I was somewhat shocked to receive such belittling and insulting comments in my personal Facebook inbox lately, from someone whom I'd previously respected in the sector of local, independent music. After his offering of slander and what I pretty much have taken as "stop making music because you are not good enough," this person has lost all respect and dignity from my end, and I wanted to point out how much some people just do not understand what it means to be creative.
To defend my so called "negative" comment; I merely asked "why?" In response to the news that a friend and fellow songwriter was going to be appearing on a Television talent show, which I thought nothing of; a mere valid question, as I am always interested in knowing what drives somebody to make that jump.
Most people who know me well, will know that I am a staunch supporter of local & original music, and certainly not a supporter of such television talent contests.
The indecency of this person to use this opportunity to talk down my musical ability absolutely astounded me, particularly during a well-documented period of personal crisis (which, if he "ignored" me so much, he probably didn't even contemplate), which completely tipped me over the edge.
Never in my 9 years in the music industry have I been confronted by such hateful and sinister criticism - which is why I love Melbourne and music & artistic communities I find myself in - all they have done over that time is commend my tireless effort, my constant learning, and my vast improvement over time; obviously someone that has ignored me wouldn't have the slightest clue about.
As for my "negtivity," sure; I'm first to admit that my immediate reaction to some things can certainly be negative, and that I don't have the most optimistic outlook on life, partially - but not entirely - due to my ongoing struggle with a mental illness, which again is something that somebody who has ignored me wouldn't know about.
And so, I thought, "fair enough; this guys is mad about me reacting a certain way to one of his friends, I can deal with that," but it went on...
Continuing to deface and insult my status as a performer, referring to a point in time (probably 3+ years ago) where I was upset by a lack of support from the community and my friends, whilst going through a difficult time and using my "ability" as the reasoning that OTHER PEOPLE probably weren't turning up, as if channeling some sort of psychic ability to think that everyone else's subjective opinion on my music would be the same as his.
I am truly sorry that this guy has the expectation that every local performer should instantly sound like some sort of pop superstar, or else they don't deserve the space that they are singing on.
I am also truly sorry that I never got a true an honest response from the artist I initially asked the question to, but instead got a tirade of unwarranted and shameful abuse from a bitter old man who obviously never had the talent or drive to be a creative himself, so has to sit back on his high horse and constantly, day in, day out, comment and judge and nitpick the abilities of others.
Well, bravo, Mr. Arsehole, your abuse worked. I got off the stage. I couldn't even do the show I had booked later in the week that you sent this, because I was so overwhelmed with depression and anxiety over the words you said that I couldn't even bring myself to physically be on stage, in front of people, performing my songs - something that has given me some of the most joy in my life. You have ruined that for me.
I am hugely proud of my achievements over the past 3 years. My ability is continually improving: in performance, in writing, in recording and engineering. I know this because of the praise I get from people like Kevin Murphy, Karl Huttenmeister, Anna Cordell, Jakksen Fish, Georgia Rose, Tracey Hogue, Tim Woods, Al Parkinson, Liam Dixon & Michael Yule - among others. These are all people who know what they're talking about, who are around original music at its grass roots level, day in and day out; who appreciate what amount effort goes into everything that I do - because it's what they do to.
So I choose to listen to these people, not an old fogey who used to be on Community Radio so has some sort of heightened sense of musical royalty, that he can brandish things around, no matter how hurtful, destructive or potentially career-shattering they can be.
I'm standing up to this bully of a man, and I am making a new record, and this new record is going to be so many times better than anything he would have expected me to bring out, because that is how far I have come; whether he chooses to like it, or know it, or not.
My message to you all is, don't let anybody talk down YOUR dreams and YOUR art. YOUR art exists because it came from a place inside of you. YOUR art will connect you with the people that WANT to consume it; who hear the effort in it; who acknowledge what it takes to bring that art to fruition.
People that don't understand it will try to bring you down, but they can't; because it is not THEIR art to bring down. They don't connect with it, they don't understand your process or where any of it came from. So bad luck to them.
And bad luck to this arsehole.
I'm definitely tired, somewhat confused and definitely and completely sapped of much of the goodness I held.
Some experiences, whilst entered in with the right intent, have a way of weakening you, but also strengthening you.
I was a fool to think I would ever be able to work in this industry. The brief time I've spent trying now sees that I don't have anything left to give for others.
For those who aren't sure what I'm talking about: I recently gained a qualification in Community Services, specialising in Mental Health. To gain experience, I applied to live in a 'lead tenant' household, where (supposedly) 2 adults supervise and provide 'life skills' and mentoring to up to 2 youths on Child Protection Orders, in a share housing situation.
It's not a personal reaction to the treatment and disregard I have been apart of in this current housing situation, it is merely a case of trying to be stronger than I actually am and being completely found out when it comes to the crunch.
