What A Difference 9 Months Makes – How Blogging Saved Me

I read a lot today. I read my own writing, from my first blog post up until now. In hindsight, I believe this blog saved me from a much darker fate. The act of putting something in writing for the world to see, be it an idea or a thought, an emotion or a desire has strengthened my will to achieve my dreams, and I am proud to say that since the time I started writing publicly, my life has completely changed for the better.

It was sad to read many of my posts. The first 3 months I spent blogging was a very bad time in my life, wrought with depression and other vices that were leading me down a rabbit hole I could not see a way out of. The truth of the matter is that I am usually not a very open person. I find it very difficult to confide in people, or even talk about my state in the simplest of terms. Yet in writing, I find myself telling the world, openly, all the things I cannot seem to tell even those people that are closest to me.

I read posts about freedom and failure, materialism and minimalism. I read about my plans to remove all of the clutter from my life and about the way I want to live. As of this moment I am happy with my life. I travel, I see, I do and I feel free. Since leaving Melbourne I have learned, and learned very quickly, just what is important in my life. I own less than I ever thought possible, yet find myself wanting nothing more than a new book occasionally, or a block of chocolate. I live well, I enjoy my work, I eat well and have good accommodation, and all for less than I could have ever imagined.

Perhaps the hardest hitting revelation I had in this process is recalling just how depressed I was in my ‘successful’ life. Were it not for me putting in writing many of my thoughts I would no longer remember just how much I hated my life. The depression I felt now seems so distant, and my blog serves as a reminder to me that my well being is in my own hands. My current situation is a direct effect of acknowledging that I was not happy and making the hard decisions necessary to change. It wasn’t easy. Much of the journey has not been easy. I have had several serious setbacks and many unexpected turns, but never lost sight of my goal. However, no matter how stressful, or how broke and hungry I may have found myself in the process, the depression that once gripped me has loosened its hold and no longer exists.

Advertisements

A Bad Australian Second Year Visa Experience

On the 5th of October 2014, I arrived in Mildura with some friends from the snow fields, only to find ourselves conned out of $450 each, and exposed to the exploitative state of second year visa work for travelers in Australia.


At the end of the 2014 snow season, two of my traveling friends from Ireland had decided it was time to do their 88 days of regional work in order to qualify for their second year visa. The plan was to go to Mildura, an agricultural hub in Australia and an oasis on the Murray River. It is a small and beautiful town completely surrounded by agricultural land and vinyards producing produce all year round. Myself and another Australian friend from the snow fields had decided, what the hell, we will go too. It will be an experience and potentially an opportunity to save some money.

We had pre-organized a working house specifically set up for second year visa farm work. The deal was that rent was $150/week with 2 weeks rent due up front and a bond of $150 (a total of $450). The organization would then have work available for us and would come by each morning to pick up those that wanted it, and that every day spent in the house would count towards the 88 days needed for the visa. The deal was initially found online and was in-line with all other offers available and so nothing ever seemed suspicious. Myself and my friend Stuart (hairy Irish dude) had both had verbal contact with fluent English speakers from the organization about the house and work.

Almost immediately after arriving in Mildura we met up with a British girl who asked us to follow her to the house. So far all good. We arrive at the house with the British girl and another large man who is clearly the boss as he is calling the shots and telling us about the deal. The man was rather rude, but not such that any of us had any alarm bells ringing. Yet.

We were each handed a piece of paperwork outlining costs and work details. We handed over our $450 each and instantly the man became significantly more vulgar. He was directly and openly sexually abusing the women around him and behaving in a psychopathic manner. Like a man without empathy with a god complex, and shortly after, he was gone.

We settled in. We each had a reasonable bed and a nice enough room. Soon we began to chat with the people in the house. Very quickly I discovered that there appeared to be a huge number of people around, which was strange given we each had our own bed and there simply didn’t seem to be enough space. It was soon revealed that there was something like 15 people sleeping in a renovated garage with bunk beds.

Upon chatting to a few house mates we also quickly discovered that work was very sparse. Most people were only working once or twice a week for only $20/day. A lucky few got $50, and it was back breaking work.

At this point it was obvious to me and the other Aussie that it was a waste of time for us to be there. The cost of accommodation was far more than we could possibly earn for insanely physical work. The irish couple had a slightly different situation though. If they stayed and slogged it out for 3 months they would get there visas. However it quickly became obvious that they would run out of money in the process.

