I’ve been addicted to social media for a while, but I suppose it’s been worse ever since I used my phone more. I’m not sure when that started to happen. It was either in South America when I began using apps for everything including for my reading habit, or when I returned, or even when I bought a new phone months ago.
Our addictions come because we feel they can fulfill a need that we have. Maybe mine is in having a voice, or seeing the reactions to my voice, or the validation from everyone I know that I exist and am doing well. Regardless, I have been more concerned when I started swiping on my phone when I am asleep. Or waking up at 5am regularly to check my Facebook and Instagram.
I teach online English, and my student and I were discussing this addiction. He said he went through a similar thing by replacing the need. He began using Reddit instead. But I’ve been thinking I can mimic the need for validation by using WordPress more. Fewer people are going to read this, but that’s okay. I won’t have the need to check this every few minutes.
And I’ll be writing more, expressing my feelings, and in theory, consuming less with fewer things. I should be using my laptop more so that I don’t fall into the trap of swiping. That is the addition.
I added an app to my phone in which it monitors the time I spend on my phone and how I spend it. I spent 32 hours on my phone last week. Eight hours was on Facebook, and another eight was spent on Instagram. The thing is I couldn’t tell you precisely what I spent that time on. I shared a couple of photos but mostly it was checking to see who looked at my stories, over and over again. That can’t be healthy. I spent 42 minutes on Tinder between adding it and deleting it.
Meanwhile, I spent seven minutes on Duolingo to learn Spanish.
Right now I have this tension to turn my phone back on and look at it. I don’t even know why. I can do everything I need on the laptop, but I suppose it’s an easier way in my mind to connect with people, who may not actually proactively have an interest in connecting with me.
ON Saturday I was supposed to be flying to Santiago, for a month of backpacking in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. But the world has changed hasn’t it, and I guess it was self-entitlement to think I was ‘supposed’ to be doing anything.
I’m taking two weeks holiday instead of a month, and I am sitting at home. There’s a lot of time to process my thoughts, and there’s a lot of them that haven’t had time to emerge since I first left Peru. And even then I was in reverse culture shock, trying to get a job and a place to move in.
I left a year ago, and I know why I had to leave. I wasn’t happy, I missed Australia, and I wasn’t financially or socially stable. The time was just right to return. But I haven’t really stopped to think about it, except on the one month and six month milestone. And now.
I just read an article about how the death toll of the coronavirus in Peru is about 80, with about 2500 diagnoses. In Australia there are about 5000 diagnoses, from the top of my head, with about 40 deaths. The article was about how an ex-con living in poverty in Lima is struggling to feed his kids at the markets. The money being distributed by the government isn’t necessarily flowing in places where it’s needed. It’s made me remember that I am lucky, that the worst complaint I’ve really got is a holiday is cancelled, and that I’ve got too much free time safe in my own home, with as many books, TV shows, video games as I could want. So many aren’t this lucky, and while my job isn’t safe, it’s safer than others.
Mentally I’m squirming, because all this time has helped me to confront why it is I am isolated by myself. I’m not just self-isolated, I’m also having to confront why it is I’m actually lonely, what behaviours have led me to this decision, and whether or not this is the result of healthy choices, or poor ones. It’s probably a mix of both.
I look back and I feel there’s a long line of women disappointed in me, but I also know the reason they were disappointed was because I chose what I believed to be right at the time, or to choose what I wanted, in the right way. But when I’m the centre of this disappointment, I start thinking what it is I have learned, or what is wrong with me? Can I move on and have a fulfilling life, and is having passions like travel and learning Spanish helping that to happen, or is it getting in the way?
I reflect on the personal mistakes I made in Peru, with friendships, love, relationships, and there were a lot of them. I felt I was doing the right thing every time and not quite understanding why the people around me reacted the way they did. In a way, I was already in a form of self-isolation there.
I have a Chilean bottle of wine waiting for me in the pantry but I don’t think it’s a good idea to use it just yet.