It has weakened my ability to empathise and hold care beyond judgment; yet it has strengthened my ability to see things the way they are, rather than the way I'd like them to be.
Sometimes people don't make the right decisions. This house is full of those people; including me. I made the wrong decision to come here, and now it is breaking me apart quicker than I can imagine.
I can only truly hope that I can find somewhere to be. I'm lucky enough to team up with two lovely people who are seeking the same sort of stability I am. I hope that luck extends out to finding a place where we all fit.
Today, I'm tired of fighting and I am tired of struggle and I am tired of making poor choices, again and again and again.
This whole experience has revealed to me that I am a fraud; a good actor; someone that can hold himself together if the right questions are asked, but really hasn't got the time, resources or emotional capabilities to 'manage' people or respond with care.
2016 and beyond needs to be for ME and the people I hold as important in my life. I can't surround myself with this type of madness any longer.
I'm sorry, readers, but I needed to do this. I need my friends to know where I'm at, and I don't get to see many of you because of where I moved to. I feel this is the only way to keep people informed.
It's time for a big change and I want you all to be apart of that. You are all my friends and I never ask for much, but I need your support in getting me back to a happy place.
At the tender age of 27; it's fair to say that I've already lived a lifetime worth of disappointment; fear; sadness; disadvantage and the like, and the unfortunate thing is, that even when I don't expect it, it appears that more is just waiting right around the corner for me.
So, I've done what any person in similar circumstances might be expected to do: I've taken advantage of support & welfare services, but even I can admit that I've done it for far too long.
The problem, I guess, is I have never had a substantial period of time away from hardship to be able to let go of my dependence on taxpayer-funded support.
I'm not writing this piece because I am proud of that fact, I am writing it mostly for the purpose of self-reflection, and to give some insight into people who think I'm "no good" or a "bludger," typical of that 'stuck on Centrelink' stigma.
In the past, I used to feel that I deserved something for my hard work, my dedication and my suffering, but the truth is, deserving anything is something we're conditioned into believing, and generally, nothing could be further from the truth.
Variables exist, opportunities may be missed, mistakes may be made, undesirable outcomes occur and your mood and emotional state through all of these things will fluctuate greatly.
So, I'm no more deserving of a steady income and something to fill my time than anyone else. I'm no more deserving of a roof over my head than a man that has been homeless for a long period. I'm certainly no more deserving of a life full of everything you could wish for, than Cardinal George Pell (minus the child sexual abuse thing, I suppose!)
In an interesting conversation with a friend a few nights back, I identified that in the history of my life's ups and downs, and with all the battles I appear to face on an everyday basis (whether they be reality or negative mental concoctions), there exists somewhere deep, deep inside of me, the belief that I am destined for something better - and I do hate to use the term 'destiny' or 'fate,' but am finding it hard to pick another word there - for that simple believe that is held deep below anything on the surface that tells me how disappointing and cumbersome my life has been, is the key reason that I am still here today and that I still fight for myself.
I didn't ask for this life, nor was I given it, despite my thoughts in the past. Each moment, each decision and everything I've been through has led me to here. I realised that it was high time that I took ownership for my own reality, that I stopped blaming others; blaming society; blaming every external factor under the sun for it being 'outside of my control'.
I, whether I like it or not, put myself here - BROUGHT myself here: to a position where I am heavily broken; my life terrifyingly uncertain, and without a place to call home.
So, no - there is no way that I deserve 'the best' of anything; I do however continue to hope that something 'better' eventually comes along.
If you've been out of work recently like me, and going about the usually demoralising task of reading the latest job ads, you've probably noticed a somewhat odd trend in the way jobs are being advertised of late.
It seems to me, that advertisers are now using 'click-bait' to get you into the ad itself, but then completely repelling your application by asking for unattainable years worth of experience for the position.
It might not be a new strategy, in actual fact, it is something that has been plaguing Gen Y applicants for quite some time, but it certainly seems to be a tactic which is in much more frequent use than ever before.
Countless times have I personally been lured by the attraction of an 'entry-level position' in the mental health, support & community services fields, only to either find that somewhere else within the application, I'm to have 3-5 years of similar experience to be considered for this 'entry level' role, or following the application, I am notified that I don't have the necessary experience to obtain an entry level position.
So, what's going on here? Is it an entry-level role or not? These advertisements are surely bordering on false advertisement, and somebody needs to start calling companies out on this!
It seems to me that the way of the world at this point in time, is that employers are expecting people to work unpaid internships, volunteer indefinitely to gain the said 'experience', or only motivated to hire internally.
How is this an acceptable way to get people into the workforce, and what indeed does it say about the value of modern education?
