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Kiera Eardley Dina Ivkovich
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Esperanto Magazine is published by MONSU Caulfield Inc. Views expressed within do not necessarily reflect those of MONSU Caulfield Inc, the editorial panel, the publisher, or any other person associated with Esperanto.
Alice Wright, Amy Jenkin, Arushi Thakral, Atara Thenabadu, Coby Renkin, Dilshi Perera, Dina Ivkovich, Elodie Ricaud, Emilio Lanera, Gitika Garg, Hannah Cohen, Joseph Lew, Juliette Capomolla, Kiera Eardley, Lara Christensen, Lauren Gallina, Lily Anna, Leeann Bushnaq, Matilda McNeil, Mia Deans, Natasha Schapova, Ruby Ellam, Shams Ibrahim, Thiamando Pavlidis, Sarah Arturi, Vivian Tang, Xenia Sanut, Zayan Ismail
Adrienne Aw, Anita Thuon, Betty Gu, Brooke Stevens, Carla J. Romana, Ella Porter, Gabrielle Poh, Georgia Lilley, Jessica La, John Paul Macatol, Lauren Easter, Lillian Busby, Madison Marshall, Meili Tan, Monica Ouk, My Tieu Ly, Ruth Boneh, Ruth Ong, Stephanie Wong
Editors’ Note: Hello and welcome to Esperanto Magazine, the Growing Pains Edition! This edition was born out of the collective realisation that we, the team behind Esperanto, are growing up. Like us, you might be in your early twenties, struggling to process your childhood experiences whilst trying to make sense of the endless possibilities in front of you (and get a text back). We decided that as fun as it is to dream of the future, it is equally important to look back and see how much we’ve grown. Through the art and words of our brilliant contributors, we hope to take you back to the glory days of So Fresh hits and after school cartoons. We invite you to consider your own growing pains, and look back at how far you’ve come. As an introduction to the magazine, the Esperanto team have decided to share their childhood career aspirations with our readers…
Dena (Editor) As a six-year-old, there was only one thing more enticing to me than a red icy pole on a hot day and that was adventure. After Saturday morning cartoons had ended, I would set about filling up my teddy bear backpack with a juice box and pizza shapes to take with me on my “adventures.” From the kitchen window my mum would see me, backpack on, running around the trees in our backyard mumbling to myself. But in my head, I was outrunning lions in the African jungle or searching for buried treasure in the Amazon Rainforest. At that age I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, an explorer.
Marissa (Art Director)
On a crumpled pastel green piece of paper, one that I still have to this day, there’s a messy scribble of a girl in a purple dress, she’s holding drastically large red scissors and aggressively cutting someone’s hair. Through a series of shocking spelling errors, the top of the page reads “when I grow up, I want to be a hairdresser!!!” Later, my five-year-old self and I would come to realise that while we might have never been destined to become a hairdresser, we were certainly destined to tell their stories. To give a platform and a voice to regular people in regular places. To showcase injustices and discuss the nuances of growing up in the modern world we all call home. So, maybe after all, that crumpled piece of paper was telling a story, just not the one we thought.
My parents sent me to many different art classes growing up, and found none of them were really right for me. I was seven when we found the perfect little safe space for a budding creative like myself, right in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur where we grew up. My teacher was an amazing woman, she taught me watercolour and pastel, and as I got older — surrealism and expressionism. She taught me it was okay to have days where you feel uninspired, not every class had to end in a masterpiece. I spent every Saturday morning for six years in her living room learning about the life of Van Gogh, Matisse, and Kandinsky right up until we moved to Melbourne. Though I am not the artist seven-yearold me thought I would end up to be, she shaped the designer in me today. May she rest in love, always.
As a kid, being asked what you "want to be" was hardly a question to answer back with existential dread — that would come later. Then, however, I boiled my options down to two career prospects: a tattoo artist or a lollipop lady. To the relief of my parents, but certainly not myself, I would come to revoke those dreams. After choking up during every school needle program and once, quite literally, from a lollipop, these tribulations would reroute me to consider the life of becoming a writer.
I honestly can’t remember what I dreamt of being as a child. A shy, frizzy-haired, athletically-disinclined kid who wore glasses and inhaled books at speed, I can only assume I just wanted to fit in. But I do remember knowing that words were my happy place. At age 10, I began answering ‘writer’ when asked what I wanted to be — having been struck by divine inspiration and writing a (truly original, still unfinished) story about a girl with a time machine — and I’ve never really stopped. Maybe one day I’ll even finish that story.
That Home 04 18 & in Lockdown 06 Diary of a (Former) Tall Poppy 08 Superstitions 10 Everything I Know About Love, Life, Dating, Growing Up 12 Baksbat 14 Growing Up in Love 16 Swimming Between the Flags 18 Simply Tangled 20 Fuck the Norm 22 The Best (?) of Both Worlds 26 Fact or Fiction 28 Not So Fresh 30 Meet the Parents 34 Time Traveller 36–45 The Seven Stages of Securing a Grad Job 46
What 20-Something Are You?48 TikTok Made Me Do It 50 Memor(talit)y 52 Welcome to the Contents Page 56 To Exist 58 Which Cut is the Deepest?60 The Art that Defines Us 62 Love in the Time of Tinder 66 Constantly Readjusting to Life After University 68 Nurturing Your Inner Child 70 Growing Up & Growing Apart 72 Quarantine 74 Blocked & Deleted 76 Purpose, Not Capitalism 78
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
That Home I wake up to butterflies. Paper butterflies circle the ceiling above me, with the butterflies themselves encircled by photographs hanging from thin strings. They mark the places I’ve been, the friends I’ve made and lost, my family — whether they be in the room next to me, an ocean away, or looking down at me — either from heaven or from those photographed moments in time. I hear my brother’s shouts and squeals of laughter in our study down the hall. I catch him saying that he’s ‘riding the storm’ and ‘lagging’ into his microphone before I hear a clamorous pop and a scream. I heave myself up into a seated position and look out the window; my mum’s standing in the backyard next to the barbeque. With tongs in hand and a big inhale, she steps into the fray once more, snatching the dried fish from the pot of boiling cooking oil and placing it on the plate beside her. Triumphant, she turns off the gas and goes back inside, her slippers clapping on the floor. I roll out of bed, straighten my bedsheets and stumble into the kitchen as my dad opens the rice cooker and releases all the steam in an aromatic cloud. I listen to the scraping of spoons on porcelain as my mom mixes her yoghurt and muesli while my dad piles rice onto the space on his plate next to some dried fish. A door in the hall bursts open and my brother runs to the pantry, snatching the cereal box from the shelf and trying to wrestle me to the side as he tries to grab a bowl from the cupboard. I smile. If I wake up to butterflies, then this home must be the cocoon.
WORDS BY Xenia Sanut @xeniasanut
ART BY John Paul Macatol @monotone_ink Article Title
18 & in Lockdown 6
The year I kissed high school goodbye, I immediately felt eager for the next chapter of my life… officially entering adulthood! The thought of turning 18 was nerve-racking but equally exciting. New opportunities were on the horizon, or so I thought. Being the socially inclined person I am, I had already mentally mapped out what my year would entail. Being in lockdown was not one of those things. Naturally, I was heartbroken when 2020 brought with it a transition that I had least expected; a mundane and antisocial schedule that was the polar opposite of festivity. For years prior, I had observed my family and friends entering the hustle and bustle of adulthood in a frenzy, running around from one thrilling event to the next. I would watch in awe as they huddled together in the bathroom to stack on their gold eyeshadow and strap on their seven-inch stilettos in preparation for a big night out in the city. I loved hearing about all the stories they shared after experiencing their new-found social freedom. In the meantime, on social media, my newsfeed was saturated with images of people attending all kinds of wacky festivals and travelling overseas. All these expectations had led me to believe that the year I turned 18 would be the very year I could finally experience it all. When it finally struck that lockdown would be sticking around for a while, I found myself unsettled as I re-evaluated how I should spend my sweet 18th without even having entered my first nightclub. After throwing my concert tickets in the bin, cancelling that overseas trip, lowering my expectations for my first year of university and forgetting about going for my P plates anytime soon, I had to grapple with the thought of redefining my year. Instead of frivolous fun, I was confronted with a stark reality that, although a bit depressing at times, provided me with crucial lessons about growing up. Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Entering adulthood can sometimes feel like a rush to become independent and get your life sorted, where thriving means cramming your calendar and doing the most. Even though Melbourne's constant lockdowns has made that near impossible, the pressure still exists. Like other people my age that have fallen victim to the media’s subliminal influence, it can be easy to draw superficial comparisons between my life and the lives of others that have been neatly strung together in a highlight reel for Instagram. Likewise, there's an unspoken pressure to live life instantaneously because ‘life is too short to miss out’. All these things have contributed to the high expectations that I had set out for myself. Yet, what's left out are all the photos that demonstrate a more holistic perspective about the ups and downs of adulthood and that although yes, life may be short, patience and presence are ultimately part of that process. This new COVID-19 lifestyle has forced me to ditch my to-do list on many occasions. I've learnt to embrace the present moment and have adopted a more realistic version of 'fun' and 'productivity'. I've changed my priorities to focus on things that serve a greater sense of fulfilment in my life, things like nourishing my mental health. As for the social aspect, I've found creative, alternative ways of connecting with others. I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone to attend meetings I usually wouldn't, only to find I've created strong bonds with new friends. Now in 2021, although I have yet to conquer the many things that I had planned to enjoy as a new 'adult', I can proudly say that I've matured in many other ways and experienced a great deal. I've become more satisfied with less and appreciative of every moment. If that's not a fulfilling way to enter adulthood, then I don't know what is!
WORDS BY Elodie Ricaud @_elodiericaud_ ART BY Ruth Boneh @ruthboneh
Diary of A (Former) Tall Poppy
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Childhood. A blissful, almost utopian time in nearly everybody’s life, defined by happiness, purity and obliviousness. A time sprinkled with the belief that anything is possible, allowing us to swim in the wild depths of our imagination. We were assured that we could do anything that we set our minds to, and we embodied this mantra in every response to “what do you want to do when you grow up?”. But there comes a time in every child’s life when they are cut out from the shelter of their cocoon and shoved into the real world, where they are forced to witness reality, no longer clouded by the woven silk of their childhood. For many, this may have occurred as a result of average or low grades at school, criticism from teachers, or bullying, teaching them that their dreams weren’t attainable. My irruption into reality was delayed, occurring only during my transition to adulthood. As a child, the possibility of failure never crossed my mind. “The Smart One” was emblazoned on my identity, proven through aced tests and a bombardment of praise during every parentteacher interview. My success was predicted and mapped out for me by every teacher I stunned.
WORDS BY Natasha Schapova @nataschap_
ART BY Stephanie Wong @bymeloniberry
I was placed into accelerated classes from primary school through to VCE and I wore it as a badge of honour. Every academic, sport and music award insulated me from a subpar life and allowed me to climb higher up my pedestal, where I could look down on my peers and bask in my concealed belief that I was going to be better than them. Being accepted into a science school in Year 10, followed by studying medicine in university, solidified my identity — I felt like I was reaching the potential that had been consistently carved out for me. These achievements provided constant ego boosts until there came a point when I was unsure whether I enjoyed studying medicine for the content or the status. Moving into an arts degree was the turning point for me. I pursued my passion despite the solemn reputation that often shadows arts degrees. One of the most unappreciated courses became my lifeline as I pursued a passion independent of validation. But even though this is the happiest I have ever been, at times, I still feel the need to prove myself in some egomaniacal way by mentioning my academic past in an attempt to restore my identity.
My journalism peers are some of the smartest and most interesting people that I have ever met, and yet I feed on the prestige of my past. Now, comparison plagues me as I no longer measure my performance based on the name of my degree, but instead on the quality of my work. I have lost the fearless confidence I once nurtured, but I’m glad to report that studying journalism has moulded me into a more modest person. I’ve become the opposite of what I once was since my self-doubt has overtaken my former cockiness. But there’s a beauty in humility because it forces you to keep growing, acting as a constant motivator to become your best self. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might not ever be a tall poppy again. Maybe I peaked in my late teens and from now on, I’ll just be an average one. Or maybe I’ve matured enough to realise that it doesn’t matter what sort of poppy you are, how tall or short, bright or dull, because every single one of them has its own unique character traits and talents, and success is a subjective term.
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
WORDS BY Leeann Bushnaq
ART BY Carla J. Romana @crmn.studio
From the outside, the path to any kind of success, growth, or progress takes one of two routes. We see growth as scraping through the rubble. We see it as the might it takes to overcome setbacks and dig through the lowest of lows to get to the peaks. Or, we see it from the “started from the bottom now we’re here” perspective. We recognise the growth that’s exponential. Not only do we recognise it, but we laud it. It gives growth an invigorating and inspiring narrative. What do we do when our experience with growth doesn’t follow either of the paths we glorify and fawn over as a society? It’s a hard one to pick apart; a hard one to accept and appreciate. It leads me to credit my growth to anything but myself. When it’s not a case of gruelling hard work, my instinct is to credit my progress to the superstitions I follow. I’ve tried time and time again to take my growth for what it is, despite it sitting outside the bounds of the growth that we’re fed by the outside world. My climb has been steady. I’ve been faced with the occasional low or plateau, but nothing severe enough to categorise me into either of the two routes. I choose to call it incremental growth. There are a handful of superstitions that I swear by and have embedded into my thinking, and my life. I’ve refused to change my mattress, denied myself a new desk chair, because part of me thinks that if I lose these objects, I lose my intellect, and any academic growth that comes with it. I went six years in high school vowing to cut my hair on the same date each year, and resisting the need to change my school shoes all because I felt like that’s what would get me through high school. I wear the same baby blue t-shirt and quarter zip jumper to each university exam, and play tennis with the same all yellow racquet, all with the intention of maintaining my growth. I stopped wearing my navy blue shirt because it always happened to be the shirt I was wearing when things didn’t go my way. The list goes on; although it’s not tangible, it just works somehow.
