esperantomagazine.com Instagram: @esperantomagazine Twitter: @esperantomag facebook.com/esperantomagazine EDITORS
Juliette Capomolla Kiera Eardley
Daisy Henry Dina Ivkovich
Esperanto Student Magazine MONSU Caufield Inc. Level 2, Building S, 2 Princes Avenue, Caufield East, VIC 3145 +61 3 9903 2525 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Esperanto Magazine is published by MONSU Caufield Inc. Views expressed within do not necessarily reflect those of MONSU Caufield Inc, the editorial panel, the publisher, or any other person associated with Esperanto.
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Pacesetter Laser Recycled
Sprat Happy Times at the IKOB New Game Plus Edition Arial
Alice Wright, Angel Tully, Caitlin Cefai, Clara Yew, Coby Renkin, Daisy Henry, Elodie Ricaud, Emma Sudano, Felice Lok, Gabriela Fannia, Jackie Zhou, Juliette Capomolla, Kate Zhang, Kiera Eardley, Lauren Gallina, Madeleine Galea, Marla Sommer, Paddy McPhee, Sarah Wilkes, Soraya Rezal, Tess Kent, Xenia Sanut
Annabel Condon, Brooke Stevens, Ching Liang, Jessica La, John Paul Macatol, Lauren Easter, Lauren Gallina, Madeleine Galea, Madison Marshall, Molly Burmeister, Mon Ouk, Naiya Sornratanachai, Natalie Tran, Stephanie Wong, Therese Dias, Uyen Dien, Victoria Loizides,
Amber Kennedy, @trappedinamba Annabel Condon, @annabelcondon
contents 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
Define: Being Human Sarah Wilkes, Brooke Stevens
How I Got Here: A Recipe Felice Lok, Ching Liang
A House is Not a Home Marla Sommer, Therese Dias
Party of One
Kiera Eardley, Natalie Tran
Paddy McPhee, Molly Burmeister
Garden of Eden Xenia Sanut
Humans of My Life Lauren Gallina
Food for the Soul
Gabriela Fannia, Stephanie Wong
A Love Letter to My Short-Lived Crushes Juliette Capomolla, Annabel Condon
The Real Face of Self-Care Elodie Ricaud, Naiya Sornratanachai
The Harsh Realisations of Growing Up Daisy Henry, Stephanie Wong
28 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50
A Eulogy to My Work Wife Clara Yew, Jessica La
I Don’t Want Kids Tess Kent, Jessica La
A Guide to Dealing With Partners You Cannot Stand Emma Sudano, Lauren Easter
Currents and Their Callings Maddy Galea
Caitlin Cefai, Victoria Loizides
Never Meet Your Heroes Soraya Rezal, Madison Marshall
When Culture Meets Queerness Jackie Zhou, Annabel Condon
The Fear and Freedom of Leaving Home Angel Tully, Brooke Stevens
Mum Wang’s Private Kitchen Kate Zhang
Finding My People Coby Renkin, Lauren Easter
How to Be Single
Alice Wright, Annabel Condon
The Humans Issue
Define: Being Human WORDS
The Humans Issue
As I began writing this piece, I found myself instinctively addressing an unborn earthling. A twinkle in a mother’s eye, a tiny heartbeat, a bun in the oven. We all wish there was some manual, instruction booklet or dictionary warning us of the T&Cs that come with humanity. So, it seems fitting to dedicate this to you, Little One, whoever you are. Here’s what it means to be human: SOULMATE /ˈsəʊlmeɪt/ Someone you were destined to meet. This type of star-crossed interaction may be romantic, platonic, or even professional. After encountering this being, the trajectory of your life may do a 180-degree flip, or perhaps merely veer a little to the side. The universe serves them up to you when you least expect it. They come and go — some will be immortal in your life while others might sting and die off like a bee. Yet, their time with you was well-spent, shaping you into the wonderful, complex, and imperfect human that you are. TIME /tʌɪm/ It goes for eternity, but there’s never quite enough of it. You’ll learn about clocks, time zones and the way the world spins. You’ll even learn how to manage your time, so that you can thrive in a society that obsesses over deadlines, appointments, and dates. But to be frank, you will always be acutely baffled by this phenomenon. (And same, Little One.) EMBARRASSMENT /ɛmˈbarəsmənt/ You’ll learn this one all too quickly. In a moment of embarrassment, you’ll feel a spotlight from the heavens focus on YOU as if everyone is watching only YOU. Your stomach may twist and turn, your body may want to fold in on itself and you’ll wish life came with a big red ESCAPE button. But don’t fret — it will be okay, Little One. You will mispronounce words. You will be walked in on while having sex. You will fall over in public. That’s life, and you’ll find the humour in it.
LOVE /lʌv/ It’s the closest you’ll get to magic — indescribable, often doesn’t make sense and can completely intoxicate you. It comes in varied forms. Nothing will compare to your first feeling of it for the woman who is so graciously carrying you in her womb. One day, you’ll suppose you’ve felt it for a member of a boy band. But just wait, Little One — a human will one day enter your life when you least expect it, and open a door to a part of yourself you never knew existed. SUCCESS /səkˈsɛs/ This one is tricky. You’ll learn your own version of it that’ll ebb and flow with your life. Prepare yourself — your definition of success will be challenged in job interviews or over drunken nights with your besties. For today’s sake, it’s a term that measures your accomplishments and, sometimes, the world will seem to only focus on your lack of them. One day, success will be getting your dream job. Another day, it will be getting out of bed. EUPHORIA /juːˈfɔːrɪə/ In these moments, you’ll feel most alive. They won’t necessarily be void of pain, anxiety, and uncertainty, but in these rare moments you won’t be resistant to the human experience anymore — you’ll be immersed in it. The moment may come at a music festival, on a run, singing karaoke or laughing over a glass of red. You must remember that these moments are earned, and they will be a product of your active decisions. Please be cautious — at times, you may be convinced that these moments can be induced by drugs, sex, or someone else. Soon you’ll learn that the only sustainable generator of happiness is you. It’s all you.
How I Got Here: A Recipe WORDS
I love writing, but I didn’t always realise I did. It must have begun when my uncle would return from Sydney every Christmas and pull beautifully wrapped storybooks out of his denim satchel for me like Mary Poppins. I soon fell in love with the touch of textured paper under my fingers as I diligently sounded out the ‘big words’. When I was 12, my mum sent me to an English tutor who left me in tears after every lesson because my stories were simply not interesting enough. In hindsight, I have both of them to thank because my stories were, in fact, not interesting at all. This tutor had made me realise it wasn’t that I lacked great ideas, but that writing was a skill I had to patiently practise in order to captivatingly convey what I wanted to say. When I reached uni, I began watching Gilmore Girls and started living vicariously through the protagonist, Rory Gilmore, who inspired me to study journalism. All these people (real and fictional) made me realise the value of words. Through words, I get to read the most interesting stories, pen thoughts to paper when I am anxious, and shamelessly share carefully crafted puns with my friends. For me, words are a vehicle for self-expression which have become a significant part of who I am. I didn’t always enjoy being in my own company. In fact, I feared being alone. Lunch times back in my first year of uni involved either frantically trying to find anyone to eat with or whingy complaints to my friends that I was eating alone yet again. Being by myself did not sit well with me. But one day, I bumped into two old friends who redefined, for me, what it meant to be alone. They would spontaneously call me so we could chat till 2:30am about our identity crises, leave me with nine consecutive voice messages about overpriced long blacks and crumpets, or insist that I leave my room and spend my Friday night with them. They opened their arms and showered me with so much affection that my feelings of insecurity slowly dissipated. 8
I remember walking alone in the park one afternoon and realising how blissful solitude was. Now, I appreciate my own company with peace rather than as an object of ridicule — not because I’m lonely, but because I know they’ll always be there. We often feel that we exist in each other’s worlds as mere supporting characters without realising that we are contributing significantly to the chapters of someone else’s story. The books that we leave for our friends at their doorsteps, the music we share in silent car rides, and the stories we tell each other are all but insignificant in a world where we leave trails of footprints. We are the reason why our best friends get excited at the sound of a song, why our siblings cook eggs the way they do, or why someone has so many exciting stories to tell at the dinner table. Whether we are aware or not, we are constantly adding value to each other’s lives. Every year, I take the time to sit and write long birthday letters to my friends. I picked up this habit because my mum always asked for a heartfelt card whenever we, as kids, asked for her birthday wish list. When winter approaches, I find myself wrapped in a thick scarf because my dad always said that keeping your neck covered is best for staying warm. Whenever I feel myself about to burn out, I pause everything immediately, because my brother taught me that often taking one step back is your best one forward. Through these habits, I see the value in sitting down and writing, in my neatest handwriting, about how appreciative I am that someone exists. I see that winter isn’t as terrible as everyone makes it out to be because a trusty scarf goes a long way. And I see how taking care of myself allows me to become a better daughter, sister and friend. The habits I have picked up over the past 21 years, my likes, dislikes and who I have become all stem from the people around me — so much so that, oftentimes, I feel like I am an extension of all the people I love.