It doesn't just sit exclusively in my graduated field - I've also been thrown the "not enough experience" line for customer service and retail positions, of which I hold around 4-5 years experience in.
So, my question to prospective employers is, is this 'experience' thing just a complete and utter cop-out? Why, indeed are you advertising a job that says one thing, but is in fact another? And how are people expected to find work in this day and age, if nobody is willing to offer the opportunity of 'experience' that is required by so many of you?
For me, it sends me into a state of mass confusion, often ending in complete and utter surrender to the workforce and the application processes.
I know I'm not alone in these experiences, and I know that deep down it is rousing a feeling that I have perhaps wasted valuable time, resources and money in to an educational program, my Diploma, that now means absolutely nothing.
What I'd like to start seeing are some answers, because all I have experienced in the past 9 months are an endless cacophony of questions without answers.
I refuse to believe that I am unhirable, and that my qualifications mean nothing; but how else am I expected to think, given the messages this world is sending me?
It's one of the hardest feelings to shake, yet one of the ones we desperately want to avoid. Loneliness has a deep-seeded connection to the human being.
From our heritage as pack animals to our "happily ever after" driven social cognition, loneliness has been a constant and long struggle through human existence and evolution.
So, how do you shake it? Well, if I had the answers, I'd probably experience the feeling a lot less than I do right now. I think that very much, an individualistic approach has to be taken to your own experience of loneliness.
What works or doesn't work for you may not necessarily be true for others. Take a couple of examples from my own life:
When the battle with loneliness sets in, things are amplified for me. I notice couples more; I see how happy they are together; a blinding rage begins to take form inside me for not having that level of companionship that I so deeply desire, so I tend to isolate myself until the feelings are not strong enough to affect me.
Another example is, to combat lonely feelings, I have often had a pet by my side. From ages 12 - 23 we had a family dog whom I would share most my daily experiences with. I took her busking and shared my new songs with her as she intently listened, and begged for more when I stopped playing. I'd tell her things that I told nobody else, and even though she was a dog, completely incapable of verbally communicating back, she felt my feelings, my emotions and always reacted accordingly.
A few years back I got myself a puppy - much for reasons described above, loneliness had crept into my life and become a large part of who I was, and I didn't want that. The idea of the dog is not to cure the feeling or prevent it from ever occurring, but to make the bad times when it takes hold that little bit more bearable.
Some people, however, would find themselves in similar situations - out and about noticing couples - and use this to spring hope in the fact that there is somebody out there for everyone, and that they won't be lonely forever; similarly, some people don't see the benefit in having the responsibility of a pet under their care, and that's totally acceptable.
The key thing with combating loneliness is like any other emotion the troubles you. It has its time and place, and you need to allow it that time and place and minimise the effect that it has on you. This can only happen over time, and I am certainly the first to say it is not a process I have mastered with this particular feeling and group of thoughts!
Also, it is knowing your triggers: what amplifies this emotion? Is it seeing couples everywhere when you feel alone? Is it people talking about their own partners? What is the point at which loneliness takes over your consciousness and consumes your thoughts? This is the point at which these strategies must come into play.
Identify the 'point of no return' and reduce its pressure and presence in your every day functioning.
I would say, through my own experience, that loneliness is the absolute toughest feeling to master. Through my journey, I have been successfully able to apply and adapt the principles of ACT through a number of varying obstacles, emotions, traits, thoughts and experiences; yet loneliness still troubles me and still takes a hold of me at most of the times that it appears.
Unfortunately, I'm unable to eliminate the social cues that I react to or lessen the desire to be in an amorous and harmonious partnership - however, I can control these reactions and see them for what they really are, and I can have acceptance for these thoughts (usually negative or self-deprecating) and see them for what they really are.
Yes, I may be 'alone', but are all the circumstances in my control? Of course not. I've played the dating game, I've had successful and unsuccessful relationships in the past and I've tried too hard and I've just been me. It hasn't yet worked, and so be it, for me, the journey has just begun...
This week marks National Mental Health Awareness Week in Australia, and it comes at a particularly opportune time, given the recent and very national news of AFL star Lance Franklin’s ongoing illness and need to step away from the game.
It is unfortunate, for those such as I who advocate for the equal treatment and citizenship of those diagnosed with a mental illness, that it takes a person with the fame and ilk of Franklin to re-start a public awareness campaign that should probably be an ongoing matter.
The fact of the matter is, that even though Australians are a very accepting bunch, and we have come leaps and bounds in the treatment and care of those diagnosed with a mental illness, we are still at a cultural crossroads where the provision of care for these people is still considered to be a ‘weakness’; particularly for men looking in, and for non-sufferers who have never had to encounter a close loved one or indeed themselves becoming stifled by a diagnosis.