I’m using this time to learn as much Spanish as I can. I have a few skype lessons booked, but I’ve also taken a beginners’ online course called ‘El Metodo’ and it’s been quite practical. I’m eight lessons in and it’s at my level.
Back in early high school of the early noughties, when I liked Playstation 1 and Wheatus, there’s one moment I recall in between bland vacant times of no meaning. My teacher’s aid was having a bad day. She was turning 30. “I’m old,” she said, miserably. She was cool, someone allocated to keep an eye on me given that I was on the educational radar – the one to watch out for, a sign of troubling behaviour. She lent me her Playstation games, like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot: Warped.
I turned 30 today, and I’ve been struggling for weeks to write something that was a combination of humble-bragging of my past and a declaration of my positive future. It’s 6pm and I haven’t had a shower, and I’m having dinner with my colleagues in 55 minutes. There’s not a lot of time to write something, if I want it published on my birthday.
I’m tired. I just returned from Perth, where I visited my family for a few days. My mum drove me back to the airport and on the way we stopped at Grilled for burgers. And I told her how I feel that it hasn’t been the same since I returned from South America seven months ago, that everyone around me is starting to look old, even my younger brothers.
She gave me the look. The one where her lips are pursed, her eyebrows are raised, and is considering an “mmmm”. And she said, “well you’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. When you were in your 20s you could pretend to be, sort of. But you’re not.” And I had to absorb that for a moment, because in my heart I’ve thought I have the best of both mindsets, where I have experience in my profession, but am young. I guess I felt that everything I was doing was training me, preparing me, building me for something else in the future, when I was in my prime, when I’d have it all figured out and controlled.
Since I came back from Peru, I haven’t felt that. I’ve felt that where I am now is who I am. And I’ve felt a bit flat over it, as I see that I’m still not having much of a social life, where I’m still struggling with work at times and balancing the feelings of inadequacy that comes with it, with the occasional sense of pride that I know exactly what I’m doing. And I’ve felt that everyone else my age, and younger, have established themselves, have their voices too, and are prepared for this world that constantly is being branded as more frightening and dangerous, in its various forms.
As I continued eating my burger, I carried on with my rant to mum. “You know what the population is? 8 million. Sorry. I meant 8 billion. It wasn’t that long ago, maybe when I was in high school in 2006, when we were told it was 6 billion.”
In that time that has been another 2 billion people who now exist, who soon will indirectly compete with me for resources, food, and are part of a collection of experiences that I won’t be able to relate to.
“Haven’t you ever felt the same?” I asked mum, who would by my count be 48. She shrugged, as if she either hadn’t thought of it, or had long ago taken such a thing for granted.
While the population itself doesn’t directly impact why I’m 30, or the significance of it, I am saying there is a lot that can change in three decades, and even in 15 years.
Such as myself.
I was fostered for three years when I was 10, and I left home when I was 15. It was only the other week that I realised the odds of going to university and completing a degree was low if you were fostered, and when I look back to the kids I knew then, I know that I have accomplished much. People over the years have said I’m hard on myself.
I’ve had to be.
I guess what I’ve done though, in the meantime, ever since my Beenleigh Centrelink careers adviser helped me apply for university, is avoid stability. It’s only since Peru that I’ve even taken out a bond, and rented on my own. I kept a job in Mount Isa for more than three years, and I told myself I would serve that time, but I questioned it every six months.
I’ve always wanted the chance to escape, or have a choice to do so, without feeling bad about it. And I can still do that. Being 30 doesn’t change that. Reaching 30 doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a milestone year. And milestones help us to reflect on what we did and what we want to do.
That’s where I should wrap it. And I will. Today I didn’t do much. I tried out cricket powder in my breakfast cereal. I signed my rental lease for another six months. I bought an expensive pair of jeans from a store that offered me a 20 per cent discount because it was my birthday, only I didn’t see it until after I made the purchase. I bought Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and tried watching it. It’s not a good movie.
And really. That’s it. And I’m about to go out for dinner. And I’m okay with that. But I’ll have a birthday party in two weeks. It won’t be tonight, because I work tomorrow.