It’s impossible to understand incremental growth until you’re the one experiencing it. And even then, something about it doesn’t feel real. It’s difficult to reconcile and even more difficult to take pride in. I’ve always felt like somewhat of a fraud if I’m not suffering in growth; or if there isn’t a lightbulb moment that catapults me into a growth period. It’s easier to attribute our growth to our hard work alone when we’ve dug ourselves out of ruins to get to where we are. Sometimes I fear that the trajectory of my growth will take a downward turn if I change elements of my life, even if they are unrelated to my personal growth. Other times, I find it hard to believe that things have panned out the way they have for me. So, I use superstitions as a form of protection. Sometimes, it feels like I use superstitions as a way to shield myself from the guilt I have about the upward growth that I’m so fortunate to experience. But there are times where I want to feel proud; times where my growth could instead be based on my merit. And this serves as a reminder that I don’t have to have the same path to prosperity to feel like it’s earned, rather than in the hands of superstitious behaviours. Reflecting on growth sits up there, equal first with “describe yourself in three words” as one of the most painful reflection exercises to partake in. But it’s time to start looking at growth without feeling unworthy or feeling ashamed. It’s time we credit our growth to ourselves. So, whenever we think the path to growth takes one of two routes, let’s challenge our thinking. Let’s be prepared to unlearn that our growth only comes from us when we go from zero to 100 — where we work for what we want. Perhaps a superstition, a belief in faith, or luck helps us reconcile the growth that we experience, but we also create it for ourselves. Don’t invalidate your growth because it looks different; even if your growth isn’t the same as societal conventions or mental images of growth, it is not any less yours.
Everything I Know About Love, Life, Dating, Growing Up WORDS BY Atara Thenabadu @atara1809
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
As you have learned in your first 20 years of life, there is no manual on how to be a functioning adult. So instead of constantly being unfairly harsh on yourself when you make a mistake, take it as an opportunity to learn and evolve, not just self-criticise.
Rejection is never a nice feeling, let alone when you’re in Year Three and think no one is ever going to be as perfect for you as the boy in 3W. It doesn’t mean that you are an unlovable, broken human being — instead, it just means you may not be the one for them, and that’s okay.
Even though you question your younger sister’s existence every other day, as well as wonder what life would be like as an only child, you know deep down that she has made you a better person. Even if you will never admit it to her face.
Letting a bunch of 20-year-olds who kick a piece of leather around a patch of grass for a profession dictate your weekly mood is not the way you should be living. Instead of feeling all levels of rage when your team loses, take a moment to acknowledge that no one ever goes out there to fail and proceed to get on with the rest of your day.
A benefit of getting older is that you will learn to acknowledge that it was, in fact, Sharpay Evans who was the real hero of the High School Musical franchise. After all, she was the one that set up meetings and brunch to help further Troy’s basketball career, while Gabriella was either swimming, crying, or running away. She deserves our utmost respect.
Taking care of your mental health does not make you a selfish, ungrateful human being. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you need to justify your emotions. It truly is a courageous decision to acknowledge when you are struggling and need help, and you should feel great pride in taking those first steps.
There is nothing wrong with being a female who makes the first move. Instead of waiting for them, take your destiny into your own hands and let it be known you are interested. It may just be the start of something new.
If you want to wear that green shirt or those striped pants, just do it. Don’t give a single fuck what people might think, just go out there and be your true self. Nothing else will ever be more beautiful than that.
Even though you get an immediate thrill when you order Uber Eats or Menulog, it’s probably best that you make it a once every two to three week occasion rather than a once every three to four day occasion. Your bank account will thank you.
As much as you hold every guy to the standard of Austin Ames (whose own flaws you happen to turn a blind eye to every time you watch Cinderella Story), Austin’s clear inability to recognise Sam — even though the only difference in her appearance at the Homecoming ball was that she was wearing a mask — is a prime example that everyone has flaws, even the people you deem to be perfect. So, instead of being self-critical when one of your own flaws arise, take it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Even though there are not a lot of films, television shows or books that really depict the true reality of platonic relationship breakdowns, it is completely normal to feel like your heart has been stabbed multiple times and cry while eating ice cream. Friendships ending can be equal or more painful than romantic relationships ending, and they should be treated with the same respect.
Don’t be overly critical of yourself if you are not at the same life stage as your friends. Just because they all have romantic partners, it doesn’t mean you need to run through every Melbourne bar to find one of your own. And if they are all purchasing houses, it doesn't mean you need to change your saving goals. Everyone’s ‘journey’, as cliché as it sounds, is different, and that should be embraced not compared.
Don’t feel pressured to keep up with the latest trends, which we all know will change in a matter of weeks (shoutout to your ripped denim jeans). Invest in the items that you truly love, not the items you feel that you are meant to love.
As much fun as it is to map out your future, it is important to recognise that dreams require effort and sacrifice. If you are not willing to do what needs to be done, you won’t be able to reap the rewards.
Growing up is something you will always be doing. Whether you are 30 or 68, you will forever be learning and evolving. So if you make a couple of mistakes along the way, take it as a sign from the universe confirming you are in fact a human being, and not some perfect alien.
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Following the reflections of a young Khmer person and the diaspora of their complex Australian and Khmer identity, they're forced to reckon with the horrors of their culture's bloody past and the post-generational trauma of genocide and civil war that plagues them.
WORDS & ART BY Monica Ouk @mono.goose
Growing Up in Love For some unbeknownst reason, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon my long-term partner at the age of 16. Young, naive, and desperate for that Wattpad fanfic-like love story, it only took us a few dates to couple up, and only a month or so to say that L-word. Four years later, at the good old age of 20, my boyfriend and I are still going strong. Needless to say, these adolescent/young adult years of our lives are rather formative. Let’s think — I finished school which had been my entire existence for 13 years, started university with thousands of strangers, began thinking about what it is I want to be doing for 38 hours per week for the rest of my life, oh and did I mention figuring out who I actually am and who I want to be? You know, just the small, frivolous things in life.
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
WORDS BY Juliette Capomolla ART BY Gabrielle Poh @gee.poh
But there’s something kind of special about doing all of this with someone else. I’m lucky enough to have a great group of friends and a loving family, but am also so incredibly blessed to also have my Mr. Darcy along for the ride, too. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs. When he graduated school the year before I did, I thought: “that’s it, we’re screwed”. And then when I began uni, I foolishly thought I might have some grand awakening and become a whole new person (isn’t that what the movies tell you is going to happen?). Needless to say, none of these things managed to crack our tight unit, and perhaps made us even stronger as a pair. There’s a lot I have to credit to my boyfriend for the person I am today. I mean, how can a partner of four years, around in some of the most developmental stages of your life (you know, besides like ages zero to five), not have a lot to do with the person you grow to be? He’ll probably tell you that the best thing he’s done for me is reintroduce me to liking seafood (food is probably the biggest bond in our relationship). But, if you were to strip away his modesty and desire to be an amateur stand-up comedian, he’d probably tell you that he’s taught me patience. He’s taught me to not care about what other people think (although I think that he can do with taking his own advice sometimes). He’s taught me how to be unapologetically proud of myself (can I reiterate the parentheses above?). He’s taught me that I can lean on somebody else and that I’m strong enough for someone else to lean on me. But I think most of all, he’s taught me how to love and be loved intimately. Growing up in love is interesting. We all know the likelihood of high school sweethearts actually going the distance is low — I’m well aware. And then there’s the fact that I am only 20, and he is only 22. I would be lying if I said these facts don’t weigh on my shoulders when I think about our future. But that’s just it, we’re still growing up in love. And so in the same way we’ve done for the past four years, we will continue to help shape each other’s futures and push each other upwards and onwards, whether that ends up with us together or not.
WORDS BY Sarah Arturi @saraharturi ART BY Lillian Busby @lillian.design
Swimming Between the Flags Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
An Honesty-Driven Companion Similar to the sea, life is unpredictable. Sometimes the water is clear enough that we’re able to feel comfort amongst its deep blue calmness. Other times, the waves become too choppy and the water too murky for us to see clearly through the storm. The irony here is that, much like the ocean, life moves so fast that our ability to stop, embrace and learn from our emotions is far too time-consuming when we’re stranded upon rough seas. We prefer to “move on” from those that hurt us by pushing our negative feelings aside, consequently finding ourselves caught up with people who are simply not right for us once more. We ignore those puncturing the holes in our boat; we ignore the red flags. Or, maybe we focus on the red flags so much that the thought of letting someone onto our boat to help us to safety is unfathomable. Instead, we choose to shy away from reaching out for a better oar or refuse to entrust others’ company while riding out the bad weather. I guess this is why we are told to swim between the flags; but how do we know which lifeguards will support us when the waves get rough? If you were to ask me why the people who mean the most to me in my life do, in fact, mean the most to me, I’d be too overwhelmed by the list of factors — both intricate and vast — that contribute to my judgement. Sometimes I think, “wow, maybe
It’s always nice to know that you are doing the right thing in every situation. However, as with the bittersweet nature of life: this is not always the case. It takes learning how to instil trust and honesty within yourself to uncover the depths of what your soul really desires. A person who can tell you that one outfit isn’t as flattering as you thought or encourages you to speak up to your unlikeable boss on your next shift is someone you want around. They have your best interests at heart, even when you subconsciously don’t. When you can find a friend or partner who keeps you grounded while allowing you to spread your wings, you’ve found a keeper.
Other times, I get too caught up in my head about whether the people I’m exposed to now will be in my life for the long haul. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that these conflicting thoughts are normal and that we never really know what the universe and its people have in store for us. After all, we aren’t psychics. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride, both the good and the bad bits, and hopefully learn some things along the way. Better still, I’d like to believe that in my 20 years of life I’ve learned a thing or two about green flags — so in this piece, I’ve narrowed down three main comfort points that may be useful to some of you.
A Lawfully Good Changer
I’m just lucky to be surrounded by such great people.”
A Charger, Not a Drainer Giving 100 per cent of your all to somebody who doesn’t appreciate your efforts is exhausting, to say the least. You can’t truly be yourself if your energy is constantly being drained by those who don’t fulfill you. It is important to recognise the qualities in a person that uplift you — and that’s not me saying you should always take but never give in a relationship. The key is finding a balance in which you can both recharge your batteries and reunite once again like nothing ever changed. So, save your energy for the good ones — you’ve got a life to live too.
The law of life is change — people change, situations change, and you change. That’s what makes life so exciting. Who wants to watch a movie that doesn’t have a cliffhanger, or a love triangle, or a plot twist ending? Without change, things will become stagnant, including relationships. Having people in your life who encourage you to grow into a better person is a must. Or even better: having someone who can grow with you through the ups and downs will unlock the doors to an extraordinary life.
CW: MEDICAL CONDITION/PAIN/SUFFERING
The simplest things often have the greatest complexities. Our bodies are simple — or are they? Well, I could never tell because mine hasn’t been the easiest to get along with. At a very early age, I knew my body was different, it wasn’t how I wanted it to be, and just that feeling dominated my entire existence. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 11. I was still getting used to the world when I was put on pills for the cysts to dissolve because it seemed curable, and apparently it was, until one day I had shooting pains down my leg, so much so that I started screaming at the top of my lungs. At 13, it turned out the cysts were now bigger than normal, and my body started to change. My skin was home to acne, my lean body got broader, I gained 20kgs, I had stretch marks, my face changed, my personality tumbled down, and my self-confidence — well, let’s not even go down that road. I was quieter, I was scared and shaken, not because of what people told me, but because I could see myself change, every single day, piece by piece. And in no time, I lost myself altogether. Finally, I went through an operation. Physically, I was at my best, but mentally, I didn’t even know who I was. And that’s the thing about our simple bodies: they’re deeper than we think they are. I lost five years of my teenage years to comments about how I looked, how I dressed, how I was unsocial or an introvert. I did not know how to carry myself and I felt that my acne scars and facial hair were ugly, that my body was manly, and I was too fat to be treated conventionally. I was my own worst enemy and I hated it.
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
WORDS BY Arushi Thakral @arusshii ART BY Georgia Lilley @georgiam_lilley
If you went through anything similar, you know I’m not exaggerating — but how did you deal with it, your body? I couldn’t have done it without my mum. I hated myself, but she loved me, firmly. She gave me reassurance, called me beautiful and taught me how to be pretty from within. I worked hard, every single day, gathered the courage to face the world and waded through to accept the new me and overpower the constant domination of my own insecurities and worldly expectations. I lost weight, but my body structure had completely changed. I grew my hair, but the hair quality wasn’t the same anymore. Today I am confident enough to have travelled alone to a new country and socialise with people without getting insecure about my appearance. I have enormous respect for the miracle in motion that is my body that went through so much, but refused to quit. I adore my stretch marks (or thunder strokes, if you will) because they remind me of the power that I hold within and constantly give me courage to sail through obstructions without second thought. We strive hard, everyday, to become who we want to be, but it’s important to give credit to our very simply tangled and uniquely structured bodies — because at least they make it possible for us to dream.
Fuck the Norm: HOW HUNTER MARKETS FOUNDER SARAH KOKKINOS REDEFINED SUCCESS
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
WORDS BY Hannah Cohen @hannahcohen__ ART BY Adrienne Aw @illustrations_awy
Hunter Markets is the second-hand thrift market based in Mentone, Melbourne that has spread like wildfire on social media. On brisk Sunday mornings, you’ll find a long line of coffee-clutching zoomers snaking around the market’s fairy-floss-pink brick walls, all waiting to get their thrift on. Chances are, you’ve already heard of — or attended — Hunter Markets, the must-shop spot “where on-trend fashion comes to escape landfill”. Its biggest drawpoint, the wildly popular influencer stallholders and endorsements, brings environmentally conscious style-seekers together from far and wide. So, who is the head-honcho behind this ingenious concept, you may ask? The ever-bubbly, fashion-savvy, Sarah Kokkinos. She’s a self-confessed Instagram junkie, an influencer-addicted, Kardashian-worshipping, Leo rising bad-bitch with an incessant need to stand out in a crowd. By combining her love for all things social media with her long-term relationship with op-shopping, she found a gaping, Hunter Markets-sized hole in the op-shop sphere, and filled it with second-hand essentials from Melbourne’s most fire wardrobes for all of us to enjoy.
