The Centrelink fear spiral..

I wake to an automated text message from Max Employment saying that I have an appointment at 10am tomorrow. This is the first I have heard of this! Immediately I am anxious. I haven’t had to deal with either Max Employment or Centrelink for over two months and it’s been a luxurious and anxiety free time.

The government (thanks Abbot, you bastard!) has implemented a new system whereby they pretend to help you out by forcing you to do volunteer work. It’s just another reminder that my life isn’t under my control, that I’m being given ‘hand outs’ and I’m obliged to work for free for Christians and not for profit companies that need some indentured labour. Not only am I not being given enough to live on or pay my cars registration, I am obliged to volunteer my time wherever Max Employment want to place me in exchange for this slap-in-the-face service that is called government “support.”

Max Employment has’t been able to handle the new influx of work and bullshit they have to deal with so I haven’t been placed anywhere yet. I knew they would call one day though, so I have been relishing this reprieve. The time of bliss has come to an end, but I have not been idle. As you know I am volunteering 7 hours a week with the M16 Art Space, with the Belconnen Arts Centre and soon with the ANU Press for 4-7 hours a week. On top of that I write for Verity La and edit for Grapple Publishing. And honestly I am not always on top of all that I have signed up for, let alone my own projects. I am desperate for Max Employment to recognise the volunteering I do and either exempt me from their punishment or make me do less of whatever they have designed. I need time to look for jobs, write and honor my other commitments. If Max Employment had even a snifter of actual ability to help people into jobs and understanding about the life of artists, they would see that I’m already doing valid volunteering and they don’t need to force me into more. Besides I have registered myself with a real recruitment agency, I don’t need their “help.”

So my Sunday which I planned to be languid and mostly involve editing and reading the Shadow Over Innsmouth has turned into an anxious hell of jittery job searching and trying to fight off images of being forced to volunteer at the Tuggeranong vinnes. Oh it’s a fine life, the artists life…

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Taking a trip to “The Canberra Dream”: Melbourne

I heard it once said that the Canberra dream is to move to Melbourne. Most people I have encountered my own age, wether born here or not have had at some point the dream to move to Melbourne. For a lot of them that took them to Melbourne and for others there were reasons to stay and the dream was replaced by another. My enduring dream for well over five years has been to move.

The day after looking into cheap flights and yelling at my laptop, “I don’t know if I need to pay extra to have a carry on allowance of 35 kls.” the excitement kicked in. The stress of planning subsided and the full reality of visiting the place I have lusted heavily over for years slid in.

My best friend and I have planned the trip for late September. It comes on the back of my serious rumblings about moving. Cat is also finished with Canberra, so this trip is a chance to show her how amazing Melbourne is, in hopes she might want to move with me. We have always known that we would both move one day, but we thought up until this year, that it would be to different places. I was always set on Melbourne and she on warm coast lines. But with no specific location calling her it seems that Melbourne has become an option for her. Since that moment I have felt much more serious about moving, as it seems somewhat possible that I might not be parted from my soul mate in the process. Cat has been amazing to even consider moving to Melbourne when she has never visited it before. I want her to go wherever will make her happiest, and if that means she doesn’t end up moving with me, well I won’t be quite whole again, but I will support her and find a way to live with her physical absence.

But we have planned a trip! I shall be cementing my good feelings about the place and having a look at certain suburbs. I anticipate that this little trip will cause unbearable longing within me that I will carry back to Canberra. I figure I will have to turn this longing into brute enthusiasm and energetic  goal making or I will become increasingly frustrated. Frustration may be a little inevitable though. Hopefully for Cat, Melbourne delights her and looms before her as a tangible option for her future.

I will keep you updated.

The unintentional self sabotage

Not being a naturally well organised person I have to put in place a lot of alarms and reminders for myself. For the second time I have mis-remembered the deadline for an ANU library job application and missed my opportunity to get my resume in. It wasn’t like I had the exact qualifications for the job (I don’t have a Cert III in Information and Cultural Services) but there’s no harm in submitting. I am going to have to work on being even more organised than I already strive to be. Not being in sync with a culture of hard deadlines but trying to be otherwise is hard work….

Missing words

I often wake up and look forward to doing my CIT homework. Currently my favourite class is Colour Theory. We are making a huge number of our own colour swatches from only yellow, blue (cyan), and red (magenta). It’s a great,  practical way to learn about how colour works. But I also miss words. I’m not engaging with them any less, but my focus and perception of my future is different.

I’m starting from the beginning again in a way; soon I will be building up portfolios, trying to get recognised, collecting contacts in the design industry. It’s been a bit humiliating to be starting over because my degree that took me five years is unrecognised. Those years of study and adoration for the conventions of Victorian fears imbedded in literature feels wasted. I always have what I know and I might find a way to use my knowledge in an unpaid manner, but that direction of learning seems a little dimmer. I’m doing something not totally unrelated, design is still in the field of the arts as writing is, but the skills I previously honed I’m sad to not be continuing to develop in a formal or paid manner.

I can be too concrete about my future, wrapping too much of my identity in what I do. None of us are only made up of what we do for a day job, but being a writer (and future publisher/editor) has been who I thought I was for many years. I miss it. The slowly solidifying dream of working for a literary/feminist/philosophical publication aches. In part it also aches because a question was posed to me about what kind of jobs in the art sector I want. I wasn’t sure how to answer as I don’t have a lot of clues about what jobs exist and what skills beyond admin are needed. But the question has beckoned me to dream into that dim space. From it I feel I should keep pushing forward in the writing/publishing world as well as see what develops from Interior Design. I don’t have to be one thing with one direction.

