Tuesday, 31 December 2013


Resolutions for the New Year
(being very basic but with a lot riding on them and a good deal flowing underneath)
1) Work hard.
(don't give up on projects or neglect to start them. don't let anxiety - that black, dead star lodged over your heart - stop you from doing what you need to do. remember that your survival depends on your work ethic. you create your own stresses and hold yourself back. don't look down on doing it for the money)
2) Be kind to yourself.
(make appointments. keep them. follow up and follow through. a confirmation of nothing wrong is better than not being sure. pain has a source. it's wise to have contingencies. the anxiety isn't clinical or pathological, but the depression might be)

This will be a good year. That is my resolution.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Girl Anachronism: A Brief History of My 21st Birthday

This post is long overdue, but finally the right mood hit. I was meant to write about seeing Amanda Palmer in September, then about turning 21 barely two weeks afterwards. After the Palmer show I missed the perfect time frame to write everything, when it was still all fresh, and I couldn't bring myself to write it without that euphoric clarity. Then I decided to combine the concert post with my birthday post, but when I got back there was an essay to write, and then another, and so things were neglected. But now, here, at almost 3am and over two months later, I've found the perfect state to finally write this blog.

I will start, chronologically, with the concert.

It was Amanda Palmer's rescheduled tour with the Grand Theft Orchestra. My friend G and I booked out tickets in I think September last year, when Amanda was due to play at the beginning of this year. Then illness hit her life, and the tour was postponed. It slipped almost entirely from my mind. Somehow I lacked the enthusiasm I'd had when I first saw Amanda Palmer, in 2011, at the tail end of my very first week of college.

Before I had developed what I can only call a obsession with Amanda Palmer, I had intended to study psychology. I made the decision at the age of twelve or thirteen, with the knowledge in my mind that, while an area I remain deeply fascinated by, it was merely to be a source of income until my writing career took off. I maintained this conviction until a few months after I had finished high school. I was taking a gap year in isolation, living on the country property in New South Wales that my family had moved to after fifteen years in Brisbane. We were fifteen minutes from the nearest - tiny - town, up a dirt track, with no visible neighbours. I could not drive, and knew no one. I took one subject a semester at the local university to pass the time, and when I was not studying, I watched television. I read Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman's blogs religiously, and immersed myself in their work. I taught myself to write comic book scripts from the sample given in the back of a Sandman comic, and lost a concerning amount of weight in days spent hunched over a notebook, forgetting meals and surviving mostly on plunger coffee and tea. Through the influence of my Holy Duo I realised that I didn't want to spend years studying and then practicing in a field while waiting for success. When I got to university, I chose creative writing as my major. I found a renewed conviction - a seemingly rare thing for a student my age in the first year of their degree.

Mum purchased me two tickets to the Amanda Palmer concert taking place in my first week in a new city, very far from home. The second was to make friends with, she said. The girl I went with has been my housemate since February this year. Things worked out.

Facing the prospect of seeing Amanda again (I saw her in two small performances at my university, in first and second year, but a full-scale concert was quite another thing), I saw my lack of enthusiasm as a signifier of a new importance to my relationship with my idol. Her music was changing, the Theater is Evil record a poppy departure from the puck cabaret music I fell in love with. I was changing too, had changed, sometimes with Amanda's influence, but largely without it. I'd fully come to terms with my bisexuality, something I repressed for years. I got my first boyfriend (and have managed to keep him). I had new friends, and stronger friends, and had let go of a lot of old ones. I had new powers, new knowledge. My understanding of myself and my self-confidence had improved immeasurably. I'd been through the worst year of my life, followed by the worst month.

I decided that this concert would be my farewell to Amanda Palmer. I felt I was able to let go of what she had been to me, and move on. Not forget, or cut myself off from, but to acknowledge a milestone of personal growth.

And then I got to the concert, and all that heavy, mournful bullshit disappeared.