Growing up as one of three sisters, Sarah’s been wearing hand-me-downs since she was a tiny tot, leading her onto a lifelong path of digging for treasure in someone else's trash. As a teenager, she’d spend weekends becoming a seasoned veteran in the art of thrifting, sifting through second-hand stalls and her local Savers for kooky, one-of-a-kind pieces. With this wealth of experience in the opshopping scene under her (thrifted) belt and a finger on the social media pulse, Sarah had a lightbulb moment and struck gold. That’s when Hunter Markets, a new-age fusion between a community market and a consignment store, was born. “Often you'd go home after searching through the grandma tee section and come home [with] nothing,” she tells me. “[I had] an idea… there needed to be a spot where there's less sorting through shit, just a place where it’s like: “oh my god, guaranteed if you go there, you're going to find something cool.” ”
Sarah’s journey after finishing secondary school in 2015 was seemingly unconventional when compared to her peers’. Upon reflection, she said she had no interest in studying at uni, and certainly didn’t have any clear plans outlined for her career. The norm didn’t suit her, so she followed what made her happy. “I had no plans. I had no goals,” she admits. “I knew I really didn't want to go to uni, because I'm terrible in the classroom. I'm more creative. Instagram may have launched or just taken off when I was in year 12 and I was just obsessed with following girls and everything about it. “I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I liked and what sparked joy.” That’s not to say chasing after her love for all things Insta and fashion was easy. Sarah tells me that getting influencers on board to sell their pre-loved clothes at Hunter Markets was a hustle and a half. It involved a bunch of research into the industry and a networking grind that required brave amounts of “YASSSS QUEEN”, “GO OFF SIS”, and fire emojis heavily sprinkled into the comment sections of influencers’ posts.
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In terms of conceptualising her business baby, she says that considering the existing market space and taking note of her competitors’ strengths and weaknesses was a crucial step in bringing Hunter Markets to life. “I researched Camberwell market — I researched everything from where it was to why it's so popular, and even things that they could do better,” she says. However, Sarah admits that Hunter Markets didn’t come out of the gates with a running start like she’d hoped. She experienced a few unexpected setbacks (read: online trolling) by starting with opening stalls strictly to influencers only. “I was seeing a lot of hateful comments. I was getting trolled a lot with all types of things. People [were] angry that influencers were profiting off things that brands sent them for free,” she reveals. “I always wanted to open it up to the public as well, because I myself at the market was having a lot of issues with diversity and sizing.” Despite these shaky beginnings, Sarah refused to be rattled. She attributes her success to her resilience and unrelenting ability to back herself.
“It took a lot of motivation to keep going.” Once Hunter Markets had properly taken off digital ground and gained a larger following, Sarah opened up applications for stall spots to everyday style icons, to account for better size inclusion and a whole lot more range. “It's been really successful. We have had some really trendy girls, and maybe they don't give a fuck about socials but they just have really good wardrobes.” In refusing to accept that success only exists at the end of a tertiary education, Sarah’s found her sweet spot: doing things differently, with confidence. By recruiting influencer pop-ups alongside the general public and activating the user-friendly strengths of her thriving social media account, she’s setting her business apart from the rest. “I think that… community-run markets around Victoria [aren’t] doing that. They're not posting photos of the best finds that you're going to get there,” she tells me.
“We also have, at each market, someone with a large following to separate ourselves from any other market; there's no other place in Melbourne where you can sell your clothes alongside an Instagram influencer.” Her advice to other budding entrepreneurs? Don’t fall into the comparison trap and remember that every little move you make on your journey to launching your chosen career is a valuable step towards your greater goal. “I love this quote: no matter how slow you're going, you're still lapping everyone on the couch. ” “If you're just doing one thing a day for your career, one thing that helps you get towards your goal, you're still lapping everyone who's sitting down. So don't worry about it, queen!”
Fuck the Norm
The Best (?) of Both Worlds WORDS & ART BY Gitika Garg @avantgarg
I hate to use the ‘J’ word, but growing up is a journey — and a difficult one at that. With the carefree fun of being a kid, also comes the more trying task of navigating through the complexities of childhood and adolescence. Friendships, relationships, family, body image, confidence, parties, popularity… this all-too-familiar list continues. Between fangirling over One Direction and attentively tending to our Nintendogs, growing up also demands us to work through ‘the serious stuff’. You know, the big “who am I?” and “what do I stand for?” identity questions. Needless to say, it’s hard work. So, when you add growing up as a person-of-colour (POC) into the equation, it gets a bit more complicated. As with anything, growing up as an IndianAustralian girl has had its ups and downs. But I feel so privileged to be able to say that my story is a bit different from the culturally-confused teenager trope — that we’ve seen countless times before in stereotypical movies — and rather, a beautiful yet complex experience. My parents have never fit into the conventional strict Indian parents category, for which I am so grateful. There was never an immense pressure on studies or blocked out career pathways or constant comparison. I was that artsy ‘I want to work in fashion’ kid right from the start amongst my sciencyeconomics-focused cousins and family friends. However, what my parents did ensure was that my younger sister and I were closely connected to our culture and home country. We spoke Hindi at home, celebrated every one of the gazillion festivals, binge-watched Bollywood movies and most importantly, visited our family back in Mumbai, India almost every year. Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Some of my happiest and fondest memories were made there, eating mouth-watering street food, playing with my cousins and attending extravagant weddings. Through my lens of India, I saw beauty and awe in even the most mundane of places, while others might’ve focused on the dirt-filled streets and polluted air. Coming back to Australia from our trips, I was always so excited to tell my primary school friends about my travels, show them photos and clear away the misconceptions they might’ve had about what India was like. There was never any embarrassment around being Indian or for loving my culture. It can be hard when you look different, eat different food and celebrate different things — but rather than hiding it, I embraced it boldly. And if anything, my friends began embracing it as well (influencer from day one, what can I say?). They would come over to our house for Diwali and Holi, dress up in my cultural clothes and join in the family celebrations. They loved trying Indian food, watching Bollywood movies and standing in front of the TV copying the dance moves. I even threw a Bollywood-themed party for my 10th birthday, where both my Indian and White friends decked themselves out in their own versions of Bollywood attire — it was quite the party for us 10-year-olds. Just to be clear, my entire childhood didn’t revolve around Bollywood (although it may seem like it). I also grew up singing along to High School Musical and Hannah Montana, and it really was the best of both worlds. But I think your environment also plays a big role in helping you navigate your identity. I was fortunate enough to go to very
multicultural primary and secondary schools where I never felt like the odd one out. That’s not to say I haven’t had those question mark moments. I’ve felt confused and frustrated when, on the topic of Hinduism, the entire class would look to me as if I were some expert on my ancestors’ religious rituals, or when people gave up trying to pronounce my name correctly. There were aspects about being a POC in a Western country that I never realised had impacted my sense of identity until recently. For starters, I would look up to White standards of beauty for inspiration. I didn’t like getting tanned or the fact that my nose was big or that my arms were hairier than my friends. Maybe this was because I consumed Western media that never visually represented people who looked like me. Unless, of course, the occasional token POC was added to a show with a stereotyped accent and superstitious beliefs. Nor did I see POC included — let alone in roles of leadership — in the fashion industry that I adored and looked up to. It is only in recent years that I have begun to understand how upset and discouraging this lack of representation made me feel. But working
through the doubt only strengthened the cultural connection I have to my identity. It motivates me to create change and work towards better. Yet this new chapter of growing up has also thrown new challenges. Dealing with racist comments and and not-so-subtle microaggressions was something I had never encountered before starting uni and my first proper job. It is degrading and inexcusable, but a norm that I was so oblivious to in my little multicultural bubble. This is one that I am still figuring out — I’ll get back to you when I do. Growing up as a POC will have its challenges that continue to unfold as the journey progresses. For me, it all comes back to being firm in who I am and what I believe in. Now for the corny cliché line, but it’s true I promise: I am, and always have been so proud of my country and where I come from. It is such an important part of who I am and what I believe in. So I would say, “mix it all together and you know you can embrace the best of both worlds” — yes, I did just try to remix that iconic song. I promise I’ll leave now…
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WORDS BY Alice Wright @alicewrt ART BY Brooke Stevens @brooke.stev
Fact or Fiction
Recently, I decided to make the poor decision to declutter my room, which is something I rarely commit to. Why? It almost always ends in me crying from exhaustion as Marie Kondo’s techniques slowly eat away at my poor capacity to let go of things I haven’t used in more than 10 years. This time, I incidentally came across some of my favourite childhood treasures. My long-lost Tamagotchi, a few stray Bratz dolls and many old, dried up bottles of glittery nail polish. But there is something better than all of this. I struck gold. I found my old diaries. They made me laugh, smile, cry a little more than I already had and reminisce about the good old days. Funnily enough, as I got to reading I discovered that I had quite big plans for the future too. As an optimistic 10-year-old, I had decided that in my twenties I would be a big-name actress, a wife to Ryan Gosling (specifically from The Notebook) and an owner of six dogs. But, here I am 12 years later, a little lost, definitely not succeeding in a career, nowhere near marriage, let alone a boyfriend, and I don’t think it’s even legal to have six dogs. Not long ago, I turned 22. A leap that seems to me to be far greater than the jump from 20 to 21. When you turn 21, it’s a time of celebration as you enter what is seen socially as true adulthood. But once you hit 22, the celebration is over, it’s a bit boring and there’s not much of a party. Although I like to subscribe to the concept that age is just a number and there is no real meaning behind it, the world is most definitely treating me no longer like the teenager or child I once was. I have debt from studying that I don’t understand how I’ll ever pay off, I get emails from the government without even knowing how they got my details, I am paying to use a car that breaks down annually and I’m constantly wondering if I can claim my Converse on tax, as working two waitressing jobs through uni tore them to shreds. But out of all these signifiers of age, the largest of all is the most feared question that comes creeping up on every young adult…
“What are your plans for the future?”
Here is my answer: I have absolutely no clue. And you know what? Neither do most adults. On the off chance you are an adult that knows what you want to do with your life, leave me alone because your security and confidence with your future scares me and I want no part of it. This is a realisation I have been coming to terms with for a few years now. As you grow up, society creates a narrative that positions you to see adults as humans who have their shit together. They are all career-driven, falling in love, having babies, travelling and living their best life with no restraints. Yet, this is far from the truth. I graduated university just last year with a bachelor's degree, I am yet to get a full-time job and I don’t see myself getting one any time soon either. I can honestly say I’m doing great. But that doesn’t go without saying that I have felt the pressure to immediately use my degree and be actively progressing within a career. Once you begin to unlearn the formula of going to school, getting a degree, falling in love, having kids and living happily ever after, you’ll instead find yourself looking for what you can do with your life in the present time that allows you to be your happiest self. With all this in mind, we need to be realistic. I’ve gone through periods of time — while working multiple jobs, as well as experiencing mental health struggles — where it is a battle to get to my next chapter in life and it doesn’t seem to be achievable. But I can promise you that I end up getting to that next chapter every time, and once I do, it makes everything worth it. So, this is your sign to go on that holiday you’ve always wanted to go on, do that course you’ve always dreamed about studying, move away to that country town you’ve always loved visiting, or completely change your occupation if that’s what is calling out to you. The present moment will give you more fulfilment than the past or the future ever will, so don’t take it for granted.
WORDS BY Thiamando Pavlidis @thiamand_no ART BY Madison Marshall @madagasc.art
Not So Fresh: 30
POP MUSIC AND ITS PROBLEMS CW: BRIEF DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
Bad Lyrics I am a trashy pop music apologist. My taste in music has been described as “bad”, “objectively bad”, and even expressed by just groaning. Spotify once even told me to “chill out”. Over the years I’ve been a K-Pop fan, a Eurovision/Europop-enthusiast, a So Fresh CD collector and a ’90s house/Eurodance tragic. I haven’t willingly listened to an acoustic guitar in years. With bad music comes bad lyrics, and oftentimes bad artists. ‘Bad’, however, can mean many different things, from questionable, to downright criminal. So, how do we distinguish between songs that are products of their time and artists with unforgivable actions? More importantly, how can we learn from these past mistakes?
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I distinctly recall that my primary school had optional after-school programs. One of these was a hip-hop dance class, where we were taught choreography to The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘My Humps’. I also owned a So Fresh: Hits of Autumn 2006 CD to ‘My Humps’, which led to eight-year-old Thiamando singing about “making you scream” because of “all my humps”. While the lyrics themselves are nothing strange (remember, we’re living in the age of ‘WAP’), So Fresh including that song in a CD set marketed mainly towards children and pre-teens, and an after-school program teaching a dance with said song speaks more to an institutional desensitisation of pop lyrics than to the intentions of the artist. Not all music is supposed to be kid-friendly, and it’s up to those in charge to distinguish between what should and should not be accessible to children. Where lyrics in songs like ‘My Humps’ are inherently sexual, certain ‘problematic’ elements of pop music are less defined, and not addressed the same way as sexually explicit lyrics are. Therefore, it’s more difficult to filter out for younger audiences.
Historically, pop music is riddled with misogyny and exploitation. Artists over the years have emerged to condemn explicitly problematic past lyrics in their popular hits, including Hayley Williams of Paramore. Williams has since retired what is arguably the band’s biggest song, ‘Misery Business’, from live shows due to the lyric “once a wh*re, you’re nothing more”. What if the song’s intention or lyrics are not as clean-cut? Songs about women trying to outdo or spite others were the norm of the early ’00s, and groups like the Pussycat Dolls became instant hit-makers with songs like ‘Don’t Cha’. The general sentiment of the song is “I’m going to steal your man!” Danish Eurodance group Aqua shot to fame in the late ’90s with their song ‘Barbie Girl’, a deceptively candy-coloured, lighthearted bubblegum pop 32
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track which describes a woman as a sex object for a man’s pleasure —“you can touch, you can play,
if you say, “I’m always yours.””
In the current socio-political climate, it is doubtful that songs like these So Fresh staples would be produced today. That being said, we shouldn’t just ‘cancel’ these songs; progress is about understanding the mistakes made in history, and without them, we would not have anything to learn from. While the lyrics may be questionable, we must understand these songs as a product of the past. Despite certain lyrics, the artists themselves have done nothing wrong.
