The Hard Road Part 9 – Making a Stand

This brings the story to almost now, and there are things happening in my life now that once upon a time, I may have been unable to manage, and may very well have found myself contemplating the unthinkable yet again. Yet I am not. I feel I have “matured,” and in the true sense of the phrase.

I will say that when I compare my life experiences to others, I do not feel I have suffered as bad as some, and for that I am grateful and saddened equally. I know how it felt for me at my lowest points. To imagine someone going through worse is heart breaking. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

I know that I could potentially come off as being arrogant, self-righteous, or similar, and that is certainly far from my intent. This has been a process that has helped to clarify many things in my life. It is the final step for me in becoming whole. I have let go, so to speak.

“When we let go, we are free”

Yet that phrase is a little misleading I feel. In some respects we let go, and in others we regain the reigns.

  • We let go of worrying about things we cannot control, and instead take the responsibility of our choices.
  • We let go of external expectations, and give ourselves permission to express our desires.
  • We let go of the lies and take back ownership of our truth.
  • We let out the bad to reclaim the good.

For me, it has become about perspective, and being aware the we will all have a different one. I can only be true to my perspective, and when I find something new, I adapt and evolve. I like to consider myself open minded, yet I will defend my right to choose what is right for me.

I certainly have let go of a lot of things, and found a new level of balance inside. It has had some interesting side-effects.

  1. My general tolerance levels have increased, and substantially so. I am not easily startled any more, much to the frustration of my daughter and her mother. I often scare them by simply entering the room, whereas their attempts to startle me are frequently met with a simple glance and “Hello.”
  2. It takes a lot to irritate me. Before, I would work very hard to hide any upset of anger, and would often sulk or mope as a result. These days, I find that I am less inclined to do so, preferring instead to think about things.
  3. I have not shut off my feelings, but now consider them more of an information service, rather than a directive. When seen in this way, I find that when I feel an emotion (anger, fear, sadness, joy, lust, love) I can see the options they present, and then make a choice that satisfies my needs, both emotional and intellectual.
  4. I have become more aware of my body. I can feel things changing in my body more keenly than ever before. I can sense the beginnings of alcohol intoxication long before it actually starts to affect me, or when I take cold and flu tablets, I swear I can feel the effects as it hits the blood stream.
  5. Not only have I become more aware of my self, I have been able to take more control over my body. When I feel anxious, it is an incredibly simple matter of focussing and gaining some level of control.

This is not to say that I don’t continue to suffer periods of anxiety, depression or darker emotions. I have developed the capacity to handle them better. It is almost like my reserves, which had previously been tapped out just trying to sty afloat, now have space to spare. When trouble presents itself, it takes a while to fill the reserves.

I don’t expect anyone to change their way of life because of what I say, and if they choose to consider my thoughts, then I would be happy if my words help.

My personal rules for life.

  • Aim high and expect nothing.
  • Don’t sweat what you can’t control.
  • If it is life-threatening, likely to cause harm, or will affect many people, then it probably warrants some thought.
  • Don’t enforce your beliefs on another, and do not let another enforce their beliefs on you.
  • Do consider another’s point of view, and respect their right to choose their own path.
  • Offer advice when asked, or at least ask permission first.
  • Placing blame gets no-one anywhere. Focus on resolution rather than attributing fault.

I thank you for staying with me for this tale. For those who may have just joined, if you would like to read from the beginning… The Dark Path Part 1

The entire story, both series, can be found under the Depression menu option above.

The Hard Road Part 8 – Perspectives

I was changing my view of the world. What I began to realise, and not just superficially, but innately, was just how much our world view is dependent on our individual perspectives. We aren’t just all different, we see the world differently. Yet the evidence is all around us.

I began to appreciate how much I lived my life with platitudes without meaning. I would say I believed in certain ideas and concepts, but my actions and choices often contradicted what I felt. More often I was acting in the way I thought I was expected to, which was in direct conflict with my desires. I was disconnected.