I cancelled my Spanish lesson on Saturday. And I haven’t booked again, although I should. I went to the beach at 5.30am that day for a fashion shoot, because I needed pics for an application.
There’s a modelling comp on the Gold Coast in two weeks.
I entered a comp two years ago, the same one really, and afterwards I vowed to tone up and change my diet. But that was about six weeks before I flew to Peru until further notice, and for a while I stuck to some exercise and protein foods. But the alcohol was too much, and by the time I had a full time job as a teacher, I gave up the gym.
I’m back, and have been for seven months, and I’d say I’ve been in a stable environment in my own unit for four months, and three months going to the gym. When I found out about the modelling comp two weeks ago I decided to ditch the alcohol, the dairy, the processed carbs and sugar, and increase my protein.
It’s been difficult but I’ve gained more from gym sessions. But sometimes it’s hard to know if I’ve replaced one obsession (Peru, and then spanish learning), with another one. I probably have, and this time, I tend to get drained easily and exhausted because of a low sugar level. And so, I really had nothing left to give with a successful Spanish lesson.
On Sunday I saw the pictures. And I was unhappy. The photos of posing in the water weren’t me. I had no abs, and there wasn’t much tone on my chest either. I was skinny, but not muscular. I’m okay, but I felt this discouragement as I laid in my bed that night, thinking, “what’s the point? Why am I doing this when I really won’t be ready, there won’t be much of a difference by the time of the competition”.
I went to work the next day, and then I cleaned the house, swept and mopped because I had a house inspection the next day (today). I waited in a chair because I’d mopped the floor and was trapped. And when it was dry I took off for the gym and went another round.
And suddenly, it happened, although it wasn’t really sudden because it had been happening for a few weeks. The program my once-off personal trainer made for me was actually doable. I would have to spend extra time on some exercises, and stop halfway through sets, but there I was, getting through them. And there was a difference in my strength compared to a month ago, and according to what I had written down.
And this in itself, the gaining this strength, was an accomplishment. I walked out of the gym feeling proud, and feeling like a muscleman in my mind, and even seeing myself as one. It didn’t matter then, at that moment, as to how I would look to others in two weeks time.
I’ve started writing again. That’s been one of the changes. Last weekend I told myself to sit down and write for an hour. And not to write something new, but to continue on something I already started.
I did. Then carried on for 20 minutes on the Monday night. And then I did another hour today.
For a bit I’ve felt empty, like I’ve run out of things to say, at least on social media. And that’s okay, maybe, if I’m writing other things.
Now I am. It’s sci-fi fantasy and involves a compilation of works, but the characters are already twisting the story to what they want, and I’m 5000 words in, so that’s a good sign that they are doing that. I just want to write and write and see what comes out of it. I’m hoping for a solid mess of 200,000 words or so. An epic.
The other night I decided to buy face moisturiser. I’ve rarely used it, and I’ve failed to see the need to put more chemicals in my body. But my budget allows me to buy something for hygiene each week, and I wasn’t really needing much food, so I decided to get it.
I tried it yesterday. My face stung a bit like it was sunburned, and then in the evening, something happened.
On the side of my face, next to my right eye, was a white spot. It became noticeable near the end of my Peru trip, and it was a sure sign of my age. I’ve been troubled by it more, and I’ve been touching it a lot, when I’m thinking.
Anyway, the white spot fell off after using the moisturiser.
The same night I went shopping, I bought a muffin tin for apple and cinnamon muffins I’m going to bake for my colleagues tomorrow, at Woolworths, and a work shirt from a clothes store. There’s a cute girl who works there, and I know she’s friendly because it helps her sell clothes, but her interest does seem genuine, like she wants to talk. I joined up a membership the last time we spoke, and she got my birth date, and she seemed so surprised. “That’s my age!” she said.
This time around, we talked about life, and our car troubles, and how she was borrowing her parents’ car. And then she dropped in, “I had to pick my son up.” And I hope I hid my surprise, and I hope it didn’t mean I failed some sort of test.
Girls used to drop in “my boyfriend and I” into the conversation somewhere, if there showed some attraction from either us. Then it got more subtle, and more of the usage of “we” when she did something or went somewhere.