2 days later the man returned. We were loudly and violently kicked out. I called the cops. They turned up and stated that they had no power in the situation.

This whole situation was remarkable for 4 main reasons.

1. The British girl we were dealing with was knowingly and repetitively conning fellow travellers in to a situation that would most often find them broke and without their visas. Serious shame on that filthy lady;

2. Not one person spoke up about the situation they were in before we found ourselves in it to. More shame;

3. The man had obviously set everything up to get the quickest possible turn over of vulnerable tourists as possible just to line his pockets; and

4. The cops, fully and previously aware, could do nothing.

We encountered many travelers in this house that were desperate and stuck. I vividly recall conversations with a Brazilian girl in tears and terrified as the man had taken everything she had and was constantly advancing her sexually. She had no where to go and no money to get there with.

Luckily for us, we cut our losses and moved on. For others, I don’t know. I imagine that Mildura has seen a lot of homeless and hungry backpackers over the last years, as whilst in the house we discovered that this was not a new operation. The man had been exploiting vulnerable tourists for years. We found that 9 news had even done a report on him.

I hope the loop holes that this man operates in are closed. I hope he is thrown in a cell and left without food. Preferably in a foreign country with no hope of communication.

Unfortunately, whilst meeting many people during the remainder of my experience that had been conned by exactly the same man, I also met countless people who were being exploited and conned in other ways. Since leaving Mildura I have only continued to hear horror stories from all over the country. We may think we live in an amazing and fair country, but if we could see it through the eyes of a backpacker that just wants to stay for a second year, that opinion would change. Its disgusting.

My advice to anyone seeking their second year visa in Australia is to do it early. If you find a bad deal at least you have the option to keep looking. Don’t wait. There is a very good chance you will get stuck.

More big steps in the right direction

Well today is a big day for me. 3 months ago I had a 10k debt. Today I am well in the positive. From now on it’s about getting ahead rather then making lost ground.

The ways in which I intend to get ahead could very well set me back again. But I don’t (yet) see a way to get significantly ahead without some degree of risk. So I must try something.

Its been really eye opening to come from such horrendous spending habits to a much tighter budget and realize that I am no less happy. In fact I am happier now then I have been in a long time. On top of all this, in just over two weeks now I get to leave a desk in my past and spend the whole of winter on the snow.

We really can do whatever we want with our lives. Though I have subconsciously known this truth for some time, it’s really starting to hit home now. We must be smart and let go of our fears of things to come, and just chase an ideal.

Habitually Conversing

Supposedly, the easiest time to eliminate old habits and form new ones is whilst undergoing a major change in living circumstances. For example moving house. So I figured that given I am going to be moving to Falls Creek for the Snow Season I should start thinking about what habits I currently have that I should cut out and what things might be worth trying to adopt regularly in my life.

In the last 2 months I have already had huge success in changing my lifestyle for the better. Primarily with regards to smoking and excessive spending. Though there is always a way to continue to improve. So what is next? Ironically (though I guess it couldn’t have happened any other way) whilst obsessively scanning facebook yesterday I began stumbling across a whole bunch of content (such as the videos below) regarding how obsessed with technology we have become and how dissociative it can cause us to be.


I definitely spend too much of my time on social media. I have begun to loose the art of conversation and am numb. My phone is always on me and I easily check it 100 times a day. There is only so much I get out of digital conversation. They lack emotion and tone. They are checked and optimized and lack genuine error. I do not truly know the people that I converse with online and they do not know me. What defines us is so much more than anything anyone can write on a screen.


So when I get to Falls Creek, in about a months time, I am going to leave my phone at home during the days. I’m only going to check it in the morning and at night. During the day I am going to commit my complete and full attention to everyone and anyone that wishes to share some of their time engaging with me. I am also going to make an active effort to engage others, simply to share a short moment in friendly conversation. I wish to learn to converse once more and make some new genuine friends. Some friends that get to know who I really am and not how I appear online.

Well. I was going to try and come up with a few new habits to try and adopt, but my work break is nearly over. Running. I’m going to try and run at least 3 times a week. But lets not commit to too much hey. The phone is already a big one :/ 

Life in a Backpack

Followers of this blog will know that I have been rapidly downsizing my life. Getting rid of all the clutter, throwing out all the crap that I have accumulated and trying to figure out what it is that I really need, and what is really important.

