Don’t Clap, Vote.

When I read that the “Clap for Heroes” was returning this Thursday, my eyes rolled back so hard that I almost pulled a muscle. What I thought was going to be an unpopular opinion, that clapping outside your doorstep once a week actually does very little to help and is actually just a weird, cult-like thing we seem to have normalised, turned out to be a widely shared thought.

Let’s just preface this by saying, of course, showing your appreciation for teachers, carers, parents, nurses and so forth, is obviously not intrinsically a bad gesture of support. Amazingly, we don’t live in a binary world where things are either one way or another!

But the idea of clapping to the cold, sterile air on your doorstep every evening is as performative an action as posting a black square on your Instagram in support of Black Lives Matter, or saying “it’s okay to talk” but never taking the time and energy to reach out to those struggling. It’s the lowest, laziest form of activism and appreciation, and more often than not, only done to make the person doing it feel better about themselves than to help any sort of cause or group.

And let’s briefly touch upon the wording. The way key workers and health workers have been labelled “heroes” and “angels” since the inception of this pandemic has troubled me greatly. There’s a lot of power in words, and by deifying those who continue to be at risk from catching COVID-19, by elevating them and making them seem otherworldly, it removes their humanity. When they get ill and die, their lives are seen as sacrifices and contributions to a greater cause, bigger than themselves. These are ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. They don’t want medals or acclaim, they want support, fair wages, and acceptable living standards.

In the past 24 hours, the United Kingdom suffered more COVID deaths, 1,041, than Australia has since the beginning of the pandemic, 909.

Over the course of almost a year, there have been tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths of parents, children, healthcare workers, teachers, the homeless, minorities.

This was not unavoidable. Those deaths were not inevitable.

“The oldies were going to die anyway” is in no way an acceptable rebuttal to the government’s slow reaction to this pandemic.

So I urge the people who are thinking about showing their appreciation through clapping once a week. When the time comes, do not forget to hold this government accountable. Do not forget the utter shambles that has been our leadership. Do not believe for a second that they did the best they could. We have a few years to go until our next general election, which is unfortunately ample time for those in charge to rewrite history and make it seem like they handled it well. Do not forget any of this.

Show your appreciation by wearing a mask when you leave your home. Keep your distance. Do not believe conspiracy nonsense about vaccinations. Do not take everything you see online at face value. You are not stuck at home, you are safe at home.

Don’t clap, vote.

P.S. If you’re tired of staring at your own home, and in need of a brand-new view, this website lets you see through the windows of other people’s houses all around the world. Enjoy!

And A Happy New Year?

How do you even begin to describe the last 12 months? I would say it was ineffable, but David Lynch managed to encapsulate 2020 in a brief sentence during one of his daily weather reports:

“What a great time to be alive if you love the theatre of the absurd.”

David Lynch, Daily Weather Report (August 28th, 2020)

And it has been absurd. There are current government guidelines that dictate when it is and is not okay to sit on a bench in public. Things are looking pretty dire.

I could list to you all of the awful, terrible things that have ravaged people’s physical and mental health during the last year. From national to worldwide, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t suffered more than usual at some point during 2020.

So we come to that age old adage, “Happy New Year!”, but, is it?

Is that a promise? A question? A threat? What is time but a feeble human construct created to make order and rationality?

The real question is, how different are you to the person you were 365 days ago? Are you a little smarter? Did you learn something new during these periods of lockdown and isolation? Or perhaps you were like me, and didn’t “accomplish” much. Maybe like me, you spent an unhealthy amount of time in your bed, slowly becoming one of the layers between duvet, weighted blanket, and mattress.

Maybe like me you spent an inordinate amount of money on unhealthy food, telling yourself “I’ll start eating better next week”.

Maybe like me, your mental health took a dip, or a dive, and you’re still climbing back out of the hole. You couldn’t be bothered to shower everyday, you forgot to brush your teeth frequently, or drinking the tiniest bit of water seemed like torture.

I’m going to write something that might seem, wrong, at first. But here it is: its been a good year for mental health.

Never before have I seen more people talking about their own mental health, no doubt amplified by the fact that many of us have spent countless weeks inside our homes with not much to do. Physical activity has taken a nose dive, therefore physical injuries aren’t in the spotlight this year. However, more and more people are realising that, left alone with their own thoughts, they aren’t as mentally well as they might have first thought.