The Humans Issue
The Humans Issue
A House is Not a Home WORDS
I was 12 when my parents bought what is now our family home, nestled in between beach and parkland. I remember being the first to slide my hands across the sold sticker; while my parents were busy adulting, I was already picking my room. It never occurred to me how much being at that one auction would shape what I’d come to know as home. It changed — the pool went in, the deck was laid, and the kitchen upgraded — but the feeling remained. I was 18 when I left that house. I didn’t know it then, but the home that I knew was about to be shaken, set ablaze and reimagined. I woke up in many different beds that year (and not the beds you might be thinking of). There were hostels, friends and even strangers’ houses, but that feeling of comfort always remained no matter where I was. My first stop was Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a small alpine town south of Munich, in Germany. I trembled at the first sight of a home away from familiarity, but slowly my mindset shifted. Moments became things I couldn’t do without, like trudging through the snow or the morning glow on the mountain peaks. A place I had never known became a safe space. My neighbours became my second family, and a few months was enough to convince me that this town had become my second home. I turned 19 in Heidelberg, Germany. The comfort that I’d previously known was once again in flames. New challenges surfaced, but from this fire spread a warmth to the deepest corners of my body. It extinguished the fear and with each new day, the familiarity I’d left behind came back to me. The living arrangements didn’t matter, and neither did the brevity of the mere two months I was there. The city was my place because of my willingness for it to be. I was 19 when I realised that I’d left tiny fragments of my heart in every home I created. A version of home existed in every place and every person I’d touched, even if only for a short while. All this is important because, you see, this sweet home of mine isn’t just the house at the beach, but the safety I feel when I get up in the morning. It’s connecting with the people around you and knowing how to be completely comfortable with yourself and your situation. It took three months of solo travelling to reimagine the traditional idea of a home. I was never in one place long enough for it to be labelled a home but for me, they were all sweet places of growth. And it is through growth that we truly find ourselves at home. I am 21, and it is with these words by Miram Adney I leave you. The epitome of everything I have experienced, and why this sweet home of mine cannot ever be a house. “You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
Party of One WORDS
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” Michel de Montaigne might have written these words in the 16th century, but it’s a sentiment that still resonates with introverts everywhere. In a world that places a lot of importance on life-long partners, and at an age when popular culture is screaming from all angles that you should have a huge, boisterous friendship group that does everything together and goes out every night, it’s an easy one to forget. Society is built for extroversion in many ways, and there’s a lot of good that comes from that — but at the end of the day, all you really have is yourself. And that deserves to be celebrated. As a textbook extroverted introvert, I’m in a near-constant battle between wanting to be out with my friends until 4am and staying home nestled safely under my doona. At the crux of it all, though, I never mind what the plan ends up being, because I am completely comfortable with my own company. Almost scarily so; while isolating with a bout of festival-acquired Covid at the beginning of the year, I was shocked by how quickly (and happily) I adapted to the hermit lifestyle. Just me and my dog living our best lives? I couldn’t complain. This contentment of mine, whether a product of nature or nurture, has shaped a lot of my life so far. Being my own little party of one has gifted me an independence that’s seen me travel solo to Europe twice, and an ease of satisfaction that made me happy to sit back and people-watch instead of stressing about making friends in every hostel. In my eyes, a glass of wine at a table for one is better food for the soul than talking to a drunk group of German backpackers could ever be. 12
I’m also a famously indecisive person, a trait I’ve recently been rebranding from a downfall to an asset: I’m indecisive not because I don’t know what I like, but because I am genuinely happy with most options that are presented to me. Thai or Italian restaurant? I don’t mind! A walk in the park or brunch? Whatever suits! Bridgerton or Drive to Survive on Netflix? Both sound great! Whatever the situation, I’m pretty easy to please — and I think that has a lot to do with how comfortable I am with myself. By knowing who I am, I’ve found friends who I adore so much that it really doesn’t matter what we do, what we watch or where we go. I’m just happy to be along for the ride. My friends joke that I have two personalities hidden inside me that are in a constant internal battle: a 23-year-old who loves being busy and going out with her friends, and an octogenarian who delights in cups of tea, puzzles, and walks to the local library. That old lady inside me is who gives me my contentedness — as embarrassing as it might sound, I’m often just as excited by the prospect of a day at home with no plans and a good book to read as I am for a night out on Chapel Street. I love being around people, but I also really enjoy just doing my own thing. So thank you, inner old lady. This isn’t all to say I don’t sometimes feel lonely, or even wish that things were different. A lot of my independence and comfort in myself is a product of having been single for most of my life. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave the closeness of a relationship, of having a partner who has seen through to my very core and still says yeah, this is the person for me. Sure, I’ve had relationships and situationships and promising almost-somethings where I’ve
The Humans Issue
poured my hopes into another person. Each time so far, it hasn’t worked out; and each time, I’m devastated. Past a certain point, it’s difficult not to interpret a growing string of rejections as an insult or personal fault. But each time, once I’ve cried and holed myself up in my room and vented to patient friends via voice memos, I eventually come back to that place of intrinsic ease. I am happy with where and who I am, and I’m excited for a time when I can share that with someone who’s just as delighted to have me in their life as I am to have them in mine. At the end of the day, I really value knowing the person I am. It means I can live in a way that’s authentic to myself, and I’m never afraid of sitting with my own thoughts. I’ll always appreciate my ability to listen, my strong moral compass, and the fact I can find things to smile or laugh about at least 25 times a day. I’ll always be a person who’s
comfortable asking for a table for one, who has no qualms taking herself for a solo cinema date. I’m a lover of slow evenings reading my book until the early hours of the morning, and of slow mornings drinking coffee by the sunny window at the front of our house. I’ll always only read the sports pages of the newspaper and rush the crossword, if I have time. I’ll never read the last page of a book before I start it, and dog-earing a page will always feel like sacrilege to me. I’ll always be quick to cry and quicker to laugh. Whatever happens, it’s comforting to know I feel at home within myself (even if that home does host an eternal fight between my inner old lady and chaotic twenty-something).
The Humans Issue
The rain falls like socks off the line sinking softly Melting imprints in The concrete stained streets where we meet and discuss who’s who and what’s what, listening intently as the world passes by, and the trees overgrow. If we could we’d spend our time, holding hands drinking coffee while I stare at your face and you stare at the ground hiding in your laughter, back when the nights were still warm. WORDS ILLUSTRATION Remember when clouds of smoke billowed Kiera Eardley out Juliette Capomolla across the playground @kieraeardley @jcappa_forrizzle from mums’ frying pan as the boys looked for sticks adequate for hitting until they filled their bellies Gentendi culla pla inum harumen danditatet faccaboris ipitiumet with her take on fried rice, lacking in flavour aligendam but suntiaepero it ilissita voluptatet volupta volupta quam smelled like home and acipicidis acepero te occulpa aut eaquam eaquae niam expliti that’s why it’s your favourite. sinullabores aut officiat ut lab id quis et volest, alibusciatur aut ullor sed eic to dolorio rporeseque plique odias expelliat am ima volessin You can feel her love, on your face, and es des recognise et voluptassi autatio nectiatur, tem volora secesti ut eaquia it dolesti berumenis moditias aut erum excestruptis que suntece Finding different forms rerrovitem sus aut adicien imusaero eius modi alis a que custe num, growing legs consequo eos es ipsum volor as accatem eiur arum quuntia quas walking off the train station magnatquos que qui atus autae cusdae sedigent. or sitting at that little At lam nia dolupta temquostis apidit latatiis endunturi qui re Vietnamese place on Brunswick Street, nonem que imusdae nonem restis volor sam qui te volore, optatec where the rice is better. usciae officiis ne commolu ptatur, toreped unt, optas nus mollut lit et reperna temolup tinciassunt mi, ut ma quiaerumque eos eum volor You lie on the sidewalk and watch thealic lovers tescia walk cum non rentio. Met porerumque voluptat ut ut explatur sit hand-in-hand fuga. Itatia qui corrupta volora coremol lescil ipsam non rae dolupta Or a son help his dad across the road, ssundam qui unt alique enda sitio. Officimus re odis dunt et experio tugging at his leg, rehenihilia nobitiur? and you know Es rem ligendelicit ex et qui aut as asperepe iusame dolorem We don’t talk as much as we used quati quas sit parum a perunt volest lit quiducipis rem autatest as to but I hope you’re doing just fine, verumqui sit as sequis accaerchil ius es dolume magnatur, occupta still sharing the large serve of phở with plawhoever consecto blaut eat optatat omnimus molupti ut vene sit fugiti squeezes your hand tightest. ditaectur antis que eariscia as pre laborit aut enimusciis rent, sunt I can see your grin stretching wide, the enem. brothItas eiur mi, arum volupid qui ut occullectia vendel eosaere, spilling out the sides. omnis dissi ullaborrum es sam aliqui iusciis ma debit restemp It lifts my chest a little. ersperis mi, non erum quo eosse eum acia volest, si cus quas quiat ipsa ant quiatem exerum Maybe es you’ll autemossin call me when praes you eos need sunt ommo es est fugit optias sus, ansim extra eniatur set ofsed hands essedi debitib usciatio blabo. Nequos earcimus to et help pa porum pick up alityour volore head volorem when quide its down estist ea con consequ ibusam, or tosolut move magnis your couch, sanda pe si aut omnis experios ipsame veleste a quam Grab aditcoffee dis dolorum and split audisci a cigarette mintiat. sometime, WORDS To culpa qui vel estrum ium raecaest que que sum ligendebit, coremqu oditatiuntUntil eumthat intinum day comes rem quam by repelecate ad quias assum quia ilique I’ll si bearum do my best fuga. toNem check rethe omnitiasinum weather iusaper itatiberat ea volupturit for oncoming est aut autet storms, voluptatus and leave aspedio. my door Suntunlocked utae eos esciunt quia volum So you’ll eiciene havepre a place delendunte to sleep, pa ex eos sunt essitius ad qui asint Whenever a vent lique youeliquibus need. seceatiur? Quid quassi