Where my things once were

Where my things once were

There’s less than 4 weeks now until I take off for Falls Creek for the snow season and I have successfully removed almost all of the material crap from my life. Those things that I have chosen to keep (a few guitars and a telescope) have been rammed into ‘out of the way’ corners at my parents house for storage. The rest of my life, the things I wish to take with me, are getting very close to fitting into a backpack.

After the snow season I don’t yet know what I will be doing, though I was thinking about making a move up to Queensland and spending the whole summer working and surfing. I hope that by cramming everything I need into a backpack that making a move like this may be as simple as just going. Just doing it. Of course if this is the direction that I choose for my next chapter then I will do what I can to pre-organize work and accommodation. But if these things don’t happen, why not just go? Why not just try and wing it? What is the worst thing that can happen?

It hard to be care free. But that is, in part, the aim. What is life if we are not doing the things that we want to do? Or at the very least doing everything in our power to get there? Any one of us could die tomorrow.

Blogging for my Future

I started this blog for a few reasons. Primarily because I knew that my life wasn’t going in the right direction. Rather that I was accelerating in the wrong direction. Secondly because I want to live a free life, full of adventure. I often contemplate the things that I could do, and the places I could go, however have been unable to act on many of my thoughts due to ties such as work.

On the Monday 24 February, I submitted my resignation as an engineer. On Tuesday 25 February, I quit smoking and ‘another’ dirty habit. On Wednesday 26 February, I completely cut out my disgraceful spending habits and started climbing out of a $10k debt. Then on Friday, 28 February I started this blog.

Today, the smoking doesn’t even get thought about. I told myself that I would write a post about quitting when I got to the stage that I no longer thought about smoking *facepalm*. I remember once my aunt sent my uncle a message that read “Call me if you don’t get this”. Same deal.

In 13 days now, I will be completely debt free. It has been very hard to pay off debt so quickly, but it has become much easier towards the end. Not spending money now feels normal. It is true that we learn to live within our means. If I wanted something I would just buy it, there was never a second thought. What I find liberating is that as each day ends, I am no less happy due to not having spent money. In fact I am probably healthier for not having spent money. I didn’t get the extra coke, I drink more water. I didn’t go for a burger and chips at lunch, I got fruit because it’s cheaper. I am no doubt going to struggle for a while without a big pay slip every fortnight. But ultimately, after having it for so long, I don’t feel I have become a better man, or am in any way more in touch with myself. Truth is I have lost a lot of who I am due to so much time spent behind a desk. Money does not buy happiness. We need to do that much for ourselves.

The progress I have made in myself since starting this blog is phenomenal. I have been writing down my thoughts and ideas for some time now, though writing them down in a space where anyone can read them has inspired a sense of urgency in me. A sense that this is my chance right now to get on with living my life. For another 4 weeks I am still living the life of an engineer, then all bets are off.

This blog now needs to get interesting. Since it is about my life it follows that it requires my life to become interesting. Engineering wont cut it.

Stop, Stare, Sway and Imagine

Slow down. Look around. Moments ago I was sitting on a train on my way to work. The train arrived at Flinders Street and like most mornings I began rushing off to platform 6 for my next train. Until I saw a little girl, standing, swaying, and looking at a big ‘dumb ways to die’ piece of advertising art work.

image

Dumb ways to die

Forgetting where I was going I stopped and observed the girl. She was smiling. People rushed and dodged all around her, their headphones blaring and fingers frantically conveying some critical messages on their phones. Yet she saw straight through them. She only saw the art work. She giggled as an unknown adventure unfolded in her mind. If only she would write it down and give it to me.

Suddenly a ‘big’ grabbed the little girl by the arm and pulled her off in to the crowd. The girls eyes fixed on the image.

I’m now lost. I know where I need to be going, but I find myself among the masses. My headphones in, but making no sound. My feet carrying me, but without direction or urgency. My mind is at peace.

So many people are rushing. Each looking as if the world will implode if they do not arrive at their destination at the earliest possible time. Many move with direction but not with urgency, but only few stop to look around. Like a movie in fast forward the still images, the people without urgency, stand out. These are the people I want to meet.

The crowd settles and comes to life on loop with the arrival and departure of trains. I now stand and stare at the same piece of artwork as the little girl. What was in her mind?

