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THE SELF ISSUE 2020

The Self Issue

Issue 2 July 2020 1


We want you to be safe from sexual assault and

sexual harassment. If you, or someone you know, needs help, here’s what you can do. Call Monash Security

For immediate response on any campus, contact

Monash Security on 03 9905 3333 or just dial 333 on any Monash phone, in the first instance, as

they know the campus layout and building details

so will be able to contact police and guide them to

your location. For an immediate response on or off campus, call 000 for police or ambulance.

Talk to a member of our Safer Community Unit The Safer Community Unit is a central point

of enquiry for information, advice, support and

coordination in managing inappropriate, concerning or threatening behaviours. You can contact them

Monday to Friday 9am—5pm on 03 9905 1599 or

at safercommunity@monash.edu. The team have

Download from the app store or view online at monash.edu/campus-support

Talk to the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA)

SECASA counsellors are located within the University Health Services (UHS) at Clayton (Monday, Tuesday) and Caulfield (Monday), appointments can be made by contacting the UHS on 03 9905 3020. You can

also make appointments off-campus with them at a

variety of locations. To contact SECASA (24/7) call 03 9928 8741 or visit their website to learn more.

specialist knowledge, training and experience in

Report a sexual assault anonymously

harassment.

sexual assault to SECASA, information can include

responding to reports of sexual assault or sexual

Access our confidential counselling service We have free and confidential counselling and

psychological services. All counsellors have received

At www.sara.org.au you can anonymously report a when and where the incident took place and a

description of the offender. You have an option to provide your contact information.

sexual assault and trauma-specialised training from

For all this information and more on support, advice,

(SECASA). Drop in or call 03 9905 3020 to

download Monash’s Respect.Now.Always. Support

the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault make an appointment.

referral and reporting options, please view and App at www.monash.edu/campus-support.


Thank You, Thank You Contributing Writers—

esperantomagazine.com Instagram @esperantomagazine Twitter @esperantomag facebook.com/esperantomagazine

Editors

Joseph Lew Tiffany Forbes

Art Director

Marissa Hor

Contact

Esperanto Student Magazine MONSU Caulfield Inc. Level 2, Building S, 2 Princes Avenue, Caulfield East, VIC 3145

+613 9903 2525

editor.esperanto@gmail.com creative.esperanto@gmail.com Publisher

MONSU Caulfield Inc.

Type Credits Bennet Banner Freight Sans Campaign Cover Art

Marissa Hor

Legal

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.

Andrea Selvarajah Caitlin Johnston Carla Romano Coby Renkin Courtney Cunningham Dena Tissera Dil Kaur Emilio Lanera Emily Walker Hannah Cohen Hannah Schauder Kate Bowman Kiera Eardley Leeann Bushnaq Maggie Zhou Malena Frey Miles Proust Paige Athanasopoulos Ruby Ellam Ruth Ong Selin Kaya Simone Kealy Stephanie Booth Thiamando Pavilidis Xenia Sanut Zayan Ismail and anonymous writers Contributing Artists— Aleesha Martin Amanda Jambu Anqi Meng Ash Panjwani Dil Kaur Ella Pang Emma Lucas Freya Lauersen Gabrielle Poh Hayley Sinnatt Kate Thomas Lillian Busby Madison Marshall Mei Kingwell Meili Tan Natalie Tran Pengyue Liu Ruth Ong Samara Sarah Annett Sophie McKenzie-Stripp Tatiana Cruz Victoria Petrie Zico Mitchell


Contents

04­— Skin. 06— Why Self Help Books Are a Scam 08— Ditched 10— Sex... But Make It 1.5m Apart 12— Style 101 14— Forgive But Don’t Forget 16— Too Hot a Mess 18— Log On 22— Nick and Norah’s Quarantine Playlist 24— Eurovision 2020: Gone But Not Forgotten 26— With Love 28— My Virtual Self and I 30— Mirror, Mirror on the Wall 32— Letter to Our Future Selves 36— Boosting Your Creative Career at Home 38— Love Yourself 40— Why You Should Rewatch Friends: The Case for Nostalgia 42— Yours Truly 44— Seoul Surgery 46— The Underrated Art of Solitude 48— Am I Doing This Right? Mindfulness for the Mindful-of-Everything 50— Gratitude Hour 52— The Problem With Leadership Programs 54— Fraudulent Feelings An Article on Imposter Syndrome 56— Skinny Privilege: A Talk About Body Neutrality 58— The Mean Reds 60— Gays and Gals 62— Alive


Editors’ Note Hands up if you’ve been personally victimised by the last six months of 2020? For anyone who doesn’t have their hands up — we want whatever you’re having. But for those of you know all too well what we’re talking about (enter multiple breakdowns and restless nights tossing and turning whilst hotly debating the roots of your entire existence), then we dedicate the theme of this issue to you. From a series of ‘who the actual fuck am I?’ and ‘what am I supposed to be doing?’ to ‘fuck hustleculture and fuck your societal standards’ our Self Edition hopes to showcase the whirlwind of life in all its intricacies. If being alone with your own thoughts translates to as much as a boxing match, where you’re you, and your competitor is none other than the great Muhammad Ali, we hope you will find some solace in our pages. Since our contributors have all exposed a little part of their souls with each word they have put to paper, we thought it was only fair we did the same.

Meet Tiffany (Editor) If I were to dig out report cards from the day I started primary school to the day I left, you’d see the words “quiet” and “shy” etched into every single one of them. The words seemed to hang like a thick cloud of inferiority, almost as if being somewhat of an ‘introvert’ in this world was a bad thing. From then on out, I felt subconsciously conditioned to think that success was only tied to being charismatic and confident. I’d walk into rooms pep-talking my mind into being the chatty, outgoing version of itself I had worked so hard to create. I envied people who could be so nonchalantly exuberant — without rehearsing it 22 times in their head. Whilst this journey was pivotal to finding my voice, 2020’s era of solitary confinement (or isolation as we now call it) has allowed me to realise that there should be no shame in feeling content within my own inner bubble. There should be no shame in recharging my energy through a book, as opposed to a social setting. No shame in not being the loudest person in the room. And certainly no shame in being myself.

Meet Joe (Editor) Over the last few months, far too many of my nights have been filled with Blond on repeat and 3am reflections on my self-identity, and growth over the years. If you asked my friends to describe me, the words you’d most commonly hear thrown around would be impulsive, spontaneous and the like. But this wasn’t always the case. Growing up, I always hated those questions — you know, “where do you want to be five years from now,” “what do you want to be when you grow up” — that kind of thing. I mean it wasn’t that I didn’t have dreams for myself, but saying them out loud made them all the more daunting so I kept my mouth shut and my expectations low. That, combined with an overbearing sense of imposter syndrome and a compulsive need to compare myself to those around me meant that it took me a long while to step up and finally take charge of my own life. Of course, I’m still in the process of finding my footing and figuring out where I fit into the world, but I finally feel like I’m doing alright.

Meet Marissa (Art Director)

I’ve never been great at stringing my thoughts into sentences, so maybe that’s why these two are the editors and I’m in charge of making the pages in this magazine look pretty. I’ve always struggled with trust issues, bottling things up, over-analysing situations, and predicting the future through only worst-case scenarios. But this year I’ve gotten back into journaling, something that helps me process my thoughts a lot better. For some reason, writing things down really helps me differentiate between being ‘normal’ or absolutely unreasonable. After hours of introspection I’ve learnt to be more open and vulnerable, and suddenly difficult conversations about feelings have started to become easy ones. Whilst 2020 is nothing anyone expected, I’m grateful for the little things I’ve achieved.

So here’s to who we were, who we are, and who we want to be.

Lots of love, Tiff, Joe & Marissa


ESPERANTO

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY BY Joseph Lew @josephyylew

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Skin. Cells plump of melanocytes, three layers of flexible tissue stretching two metres long, the human skin is a mechanical marvel. Layers upon layers of a living organ packed with melanin, follicles and glands. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a complicated and toxic relationship with my skin. This love-hate affair started when I was younger, at the age of seven or eight, when strangers, friends and family alike would praise me for my skin — for its softness, smoothness and flawlessness, quickly becoming a point of pride for my juvenile self. When puberty struck, which in my case was admittedly pretty late, it struck hard. Cystic lumps pushed their way through my once spotless skin, my baby soft and silken smooth features quickly replaced with angry pimples and spotty zits. Ashamed and insecure of the changes to my appearance, I impulsively popped and picked, scratched and squeezed at every chance I could, leaving my skin inflamed, scarred and bleeding. As my skin continued to worsen, my self-esteem became seemingly intertwined with the clarity of my appearance, placing my self-worth and confidence at an all-time low. As teenagers do, I tore myself apart in the mirror piece by piece — I was too skinny, my head was too wide, my arms were too bony, my legs were too scrawny — but nothing came close to the way I felt about my skin, and the lumps and bumps forming on every surface of my body. Adonis-like models with porcelain skin and poreless complexion adorned my Instagram feed, staring me down, and making me feel even worse about myself every time I jumped online. At one point, I thought that all my pores were blackheads, just because I didn’t see them anywhere on screen. My battle with my acne turned me into a maniac. I became well acquainted with Chemist Warehouse and Priceline, my vocabulary (and my bathroom cabinet) steadily filling with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, retinoids and tea tree oil. When none of these treatments seemed to work, I cried over my problems to my GP, who prescribed me with a course of antibiotics. And miraculously, they worked. Until they didn’t.

