Ramblings: The end of 2012 (and the beginning of 2013)



Last night I was lying in bed with the lights out, listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds No More Shall We Part, ready to drift off to sleep when I was suddenly transported back to 2001. Same music, same position, probably even facing the same direction, but thousands of miles apart, in a different country and a different time. It was such a weird feeling, being in two places, two times, all at once, showing me that some things just never really change…

2012 has been an interesting, strange, ultimately good, sometimes bad year, with moments of pure sadness and happiness, moments that I would love to relive and moments I would rather bury deep in the ground and forget forever. Some missteps, many bounds forward, quite a few stumbles and some big tumbles. I feel like I was very diligent in my writing during the first six months of the year, but let it drop to the background due to procrastination, a loss of inspiration and confidence during the last quarter. Although I do find that what I wrote over the summer and the autumn is better than anything I wrote last year. Some of it I am ready to show to others and already have done, other pieces will remain unread by anyone other than myself for a while. I have several different projects in the pipeline for 2013, but they will remain in my head until I feel ready enough to fully complete them. I feel that I have failed in certain ways this year and don’t want these new projects to follow the same trajectory. 

As with my writing, I started 2012 off with many photography projects, and since August haven’t really picked up my camera, let alone taken it out on a tour anywhere. I feel I made great steps forward when I finally managed to fully use the manual settings on my DSLR properly and start experimenting with different shots, but then lost all inspiration again. I took some film, remembered how much I absolutely adored black and white prints, and then lost interest again. I already have different plans for the New Year, and a new lens that will be arriving shortly that will hopefully help mimic my film prints on my DSLR. I am also intent on buying the Fuji camera that I have wanted for over a year now, once I finally save up for it properly. That won’t come until after my holiday in Jamaica though!

This time last year I was completely broke, trying (and failing) to make ends meet and trying to figure out what I actually really wanted to do with myself. Everything sorted itself out brilliantly after several stints working in different places, as I now work at my old job as well as in a restaurant right next door, and feel happy to be at both places. At least now I am financially stable again, although I still need to find a balance between work that pays the rent and everything else I want to do. I need to go back to writing at least 5,000 words a week, instead of less than 1,000. Finish more books again instead of tiring of them after 100 pages. Spending more time at home and being productive rather than on Orchard St getting myself into trouble. Finding my focus again this week after letting it go astray for months has been a complete blessing. Now it’s time to rein it in and wrap it around myself again, never to let it off its leash again.

Friendships come and go over time, but this year has seen the definite end of some and the beginning of others. The sadness from seeing some friends disappear is more than cancelled out by the blossoming of other amazing friendships. In my opinion friendship is never a one way road, it takes time, work, give and take on both sides, and while some people will surprise you with their consistency and love, others disappoint you with their willingness to give up in front of a hurdle that seems a little bit too high to step over. There are times that you need to take a leap to be rewarded, so if you never take it, how on earth are you ever going to really feel happy? Friendships that end are never a one-sided problem, they come from both sides, there aren’t any real right or wrongs, just not enough effort put in and probably not enough love to see it through to the other side. And, in a way, that’s OK. Time goes by, and others are always there, not to replace anyone, because one friend can never replace another, but just to take part of the love that you can no longer give to those who are just not around anymore. I feel like this year I have met some absolutely wonderful people who I can’t imagine my life without anymore. People who make you laugh and who care about you, who motivate you and who have the guts to tell you (kindly) when you are making a mess of things, and vice versa. I cherish these new friendships as much as I cherish the old friendships that are still going strong.

I’m not very good at summing up an entire year in a few words, especially not the last one, and some things are just too personal to post on here. Instead I will just post a few links to blog posts that I feel highlighted certain aspects of it, ups and downs, and leave it at that.

Words:

Photography:

And as I can never write a post without some kind of music reference, I will just post a link to a playlist I made for this year. All of the songs except for one were released during the year and all come from albums that helped me get through this year in one piece.

2012 in Music (direct link to Spotify)


Happy New Year! May 2013 be rich in happiness and productivity!

Short Story/Essay: Paradise Within


I actually wrote this for something else, in the hopes that it may be published there, but once I had sent it realised that I just wanted to post it on here too. So I waited a while and am just going to post here anyway, while I am sitting in my Mum's house in California on vacation, another spot in this world that I consider as slightly paradisaical in itself... Sunshine, palm trees, pure calm and relaxation, food directly picked from the garden and thrown into a salad or onto the barbeque... The theme I was writing for was Paradise, and this is what I was immediately inspired to write.