Bad People It’s one thing for a song to have questionable lyrics/ intentions — but what if the artist themself is an alleged (or established) criminal? We know about R.Kelly and Michael Jackson from the documentaries detailing allegations of crimes committed against underage victims. Now, fans are reconciling with the fact that their favourite musician has done something inexcusable. If you were a hardcore second-generation K-Pop fan like me, you’d be familiar with the supergroup BIGBANG. Signed to YG Entertainment, the five-piece group debuted in 2006 and had global hits such as ‘Haru Haru’ and ‘Fantastic Baby’.
For those not familiar, it’s important to mention that for a decade these guys were the biggest thing in the industry, basically changing the genre’s landscape as we know it. The Korean Pop industry is renowned for its sanitised portrayal of its idols, meaning fans were shocked when in 2019, BIGBANG’s Lee Seung-Ri was arrested for embezzlement of funds and mediation of prostitution (among other charges). For context, Lee was a creative director/shareholder of nightclub Burning Sun and sex work in South Korea is illegal. It was later announced Lee was a part of a group chat created to share sexually explicit videos of women without their consent. The incident, known as the ‘Burning Sun Scandal’, has tarnished the squeaky-clean perception of idols that K-Pop fans knew well, leaving many to grapple with how to continue enjoying BIGBANG without supporting Seung-Ri. In light of the scandal, Seung-Ri has since left the group and label. It is unclear whether he still receives any profit or residuals. It’s one thing to illegally download Michael Jackson or R.Kelly’s songs. They are solo artists and all profits are theirs or their estate’s. When it’s a group where only one member has done something unforgivable, how do you continue to support them? I love a K-Pop throwback — it was a big part of my adolescence — but it’s difficult for me to listen to BIGBANG’s hits knowing one of their members has since been outed as a predator. While it’s easier to boycott their music altogether, what about the other members, who allegedly had no involvement? While it’s a bleak reminder that public image can be fabricated, for Seung-Ri’s actions to come to light with legal repercussions shows us the world is changing the way it forgives its celebrities. Gone are the days where adult celebrities dating underage girls was the norm — looking at you, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. By holding stars accountable for their actions, we set a behavioural precedent for emerging artists. With technological advances, we may even develop ways to separate the artist from their art. Currently, we don’t have clear-cut solutions. The way a person consumes art is unique to them and is, therefore, dependent on the choices they make; no matter how ‘bad’ or ‘good’.
Not So Fresh
Meet the Parents: A STORY BEST TOLD IN THREE PARTS
Part I: My Parental God Complex 34
To call this a journey of enlightenment feels a little hyperbolic. It is as if I am equating my personal relationship with my parents to the age of new ideas and philosophical movements that dominated the 18th century. But I’m not talking about Enlightenment with a capital ‘E’. When written in all lowercase, enlightenment is really just the ‘full comprehension of a situation.’ This is the story of how I came to fully comprehend my parents. So, in a way, it really is a journey of enlightenment.
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Part I starts with my childhood. This is where I thought I knew my parents, and how I thought I would continue to know them for the rest of my life. I was one of the lucky ones, really. I had an entirely uneventful childhood. I quietly and contently accepted every word my parents said as gospel. After all, no one knew better than they did, right? As a child, I couldn’t (or maybe didn’t want to) distinguish between my parents and the stable home they had given me. As far as I was concerned, they were my stable home. They were the pillars that supported not only my childhood, but my entire worldview. To be clear, my parents never presented themselves as having all the answers, but the thing you need to understand about me is that I wanted to believe that they did. I love routine, I adore predictability and I thrive on structure. The best way to maintain structure is with authority, and my parents were the obvious choice. Growing up in a religious household only reinforced this. Authority wasn’t just authoritative; it was also infallible. I think the first time you see your parents cry will always change you in some way. For me, it was when we lost our brother. Mum collapsed and Dad held her. This could have been the moment I realised that my parents were human after all. I mean, grief can be an ugly emotion and if it's not ugly, it’s definitely very human. But instead, it only reassured me that they were omniscient because we got through it, just like they said we would. Our perfect home was shattered but my parents put it back together. And for that, they remained deities to me.
Part II: Meeting My Parents: Part III: Knowing (and A Reintroduction Growing With) My Parents “Well, I feel like I’ve failed you as a parent then.” As I inhaled sharply — ready to release a foray of apologies and reassurances — I froze. I knew she hadn’t failed me. Mum was an incredible parent. She was wise, selfless and hard-working. But in the few seconds I had allowed myself to process what was being said, my subliminal need to reassure her turned to anger. Anger because in that sentence my mum had suggested that I was also a failure. But I wasn’t. I hadn’t made the choices she and Dad had hoped I would. I wasn’t living the life they had dreamed for me. They only wanted what was best for me and I knew this, but the problem was that their idea of what was best didn’t align with mine. I was carving my own path, and that was okay. In fact, it was better than okay. It was exciting and formative and everything in between… everything except a failure. A crack had formed in the perfect exterior I had spent years projecting. That was the first domino to fall in a series of realisations about my parents. For me, as a compulsive people pleaser with an I-must-make-my-parents-proud-at-allcosts complex, this moment was the first time I really met my parents — my very human parents. And it was all because I had allowed myself to be angry at them.
The turbulence of my twenties very quickly taught me that building and maintaining adult relationships is very often about forgiveness. The inherent flaws of humanity make forgiveness a very necessary skill to master (but one that should always be exercised with care, of course). I made a lot of mistakes that Mum and Dad needed to forgive me for, but what I hadn’t realised until now was that I also needed to forgive them. And I did. As it turns out, anger was a very necessary step in getting to really know my parents. The thing about holding your parents up to a God-like standard is that you begin to expect God-like behaviour. When you have impossible expectations of people, life will catch up and when it does, you won’t know how to handle it. My parents are real, complex human beings and I needed to give them the grace to be just that… human. Our relationship is a work in progress, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
WORDS BY Matilda McNeil @matilda.mcneil
Though I was born in Wellington, New Zealand and spent the early years of my life there, I don’t remember much (if any) of it. However, I’m still fond of the place and it gives me a homely feeling. Pictured is my Dad, brother and I at the Wairarapa Balloon Festival. WORDS & ART BY Meili Tan @meilimade
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WORDS & ART BY Monica Ouk @mono.goose
I grew up in Siem Reap near the ancient prasats (temples) of the Khmer Angkorian empire. I would play in ancient stone ruins as a child, not knowing how important they were. Pictured here is my mother and I at the South Gate bridge of Angkor Thom built in 1200 AD by Jayavarman VII. I spent my younger years in Cambodia attending religious Buddhist ceremonies and temples. Pictured here is my father who was a Khmer Rouge survivor and a devout Buddhist for 50 years. The photo was taken in 2004 and I was 4 years old at the time.
I was eight months old with a trophy in arms when my parents decided to take the three of us out for an impromptu photoshoot. After multiple knock-backs, they’d managed to harass the judge panel of an Oakleigh Central baby pageant into crowning me the “Most Beautiful Baby” In the World City of Monash. A year before these photos were taken, both my parents were in Serbia fleeing airstrikes during the 1999 NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia— they just wanted someone to tell them their baby was pretty.
WORDS & ART BY Dina Ivkovich @dinanotdiner Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
When I look back on these keepsake photos of my childhood I see a bright, colourful girl. Someone I’m so proud of and whose remnants still remain within my being today. I’m still dressing like I did then, constantly playing dress up and I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of it. If there's one thing my childhood taught me — life is zesty and you should dress accordingly.
WORDS & ART BY Lily Anna @funkyspaghettii
I spent the first four years of my life living in Sri Lanka. While I don’t remember much from this period of my formative years, I somehow recall this snippet vividly, where my best friend Lavinia and I were chosen to be flower girls at my aunt’s traditional Sri Lankan wedding. With my puffy green dress on and my frilled socks folded in place, I can happily report this was the first of many 'main character' moments I'd be lucky enough to experience.
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WORDS & ART BY Tiffany Forbes @tiffanyforbes
WORDS & ART BY Dena Tissera @dena_c_t
This photo was taken in Buffalo, New York in 2004. My mum was completing her Masters at the University of Buffalo and the whole family was over there for a year. I was five and my older brother was 11. We arrived in the middle of winter and seeing snow was a magical experience for my brother and I. We built wonky snow men and had countless snowball fights. This is one of the happiest memories of my childhood.
This is a picture of me practising basketball at my local park. I spent years practising here, waking up early before school and spending whole afternoons doing drills to eventually achieve my goal of playing for the Melbourne Tigers Basketball Club. Now that I’m older, I come back and shoot around sometimes, it has become a form of meditation. A place for me to work though my thoughts with my basketball.
We’ve always had pets at home, but one of the ones I most fondly remember was Kitty, a feisty little ginger cat who showed up at our door one day and wouldn’t go away. He kept me and my brother company when my parents were at work, and I knit him pompoms and taught him to sit. If you can’t tell by the dinosaur cake and the jungle themed jigsaw, I was a die-hard animal fanatic at four years old. We didn’t have much growing up, but my mum always did the absolute most — she stayed up the night before my birthday making the entire cake from scratch. 42
WORDS & ART BY Joseph Lew @josephyylew Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
WORDS & ART BY Tiffany Forbes @tiffanyforbes
In every photo of my childhood following the birth of my little sister in 2002, she is either with me, next to me or lurking somewhere in the back. We were inseparable and gave the phrase ‘two peas in a pod’ a whole new meaning. This picture is just one example. Fast forward to the present day, while we rip eachother's hair out at least once a week, our bond is still just as strong. She is my best friend.
WORDS & ART BY Meili Tan @meilimade
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Growing up in Australia I was rather disconnected from my Chinese-Malaysian heritage and culture, though I came to appreciate it more through my grandpa (Kong Kong) while visiting Malaysia. He showed my brother and I his paintings and how to mount them using traditional scroll mounting techniques.
Every two years, my parents and grandparents would take me and my brothers on huge six-week camping trips around the country. I was so lucky to see the most mind-blowing places in Australia at such a young age. This trip was in 2004, when I was six; the first photo is of Dad and me at Uluru, the second is me and my brother Keegan spotting wildflowers in the East MacDonnell Ranges.
WORDS & ART BY Kiera Eardley @kieraeardley
The Seven Stages of Securing a Grad Job
1. Shock & Denial
You always knew this day would come, but suddenly it feels as though it has come so much sooner — no thanks to a pandemic which saw a year of your degree completed from the lounge room, in the company of only a sad monitor setup and disruptive pets. But you still have two semesters to finish… it couldn’t possibly be time to apply for jobs already? Regardless of how you got here, you’re here: your final year and now, it’s time to look beyond. Choose to take comfort or concern in the fact that you are one of many soon-to-be graduates trailing this very path.
Here’s the most obvious step. It goes without saying that you won’t be receiving any offers for jobs you never applied for. There’s a fine line between increasing your odds and exhausting yourself. A (simplified) way to narrow things down is to ensure that (a) you are actually qualified for the role you’re applying for, and (b) you have a genuine interest in the industry and organisation. Ask yourself: “have I completed the appropriate degree or major?” and “does this role spark contentment?” Now, buckle up for some lengthy applications and a series of psychometric testing, interviews, and mildly to entirely gauche online assessments.
2. Preparation Armed with Canva, it’s time to polish up that resume and scope out the job market. Many applications open in February, while a few trickle through to July to commence the following February. At the expense of sounding like a career counsellor, LinkedIn truly will be one of your greatest allies at this stage. You don’t have to love it, but at least respect it enough to pay regular visits. While Career Connect has some helpful tips to offer, let me save you some time. Most prominently, you will be reminded to do your research, familiarise yourself with the STAR interview method, and of course, customise your CV and cover letter (and for the love of LinkedIn, make sure to change the company name and have someone proofread it).
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4. Rejection No surprises here. This is another one of those uncomfortable steps, and perhaps the most poignant at that. Rejection is inevitable along the way, and it may take many forms. At times, rejection looks like a prompt automated email straight off the bat; other times, you may have toiled through several assessments before receiving the big ‘no’ or, in this case, the big ‘we regret to inform you that…’. Keep in mind that this may very well go both ways. If at any point the sparkling façade of an organisation or your interest seems to erode, politely withdraw, and carry on.
WORDS BY Mia Deans @miadeans ART BY Jessica La @jessicala.png
5. Acceptance Now, I mean this in the literal sense. It’s time to sign that dotted line. As Career Connect hauntingly informed me, only 30 per cent of graduates land a formal ‘graduate’ role; if you’ve reached this point, congratulations! And if not, remember, this is just one of many post-grad pathways (feel free to skip to Stage Seven). Apparently, (if you are so lucky) it is common practice to decline graduate offers retrospectively. So, if you receive multiple offers and need a little time to make a big, final decision, take it. Here, you’ll also likely encounter a new set of realities: the prospect of a 9am to 5pm, a salary and paying back your HECS debt — who would’ve thought that would ever happen?
6. Grief I bet you didn’t expect to see this one here and, frankly, neither did I. As an abrupt ode to the original seven stages, grief may just barge its way in. For me, this came as the acute realisation that my current state of life is (almost) officially over — that is, the flexibility, limited responsibility and endless potential that I have enjoyed as a student are foreseeably coming to an end. Even more so, I was struck by the thought that my entire adult life had been seemingly leading to this moment. Since breaching adulthood, I had been striving for something that felt perfectly out-of-reach. Like many of you, I have occupied a constant state of ‘push’: pressurised VCE to get the shiny ATAR, to get into the shiny university, to get the
shiny WAM. All the while, I had been working in a larger pursuit of something which was conveniently ambiguous. For as long as I could remember, my life was full of choices, of a million unimaginable unknowns, and a big, fat question mark in place of a job title. Truth be told, while daunting at times, this kept me hopeful, curious, and almost wilfully unsure. A significant part of me had to stop to mourn the possibilities that must be laid to rest in order to give one thing the attention and effort it requires to flourish. My only antidotes to this sticky step: the knowledge that I have taken joy in each and every thing which has led me to this point, and the comfort that everything before this once felt unfamiliar too.