Suddenly certain phrases and bits of advice took on new and deeper meanings.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

This deceptively simple statement holds a lot more truth that I ever gave it credit for. The things we get worried about, when one looks at them from a distance, how much meaning do they really have? It is so easy being the observer in another person’s life to see them issues that often get the most stress, anxiety, or attention, are often the most meaningless.

That may sound a little harsh, and honestly, it is. The thing was, I could see that in other people, but I didn’t apply the same scrutiny to my own life. I had developed a reactive tendency to find the worst in any situation, and usually at my own expense. So a situation that I would see as trivial in another’s life, I would see as another testament to my own failures.

I began forcefully apply the same observations I made on others to myself, and discovered something; there is at least two sides to any situation. One is always “better” than the other, and I was CHOOSING the worst of the options.

I think that realisation itself was the biggest shock. I was actually choosing depression over any alternatives. That may need a bit more explaining.

I gave up control of my decisions by letting in the voices and expectations of others, and allowing them to influence my choices and decisions. I may not have known better. I may have been naive. I still allowed it, but accepting this fact was hard… and I wanted to know why.

It took stepping out of my emotional perspective, which was a lot harder than one might imagine, but once done, I could see what my actual flaws were, which were to actually believe that I was flawed. This belief fuelled my drive to not trust in myself, and rely on the advice of others. Even those who didn’t have much to do with my life any more. I had allowed my life to be driven mainly by emotions, guided by well-meaning yet misguided advice.

Balance Equals Harmony

When viewed rationally, things are usually far more trivial than they seem emotionally. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a very rational piece of advice, because it is with a analytical approach that facts can be assessed. This is what we need to be telling our emotional sides, and I wasn’t.

Looking back over my life, my rational side had been rather beaten into submission by various circumstances and people, and I hadn’t done much to take it back. Now I had the opportunity to do just that. My experiences, both bad and good, now found a new use in reconstructing the spirit of myself. There was good to come from everything I had been through, I choose to see the good in every situation, and as I have described a few times already, when I made the choose, things got better.

In the end, my only real mistake was in not accepting responsibility for my own choices. I needed to find a balance between rationality and emotionality. I need to find the calm. I need to take back control over the only thing I had any right, or ability to control: me.


 

I am nearly finished with the series, and I invite you to read my other posts on my journey. The first series: A Darker Path. Series 2 – The Hard Road.

The Hard Road Part 7 – Journeys End

So began a process of self-discovery, and the culmination of life experiences into a concrete philosophy. I drew on everything I read which seemed to fill the gaps with what I knew. I sort information and advice where-ever I could find it. I relived interesting events in my life, which I have not recounted so far. Of these, two stand out in my mind.

He Said, She Said

MisUnderstandPeople are an interesting, and often frustrating creature. I often wonder if our “higher cognitive abilities” are not more a burden than a benefit. I have seen far too many times how simple misunderstandings can cause incredible rifts between two people, even when they have been the closest of friends for years. I have found myself in the middle of such “falling outs” all too often.

In one situation, I watched two very close friends go from laughing together, to walking meters apart, all within minutes. I can’t recall now how I personally came to be involved, but I had one of them tell me that the other had gotten really upset over something, and they didn’t understand why. At the time, I simply said that maybe they misunderstood what was meant, and that they should maybe try to explain things. Things was, there was reluctance (fear maybe, shame?) to approach, and so I was asked to act as go between. A little put out, I did so.

I approached the other by observing the rift between them. I was then told how the first had said something that had caused offence. I pointed out their long-standing friendship, and the possibility that they had not intended, or seen offence in what was said. They conceded the possibility, and so I suggested they approach the first and ask for clarification. There was again reluctance and a request for me to act as go-between.

SidesHere I pointed out that I was already aware of both sides of the story, and it was not time for both to work out their differences. It wasn’t long after that they were back to their usual selves.