Paradise Within
I used to live in Paradise. But before I arrived in Paradise I lived in a place I can only consider as Hell, created by the people living on this planet around me and by the pitfalls of my own mind. I don’t live in Paradise anymore, but I live in a world that I have created for myself, part beauty and part darkness, part love and part evil. I call this my real world, and hope that I was able to bring some of my learnings from Paradise back to this world of mine.

Hell was the place I lived in just after 9/11. Watching the planes crash, the buildings plummet to the ground and imagining the horrific death of all of those people shifted my once idealistic approach of the world to one of terror and doom. How could I make any type of difference against a big machine of war that our planet was gearing up towards? Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War had been bad enough, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of nuclear threats gave us all hope that this world could become a better place if we tried. That is, until other forms of terror appeared, from both sides of the spectrum. 9/11, cumulated with the fact that I was writing my MA thesis on Sylvia Plath, led me to believe that Plath had had it all sorted and life under a Bell Jar was the only option for survival.

Hell was being scared to leave the house, panic attacks and acute weight loss, days of not being able to get out of bed, and nights of leaving my phone off the hook to avoid the constant phone calls and messages from my friends, worried why they hadn’t seen me and why I wasn’t out with them. Hell was a constant underlying anxiety of the unknown, and fear of never being able to rid myself of these feelings and feel happy again. Then Hell just became numbness. I came upon a crossroads: either I continued along this road or I chose to make a change, rip myself away from familiarity and throw myself into the unknown, where I would be able to lose myself, and where nobody knew me.

The flight to Paradise was long, and the first few days I was there were ones of complete panic, hidden by my creative ability to appear as calm as possible while my insides were churning. How would I ever be able to communicate with the people when I couldn’t even read their alphabet? Where would I know to stop on the bus in the middle of the desert where everything looks the same and different at the same time? How could I make sure that the food I was eating was really vegetarian? Who could I trust and who should I watch out for? And then I just let go. We humans have many a survival instinct, and I just let mine take over, in essence freeing myself from everything that was holding me back, and opening myself up to a brand new experience that would ultimately change my world.

Paradise was a country built on war, pain, love and passion. A place where the south was mainly desert and the north mainly green, where the sun would beat down on you during the day and the stars would shine brighter than I had ever seen them during the night. Paradise was where I lived among free spirits by the sea, working hard during the day, planting food that would be sold abroad once it was ready, making irrigation pipes for export in the factory, cooking food for over 500 people, serving it up and cleaning up after everyone. Paradise was where we would sit down after work and talk about our lives, a group of people from many different countries and cultures, brought together for different reasons, living together and coping together. No one goes to Paradise without their own personal reasons and expectations, and everyone leaves with some questions answered and new feelings that they never thought existed.

Paradise was the home that I made for myself among these people. Paradise was the ability to be myself and learn that I was a natural leader among others. Paradise helped me discover so many things about myself, helped me discard some of them and cherish others. Paradise taught me that it was OK to love, and that it was OK to get upset. If you don’t talk about what you feel and keep it all bottled up inside, it will only lead to explosion and damage. Paradise was the place where I learned that I could be passionate and that I could believe in a better world. Paradise helped me become the person I am today. I will always remember standing on the beach, with the little waves touching my toes, holding hands with the person I loved and imagining a future that would be full of warmth and sunshine. I let go and at the same time finally let people in.

I always knew Paradise couldn’t last forever, and when I had to leave I had already made up my mind to bring it back with me and plant those roots wherever I ended up. Seven years ago I packed my bags again and went off into the unknown and never left. I knew I had nothing to fear anymore. I planted my little roots here in the city, and let them grow deep. Every time I meet with fear, loneliness, pain and heartbreak I walk to the ocean and wash away the intense need to rip up my roots and run away. I let the ocean remind me of the days I spent in Paradise and the times that I learnt to trust myself and others, and go back to my real world revived and ready to fight any more battles that come my way. Life is a constant challenge and battle between highs and lows, pain and happiness and choices. The important part is to remember to be strong and to find the happy medium between the extremes.