7. Acceptance 2.0 I promise that this is not the same as Stage Five. This stage is even often fondly referred to as ‘Acceptance & Hope’. Whatever has happened up until now, take a moment to applaud yourself for everything you have already and are soon to achieve. Completing a degree or two is no small feat. Now, approaching my very last semester with a sense of clarity for the future, I feel that I am finally able to appreciate the uni experience in its fullness. For those of us graduating this year, it’s time to enjoy it while it lasts and welcome the stretch marks that are sure to come. And to my penultimate friends, good luck out there.
What 20-Something Are You? ARE YOU A GRINDER? A WHITE WITCH? A SLACKER OR A FUNCTIONAL HUMAN BEING?
WORDS BY Ruby Ellam @ruby.ellam 48
Do you know what your rising sign is?
What’s your relationship status?
A) B) C) D)
A) B) C) D)
Astrology isn’t real. I only believe in tangible things like Bitcoin and capitalism. My friend sent me my chart a year ago, but I lost it. I know I’m a [insert sun sign]. A girl once told me that Gemini’s are hot, so I put that in my Tinder bio and called it a day. I know my sun, moon, rising, Mars, Venus, MBTI, Hogwarts house, and I know what it all means — I’m not 100 per cent sure what intersectional feminism is, though.
What’s your living situation like? A) B) C) D)
I live in my own apartment in the middle of the CBD. My parents pay for my rent so I can focus on my grind! I live with my partner in a cute two-bedroom apartment in the inner suburbs, but we’re saving up to buy land in the next five years. I live in a sharehouse with five other dudes. My mattress is on the floor and we avoid paying for water by never doing our dishes. I live in the moment. And on friends’ couches until my crystals get me a tenancy agreement.
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Single. Everyone I meet isn’t driven enough to be with me — an alpha needs a queen [insert muscle flex emoji]. Engaged/De Facto. My partner and I fully intend to get married and we are each other's first love; we are so much happier than you. I’m single and not ready to be locked down yet. I need to keep my options open in case my freelance T-shirt screen printing business blows up. I will let love into my life when my tarot cards say it’s right, but for now, I want to be present for myself.
Which Sex and the City character are you? A) I don’t know; I don’t watch that garbage. B) Charlotte C) Mr. Big D) The fifth member, New York City.
What’s your biggest vice? A) Grinding too hard B) Light treason C) Not pulling out D) Gentrification
What’s your drink order? A) B) C) D)
Only the finest Henny and Grey Goose HAND-DELIVERED to my booth. I WILL offer the waitress subpar cocaine; she will accept but still gives me a fake number. One glass of rosé but only for my boyfriend to snap a pic for Instagram; after that, we will take a silent Uber home and not have sex. Red wine with cigarette butts floating in it. Alcohol is poison; that’s why I only do DMT with strangers in club bathrooms on a Thursday night.
A IS FOR ALPHA MAN, BUSINESS BOY, HEAD
C IS FOR CAN YOU TRANSFER ME $300 FOR
It’s not impossible, but I’d be shocked if you weren’t a white, heterosexual man in some sort of finance/economics/business degree with a penchant for insecurity and misogyny. All jokes aside, you’re not an entrepreneur; you’re unemployed.
I know you aren’t going to commit, no need to tell me after the first subpar Tinder date. You need to be reminded that living in Brunswick does not erase your Brighton upbringing. Probably an Aquarius.
DOUCHE IN THE CAPITALIST COVEN
A JACKET THAT I’LL TELL EVERYONE I GOT AT SAVERS TO FIT IN WITH THE ALT GIRLS IN BRUNSWICK
B IS FOR BUT MUM I CAN’T BE THIS 20SOMETHING, IT'S TOO HARD You probably exercise regularly, eat well, and have a somewhat healthy relationship with your family. My mother wishes that I was you. I suspect that having a good life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but how would I know?
D IS FOR DON’T BE SHOCKED WHEN I
SUGGEST CRYSTALS AS A GENUINE FIX FOR DEPRESSION
You’re a do-gooder but suffer from the eternal struggle of an empath — you’re self-absorbed. Crystals will not cure my depression, you crazy loveable, snake oil salesman. I appreciate your concern, but go away.
TikTok Made Me Do It: CRYSTAL EDITION
WORDS BY Coby Renkin @cobyhr ART BY Ruth Ong @ru.thx
The last few months have seen me enter a side of TikTok I never saw coming: the crystal side. I don’t do crystals; they’re not something I’ve ever felt drawn to and if we’re being honest, not something I’ve ever believed in. But it turns out, if the algorithm hassles me enough, I’ll try anything once. After all, 2021 (and this edition) is all about growth. So I thought about my life. What do I want? Where am I going? Where could I improve? I’m going into my final semester of uni; I’m working on completing internships, opening myself up to new work opportunities and grinding as hard as I can for what is potentially the last 12 weeks I will ever spend as a student. I decided to focus on that. So, armed with a little hesitation and a lot of curiosity, I headed to a crystal shop. Put very simply: I bought topaz for creativity, confidence and stress relief, and tourmaline for energy levels, movement towards goals and to overcome external blocks.
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
My hesitation was definitely not eased by friends, one referring to the shop as a “woo-woo shop” and another labelling crystals “just a bunch of rocks”. Admittedly, this, mixed with my own preconceived ideas, delayed any attention or thought I put into my crystals. They sat on my desk for a week, came to and from a friend’s house with me, then sat in a bag for a few days. Eventually, I realised that this definitely did not reflect the ‘2021 is all about growth’ mentality, and I had to pull myself up on my lack of trying. I did some reading, followed instructions to cleanse and charge my crystals and tried to open my mind up to a little bit of possibility. I did have a good few weeks. I completed an internship that went really well, I pushed myself to take steps towards my creative career, and I met some industry professionals that could provide me with some exciting opportunities over the coming years.
What I learnt from these few weeks though is that I believe in myself enough to know that I could have, and likely would have, done all of those things without the presence of crystals on my bedside table. I owe myself a little bit of credit for the hard work that I continue to put in to achieve my goals, and I think to grant that credit to something ‘greater’ would be doing myself a disservice. While I don’t believe that my crystals had any power that directly contributed to any changes or achievements in my life, they did get me thinking. I had to sit and evaluate what I want and what I’m doing to get what I want.
At a time in my life that revolves almost entirely around growing and changing, reminding myself of the importance of an open mind and pushing myself out of my comfort zone are valuable lessons that I think will benefit the goals I set for myself. So maybe, in a roundabout and kind of twisted way, in this instance, crystals weren’t “just a bunch of rocks.”
Memor(talit)y Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
2nd August, 2020 8:46am I google: how to prepare for your dog’s euthanasia l l l l l l l The first article reads: ‘Give your dog a party or “best day” ever!’ This advice shouldn’t make me cry, but we’re in the middle of a stage four lockdown and, now, a vet parking lot. I hold the leash of my dog. She wags her tail at the mask-muffled noise above discussing how her lungs are failing days before we move into a double-storey house. The irony shouldn’t make me laugh, only it does. In moments of inappropriate laughter, I remind myself that the autonomic emotional response to laugh from tickles is no different from the nerve receptors that trigger when we anticipate hurt. Pain does not live in isolation of itself. No less, my parents, boyfriend, and I cry amongst ourselves before deciding which one of us will go in alone. The clinic concedes to letting all four of us in. My mum holds her, and then her body. Instead, I should have typed: fuck whoever named a dog with a 10-year life expectancy the ‘Boxer’. 53
12th August, 2020 10:35am It’s 20 minutes before the removalists arrive. I find my mum rocking herself at the edge of her bed, still wearing pyjamas. It’s usually worn off by the morning. She refuses to speak, and so the act tells me: she’s overdone it. I want to panic but have to wait my turn today. I type: how long does it take for drunkenness to wear off l l l l l l l
Later, she’ll ask one of the removalists why he’s bald. He’ll chuckle out the confession that he lost all his hair to trauma a few years ago. He’ll flinch when she goes to pull off his beanie. To get a better look, she says; his smile is gone now. I watch the paradox of two individuals: one that conceals his hurt beneath clothes that keep him warm, and the other who wears hers like armour, fragile as a wishbone and with the promise of nothing.
WORDS BY Dina Ivkovich @dinanotdiner ART BY Betty Gu @_bettygu
19th August, 2020 12:45pm Mum fell down the stairs again. A nebula forms on her left thigh — the closest thing to outside that she’s seen since we moved in here. She’s laid in bed all week and keeps saying we killed the dog. I tell her to stop calling Dad while he’s at work, but she insists something is wrong with her. I wait until she falls asleep to go and take a shower.
I begin to hear the noise of people downstairs. I find my mum’s sister and mother standing in our living room, stroking her hair and tears as she sobs in their hold. I watch until told to make them tea. She then drags them both upstairs, insisting the three of them lie down in bed together. We see these people once every Christmas, so their concern quickly turns to curiosity. Mum’s sister asks why she made the call. Mum pretends to have her weekdays wrong before passing comment on how uncomfortable her sister’s breast implants feel against her back. She’s started using a baby voice with them, and I want to scream. Leaving the room, I run into my own and call Dad. He tells me he knows in a tone I only remember hearing once before at age 10. It was Christmas Eve when I found her stash for the first time.
I notice myself having to pull hair out of my brush more often now. 54
23rd August, 2020 12:01am Egyptians revered them and mummies fear them, yet beyond fiction lies a humbler explanation to their multiple-lived mystery. Cats have what is called a ‘righting reflex’ — the ability to manoeuvre mid-air when falling or dropped from heights as tall as five storeys, all the while landing on their feet. It’s this nonchalant tread away from death that has earned this feline the lore of having nine lives.
My cat died three years ago to this day. I go about the annual ritual of patting a close-up photograph of her that survived the move, tracing my fingers over cheekbones, whisker pads and the Monroe-esque mole perched above her mouth. I read somewhere that, on average, the surface layers of our skin renew every two weeks. If all our bodily cells did this, we’d have infinite lives. Yet some, like the ones in our brain, fail to do so. Our body shoots gravel up with every step forward as our minds look back on the ether. My mind makes a promise to my fingers. Holding my cat’s body made immortal in laminated print, the resolution of what I feel begins degrading with each passing year, or fortnight. Novelist Nicola Yoon writes in 2015: “We can have immortality
or the memory of touch. But we can’t have both.”
I type: my cat didn’t get all nine of her lives; what now? l l l l l l l Google mistakes my search and proceeds to tell me, without joke but certainly not humour, that the hailed all-time ‘worst’ cat food goes by the brand name of ‘9Lives’. Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
30 th August, 2020 6:23pm Quick! It is Dina’s 21st birthday. She needs help picking a wish: A) B) C) D)
Her dog to be alive Her cat to be alive Her mum to stay alive For August to not have happened, or for her brain to replace enough cells that she forgets it ever did.
For her body to exhale and her mind to know peace. Or perhaps pass a petition to at least rename ‘Boxers’ to something else. 55
31st August, 2020 11:51am I cried while blowing my candles out last night. I wished that my parents saw the chronic anaemia and lactose intolerance pulled from my recent blood tests for more than what they said in
Neither of them knew as I exhaled at the funeral cake of a person I don’t wish to be anymore.
Welcome to the Contents Page
WE ASKED PEOPLE WHAT TITLE THEY WOULD GIVE THIS CHAPTER OF THEIR LIFE. HERE ARE THEIR RESPONSES.
“‘Going Into Injury Time’. The hard work is nearly done, about to have more time to play golf.” — Peter, 61 “‘There are so Many Ways to Say Goodbye’. Goodbye to my working life, my children moving out, goodbye to my mother.” — Corinna, 60 56
“‘The Time for Hesitancy Is Over’. The pandemic forced me to reflect on my stagnant life and prompted me to strive for change. It's been a triumphant period of overcoming roadblocks, leaping at opportunities, and valuing relationships. I'm proud of my growth and budding confidence. It's now or never.” — Jacqueline, 21 “This chapter in my life offers me more freedom based on the wisdom I’ve gained from past experiences. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t see life that way!” — Gayle, 58 “Wait. Be patient. Winter will pass. Spring will come.” — Lee, 61 “This chapter of my life requires me to balance my social and recreational life with my new work requirements.” — Kartina, 24 “Looking back, I should have looked forward more.” — Belinda, 61 “‘Person in Waiting’. It feels like until you're an adult, you're just waiting to become real and be listened to.” — Oscar, 20 “‘The Tedious Tangent’. The last 18 months have been one massive tangent on the way to wherever I'm going — it's also been a very, very tedious one.” — Angus, 19
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
WORDS BY Amy Jenkin
“‘Recalibration: a period of growth, stagnation, and turbulence.
A disruption of the self and ideals and an ascension into the next epoch’. In other words, what the f is going on?” — Ana, 21
“‘Moving Into the Menagerie’. Out of a safe, crowded, warm home, into the crazy world of adopting pets, paying heating bills and living alone in lockdown.” — Oliver, 21 “I may have missed my last year of university, lost my job, and felt my life spiralling, but hey at least now I have K-Pop.” — Meg, 21 “‘Development Phase’. I find this current chapter in my life all about my personal and professional development. The new relationships I’m forming in all facets of my life, as well as the increased confidence in myself and realisation of what I’m capable of.” — Denise, 23 “‘Losing Focus’ or ‘I Feel Like I Have Read Enough of This Book to
Know How it Will End And Maybe That’s Making Me Lose Interest’ .”