I went with my friend G, her boyfriend J and friend R, and my boyfriend K. I'd convinced K to come along because I wanted him to be a part of something that was important to me. Music is easier to share with him than comic books or art, and Amanda Palmer is more important than most things in my life. G is an incredibly close friend, and her love for the Holy Duo quickly overtook mine (I manage to not be too possessive). J had been at the concert in 2011, before we ever met. Now I think I can probably call him a good friend. Life has symmetry.

The support acts were everything I could want. Amanda Palmer made several costume changes, appearing on stage between acts. Then Meow Meow introduced the Grand Theft Orchestra and they launched from their instrumental opener into Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Nirvana was a big band for K as a teenager, and everything was perfect.

I cried several times, because I'm a leaky faucet these days. I tried very hard not to cry when I took a flower from the beautiful human statue who performed outside the venue. I cried during The Bed Song, and during the cover song they performed during which all the lights were turned off and the audience held hands, chanting "I love you so much". I cry now remembering that moment for its sheer beauty and the way we were all connected. I hope it is a moment that I shall never forget.

 I yelled along to the lyrics of almost every song. I jumped and danced and tried not to hit anyone with my flailing elbows.They performed "Common People" by Pulp and I could barely contain myself. It was an incredible concert, made perfect by the fact that I was there with people I love, who are infinitely important to me. Amanda Palmer remains part of my life, and I shall not let her go.

I cannot recall if it was one or two weeks later, but not long after the concert was my 21st birthday party. It was at my parents' place in New South Wales, a trip which takes approximately ten hours from Melbourne through a combination of bus and train. I have been assured the flight to Taiwan is faster and, no doubt, more comfortable.

I have a tradition of panicking about birthdays. I have a tendency to fear change which can lead to me having an increased amount of responsibility. There are certain pressures I do not cope well with. Milestone birthdays especially do not tend to sit well with me. This time, however, I was even excited.

Family members I have not seen in a very long time traveled long distances. A good many of my Melbourne friends made the long, long trip with me, staying for a week in the guest house (a spruced-up shed) to attend my party. One friend, who I had grown up with in Brisbane and was at least a little like a younger sister to me, traveled the longest to be there. At the fullest point there were I believe twelve of us sleeping on scattered mattresses across the floor of the shed, with thirty-odd guests on the property in total.

I got too drunk at my party, compensating for the stress of spending a week of endless interaction with a large group of people, including relatives with whom I was unable to completely relax. There was a lamb on the spit and a sky full of stars. My brother's band played for several hours, tacking on near the end of their set a rushed cover of a Neutral Milk Hotel song, the words for which they couldn't remember and couldn't read in the darkness. My cousin performed a rendition of 'What Does the Fox Say?' titled 'What Does Bonny Ross Say?', the lyrics to which she and my other cousins hurriedly cobbled together in the living room. My father gave a speech and, much later in the evening, performed 'The Jabberwocky', something he used to do for us frequently as children. K tried to dance with me while we were both quite drunk and we end up falling flat on our arses on the gravel. I had an oyster cooked over open flames, and it was not as repulsive as the last one I'd had before that. I gave a drunken speech and somehow managed not to cry. I danced with my friends My parents danced together, spinning slowly in the dark.

Most importantly of all, I spent the week overwhelmed with love. I still find it difficult to comprehend that I have so many friends who care about me enough to travel that distance and stay that long, just for me. I'm not sure I deserve it. J's birthday is the day before mine, and he spent it there (I made sure he was compensated with pancakes). Most of my friends are at least a little shy, and they all managed a week-long procession of my various family members, as well as the tribulations that come with having a thirteen year old boy (a cousin) around a group of - well, technically speaking, adults. While I know exactly the ones that will roll their eyes at my use of the term, I do feel enormously blessed. I truly don't know how I've managed it, and I wish I were able to show them how much I love them all, and how much I appreciate them.

Many important things occurred this year. Each year, the important things get greater. Moments get bigger, emotions get deeper. That is what it means to get older - the moments that are important have greater resonance, like ever-expanding ripples. Every year, while there are new stresses, there are also new aspects of beauty, new people who become important, new things to do and explore. And I try to be grateful, and remind myself what it all means.

Me at seventeen: