Around this time of year, people start wishing for it all to be over – the year, the day to day, the busyness of life. But I don’t want to plod my way across some imaginary finish line that marks the end of the year. I want to roll in with a bloody bang. And savour every last day. December isn’t a month to be wished away. This decade is never coming back. So this is your friendly reminder that you could die, at any time, or your entire world as you know it could change, at any given moment. Maybe, if you’re not already, it’s time to start living like you mean it. Living like this one precious life you have is fleeting. Maybe it’s time to stop telling yourself stories and start getting uncomfortable. Living in truth. Maybe it’s time to start choosing joy. Joy doesn’t just happen. It’s a decision you make about how you are going to live your life — and how you are going to respond to life. Here’s what I know: joy attracts joy. Here’s something else I know: who you surround yourself with is who you are. Who are you spending the rest of this year, this decade, with? My advice is to find people who speak your language, so you don’t have to spend a lifetime translating your spirit. The kind of people who understand what you do not say. The kind of people who light a fire in you. The ones who fill you with joy. Find one, or ten, of them. But more than anything, be one of them. The clock ticking over at New Year might signify a fresh start for some, but I don’t buy into that, and never have. You can reinvent yourself anytime you like. You can reflect, and reassess, on any day of the damn year. Fresh starts happen anytime you decide to embark on one. All you have is now. And, to me, that seems like a perfect place to start. Go be who you want to be. The person you need. Don’t put your happiness in a person, a possession or a profession. Joy is up to you. So is how you spend the last thirty-four days of this year. And any days you get beyond that. Find your joy — and keep choosing it every day.
the poet spoke seven last words
“i go to seek a great perhaps”
but i don’t want to wait until i die
when it’s time to join the birds
to start seeking a great perhaps
to finally feel like i can fly
i want to feel this life while i’m in it
uncaged, vibrant, brutally conscious, free
oh what a word
filled with so much possibility
is an uncomfortable place
but what a place to be
it’s the life for me
there’s nowhere i’d rather be
I’ve never understood people that choose negativity over positivity.
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that some people are wired for negativity – they get off on being argumentative and combative. They thrive on being toxic. Thrive on destruction. And drama.
It’s harder to be positive. It’s harder to spread positivity. But – and I’ve said this a million times – it’s so worth it.
Negative people think they’re a victim of circumstance; positive people know they create their own reality.
Negative people live in scarcity – with a mindset of ‘there is not enough.’ Positive people live in abundance, knowing there is always enough.
Negative people know they are alive temporarily, and that scares them. Positive people know they are alive temporarily, and they think that’s awesome.
Negative people are in competition with the world. Positive people are in harmony with the world.
Negative people complicate things – they lie, especially, and most importantly, to themselves. Positive people are happy – especially, and most importantly, within themselves.
So why do people persist with being negative?
And because it’s easy.
And most people are lazy.
It’s easier to criticise someone else than to focus on your own shortcomings. It’s easier to plant the seed of doubt in someone than it is to work on your own self-doubt. It’s easier to judge than it is to self-reflect. It’s easier to mock someone else’s dreams than it is to have the courage to pursue your own. It’s always, always, always easier to be negative than positive.
But good things don’t grow in negativity. And do you know what’s louder than it? Positivity.
Positivity wins. Always.
For those of you working hard to be positive; keep it up. Stay in your lane. Ignore negativity. Do not feed into drama. Do not allow toxicity to drain you.
People will try and kill your dreams. People will try and assassinate your character. And when they don’t get their way, they’ll try harder. When they realise they can’t control you, they’ll try and control how other people see you.
Stay above it.
Trust that other people will see the truth.
And they will.
Because you can only hide in negativity for so long.
Unbothered by negative souls.
Because that’s a goal worth striving for.
If you can be unbothered by negative souls, then you’ll understand the true meaning of the word freedom.
And that makes you unfuckwithable.
When you are truly at peace and in touch with yourself, you’re unfuckwithable.
When nothing anyone says or does bothers you, you’re unfuckwithable.
When no negativity or drama can touch you, you’re unfuckwithable.
A dear friend recently described me as having ‘a no-fucks vivacity and an all-the-fucks heart.’ It might just be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.
I do give no fucks, about the things that don’t matter.
I do give all the fucks, about the things that do.
I am unbothered. And unfuckwithable.
And I hope you can find the courage – and the calm – to be so too.