Plagued once again with cystic outbreaks and low self-esteem, my GP directed me to a local dermatologist. Five minutes later and $200 down, I was sent out with eight months of Accutane prescriptions and the knowledge that my enlarged pores and acne-prone skin were things that I had inherited from my parents — thanks mum. For those of you that don’t know, Accutane is a vitamin-A derivative used to treat rosacea, certain kinds of cancer and most commonly, severe acne. Accutane works by changing the way that your body functions, it stops oil production and increases cell turnover, making it the most effective and only permanent solution on the market. The thing about Accutane is it comes with an extensive list of side-effects. For starters, Accutane can result in significant birth defects, and is linked to anemia, dermatitis and Crohn’s diseases. For me, these side-effects manifested themselves in the form of cracked lips, flaky skin, daily nosebleeds and for the first two months of treatment, the worst skin I had ever had in my life. My joints would constantly ache, my hair started to thin and on some days, I would be so lethargic that I would refuse to get out of bed completely. I felt worse about my appearance than ever, and my skin started to take complete and utter control over my life. I would refuse to go out, cancel plans and make excuses about why I couldn’t do this or that, instead spending hours at home sitting in front of the mirror, crying over my reflection. It’s been over a year and a half since the end of my treatment, but my struggle with my skin is far from over. My acne returned several months after my last dosage and this time, it looks like it’s here to stay. My skin is far from perfect and my relationship with it continues to be just as blemished but honestly, I’m sick of fighting myself over it. I’d be lying if I spun you the cliched “I’m comfortable in my own skin” because I’m still not. But I’m at the point where I don’t hate it either, and for me, that’s a big fucking step.

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Why Self Help Books Are a Scam Am I the ideal woman? Am I the perfect employee? Did I do this right? Could I have done this better? When you’re not engrossed in the chaos of work, are you constantly thinking about what’s to come? Plotting your next move and wondering how you can maximise your efficiency? Our idle thoughts are now predisposed to devise our next strategy for fulfilment and success. Like a hamster on a wheel, it just never stops. Perhaps it’s a compulsion, a transition period or a relationship as the cause of your discontent. Or maybe there’s no categorical problem in your way, but you’re merely seeking a nudge in the right direction? Now meet the self-help book. The 200-page book written by the god of wisdom. The same book that finds a homogenous solution to your nuanced reality. Rubbish. Hustle culture is rampant in our society, and we’re the victims. We worship the grind, the high of exhaustion and the thrill of perfection. That’s where selfhelp capitalises on our vulnerabilities. It validates the idea that our worth comes from our output. Self-help books epitomise the idea of, “create a problem, then sell a solution.” Hustle culture ignites the fire, and the self-help genre masks itself as the hero putting the fire out. Self-help cashes in on the unrealistic expectations in society. It drives people to the ground, burns them out, and is then there to pick up the pieces. It’s there to ‘fix’ the dissonance between our intentions and our actions. But what does it really do? It makes our currency one of productivity. It feeds us back into an inescapable loop. One of hustling, thinking about hustling, then driving our ego by making it known that our hustle equates to our achievement. There’s an irony in treating the self-help book as a bible. Where we as a contemporary society will only settle for tailored solutions to solve our content

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WORDS BY Leeann Bushnaq @artist_1on1 ART BY Emma Lucas @emlucasart

consumption crises, *cough* Spotify curated playlist on repeat *cough*, we don’t seem to hold our own lives and mental health in the same esteem. How is it that we rely on a book that claims a generalised solution will dig us out of our deepest, darkest holes, yet we want the most personalised recommendations to relieve us of our boredom? As if boredom is worse than a break-up, or harder than transitioning into a new phase of life. Self-help books preach to their readers nuggets of wisdom. They gain their capital from posing as transferable teachings, that once practiced, can prove life-altering. Whilst they may do just that, the connotation of guilt also becomes heavily ingrained within these books. We’re told to care more, then we’re told to care less, however either way, we feel obligated to take some action. We’re never told that these moments of confusion are fleeting. The spectrum of our lived experience is being diluted by the self-help book. A standardised, utopian approach to getting ‘back on track’ is being marketed to us. Self-help books may be the solution for some, but I see them as a dime a dozen. I may not be the ideal woman, or the perfect worker. I may have missed the mark and I may be imperfect in my endeavours, but I will be my own judge. I won’t let the same culture that values my worth through the scale of my achievements be the one to falsely tell me how to unlock my potential. If I do, then it’ll trap me until I’m jaded. I’m not a slave to hustle culture, and I certainly won’t let my worth be dictated by a book that’s telling me I try too hard, or that I don’t try enough.

What would they know about me?


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Ditched TIP #1 Let’s face it, we’d rather not admit how much time our eyeballs have spent glued to our social media as of late. If it wasn’t true before, then the whole ‘quarantine’ business has solidified our affection, disgust and obsession with the digital world. Run of the mill FOMO and jealousy have converted into “am I baking enough banana bread?” “Why does she look so good during lockdown?” “Should I post my panic-induced fringe to acclimatise everybody, or should I hope it’s gone by the time the virus is?” Or as I’ve been personally wondering, “will my friends cut me out when they find out I never watched Tiger King?” If you ask me, a social media upheaval may be long overdue. But how exactly do we trim the topiary of toxicity you ask? Well, let me give you some advice:

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Unfollow any account that makes your insides churn; be it an impossibly perfect influencer, a once-loved meme page that has devolved into an ad-machine or that weird friend from high school who is now touting racist coronavirus conspiracy theories on Facebook. Don’t worry about what your ex is going to say when you unfollow them. If they make your feed less than pleasant, then what can I say other than cut that bitch out!

TIP #2 Replace those negative accounts with wholesome content producers that you can count on for a mood boost. Need some examples? Check out @ofsds or @cumlord_official for your daily dose of puppy love. If you want to retain the aesthetic value of your feed without indulging in influencer drama, check out floral designer and photographer @doan_ly or art history orientated @classicalartdetails. Just in case you simply can’t resist the drama, @reductress provides satirical news headlines that poke fun at everyone, helping to release some of the tension we feel reading the daily news.


THE SELF ISSUE 2020

WORDS BY Ruby Ellam

ART BY Amanda Jambu @ajamdesign

TIP #3

TIP #5

Set accounts to private to eliminate strangers or bothersome familiars causing unnecessary stress. Public accounts can be more susceptible to drama or unwanted attention — even fielding cringey DMs from creeps can become utterly draining. This reminds me, dating apps are social media too! Don’t forget to use them as cautiously as any other.

Delete all your social media apps for a week. Tell the important people to contact you via text or calls and literally remove the applications from the phone. Don’t just logout, make those apps shake, press the little ‘x’ in the corner and completely unplug from social media for those seven days. When your banishment is complete, only redownload the applications that caused genuine discomfort to be away from. You’ll be surprised what you can live without.

TIP #4 Utilise your phone’s inbuilt screen time monitoring. Alternatively, download an app that tracks or limits your social media intake. I recommend checking out ‘Offtime’ or ‘Moment’, applications that confront you with the actual amount you spend each day on your phone. Some of these tools also let you block out distractions or restrict the hours in which you can access social media. This is especially helpful if you find it hard to fight the urge and can’t stay away through willpower alone. No judgement, I do the exact same thing.

TIP #6 Destroy your phone. If it’s all too much, choose your mental health and wellbeing over digital content.

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WORDS BY Tiffany Forbes @tiffanyforbes ART BY Tatiana Cruz @fabulario.collage

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Sex...

But Make It 1.5m Apart Summer Europe trip? Cancelled.

The Omegle-But-Take-It-Down-a-Notch:

Festival season? Rescheduled.

Because the internet is a truly glorious place.

My sex-life? Non-existent.

“Too many Snapchat nudes and FaceTiming Tinder dudes. I have expanded my circle (when allowed) to one or two of my favourite dudes.”

You heard it here first: If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this whole ordeal, it’s that no amount of banana bread you bake, or quarantine fringes you cut, will succeed at filling the void of a good ol’ root. I repeat, put the spatula down. To this day, I am yet to find another activity that compares to the thrill of taking the person you’ve been eyeing at the bar all night home for a onenight-stand, or hitting up Mr Old-Reliable for a hefty session of no-strings-attached. I recently asked one of my friends what she was most looking forward to after isolation. Her response? “A solid dick appointment.” It appears I am not alone. Human touch and physical connection are crucial to humanity, therefore, it comes as no surprise a lack of sexual intimacy has the power to pose significant implications on the wellbeing of singles and couples alike. So how can we reignite the sexual flame whilst holed up in a house? Like most things, the solution to all my problems quite literally lay at my fingertips. So, naturally, I took to Monash StalkerSpace to get to the bottom of combatting 2020’s sexual slump. Here are your responses:

“I've increased my incidence of self love significantly, but also made a lot of new friends in sex positive Zoom chats where group masturbation is encouraged.” “My boyfriend lives in Sydney so we have phone sex a lot and send Snapchats of us masturbating. We’ve just started doing Zooms where we masturbate to each other. We’re both pretty kinky, so some of the stuff we do on Zoom involves shit other people think is pretty weird, like feet stuff.”

The All-Over-the-House: If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to be quarantined with your significant other, physical touch isn’t the problem, but spicing up your sex-life is. “With my girlfriend at our house, we change it up so we aren’t just having sex in the bedroom. Sometimes the lounge, sometimes the shower, and even in the kitchen once. We’re trying some new things which have been really hot.” “All different types (anal, vaginal, oral), usually around the house, but sometimes in the car if we drive somewhere like a park at night.”

The Take-Matters-Into-Your-Own-Hands:

The Pilgrim:

If you’ve learnt anything from this year, it’s that if you want something done properly, do it yourself.

“I have travelled to my boyfriend’s purely for a fuck. Sorry Dan Andrews.”

“Dressing up in lingerie to look at myself in the mirror. Sending nudes to my friends. Using my bullet vibrator And my personal favourite, The Expiry Date: a lot more. I ‘added to cart’ a more expensive, better sex toy several times but continually put off purchas- “I haven't had sex in lockdown — iso made things stagnant and stale like old left out Coles bread. ing it because I didn’t have the funds.” “Jacking off. How else?” “Just vibing on my own, but the porn is getting weird…” 11


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Style 101 WORDS BY Courtney Cunningham @court.cunningham

Style.