— Amos, 20
“Mostly, I think about lots of stuff that doesn’t amount to much and I feel like I’m just putting off the important questions like ‘what are you doing?’ and ‘why?’ and ‘how?’” — Millie, 21 “‘The Year of Uncertainty, Missing Normality’ ” — Jabez, 28 “‘The Worst Rollercoaster Ever’ ” — Phil, 28 “Count your blessings and keep laughing.” — Sean, 27 “Planning for the future through times of uncertainty, should be taking time to appreciate today.” — Brian, 33
To Exist Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
When I was seven, I took my first ever family camping trip. If I try hard enough, it’s almost as if I can still smell the excitement in the air that day, which often comes in waves of freshly-bought camping chairs and a tent we’d found at an Aldi special buys rack at some point in 2007. If Australia had a cultural marker, it’d be summertime trips to absolutely anywhere along the Murray, and I was thrilled to finally indulge in it. As you can imagine, I spent my days revelling in the customary “I went camping in regional Victoria” essentials. See: swimming in the river at our campsite, roasting marshmallows and riding my bike on the dirt tracks. I even saw my first wild brown snake and best believe, I spent every evening, without fail, writing about it in my sparkly pink diary — the one I can assure you, never left my side during those formative years. Flash-forward over a decade later, while I was rifling through an old box of photo albums and envelopes laden with marker upon marker of my childhood, there it was: my prized notepad in all its glory. In amongst my seven-year-old ramblings about days at the park with friends and fights I’d had with my little sister, I stumbled across a page with the words “do everything, or you’ll regret it later” scrawled across its entirety. It’s funny because, in that moment, I could still picture the exact day I had written it down. I was at the small waterpark smack-bang in the middle of our camping ground circa 2008. While my cousins were all running up to beat each other on the water slides as our parents watched eagerly from the sidelines, I remember remaining lifeless and paralysed with fear. My palms sweat and my heart throbbed; I couldn’t do it. We went back to our tent later that night, and full of regret, I promised myself (and my diary), I’d never let fear be an obstacle in doing something I wanted to do again. It sounds dramatic when I think about it as an older, wiser version of myself, but looking back, I don’t think it was ever really about a stupid water slide at all. Rather, it was a collective fuck you to all the times I’d traded facing my fears for retreating back into my comfortable shell. In my quest to honour the words I’d etched into page 10 (which were rather profound for a seven-year-old, I must say), over the next 12 years I relished in seeking a thrill from outside the confines of my comfort zone. If it made me uncomfortable, it had to help me grow, right? Armed with a lock screen that said “comfort zones are made to be broken” and a determination as tenacious as my love for garlic bread, I applied for jobs and internships I would have otherwise talked myself out of. I forced myself to attend parties and network at events where I didn’t know anyone but the host. I joined the debating team and signed up for leadership positions. I grinded myself down to the bone. It was almost as if growth, learning, and the euphoric surge of energy that came from breaking beyond my internal barriers were all a drug, and I was nothing but a helpless addict.
I realise there are worse things I could have been addicted to — I mean, in theory, was there really any harm in challenging yourself? In short? Yes. I had become a servant to the growth mentality, and it was taxing. The worst part? It was an unfulfillable void. For every barrier I broke, there was another promptly waiting just around the corner. It was in a moment of pure exhaustion during last year’s extensive lockdown when I finally came across a quote by one of my favourite writers, Mari Andrews, which alluded to the idea that perhaps, it was time to redefine our perception of comfort zones. She wrote: “I’ve resented the idea that magic happens outside your comfort zone because I don’t like associating magic with strain and hesitation. I’d rather associate it with the moment when I plopped my spoon into a pillow of cappuccino foam as rain tapped on the window and my best friend texted me a photo of purple tulips in a ceramic vase because they reminded me of him. I much prefer the idea of inviting magic into your comfort zone, rather than hunting for it outside.” And for what it’s worth, every fibre of my being knew she was right. Who said everything great and satisfying had to come from outside of your shell? For every Forbes article entitled “16 Reasons Why You Should Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone…”, I started to build a controversial case for why maybe, just maybe, it’s time we let ourselves enjoy the beautiful things that exist within the carefully cultivated barriers we reserve in our hearts. Some of the most rewarding moments in my life have come from the simplicity of playing board games with my stupidly competitive family or watching the morning light filter through my blinds — coffee in one hand and a book in the other. And take my word for it: that should count for something. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s time to abolish the idea of pursuing challenges altogether, because truth be told, on the flip side of that coin, equally as many rewarding moments have come from doing so. I just think our toxic desire to be constantly self-improving, productive, and actively flourishing into the best version of ourselves has, in essence, demonised any slither of presence and comfort we’ve got left. So, if you take anything from this, I want it to be that it’s not a crime to skip a networking night for a cheese board and a sneaky glass of pinot sometimes. It’s okay to err on the side of comfort if it means preserving your sanity. And to my sevenyear-old self, sometimes it’s okay not to do everything. Because later, that might just be the very thing you regret.
WORDS & ART BY Tiffany Forbes @tiffanyforbes
WORDS BY Lara Christensen @laragchristensen ART BY Gabrielle Poh @gee.poh
Which Cut Is the Deepest? My first heartbreak was with a boy who felt he couldn’t be my friend anymore. We’d been friends since middle school, often waiting together as we were usually the last ones to be picked up from school. We talked about everything, talked during everything and were childishly proud that our Snapchat streak was so long. Ultimately, we found ourselves in the cliché but agonising situation of realising that we weren’t on the same page with our feelings. I was accused of friend-zoning him, of being naive and stupid for not realising that there was something more to our relationship. And I felt naive and stupid. He was left feeling hurt — another victim to the archaic tragedy that is unrequited love. Even if I had realised earlier that our intentions were different, would I have had the courage to act differently? I was so desperate to save the friendship that I might have put up with it all, if only so that I could pretend that things were back to how they were. To be honest, he did (and maybe does — is there a statute of limitations on this?) deserve sympathy. I did friend-zone him and, though unintentionally, I did hurt his feelings. Maybe he thought all along that our situation would change. That all he had to do was play ‘Mr. Nice Guy’, and I would have a change of heart. Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
That does seem like the message of a lot of romantic comedies out there, and isn’t that what we teach our boys? To play the friend and wait patiently in the wings for any sign of potential opportunity? The ‘Love-Struck Opportunist’ is better than most toxic roles that boys are encouraged to embody, but it does not excuse the problematic nature of maintaining a friendship that he had no intention of keeping. And he hurt my feelings, too. I was overwhelmed, confused and offended that he considered me as someone who was dateable, but not someone who was worth being friends with. To discover that your value to someone is linked so closely to your aesthetic and sexual appeal is gut-wrenching. This friend was one of my favourite people. He knew that I liked the flavour of tomato, but not the texture. He knew that as a kid I sat at the front of the class, not because I couldn't see the board, but because I didn't want to be seen in my glasses. He knew that I hated the term ‘best friend’ because I thought it was gauche. He’d seen me cry, both from sadness and laughter. Yet he left me feeling like a shitty prize, some bizarre object to be won, when I had no idea there was even a competition at play.
Yet I understand that, to him, my lack of feelings seemed personal. That he saw me as careless with my affections. To him, every glance in the direction of another guy was a knock to the chest. Every afternoon spent with other friends was a stab in the heart. Every missed message or late reply was only rubbing more salt into the wound that I had become the perpetrator of. A blatant reminder that I didn’t deem him worthy enough. But that wasn’t it at all. I wanted nothing more than to return his feelings, because isn’t it the dream to fall in love with your best friend? Yet those emotions can’t be summoned. They either arrive of their own accord or they don’t. I was angry that he didn’t realise that the status of Friend was far more esteemed than the status of Boyfriend. I wanted him to realise that I was the best friend he had ever had, and he was the best friend I had ever had. I wanted him to realise that we would lose all of that. If he cared for me as much as he claimed to, why would he choose to rob us of that? Sabotage the girl and the relationship he claimed to adore so much because she couldn’t return his feelings. But I did love this boy, just not the way he wanted. Maybe the element of choice never existed in this scenario? Maybe he had no intention of being my friend, in which case: wasn’t I girlfriend-zoned first? How the hell could I lose a friend I never had?
The Art that Defines Us 62
Twelve years ago, on a warm Saturday morning, I sat cross-legged in front of ABC3 while my mum combed out my loose curls and put them into two tight braids. As Scotty and the Ninjas Too were lighting up the screen, their voices filling the room, we were idly watching on. Both my mum and I focused on getting ready for netball before rushing out the door. The art I consumed through my youth — from my early childhood to my last days before ‘adulthood’ — has affected my outlook on the world. I am sure the art that defined you is different from the art that defined me, so whether or not you resonate with Saturday Morning Disney, Wattpad or Timothée Chalamet, I want to describe to you my youth in art.
WORDS BY Lauren Gallina ART BY Lillian Busby @lillian.design
(2007–2012) From 2007 to 2012, I had little to no autonomy with what I did, watched, or listened to. There was a Video Ezy down the street from where I grew up. Every Friday, we would have a family movie night. My dad would drive my brothers and I down, and we would walk through aisles looking at hundreds of DVD covers, trying to pick which ones we should borrow. If we were lucky, Dad would give us 10 cents for the gumball machine. The gum was terrible, the flavours were too sweet and they were too chewy, but I still always felt grown-up when I was allowed to have one. The most borrowed movies in the Gallina household were ‘kid adventure movies’, which is a genre definition I have created to describe this style of film: The Spiderwick Chronicles, Spy Kids, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Nim's Island, Bridge to Terabithia, Night at the Museum, Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Scooby-Doo Movie, Arther and the Invisibles, National Treasures, Nanny McPhee, Zoom and Zathura. Much like every other child during this time, I ate these films up. I truly believed I was a special kid with magical or genius powers who should go on wacky adventures. For most of my childhood, my favourite movie was Night at the Museum. Not only did it give history an exciting new voice, but it also introduced me to my first celebrity crush: Rami Malek. All kid adventure movies were extraordinary as they gave me young characters to identify with.
In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Violet was clever and adaptive; she always knew how to get herself and her siblings out of trouble. In Percy Jackson, Percy had difficulties with reading and writing, but this was never something to be looked down on. In Scooby-Doo, Daphne was a multifaceted young woman who enjoyed 'girly things', but she never let that define her. In fact, her femininity was an asset, not a hindrance. In every kid’s adventure film, the characters were complex and real, and I constantly fell into universes where I was a demi-god, a solver of mysteries, a little cowboy, the smartest of my siblings, etc. Another piece of art that defined this time was ABC3. Australian television during my childhood was incredibly impactful. We are the only generation who got to experience ABC3, as the newer kids are already streaming and our parents never had Mortified. On Halloween 2011, I sat on my couch in pyjamas, hair drying from the shower, and watched ABC3’s “Halloween Special''. ABC3 aired their spookiest shows from 4pm to 10pm, including a three-hour run of just Dead Gorgeous episodes. I have had many different Halloweens since then. No matter how fun Zoe’s high school Halloween parties were, the 2011 ABC3 “Halloween Special” will always be the funniest 31st of October I ever had.
My first few years in high school from 2013 to 2015 were bookmarked by Gloria Jeans, Hello Kitty perfume, Adidas Stan Smiths, sleepovers, and the smell of slightly burnt hair. I had a great group of friends, and despite anything that was happening at home, my girls made me feel safe and secure. All the art that defined me in this era of my life was art I shared with them. The most distinct art forms that have had the most lasting impact were Harry Styles fanfiction and sleepover movies. If you had Wattpad downloaded during this time, I hope you still reminisce about literary geniuses such as imaginator1D, and masterpieces such as The Bad Boy Stole my Bra. Unfortunately, when you and your friends are 14 and reading ‘Bad Boy’ Harry Styles fanfictions, you get used to toxic tropes, terrible men, and abusive relationships. Damaging themes like these were prevalent in a lot of fanfiction at the time and were always romanticised. An invasion of privacy was an example of how much Harry loved you, a glass being thrown was an example of how upset he was that you were going out in a short skirt because he just wanted to protect you. The internet had no regulations; who was going to explain to a giggling group of early high schoolers that men should never treat you like that when Harry Styles did every day? Luckily, there is a positive to this ‘Fictional Boyfriend’ era, and that was that no man could ever live up to the fictional men others invented. No one was as caring as Dean Winchester, no one was as talented as Harry Styles, and no one was sexy as
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Draco Malfoy. Fanfiction was a safe place for me and my friends to date boys that didn’t exist so we didn’t get hurt. ‘Sleepover movies’ is a term I am using to define movies such as Clueless, Mean Girls, High School Musical, Easy A, Wild Child, Camp Rock, Bratz, Starstruck, John Tucker Must Die, She’s the Man, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bring It On, and Pitch Perfect. These are movies that were targeted towards young teenage girls, and that we would always watch at sleepovers. The early 2000s and 2010s were a minefield if you were a girl (or had the task of raising one) during this time. Every sleepover movie was full of materialism, fatphobia and internalised misogyny. Although some of these films aimed to criticise this — such as Mean Girls and Easy A — that didn't mean it could reverse the effects of the worse films, or that their young audiences would always understand the criticism. The nights when my friends and I ate too many chips and stayed up far too late watching these movies are so special to me. However, it is clear years later that the content we were watching promoted ideas that we didn’t have the tools to combat. I still struggle with body image and anxiety about materialism. Both of these problems began in this era when lines about calories and designer handbags were written into everything I watched. Therefore, the art that defined me has clearly not always been positive.
(2016–2018) The formative years of what I am defining as my youth, from 2016 to 2018, were spent on the brink of collapse. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what depression and anxiety meant to agonising extents. Because of this, I often forget these years exist. Once I was out of high school, I simply removed them from my mind. Any mention of my school would make my heart race, talking about grades would make me feel like there was a ball stuck in my throat, and thinking about my teachers made me cry. Naturally, this means I haven’t reflected on the art that defined the last few years of my childhood, until now. I fell deeply in love with movies and music in this period, and I used both as a form of escapism. In this era, coming-of-age movies defined me. It was my favourite genre, as I wrote in all my media assignments. TV shows like The Carrie Diaries, Buffy, and Gossip Girl were always on. Movies like Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name (Timothée Chalamet was a theme), and The Perks of Being a Wallflower were constantly watched. I looked high and low for quality indie and coming-of-age films as well. I watched a chaotic film about a strange kid performing in order to impress everyone he knows (Rushmore). I watched a colourful movie about a dysfunctional family who would do anything for their youngest daughter (Little Miss Sunshine). I watched a perfect movie about a kid in year eight trying to fit in (Eighth Grade). The emotional catharsis coming-of-age films gave me was almost addictive. At a time in my life when emotions were often my enemy, to see a
character you root for overcoming theirs was always so rewarding. Additionally, I started to escape into music, and the soundtrack to my life really began. It was filled with Ariana Grande, Lorde, Harry Styles, and Nicki Minaj. My school uniform in the later years of high school wasn’t complete without my headphones. The art from this period did not define me or affect me the same way it had done previously. It didn’t give me confidence, it didn’t make me feel represented, but it also didn’t give me issues. For this time, for the first time, I defined the art. I moulded coming-of-age narratives to suit my week at school. I listened to ‘Super Rich Kids’ and imagined myself being someone else. I watched dumb TV shows to escape my reality. I fell in love with art because I used it as a crutch — a thing to make life easier. We have all been consuming art since we were born. The art that defines me hasn’t made me who I am, but it has helped shape parts of me. I still think I am capable of anything like the kid adventure movies told me I was. I still like to imagine fantasy worlds where I am dating famous people. I still love girly things and dressing up. I still pour myself into movies and albums as if they were my second life. And, unfortunately, I still have a lot of baggage to get through from all that. Growing up is never an easy thing, and I am thankful that I came out so happy and well adjusted.