You have no idea how petrifying you will be to someone who only knows how to deal and trade in negativity when you’re unfuckwithable. When you’re positive. When you’re happy.
Their energy is wasted. Their words fall on deaf ears. Their efforts amount to nothing.
All the while you soar.
Stay in your lane.
It’s tempting to veer.
But stay in your lane.
I promise you it’s worth it.
“When I finally get…”
“Once I’ve bought…”
“When I finish…”
“Once I’ve done…”
Boring, wearisome words.
If you want to rob your life, of the good, and the great, of the grand, and the majestic, keep feeding yourself lies.
Wrap them up into a neat, safe, beige parcel and call them reasons.
Believe they’re what’s holding you back.
Believe they’re why you haven’t already.
Tirelessly wait for better days.
For “when I finally get…” and “once I’ve done…” and then, when you’ve got and you’ve done, you’ll realise the cost was living your one, precious life. Abandoning your dreams. Abandoning yourself.
You have everything you need – right now – to make your life beautiful. To do the things you love. To be the person you want to be.
You do not need to wait, or delay.
“When I…” and “once I…” are traps.
And you know they are.
Stop making excuses.
Stop waiting for the right time.
Stop wishing your life away.
I will say it again: you have everything you need – right now – to make your life beautiful.
Go and make your life beautiful.
- Never stop being a good person because of bad people.
- Your worst battle will always be between what you know and what you feel. Go with the latter.
- Never let success get to your head. Never let failure get to your heart.
- Your time is best spent with people who make you see the world differently – not with those who flatter your view.
- Two things you’re going to need in life: hope and purpose.
- Nothing changes, if nothing changes.
- Find someone who speaks your language, so you don’t have to spend a lifetime translating your spirit.
- Own your choices.
- You need at least one friend in your life who understands what you do not say.
- Get uncomfortable. As often as possible.
- Some people may not deserve your love, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need it.
- Mostly, it’s the will, not the skill, that will be the difference.
- Be alone, more often than you’d like. It’s good for you.
- Positivity is a choice. And the happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
- Being broken doesn’t give you the right to break other people.
- Be louder.
- The secret of your future is hidden in the habits of your daily routine.
- You give life to what you give energy to.
- Be afraid, but do it anyway.
- Perspective is everything, perception is just a lie.
- Never go too long without watching a sunset.
- Don’t put your happiness in other people’s hands. They’ll drop it. Every time.
- Only boring people get bored.
- It’s not a coincidence that the happiest people are the ones that do the most for others.
- Follow the flame from the fire that burns inside you, and you will always feel the light.
- Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Every day is a special occasion.
- Only insecure people judge others.
- No one else knows what they’re doing either.
- You must know your worth, and not discount it.
- You do not have to unscrew another person’s light bulb in order to shine.
- If you accept your flaws, no one can use them against you. And that’s power.
- The wound may not be your fault, but the healing is your responsibility.
- It doesn’t matter who you’ve been, or what you’ve done – all that matters is who you want to become.
- In a world full of fish, be a shark.
I felt a lump swell in the base of my throat yesterday.
I instantly knew what it was.
I’ve felt it a couple of times this year already; in the days leading up to my birthday, and Father’s Day, and his birthday.
It’s unmistakable – a sharp bulge, that intensifies the more I try to quash it.
But it remains.
I wonder if it’ll be like this forever.
I suspect it might still be too early to know.
There’s been a lot of ‘firsts’ this year.
First without this, and first without that.
People say it gets easier with the seconds and thirds.
I’m not convinced.
Time passes, time heals. Maybe. But it doesn’t erase.
And I wouldn’t want it to.
So many years of saturated memories; tinsel flooded floorboards, and sunburn, tables overflowing with food, and cherry stained fingertips. Music permeating the walls. Laughter, over the crunch of wrapping paper.
For the most part, this Christmas won’t be all that different from any other.
There’ll just be one person missing.
It’s disconcerting how life ticks along, as though the people who once loomed so large were never there at all.
But of course they were.
I’ve got little interest in popping crackers or faking festivity over small talk with people I’ve no partiality to.
I just want to be around the people I love, that get it.
The ones that you don’t have to explain anything to, because they know.
It’s funny, what, and who, you’re drawn to after loss. The comfort you find in the familiar, the warmth in revisiting old memories, and with it, old feelings.
I like being close to that.
And as far away as possible from the rest of it.