We can’t know, or control how another person is going to feel about certain things, and misunderstandings come from taking things too personally, and not trying to see things from another point of view. An outside perspective does present alternatives which can improve awareness and aid in a quick resolution to conflict. That outside view doesn’t always have to come from an outsider however. Having an open and questioning mind can be just as useful.

I wanna tell ya something

Some years back, I was invited out with a group of people with whom I had had a little involvement with. It was an odd night with no clear idea about what we were going to do. Coincidentally, there was a concert on and a majority of the group decided they were going to go see the show. I wasn’t that interested in the singer, or able to afford the tickets, so opted out. That in itself was an odd step for me, as I would have confirmed to the majority rule in the past.

One other felt the same as I, and we both decided to check out a few local pubs. We quickly tired of that so she and I walked the streets and began talking about various things. It was in one of the main malls of the city when we were “accosted” by a rather large, muscular gentleman, who was accompanied by a second man.

“I wanna tell you about becoming a Born Again Christian.”

BornAgainNow, I have nothing against religion as matter of principle. I do take issue with its institutionalisation and abuse in the hands of certain would be authorities. I also do not approve of what I call religious enforcement, which is the aggressive “bible-bashing” method of selling religion. However, this guy, while physically intimidating, seemed genuinely eager. One quick look to my side, and I noted the second gentleman had taken to a discussion with a possibly inebriated young lad, and my lady friend looking a little concerned. I gave her a little wink.

“All right.” I said, and we sat to a quick dissertation of this man’s transgressions, and how finding God and Religion transformed and saved him. It was a good sell, but something I had heard many times before, and regardless of what you selling, hearing the same pitch can become rather boring.

When he finished, I said “Thank you. Now, I have done you the courtesy of listening to you, would you do the same for me?”

After a beat, he agreed, and I began, without any clear idea of what I was going to say, speaking of a philosophical take on my experiences and religious understandings. It was odd to hear my voice as I began to hear what I was saying independently. I had intended to speak nonsense, and confuse the guy, but what I was saying actually made a lot of sense.

When I had finished, I asked him what he thought. He was, apparently, incapable of a reply, and instead got up, went to his friend, then they shambled off together. The young lady with me was staring rather intently at me. We ended up talking for another hour or two about our own beliefs, and it was one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had.

The Hard Road Part 6 – Someone Saved my Life

DarkI left off at a very dark place with my last post on this, and it got darker. My emotions slowly grew in strength and I struggled to maintain my rational self. I began fantasising ways I could end my life, and yet leave wife and daughter able to carry on financially. I thought that was the value of my character; the money I was worth.

Theatre was a small bright light, but even that was becoming a chore. Keeping up the pretence was exhausting, and I was tired a lot, even though I had substantially cut down how much I was doing. Still, I had made a great many good friends their, and I still enjoyed their company. It just wasn’t enough to cast light into the darker places of my thoughts.

ReactI lived like that for over a year, going through the motions, just barely containing the bubbling chemical reaction inside.

I had been directing theatre productions by this point in time for a few years. Owing to my cut-down commitments, I had only done a couple, but I had formed a close circle of friends whom had all connected on my shows. It gave some joy to see the friendships that formed, and still exist to this day, in shows where I was the one calling the shots. Even today, it is a warm and pleasant feeling to think on.

One from this circle managed to break through my walls, and reach me in a way no-one else did. They showed me something that I had lost; that I was worthy of appreciation, of love, and of respect. Their kindness, and faith in me, was uplifting, and in my darkest hour, dreadfully needed. While it did not clear the darkness within, it did stop it, giving me some room to breath, room to think. I had been on the brink, and now stood looking at what I was doing with clear sight.

Fighting Alone

ZombiesI had discovered that something was wrong with me years before, when I found the knife in my hand. I vowed then to watch and keep a check on it. I realised this time that what I was doing was not enough. I was trying to manage this alone, out of shame, fear. It took another to show me I wasn’t coping. I needed help. I needed knowledge.