FILM BY Ash Panjwani @trashlikeash

It’s a word that taunts us all. When somebody asks you, “what’s your style?” do you freeze in uncertainty and shame? Or do you flaunt your stuff? For many of us, clothing is a tool for exploring and expressing our sense of self. We use it to boost our confidence, reflect our mood, and at times, to step into a completely different persona. Thus, it is no secret our clothing plays a significant role in who we are and who we want to be. From experimentation to mixing and matching, our style is constantly developing. Remember your 14year-old self? Yeah, let’s not go there, but you get my point. Often when we grow as people, our interests change and so too does our perspective on fashion. Thankfully nowadays, there are no real boundaries to clothing. Colours? Silhouettes? Patterns? I say, work it.

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But if you’re scratching your head with no idea where to start, let’s talk about the basics: Items with print? Pick a single colour from one of these pieces and try pairing it with a solid-coloured article of clothing. Alternately, loud prints always pair well with neutrals. Stumped at what to do with colour? Try matching items of similar saturation, such as pastel on pastel. When styling, oversized articles with heels can elongate the look of your body. You can also try tucking tops in or wearing a belt to add definition to your waist. As for jewellery, gold or silver accents have the power to elevate your outfit. You’d be surprised how easy it is to play around with the things you’ve already got in your wardrobe! For me, being able to express myself through clothing is my creative outlet. I believe putting even just a bit of effort into your appearance can go a long way in getting you where you want in life. Even if you’re stuck at home, getting dressed has the power to increase your motivation levels and overall mood!

Where did I get my initial outfit inspiration though? Pinterest —  a stylist’s dream.

Type in whatever you want, be it ‘winter’ or ‘boot outfits’ and an array of images are presented to you. Create a board, name it ‘style’, and add whichever pins intrigue you. Want to see more of what you like? When you click a pin and scroll down, similar items come up which you can continue adding to your board. For the days I’m struggling with what to wear, I click my ‘style’ board and scroll through the photos I’ve saved. If you find you’ve gravitated towards a certain look, don’t let that hold you back. Continue adding more pins and experimenting with different ideas. Now that you know some of the basics, add your personal touch! What are you waiting for? Head on over to your wardrobe and have a browse. Play around and try to recreate some of your style inspirations, so the next time someone asks you, “what’s your style?” you won’t have to hesitate when you respond to that pesky question!

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Forgive But Don’t Forget I would be lying if I said I had a solution to combat the greatest enemy of our subconscious: recurring bad memories. Moments in time where you said something, did something or witnessed something happen (or the consequences of it), and now the moment plays like a never-ending loop in your head. Taunting you. Haunting you. A lot of the time these memories contain actions or moments that are either completely irrational or no longer relevant to our life. But yet, they niggle at you, causing emotions like guilt, regret, shame, embarrassment and humiliation, on top of the frustration in having to relive this memory over and over again. In moments of quiet or calm it’s hard to stop these bad memories from resurfacing. It’s hard to ignore them because they’re right there. And it’s especially hard to get rid of them. But these guilt evoking memories are one of those things that you simply can’t rid yourself of. Attempting to will it away or suppress it can be unhealthy and coincidentally, may even cause the memory to return even stronger. Perhaps we can approach these memories in a more productive and positive manner — turning these feelings of guilt into a learning experience and possibly, learning to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes? Firstly, rather than tackling the memory itself, try adjusting your experience of it. This may involve learning to distance yourself from the memory, thereby viewing it as its own entity. You could try this by envisioning the memory as a cloud, drifting past you with the rest of your thoughts, or as if you’re watching the memory in a movie cinema, completely separate to the events being played out. By turning yourself into a mere spectator of these incidents, you may learn to see the memory objectively, causing it to loosen its grip on your consciousness.

WORDS BY Hannah Schauder ART B Y Gabrielle Poh @gee_poh

Secondly, a bad memory might refuse to go away because you need to understand it, or because there’s a bigger picture to be unveiled. If you want to try to completely resolve a bad memory, the key may be to change the memory’s meaning or what the memory represents. This will entail analysing the different components of the memory: people’s perspectives, the circumstances, words that were said, how you felt. By cross-examining the different factors of your own memory, you may understand why these events occurred in the first place. For example, an argument you had with a friend may have been the result of a bad day or a miscommunication. Giving a memory a new representation may minimise the significance of the memory or provide insight into yourself or others. Finally, wanting to face these memories directly may involve learning to forgive yourself through deep introspection. This means delving deep into the underlying meanings and themes of the memories and learning to understand your situation in the moment. How were you feeling at that moment? Was it a situation out of your control? Were there external factors at play? Finding these answers can be done in different ways: talking about the memory out loud with a friend or professional, writing down the experience, drawing what the memory looks like. Learning more about the nature of the bad memory can help develop an acceptance of yourself from these regrets, and potentially prompt forgiveness for these past actions or decisions. Forgiving yourself for past choices is by no means an easy feat, and something as complex as inbuilt past memories won’t disappear at the click of a finger. But learning to accept these memories as valuable lessons that made you who you are today can be an enormous step in personal growth.

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Too Hot a Mess Too Hot to Handle has the potential to be the perfect Love Island replacement for 2020 — an isolated paradise filled with young hot singles with a lack of self-awareness, incessant pop tunes and a snarky narrator. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between the ITV reality show and the Netflix knock-off, especially since current circumstances may leave the infamous Spanish villa empty. The big difference is that instead of focusing on finding romance, Too Hot to Handle rewards contestants for not engaging in sexual behaviour as a form of self-improvement. According to the show, remaining celibate leads to greater respect for yourselves and others, with money deducted from the $100,000 prize pool each time a contestant breaches the rules. But don’t let this fool you, the show still is trashy reality television to a tee. Amongst the bikini clad bodies, an AI rule enforcer and cringeworthy preaching, producers make the mistake of assuming that its audience is just as dumb and shallow as its contestants. Constantly, the audience is told that a deeper connection between contestants has been made but rarely do they actually see it — and when they do, it’s hard not to laugh. In what way does calling someone “Bambi” show a deeper connection? A contestant can boast all they want about how empowered or changed they feel, only to engage in the same terrible behaviour as before. On top of this, a majority of the contestants remained single throughout the show, and never really had to be ‘tested’ anyway.

The end results of the show speak for themselves. Like many other reality television love stories, many of the couples who ended the show together are now apart, and that’s not just because of quarantine. Interestingly enough, it was only the couple who broke the most rules that have remained together. Francesca Farago and Harry Jowsey beat the odds, ending up engaged after a brief breakup, as seen in the recent reunion episode. Francesca and Harry were responsible for most of the monetary losses on the show, and while they were able to rein in their behaviour during later episodes, the rules rarely deterred them. Other contestant couples on the other hand, particularly those who followed the rules, are no longer together. By the show’s logic, surely these relationships should have grown deeper after refraining from sexual activities due to a greater sense of respect for each other? Workshops and the finale make up for some of the series’ misgivings. As refreshing as it is to see vulnerability encouraged and celebrated amongst the male contestants, some activities were puzzling. Can trust really be built from just one bondage session? Can sisterhood and female empowerment be achieved simply by inspecting one’s own vagina?

Much like a fast food burger, Too Hot to Handle is greasy, haphazardly thrown together and hopes you don’t look too close at its obvious flaws. The promoted narrow viewpoint that casual sex is degrading and disrespectful feels like its coming from another era. It is unrealistic to assume sexual intercourse, masturbation or even a simple kiss threatens a couple’s ability to build a healthy relationship or harms an individual’s self-esteem. But like most reality shows, its fallible logic makes it all the more entertaining. Consume the show quickly while it’s hot and you’ll get some fleeting enjoyment, but don’t expect to gain any insight for actual self improvement.

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WORDS BY Emily Walker ART BY Mei Kingwell @meikingdesigns

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Log On WORDS BY Maggie Zhou @yemagz ART BY Freya Lauersen @doing_tings

No, this isn’t another article about the dangers of cyberbullying, or how Facetune has distorted our perception of beauty, or how social media is just a highlight reel. Because we get it. We’re the generation that is all too familiar with flashing notifications and continuous scrolling. Social media is second nature to us; our thumbs know the ins-and-outs of our mobile keyboards and without even looking, can instantly identify where each of the 3300+ emojis sit. Endless studies suggest a correlation between Instagram and negative mental health issues like high levels of anxiety, depression and bullying. But as Instagram continually adds more features that allow for increased interactions, it may just be amplifying these problems. As American sociologist David Riesman once said, “the more advanced the technology… the more possible it is for a considerable number of human beings to imagine being somebody else.” And that was back in 1950. Almost a century down the track, you can bet Mr Riesman would have his knickers-in-a-knot if he found out about the pixelated lives we lead.

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Toxic Instagram culture has extended beyond just appearances, and judgement is now placed on every aspect of one’s life, from the food you eat to the content you consume. What you read, what you do and how you spend your time is now open to scrutiny. We have well and truly passed the era when sun-baked Jenner bodies and snatched makeup were our only insecurities. With the Pinterest-cool-girl aesthetic reigning the Insta-sphere, candid photos of nonchalant yet picture-perfect scenes are unavoidable in your daily scrolls. You know the ones — those zoomed-in unedited mirror selfies, that morning coffee cup complete with a red lippy stain, and blurry sunset photos. All of these seemingly impromptu, casual live-in-the-moment photos actually set a higher standard of unattainable life goals. Alexandra Mondalek, a New York fashion reporter, told The Guardian that Instagram is, “the rat-race lifestyle boiled down into the palm of your hand, and sometimes it feels inescapable.” Now we’re being told to be perfect and to have the perfect lifestyle but to not show any effort or semblance of concernment. To look good, but don’t try too hard doing so. In a world where women are constantly faced with contradictions — Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too large. Don’t be too small. Eat up. Slim down — this comes as no surprise.