Current Mood: Hooked on TV Trash
Garden of Eden WORDS @xeniasanut When I opened my eyes for the first time, it was the small shadows dancing above that intrigued me. They filtered light into the meadow where I lay, playfully casting me in the warm sun before quickly forcing me into cold shadow. Then, I felt the breeze. I smiled as wisps of hair fell onto my face and blades of grass tickled my cheek, but that was when I heard a rustling to my right. I scrambled to my feet, straining to stand on my new limbs when I saw a figure slinking back into the shade of the meadow’s encircling trees. They lifted their hands slightly as a gesture of peace. Their body looked like mine, but it was hard and steady, as if made of earth. Man. The word emerged like a rippling of water in my mind, a new drop in my pool of knowledge. He smiled reassuringly, gesturing towards the path that led through the trees. Beyond the path were mountain peaks that towered over the forest and soaring even higher were birds silhouetted by baby blue. He took my hand and squeezed it, and like a shepherd helping a newborn lamb to stand, he guided me through paradise. We were walking hand-in-hand through a field of wild grass when two small, winged creatures fluttered by. I watched as the creatures would suddenly drop and casually fly to the heavens again, and again, in an intricate dance. Once again the word was gently poured into my consciousness. Butterflies. He let go of my hand and started charging after them, crushing the tall grass with his feet. He was grinning eagerly with his arms outstretched, but he kept glancing at me, trying to gauge my reaction. And then I heard a loud clap. With his head, he gestured for me to come to where he was standing, but my legs would not move. Instead, he started leaping towards me with his hands clasped together, ensuring that the waist-high grass could not ensnare him or his excitement. He opened his hands slightly with glee and, peering between a gap in his fingers, there was one of the flying creatures. Its fragile wing was torn, hopelessly clinging to its body like a golden leaf on a fall branch, and desperate to escape his grasp. He offered it to me as a gift, but I shook my head and started to weep. He insisted, but I continued to refuse, and like a spoiled child who had never heard the word ‘no’, he huffed and stormed off, dropping the creature in a fury, and leaving it flapping frantically on the ground. When he had disappeared from the horizon, I gently picked up the creature in my palm and went to search for its friend — only to find them lying motionless at the place where it met man’s palm. He continued to do this, trying to prove that paradise was the dominion of man. 16
The Humans Issue
But if all life cannot live freely in paradise, can it be called paradise at all? Under God’s decree, he said he had dominion over me. I insisted that as I was created from his rib, God permitted me to walk alongside him as his equal. But he believed it made me a part of him; an extension of his body to wield and control. Who knew paradise could be so cold? Instead, I found warmth in a fruit-bearing tree, whose twisted branches looked like they could both embrace and strangle you, and there I crumpled into a heap by the tree’s trunk. I did so with such force that some fruit fell next to me, and I felt loneliness welling up inside me like a wave, crashing into my chest, and sobs spilling out of my mouth. He feared God’s wrath, so I knew he would not find me here, making it a perfect place for my anguish to slither like a serpent into my heart. I tried to articulate what I was feeling in my head, but the language God created could not express it. It could not express my agony for how paradise was forced to bend under man’s hand. Or my helpless longing to know what my role is on Earth. Was I man’s equal or man’s servant? I reached for one of the fallen fruits and spun it in my hand. The serpent coiled itself in my chest, crushing my heart like a dam ready to burst. The serpent yearned for answers and, even though I was afraid, I knew together we were going to open our eyes and see who God intended for us to be. I put the fruit’s soft skin to my lips. I heard him crying my name in the distance. His voice was carried by the wind. He wanted to apologise. But it was too late. The world lay bare to my eyes, like a leafless tree in winter. The next time I opened my eyes, the blazing sun assaulted me. The oppressive heat above and the hardened ground below reminded me of my new reality. My face had hardened, my hands were dry and leathery, and in this cracked, lifeless desert, nothing resembled the garden I once knew. A rumbling storm could be heard from the mountains, and eagles cawed and circled above us, waiting to claw into our skin and feast on our bodies. But the sound of him scratching away at the Earth and the quiet crunch of seeds being given new homes was now a familiar and comforting sound. I stood up, hobbled towards him, and reached for his hand. He squeezed it tightly, as if it was all he had left in the world to hold onto, looked up and gave me a soft smile. He passed me some seeds and together we worked silently, but skilfully, as if we were performing an intricate dance, so that maybe we could live in paradise again. Esperanto
18 Humans of My Life ARTWORK @lauren.gali The Humans Issue
Food for the Soul WORDS @gabrielafannia
You can ask anyone from different backgrounds and cultures, and they would agree that food is a huge part of their lives. Food is universal — universally enjoyable. According to trusty ol’ Oxford Languages, ‘Comfort Food’ describes edibles that provide consolation and a feeling of wellbeing. Put simply, it could be anything of sugar, spice and everything nice, right? Well, it’s still subjective. As a foodie myself, all things can be comfort food at this point; some days, Flipboard’s fudge chocolate brownie is my comfort food, sometimes it’s the $3 salmon sushi rolls. Yes, our comfort food is never consistent! Whilst food that comforts you can be anything depending on your mood, the weather, and your bank balance, there will always be that special someone — err… I mean special food — that makes you go, ‘ahh yes’ with every first bite. Forget about soulmates, this is your soul food.
The Humans Issue
I personally believe that your soul food doesn’t need to be perfect, and it surely doesn’t require fancy spices that you need to google for an image reference. As much as you enjoy munching your comfort foods, you should be able to enjoy preparing them too. So if your comfort food involves you running through heavy rain, making a return trip across town, then maybe it’s just a strong food craving. Coming from a South-East Asian background, I do enjoy food with a lot of spices; but funnily enough, I find comfort in the simplest of dishes. Here’s a short recipe of it: MY SOULFOOD — MA LING RICE BOWL This meal contains pork. INGREDIENTS: 1 can of Ma Ling Pork Luncheon 1 cup of baby spinach Chopped cherry tomatoes (optional) White rice Egg Sweet soy sauce COOKING STEPS: 1. Cook your rice, until nice and fluffy. 2. Heat up your pan and fry a big slice of luncheon meat (no oil required; oil will seep out of the meat when it is heated). 3. Place cooked meat in a separate plate, and with the same pan cook the spinach and cherry tomatoes (optional) until soft. 4. Place the cooked spinach in a separate plate, cook the egg (sunny-side up works best, but you can do them scrambled). 5. When the rice is cooked, add them to a bowl and place the luncheon meat, spinach, and sunny side up on top. 6. Drizzle a bit of sweet soy sauce. 7. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Your soul food needs to be yours; a meal that gives you a warm cuddle, a dish that feels like it was meant for you, and only you. Don’t worry if other people don’t enjoy it. At the end of the day, it is your soothing meal, a good reminder that as much as you need to fill your belly with proteins, carbs, and fats, we are humans. We need to fill up our souls too. Esperanto
A Love Letter to My Short-Lived Crushes WORDS
It’s undeniably human to have crushes. I mean, what’s the point of going to your weekly uni tutorial if not for the guy in the green sweatshirt who sits in the back left corner? Crushes enliven an excitement, giddiness and youthful feeling in us all. A crush takes me back to the start of Year 7, when 13-year-old me thought all the boys would just die over my side pony and rolled up skirt (spoiler: they didn’t). Whilst I’d like to think I’m past that particular trend, the sentiment remains — there’s nothing quite like a crush. That person who you wear that top for That person who you put on makeup for That person who you walk with a bit more of a strut for
But the best part of a crush? The comfort of it being all yours. My crushes probably don’t even know my name (do they even know I exist?), let alone the fact that I’ve imagined our potential house with a white picket fence and -oodle puppy in the ‘burbs. And that’s kind of nice. Sure, I might spend the semester attempting to make eye contact with them to see if they noticed me, too; but after 12 weeks, we can safely part ways with no lingering obligations to each other. So to all of those crushes you’ve had on the bus, on the train, in the halls, at the supermarket; to all those crushes who will never know they played a secondary role in your life; to all those crushes you never spoke a word to and never will — this one’s for you.