When I was working with Curtin University, I had seen an on-campus counsellor to help me the pressures I was feeling, so I thought about starting there. My wife an I agreed to seek further advice for both ourselves, and as a couple. We did this for a number of years, and with a variety of services.

I also engaged in personal research, to find methods to cope with my feelings. I learnt a lot about myself.

I am a “touchy-feely” person, in the sense that I value and enjoy physical contact with others (don’t go dirty on me here.) I resolved, for the sake of my marriage and daughter, to find a way to manage this. I was committed and I accepted the implications of my choice. I knew that I would not be able to turn-it-off so to speak, but I wanted to find ways to manage my feelings.

What I discovered was far more. I read a wide range of texts including religious, philosophical, psychological, new-age, and so forth. I don’t think I have read more in my life than during this time. I was exposed to all kinds of methods, beliefs, and concepts which challenged so many things in myself. I began to question, not myself, but the perceptions that I had grown up with.

I found them lacking.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

The Hard Road Part 5 – Picking up the pieces

DeskJobSo with the events of my trip to the UK behind me, and my still aching ego nagging at me, I nursed my wounds for a short while. Then I ended up back at uni, this time as an employee. I got straight back into my theatre work, and resigned myself to the life of a single, mediocre actor, working to keep alive. I moved in with a long time friend and left behind staying with my parents. I needed to work myself out.

Incidentally, I had moved out previously during my years at uni (as a student), but it was short-term. When my flat mates decided to get married and get a place of their own, I went back to my parents. That was before England of course.

An interesting thing happens when you stop looking for things, or stop worrying about not having things; they stop getting you down, and they have a tendency to find you instead.

The job I had at uni was working alongside my course controller, from when I was a student, in the development of an on-line, Professional Educator Development course. It was for teachers at all levels, and focus on the use of technology, in its carious forms, as tools in the classroom. I was even given an entire unit of my own to develop, deploy and teach. It was great work.

The One

I also connected with a woman who would go on to be my wife. We had actually met briefly before I had left for my ill-fated trip overseas, but my plans were in place and I wasn’t really thinking of anything else at the time. The story of how we got started is peculiar for those who knew me in the old days.

BFGFI’d been back a while before it happened, and had done a few seasons of theatre up in the hills. I recall, almost as if yesterday, walking out from the theatre into the foyer. There was the usual mill of people around, and I was on the look-out for my agent who I had recently signed up with. Sadly they never showed and that partnership was short-lived.

Then I saw her. I swear that the room around me when to shades of grey as a spot-light of colour focused on this one woman. Initially, I did not recognise her from previous meetings (there had been a couple), and so what I did next was so completely out-of-character, I still wonder today what came over me.

I walked right up to her and her small group, said, “I’ll be right back, just going to get a drink” and did exactly that. I pretty much ignored, without thought, everyone else in the room, and that was the beginning of a new direction in life. I had never before expressed such confidence and bravado. It didn’t shock me until much later, after the thrill had worn off.

Our relationship was exciting, frightening, stressful, wonderful. It was a little whirlwind turbulent. I quickly realised how naive I was about many things, but I was committed to making it work, as best I could. I made some embarrassing and almost deal breaking mistakes. I fumbled emotionally through many things, and found myself having to learn very quickly about things I never realised existed.

It wasn’t my first relationship. I had had a few previously, but most lasted between a day to a fortnight before simply not being anything any more. I look back, and I know I tried far to hard than I really should. I potentially made things worse.We both brought our baggage and dealing with that was a new, and difficult challenge for me.

At the end of my two-year contract with the uni, I was let go. My work performance had dropped, and they simply could not justify my employment any further. This was shortly after my partner went through a painful and distressful ectopic pregnancy. I ended up working as a contract trainer doing odd job for a number of training establishments. We proposed to each other. I did mine in the privacy of our house… I was a little chicken all right! She had the balls to do it at a restaurant, which got us a free champaign. WIN!