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But some may argue that, “hey, isn’t this more authentic than overly filtered, skin-smoothed photos?” But the question is — can social media ever be fully authentic? By picking up your phone and turning on your camera, doesn’t that destroy the idea of authenticity? Purely by posting an Instagram story, you are faced with so many decisions. Filter, or no filter? What angle? What lighting? What caption? What font? What colours? While these insignificant choices might not seem like a lot, they all play a part in curating your online persona. The spontaneity of a moment is gone the moment you decide to open your camera. On Instagram, authenticity is capital. But what unfortunately manifests from this is the expectation to overshare. We have become all too comfortable knowing the intricacies of someone’s personal life and worse — we feel entitled to it. If someone chooses to not share information about their partner, their family or their job, it feels insincere and we question what they’re hiding. Humans are naturally curious beings, but what happens when that curiosity is overfed? On average, we check our smartphones 85 to 101 times a day. In 2019, the average person spent two hours and 23 minutes on social media each day. Our brains have been rewired by social media, literally. The influx of likes, followers and messages release dopamine, the chemical responsible for happiness. And of course, your brain naturally craves more and more of it. A study published last year even revealed that ‘arousal increased’ when opening an app like Instagram. Yep, you are being aroused by your phone.

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Anecdotally, I view life as a series of Instagrammable opportunities. I have a stressed-out low hum at the back of my mind that urges me to document every moment. If I don’t photograph a nice meal or a good outfit, I feel a pang of grief. My phone is a constant companion that nags and asks me, if I didn’t photograph it, did it really happen? I know this will come off as deluded, shallow, narcissistic and out of touch to so many. But this is what addiction looks like. I currently have a nine-hour screen time average. I pick up my phone around 160 times a day. I work primarily in social media and use that as a cover for my obsessive scrolling. I’ve had to learn — and am still learning — how to rewire my brain. I don’t want to look back and remember my formative twenties as years spent deciding which photos I should upload. I’m unlearning and relearning what it means to be present. I want to relish in good conversations, to get lost in books like I used to. I want to be comfortable sitting alone with my thoughts. I want to be bored. I want to bask in awkwardness rather than subconsciously picking up my phone. It’s a slow journey. My fingers twitch and my head itches for new notifications, new buzzes, new dings. But humans are social creatures. We need physical touch, real connections and raw emotions. We’re not made to live through a glass screen.

So here’s to creating memories that a camera can’t quite capture. 21


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Nick and Norah’s Quarantine Playlist Isolation — Joy Division All By Myself — Céline Dion House Arrest — Ariel Pink Barbarism Begins at Home — The Smiths You Sound Like You’re Sick — Ramones Don’t Stand So Close to Me — The Police Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again — The Angels Boredom — Tyler the Creator Don’t Worry About the Government — Talking Heads Alive Without Medicine — Soft Hair Just Wait Til Next Year — John Maus No Surprises — Radiohead Miss You — The Rolling Stones Are We Still Friends? — Tyler the Creator Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays — Unknown Mortal Orchestra Burnin’ Up — Jonas Brothers Close to Me — The Cure Sweet Boredom — Teenage Radio Stars Bad Timing — Phantastic Ferniture Toxic — Britney Spears Stay Up Late — Talking Heads Stuck with You — Huey Lewis and the News Stayin’ Alive — Bee Gees Another Weekend — Ariel Pink Supalonely — BENEE & Gus Dapperton

WORDS BY Kate Bowman @k.atebowman

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Eurovision 2020: Gone But Not Forgotten

WORDS BY Thiamando Pavilidis @thiamand_no ART BY Madison Marshall @madagasc.art

Every year, the countries of Europe (plus a few nearby, most recently Australia), unite to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. Sadly for us diehards, this year’s contest, much like every other good thing in the world recently, was cancelled. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the 2020 entries! Here’s a few of my personal favourites that are worth checking out!

[OMITTED] RUSSIA: Little Big — UNO

LITHUANIA: The Roop — On Fire

If you know Little Big from their viral 2018 rave hit This was to be one of the first times Lithuania was a ‘Skibidi’, then you’d know that this year’s entry is a favourite to win, and rightly so. Indie pop/rock isn’t a step away from the usual dramatic ballads Russia genre usually featured in Eurovision, but band The brings. ‘UNO’ is a strange combination of tango and Roop managed to do it, and do it well. The song itself rave music, with lyrics in both English and Spanish. is a fun combination of synth and guitars with some While the song itself is a bit of a fun mess, the perfor- fun vocals from frontman Vaidotas Valiukevičius, but mance is what bumps it up to my top five. The two the real appeal of this entry is the performance. Valilead singers and three backup singers — clad in latex ukevičius begins by writhing around on stage, wearing and mesh flares, of course — bounce off each other a white turtleneck and dramatically loose black pants. lyrically whilst maintaining blank, expressionless faces The first thing my brother said after viewing this was, the whole time. Then there’s the dancing, including “how sad, I’ll never be able to see this for the first time some kind of leg flapping and minimalistic hand moagain.” This is because at about halfway, two backup tions. This isn’t even the best part — the performance dancers appear on stage with Valiukevičius and is stolen by the dancing gentleman to the left of the engage in what might be the most ridiculous choreogstage in a pastel blue jumpsuit and headband, doing raphy involving a lot of huge arm movements and jazz the absolute most. Whilst not my favourite entry, hands over the head. At some point, the dancers also Russia certainly gave a very memorable performance find magnifying glasses and play around with them. this year. 7.5/10. It’s complete madness, but in the best way. 8.5/10

AUSTRALIA: Montaigne — Don’t Break Me

Initially upon hearing about Montaigne joining our national selection competition, I was concerned she’d be too Triple J-esque for Europe. Boy, was I surprised by the sheer emotion Montaigne brought with ‘Don’t Break Me’, both lyrically and physically. I was lucky enough to attend Eurovision: Australia Decides and see this performance live on stage. You’ll notice Montaigne maintains eye contact with the camera the entire time. While in the crowd, I found this didn’t translate well live — there was a cameraman blocking my view half the time. However, upon seeing the video online of the same performance, I realised exactly how dynamic the staging was, especially with elaborate choreography from both a blue-haired Montaigne and her dancers. Overall, a powerful song with a powerful performance that would’ve made Australia proud. 8/10. 24

UKRAINE: Go_A — Solovey (Nightingale) This year I found out my new favourite genre of music was electro-folk, thanks to Go_A. You’ll note that this is the only song on this list to be performed in the country’s native language, and that singer Kateryna Pavlenko’s vocals are a traditional style we may not be used to. Poland used the same vocal technique last year and it sounded like a kindergarten concert, but with ‘Solovey’ I find the combination of modern and traditional quite haunting. Then there’s the staging. Everything you’d expect from Eurovision. You’ve got the dramatic drums, the mysterious flute, and the pyrotechnics... Of course, there’s Pavlenko’s dress — a structural red masterpiece with a tight black leather undershirt that wouldn’t look out of place on a Jean Paul Gaultier runway. Also, in the last twenty seconds, there’s a guy with flames coming out of his guitar. Need I say more? 9/10.


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With Love

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FILM BY Kate Thomas @katethomas___


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My Virtual Self and I WORDS & COLLAGE BY Dil Kaur @blingedoutlemons

Getting to know your virtual self is strange. In person, there’s no tiny frame in your field-of-view mirroring your very being. Social interaction tends to start the same way —  an endless slew of “hi’s” and “how are you’s” from person to person, checkpoint to checkpoint. But now, we tend to follow this with “is my mic working?” or “can you hear me?” Before, you spoke in the presence of someone listening (we hope), now, you rewatch that same clip thirty times to make sure you didn’t say anything weird before it goes on your Instagram story. Have you heard your own voice for that long before? Presenting yourself virtually makes you confront your physical self pretty harshly. Natural movements like blinking are now an odd tic that you think you do too much. But do you? Or are you only seeing it now? How many times did you blink during that Zoom presentation? Is this how people really see me? It is strange. Sometimes apps don’t mirror your appearance. My red streak is on the wrong side of my head, but my friends say I look fine. Sometimes the internet cuts off before I deliver my punchline, the joke is ruined and your presence loses its ephemerality. A fleeting thought is now a Facebook status you want to delete after three hours. You say something as you think it, now it has 30 retweets and five hate comments.

This isn’t new. We’ve been presenting ourselves online for a long time. I wasn’t allowed out much when I was younger. Internet forums were my solace — sites for interaction outside the world I knew. Now we seek the world we already know on our screens, craving the comfort it brought in legitimising our physical selves. How do I deal with the fact that my classmates don’t know how perfect my winged liner is everyday? How will they know how fucking cool I am? Am I still cool when no one is looking? But they are looking. Is it weird to have makeup on at home during a global pandemic? Do they think I’m trying too hard? What does my background say about me? Is it weird to set up a backdrop? I think it’s best to just be normal? But what is my normal? We’re all looking for a new normal. This isn’t just about staying at home and not seeing your friends for a while. Normal has shifted. The world looks different now. But the person in the mirror feels the same.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Love exists.

WORDS BY Andrea Selvarajah @andrealashini

In so many ways, I was visibly and invisibly different to my friends. We expressed ourselves differently, we were passionate about different things and we didn’t always share the same goals. On top of that, I also came from a different background. I have a darker skin tone, was slightly hairier, and now, also different thanks to the size of my thighs.

ART BY Sophie McKenzie-Stripp @sophiemcks

In year eight, I was extremely confident, but more importantly I was in love. It was with a pimple-faced, scrawny, pre-pubescent boy who wanted to be an actor. One day, I remember sitting with my legs crossed on the floor with my friends when he looked down and said, “you have fat thighs.” This comment haunted me. I was 14 years old, already insecure about my legs, and now I had his voice replaying in my head for all the wrong reasons. The confidence I had arguably built in middle school came crumbling down in an instant, and the love I thought I knew, just didn’t exist anymore.

