may want to. It is a wound you will carry always, a hurt that will shape who you continue to become.

To strive for the past is aimless. I guess all we can do is hope that we carry our hurt well.