A Proud Dad

ProudDadWe married in December of 2000. Then, on September 11, 2001, our daughter Hayley was born. I remember holding our little girl in the Birthing centre, watching the news about planes going into the World Trade Centre. It was surreal. For months after, the TV was dominated with articles on the event, and we wanted to focus on our daughter. So we didn’t watch a lot of TV for a long time. I focused on developing my training connections to keep the work coming in, and my theatre dropped off almost completely. I was, I am proud to say, a hands on dad.

Those first few years were stressful and incredible, for both of us. We went through extremes highs one day to extreme lows the next. We were learning a whole new way of life from nothing. We got into a habit of waking every two hours during the night to feed Hayley. I would get out to get Hayley, as her mum got herself ready. I would then sit beside and read until they were finished, and then return Hayley to her cot. I wanted to be a part of the process somehow.

Then Hayley didn’t seem to want to wake up, but we persisted anyway. She didn’t want to feed, which was troubling, and eventually frustrating. We eventually sort professional help, and their advice was, let her sleep. If she wants to sleep, let her sleep. So after two further stressful nights where we let her sleep, but worried that she was still all right, we eventually were able to relax ourselves. We were lucky that Hayley weaned so quickly. I have since heard far to many stories about children taking far longer. Not sure how I would have handled that.

This was pretty much our life, new things would crop up. We got scared by what it meant, found out better, then onto the next crisis. However, the stress of it all, the before and after, took its toll on both of us,. The relationship, little by little began to erode. There were other things; medical, psychological, fiscal, etc, that further exacerbated the relationship.

In my work life, I was offered some long-term contract work with the Department of Corrective Services, and after the instability of contract training, the thought a period of regular pay was very appealing. This eventually lead to permanent full-time employment with the Department of the Attorney General, making our future a little more secure. Yet even the regular working hours took a further toll.

A Defeated Man

FearIt wasn’t long before I found myself in uncomfortable, yet overly familiar waters; questioning my reason for being. I blamed myself for the breaking down of the marriage, and it was easy. I knew myself best, and knew my faults best, so being able to attribute the changes to things in me was… like riding a bike. I actually rationalised that if I were to die, not by suicide mind, but die all the same, that they would be better off because of the insurance on me, and I wondered how I could arrange that.

I felt like I was not good enough. That I couldn’t be loved, because there was nothing to love.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

The Hard Road Part 4 – Strange Games

Not my actual cat, but very like him. I may upload a proper photo later.

Upon my return home, somewhat relieved, but bitterly disappointed in myself, some interesting stories unravelled over the course of a few weeks. First I need to explain one thing before getting to the meat.

While I was in the UK, my cat had passed away. He was a gorgeous Russian Blue, and incredibly intelligent. When he passed, my parents told my grandmother, with whom I was staying at the time. They did not want me to know as they thought it would upset me. My grandmother didn’t agree, and eventually told me. Thing is, I already knew.

I had been strolling across Cornish fields with some of my extended family, when I suddenly saw Smokey (my cat). He ran up to me and rubbed himself on my legs. He then looked up at me before running and fading away.

I had to step away from my desk for a moment. The emotion got to me, which in itself is interesting, considering that at the time, I felt an incredible sense of calm. I knew then that he had passed. Just a note, this wasn’t my first contact with “spiritual” experiences, but that is another story entirely.

So my parents were understandably concerned that I may upset about that, which I wasn’t, but they were hesitant about telling me about other things, so news came in dribbles for a while.

JealousAs I recall today, the first thing I remember being told was that my grandmother had thought my decision to go to London had been my own decision, and that my uncle had been surprised by it, and had apparently tried to talk me out of it. Then I heard that he had been concerned for my well-being, and thought that I was acting autistic. With each revelation, I recounted my version of events, and soon a picture formed of a man who saw this young lad (me) as a rival in some obscure family relations game. Driven by a fearful jealousy, he seemed to have played both sides, or at least, that was/is how it appeared to me, in order to “get me out of the way”.