It’s hard to describe – the immense sense of loss, the extensive gaping hole – because it is entirely at odds with – sublime happiness, genuine excitement – and here I am, occupied by all of them, at once.
It is both melancholic, and marvellous. Delicate, and misinterpreted. Complex, and cathartic. Light, and dark.
The lump comes.
But maybe instead of trying to quash it, I’ll just let it linger.
It’s a nice reminder, in some ways.
To stay near the people, and do the things, that feel like light.
Not just for a season.
There is no such thing as ‘getting over it’ in life.
You don’t get to go back.
Trauma changes us and tragedy disrupts us.
And that’s ok.
Maybe you lost someone.
Maybe you lost yourself.
Maybe you’ve had more bad days than good ones.
Maybe you’ve made a mistake.
Or ten thousand.
You are not defined by them.
What you’ve done is not who you are.
You aren’t damaged.
Don’t get bogged down by your ‘failures’.
You aren’t the opinion of someone who doesn’t know you, or even someone that does but doesn’t know what wakes you up in the middle of the night.
You are better for going through – and not around – something terrible.
The best people I know have depth, and parts of their story that don’t shine.
Don’t dull the muddy bits.
I’ll never stop falling in love with people who have scars but can still sustain the courage to dream. And the courage to re-write their story. Sometimes over and over.
That’s what freedom is.
That’s what rising up means.
To write the story of “this is what tried to keep me from stepping into the best version of myself, and this is how I told it to ‘sit down’”.
Maybe you’ve survived a bunch of thunderstorms and continued walking.
Maybe you got back up.
You are wiser for it.
You are better for it.
Don’t ever let anyone, or any one experience, stop you from living and doing the things you love.
Society doesn’t get to tell you how to live your life.
It’s your life.
You get to decide how it goes.
There’s no trophy for having it all figured out by 30, or 40, or 50.
Life is about creating as many genuinely happy, passionate moments as possible – for you, and others.
Chase your dreams. Fall in love. Travel. Take detours. Study. Fall out of love. Switch jobs. Move. Stay. Fight. Give up. Go. Learn. Swerve. Grow.
There is more to you than yesterday.
Freedom is knowing that, at the dawn of a new tomorrow.
Life is a war of head vs. heart. It’s tiny little moments, like: watching the flickering lights of the city from a rooftop, while the soft breeze tangles your hair and kisses your cheek. Waking up early in the middle of winter to feel the chill cut through your coat as a chai latte runs down your throat. It’s that marone jumper you love, that still smells like him.
Life is messy. It’s making mistakes, like: one too many wines that numb your lips but not your tongue. Feeding feelings with memories, instead of drowning them in tears. Driving too fast. It’s being afraid of nothing, except saying exactly how you feel, because then it’ll be real.
Life is glorious. It’s sublime moments, like: watching a radiant sunset, and feeling its glow warm your cheekbones. Goosebumps tingling across your body, as he runs his hand up your thigh. Midnight conversations with people that matter. It’s that spark, that begins when you lock eyes and ends with your souls dancing together.
Life is magic.
If you listen, it will tell you.
If you look, you will find it.
If you do, you will become.
1. There’s only one person responsible for your life – you.
2. It takes guts to be kind.
3. You can’t be distracted by comparison if you’re captivated by purpose.
4. A sunrise doesn’t define its glow by how it set the night before; you shouldn’t define yourself by yesterday either.
5. Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine any brighter.
6. Whatever you focus on grows.
7. Where and how you choose to spend your time is telling – you will always make time for the things you value.
8. The best thing about the worst time of your life is that you get to see the true colours of everyone.
9. Not everyone is gold; some are simply gold-plated.
10. You gotta be a little savage.
11. Hostility towards unfamiliarity is true ignorance.
12. You aren’t owed shit; act accordingly.
13. Grief is the price of love – and it’s worth it.
14. Things may not always go to plan, and that might be the very best outcome.
15. Never judge someone by the opinion of others.
16. Nothing great can be achieved with selfish people.
17. Time heals nothing. It just replaces – or dims – memories.
18. Don’t harden up when someone mistreats you – being bitter is a waste of time, and a true disservice to yourself.
19. Feelings aren’t final – they’re fluid.
20. You leave pieces of yourself in everyone you’ve ever loved. That’s quite a responsibility.
21. You may not be able to control your situation, but you can always control your attitude towards it.
22. Collect moments, not things.
23. Never allow waiting to become a habit.
24. Don’t change parts of who you are, or what you do, or how you do it, to please someone else. Unless your aim is to be miserably unsatisfied.