I began watching weight loss videos that night, and naturally, I started with Jillian Michaels’ Killer Buns and Thighs routine. I wanted to change my body because I felt it was the only thing I could control. However, sadly, it didn’t pan out the way I thought it would.

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Love falters.

Love is accepting.

During this time, I failed to show myself any compassion. I failed to properly acknowledge my grades for the successes they were, nor did I give myself any extra credit for my middle school political career. I was driven, smart and balancing five different extracurriculars, however for some reason I was still focused on appeasing a boy who looked like he probably hadn’t even seen a leg before. Who was he to tell me what a thigh should look like?

My first fight with my best friend was about a boy who didn’t even like me. This was stupid and trivial, but at the time, it felt like my whole world was crashing down. This fight, understandably, did not last very long, however, it did make a mark that we are bound to remember for the rest of our relationship.

Eventually, I got straighter teeth, had my braces removed, and moved countries. This was when everything changed. I met people who made me value myself, I made friends who gave me the chance to rebuild, and I was surrounded by others who lifted me up in so many ways. This gave me the confidence to see how much I had to offer the world. My friends treated me with kindness and respect while showing me a real and genuine kind of love.

During our fight, we were able to pick out every single flaw the other had, whilst relentlessly hurting the people who tried to bring us back together. While traumatic at the time, this fight showed me that my friends cherish me in spite of my flaws — and so I should do the same. Now, I see myself as a person that can be loved and that deserves love, with a pair of killer legs on top of it. But no matter how far I’ve come, I know selflove is a never-ending journey, and I look forward to seeing where it will take me.

It was in this environment where people didn’t see me as ugly or different — they simply saw me as me. Not only did this urge me to reflect on who I was, but it also made me think about who I wanted to be.

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Letters to Our Future Selves Dearest Zayan, It has been two months since I first went into isolation. Never would I ever have thought I would be going through a pandemic whilst I wrote this. I have had good days, and really bad ones. I am indeed verklempt and a little bit spent from being inside the house for so long. Alas! One must adjust to the new normal. The best part about this new life however, is that I have become more introspective than ever before. You will be awakened anew. It is this fresh start that I want you to focus on. Do not ever forget that you must take it day by day and live in the present. Focus your energies on the activities that provide you joy, calmness, ease and warmth. Worrying about the future is an unnecessary strife to your mental health. Be cognisant of how you may never have control over certain aspects of life. You must adjust yourself to the flow of the day. Be active in maintaining a structure whilst also not being too hard on yourself when you divert from it. Learn from your past, and let go of it. A decade from now I want you to be healthy in every possible way. If you can survive this pandemic, you can do anything. I know for sure that you will always be improving yourself. You will be in a better place, thriving and succeeding. Be kind to yourself and to others. You can do this! Much love as always. Zayan

WORDS BY Zayan Ismail @zayan.dan ART BY Hayley Sinnatt @hayleandshine 33


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I cringed while reading the letter that my 10 year-old self wrote to my 18 year-old self outlining all the things I should never do such as ‘smocked (sic) a cigarette’ or should have done, like ‘kissed a boy’ (I had, and I liked it). It was painfully wholesome and made me realise the speed at which the world changes and how my values back then were incomparable to those of mine at 18. So what would today’s self tell my future self in a decade’s time?

Dearest Stephanie, Tell me about your dog. I sincerely hope you have one by now and that it is safely sleeping in the generous backyard of that amazing house you purchased for a steal after capitalising on the historical property crash of 2023. You’re older and wiser now and no doubt have experienced dizzying heights and plummeting lows. At your *ahem* advanced age, you don’t need a great deal of self-advice, but here’s a few gentle grounding points I’d like to remind you of, just in case you’ve veered off your own brand. Constant personal development is crucial but some things are... not for us. — Do not purchase a series of loosely-flowing linen dresses. This style does not suit you. Do not be drawn to the allure of the breezy comfort and pockets. — Do not bore younger people with the ‘way things used to be’ with the suggestion it was better. Change is crucial, those that resist it will be left behind. Facilitate change. — Do not get a short haircut with a fringe. This style does not suit you. — Go easy on the fillers. Love yourself girl or nobody will, Best, Stephanie

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Dear Paige, I am writing to you from May 2020. We are not even halfway through the year and yet it has already been the most difficult, both personally and globally. The worst part? I have no idea what’s next for us. It’s hard to imagine when and where you may be reading this from, a house on the moon maybe? Does teleportation exist yet? Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure that fundamentally, you’re the same person as before, just better! As you are currently studying Psychology/Sociology at university, I hope you can finally put a name to what has been your lifelong passion. This is also the perfect opportunity to remind you of a few things you learnt during the solitude of lockdown that I hope you have, and will continue to implement throughout the rest of your life: Don’t try to find eternal happiness. It is a capitalistic conspiracy. Happiness is an emotion, therefore, is temporary and not a state of being. Peace is a better, more fulfilling and achievable alternative. Enjoy this as much as possible because there is no time like the present. The best and most important things take a lot of time and effort, but do not procrastinate them because they become more difficult when left abandoned. Have low expectations, that way everything exceeds your hopes. Spend time with your wonderful friends and family, and love them all the same. Lifelong learning is essential to existence and the unanswered questions of life make it so rich — and psychologists richer! In essence, I believe that you know what is best for yourself and you can never truly disappoint me. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re on the right path <3 Love, (Present) Paige. Xx P.S. Remember to read!

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Boosting Your Creative Career at Home So, you’ve caught up on your lectures, tidied your room, meal-prepped and walked the dog (twice). Or, maybe, you’ve done none of these things and instead woke up in the same perpetual state of boredom as the past two months. I get it! It is Groundhog Day, after all. But whichever camp you fall into, the question remains the same: what next? If that internship you were meant to start in April fell through, you’re living off JobSeeker until your café job starts back again, and you’re desperately seeking SOMETHING remotely productive to fill your time, you’ve come to the right place. While we wait for the world to slowly inch back to normality, here are four things to do in your free time that will nurture that hungry creative soul of yours. And, also, will look very nice on your résumé.

WORDS BY Kiera Eardley @kieraeardley ART BY Anqi Meng @meng_anqi

Get Tech-y On your Saturdays that now look exactly like every other day of the week, upskill by learning how to get the most from the technology at our fingertips. For us students, Adobe has some incredible discounts on annual subscriptions to Creative Cloud, which includes apps like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. With loads of free tutorials available, you’ll be creating seamless designs in no time. If a YouTube career sounds more like your calling, Apple’s Final Cut Pro X can be trialled free for 90 days to ensure your isolation vlogs will be as cinematic as Scorsese. Then, once you’ve maximised your tech for supreme creative potential, have a browse through Canva — their extensive résumé templates will upgrade your CV to be as vibrant as your new skillset.

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Make Like Maslow and Self-Actualise With half of us stuck working from home, and the other half rendered jobless by the virus-which-shallnot-be-named, what better opportunity to learn things that might help us earn more in the future? Facebook Blueprint can teach you the ropes of digital advertising, so you can spruik all those paintings/ pot plants/mosaics/candles you’ve made during iso for some extra cash. There’s also LinkedIn Learning, which offers short courses run by industry experts to strengthen your career prospects. Covering topics like networking, job-hunting, and how to harness your stress in a positive way, both you and your CV will come out of lockdown living your best lives.

The All-Rounder For those of us who are itching to enrich our brains, Masterclass comes highly recommended. The hugely popular subscription website features modules from famous experts, who teach their passions in an easy-to-navigate format that’s replete with very fun and seriously cool industry insights. Full disclosure, Masterclass is a little pricey, but if you split the cost with your mates or family, you can watch as you all transform into a bunch of well-rounded, highly-skilled geniuses. My top picks? Creative leadership with Anna Wintour, conservation with Dr Jane Goodall, acting with Natalie Portman, and cooking with Gordon Ramsay. These are impressive enough, and that’s without mentioning space exploration with Chris Hadfield, who’s a former commander of the International Space Station. NASA, eat your heart out.

Start That THING You know the thing I’m talking about. We’ve all got one. That one thing you’ve been planning to do for 5,237 years, which somehow always stays on the backburner and you never get around to it. Now’s the perfect time to finally tick that box! Get onto WordPress and make that blog for your short stories, set up that Etsy store to sell your latest designs, or record that podcast about the sport you’re missing most. Now that you’ve got some time on your hands, just DO it.

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Love Yourself WORDS BY Malena Frey ART BY Aleesha Martin @iampluto

At the end of February when uni was just a week away, the memory of never-ending stress, vague instructions and the 2,093 unopened emails I had More importantly, if you’re one of the many received by week one last semester made me dread women who struggle to climax from penetration what I knew was to come. Amid the grind of uni, alone, or your partner still can’t seem to find the clit life seemed to consist of nothing but a mountain of assignments, work, miserable weather and a strong *sigh*, a vibrator can be super helpful in providing that extra stimulation. feeling that I should’ve given up in week three. While I’m sure most people probably have much healthier However, if you have directed your extra funds outlets, being the horny bitch that I am, I found hookinto your recently developed online shopping addicing up to be a major source of fun and respite during tion, there are thankfully also plenty of free options. a seemingly mundane time. As such, when it became Consider erotica, porn or even audio apps to help get clear that clubs, parties, dates, and anything else your fix during this hook-up free period. My current that could lead to a hook-up was not going to be an favourites are the audio app Dipsea and porn brand option this semester, I was annoyed to say the least. Bellessa. With both offering lots of free content, Dipsea features sexy stories — ideal if you don’t want Yet this isolation period has been far from unsatisfyyour hands to have to focus on anything but your ing, at least sexually anyway. If you’re like me and this body — while Bellessa caters well to those after visual has been the one time where you haven’t been able stimulation. In addition, both platforms have been to waste an obscene amount of your money on food founded by women and focus on women’s pleasure, or alcohol, consider using these savings to invest in yet provide a diversity of categories including BDSM, a sex toy. Although I was sceptical at first, a friend queer, passionate and more. So while there’s lots recently gifted me a vibrator and it has taken solo of vanilla content, these platforms have any kinky time to new heights — if you know what I mean. queens covered too. With multiple settings, designs and a range of sizes, there are a myriad of vibrators to suit every need. While you may be aching for another hook up, While it is exciting to splurge on a high end kind, remember that spending more time satisfying there are lots of options that begin from as little yourself and trying out different things on your as $40, so if you need to, you’ll be able to find own may help you to discover what you didn’t previone that won’t break the bank. ously know you liked. This solo time may also lead to finding things you can incorporate into future What’s better? Vibrators are no hook-ups, making them even better when they do short term investment. When you happen again!

are able to hook up again, they can be super sexy and exciting to use with a partner.