When all knew the story, there was much anger and upset from the family, except from me. I instead saw it all as having been done, and in the past. There was nothing to anyone could do to change time. It was a fateful series of events telling me that I was not ready, or destined for a different path. Partly self-depreciating, and partly couldn’t be bothered dealing with it. Much later, I learned that the uncle in question was himself a sufferer of depression, and his own actions had caused more suffering for himself, including the loss of his partner, and loss of trust from his family. I just felt pity for him, and moved on.

It was a half-way point for me. I was not getting overly upset by the turn of events, but I was not yet above blaming myself for much of what happened. After all, I had allowed myself to be duped, convinced, and talked into making the decisions I had made. I began to realise that this was a common trend in me; allowing other people to make decisions for me. Giving my self-control over to others, and it had started at home.

For a while, I had taken control over my decisions and my life, and it had been great, and uplifting. I made the choice to go to the UK, to apply for RADA. They were my choices, and it felt good to make them. Then old habits, which really are hard to kick, took up their familiar mantle and things quickly turned sour.

It was the hindsight realisation that when I made the decision to return home, I really learnt the value in taking control over your choices, and the effects it could have. There were so many things that were beyond my control, and there was very little I could do about them, except consider how I truly felt about them. Me. My feelings. When I had my doubts about the plan to go to London, rather than question those doubts, I allowed another to make the decision for me.

Side Note – Food for thought

Now why do we do that? And don’t say you don’t because we all have done, or continue to do. I would hazard a guess that it would be because responsibility is frightening. And why is that? Because we don’t want to be blamed for anything? And why would we be blamed for anything? Because it might go wrong? Might?

ControlOne of the most liberating things I have done to date is to acknowledge those things I am actually responsible for; my actions, my beliefs, my decisions, and my reactions. The good and the bad combined. I’ve stopped worrying about things I can’t control; other people’s actions, beliefs, decisions, and reactions, or even things that simple are.

And don’t get confused between consider and worry. I still consider those things that are beyond my control. I don’t want to become an arrogant snob after all, and I like the feeling being considerate gives me. I just choose not to get anxious, or fretful over things that I can’t do anything about. It is a surprisingly distinct line, and simplifies life choices.

We are complex beings. We have light-sides and dark-sides, and a variety of shades between. Denying a part of yourself is akin to stopping the flow of a river by blocking only half of it, you just make the water work harder to get out, and you increase the pressure. Eventually, the wall will fall.

The question is, would you rather control the flow, or let it explode?

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

The Hard Road Part 3 – Side Track

I had been staying with my grandmother in Mousehole, just outside of Penzance. A small fishing village, but the Penzance city centre was a short walk away, and I went there often.

Life was good. I was seeing a lot of the Cornish landscape, and getting familiar with the lifestyle. I was invited to stay with various family members , and eventually went to stay with one of my uncles near Plymouth. He lived with his partner in a lovely little cottage some distance from the city centre. He was rather encouraging and introduced me to a theatrical group in the city, and took me to see some productions.

Then he confided in me that my grandmother was feeling a little stressed about my staying with her. I felt bad about this and debated what I could do. My uncle convinced me that I should go to London, find a place to reside, while I followed through with my application to RADA. It made a sort of sense, but I was uncertain of something, and couldn’t put my finger on it. Next thing I know, I’m packed and heading off to London, even before I had a chance to see anyone else. Even now, it seemed all a little rushed.

I was alone, and in the belief that I shouldn’t call on anyone for help. I can’t recall if I or my uncle had arranged for a hotel for the night, but after that, I had to find a place to reside. I was fortunate enough to find a place at a boarding house in the Aussie section of London. Yet I was out of my depth. I was confused, and felt incredible alone, regardless of the new friends I was making, and I was running out of money. Finding a job in London was more daunting than Penzance, where I had had a possible opportunity on the horizon.