25. When you stop caring about what other people think of you, you’ll find true freedom.
26. Where possible, skip the small talk. Everyone is deep, most are just afraid to dive.
27. The ‘little things’ are never really that little – they’re often the most important.
28. If you can only let go of three things, make them these: grudges, the past, and poisonous people.
29. You will never be able to escape your own heart – so listen to it.
30. Stress literally achieves nothing. Action fixes everything.
31. Worrying literally achieves nothing. Action fixes everything.
32. Pursue a life of meaning, and the happiness will come.
33. When in doubt, be extra.
My Dad passed away two weeks ago.
People keep asking me how I’m going, as though they’re half expecting me to break in front of them.
I’m glad they ask.
I’ve realised it’s much nicer than not being asked.
How am I going?
I’m not sure.
Mostly I say, ‘as good as can be expected.’
I suppose that is true.
I’m not sure what the expectation is when you lose one of the most important, pivotal, beloved people in your life, but I feel like I’m doing as good as I can be – I’m waking up, and showering, and eating, and caring for my son, and driving my car, and running errands, and seeing family and friends, and cooking, and cleaning, and checking emails, and making phone calls, and planning, and doing all the little things people do that fill their days.
Some people don’t know what to say, which I somewhat understand, but here’s something else I’ve realised; it’s not that hard to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I hope you are doing as good as can be expected’.
I have been showered in support, and love, and thoughts, and I feel them, wrapped around me. I am so appreciative of every single one of them.
But my Dad has died.
And my life is forever changed.
Everything is kind of the same, but paradoxically, absolutely nothing is the same.
Nothing will be the way it used to be, ever again.
I am mostly fine, except for when I am not. I am mostly ok, except for when I am not.
Sometimes it slowly creeps up on me, like a looming dread in the pit of my stomach, and sometimes it hits me, bang out of nowhere, and I catch myself clutching my breath.
I’m as good as can be expected, but I am angry.
I’ve got a simmering rage inside me that I’m containing, but boy does it bubble. I’ve had to remind myself, every day, to ‘let it go’, that ‘it’s not worth it’, to ‘calm down’.
I’m as good as can be expected, but I feel robbed.
Robbed that Dad didn’t get enough time, that I didn’t get enough time, that we all didn’t get enough time. Robbed for what he’ll miss, for what I’ll miss, for what we’ll all miss.
It’s true that we don’t know our own strength until we need to; people have commended me for mine, which is lovely, but also slightly odd.
I’m ‘strong’ because being anything less seems like a disservice to Dad; to his honour, and legacy. I’m ‘strong’ because I have a child to raise, and a family to love, and being anything less seems like a disservice to them.
People see strength as ‘getting on with it’ – helping organise a funeral, and saying a eulogy without falling apart, and running yourself into the ground with errands, and doing as good as can be expected, and they say, ‘Good on her, look how strong she is,’ like you’re a show dog at a competition.
That is not strength.
That is autopilot, running on adrenalin.
Do you want to know what strength is?
Strength is not snapping someone’s neck in rage.
Strength is not losing your shit at someone else’s incompetence.
Strength is repeating the same story, over and over, to sympathising guests, when all you want to do is lie down in bed with the doona well above your head.
Strength is choosing not to be negative; choosing life, and beauty, and adventure, and wonder.
My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t give me the right to act like a dick.
So I am being as strong as I can, in the way I know how: by not being an arsehole. The world has enough of those.
Death evokes all sorts of feelings and reactions in people, and they’re all ok. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, or empathise. For the most part, people use it as an opportunity to think about themselves. At the centre of their own universe, they think of how death affects them. I’ve discovered, in this fortnight that feels like a year, who is really there for me, and who is not, who my true friends are, and who are just people I know.
There’s one small thing I’ve found exceptionally difficult: how quickly ‘is’ and ‘are’ become ‘was’ and ‘were’.
The instant change in tense is jarring.
And, there’s another thing: how the world just keeps spinning.
My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t mean the world stops.
I get that.
That is the way it should be.
It’s just a little unnerving, how everything goes on, swiftly, at full tilt.
It’s all very surreal; that this has happened, that this is life now.
I’m not convinced that anyone can truly know what it feels like to lose a parent, until they have lost one. And the well-wishes are pleasant, and the thoughts are kindly, but the advice is inordinate and borders on offensive. You either know, or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re fortunate.