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Why You Should Rewatch Friends: The Case for Nostalgia.

I re-watch corny old TV shows constantly. Sitcoms are my favourite. Friends, Seinfeld, Brooklyn 99, Community, I’ve seen them all multiple times. There is something calming about this process to me. Familiar voices, familiar jokes; an antidote to the constant state of flux I find myself in. Whenever I decide to rewatch a show I think back to the first time I read Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It’s the original teen angst novel, and honestly I didn’t enjoy it one bit. However, the end of the novel has always stuck with me. Holden Caulfield, the book’s 16 year-old protagonist drifts around New York City in search of thrills, belonging, and a sense of peace. Sadly these things elude him until he finds his way to the Museum of Natural History. It’s a place that he used to come to as a child, and he is comforted by the fact that it has not changed since. Watching The One Where No One’s Ready for the thousandth time offers me the same kind of solace. Things have changed since the first time I watched the episode — I’m different now. People have come and gone, lessons have been learnt and mistakes have been made. Life has gotten more complicated but The One Where No One’s Ready, hasn’t changed. The jokes still make me laugh and the desire to buy a dress just like Rachels’s mint green number remains. Meditation asks too much of my hyperactive brain, candles and face masks are too expensive and sometimes no amount of banana bread can take away the stress of daily life. For this I turn to the same old TV shows, to tell me the same old jokes and give me

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the same sense of familiarity. While life constantly presents us with a new normal, it’s nice to know that not everything changes. The things that bring us joy, silly as they might be, endure. It could be an album you used to listen to on repeat, a book you once loved, a place you used to call home. The nostalgia these things offer us is comforting, especially now, in what your boss calls “unprecedented times” (before he assigns you a double shift). Sometimes revisiting things from the past can prompt self reflection. Who were you the first time you watched Ferris Buller’s Day Off? Who are you now? Hopefully, things have changed for the better, but if not, dancing to Ferris’ rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ is the key to fixing anything. Let Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ remind you of primary school discos, The Great Gatsby of the idealistic days in year 10 English or Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ remind you of your first love. If you have the time to do so, I recommend revisiting something you once loved. These artefacts will take you back to the past, and bring you greater appreciation for the present. Let them bring you some joy despite the chaos around you. Re-read that old book, listen to the album you used to love, or rewatch Friends to find a bit of peace, the same kind Holden Caulfield was searching for.


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WORDS BY Dena Tissera @dena_c_t

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Yours Truly

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Joseph Lew @josephyylew

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WORDS BY Anonymous ART BY Carla Romano @crmn.studio

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Seoul Surgery My boyfriend drove me to the airport, I checked-in my bags, boarded the plane and then waited alone for nine and a half hours during my layover in Malaysia. When I finally arrived in Seoul, dragging my luggage behind me through Incheon Airport while I tapped my destination into Google Translate, I couldn’t believe what I was about to do. A year ago, I had secretly booked a plane ticket to South Korea with the sole purpose of getting cosmetic surgery. My first consultation with the clinic was booked an hour after my flight landed and my surgery was set to follow immediately. As my driver took me from the airport to the clinic, I started thinking about where this self-hatred may have begun. When did I become so fixated with my nose, to the point where I would lie to my entire family and fly across the globe for a single cosmetic procedure? Would things have been different if I was raised in a more accepting family that welcomed all of my features? A bit of context here, my father is of African descent and my mother is East-Asian. Since my father was absent through my childhood and teenage years, my mother’s side of the family had the responsibility of nurturing me, which meant that I grew up surrounded by certain beauty standards — pale white skin, long straight hair, pointy small noses and thin rosy lips. These were all features that I, with my brown skin, kinky hair, wide nose and thick, hyperpigmented lips did not bear. Growing up, we only watched movies that starred East-Asian celebrities, and I dreaded family gatherings, which always turned into comparisons of one another’s beauty. My aunties would sigh whenever they looked at my face — if I only I had gotten my mother’s nose, or at least her hair — why couldn’t it be tamer? As my desire to look more Asian grew, so too did my self-hatred. I would avoid going out into the sun without an umbrella or long-sleeved tops in fear of getting tanner. For about five years, my routine consisted of getting my skin bleached and my hair straightened three times a week. Once I entered university, I tried to build my merits on my personality and intelligence. As I held the belief

that my natural appearance was unattractive, I felt I needed to work harder and invest in other areas that people would consider appealing. Without realising, I had allowed my family’s complex and problematic ideals to become my own, by trying to erase the features that I had inherited from my father’s side.

Crazily enough, my journey to loving myself began in Seoul, and not just thanks to my surgery. After arriving in the city, I stayed at a hostel with 11 other girls who later, became like sisters to me. They saw me in bandages, then with bruises, and then a new nose. They told me how pretty I was, even with my swollen eyes, and one girl wouldn’t stop praising my tanned skin. While my aunties described it as “dirty” and “muddy”, my new friends said it was positively radiant. The way I saw myself changed drastically in the time I spent recovering. The wounds from my surgery healed alongside the wounds on my self-worth, inflicted upon me by my family. By surrounding myself with people who celebrated me at my worst, I was able to restore the confidence I had lost in myself. The biggest realisation I had from this experience was how much control I had given other people in determining my beauty and worth. While I don’t regret getting cosmetic surgery, the process was challenging and even now, I worry about telling people the truth because I fear their reactions. From my experience, society is superficial and unknowingly patronising towards those who feel out of love with themselves. It’s an awkward and straining conversation to have, particularly with those who cannot empathise with why I was willing to go under the knife. Since this experience, I can ultimately say that I am happier and that my life has changed for the better. However, this journey has also taught me that cosmetic surgeries cannot fix the internal anxieties one has, and that I alone am responsible for learning to coexist with my imperfections, and the expectations of society; ultimately, I must come to know and love myself through my own eyes.

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The Underrated Art of Solitude Sometimes it feels like there’s an unwritten obligation to constantly interact and to always make ourselves accessible to the people around us 24/7. As a self-proclaimed extrovert, taking time to find solitude feels like ripping teeth, but I’m slowly learning its value and trying my best to find the sweetness in the act. Growing up, solitude was always linked to punishment. There seemed to be no bigger threat than being given a time-out or sent to my room alone. As a naturally extroverted person, I get my energy from being around other people, but often tend to overdo it. After hitting many overwhelming breaking points, I’ve learnt that even though being around others gives me energy, I do not need to be energetic all the time, in fact, it’s healthier for my mind and body not to be. We’ve been brought into a world that preaches the “rise and grind,” and “work hard, play hard” culture, so I suggest that before we dive headfirst back into the hustle and bustle of life (when normal hustle and bustle inevitably resumes), we should reassess this mentality, avoid social burnout and instil into our lives some positive solitude practices. So, here’s a few things that make quiet time worthwhile:

Salvaging Childhood Hobbies It’s never too late to jump back into some shelved hobbies. I’ve found revisiting my love of illustration, video games and sewing really beneficial in escaping the world and savouring that sense of childhood joy. Hobbies in solitude won’t be graded, you won’t be judged for it, and you literally can do whatever you need to do to take your mind off everyday life. Technically speaking, ‘Netflix-binge-watching’ is a hobby, but I would suggest going the route of a physical hobby instead such as painting, baking, playing sport or being a plant parent!

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Get to Know Yourself Better I believe that a lot of who we are reflects the people we’ve been surrounded by, and it is necessary to, at times, step away and gain some perspective. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times before, but journaling is the safest place you can express your-self, debrief experiences and see your life laid out on a page. Solitude can be surprisingly mentally messy, and journaling really reveals what type of friend you are to yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn.

Doing Absolutely Nothing Yes, you’ve read correctly. It is alright to sometimes do nothing and not feel guilty about it. For myself, this has been taking time out and not watching TV — just sitting in my own company away from the mindless scrolling of social media. I like to lay down in the backyard looking up at the sky, play some music and just stare off into space. Whatever ‘doing nothing’ looks like to you, go for it!

Finding solitude for myself has been a rocky, uncertain journey with many failed attempts. It’s a continuous battle when the little voice in my head starts thinking: maybe I should be studying? Maybe I should catch up with that friend? Maybe I should use this time to plan my career? until I exhaust every second of my day. It’s easy to push downtime to the lowest priority because you won’t physically and immediately see the benefits, but it really is time worth investing in.

WORDS BY Caitlin Johnston @caaityj ART BY Sarah Annett @sa__designss 47


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Am I doing this right?