The Humans Issue
Dearest Mr Grey Suit, You probably won’t remember me, that girl sitting on the 8:02am train from Moorabbin last Tuesday. Did I catch your eye? Because you certainly caught mine. I recall you were wearing a light grey suit with an awfully shiny, light-blue skinny tie. What was it that made you frown at Armadale station or chuckle at your phone? You were most likely hauling yourself to your nine-to-five grind, like you probably do every morning at 8:02am. Do you enjoy it, or do you find it monotonous and boring? I wonder what train you catch home at the end of the day… Unbeknownst to you on that 32-minute journey, I imagined our whole life together. With a few assumptions (like that you also want three kids and a destination wedding), we ended up happily ever after. Of course, you inevitably have a mid-life crisis after wondering why you ever chose the corporate life for yourself, and beg me to sell our house in the city to move to Ocean Grove. Alas, the country life is not for me — after all, I am a city girl. We most likely go our separate ways when our children are in their teens and you find a shack for yourself by the beach. Neither of us are awfully sad; we had a good life together while it lasted. In some ways, it brings me joy to know that you are finally fulfilled in life. You were never truly happy in the city. After all, we want different things now, and we certainly aren’t the same people who met on that 8:02am train in 2022. How could we expect each other to be? Mr Grey Suit, I would never ask you to give up your dreams for me, as I would expect from you, too… And then we parted ways at Flinders Street station. You, on the number 19 tram towards North Coburg, and me on my tram towards South Melbourne. I’ll be looking for you next Tuesday. Will you look for me? Esperanto
The Real Face of Self-Care
The Humans Issue
Post-lockdown, everyone is still fixated on the importance of mastering the art of ‘self-care’. And rightly so. While in certain contexts, this word has been rendered a cliché with its focus on beauty and wellness consumption, its introduction also serves a deeper purpose. It reminds us to invest in ourselves and prioritise our needs in this fast-paced, chaotic and unpredictable life. For me, self-care has come to mean many things, from having a sit-down meeting with my internal aura to buying a $45 Aesop hand wash all in the name of ‘treating myself’. Yet above all, what I’ve come to find is that these seemingly small things are essential to my well-being and can always be weaved into my day-to-day activities as a reminder to imbue more peace, joy and passion into my life. Without further ado, here are three little ways that I show myself some self-love. #1. Dancing my troubles away Dancing has always been my love language and one of my sacred forms of self-expression. Not only is it great cardio, it arouses my creativity, leaves me rejuvenated and best of all, helps me enter an alternate reality where the only thing that matters at that moment is not missing a beat. It can feel silly to prance around my room making uncoordinated choreographies, but that is the point. Dancing is universal in that there is no precise way to do it, except to have fun. Being vulnerable enough to let myself move freely helps me to release tension and blow off steam. Whenever I’ve been labouring away at my laptop for hours on end or wrapped up in a stressful situation, even if I don’t feel like it, you’ll find me getting my groove on and, sooner or later, smiling in the process. #2. Finding peace in a simple ‘no’ As an extroverted introvert (someone who is a great socialiser but gets their energy
from being alone), I’ve repeatedly found myself fiercely agreeing to plans, only to later conclude that I forgot to designate the most important event: down-time. Navigating the complexities around setting healthy boundaries takes courage and determination, as there are only so many instances that I can drain my emotional energy all in the name of FOMO. Missing a once-in-a-lifetime event to stay home, read, sip some tea and catch up on sleep may not align with everyone’s version of fun, but it’s a great way of tuning into what my body and mind values while learning to drown out societal expectations. Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ to the demands of others so that you can explore what ‘yes’ really means to you. #3. Choosing spontaneity While choosing comfort is necessary, deciding to step out of myself and my uncompromising routine into a new situation is another level of bravery that helps me feel alive. There is a beauty in risk-taking and indulging in the novel, free of guilt. In the past, agreeing to do the unfamiliar has left me with pleasant surprises and newfound burning confidence. Whether it be signing up for a random art workshop or filling in for a friend’s netball team after not playing for five years (and a lack of cardio), I have decided to set aside some time to go out into this world without planning for the sole purpose of embarking on an adventure. So far, I can say that surrendering to the flow of things has opened me up to all the hidden values and possibilities that are just waiting to be explored in this big world of ours. Ultimately, self-care is worth the hype if it means that I can still show up for myself amidst the business of life, find new ways to connect to my intuition, and re-centre my energy on things that are purposeful to my spirit.
The Harsh Realisations of Growing Up WORDS
Being in your twenties is a confusing time. Graduating from Year 12 feels like it could have been mere years ago and the idea of people you know getting engaged or owning property seems absurd — surely we’re too young for that! Yet as I think about it, my valedictory was six years ago, some of my friends are in long-term relationships and a lot of young people are already saving for house deposits. Um, when did everyone turn into grown-ups? When I was younger, my understanding of ‘adults’ was largely informed by American movies and the lives of people around me. On one hand, I pictured the hot, stylish, independent, career-focused woman who lived in the city and had a great sex life (read: Jenna Rink in Suddenly 30 ). But on the other hand, I thought that at some point, you had to settle down in the suburbs, get married and have children (read: most of the adults in my life). However, I do think that being in your twenties carries its own distinct feeling. We’re paying rent, earning our own money (albeit not much), and making pivotal decisions about our lives. Yet, at the same time, we’re hitting Afterpay on things we don’t need, spending too much money on a cocktail at a trendy, inner-city bar, and self-consciously evaluating how well we’ve performed in a social setting. We can vote, and we pay tax, but we’re constantly on the brink of an existential crisis about our purpose and whether we like the person we’re becoming. And sometimes the distance between feeling dependent and unanchored, to feeling confident and independent, is a chasm. It can feel like waking up and realising that the people in your life are achieving milestones and no one thought to tell you that you’re approaching the deadline as well. But when exactly do we become an ‘adult’? Is it when we hit a certain age? Do we wake up at 18, 25 or 30 and suddenly have our shit together? I doubt it. Personally, each year that has passed since I turned 18 did not make me feel any more grown up. If anything, as the years passed, 26
I’ve felt less sure of who I am and what I want to do with my life. Maybe we can measure adulthood by milestones then? Get a full-time job, couple up, move out, get married, and have children. This mantra is deeply embedded in our cultural psyche that no matter how progressive or openminded we consider ourselves, it’s hard not to associate these markers with successfully growing up on some level. Our culture has worked hard to sell us a clear and linear path for growing up; a path that is strongly associated with ideas of a nuclear family and making money. But do we realise how exclusionary and exclusive adulthood is if we define it by only these things? Not everyone is allotted the same opportunities or jumping-off point. Not everyone aspires to, or values the same things (sorry ScoMo, but not everyone wants to buy a house). Granted, times have changed. In 2022, women have far more options, and marriage doesn’t provide the same degree of economic and social security as it did for our grandmothers and mothers. Instead, the idea of a ‘grown-up’ woman in Australia in 2022 has pivoted fiercely in the opposite direction. It’s hard to separate what it is to be a modern, independent woman from the productivitydriven #girlboss hustle. To be a successful adult in today’s world, I feel as though I must have flawless skin, be leading a not-for-profit, travel the world, invest my money, and be in the midst of at least one entrepreneurial endeavour. The current Sally Rooney-esque vibe shift of being a woman in your twenties who isn’t in any rush to settle down, is career-driven, has lots of sex, uses a menstrual cup, can confidently order wine, and enjoys cheese platters with friends while discussing topics like fast fashion, the use of plastics and global politics… well, it’s also a lot. Though some of the pressures of growing up (and keeping up) have evolved, it doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. Many of us lost almost two years to isolation and lockdowns over 2020–21 — a time that we thought was going to be spent working, earning money, moving out or travelling… stopped. Milestones that we might have had lined up,
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27 ready to check off the list, were temporarily put on pause. We emerged two years older without necessarily feeling it. But by no means is being in your twenties a bad thing. If anything, it’s an important time to be gentle and to learn about ourselves. Yes, being an ‘adult’ can be associated with a certain pressure to keep up, and it’s exciting (although slightly daunting) to have so many options and pathways ahead. However it can also be an incredibly rich time to try new things, to experiment and to learn to be okay with failing and going at your own pace.
Growing up is an abstract concept. You don’t all of a sudden become an adult. No one gives you a certificate to say, ‘congratulations, you finally got yourself together’ and ‘well done for remembering to pay your car registration on time’. Instead, perhaps the most valuable thing we can learn from ‘coming of age’ is to get to know ourselves, question the scripts we feel like we have to follow and make our own decisions. Ultimately, we can move at whatever pace we want to, and we can reshape and reframe milestones so that they align with us and our values.