I’ve been on and off antidepressants. Had crisis points. I’m fortunate enough to be learning and working around mental health, I’m knowledgeable of how to deal with the tougher moments in life. Many people are finding these new emotions like anxiety and apathy hard to deal with or even understand. But the more people who begin to understand, the more people that begin to get help, and the more people that get better, that can only create a more empathetic, kinder society to live in. If we all come out of this pandemic being able to understand and be kinder to one another, regardless of background, situation, or orientation, maybe something good can come from this after all.

As part of my mission statement for 2021, if anyone is having issues with their mental health and would like someone to talk to about it, free of judgement, then I will always have a shoulder for you to lean on.

If you’re here, and you’re reading this, then that’s good enough. If the only thing you did was survive then that’s more than good enough, that’s remarkable. You have done exceptionally well considering the circumstances. Everyone needs more than anyone can give right now, so to be relying upon yourself to get through the day? Amazing. Well done.

The hardest part of any day for me is the physical action of getting out of bed. I’m not even a great sleeper, waking up isn’t an issue when you haven’t really slept. But actually getting out of bed, and committing to the day is a struggle over a decade old and probably one I’ll have for the rest of my life.

Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness.

It took me years to understand,
that this, too, was a gift.

Mary Oliver, The Uses of Sorrow

But once I’m up, it gets a little easier to navigate the day. And I start to realise it was worthwhile opening the curtains and putting socks on. So I’m thankful to socks, and slippers, and dressing gowns, for making the day just that tiny bit more comfier.

I’m thankful to the arts. The programs we’ve spent days watching on Netflix, the music we’ve listened to distract ourselves from the outside the world, the videos we’ve seen on TikTok; they’ve all stemmed from someone’s creativity. If you’re an artist of any kind, never for a second think that what you create is any less important than what medical professionals have been during this pandemic. Art saves lives. Two artists I discovered this year, Cara Rose and Maisie Peters, have songs that were on repeat to get me through the days. I’m thankful for them.

Be thankful to others. I met wonderful people this year. I met genuine people, people who make an impact the first day you meet them. People I want to spend more time with again when we’re back to normality, not having to worry about spreading a virus for the sake of meeting up in a park, or getting a drink together. And I’m incredibly thankful for them, and I hope they’ll stick around long enough for us to have a chance at “normal”. So whether it was a midnight Zoom call, a socially-distant dog walk, or the monthly “Hey are you okay?” message, tell somebody you love them.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.

Be thankful to yourself. You’ve worked hard to get where you are right now. It might not be perfect, but nothing ever is. Whatever you accomplished this year, be proud of yourself for making it this far.

I have some New Year’s resolutions. Less meat, more exercise, stronger commitments, grow my hair back out. That sort of thing. My biggest one, is to let other people help. With anything. Academic or personal. Accepting help isn’t a sign of negligence. It’s a sign of strength.

So here’s to you, reader. Despite the overwhelming odds, the infinite stresses outside of any person’s singular control, and the choice of going down the path of least-resistance, you made it here. So as another year starts, don’t forget to open your curtains, put on some socks, and take the day head on.

So maybe “Happy New Year” isn’t in order this time. Maybe it’s just, new year.

Have a new year, everyone. x

“You need to stay.  And you need to stay loudly.  You’re afraid of making bad choices but the truth is this:  the tiniest actions will influence the course of the rest of your life and you cannot control it.  So many factors play a part in you being here today:  a delayed train, an extra cup of tea, the number of seconds your parents took to cross the street.  This is chaos theory.  Sensitivity.  Mathematics.  You are here.  And every choice you ever made has led to right now, reading this.  While you exist, every movement and moment matters; those bad choices led you to the best days of your life, if you were to play it all in rewind.  So let them go.  Change will come.  Even if you’re standing still.  Butterflies will keep flapping their wings and causing hurricanes.  So, make your choices and make them loud.  Trust your gut.  Trust energy.  And if you ceased to exist? Oh the Universe would notice.  The mess that would make.  The hearts that would break.  So just stay.  Stay for bad choices.  Stay for great ones.  Stay.  Cause a few hurricanes.” 

S.R.W Poetry