LondonDarkMaybe my situation tainted my experiences somewhat, but I found London dark, and unfriendly. I didn’t seem to notice the grand architecture and monuments that dotted the city. I was consumed by my own dark thoughts of failure, fear, loss, and isolation. I became constantly panicked. I felt frustrated and constantly blamed myself for expecting to much, dreaming to high, and so on

It didn’t take long for me to make the decision to return home, tail between my legs. Even with some of my new-found friends giving me encouragement to stay, my resolve was total.

Now here is the interesting thing. As soon as I made that decision, I began to see London in a different light. I noticed the grandeur of the place, and for a day or two, I enjoyed being a tourist in London. I hadn’t even bought my ticket home, but my outlook was different. I still felt sad and disappointed that things had not worked out. I wrote to RADA and apologised for possibly wasting their time, and asked to be withdrawn. I later got a very nice letter, and offer of encouragement later.

I managed to get an incredibly cheap flight home (I think the travel agent liked me) and was soon home in Perth.

I then learnt the truth, which was stranger than fiction.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

The Hard Road Part 2 – Big Plans

After switching my degree from a pure Computing Science degree, to allow me more freedom with selecting electives, I did a year of Theatre Arts. That year, something shook loose inside. I discovered a different side to myself, a side I rather liked. It was playful, confident, unashamed, and funny. The inner clown was released.

After uni however, it was “face reality” scenario. A strict dogma of accepting the fact that you need to get a job, and earn money. Voices not my own telling about what the real world was about. So here I was, with a BSc in Computing Science, struggling to find a job. All the big talk about how a degree helps you get a job was a flat-out lie. All the jobs I wanted to do said I was over qualified. Depressing.

I eventually found work through a retail trainee-ship scheme through the Perth TAFE. A retail trainee-ship where I was expected to attend a Retail Skills workshop, and work part-time with a retail employer. They, the employer, would get $1000 as a part of the program, and it would last a year. While a little demoralising, I actually enjoyed the work somewhat. I soon learned that with the exception of the managers and one senior staff member, we were all retail trainee-ship employees. I smelt a rat, and sure enough, at the end of the year, I was again looking for a job.

I eventually found employment with a PC Building company as a sales rep.I used my computing knowledge to redesign their sales and quotation process, shaving a process which could take up to two hours down to seconds. We were able to incorporate the quotation process into the sales discussions with clients making it almost seamless. Then the company went into liquidation, apparently deliberately.

This time, I made a big decision. I was going to the UK. During this time (about 2 years), I became more and more involved with the Community Theatre scene. Bouncing around between various groups, doing up to five shows a year. It was wonderful, and my passion seemed to know no bounds. I Auditioned for WAAPA. Three times for Dramatic Arts, and twice for Musical, but was knocked back each time.

I eventually had the gumption to ask why, and was told, and I quote, “I was too trained.” In WAAPA, as with most (not all) dramatic arts schools, they want students that have somewhere to go with their training. They don’t want the untalented, nor the overly experienced. They wanted untrained talent with lots of potential. Apparently, I was not one of these.

I considered NIDA, but a bigger idea formed in my mind; RADA in the UK. I had family in the UK. I didn’t have a family (that I was overly familiar with) in Victoria (Australia) which made NIDA less appealing.

So with the end of my second job out of uni, I packed my bags and heading to London. Ambitious, hopeful, and a little starry-eyed. And perhaps a whole lot naive. For a while it was great. I took sometime to visit family spread out across Cornwall, and they were all so accommodating. I did a little travelling , and started a little job hunting. I submitted an application to RADA, and visited some local theatre groups in and around Penzance. I was actually happy, and enjoying life. Then things took a decidedly odd turn.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

The Hard Road Part 1 – Acceptance

WrongWell, here we go again. It wasn’t long ago that I was inspired to write about my youth and struggles with depression. Now I find I am again surrounded by reasons to continue. In the first part of my journey, I really didn’t know what was going on, and certainly didn’t accept that I was suffering depression. I knew something was wrong, but the attitude of the time was to pretend you didn’t. The implication was that everyone else was OK, so admitting there was something wrong with you would only expose you as a fraud.