A Eulogy to My Work Wife WORDS
We were both young when I first met Karen. People tend to think I’m being sarcastic when I tell them my favourite co-worker was named Karen. Like this is some poorly constructed joke about the people who scream at 19-year-olds at the register when they tell them that a discount on one shelf does not in fact apply to the entire store. No, Kaz (as it was sometimes quicker to call her in the Christmas retail rush) was a delight to work with. Technically, we’d actually met before. But we got the chance to begin again in a booth for That Women’s Shoe Brand in Myer Jones at Eaststone Shopping Complex. When I saw her name on the roster I thought to myself, surely this is not the same Karen McCommonlastname from the Taylor Swift group chat I joined by liking a post on Monash Love Letters? If Christmas Tree Farm by Taylor Swift were to play while one of us was on a shift without the other we had to text each other. That was the law. Karen has a big brain. She is currently studying Biomed at a certain uni in the city, but let’s forgive her for that — every one of us has messed up, too. She taught me everything I know about putting through sales, looking up items, online orders, store order directs, and customer 28
order directs — which are all very different things. Kaz is currently saved on my phone as ‘The Wizard’ because only a wizard could fix our WiFi by adding more tape to something under the register. It’s also a subtle Taylor Swift reference. However, the only thing bigger than her brain is her heart. I don’t know about you, but it’s nice to have a friend in the workplace. Someone you can skip ‘I’m good, thanks’ and really delve into how it’s actually going. Because it’s not always good, and the rain is always going to pour if you’re standing with me. The first of many examples of Karen’s kindness that comes to mind is when, as the newest member of the team, I was stuck with all the late-night shifts. The Wizard would stop studying for her rigorous economics summer unit to video call me and explain how to use the computer system. I’m a boomer trapped in a twenty-something, and she never once lost her patience. I’m pretty sure Kaz created the Swifties Melbourne group chat. That wouldn’t surprise me — she’s a community builder. Karen’s one of those people who’s got a smile that could light up this whole town. She naturally brings people together. She’s the one who introduced me to all the other girls who worked for That Woman’s Shoe Brand. I’d say over half the sales associates at our booth that summer weren’t authorised to
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put through sales at Myer Jones. Karen introduced me to enough people that half the floor had put through my sales by Australia Day. There was the Myer Jones employee who became the third musketeer in our Chaos Gang group chat (yes, Kaz made that one too). There was another Myer Jones girl who would sing along to BTS in the back room with me. Another who got yelled at by a Karen (of the traditional sense of the name) with me. Pro tip: when they go high, you go lower. If someone is screaming at you, drop your voice down low and very slowly explain to them that this is why we can’t have nice things. There were also the other booth holders. The lady at the booth next to us once successfully pretended to be my manager when a lady tried to convince me to give her a discount on a faded shoe (despite wearing a badge that stated she worked for a different company). A girl from the menswear department would always come over to give us the latest gossip and some pretty solid life advice. Another lady with a radiant smile put through my sales while telling stories about her adored stepsons. Every time a transaction crashed, we would roast this one guy who majored in maths for his undergrad. He’s over on the Clayton campus now studying his MTeach and swearing he will “make maths cool again”. Last summer, Karen gave me a Myer Jones I could look forward to working at. She made sure that even when she wasn’t there, I had people who I could give The Look to when customers decided that the ‘five minutes until closing’ announcement was a challenge rather than a warning. The entire women’s shoes department had witnessed us dancing like we were made of starlight after making a sale — which is a completely different dance from the one we
do when we make the daily sales budget. We raise our hands above our heads for that one. So, here’s to Karen and everyone on our floor at Myer Jones. There’s so much I could thank you for, so many shenanigans that I shouldn’t repeat here. Please let me use your staff discount don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognise anywhere. And long live all the shoe boxes we moved. I had a marvellous time dancing through the summer with you.
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TW: Infertility As if it were the most casual of conversations, my gynaecologist handed me my prescription and let slip, “when you start thinking about wanting kids, come see me 12 months earlier to begin fertility treatments”. I’d just come in for a check-up as my period erred on the side of few and far between. Instead, I found out that I had polycystic ovary syndrome and potentially endometriosis, and had just been slapped with the fact that I don’t ovulate properly. Suddenly, I was very aware that having children would need to be an incredibly conscious decision for me. I would have to try very hard to conceive, and even then, it would most likely be a rigorous process of testing and heartbreak. I was 21 when I had that conversation with my gynaecologist. Twenty-one, and suddenly thinking about my body’s inability to do what I’ve always been told is its main function: to reproduce. The kicker was that I’ve never wanted to have children, anyway. So why did I feel as though I’d been wronged and stripped of a choice, when the outcome was going to be the same regardless? When I was five, I was given a Baby Born doll that I had desperately wanted. It was a high-tech one; it would laugh, cry and burp as all real babies do. However, whenever she would cry I remember feeling so incredibly anxious that I would simply drop her on the floor and cry too. I’d hold her by her little plastic hand, arm’s length away from me, begging my mother to come and take this scary toy away. The incessant wailing implied I was doing something wrong, as if parenting should have been imbued within me from age five. I ended up spending most of my time playing with the Baby Born with her batteries left out. 32
WORDS @tesskent LETTERING @jessicala.png
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I’ve lacked maternal instincts since I was young, and even now, when I hear babies crying I flinch with the same crippling helplessness as I did when I was five. Truth be told, the idea of having a family has never enticed me. I have many career ambitions and goals, and I don’t feel particularly drawn to having to give birth to a child. It might be a naive take, but no one’s selling me the dream all that well. Having grown up in a less-than-perfect family and a complicated relationship with my mother, I don’t see these rewards that everyone gloats about. But in a way, I think maybe I am jealous of those who have such strong maternal instincts, those who just know that they want to be a parent. As a young person, when I say the bold statement of ‘no babies for me’, it’s always met with the same huffed response, as if I don’t know any better: “oh, you’ll change your mind one day”. And yes, I’m sure I’ll change my mind on many things one day. I’ll move to suburbs I’ve not considered before and I’ll travel to countries that didn’t interest me five years ago. Life ebbs and flows all the time. In fact, you’re meant to have six to eight careers in a lifetime. So maybe they’re right when they say I’ll change my mind, but I struggle to understand how I can so easily change my mind on such a life-changing decision. Being a parent is a career — a permanent one at that. Changing your mind on these decisions is okay, but please don’t make me feel as though not changing my mind is not an option either. I used to romanticise the concept of parenting. I believed that if I met the right person for me, something would click and that all I’d want to do is break my hips open into a prime birthing
position and give them all the babies they desired. However, I can safely say that even when I’ve been deeply in love with someone, it has never awoken my maternal instincts like I had hoped. What really eats away at me is not that I don’t want children, it’s that I don’t think I want children. It’s as though I still cannot properly explain why I don’t want to do the one thing which would just be easier to want. It’s curious that telling others my thoughts on children always feels like I’m making a final declaration. There are two choices, and one of those choices is met with more questions than the other. It seems as though society crafts our identity around our preference on having children. We had a Prime Minister who chose not to have children, and she was labelled as ‘barren’. As if the ambition of leading a country wasn’t a good enough excuse to evade the discourse of judgement. It’s the finality of the binary choice and the judgement of deciding against it later. If you say you want them, no one flutters an eye; but if it never comes to fruition, everyone wonders what’s wrong with you. If you don’t want them, it’s as if it’s a grand statement against society. One day I may change my mind, but I also may not. I just want to stop explaining myself. Let’s accept that while having kids is an option, not having them is valid, too. Being able to change your mind either way is your choice. Whether I do or do not have children, I know the decision will be a conscious and thoughtful one.
A Guide to Dealing With Partners You Cannot Stand WORDS
We all want our BFFs to be happy in love, on one condition: that I’m happy, too. It’s an age-old dilemma, you don’t like your friend’s partner. So, what do you do? You probably want to yell ‘you can do so much better!’, maybe even grab their arms and shake some sense into them. You think back to all the wine-induced hours spent mapping out their ideal partner, based on everything from personality to how they will look in the wedding photos. For fuck’s sake, there were probably even Pinterest boards made. Why didn’t they listen to the Pinterest boards?! You love your friend and vow to always be there for them — yet any time they mention their significant other, you cringe with every fibre of your being. But what are you going to do? Tell them that their partner is a jerk? Is it truly your place? Should you shut the fuck up, keep your head down and secretly loathe their spouse? None of these seem to be viable possibilities. I’ve been through exactly this, so let me tell you what I did… and please believe me when I say that openly hating your BFF’s S.O. makes you a bad friend. I have been best friends with this girl since she moved to my high school back in 2016, and she has had one asshole boyfriend after another. However, it wasn’t until the most recent shit-head that my fuse ran out. There was no more supportive bestie; there was only an angry, resentful, unsupportive friend. I honestly don’t know how we are still best friends — but in my defence, this bloke was beyond shitty. I’m not going to delve into the dirty details of their relationship, because I respect her too much to put them on paper. So instead, I’ll tell you what I did wrong: I told her to dump him. I told her point-blank that he was abusive, mean and controlling and the most diabolical human I had ever laid eyes on. That was the first and most consequential mistake I made. The more I compared their relationship to those of other, healthier partners, the less she opened up to me when things went south, and so the more she relied solely on him. I made her feel as if she had no one else to turn to, which only made it harder for her to leave. Our friendship eventually triumphed over that nasty piece of work. Thankfully, along the road, I discovered some more effective approaches to deal with these kinds of situations, and I hope you can learn from my mistakes. 34
The Humans Issue
#1. UNDERSTAND WHY YOU LOATHE THEIR PARTNER Is it perhaps because they’re not the Timothée Chalamet doppelganger you had in mind for her? As trivial as it may sound, sometimes no one comes close to matching your ideal partner for your BFF. But if it’s because they’re a misogynistic, sexist pig, this is a fair reason to condemn them (and please use me as a reference!). No one deserves to be treated like this. #2. DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT YOU SHOULD TELL YOUR BFF If you have no reasonable grounds to dislike them and can tell that they adore and treat your bestie like a chivalrous, respectful Nicholas Sparks character would, it’s probably something you should keep to yourself. However, if they are toxic (cue our queen Ms Spears) or there are numerous reasons why they aren’t meant to be (that your bestie is clueless of), it’s time to stand up and tell them (see next point).