Mindfulness For the Mindful-of-Everything WORDS BY Coby Renkin @cobyhr

Mindfulness. We’ve all heard of it. But many of us are still a little blurry on what it is and what it does. Mindfulness is being in the moment, it’s focusing solely on the task at hand and devoting all your senses to it, remaining unbothered by other goings-on. Research shows that mindfulness can reduce stress levels and increase feelings of calmness and happiness, all while improving focus, memory and creativity. Sounds great! But what if it’s just not doing it for you? I’ve tried the basics — colouring in, meditating and just doing ‘nothing’. And I’ll be honest, I have problems with all of them. I’ll admit I was intrigued when colouring in made a comeback. Being in control and stress free? Structured but creative? It sounded great; why did we ever stop? Turns out the excitement of keeping in the lines of a nice mandala wasn’t enough to keep my mind from running amuck. It felt mindless rather than mindful. I have so much respect for the meditate-every-morning-in-order-to-function people, but I just can’t seem to do it. There isn’t enough to keep me going for more than 30 seconds without every single thing I’ve said and done over the last week running through my mind. I guess this is also the problem I face when it comes to doing ‘nothing’ — I’m just not very good at it. I envy those who flourish in time spent calm, quiet and totally on task; I wish that I could do it. But it appears I have a brain completely unwilling. I often find it hard to narrow my ever-growing brain tabs down to five, let alone one and it appears this is why I struggle with the activities typically associated with mindfulness. It also appears this is likely why I need to focus on these activities. But the harder I try, the less it seems to work… am I doing something wrong? Did I just answer my own question?

ART BY Lillian Busby @curry.couture

What I’ve found is that I need something specific to think about — something that isn’t so broad my mind will just wander, and something that will give me more than seven seconds of thinking material. I did a deep dive on Google to find some suggestions that align with this. On the off chance that the ramble I’ve just given resonates with you, here are some slightly lesser known activities to keep you mindful:

Eat Go for something like sultanas. Examine and focus on each one, think about it in relation to each of your senses. How does it feel, taste, smell, and compare to the last sultana? Eat slowly and thoughtfully, and focus on nothing other than these questions.

Mindful Seeing Look around and think about each thing you see. Not just ‘grass, car, dog’, but the colour of each of these, the textures they have, the moves they take, and the noises they make. Focus on each of these without letting your mind wander.

Five Senses Exercise Focus on five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. That is all.

Create a Coffee Ritual Each morning, slowly and carefully make your coffee. Focus on every individual task in the process and each element involved — the clarity of the water, the steam rising from the mug. Give yourself a few minutes to do something you would have done anyway, but make it mindful.

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When Scott Morrison announced the COVID-19 lockdown response in late March, my housemates and I were faced with the grim prospect of a Melbourne winter without the pub. Left without jobs, nor a lease (due to our cash-only dodgy landlord), I decided to move back to my hometown of Coffs Harbour in northern NSW. After living in Melbourneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bustling city for more than five years, it took some time to readjust to my old town, but I was quick to realise what I had been missing most. Surfing. Blessed with a small population, dozens of beaches and a warm climate, Coffs is the perfect place to go for a paddle. With COVID-19 restrictions encouraging the public to stay at home, surfing as exercise provided the perfect excuse for me to get out of the house. Despite growing up in Coffs, I had only ever been an occasional surfer, skateboarding had always been my thing instead. But with the world gripped in a global pandemic, I decided now was the perfect time to give it a shot.

Gratitude Hour

WORDS BY Miles Proust @milesproust ART BY Zico Mitchell @zico_mitchell

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Zipped up in my dad’s oversized wetsuit and armed with a $70 duct-taped surfboard, I was ready to hit the waves. The first thing you realise about surfing is how fit you have to be. Compared to skateboarding where nearly every session involves beers and ciggies, surfing feels like a whole other universe. Getting past the breakers requires upper-body strength and solid lung capacity, catching waves requires coordination and balance, and learning not to drop in on others requires spatial awareness. Since moving home, I’ve found myself living like a character from a Tim Winton novel — Friday nights in Fitzroy replaced by sunrise surfs. I’ve begun to enjoy surfing more and more as my skills have progressed, coming to the realisation that moving back to Melbourne may be harder than I anticipated. With jobseeker payments effectively doubled (thanks ScoMo), and fewer expenses living at home, I’m in a better financial position than pre-pandemic. On top of that, I certainly don’t miss waking up at 4am for work. Thanks to isolation, I’ve also found myself cooking healthier meals, working out more and drinking less alcohol. My sleep schedule has drastically improved and I actually have time to focus on myself. The downside to all of this of course are the occasional bouts of boredom. I’ve noticed that when I don’t make an effort to be productive with my day — whether that be by surfing, studying or cooking, I become restless and unhappy. However, considering I still have the privilege of a roof over my head, a stable income and a good relationship with my family, boredom is the last thing I should be concerned about.

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The Problem with Leadership Programs WORDS BY Simone Kealy ART BY Natalie Tran @natsiouu

I have attended five leadership programs, been on student exchange, was part of my local youth council and had many leadership roles throughout my primary and secondary school years. These experiences were amazing, and I am so grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in them. However, the more I think about them, the more I realise the inherently problematic mentality behind some of these programs, particularly when it came to the way they emphasised the importance of changing yourself. Now I want you to put a finger down for every time you’ve heard “you’ll come out of this a new and improved version of yourself.” I remember it all too well — “trust us, you’ll look back on this program and see how much it impacted you!” The worst part? It’s easy to believe too, being an impressionable teen who knows nothing more than the systemic ‘strive to be better’ environment that surrounds us today. In one particularly notable program, we could only send our family letters, in another, we couldn’t contact our family at all, and in most, we woke up early and went to bed late. We were exhausted and packed together like sardines, but we were still being sold the same narrative, that this program would change us for the better, and of course, we believed it. The problem for me was that before these programs, the thought of needing to change hadn’t entered my mind. As a young teenager, all I cared about was school, my friends, and reading the most recent YA novel. I wasn’t thinking about my flaws or any selfimprovement strategies. When I first started participating in leadership programs, all of a sudden, I was made to dissect my deficiencies. It was a confronting and mind-altering experience that made me feel anxious and concerned. When I had to speak about how I had improved at the end of the program, I felt this strange mix of embarrassment, shame and vulnerability. What I had said didn’t feel right, or genuine; it felt forced, because, well, we were forced. 52

I think it’s time to change the narrative. What I think would be most beneficial is the encouragement to pursue your skills and strengths, rather than targeting these self-acclaimed weaknesses. In one program, we had to write positive notes about our peers, which were then put into shoeboxes with their names decorated on them. The special feeling of opening up my box to see slips of paper filled with encouraging words warmed my heart. Not once did the activity force us to talk about self-improvement, yet I found it had the most positive impact. My confidence skyrocketed and I was inspired to do what I enjoyed. I will be forever grateful to that program and the people who were involved. To my 15-year-old self, I want to say this:

You are not broken, you do not need to change. You are kind, you are smart, and you are enough. Please don’t let a leadership program tell you otherwise.


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Fraudulent Feelings

An Article on Imposter Syndrome WORDS BY Selin Kaya @selinruby

Have you ever felt like you’re a fraud, had an overwhelming feeling that you’re undeserving of your successes, or felt that everything you’ve achieved boils down to luck? It sounds a bit grim, right? If you’ve felt these feelings, don’t panic. The good news is you’re not alone, and you’re definitely not an imposter. As I first sat down to write this piece, a wave of self-doubt overcame me. Do I really know enough to be writing about this at length? I’m used to writing reviews and essays — what makes me think I can pull off this article if I don’t know the first thing about psychology? How long will it be until someone sees through the cracks? Enter imposter syndrome (also referred to as the imposter phenomenon), originally coined by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in 1978 — a term characterised by the psychological experience where you believe your accomplishments were achieved not through genuine ability, but rather through luck or having manipulated people’s impressions. This phenomenon was first observed in highly successful women and university students who were unable to view themselves as competent and talented, despite the evidentiary proof of their achievements. Their successes were attributable to external forces such as personal charm or ability to meet other people’s expectations, instilling the notion of being an imposter or a fraud. However, despite this early research, imposter syndrome has been found to affect all people in equal numbers.

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Behind us imposters is a dominant fear of failure. Other common traits are perfectionism, overworking, discounting your achievements, and dismissing well-earned praise. A few of my friends who have said they’re in the same boat — but don’t worry, this boat is not the Titanic, and we can get out of this one relatively high and dry.

So you’re feeling like a fraud — now what? Valerie Young, Ed.D, internationally recognised expert on imposter syndrome, and author of the award-winning book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spirit of It has ten steps to combat these thoughts — and has conducted a Ted Talk on it too. A few of the ten steps I found helpful were:

Separate Feelings From Fact:

Reward Yourself:

A lot of the time we mistake our inner thoughts for fact. If you’re feeling like you’re silly or stupid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are.

Congrats! You’ve made it this far. Instead of relying on external feedback from others, learn to pat yourself on the back and treat yourself, whether that be a day off from study or your favourite takeaway food, enjoy these moments guilt-free.

Accentuate the Positive: Mistakes are bound to happen from time to time, after all, you’re only human! Forgive yourself when these inevitable mistakes do occur. Young says the trick is to not obsess over making everything perfect, and to do a great job when it matters most.

Develop a New Script: Ever hear that internal monologue press play when you’re in situations which may trigger those imposter feelings? When you encounter those feelings, think, “everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”

Fake It Til’ You Make It: When I first saw this step I thought this was just another out-dated cliché, but the more I delved into it the more I liked it. Courage comes from taking risks, and in changing your behaviour first — your confidence will build. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Just like my mum always says, there’s no time like the present!

As it turns out, you are not alone. A lot of other people experience these feelings too. To learn more about imposter syndrome see: Mike Cannon-Brookes’ TED-Talk Lou Solomon’s TED-Talk

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Skinny Privilege: A Talk About Body Neutrality So, you’re in a room with fluorescent lights and inspirational posters lining the walls. You and fifteen other girls sit on fold-out chairs in a circle. Alcoholics Anonymous? Wrong, it’s ninth grade Health and Human Development, and you’re here to talk about body image. A collective experience for many young women, we were told it was a safe space to discuss any lumps and bumps from which insecurity stemmed. “It’s okay to feel insecure about your appearance,” our teacher told us. “You’re beautiful and valuable no matter what.” As much as I supported this message, it was seemingly irrelevant to me at the time. I hadn’t really thought much about how my body looked, and I didn’t realise that something mostly determined by genetics would be talked about so often in my adult life.