I’ve unwillingly become part of a club I don’t really want to be in but the other people are lovely, and they get it, and the biscuits are nice.
I’ve discovered there’s no real preparation for losing a loved one; whether it strikes you out of nowhere or you have a long lead-time – there’s no difference whatsoever. There’s only here or gone and until they are gone, they are here.
Predominantly, I understand there’s no right or wrong way to go about any of it. Being close to my family and friends has helped me, but some people might choose to shut off. I know that people mean well – and it’s better having people mean well than not having people at all. I recognise that, like with anything in life, there’s constant challenges and choices, and I get to choose my choices, and own them too. I acknowledge that grief is a bit like a wave, and I think I’ll be buoyed forever…
but I also know that I’ll still laugh
and that the thirty-two years I got were better than thirty, or twenty-five, or ten, or none at all
and that so much of who I am is because of him.
So much. Of who I am. Is because. Of him.
1. In a world where everyone’s running around, in pursuit of goals, trailing their to-do lists, be in a race towards what makes you feel good.
2. Fuck fear. Fuck it hard.
3. Honour your feelings.
4. Have your own back.
5. There’s no such thing as coincidence. And nothing is ever random.
6. You already know the answer. So follow your gut. Follow your soul. Because you already know the answer.
7. It’s only ever too late if you think it is.
8. Appreciate people for who and what they are, and for the place they have in your life.
9. If someone treats you poorly, it’s usually more about them than it is about you.
10. You can only fix something that is broken.
11. You really can do whatever you want. I’m continually shocked by how many people do not understand this.
12. When you’re scared of the height, jump. When you’re fearful of the outcome, delve. When you’re doubtful, believe.
13. Be humble.
14. I’m yet to meet a person that’s tired of seeing a blue sky. I’m also yet to sit under one and feel anything but serene.
15. Fuck ordinary. Fuck it hard.
16. Everyone has something within them that sets them alight. If you don’t feel the fire, start burning some shit.
17. It’s ok to change, and swing, and be madly passionate about one thing, and then another, and it’s ok to change your mind, and change your beliefs, and swap and switch. It really is. Everything is fluid. You, and your mind, should be too.
18. It doesn’t matter who you used to be, or what you’ve done, all that matters is who you’ve become.
19. If you want to be smart, and you seek to be compassionate, go somewhere new, as often as you can, and meet someone new, as often as you can.
20. Trouble isn’t always so bad.
21. Create your own definition of success, and work towards that.
22. Spend a bit less time focusing on how you look, and a bit more time focusing on how you think.
23. We don’t meet people by accident; they’re meant to cross our path for a reason.
24. If you’re undecided, follow what gives you energy. Energy doesn’t lie.
25. You could be the same. Or you could be better. You decide.
26. It’s only ever too hard if you think it is.
27. I’ve learnt more from pain, than pleasure. Give your heart away. Over and over. Don’t be guarded. Feel. And learn.
28. Be kind.
29. If you’re still undecided, spend some time alone. Silence has a way of delivering solutions.
30. It’s only ever too complicated if you think it is.
31. Perfect is an illusion.
32. Whatever you do, don’t die before you’re dead.
Here’s some things I am:
– The kind of tired sleep doesn’t fix
– Embracing growth, plunging into change, still breathing
– Listening with an intent to understand, not reply
– Getting better at saying no
– Unapologetically doing my thing
Here’s some things I know:
– Almost is the saddest word there is
– You don’t fall on top of a mountain, you climb up one
– Existing is different from being alive
– Halfway is no good; go all in
– The things worth saying, most people don’t
– Fight change or flow with it; change goes on
– You can’t fake tenderness
– Risk is given a bad rap, usually from people who never take any
This café I’m in is bustling.
It’s humming with conversation and a coffee machine that hasn’t stopped once in forty-five minutes. There’s tapping coming from another laptop, but it’s nowhere near as vigorous as the sound coming from mine. ‘They’re happy taps,’ I think, and I know it’s true. People don’t bash away at a keyboard when they’re light of heart. They just don’t.
I order another coffee. ‘Strong, please,’ I say.
There’s a group of girls to my left. I haven’t quite nailed what they got up to last night, but I’ve pieced bits of it together, mainly from their steady stream of analysis on the night’s antics over the past half an hour. They’re laughing. Really laughing. ‘Good on them,’ I mutter. And I mean it.