Video

Talks to get you through your quarter life crisis

Oh I have had one of these! I’m probably still in it. I highly recommend these Ted talks to absolutely all twenty-somethings. The third video was especially impactful. It’s a bit confronting but it think it essentially advocates exploring (not procrastinating) and thinking about your future in a wise way (not putting off thinking about it). This has semi terrified me into action; into persisting with looking for internships and work/career options.

Having a future

Almost all writers need another job to sustain them and pay for the goth boots. Mine might be Interior Design. It would be an understatement to say that this last year has been hard. My self esteem has been severely damaged and I was actually starting to believe I had no talent. Despite my efforts, I have little ability to do retail, admin or hospitality to a level that makes me employable. I didn’t want to be a wiz at those occupations anyway, but being told I am crap over and over when I was doing all I could to at least be adequate, was more than disheartening. And it was the only narrative that surrounded me- it was taking over. I used to feel talented and smart. What happened to that? Out of necessity I was trying to make it in industries that went against my nature and skills. I’ve been profoundly stuck. But I kept to my agreement with myself to try new career paths and get further education, which lead me to CIT.

I’ve been intrigued for years by the idea of Interior Design. In College I filled diaries till they were bowed and water logged with glue. They were filled with pictures, paint chips, mood boards, fabric, old jewelry and concept drawings. This was my art more than sewing a dress or painting on a canvas (though I enjoy doing both still). But I didn’t know what I was doing had a name and was a skill. At Uni, during my Graphic Design course I became overwhelmed with excitement when it came time to work on composition skills. So I’ve had an inkling that this could be ‘my world’ for a while.

I was fortunate that I was able to get into one CIT class this semester and not have to wait till next year (though I can’t do full time study till then). The class last night was on making concept boards. I had flashbacks to my previous experiences with these skills, which filled me with a sense of confidence and capability. It’s been a long while since I have felt like that. This one 3 hour class has rippled through me in a way that I thought would be like a stone hitting still water, but has been more like a car being thrown off a bridge. I didn’t doubt that this could be right for me, but I didn’t anticipate having a wide sense of possibility and a future again. If you know me or have at least read my posts then you know I’ve struggled, writhed and agonized over this past year. It’s immense to think that this could be right for me and that one day I could sustain myself doing something I am great at and enjoy.

Like so many young people I dreamt grand dreams and spat upon what I saw as an average life (doing the norm/babies/mortgage/hating ones boring existence). As a teen I was especially vicious about this. I had no idea how hard living out of home can be, and how rewarding being independent is. I still hope to live up to a more realistic version of my teen dreams, but I’m more than thrilled by what’s ahead of me and being able to sustain myself in the process. Being independent with my learning disorders, anxieties and being a HSP (highly sensitive person) has been extremely demoralising and formidable. But doing these classes makes me feel that I’m building a platform that will enable me to be free and do things that I value.

The truth in despair

Few people know what they’re doing; they stumbled along and find great jobs eventually. Yet this is seldom said and much of what I see are “adults” who seem to shoulder their responsibilities with ease. They can look after themselves and the world doesn’t make them want to retreat to a cave. Do they cry at night? Do they want to kill themselves? I don’t wish that despair on people but I’d like to know who’s actually functional and who’s pretending. Is this the mask of getting older? I’m alone when surrounded by a world that I suspect is pretending.

I’m compelled in my writing to regurgitate those quiet, shady truths that seem a bit despicable and leave people feeling they are standing in a long abandoned room. We want to speak into those spaces about life being beautiful and worthy of our lifespan, but more often than not this is just to fill the uncomfortable feeling. I don’t advocate a state of perpetual depression or giving up, I just like to sit in those spaces without pushing them aside. We humans are not all joy and sensuality, we equally made up of aguish and indignation.

I have a nature that’s fairly unflinching in the face of darkness. It leads me to being fascinated by despair. I don’t delight in it, it’s not abstract or just a curiosity, but a deep human reality that is a comfort to see in some instances. I don’t see the world as a glass half full/empty issue; that all can be cured by having a positive perspective. I’m preoccupied with despair because I often find it to be honest. Uncomfortably honest in a culture obsessed with the success, performance and appearances.

I am driven to find this truth in humans and speak to it. Truth is not easily spoken about though. I don’t mean to invoke the childish notion of seeking the one true truth; that it always sets us free and must be nobly sought after. I mean truth in this instance to mean the stripping back of pretense and self told delusions. To simply hear a friend talk about their depression or universal restlessness and not shy away it. I wouldn’t call this easy to do and it does take practice. But people are pulsing and struggling. Ignoring the homeless man won’t mean you’ll scream any less on the inside. In being able to actually hear the pain of others we really are less likely to ignore it in ourselves.

I would like to bring some of this to Scissors Paper Pen if I have the chance. I am sending in an application soon. I love the idea of the opportunity to write for them, but I also figure it’s a great platform to speak to other people like myself who chose or are compelled to live ‘the artist life’ and hence struggle with disillusionment more chronic than poverty. I haven’t got all the ideas formed in my head but I’ve got the anger, first hand experience and reflection on the issue to undoubtably come up with something powerful. I’m still wrestling with wether there is a ‘writers utopia’ or not; if through enough exploitation, internships and frittering away our talents for free we really do get what we deserve (and it pays well).

Either way, I’m driven to turn my year of agony and uncertainty into something of use to others; to form it into raw advice ungarnished with bullshit. Those in despair don’t need me to essentially write for them that which they could also get from a useless cat poster. It’s brutal trying not to hide from my own unhappiness and where it comes from. But it would be fulfilling to be able to turn such a lost experience into useful words for others.

Image: http://innadril.deviantart.com/art/Despair-209828769