#3. TAKE IT SLOWLY AND DON’T OVERDO IT This can be the most terrifying aspect. No one likes to tell their bestie that their S.O. isn’t what they had imagined. You must proceed with caution. It’s not the time to go full speed and rip their partner to shreds the first time you say something; that’s a sure-fire method to drive your friend away. Instead, try to validate your friend’s concerns by admitting to them you’ve witnessed certain things that don’t sit right with you. Make it clear that you are not judging them — it’s the greatest way to ensure they feel comfortable talking to you. #4. REMEMBER THEY ARE STILL YOUR #1. If you only remember one thing from what has been said, make it this: they are your friend regardless of the type of relationship they are in. Even if you cannot stand the toxicity oozing from every crevice of their partner’s body, that should be the main incentive to stay. Every person, especially those in bad relationships, needs their best friend.
I used to think I was my interests, favourite things, books, quotes, colours, foods, the idiosyncrasies that others could see, the things that had come naturally, the things I had done, now, I’m not sure.
WORDS & ART @the_maddsiah
I feel like a grain of sand washing around in the ocean, trying to gain traction, to form an island all of my own, Instead, I’m blown from coast to coast. Never quite mine, roving right into rivers of righteous irritation, trying to find myself among cohorts of lost souls, trying to build my home in a hurricane. Instead of me are the fragments of what people have left behind, those I admired, people I have loved, the way I cook my eggs and order my coffee, my own reflection, and maybe it’s not such a curse, to find yourself lost
Currents and Their Callings 36
The Humans Issue
Literary Clout WORDS
Commuting is one of the most universal human experiences: bumper-to-bumper in early morning traffic jams, stumbling while standing on a moving bus, or the sweat on your brow after a cycle to work. What is even more human is being nosey — and there’s nothing quite like peeking at what other people are reading while sitting on the train. What someone is reading can tell us an awful lot about them, and so below we’ve decoded some of the most popular books you might be caught reading, and what it tells other people about you.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE , JANE AUSTEN The GOAT enemies-to-lovers novel, Pride and Prejudice exposes you as somebody that craves intellectual debate — maybe with some steamy eye contact thrown in. You’ve definitely had a crush on the tall, handsome, silent guy in your tutorial who wears wool sweaters and loafers, and secretly hoped you would be paired together for the group assignment. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say you love a cup of Earl Grey tea while watching the second season of Bridgerton for the third time in a row. And can we suggest you stop saving wedding dresses to your Pinterest board…? You’re still single! THE STORYTELLER , DAVE GROHL You had an emo phase in 2011, and you’re okay with admitting it. Dave Grohl is an undeniable drumming genius and, inspired by his epic musical prowess, you definitely attempted to play the guitar between the ages of eight and 12. We’re willing to bet that you’ve dated a bassist and regret it; now you get irritated when people say Tame Impala is indie. If you say you don’t own a vintage ’90s leather jacket, you’re lying. You could name every bartender in Fitzroy at this point, and you’re everyone’s first port of call when they need a playlist for their next party. 38
CRAZY RICH ASIANS , KEVIN KWAN You radiate main character energy. With the latest tech and whitest sneakers, you’re all clean crisp lines and perfect contour. If your friends lose you in Chadstone, they check Sephora before even bothering to call you. Ms Collins is your Friday night go-to, and you’re drinking nothing but espresso martinis. You’ve always wanted to go to Singapore, and you’re feeling extra wanderlustful now that you’re six chapters in. And don’t forget to update your close friends list that brunch is still on for Sunday at 11. 1984 , GEORGE ORWELL You use a VPN when streaming Black Mirror, because who knows what the government is doing with all the data they mine. George Orwell was right, wasn’t he? They’re monitoring your every move… but not when it comes to crypto! No! The blockchain is different! Maybe it’s time to unfollow Elon Musk on Twitter because of the conflict of interest, instead of worrying about Logan Paul’s NFT drop. In all seriousness, you have a healthy respect for those who question authority. You are the first to call out political bias and will stop at nothing to knock the local conservative craphole down a peg. By the way, how’s your engineering degree going?
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BECOMING , MICHELLE OBAMA You resent the Girlboss label unless, of course, someone mentions Jacinda Ardern. You shop almost exclusively at Zara and Uniqlo. Don’t stress, your Acne Studios wishlist is already being shared in the group chat for your surprise party at the local pottery studio. You’ve tried ‘That Girl’ TikTok trends like meditating in the morning and buying a pastel mechanical keyboard, but in truth you work at your best when you procrastinate until the 24 hours before the assignment is due. We’re sorry to be the ones to tell you: the deep, environmentally conscious regret for buying the new Volkswagen Golf instead of the pre-owned Toyota Prius never goes away.
NORWEGIAN WOOD , HARUKI MURAKAMI Well, if it isn’t the coolest guy in the whole Law Library. With a heart of gold and a passion for human rights, you’re everyone’s ideal uni bestie. We’re waiting for a new Frank Ocean album too, not that you’re stressed about it. You’re cool, calm and always well-rested, thanks to a few daily hours at the gym (and a couple of melatonin gummies before bed). We just know you’ve never been caught without your concession card on PTV, it’s in your wallet right next to your local library card and the polaroids you took with your partner at that little booth down Flinders Lane. Oh, and what else is in your wallet… five of the free one-per-person condoms from the MONSU stall in O-Week. Yikes.
The Humans Issue
Never Meet Your Heroes WORDS
People always say, ‘never meet your heroes’. Often the expectations are set so high that when you finally get the chance to meet them, you’ll be disappointed when they’re not at all what you imagined them to be. Not for me, though. The first time I met my idol was definitely one for the books, despite me making a complete fool of myself. Firstly, let me introduce my idol: Janna Nick. She’s a Malaysian actress, singer and host — a triple threat, if you will. I first discovered her in 2017 on a show called My Coffee Prince, which is a Malaysian remake of the South Korean TV series Coffee Prince. The moment she appeared on-screen, I was instantly obsessed, and she’s been one of the biggest inspirations in my life ever since. The first time I met Janna was a pure coincidence. I was at the mall, getting a cup of bubble tea after eight long hours of class. While waiting for my order, I did what I’m sure any of you would do — put in my earphones and scrolled through my Twitter feed, because we’re all kinda anti-social like that. When I looked up from my phone, I was in for a big shock. Janna was standing right in front of me, waiting for her order as well. My initial thought was that there was no way a popular celebrity would hang out at the mall like any other ordinary person. I guess I was wrong. So, what do you do when your idol is standing in front of you? I, for one, made a complete fool of myself. All of a sudden, I had the world’s most buttery fingers and dropped everything in my hands onto the floor. I also had a moment of panic and called my mum. I said, “Mum! I’m not even kidding, Janna is right in front of me. What do I do?”. Being the cool mum
that she is, she pretty much told me to get my shit together and go introduce myself. So I did, in the most not-so-subtle way. I went up to her and the first thing I said was, “can I just say, you’re a really big inspiration in my life and I’ve been binge-watching your show every day after class”. I’m not even sure if she fully understood what I said because I was practically stumbling over my words. She nervously laughed and said, “thanks”. Then, she noticed I was in my school uniform so she started asking me about school and exams. She was so cool! She made me feel like I’d known her for a while, not like she’s a celebrity with 6.2 million followers on Instagram. I’ve met Janna a couple of times since that first encounter, and she’s always as sweet and humble as she was the first time, despite her growing number of fans. So, whoever said “don’t meet your heroes” might’ve had a bad experience, but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen to you, too. It’s important to remember that celebrities are people too, and like everyone else, they also have their off days. Some people expect celebrities and public figures to always be approachable, but that’s unfair and not always the case. Personally, I’ve met other celebrities that are more standoffish and when that happens, I try to remind myself that they might have stuff going on in their personal lives that affected their mood that day. I don’t think we should immediately label celebrities or public figures as rude based on one bad encounter. However, if it’s happened more than once then you’d probably want to reconsider putting that celebrity on a pedestal. Ultimately, all that matters is that the celebrity and their fans have mutual respect for one another. So if you have the chance to meet your idol, then go for it! Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up being really good friends with them.