But since coming back to Australia, the women my age who are single also happen to be mothers, and they mention their child. I guess it doesn’t bother me, I don’t want kids for a while, but I suppose then there’s a fear that I need to know exactly what I want. I need to know if I’m going to integrate into another family’s life, and if I don’t, then I should stay out. The time for certainty is now. Or before, perhaps. I’m unsure about when the certainty needs to come into play.
I was driving this afternoon for a short while, and even though the car is still making odd noises, after I took it to the mechanic – who discovered a wrecked head gasket – I feel happy, like I’m getting ahead. I live in a nice place, and I’m able to save a bit of each pay. It wasn’t obvious at first, but my work is paying off for me, financially.
Last night I went to Dan Murphy’s, where there was a Chilean brand of wine I liked to drink in Peru, called Casillero del Diablo. I swear it wasn’t as good when I drank the bottle last night, but I still had a good time. There were times I was holed up in my room in Peru, and I’d drink a bottle, and reach out to everyone I could think of.
I tried not to do that this time.
I’m working on getting more clothes. Most of the shirts I wear to work were the best shirts I couldn’t bear to throw away when I left for overseas. They were for races and rodeos, and so are a bit expensive to wear out. A pink shirt I wore to work for years, before continuing to wear in Peru, is getting shabby and sun worn. I threw it out today.
It’s funny. Things. You get attached to them.
I went to the races with a work friend last weekend. It was the first races I had been to since before Peru. We got drunk slowly and gambled on horses, and I won the first race at odds of 7/1. We met a couple who recently moved to the area, and they met in Iceland. He was Australian but lived in various places overseas for four years, and she was from the Czech Republic. It was a long story but after a year of being friends, they tried to make it work, and she moved to Australia. But all the loopholes they have to jump through, the stress, the difficulty, it seemed to me like it was hard.
And to me, the longer I was with them, the more I felt an underlining tension.
Work is okay. I’m finding ways to be more efficient and reduce my anxiety. One good way I found was to try to reduce my talking to everyone, and just work quietly. I don’t need to have a presence, or know everything, or have an opinion about what’s going on.
And I’ve found, by doing that, that I worry less about if I’ve said something wrong, or not doing the right thing.
Another thing I did was I bought a news subscription. When I wake up for work (at 7am, formerly at 7.40am) I switch on the TV to ABC, and then read my news subscription’s email which is sent every morning. It gives me the highlights. By the time I come to work, and I have a news meeting, I feel mentally prepared to know what the agenda of the day is. I’m not spending an hour or two trying to play catch up.
I love a good Zelda game. Nintendo released a classic from 1992. A Link to the Past. Geez, it’s good. And hard. And brings in the best elements of legit Zelda gameplay.
I guess I’m starting to feel like I’m not playing catch up.
I’ve just received my tax return, and so maybe that’s why I’ve been using my extra money for Latin American experiences.
In 20 minutes I’m leaving the house for a beginner’s salsa lesson, and I’m nervous. Since I woke up this morning I’ve been anxious about it. I guess that’s why I hate making plans. I think about the next appointment even if it’s six hours away.
The lesson will probably be great, but I pre-booked it last night (it was $35 which is a lot for an hour group lesson) because I knew that I’d talk myself out of going. Now, I won’t talk myself out of doing it.
I guess I hate learning when other people are involved. I love learning on my own, at my own pace.
As soon as my last pay arrived into my bank account, I ordered a Lonely Planet guide for Chile. I’d like to go next year. Most nights I write in my journal something different I learned about Chile.
During the week I decided to do a ‘swear jar’ and would put in a dollar for every time I mentioned Peru in the office. I mentioned it a lot, but then my colleagues said I should put in money if I hinted at it, or talked about anything remotely Latin American, or talk about Spanish, or speak in Spanish.
It became oppressive to myself and I decided a few days into it that I should stop. Peru and South America were experiences I had for 18 months, and became such a big part of me that my mindset, my passion, the way I see things, has changed. I’m more heartened and enthusiastic because I have this passion.