Paradise does exist, and I will always carry a piece of my Paradise around with me, wherever I go. Whatever your paradise is, I promise that you will find it one day, maybe even create it for yourself. I’m happy in my real world nowadays, and always know that I can return to Paradise if I ever need to.

"I was born a woman" - piece on Feminism

Written in June 2005.

I Was Born a Woman

I didn’t get into Feminism. There is no real moment in my life that I can say “that’s when I became a feminist”. I was born into it.

I was born a woman. I was going to be either a boy or a girl and I pulled the girl straw. No choice, no plan, no nothing. So there you go, you accept it and you live with it and you learn to be happy with what you’ve got. I never wished I were a boy. I never even dreamt about being a boy. I never wondered what it would be like to live as a boy for a day. I’m pure woman and I love it. Not only that, I’m damn proud to be a woman.

Feminism is not about being superior, or better, or worse. It’s not a closed discussion about how women are fighting against men. We all share this world, and it’s up to us to accept the fact that we are all different, to accept that everybody has different bodies, minds, faces and opinions. Feminism is about being a woman and being proud of whom you are. All humans are equal. It’s up to each and every one of us to fight for the consistency of this equality.

I can’t say how I “got into Feminism”. It’s always been a part of me. From a very early age both my mother and my father instilled deep in my heart the need to stand up for my rights and for my thoughts. Strong women constantly surrounded me. My whole family is full of strong women. We have not had it easy, but we have always managed to get over every mountain, build bridges over every river and make the most of every straight path. So I think it is right to say that I was born into a feminist family and make every effort to continue this line.

For me Feminism is not about ranting about how women are so much better than men, about how we should rule the world and about how we should stomp out men and male dominance.

No. Feminism is what you want it to be. In my opinion Feminism is regarded too often as something pejorative, and this is because of the way it is portrayed. Annoyingly, Feminism is looked down upon and challenged while, even today, male chauvinism is still accepted and seen as normal. This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to jump up and call all men pigs, but it means that it is up to us women to prove that we are not trying to show that we are better, but that we are trying to prove we are equal and therefore should have equal rights everywhere. We can get rid of the acceptance of chauvinism in society and move on to a new, more equal world where women don’t have to constantly fight.

Apart from the close female figures in my life; my grandmother who bought up her first three children on her own during the Second World War, who outlived her four husbands and still lives to tell her tales today; my mother who battled violent and addicted men and who has always been a role model and who shows everyone that they can accomplish anything in life; I also have a special woman in my life. She’s been by my side since I first came across her on my tenth birthday. I have never met her, but she has been a constant influence. Her name is Marge Piercy and she is a feminist and political poet and novelist. Her characters are always strong and rounded, but not without flaws. Real women who have to deal with the struggles of everyday life, who sometimes make the right choice, sometimes the wrong one, but they never let society pull them down. Whenever I feel that it is all getting too much, I pick up one of Marge Piercy’s writings and she helps me believe in myself again. We all have our own demons; it’s up to us to choose whether to fight or to flee.

We women have to deal with so much, learning to accept who we are and why we are, accepting our bodies, our wants and our needs, and learning to understand that although what we want might often be frowned upon, there is no need to not go out there and get it.

Feminism is all about being a woman and fighting for it. You want to have sex, have sex. You don’t want to sleep around? Then don’t! You want to have a career? Have one! You want to be a housewife, and stay at home to bring up your kids? Then do just that! We have to choose what is right for us, without letting pre-assigned unwritten and ancient social “laws” bring you down.

Feminism is not about fighting men, but about fighting for what’s right for YOU. This is what Feminism is to me. Being a woman is a right, and it’s up to us to make the most out of it.

We only live once, why not make the best of it, and be able to live to tell the tale to the next generations.

Be strong and be real. And never keep your mouth shut. Because once you have said it out loud someone is going to hear.

Slavoj Žižek - Shoplifters of the World Unite (Essay)

Slavoj Žižek - Shoplifters of the World Unite
(taken from the LRB - London Review of Books - website)

This is just a brilliant analysis, review and interpretation of the recent riots in England. I am terribly jealous of how amazingly correct Žižek is, as well as of his ability to express himself so well. I wish I could provide such a clear and concise review of how I feel about the riots, but as I can't, I will let Žižek's words do it for me.

Read it - it's SO GOOD.