When Culture Meets Queerness WORDS
“You always pick on my words. I don’t know what I say that hurts you but you get angry at me anyway.” These words from my mother, after I angrily told her that she said something ignorant about my mental health, made me realise that our language and cultural barriers are stronger than I initially thought — with future discussions surrounding my queerness and gender identity feeling more and more impossible to have. After consulting my sister, temporarily removing myself from home, and reflecting on our miscommunication, I came to realise that the things she said that might have felt invalidating to me, were actually her improperly conveyed thoughts thrown together with whatever words she could hold on to. Spending her early adulthood in Australia, my mother’s English is proficient enough to allow us to converse almost entirely in English, so I sometimes forget that it’s her second language — and one that she never received complete, formal education in. With her inability to wholly express her thoughts and feelings in English, combined with my less-than-ideal level of Mandarin, discussions surrounding more nuanced topics such as politics, gender, mental health, queerness and other social issues become all the more difficult to have. The thought of coming out to my parents and close family had always made my heart drop with a sense of perpetual dread, which would later contribute to my insecurities surrounding my own exploration of my queer identity. The act of ‘coming out’ itself was intimidating and alien to me — why should I make such a big deal about my gender identity and sexuality when it’s just another part of me? However, for a lot of young, queer People of Colour, the task of telling your first-generation immigrant parents that you don’t belong within the heteronormative binaries outlined for you in their culture is incredibly daunting, not just because of the fear of denial or ostracisation, but also the exhausting task of communicating it in a way they can understand. For those with parents who do 42
not speak English, this can prove to be an even more intimidating feat — how can I tell my parents who I am, if I can’t even find the words to say it? Trying to explain the gender spectrum to my mother was extremely difficult and resulted in both of us feeling frustrated about the other person’s ostensible ignorance. Although our communication has drastically improved over time, gender as a social concept was simply not a “thing” to her, which made the discussion even more stressinducing. For a lot of cultures, gender is an extremely binary concept closely tied to biological understandings of sex. Chinese culture is very reliant on gender binaries, embedded as they are in our written and spoken language, social ideals, and political and economical policies. Whether we like it or not, the foundational widespread ideals which cultures are cultivated from impact our modern perspectives. For Chinese culture in particular, Confucianism fundamentally positions women to be less valuable than men, further emphasising the gender inequality within our social environment. Extremely painful acts such as foot binding for women, as well as widow suicide and strictly domestic roles are among the few ideologies within Confucianism that, I believe, have contributed to a more divisive society within our culture. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the one-child policy, whereby couples looking to start a family were restricted to only having one child due to rampant overpopulation. With the unspoken, deep-rooted patriarchal values placed on men and boys (mostly in their ability to carry on the family name once they are married), abortion rates of female fetuses drastically increased and resulted in a huge disparity in the birthrates of biological men and women. In these circumstances, there is little to no room to discuss gender fluidity, nor is there the space for those who feel they don’t fit into gender binaries to further explore their identity. Gender binaries are structurally integral to a lot of communities, and the idea of identities existing beyond these two signposts would have to mean the complete breakdown and deterioration of gender and phallocracy to have room to discuss gender as a spectrum. Language in itself is also binary.
The Humans Issue
Gender-neutral terms for aunty and uncle are still difficult to navigate without simply saying ‘my parent’s sibling’ — which, in my opinion, feels much less personal and more ostracising to gender non-conforming folks. In Mandarin, binary language concepts are omniscient; there isn’t even a gender-neutral term for parent. We call parents 父母 (fumu), the first character ‘fu’ meaning father, and the second character ‘mu’ meaning mother. Although some gendernonconforming people are okay with having either of these labels just so their child can call them something, language within certain cultures still makes it very difficult for the people who speak it to come to terms with gender as a social construct that can exist on a spectrum. Another challenge of gender non-conformity with parents from different cultures is asking them to change their perception of you as being cis. Simply memorising your friends, siblings, coworkers and everyone else’s pronouns will still result in misgendering, because although you know their preferred pronouns, you may not actually see that person as whatever they identify with. A change in perception of this person is required, which is no easy task — especially for parents who have known you forever, assigned a gender to you at birth, and have identified and addressed you accordingly ever since. Discussing this with my parents — who birthed me, changed my ideal name to a more feminine one so I wouldn’t get called a ‘boy name’, and dressed me effeminately my whole childhood — seems like a hopeless task. Alas, Western society has framed discussions surrounding gender within other cultures as old-fashioned and conservative.
Chinese culture in particular is shown to be absolutist and outdated because social discourse of gender is discussed differently than in other cultures. However, seeing the West as more developed and morally righteous than other countries is fundamentally racist, and I have had to keep in mind that all cultures have grown with different fundamental ideologies that make gender as a social spectrum difficult to conceptualise. I have reached a stage of development with my queer identity where I hold no resentment towards family members who don’t understand it; it is up to me and other gender nonconforming people to ensure the cycle is broken, and that future generations are given the space and freedom to choose who they want to be.
The Fear and Freedom of Leaving Home WORDS
Flashback to February 2021: I have just finished the best summer of my life. Year 12 is over, lockdown is over, all my friends have just turned 18 — we are thriving. After riding this high, and discovering all the joys of being independent and venturing into adult life, I knew I wanted a change; a big one at that! I could have gotten a funky new haircut, or maybe reinvented my wardrobe, but no, I decided at the ripe age of 18 that I wanted to move out, all on my own. I toyed with the idea of moving in with a friend and — like any hypothetical planning session with your bestie — we had practically picked out the exact toaster we wanted by the end of the day. Knowing that even if I moved out, I would have the security of a close friend with me made the change a bit less intimidating. We became consumed with excitement discussing all the fun things we could do together once we were living by ourselves. When my friend eventually decided she couldn’t leave her parents’ house yet, I was beyond convinced that this next step was the one I needed to take that I decided to do it on my own anyway. So I moved into a cute little one-bedroom apartment in the inner city. And just like that, the next chapter of my life had begun. I can assure you that all of the things about living by yourself you think will be fun are even better than you could imagine. I have dance parties in my living room with just myself, I spend an hour cooking a basic meal because I don’t know how to cook very well, I can come home at any time I want and don’t have to worry about waking anyone up, and I can have whoever I want over at any time! Being able to pick out all of your own furniture (shoutout to Facebook Marketplace) and being able to call it all your own is a great feeling. Sometimes it almost doesn’t feel real; as if I am just playing house and that surely I am not old enough to be living alone… I mean I still feel 17, after having lost the last two years to Miss Rona! But with every new experience I have 44
living outside of home, I’m reminded of how much I am grateful for and how far I have come in the last few years. This is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of difficulties. Sometimes we forget how much we rely on others to help us, even for the smallest things. At home with my parents, I would often ask my dad to do little technical tasks for me such as fixing the TV or something of that vague description. However, since moving out, I have been forced to learn these skills myself. I connected my own NBN (so many plugs: it was simple but I still struggled), I built furniture (estimated time: 45 minutes, my time: five hours) and I worked out how to make my fire alarm stop ringing when my sub-par cooking set it off (oops!). But in all seriousness, it is hard work. Especially when you are feeling run-down and in need of a little TLC from Mum, but you get home from a long day and you have to make your own dinner, and take care of yourself. I found this difficult very early on in my move when I got sick and was reduced to a couch potato for a week, only rising to heat up some sort of instant food that I was mildly interested in. Although this challenged me, it made me realise that I made the right choice to move out alone — We have to learn to take care of ourselves and not be dependent on others. If I had had a roommate, it would have been hard to not turn to them for help if I was sick, but they would be just as lost in navigating their independence as I am; they wouldn’t know what to do either. People often ask me if I get lonely living by myself, but the truth is that since moving out, I have learnt to love being on my own. Being an only child, I had an unfair advantage of not being surrounded by the chaos of siblings to prepare me for the silence of living alone.
The Humans Issue
But in truth, moving out has been the best experience and has helped me to grow as a person in countless ways. Not only have I learnt many new life skills, such as cooking, budgeting, the responsibility of cleaning my apartment and doing my own laundry, but I have learnt how to be happy without anyone else and how to spend time with myself, which has led me to become much more independent and sure of who I am. I have loved this new journey of independence and embracing this next chapter in my life.
I have a great relationship with my parents, and I still go back to visit them and my dog regularly (literally, the worst thing about moving out was leaving my dog, okay!!!). But there has never been a day that I regretted moving out. Even if some of my friends have more savings than me now, I know that I am investing in myself. I have grown up so much in the last year, and have become a person that I know a younger Angel would be so proud of. So in my mind, that’s money well spent.