I chose this class because I wanted to get out the house, and I looked up a meet-up group. This was their next activity and I thought ‘perfect!’ I always wanted to learn Salsa in Peru but I knew I needed to learn Spanish first.
And I never learned Spanish. So I never learned la salsa.
Right now there’s a Latin dance party happening. The beautiful latina lesson coordinator invited me after my lesson. But I’ve decided not to go.
The lesson was good but my rhythm was off straight away. But I learned by swapping with partners. It was amazing what body language from each person could tell me, and about myself. I froze with the women around my age, but relaxed with the older women, who seemed to enjoy the moment a lot more.
“If you smile and just move you can get away with anything,” one of the women said by the end.
There are free two hour workshops on Sunday evenings. I’ll continue to go to them.
The lesson ran 10 minutes over, and to be honest, I was ready to go. I went into the car feeling dehydrated, foggy in the head, and I knew that I came out feeling anxious. I wasn’t ready for a dance party so soon.
It is possible that my journey right now is to discover my self-worth, without my job, my pay check, my clothes, or the opinions of women.
If so, I feel that to earn confidence requires having one true thing I can enjoy, without worrying about how good I am or how I appear to others. That’s the trouble with dancing. Its appearance based, and to not feel the rhythm or know the steps is to feel foolish.
Tengo una mala noticia No fue de casualidad Yo quería que nos pasara, y tu, y tu
I don’t know most of the words but it sounds beautiful, and it’s uplifting, and I like the core message that I get out of it. And the second singer, this wavy haired woman with innocent eyes, and a growling husky Spanish tone, charms me. The lead might be Andres Calamaro, an Argentinian who is possibly my favourite singer at the moment anyway, and he has a cool laid back long haired vibe. I want to be like him, that guy on centre stage singing in Spanish. But I can’t play a guitar, I can’t sing, I can’t speak Spanish. That’s okay. I listen and every time I grab at another word and I try to sing what I do know at the same time they do.
There was a Rotary Book Fair on the weekend. I went there with a soon-to-be housemate and colleague. I found three books, with one about police corruption in Qld in the 70s which it turns out I’ve already read, some book called Unpardonable Crime, and…a 2004 Lonely Planet guide for Argentina.
I wanted my next travel destination to be Chile. But after I bought Argentina’s guide and flicked through it I became more excited. This was a challenge! The land is massive, a whole new section of a massive amount of land that is monstrous in comparison to Peru. And having traveled Peru I had a context of the size of Argentina. And there was music, and a new history, and a new culture for me to navigate! I met Argentinas when I left Machu Picchu and they were really nice.
Yesss, Argentina. But the guide said I would need six weeks to three months to circuit Argentina. I believe it. So I think this is a trip that could wait after I quit this job, years from now.
Lo dejaste pasar No quiero que me perdones Y no me pidas perdón No me niegues que me buscaste
I have an airfares price-watch set on Santiago, Chile. Qantas has just come through with a bunch of specials including a return flight next year, which is when I could go on holidays. It’s only $1000 return. I want to go. I’m ready to do so. I just don’t have the money in my pocket to book it. Just yet. I’ll still do Chile. Maybe fly into Peru and say hello to friends and former students, and then bus it south down the border. Or maybe into Bolivia. I still don’t know.
There is a boxing troupe that travels in certain places. Fred Brophy runs this boxing tent, and he pitched it last weekend. The locals get drunk and then volunteer to take on his boxers. I’ve been in there once.
As I watched Fred, a true old school Aussie, drawl out for challengers to take on his boxers, and as we screamed in the tent for the next blow, “finish him!” I may have screamed at one point, as some of the lads shook the lights at the top of the tent to make the fighters hurry up. I left the tent and drove home, but happy. It felt good to be back, this tent came to where I used to live before I moved to Peru for 18 months.
Tinder hasn’t gone well. I’m a bit confused by that. One time I thought to myself it was a bit like “how to lose a Tinder match in three messages (without using a dick pic).” My soon-to-be colleague says he goes through the same thing.