The Art that Defines Us
Love in the Time of Tinder:
WHY I HATE (BUT STILL USE) DATING APPS
WORDS BY Kiera Eardley @kieraeardley
Hi, my name is Kiera, and I’m your perpetually single friend. Welcome to the world of singledom in 2021! There are plenty of options, not a lot of commitment, and the drinks aren’t exactly flowing (thank you, 10 months of lockdown). First things first: modern dating is hard. It’s a phenomenon unique to our generation, for better or for worse — and if you don’t believe me, try explaining Tinder to your nearest octogenarian. We don’t have the Friday night dance halls of our grandparents’ youth, nor the reliability of a weekly drivein movie date or the reassuring formality of ‘going steady’. For everyone before us, the line between
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
ART BY My Tieu Ly @alruin_de
friendship and relationship was clearly defined, the process of crossing that boundary both well-documented and well-trodden. But for us? It’s all grey area. A lot of photos, a smattering of vapid texts, and very little substance. To be frank, I hate it all. Alas, modern dating is a necessary evil. You have to put yourself out there to meet people, and — especially during a pandemic — apps seem like the only way. Dating apps promise us instant gratification and an ostensibly fast path to love, but it’s a path littered with ghosts, catfishers, and commitment-phobes aplenty. Am I selling it to you yet?
If you’re as single as I have been for the past two-and-a-half years, you’ll be familiar with the culture of replaceability that characterises modern dating. We’re told we can find romance with a few swipes and some witty opening lines, but it feels more like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands in a river full of eels. And all the eels are looking for a girl who “doesn’t take themselves too seriously and has a passion for health/fitness/hiking”. And then when you do catch a fish, it often decides it can’t be bothered with you after all, so you end up wading back into the river again and again and again, with your hopes set a little lower each time. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a reluctant user of dating apps. I avoided them for a year after my last relationship, worried that a profile would do nothing more than scream “I’M SINGLE AND I’M NOT THRILLED ABOUT IT” to every eligible male in my 15-kilometre radius. But then lockdown happened, and with it came boredom and a stinging, persistent loneliness. So I downloaded Hinge. Creating my profile demanded so many questions. Which photos make me look good, but not too good? What bio makes me sound funny and laid-back and intelligent and fun-loving all at once, and within 50 words? How can I tell if the guys I match with are interested in a relationship, or something casual? How can I tell if I want a relationship, or something casual? A year later, one question still sticks: do I really want to meet my next boyfriend through an app? The tangible lack of seriousness that underpins my every in-app interaction tells me I’m not the only one with this concern. While everyone on dating apps obviously wants to meet somebody, I don’t think many of us ideally want to meet their partner online. We’re all desperately trying to avoid embarrassment by appearing nonchalant and non-caring in a situation which, at its core, actually demands a lot of care.
But the worst part? The small talk. The small talk. I will die a happy woman if I never have to ask another man on Hinge what he does for work, what he’s studying, what his dog’s name is, or about that one time he got robbed on a train in Barcelona because ha-ha he’s been to Europe twice so he’s really cultured. I’ve come to abhor the process so much that I actually dread opening the app. My fondly monikered Hinge Doom Scrolls — which mostly occur on Sundays when I’m feeling lonely or bored or inexplicably optimistic — just confirm my simmering hatred for the entire state of affairs. The scroll occurs as follows: (1) unpause my profile, with fresh hope that my perfect male counterpart awaits me on the other side of the screen; (2) scroll through ever-worsening profiles for five minutes, hope dwindling with every swipe; and (3) re-pause my profile, feeling worse than when I started and wondering if I’ve set my standards too high or if I’m just doing something wrong. I’m describing dating apps as a breeding ground for self-doubt and a place to wallow in eternal romantic solitude, for sure, but it’s not all bad. None of them have stuck, but I’ve actually met a handful of great guys on Hinge. Most importantly, dating apps can provide a hit of fleeting optimism to distract from dreary pandemic life — although the odds are against me, who’s to say I won’t find someone amazing the next time I open Hinge? So, that’s that: it’s not always pretty, and my positivity about modern dating has taken countless hits, but dating apps can be fun! Deep down, I’m definitely hoping to meet the right guy in a bookstore (à la Notting Hill). But for now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m due for another Doom Scroll.
Constantly Readjusting to Life After University WORDS BY Emilio Lanera @emilio_lanera_
For the last four years, university has been the main source of structure in my life. I did have other things going on in my life like work, social life, internships, and other extracurricular activities, but for the most part they all had to work around my university classes and assignments. While it was nice to have someone else organise your life for you, by the time I graduated I was ready to leave the familiar structure university offered and embark on a new journey where I had more control in deciding what I do and when I would do it. However, something I would learn very early on after leaving university is that no matter how well you plan things, life still tends to get in the way. The first thing I decided to do after graduating was to take a few months off to travel. I had always planned to travel when I had finished university, although I would ideally be somewhere a little further north of the equator. But even in these unprecedented times, I thought (maybe stupidly) that travel was still a possibility in a place like Australia where COVID-19 cases were low; that we were allowed to jump over the pond to New Zealand if we wanted. Plus, I didn’t want to jump from the rigid lifestyle of university to the rigid lifestyle of full-time work just yet. So, making my first decision post-graduation, I decided to quit my job, move out of my sharehouse, and book my first trip to the Whitsundays all within a week. Just to clarify, when I decided all this, Victoria had just exited lockdown number four and there was no COVID-19 outbreak in NSW, so I thought I was in the clear. Fast-forward a few weeks, NSW is now regularly reporting over 100 cases a day and Melbourne is only just starting to exit our fifth lockdown. This meant I had to cancel my Whitsundays trip as well put all my other travel plans on hold. Was it ‘optimistic’ of me to think that the politicians in this country might figure out a way to execute a proper vaccine rollout and find ways to contain this virus without going into a lockdown? Probably, but I digress. Having to cancel my exchange to Denmark last year, I am no stranger to abandoned travel Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
ART BY Lauren Easter @lauren.easter.art
plans but it didn’t make it any less devastating. Instead of being somewhere with warm weather, beautiful beaches and I assume, really hot surfer guys, I was stuck in a bedroom at my nonna’s place that had a lot of religious paraphernalia and photos of Italian relatives that I have never met. Without university or even a part-time job to help provide some structure and guidance on what to do I was left to my own devices. For the first few days of lockdown I was lying on the floor in my nonna’s bedroom/mini chapel feeling unmotivated and sorry for myself. But eventually the pity party came to an end and I started to realise that my decisions to quit my job, move in with my nonna, and try to travel around Australia and New Zealand weren’t actually that terrible. I hate to be the person who is like, “look on the bright side” when the world is ending, but there were a few positive things to come out of my arguably misguided choices. I got to leave the job I hated, I’m getting to spend more time with my nonna who recently had a heart attack and needs more help around the house. I also get a chance to actively try and pursue a career in freelance writing, something I have always put off due to work and university. Even though this is not what I envisioned my life would be like straight after graduating, given the current circumstances, I was still able to decide for myself what I wanted to do with my life, which I guess is the main thing I wanted to do after I graduated all along. An important thing to learn when you leave the safe confinement of university is that while you gain more control over how you live your life, you can’t control everything. This fifth lockdown ruining my travel plans will probably be the first of many times where I will make a plan and life will get in the way to absolutely derail it. Being stuck at home was not how I envisioned the beginning of this new chapter of my life, but if I am going to survive life outside of university, I am going to have to learn how to constantly adjust.
Nurturing Your Inner Child THE ULTIMATE FORM OF SELF CARE
Our inner child is regarded as the truest form of self. Returning to this part of ourselves seems inherently tied to growth, as if we must practice self-reflection in order to move forward and achieve. Activities that enable this level of introspection are mostly those that spawn creativity, such as painting. Meditation is also highly regarded for its ability to heighten awareness. Even revisiting old photos and albums are a reminder of who we used to be and the experiences that shaped us. Perhaps it’s why nostalgia is so admired in our culture — we’re akin to who we were, not who we are. Personally, cooking native dishes has invited me to explore the child within. Making Cong You Bing [葱油饼], also known as a spring onion pancake that is a staple of Chinese cuisine, has been my most frequented hobby. It’s a simple form of meditation as I fall into the rhythm of kneading: the pull, stretch and general ease of motion. My senses are awakened by the aroma. Ears, attuned to the hiss of the fry pan. But my heart and mind are tethered to my memory.
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Often, it’s not the event or activity itself but rather the emotions felt during the process that are imprinted on us. Food is not always synonymous with bonding as a child. A common theme amongst many Asian Australians is the conflict of whether to bring a Vegemite scroll to school for lunch or the ‘exotic’ (and delicious) food your mum would labour over for hours. In retrospect, the fear of being regarded as the ‘other’ amongst my peers was the catalyst that pushed me to deviate from my true self. I chose to drive a wedge between myself and ‘foreignness’— my family, my traditions — in order to feel secure and that I belonged. On some level, it was my way of surviving. But it also left me stranded in limbo, unsure of the ground I stood on, feeling misunderstood, and disconnected. Award-winning poet and author Ocean Vuong regards it as the brutal demand of foreign social standards; if you want to “fit in,” assimilate, what will you be prepared to lose?
Our inner children represent the greatest, most honest parts of ourselves. They possess a quality of innocence frequently lost upon us, yet remain as the foundation of who we are today. ‘Inner child work’, a form of psychotherapy dedicated to nurturing and ‘reparenting’ the inner child, essentially theories that we develop ways of denying our true selves as a form of protection against feelings that were confusing and unsettling to us as children. Yet as adults, they often arise as maladaptive patterns of behaviour that fail to help us here and now. It may appear as a weakened sense of self, heightened feelings of anxiousness, or issues with handling difficult emotions. We may navigate life based on a compass of fear over compassion.
As a result, we are encouraged to revisit our unmet needs from childhood, with old hobbies serving as the gateway to our authentic selves. The resulting feelings and their impact help us to address the emotional needs that we require, both now and moving forward. Carving out a judgement-free space and validating the joy, sadness, or trepidation we feel allows us to heal emotional wounds and mend our sense of worth. In times of uncertainty, when the world around us has collapsed, we withdraw to the essence of who we are. And we may not know the answer, but the time spent reconnecting with the experiences that mould us is the most important form of selfcare that can be practiced.
WORDS BY Vivian Tang ART BY Georgia Lilley @georgiam_lilley
WORDS BY Dena Tissera @dena_c_t ART BY Ella Porter
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Growing Up & Growing Apart Dear
It's been a long time since we last spoke; I’m not sorry about that. Our friendship is better stored as a memory, a pressed flower in an old book. We don’t need to poke at its corpse, nor drag it along behind us while we pretend to enjoy updating each other on our lives. The last time we saw each other proved that the war-torn path to adulthood had changed us both, and that our friendship was collateral damage. I felt liberated, and I know you did too because I didn’t hear from you again for a while. The moment our paths began to diverge, I felt lonely. On my first day of university, after my first ever tutorial, I walked through campus entirely alone, realising that my expectations had got the better of me. I had thought that I would be in party mode for four years, with an endless carousel of loveable misfits to befriend and dateable Chris Evans lookalikes spinning in front of me. I thought it would be easy to not need an old friend anymore. I was wrong. No one talks about that. I’m sure you felt lonely too, right? I feel like we have to hide our loneliness, especially when we’re young because there are too many expectations. Too many coming-of-age movies and boomers telling us that we should be having a ‘good’ time. Then we feel guilty when we’re not; left thinking there’s something wrong with us. Was loneliness the reason you kept telling me that I had changed? I’d heard that from you over and over again, well before we’d even left high school. It was only the 50,000th time I heard it when I realised that I was actually allowed to change. I could not avoid the cliché: I was growing up, and growing apart from you. It’s a misguided understanding of loyalty, to ask someone to never change. Sometimes I see your Insta stories and laugh because you swore you’d never go to that bar, or wear blue eyeshadow, or shop at thrift stores in rich suburbs — but you do all of that now. At first, I was pissed off. This pill was hard to swallow because you gave me so much shit for doing the same thing. Experimenting. When we’re young, trying on a new dress means trying on a new life. I know you deserve the chance to experiment too, even if you did give me shit for doing it myself. It was scary though, stepping out into the world alone without the old friend I’d always had beside me. Maybe that’s why we put off calling it quits on our friendship for so long. Call it the ‘Sunk
Cost Fallacy’: Friendship Edition. We thought that because we had so much history together, we owed each other our future. This time, we were both wrong. I did spend some time being angry at you. I hated how you made everything into a competition I never remembered entering. How seeming like a nice person was more important than actually being a good one. I mean, I know I was a bitch to you, too. Sometimes, even now, the bad stuff about our friendship sticks out more than the good. I’m trying to remember that now, we’ve both matured almost beyond recognition. I see now that being on alternate paths was the best thing for us. I’m happy to be your old friend, your childhood friend, your check-in-with-every-six-months-notevery-week friend. It’s not a demotion — it’s a privilege, because we clearly work best apart. You know what’s annoying about growing up, losing friends, and feeling lonely in your twenties? Putting yourself out there. That was what I had to do as our paths eventually splintered off. The ugly truth is that putting yourself out there is actually really hard, and it only pays off about 12 per cent of the time. But that 12 per cent? It’s pretty fucking magical. I got lucky. Going to university events alone and awkwardly making conversation with people in my tutorials eventually paid off. Even though I lost our friendship, I eventually found my people and I hope you found yours too. I want you to know that I don’t hold the keys to your identity, and you don’t hold the keys to mine. In your absence I felt empowered to get to build myself up from the ground, to acquaint myself with this new person I was becoming. I tried on new dresses and new lives. In doing so, strangers became friends, and loneliness became independence. I think I’m still processing the end of our friendship. Or rather, its evolution into memory. However, I must say thank you for your undeniable impact on who I am today. It has been a pleasure to grow up with you, and to grow apart from you. Best, Your old friend, your childhood friend, your check-in-with-every-six-months not-every-week-friend.