Mum Wang’s Private Kitchen WORDS
When I walked into the Chinese restaurant opposite Coles in Caulfield Plaza, its owner June Wang greeted me with enthusiasm and asked me what I would like to order. “Which one do your customers like the most?” I asked Mum Wang, flipping through the menu. “It’s a difficult question,” she replied. “Everything on my menu is created by my customers. They said to me: ‘I want to have eggplant pot.’ And then I tried to cook some for them to taste. They told me: ‘Oh, it’s delicious!’ Then I add it to the menu. Every dish was created in this way. So, my menu is filled with what my customers like.” This is the first story she told me. She has endless stories to tell. In her eyes, every dish on the menu means a customer who likes it, and every table in the restaurant means a customer who likes to sit in there. A couple of customers liked the spicy chicken pot very much. They ordered that pot every time they came, even if Wang had advised them to try something else. A senior citizen who liked to sit at the corner all day long helped Wang wash the dishes, stacking the plates in a beautiful and complex way, and was very proud of this ‘artwork’. A man said Wang’s lamb pot tastes exactly the same as his mum’s cooking, even if he is not from China. One day, he brought his mother to the restaurant to try it, and Wang was surprised and happy. Wang has run the restaurant for more than a decade. She creates bonds with her customers, 46
and makes connections between them, building a big family where everyone helps one another. She told me the story of a couple who were excellent piano players and used to perform on stage in China. When they came to Australia, they worked as cleaners, but Wang wanted to find them a job that they’d truly like to do and would be good at. She sent messages to the WeChat group of her regular customers to ask if anyone would like their children to learn how to play the piano. Many replied, and someone even provided the couple with accommodation. In Chinese culture, you can call a female stranger who is roughly your mother’s age ‘auntie’. Wang’s restaurant was called Auntie Wang’s Private Kitchen if translated directly, but since Wang’s customers started to call her ‘Mum Wang’, she realised that she always hoped her cooking could remind her customers of their mum. So, she changed the restaurant’s name to Mum Wang’s Private Kitchen. Indeed, she is like her customers’ mum. She admitted to me that maybe she doesn’t cook as well as a professional, but she added less salt and oil to make her dishes healthier. She creates a unique sauce made of minced beef and diced vegetables for the students who are not good at cooking or lack healthy eating habits. When she notices that her customers feel uncomfortable, she asks her daughter for help, who may cure them with her knowledge of Chinese medicine. Wang said maybe she would close the restaurant next year. But, in the limited time left, she wishes her restaurant could always be a warm harbour for her customers to relax, chat, and enjoy the taste of mum’s food.
The Humans Issue
Finding My People WORDS
I spent a lot of my high school years feeling a little disconnected from the people I surrounded myself with. I had friends — people I adored and spent all my spare time with, but I often found myself questioning whether they were really ‘my people’. It didn’t take long after finishing high school for me to figure out that most of them were categorically not my people. I recognised that some weren’t good for me, but for the most part, I just realised they weren’t the friends I wanted to surround myself with forever. Circumstances also meant I drifted from a few I would’ve loved to keep close. I spent my first years at uni feeling like I didn’t have a ‘group’, and I spent time wondering when I would find that idyllic early-adulthood circle of friends that I would grow up with, and have all my embarrassing, formative, sentimental, you-name-it experiences with. None of this is to say I didn’t have good people in my life — I did (and still do) have people from my teenage years that I would do anything for, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of the people my age who I saw surrounded by a big group of friends they did anything and everything with. In my second year of university, I reconnected with my best friend from primary school and I met a new best friend in one of my classes. I felt like I had new people in my life who I knew, without a doubt, were my people. In my third and fourth years, I learnt to put myself out there and back myself more — and I met so many new faces as a result. 48
The Humans Issue
Faces that soon became some of the best people I know and my most treasured friendships. Fast-forward to now, and all those new friendships have continued to grow. My primary school bestie introduced me to all her friends, and they are some of the best people in my life. My various uni friends met at different events and now I have an incredible group of people who I get to have all those quintessential uni experiences with. I have friends I can get drunk and embarrassed with; I have friends I can sit in the Macca’s car park talking for seven hours with; I have friends I can lay next to for an entire night while we scroll on TikTok in silence. I have friends I’ve travelled with, friends I’ve cried with, and friends I can do absolutely nothing with. I have friends who make me feel loved, valued and supported beyond measure while simultaneously calling me out on my shit or bagging me (lovingly, I hope) at every chance they get. Friends I can take well-thought-out, Insta-perfect pics with, and friends I forget to take any photos with because we’re just having too much fun. And almost all of those friends fit into almost all of those categories. I am quite literally obsessed with the people I surround myself with. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of value in what I’m saying here, this has mostly just been a huge ego boost for my mates (which I’m sure I’ll hear about if they read this). While there’s nothing I love more than writing down my thoughts that likely no one else has any interest in, I would like this piece to be a little more than that — because I think 2019 Coby would have loved to read something like this for a little reassurance. So, my closing thoughts: #1. Letting go of the people in your life who don’t feel right for you is so scary but so worth it. History alone is not a reason to stay friends with someone. . #2. It might take a little while for you to find the people you consider your people. The wait sucks, and it’d be nice if it came earlier, but it’s still worth it and will happen.
#4. You’ll know you’ve found your people when you find them. If you’re questioning if the friends you have are right for you, they’re probably not (sorry). But that’s okay, because the right ones are out there!
#3. In a perfect world, you’d find them walking down the street with your headphones in and no effort, but in reality, you’re probably going to need to try a little. That doesn’t mean making a ‘looking for friends’ post in your local Facebook group, but it does mean finding your space, what you’re interested in or what you enjoy, and getting to know the people in that space.
#6. Good friendships have a ripple effect. Someone you have a genuine connection with likely surround themselves with other people that you will have a genuine connection with. Make friends with your friends’ friends and introduce your friends to your other friends!
#5. The one-big-perfect-group thing is pretty unrealistic, I have multiple groups of people I love that are all perfect.
#7. Quality will still ALWAYS outweigh quantity. You’re lucky if you have lots of good friends, but just as lucky with two if you can trust them, be yourself, and have fun with them.
The Humans Issue
How to Be Single WORDS
After a few years of failed situationships, awkward first dates and many aunties and uncles asking, “are you seeing anyone at the moment?”, I have somehow found myself in a place of comfort in my independence. But I can confidently say: this wasn’t an easy place to get to. If you have ever been single, I’m sure you have felt the external pressure to be in a relationship. I have always been confused about the incredible value society has placed on two people being in a partnership. I know from experience that when you are alone, people tend to worry about you and suggest that you must be continuously looking to find the ‘right one’. Or there’s that one friend who, out of nowhere, likes to remind you that it is in fact okay that no one loves you, even though I wasn’t worried about it in the first place. If you are reading this as a guide to help you be happy on your own, maybe try asking yourself: why do you find more value in being entangled with someone else? In all honesty, I’ve found in the past that when I’ve asked myself this question, the answer often relates to my insecurities. Or, I’m struggling to fully love myself so I want someone else to do it for me. Anyone in a healthy relationship would tell you that these are the worst reasons to get into a relationship. So, maybe it’s time to practise self-love. Everyone will have a different approach. I love working on projects, I like tapping into my creative side, I take every chance I have to get away and travel, and achieving fitness goals makes me feel motivated. It is also important to find comfort in spending time on your own. If you can’t find anyone to go to that exhibition you’ve been wanting to go to for ages, go on your own. Is your favourite band coming to town but you don’t know anyone going? Go on your own. Have you got a weekend off from work and there are cheap flights to a place you’ve always wanted to visit? GO ON YOUR OWN!
I love my own company. I love planning activities to do by myself, I enjoy knowing when I have a night off to spend alone and I get excited to sit with my thoughts. Nothing is embarrassing about any of this. I remember one time, when I was getting down on myself after going through yet another failed attempt at a relationship, that I turned to my older sister for advice. What she told me was probably the most insightful piece of information that someone has ever shared with me: The right person will come when you stop looking. When you are striving to reach goals, focusing on bettering yourself and finding ways to make a busy schedule, you will come across someone you didn’t realise existed. This person will fall into your life easily, because you already have a great understanding of who you are and your wants and needs. But this article is my advice on how to be single. So, discover happiness in knowing that this moment may be far away, or that it may never come at all. Remind yourself: either way, that is okay. I understand how hard it is when all your friends around you are in relationships and seeing people. It’s hard not to compare it to your own life and judge yourself. But for all you know, they could be thinking the same thing while looking at your life. You have a lot more time for yourself when you are single, don’t let it go to waste. Travel, go out, see places, and do new things. Just do what you love and you’ll begin to love yourself. We are all always searching for answers and trying to fasttrack life to get to where we think we want to be. Time is precious; if you take it for granted you’ll regret it later. Experience the life the world has gifted you for what it is and explore your time in solitude with an open mind.