The wind is flapping away at the sails outside, and a dog tied to a chair leg starts to bark. Four kids whizz past on scooters and a car alarm goes off somewhere in the distance.
It’s just another Saturday, in another week.
Except it’s not for me.
It’s the fourth Saturday, in the longest month of my life.
It’s the fourth Saturday since my world started to change.
And my brain won’t let up. Not from all the crowded thoughts.
Like whether this is how I will measure things now; because before seems different to this.
I think about how many days I spent writing emails, in the name of distraction and avoidance, instead of something straight from my heart and onto a page, and I count twenty-four.
I have never gone that long.
Maybe it’s because I still don’t know what to say. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to say it.
The constant stream of people popping in for a takeaway coffee hasn’t let up. They roll in, and then out, hopping into their car or onto their bike, before they tick off their next Saturday errand, or go to the next place they need to be.
Soon enough I’ll close the lid on this laptop, then pay my bill, and walk out onto the street, and back home, before I hop in my car and go to the next place I need to be.
Saturday will turn into Sunday, and then Monday, and my to-do list will fill again, along with my inbox, and my phone will ring, and clothes will need to be washed, and dogs walked, and floors swept, and dinners cooked.
Everything keeps going.
Even though I’m a little bit broken.
Even though my world is splintered.
Everything keeps going.
And then Saturday will be here again.
It’s getting to the tail end of 2015 and today I was thinking about all the things I’ve done so far this year, and all the things I’ve learned. It’s been a big, tremendous year. I was thinking about you, too, and how quickly you are growing. There are so many things I want you to know, and so many things I hope for you.
You are cheeky and sharp and bright. Don’t ever lose your spirit. Don’t ever let life – or, worse, other people – dampen and sap your energy. You have so much energy. You have a zest for life. I know you do. I know it because you are like me. Don’t stop singing to yourself, and hopping when you get excited, and screaming ‘yeah’ out loud when you’re happy; the world beats that kind of stuff out of people, as they grow, but I don’t want that to happen to you.
I hope I can instill in you the highest possible level of confidence – not arrogance, confidence. They are two very different things, though sometimes people get them confused. And if, at times, you can’t be confident, then I hope you can pretend to be. As you grow, you will realise that no one really has it all figured out, and the ones that say they do you likely need to run from.
Your confidence is going to grow in proportion to how often you’re prepared to step out of your comfort zone. So don’t become stagnant. Keep fresh.
I am going to tell you to ‘be careful’ a lot. I have already started. And I mean it. But, really, I want you to take a lot of risks. Hopefully not too many of those risks are reckless – like driving dangerously or jumping off large moving objects on a regular basis – but take risks. Climb to the top of the highest trees you find, swim at the base of waterfalls, be driven down a highway while you stand through a sunroof and your hair thrashes in the wind.
Hopefully you don’t want to become a UFC fighter, and maybe you can get through life without a motorbike, and out of all the animals you might like to adopt over the years, I truly hope none are of the reptile variety.
But if they are, that’s ok. And if you want to ride a motorbike, or become a UFC fighter, then I’ll help you in any way I can.
There are some things in life you should do; even when other people tell you that maybe it’s not such a good idea.
You should ride a motorbike, at least a few times in your life. And one of those times should be sitting on the back of one, holding onto someone’s waist, preferably along a stunning coastline somewhere in the world, because there will be a point where you turn your head and see the ocean, and you’ll feel the wind slice through you, and then something churn deep inside you and this I know, O: that’s what it means to be alive.
And you should hold a snake, or swim with a croc, or do whatever it is that you want to do, but that’s the key; do things that you want to do, not things you think you should, or just because other people are.
People will bang on about things in life coming at a ‘cost’. Spoiler alert: every single thing you will ever do will come at a cost. Don’t think about that. Focus instead on what adds value to your life. If it adds value to you, include it. If it doesn’t, subtract it. But don’t dwell on cost – monetary or otherwise. Because here’s the other spoiler alert: it’s always worth it.
While it’s definitely too early for you to be thinking about women, if that’s what you’re into later in life, please know this: be a gentleman, be kind, be thoughtful, be loving, but never compromise who you are for somebody else. Don’t give up on the things you love for a woman. Don’t change who you are for a woman. A good one will never expect you to. A great one will encourage you to be more of who you are, not less.
You will meet some amazing people in this world. Always be open to them. And if you’re drawn to somebody, for whatever reason, explore it.