For a bit when I came back I just wanted to be single, or be a fuckboy for an ego boost, and when that didn’t eventuate, and as time went on I realised I didn’t have the energy to be with a girl who’d even accept that.
I’m okay being single. I guess I just want to be accepted for who I am. I can be myself and loved for it. I want to vent, and I want to be heard. I had that in a relationship. I’m not sure I get it when people aren’t invested enough.
I feel like something is still missing. Every week I felt that, I guess, but every week I either got a job or moved, or bought new things for the unit, or connected to NBN. This might be the first week I don’t need anything new. So what’s new?
Los errores no se eligen Para bien o para mal No fallé cuando viniste, y tu, y tu No quisiste fallar
Peru has become a punchline with my colleagues, probably because I talk about it so much. It’s not meant to be cruel, and it isn’t, but it makes me feel a wall is there. I sit at my desk. And the joke is that I want to keep travelling even though I’m happy where I am.
Today a colleague asked me about music, and to give her a list of what she could listen to. And I did. Happily.
Nada fue un error.
Argentina. That idea. Of being on the road. And being exciting to people again
It has been 12 days since I returned to Australia, and I’ve lost count of the hours of video games and the number of coffees I have been drinking.
I have been in Western Australia to visit my family for a week. It has been almost five years since I last saw them. A few days ago, I visited Granddad’s shed to see how much of my stuff remained in boxes. It had been left at Mum’s but I can’t remember being specific about what I wanted kept.
Fearing the worst, I opened the cupboard and pulled out the boxes. There were laughs, and there were near tears. The treasure trove was better than I remembered.
The number plates for my first car, and the die cast Tardis key chain, and key, were there.
There was a book in which I had printed photos of friends and asked them to write a farewell message for me, when I moved to Melbourne for a year. Many have aged…but there was one friend in there who had later killed himself. This was his last message to me, and if I had known what to look for, I might have seen the troubles he shared in his message. Many in the book are still my friends.
There was the skeleton, more or less, of my imaginary friend Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. His head was missing, the repainting I had given him had peeled off, his battery was dead, his legs were missing, his wings would not work. He was just a relic.
So many CDs (white metal. A lot of militant Christian metal, that’s for sure), my old Stryper T-Shirt (ever heard of them? Youtube them. Anyway, on the back of the shirt it said ‘To Hell With The Devil’ and I wore it to uni once and freaked out the Gold Coast chicks), Xbox games, and Nintendo DS games (including my old Pokemon Pearl with its 240 hour game file still intact. 240 hours for one game!!! Are you kidding me?). There was the short story I had published in an edition of the now non-existing writers’ magazine, Wet Ink, which was called ‘lonely Leather.’ Not counting journalism, it remains the only piece of writing I was paid for. I had my aeronautical goggles, the Gryffindor scarf that Mum made me, and the Sonic Screwdriver replica belonging to the 11th Doctor.
There is also some of the more favourable feedback from university assignments.
I suppose I have prided myself on the way I can move from place to place, having to start again from scratch. But really, much of it remains locked in a shed cupboard.
Top 5 Weird or Obscure CDS I Found
The Cambodian Space Project (bought at the Ubud Writers and Readers Fest, 2011)
Johnny Cash’s ‘My Mother’s Hymn Book’
A burnt copy of a ‘Within Temptation’ album
Stryper’s Reborn Album (their first album for more than 10 years, after their controversial ‘Against the Law’ album in the early 90s). Too heavy for conservative Christians, too preachy for the rebels.
A burnt copy of The Doors’ Essential Rarities (which includes a live version of ‘The End’ and Jim Morrison is screaming ‘bring out your dead!’ over and over at the start). “The killer awoke before dawnnn….he put his boots on….ergh!”
Top 5 Video Games
Pokemon Pearl (I tried playing it again. I was in the Elite Four using a level 99 Gengar. I was bored quickly. It took too long to do things)
Beyond Good and Evil! (This was a cool spacey game with some central American influence done for the Xbox, but this version was republished for the Xbox 360 in part of some ‘three games collection’).