My Possessions. Me, Me, Me!

25 years ago. If I could have comprehended the question, I may have reported that my most prized possession was my blanket. 

20 years ago, perhaps it was my Humphrey Bear teddy.

15 years ago I may have said it was my karate outfit.

10 years ago my skateboard.

5 years ago my xbox and excessive collection of games.

I no longer own any of the above items. I have given away/lost/sold every last one. Yet at the time it would have been obscene to suggest that life would continue as normal without.

I, like many, have found great comfort in objects. Though not just in any object. Objects that are mine. I have found release from a reality that at times I did not desire by relying emotionally on the presence of something external to myself that I knew specifically belonged to me. Me me me. To posses a block of chocolate in times of emotional turmoil may be a subtle and familiar example to many.

Today, my most prized possession is my baby fluff face stuble. I play with it daily until its itch infuriates me. When I feel inadequate or unwise I stroke the sides of my chin hair and gain immediate sophistication. The point being that despite what my brain tells me, I do not need anything but myself to deal with the situations life throws at me. In most cases turning to possessions for comfort or distraction only serves to inhibit the growth of self.

image

Well. I could use a never ending pack of tim tams……

Corners, careers and a moment to hold on to

30 days now until I finish my engineering career. Less than a month. Wow. It has been an incredibly difficult year, but the next episode is only just around the corner.

My work ethic is pathetic (perhaps my fate is in poetry) at the moment. It’s not something I’m proud of. I feel terrible about my present performance. I need to be doing so much more so that I don’t leave problems behind me for someone else to deal with.

Looking at what needs to be done, it seems perfectly fair and reasonable. Without doubt it could all be achieved ahead of time. But I am not a robot. I am Matt. A big kid. When all passion is lost, all enthusiasm has been drained by a desk, the drive to achieve has been eliminated by the realization that hard work and crap work as an employee result in almost identical personal outcomes. The ability to sit and work crashes and burns.

It’s in times like these that I must hold on to the future. My time will come. It is only just around the corner. It is in one month now that rather than hold on to the future I will be holding myself in the present. The first sight of snow for the season. My first ride up a chair lift. The first run down a slope. Sunrise from a mountain top. ‘Hopefully’ a lady under my arm. Life on Falls Creek. My endless ‘now’ will be my moment to hold on to.

One more month. I need to subdue my overwhelming urge to scream, yell, smash and destroy shit for only one more month. My strength is in understanding that no matter the events of the next 30 days, soon I will be on the snow. The stresses of this life will come to pass. Soon.

Enjoying Your Job?

Here I sit, contemplating once again the larger purpose of my life. My desk is relatively clean, a few ‘important’ yet so distant pieces of paper scattered on its surface. The usual promise toying on my mind that everything I am currently working on must be completed by yesterday. There was a point in my professional life where the terms ‘important’, ‘quickly’, ‘urgently’ etcetera lost all meaning. When everything is always critical, and so much control is lost to unnecessary and underqualified authority, the will to excel diminishes.

As each day behind my desk has passed I have quietly, and sometimes very vocally and violently, observed my surroundings. I have tried to understand the overall goal of the profession I am working within and tried to understand the methods by which we aim to achieve our goals. We provide a service to a client, though the aim of our business has so obviously become making money as opposed to providing a brilliant service. Yes, every business needs to make money to maintain its service, though when so much of the focus diverges from the product and shifts to the amount that is being invoiced does not the quality of the product lose its value.

The core of any business is in the people that produce its product. It is critical to keep excellent people. It is critical to be able to motivate people and inspire them to output great work and it is critical to reward them appropriately. So how does an employer motivate employees? It seems that the all too common answer is to pay them a lot, though this hasn’t worked in my workplace, and my experience suggests that no matter how much someone is paid they only ever want to be paid more. It seems that income has little to no impact on attitude towards work.

I no longer have any pride in the work I output for my employer. I no longer have a sense of urgency no matter how much pressure is placed on me. I have become relatively calm as I have realized that at the end of the day, my effort and the quality of my work in no way distinguishes me from my peers. An employer needs to motivate employees by thinking outside of the box. Life is too short to continue working, providing a service, in a field I have no passion for because of a large pay cheque. We need to be proud of what we do day to day. We need to go home with a sense of achievement. Not a warning as to how much more we need to make, or invoice, for our employer.