And it is stifling: whilst there are always stories of recovery and remarkable histories of success from people who have carried a diagnosis, the common theme is that, at least in the interim stage, the diagnosis and the emotion it carries – internal and external to the illness – is a road block.
That said, nothing to do with mental illness is ever a linear process, neither is the interrelation between a triggering life event, stress at work, or financial distress, which may often be labelled as the starting point. That isn’t always the case – mental illness does not discriminate, and it usually does not care what is going on in your life at that particular time, and a lot of the time, people carry it around for a long, long time before they even seek assistance from a professional, which can prolong the stifling affect and no doubt cause further problems without treatment.
So, we come back to Franklin: a man at the top of his game; the highest-paid athlete to play AFL professionally in the history of the game; a well-respected champion player whose reputation for being a match winner is unsurpassed in this day and age, a man who you would quite frankly think would be feeling like ‘King of the World’. Alas, he has his own battle with mental illness. Kept from the public for who knows how long. We don’t need to know – of course – it’s a personal plight, but who is to say he hasn’t been holding this secret for a long time. Moreover, the point is that this is a guy who you’d least expect to ever suffer from something like depression.
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will remember the article I wrote in response to the untimely passing of Robin Williams to suicide; yet another man who you would envisage having no reason to be sad or to suffer – he was a man who the world was absolutely in love with, but with which the feeling was not mutual.
It certainly brings to mind that old adage, that ‘money can’t buy happiness;’ which becomes particularly important, as there are still many people around who think that it can. Money is one piece of a very large and complex puzzle that is your life, and where it may improve things on the outside, if you’re at war with yourself on the inside, none of that ever seeps through to the core.
Nobody is to blame for contracting a mental illness: not the person themselves; not their family or friends; not their boss or their doctor. There is no blame for being debilitated by these things. They are what they are and that’s why weeks like this week exist, so that we can properly acknowledge how these things affect people’s everyday lives and how we can continue moving forward on dispelling the rumours and myths that surround each and every diagnosis.
As I mentioned, as a nation we are keen to take steps in the right direction. There are plenty of people just like me advocating for better care provisions and better citizenship for people with a mental illness. Due to my own experiences, I tend to avoid referring to them as ‘sufferers’ or ‘patients’ or ‘victims:’ these types of words devalue an individual further, and the basic and most underlying principal of mental health care is empowerment, independence and living a life free from labels, stigma and discrimination.
The advocates are only one part of the voice of those with a mental illness, the advocates only get to push things but the decisions lie in the hands of others, perhaps people who have never been touched by the dark world that exists around a mental illness, perhaps people who have never encountered it closely.
Mental Health is a national priority, as we race towards the year 2020, when the World Health Organisation has pinpointed that depression & other categories of major mental illness will become the most debilitating health condition on the planet, we need action. Speaking about it isn’t quite enough for me to classify as ‘action’. There need to be plans, social enterprise start-ups and regular policy and legislative change to enhance and prosper the lives of those with a mental illness.
I do hope that following this National Mental Health Awareness Week that we can keep this discussion at the forefront of the national agenda. It can’t keep being the role of the advocates and the start-ups to facilitate a change in culture. This sort of widespread action needs to start from the top, a call to the politicians, to the leaders of big business and to those in the public eye: be ready to be a trailblazer, tackle the finer points of our epidemic. Offer and show your support for our support.
The time for change is now – the time to offer the same level of care and respect is now, for nobody can predict when or who this rapidly growing cluster of illnesses is going to strike: your brother, your mother, your best friend, your work colleagues, or even you.
No, I'm not OK.
Gaining a suitable and amazing employment opportunity, and moving out on my own, and then having it ripped out from under me has not been OK.
Moving back with my mum at 27, far away from all my friends, from my WORLD, from everything I enjoy has not been OK.
Battling to find work, and being overqualified to step back into entry-level roles, yet not experienced enough to work in my chosen field has not been OK.
Being kicked out of my mum's place - whom I am a legally defined CARER for - because of an evil Real Estate agent's high-and-mighty agenda has not been OK.
Not knowing where I will be living in 3 weeks time is really not OK, and people telling me to get rid of my best friend to give myself a better chance is not OK. A roof over my head without my dog's comfort and companionship would leave me more empty than I am right now.
So much has gone wrong in my world in 2015, and it's not OK. But if I look at what I was able to achieve, in my first year as an umpire on the VFL list, I look at that and think that with all that I have gone through, any lesser person would have given up completely. That part is OK; the fact that I am able to completely turn off my world and concentrate on that when I need to is totally and absolutely OK.
It's one positive in a world full of hurt for me at the moment, but It's a mighty big positive and it means everything to me.
Overall, I'm not OK, but maybe some day I will be, and that to me is enough to inspire.