I hope you find dazzling people and talk with them until the early hours of the morning; on a rooftop, or a verandah. Some of those people you will never see again, but I guarantee you will carry a piece of them with you for your whole life, and every once in a while someone will say something, or you’ll see something, and you’ll be reminded of them. And in your head text will appear like a leading title on the news: ‘Soldier, 1999, on the train to Venice’ and you’ll smile thinking of them.
Try and stay away from the kind of people that place value on material things, and instead find people that are interested; in life, in history, in books, in music, in people, in conversation, in living.
I hope you spend most of your time with good people, people that understand and embrace you, but you need to know this: sometimes people can know you for a long time, but not really know you.
Just last week someone I’ve known for half of my life said some awful things to me, and they did some horrible things, and it ripped a little piece out of me. Sometimes people will hurt you and sometimes they’ll break a part of you but here’s the other thing you need to know: you can always put yourself back together.
I hope you continue to be happy, and in doing so realise that you cannot ever compromise on your happiness. It should be the one thing in life you fail to bargain on. Find happiness in small things, as well as big things, and find it on your own. Don’t tie all of your happiness in a place, or a person. Anchor it to yourself.
Be the kind of person that spreads good stuff wherever they go; happiness, energy, love. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t be afraid to make them. I hope you make a ton of them, because that means you’ll never stop learning. There are secret opportunities hidden inside failures, and only the courageous get to unearth them.
Don’t let mediocrity get a grip of you; don’t tolerate it in other people.
Listen to your instincts, every single time. Always listen to your instincts. Sometimes you will need to ignore logic, or change your plans, and when those moments come, do exactly what you yearn for, and always remind yourself that death might be frightening, but not living should be feared far more.
I hope you tell a lot of people that you love them, and I hope a lot of people say it to you, too; some of them will whisper it, some of them will shout it, and some of them will only reveal it with their eyes, but every time take it for what it is; an absolute privilege, not something you are entitled to.
Don’t hold back from revealing yourself to other people; the only time you will ever need to be guarded is when you’re in a defensive stance in basketball, beyond that, let fall and slip, let fall and slip – even when it’s risky, even when you wind up hurt, even when it’s costly because, remember, it’s always worth it.
Live your life your way, and don’t ever allow anyone to make you feel guilty for that – the only opinion you need to worry about is the one you have of yourself. Use that as your compass; someone else’s might be broken, or going the wrong way. You can direct yourself, that I will always be sure of.
O, the thing about this year is that you’re not the only one that’s grown; I have too.
I know I haven’t been there to put you to bed every single night of every single week this year. I know you don’t need me to be. Your life is blessed and filled with people; people that love being around you, and can be when I’m not there. But just know this; every single time I walk in the door, no matter how late at night, or early in the morning, the first thing I do is walk into your room and run my hand through your hair.
And I know that sometimes I’m at the computer when you’re building a tower out of Lego, or making a train track, and five minutes can become twenty-five.
But there are some final things I need you to know:
I’ve never used you as an excuse, and I never will. Some people I know with children tend to use them as an excuse for all the things they can’t do, but I don’t feel that way with you. I know I can do anything. You don’t prevent me from doing anything and I think in the future that might be one of the best things you learn from me.
You are like a sponge; you soak everything in. And that’s why I’m so determined to live the best possible life I can, and be true to myself along the way, because I need to, for you. It’s not enough for me to hope and wish for who I want you to become – I need to be those things.
In many years to come, when you’re a man, and I’m an old woman, you won’t remember the things I tried to teach you, or the things I told you to do – you’ll remember who and what I am. And the things I did. You’ll remember how I lived.
I need you to know that life is resplendent – that every year you will learn, and bloom, and lament, and hurt, and you will go on adventures, and life will blow you away.
You have roots, and a core, and a heart, and you will sprout and develop, and I will always be there, to nourish you and love you, and it will never, ever feel like an obligation. It is a privilege, my son. You are an absolute privilege.
I wrote this post on Facebook over the weekend:
“Sometimes I get a little obsessive with songs, or poems, and I listen to them or read them, over and over, until I’ve got everything I can out of them, or they’ve at least sunk in.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading ‘The Invitation’ by Oriah, Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder, and I love it, all of it, and I’ve got this verse playing on loop in my head, and in particular this line: “I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.”
Because I’ve realised I can.