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For context, I’m built like a mid-cut carrot stick. In making my internet avatars, I always stuck to the default body type. Only recently have I realised that fitting into society’s stock-standard skinny body puts me in a position of privilege. In this class, the teacher introduced the basics of body positivity — that you could feel empowered and accepted no matter your appearance or shape of your body — the same message has been pumped out on social media and advertising, largely targeting women. Body positivity originates from the fat acceptance movement of the 1960s, which sought to battle systemic discrimination against bigger bodies. However, the rise of body positivity in mainstream culture has turned to exclude those it first sought to embrace. As more fitfluencers and beauty brands hashtag #bodypositivity, the focus has shifted back to privileged bodies who do not have to fight to be accepted within society — those that are abled, thin and white. Ironically, a space that was designed for marginalised bodies no longer holds them in the spotlight.


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WORDS & ART BY Ruth Ong @ru.thx @ongdotcom

Author and fat-acceptance advocate Stephanie Yeboah says that the original message of the movement has become diluted. “Now, in order to be body positive, you have to be acceptably fat — size 16 and under, or white or very pretty. It’s not a movement that I feel represents me anymore,” she told The Guardian. Enter body neutrality, a movement groundbreakingly unfocused on appearance. Body neutrality is the idea that feelings about yourself have nothing to do with how your body looks. Rather, it encourages people to focus on things they value about themselves that aren’t skin-deep, such as their personal and professional achievements, the causes they support, or the way they treat other people. Writer and disability advocate Rebekah Taussig says the movement takes the pressure off loving yourself at every moment and reintroduces a space for marginalised bodies to exist in.

“Body neutrality, I think, has the power to be really useful in particular to people with disabilities, especially those with chronic pain or people with diagnoses that are progressive,” she told The Guardian. “Those people are pretty frustrated with the demand to love their bodies when they feel betrayed by them. Being neutral could feel like a relief,” Taussig said. I recognise that my body type places me in a position of privilege in society, where I don’t have to fight to be respected because of how my body looks. I support the body neutrality movement, because I believe in value beyond appearance. And I hope we can move towards a time where girls are more encouraged to sit in a circle talking about all the things they can do, rather than all the ways they can look.

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The Mean Reds WORDS BY Stephanie Booth @birdyanne ART BY Meili Tan @meilimade

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s character describes “the mean reds” as “like the blues only the blues is for when you're sad, the mean reds are for when you're scared and you don't know what you're scared of...” At night I fall off things. I plunge from tall buildings, plummet from balconies, trip backwards down flights of stairs. Being jolted awake by these harrowing scenarios is enough to amplify my heartbeat so loud that it reverberates up through my ears, destroying any possibility of returning to sleep. Night terrors are truly awful. But they aren’t real. For me it’s night terrors, for a friend it’s the feeling of cold liquid steel running through her veins, for another friend it’s the need to immediately leave the room he’s in; the mental and physical impacts of anxiety present themselves in a myriad ways. Anxiety doesn't present itself because of one particular issue or scenario that well-meaning friends and family might eagerly offer solutions to, it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain, not inherently who you are, or something that happened. We’re hearing a lot recently about the need for increasing our focus on mental health, following the COVID-19 pandemic that has thrown a spanner in the absolute shit-show of a year 2020 was already shaping up to be. The word ‘anxiety’ is being used by press and politicians with such repetition that it’s giving ‘unprecedented’ a run for its money, when words like: worry, concern, apprehension or fear could just as effectively convey the way many of us are feeling without diminishing the considerable impact of true anxiety and depression.

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Anxiety takes many shapes and there’s no one-sizefits-all list of symptoms. There’s also no one-sizefits-all approach to managing it. But here’s a handful of suggestions you might like to try next time the ‘mean reds’ rears its ugly head. (Don’t worry, it’s not Live, Laugh, Love).

Laugh: It’s the last thing you’re going to want to feel like doing but it expands and contracts the muscles in your chest, helps you breathe and increases endorphins.

Listen: Whether it’s Rick Ross or Sufjan Stevens, music is magic. Force yourself to sing along, force yourself to move to it. It's a distraction, and distractions are good.

Literature: Can’t sleep? Get up and move to a different room. Get a blanket and read by low-light. Don’t look at your phone. Read something easy, something you’ve read before something gentle — this is not the time for Peter Carey’s Illywhacker. Let yourself become drowsy again.

Lament: Have a good cry. Let it out. Watch something sad or read something sad. Crying can be exhausting, but it can also be just what the doctor ordered. Then, when you feel ready, whether it’s a day, a week or a month later, talk to someone about what’s happening. Beyond Blue, On The Line (1800 859 585), Better Health.


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WORDS BY Emilio Lanera & Hannah Cohen @gaysandgals_pod

Gays and Gals After less than a semester of knowing each other we thought it would be a great idea to start a podcast. We stumbled upon the idea in drunk conversation amongst the chaos of Emilio’s birthday pre-drinks and the concept eventually came into full fruition over brunch at Little Tommy Tucker. After nervously presenting our idea to the MOJO News radio editor at the time, we were immediately thrown into the radio studio with literally no experience and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Flash forward to the present day and we’ve been producing weekly Gays and Gals podcasts for nearly a year. What was initially a frivolous idea that most friends would gloss over, turned into weekly content —  bringing feminist and LGBTQIA issues to the forefront, with a side of banter of course. Gays and Gals has been instrumental in not only helping us to learn more about the complexities of queer and feminist topics, but has also taught us a lot about ourselves. We decided to reflect on how the podcast has become an extension of the both of us.

Emilio: When you spend your entire life hiding a part of your identity it can be scary expressing it on a public platform like a podcast. Growing up, I was taught being gay was undesirable. At school boys would use the word gay as an insult, and the idea of homosexuality went against my parents’ religious beliefs. In response to this, I spent years altering my identity trying to ensure nothing that was stereotypically ‘gay’ was associated with me. I gave up interests like dance and art and deprived myself from listening to Carly Rae Jepsen, all because I was scared those interests might expose my sexuality. Over time, I broke down these walls; doing the podcast with Hannah has definitely helped me become more comfortable with my sexuality. Talking about queer and feminist issues, and other topics we find interesting has been a liberating experience for me. With each episode we do, my authentic self becomes clearer. Despite this, doing the podcast has also shown me I still have a lot of work to do within myself. There are times when Hannah and I are recording and I find myself hesitating to speak. Once again, I am trying

ART BY Pengyue Liu @pengyue_liu_

to define myself based on other people’s expectations — fearing that in these moments, what I say might come across as too gay, or not gay enough. Having Hannah by my side helps me overcome these moments of weakness. Listening to her speak reminds me that the whole reason we started this whole podcast was to express who we are without fear of judgement.

Hannah: I think for me, the podcast fostered a sense of confidence about what I already knew about myself —  that I’m super chatty. It’s a key part of my personality that hasn’t always sat comfortably with me. For a lot of my life, I’ve been defined by others for my unbridled outspokenness. I’m often introduced with a glowing review on my friendliness accompanied by a sarcastic throw away comment along the lines of “oh she’s really shy,” maybe followed by a good natured joke about how loud I am. What hurts the most has been a pattern of now close friends telling me that upon introduction, they were intimidated by how confident I seemed — that my chattiness was scary. These remarks are never uttered with ill intent of course, but for some reason they stung like a backhanded compliment and taunted me with insecurity. Out of self consciousness, I felt compelled to try and quash my big personality, for fear of coming across as cocky or overbearing. At times, I’d try to shrink my voice to be more palatable. But since starting the podcast, I’ve learnt that this is unnatural and only dampens the value I have to share with the world. Co-hosting Gays and Gals with Emilio creates a safe space where I can freely discuss topics I feel passionately about. It reminds me that my confidence to speak out is worth listening to, and that people want to join me in learning more about the world. It’s helped me embrace my natural urge to confront social injustices and speak my mind fearlessly. To me it’s like a form of activism, especially on topics like feminism, where I hope my opinions add momentum to the movement. I think in short, the podcast has taught me self-acceptance and to continue to share my voice at full volume in a world that wants the thoughts of young women to be silenced.

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Alive We were briskly walking through the streets of Paris, trying to make it in time for the hop-on hop-off bus tour. It was an overcast day and our group — a mix of ninth and tenth grade students — stretched down the length of the sidewalk, chatting animatedly. For most of us, this was our first trip without our parents; we had spent the last year fundraising through bake sales and pizza days for this opportunity to travel to Europe during the September school holidays. As we neared the centre of the city where the bus-stops were located, concrete apartments made way for intricate stonework and narrow windows — the trademark style of classic residential parisian architecture. A slight drizzle began to fall as a red double-decker bus pulled up to the curb, but not even a little rain could stop the excitement of a handful of 15-year-olds in the City of Love. We piled onto the bus and clambered up the steps onto the second floor, rustling in our flimsy raincoats and laughing as we jumped into our damp seats, phones and cameras in hand. The bus jostled us around from the Seine to the Louvre, the foreboding Notre-Dame cathedral to the terrifying multi-lane roundabout which circled the Arc de Triomphe, before stopping at a towering iron structure which was none other than the iconic Eiffel Tower. As ‘Les Champs-Elysees’ blared over the bus’s speakers for the hundredth time, my normally reserved self impulsively shouted “bonjour!” at all the people walking past. An elderly man walking with his wife looked at us and smiled. He stopped, took off his hat and bowed, yelling back in a thick French accent, “bonjour, welcome to Paris!” I beamed. For me, this greeting wasn’t just a ‘hello’ from a friendly stranger, but a poignant moment where I realised I had the entire world before me. Today’s trip with teachers and friends would eventually turn into trips with no supervision — just me free to roam the big, wide world. A world that is scary and full of unknowns, but also a world that is kind and beautiful. Who knew that all it took would be a simple ‘hello’ to make me feel so alive.

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WORDS BY Xenia Sanut @xeniasanut

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letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s get introspective

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