Taking up from where I had left off, realising that my mind was acting out dangerous thoughts subconsciously was a serious wake-up call. (See Darker Path Part 9.) Up until then, it was something that I could stuff down, ignore. To find myself acting out meant that I could no longer ignore it, but what could I do about it?

I admit, I was rather green, and somewhat simple-minded with regards many things. Maybe ignorant is a better term. I did realise one thing however. Trying to find fault with myself was simply leading me in circles. I had to change my perspective. I started by trying to find reasons for the actions of other people from their point of view.

Now I knew that I may not ever know the truth as to why someone had done the things that they had done, but I was convinced in myself that very few people ever did something simply out of spite. If I could come up with convincing reasons that would satisfy me, then I would have to be content with that. It was an interesting exploration for me, and had its advantages in my slowly developing me acting skills. Stepping into another’s metaphoric shoes, and trying to uncover the reasons one may have, was cathartic in the extreme, and an awakening one.

It was an interesting period of self-reflection, reviewing my actions, and the actions of others, as if I were someone else.

Something about being Unique

I used to have a serious problem with the word, or the association with being unique. I was frequently called unique, or some derivative of. Back then, it sounded akin to odd, or inexplicable. To me, it was a bad thing to be considered outside the norm, to be “special”, and I use the double quotations very specifically.

Even during my high-school years, I often had opinions that ran rather contrary to my peers, which earned my considerable scorn and ridicule. I recall a meeting at a Youth Group that I attended where a guest presenter impressed upon us the need to be happy ALL THE TIME. That was the goal. To avoid sadness, anger, and so forth. To me this sounded like all the years of being fake which even then I questioned.

I stood and asked what was wrong with being angry? While anger and aggressive were often expressed as had things, were their not good, and “happy” was to express anger? Can not someone be happily angry? Happily sad? I think one other person rose to my support as I was yelled at by others for being so stupid. While my wording may not have been clear, the intention I still believe in. To shut yourself of from all aspects of yourself, is just as, if not more, harmful than letting them run in the driver’s seat without supervision.

I wanted to say that you need to acknowledge all of what makes you a person, the dark and the light. We are not perfect, and to strive to be so is a road to depression. I just didn’t have the experience and vocabulary to express it. I was unique in my opinions, beliefs and self, which made me an outsider to those who could not understand.

Then new perspective came, in the form of a good friend formed during my years at uni. After several years of knowing each other, she had formed a relationship with another fellow student who was a part of our combined circle of friends. Near the end of her degree, she confessed a deep affection for me, which surprised me admittedly, but had been unable to express said affection. I felt the dread of life repeating itself as they continued, and I waiting for the word… but it never came.

OOYLInstead, she told me that she had felt I was Untouchable. The first time someone had used such a term; Untouchable. She continued to say that she hadn’t felt good enough for me, that I was above her league, which was an alien concept to me. Me, be better than anyone else? Surely not. I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it, yet it felt a lot better to believe that I was untouchable than unique.

A simple conversation changed my perspective about a long time dislike. Mind you, it took me a few more years to get over my dislike of the word unique, mainly due to the memories and connotations it drew, but it was a start. I began to think about all those times someone called me unique, special, or different. I began to think that maybe they didn’t have the experience and vocab to express what they really wanted to say. Maybe they meant it as a compliment, but found it hard to compliment something which made them uncomfortable.

Even the dreaded “You’re nice, but…” which I got a lot, began to look a little different.

In the end, I had to accept that I was a little different. I had different thoughts and ways of dealing with things. I spoke differently to most of my friends, and found enjoyment in language and complex words. My mind worked more visually than logically. I was different, but it wasn’t a bad thing.

We’re all a little different.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.