A FICTIONAL FUTURISTIC IDEA THAT HAS BECOME OUR REALITY WORDS BY Shams Ibrahim
What does it mean to be in quarantine? What is it like to be locked up indoors with only a few hours of sunshine allowed? Is it punishment? Is karma biting the human race? Is it a doorway to a mental asylum? In truth, I don’t know what it really means or how it has impacted people. It would be extremely arrogant and ignorant to assume that it has hit everyone the same way. Each experience is very unique. Some might be terrible, while others surprisingly good. This will be part of my personal journey with lockdowns, quarantine, and COVID-19. I’m a 20-something female — and no, I’m not telling you my exact age, ’cause I’m planning to stay in my twenties for the next 20 years. I was born overseas, lived in multiple countries, and moved to Australia in 2016. I’m married to the love of my life, and we have a lovely two-year-old daughter. I have faced many challenges in life, but COVID-19 was like no other. These strange, unexpected times completely transformed me.
Lockdown One My family and I were cramped up in a one-bedroom apartment trying to save some cash to buy our first house. It was interesting, especially with a toddler that loves turning the place into her personal playground. I was studying for my master’s degree and also working part-time in retail. Hubby was a full time engineer temporarily relocated on-site. When lockdown number one started, it felt okay at first since Jannah (my daughter) was at childcare, while uni and work online were pretty chill. It almost felt that I was finally given the opportunity to relax. Not to mention, I was saving travel time. Lockdown wasn’t a big deal, it was a temporary phase with many perks. It was fun to indulge in take-away food and late-night Netflix dates. I thought that the entire lockdown would be a piece of cake. A couple of weeks later, things changed. Hubby started working from home for a few days each week and that was the beginning of our COVID-19 madness. Between using my laptop in Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
the living room, with him using his laptop next to me, both of us in meetings and Jannah home — it was a recipe for disaster! We kept arguing all the time, resentment built up, and guilt over Jannah spending longer hours at childcare increased. I couldn’t keep the house in order. I couldn’t stay calm or give my relationship the attention it deserved. And worst of all, I didn’t have the energy or patience to play with Jannah anymore. I was impatient, irritable, snappy, mechanical and moody. Not only was I a terrible partner, but I was also a terrible mother! Our apartment became unbearable, and I absolutely hated it. I felt completely useless. It was hard for two perfectionist workaholics living with a toddler in lockdown to get along. Many times it felt that our love meant nothing in the face of COVID-19 and I knew for a fact that the longer we stayed holed up in our house, the sooner our relationship would crumble. Just as the first lockdown was about to end, my prayers were answered; we got a call from Hubby’s work, and they asked him to move to regional South Australia for six months. He would get a raise, there’s no lockdown, we could go with him, and they would give us a three-bedroom house with a huge backyard! I was scared, excited and anxious, but my sense of adventure kicked in and off we went!
Lockdown Two I thought I would escape lockdown, but boy was I wrong! I had to quarantine for two weeks, and even after quarantine I was living two and a half hours away from Adelaide, I didn’t drive and I found out public buses suck! I stayed at home five days a week and went out only on weekends. For a few weeks it felt forced, like I didn’t have a choice but it’s here where everything changed for me. It was in that remote town that I decided to turn myself around. As cliché as this may sound, I felt that I could do anything I wanted, and the fears that held me back weren’t real. I enjoyed being at home more than I wanted to admit. And when we went out,
we explored nearby towns, beaches, mountains, and parks, and truly connected with nature! It was like a breath of fresh air. I started appreciating the simple things in life. Running with greenery all around, as the sun shines, felt freeing. It was as if the warmth penetrated my heart and the South Australian flowers blossomed inside me. I fell in love with nature and found a way to love myself again in the process. I was no longer rushing. It was like the world had stopped and the only thing that mattered was that moment in time. I think being in the right mindset helped push me forward, it was like I was reborn! Our six-month isolated bliss was over before we knew it and it was time to go back to Melbourne.
started suffering. I was angry. To top things off, I fell pregnant! While things opened up again after the lockdown, my heart didn’t. I tried taking it one day at a time. I settled down; my anger decreased but depression started looming. That’s when my newly learnt self-care finally kicked in. I went to therapy and decided to prioritise my wellbeing. For the first time ever, I did not have a plan, I did not know what would come next, which was equally as liberating as it was terrifying.
I kicked depression’s ass! Hell yeah! I slowly started becoming better, emerging stronger. I found out that some friends weren’t really friends. They were backstabbing or self-centred. I grieved the loss of those I loved and said goodbye to them. I closed my heart off towards them. They are no longer people I trust, but I do not care enough to hate them or even cut them off completely. Once people I loved, today they are people I just know.
I honestly didn’t know how much I changed until we came back to Melbourne. I cut toxic people out of my life. Stopped putting myself down or beating myself up over the tiniest mistakes. I started cutting myself some slack and focusing on taking care of myself for once! I needed to be loved, to be appreciated, to be valued and respected, but I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. The only place I can find everything I truly need is deep within myself. The biggest champion I had was myself, but I had muted her for the longest time possible — and hearing her speak has been wonderful! I decided that we could no longer stay in our apartment, but we couldn’t afford a nice place in the same area unless we moved further out, so we moved to the outermost northern suburbs. It was closer to my friends, a three-bedroom house with a study and a lovely backyard! I didn’t fall in love with the place, but I didn’t care. Perfection was a thing of the past for me. At this point, I was crazily flexible and brave enough to face my fears, until lockdown three happened. This time, with my new lease on life. I didn’t expect that resentment to build up again, but I was alone! Hubby couldn’t take time off work, Jannah didn’t have childcare, and everything was my responsibility again. My mental health
Lockdown Five As the fifth lockdown hits Melbourne, I look back at my journey. I realise that now I might be almost friendless, jobless and living in a house that I don’t particularly like — but I’m happy. The whole process wasn’t and still isn’t pain-free. My mental health suffered for a while, but at least I now have the will to take care of myself for a change. I still don’t know what the new normal for me is yet and I’m still trying to figure things out, but I’m content with my blooming, long-neglected relationship with myself. I still don’t know what the future holds, but let’s hope it turns out to be a fruitful one.
Blocked & Deleted
WORDS BY Dilshi Perera @dilshi_perera ART BY Gabrielle Poh @gee.poh
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Someone once asked me to list some of the greatest joys in life, and waking up and not thinking about them anymore is easily in my top 10 — aside from kissing in the rain and other main character-esque qualities. There’s no denying that breakups are one of THE MOST tumultuous journeys that a human can go through, but the process of healing and overcoming pain is monumental. So much so, I almost can’t put it into words, but in the case it might resonate with someone else, I’ll try. Let’s be real, when it comes to getting over someone there is no definitive ‘move’ that determines whether you are completely over them or not. You can take all the classic steps of getting over someone — deleting their number, spending every weekend screaming ‘Thank U, Next’ at the club, or jumping into another relationship — and yet still subsequently text them that you’re in love with them the next day. For me personally, getting over someone comes in waves. I like to divide this emotional shit storm into three lovely stages: I love them, but I love myself more; familiar settings, unfamiliar emotions; and glow up and grow up.
I Love Them, But I Love Myself More This stage of getting over someone is the most painful, and usually happens fresh out of a breakup. This includes but is not limited to: – blocking/deleting them off your phone – removing photos and memories – muting/unfollowing their friends – putting away all of their belongings in a box with an encouraging yet firm label on it (e.g. ‘girl don’t do it’ ) – convincing yourself to stop stalking and analysing their Instagram – and their Spotify – and their Facebook – and their mum’s Facebook (a different type of pain). Basically, once I got all the boo-hoos out and mustered the courage to start my much-needed detox, I began to realise how truly miserable and debilitating it was to constantly overanalyse an ex’s social media. The gripping thought that he might still be thinking of me plagued my daily existence, to the point where I was questioning whether that one vague caption was about me (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). This distasteful form of confirmation bias only reinforced the toxic ideals of him being “the one for me” and prevented me from truly moving on. Doing these baby steps allowed me to break the pattern, and put me a refreshing step closer to getting over him. This was an act of self-love that actively chose me and created a domino effect for continuous, healthy and liberating habits.
Familiar Settings, Unfamiliar Emotions This stage is all about being uncomfortable and embracing the growth that stems from a broken heart. This phase of getting over someone is formulated from taking that leap from being heartbroken to accepting that you can create new memories within old situations. This includes but is not limited to: – being able to wear that one distinct piece of jewellery that they bought you – listening to that one artist/album/song that was “yours” – being able to say their name and talk about your relationship (without your heart sinking) – going to an event where their friends/mutuals will be attending (big boss move)
– – –
going to places where you once went as a couple and feeling okay thinking less about them and the memories making new friends and starting new hobbies
This stage is generally a transition phase, which builds upon separating the emotions of your ex and the environment that fostered your relationship. This form of growth encourages you to shift into a place which accepts new opportunities and outcomes. Alexa, play ‘Miss Movin' On’ by Fifth Harmony!
Grow Up and Glow Up This stage is the epitome of bad bitch energy, and is pretty much the final step of getting over someone. This phase is all about living your best single life and being completely in love with the present reality that you’re living. Did someone say hot girl summer? This includes but is not limited to: – unblocking them on all social media (and not stalking them!) – waking up in the morning and not thinking about them anymore – accepting the fact that they’re in the past and that is okay – being okay with them moving on – wishing them only the best in life – being grateful that they were a part of your journey – having no resentment/hate towards them anymore – embracing every aspect of your own life – exploring other people and experiences ('cause the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else, right?) Despite all phases being equally important to the process of healing, this stage of getting over someone is definitely the most rewarding. Letting go of resentment and bitterness is top-tier queen shit and can allow you to fully move forward in your life. There is no better feeling than looking back on how bitter you used to be, and now only feeling gratitude and peace towards your ex. If you’re going through a breakup: firstly, I’m so sorry. Secondly, know that it is okay to feel all these stages and that growth is not always linear! I promise you, getting over them is closer than you think. And hey, before you know it, you’ll be able to say that getting over an ex is one of your greatest joys in life... (and reading this article, I hope).
WORDS BY Zayan Ismail @zayanisml ART BY Anita Thuon @turnippp_p
Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
Purpose, Not Capitalism It was not long ago that I dreamt of becoming a career diplomat. Majoring in international relations has shifted that dream, for better or worse. Studying the outdated archaic theories developed by White imperialists which perpetuate the subjugation of Indigenous communities, people of colour, women, and other minorities, has made me question every thing since they created them under the guise of negotiation and peace. On top of this, diplomacy has been predisposed to realist notions of security, so much so that it disregards human agency and the lives that are truly at risk. From climate change, gender inequality, to systemic racism: all such problems in our societies have reached gridlock due to bureaucratic mismanagement. Consequently, I could not reconcile my values with the prospect of being within this chaotic system. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for political thought. When Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital in 1867, he was onto something. The world would never be the same. After the revolution, the politburo, autocracy and a Cold War, much of the world had moved on from the communist debate. We understood that equal distribution of wealth in tandem with greater power for the state, only led to authoritarianism whilst hindering human rights. It only widened divisions and put the world at the brink of war yet again. Despite the pandemonium, we now understand that both the freedom to and pursuit of capital comes with a huge price tag. Many of us who live in societies that compel us to work now realise the enormous cost on not only our lives, but also on the environment. We see the destruction of our climate by the greed of major corporations. We know that we need to grind just to get by and reach that pedestal of excellence and materialism, while some are just born into it. It begs the question: is our purpose in life to earn money, shop 'til we drop, destroy the ecosystem and eventually die? Are our dreams only of monetary value? What I know for sure is that during the past year, a lot of us have been exposed to the realities of our unequal world. Corruption runs rampant within our institutions; from systemic racism, greed for non-renewable energy, ecosystem destruction, sexual harassment or violence against women and girls — through our politics and beyond. I realised that if I were to work as a career diplomat, I would only be selling my soul to a broken system.
Since then I decided to re-evaluate my purpose. I had to realign my passion with intention and integrity. My first loves remain true. I love writing, gaining knowledge and imparting it to others. I like shining a light on societal issues, advocating for those who are marginalised in our society and working towards positive change. In the contemporary world, we see more and more young people not only galvanising action but also bringing lasting transformation. Such work does not necessitate large sums of money. It’s as easy as pen and paper — writing for Esperanto is a simple example. Then again, a truly fulfilling life requires one to think beyond the monetary value. Of course, this is easier said than done. It pains me that we are taught from such a young age to grow up and get a good-paying job. Surely there is more to life than mere work. The age-old saying is very true: ‘The best things in life do come free’. Working for free rather than money is one way to test your values and dreams. It can be very telling, but some don’t have the luxury to do it. This begs the question, do we live to work or work to live? What remains true is that we are still figuring it out. The world has immensely changed from the time of my parents when they were young. Slowly but surely the world has become a place that allows for everyone to participate. Whether he/she/ they aspire to be a diplomat or a social worker, integrity and inclusive ideals are of paramount importance. And while Marx’s utopian ideals for society tend more towards dictatorships, the answer does not lie within communism, socialism, or even capitalism. It’s about morality and transparency. It is about allowing yourself not to get entangled by the system and actively fight to dismantle destructive cycles. The true revolution starts within yourself. Being cognisant and aware of your purpose is necessary. For me it’s not about a prestigious position as a diplomat. Now that I think about it, it has always been to strive for what is right — to bring positive change by doing away with the old, to impart knowledge and help others in the process. If this experience brings a good job and all the money in the world, then I consider that a bonus.
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Issue 02/2021: Growing Pains
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