Because being genuine – not betraying who I truly am, or my soul – might not make me the best person in the world, by some standards or rules, but it makes me the only one I’m happy to live with. Being fake – especially to myself – is just not an option. I’ve always been ok with that, but I’ve doubted it a little recently.
Earlier this year, I wrote a thing, and one of the lines in it was this: “People will tell you to ‘be yourself’ but in order to do so, you’ve got to get really comfortable with who you genuinely are.”
Because I’ve realised I am.
Even if that means disappointing another to be true to myself.
I really, really am.”
I do that kind of thing, sometimes – post a thought, or an opinion, occasionally a rant.
There’s no real rhyme or reason to what I post, other than feeling a certain way in a certain moment. It’s a free pour, out of my brain, to my little community of people, partly in the hope that some of the words might mean something to them – that they might help them, or inspire them, or at least make them think.
Sometimes other stuff happens instead.
Sometimes people don’t like what I write, or say.
Maybe it hits a nerve for them, or maybe it confronts (or more likely affronts) them.
I’m not sure.
This morning my phone rang and it was someone telling me they’d read my post, and that I was wrong. They told me all the reasons I was wrong. And then the reasons why I was selfish.
I chuckled, a bit. Mostly because I know I’m one of the least selfish people in the world, but paradoxically, and this was kind of the point of my post, I can also be terribly selfish, and I’m ok with that. I’m more than ok with that.
I know you’re not supposed to say that.
I know you’re supposed to say that you spend your entire life in service of others; of people, the greater good, of tasks and checklists. That you put everyone, and everything, first, and lag behind, hoping to catch a break or take a breath. And even if you know who or how you really are, I know you’re meant to deny it, and pretend. Pretend like you are that person you’re ‘supposed’ to be.
But I can’t do that.
I’ve never been wired to do that.
And if there’s anything I know, it’s that you’ve got to love yourself first.
For me, that means being true to who I am. Even if that means disappointing someone else. Even if that makes me selfish.
I am no good to anyone, or anything, any other way.
Today someone shared this Jane Caro article on Facebook, and I read it and nodded. It is much more important to be brave, than nice. And people are very afraid of offending others. And saying what they think. And none of that fazes me at all.
I definitely don’t ever intend to offend anyone, but if someone is a little disgruntled after reading something I’ve written, there’s not a single part of me that is concerned about that.
It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I can’t, and won’t, suppress my thoughts because they don’t align with someone elses.
Part of what I do, as a writer, means putting a fair bit of myself out there. And while there is a great deal that I haven’t yet written about (my childhood, my challenges, my pretty traumatic labour experience, to name a few), there is a lot that I have. And I know that if I want to be the best writer I can be – and, more importantly, be true to who I am – then I can’t filter my thoughts.
If I factored in every opinion, and expectation, I’d likely never write a thing.
And let’s be honest; writing is one of the most selfish, indulgent things you can do. Especially when it’s about yourself, or your life.
That people even read what I write still blows me away. With all the words in all the world, the fact that a small percentage of people read mine with what precious time they have is kind of incredible.
But I don’t really write for them. I write for me. And, I suspect, that’s part of the reason people keep coming back; because I’m not trying to be perfect – something I most definitely am not. I’m only trying, every day, to be the best me I can be. And I think sharing parts of who I am can maybe help other people be brave, or at least be themselves, unashamedly.
Something I’m conscious of is that not every story is my story – even the ones that do have a lot of me in them. And while I’ll always be true to myself, I’m aware that not everyone I cross paths with has signed up to have their life chronicled, or their thoughts aired, and I respect that, with every ounce of consideration I have.
But it’s ok for me to be raw, out there. To say, or write, the things I don’t think enough people do. I can handle the negative feedback and comments (and even the phone calls).
But I don’t think I can stomach the judgement.
I think people that say things that are truthful – even if those things aren’t necessarily pretty – shouldn’t be torn down, but maybe instead given a high-five, or at least a thumbs up.
Not because of any other reason than it is brave.
It requires, no matter how often you’ve done it before, an unflinching exploration of boldness.
And not enough people are bold. Or brave.
And the more we tear down people when they try to be, the less likely they are to lay anything bare.
And we need to lay bare; to unlatch and throw wide open the window on who we are, so we can make it easier for other people to be who they are.
I’m never going to stop doing that; even when it’s not pretty. Even when it’s brash.
Being who you genuinely are, and being ok with that, is brave and it is bold.
And that’s all I need, and want, to be.