Break it down.
That’s the extent of my rapping abilities, so I’ll stop there and continue on with my yearly wrap-up.
2015 – wow, I’m glad 2015 is done and dusted. It was 65% shitty. Not in a big way, more like a papercut that just wouldn’t heal.
I started the year by moving to Tasmania. Prior to the move I found a nice share house and managed to convince my dad to catch a boat with me and a ute-load of my belongings across the Bass Strait. While it is the furthest I’ve ever moved it was one of the easiest moves I’ve made and I was quickly settled within an hour or two of arriving in Hobart.
I spent a few days with my dad before he headed back to Victoria and had to steel myself against tears of uncertainty after a quick hug, tug of my shoulders and hasty goodbye. Upon reflection, I imagine my dad was experiencing a similar feeling of anxiety and probably made the hasty getaway so he could go bawl like his 26 year-old daughter was about to. Or maybe he just really wanted to hit the road and get some good take-away chips in before catching the boat, who knows….
After settling in I confidently strode out into the job market, resume in hand and had knock-back after knock-back until I settled for a job in shitty restaurant, with a racist owner, who underpaid, never paid on time, and hired a stream of workers on a trial basis so as to avoid actually paying people. Amazingly, under these circumstances, he took a shine to me and gave me a key to the business. Having a key meant cleaning the entire restaurant for at least two-three hours following dinner service. It meant scrubbing pots and pans in a haze of weed smoke as my boss puffed on a bong out the back. It meant playing my music at full blast once my stoner boss departed for the night, behind the wheel of a beat up Corolla, bleary eyed and green. It meant cracking open a beer and settling in for my usual 1 am departure.
After three months of this I managed to score a decent job and escaped the weird and ironically racist environment I had found myself in. I was deliriously happy. I ended up working a combination of jobs, one in hospitality and one in retail. My retail job saved me. When I say saved me, I mean in a lot of ways. It saved me from the black hole of depression I was experiencing and it saved me financially.
I have this really distinct memory of finishing work at the restaurant one night and being so down about how shit my life had become that I’d grabbed a bottle of wine from the restaurant and some tasty bread. I walked to the top of a hill behind my house, where I sat in an umpires chair and bawled my eyes out at 1 am, between swigs of booze and tough bread. I sat there for hours, staring up at the sky and listening to music on my iPod. I remember playing a game in my head, the title of the next song will describe how the rest of 2015 will be for me, I can’t remember what song came up but I remember feeling slightly comforted…it was probably the red wine…after finishing the bottle I climbed down from the umpires chair and wandered through the tennis courts till I felt human again. The next day I called one of my best mates and told her that I’d had one of those depressing bread and wine moments. She totally understood where I was coming from and we laughed away the insanity of the moment, both marvelling at how amazingly shit life can feel sometimes…when it really isn’t that bad.
It was a big moment for me and I made a promise to myself that I would not waste tears on bumps in the road. Living really is about challenging yourself and I had to remind myself that there are worse things in the world than crap work conditions and having no friends within arms reach.
I started working in retail and a better hospitality job, made friends and became a part of the Hobart community. The more I mingled with the locals the more I noticed a particular question kept coming up.
Initially it was just the one off, ‘where are you from…where are you really from’. Then it seemed to fall out of peoples mouths like a virus, constant queries regarding my racial makeup. At one point I was asked three times within 24 hours, two of those occurred within five minutes of each other. I became enraged. After having to put up with a racist boss I was suddenly confronted with a whole other type of ignorance, one that is just as insidious. I rebelled against their questioning, I refused to answer their questions, I turned it back on them. It was exhausting and made the experience of moving to Hobart feel like a mistake.
After having the question hurled at me during what was meant to be a relaxing sauna and spa session I went home and cried over this new bump in the road.
I attended school, a place that was meant to be an escape from ignorance, and heard classmates proffer gems like ‘why do I have to be considerate of history when I’m talking to Indigenous Australians?’ and ‘the bad thing about Australia is it doesn’t have much of a history’. I cringed, but tried to appreciate their point of view. One day I was offered a lift home by a fellow student, I told her I was tired of having to explain I am Australian to people who assume I am from somewhere else because of my brown skin, which people deem black. She sympathised and told me it is bad to be seen as a black person because black people are fundamentally savages. Her South-African accent punctuated the word black with such disdain that I almost opened the car door and jumped out mid-journey. I was gobsmacked and mentioned that Oscar Pistorius is a white man who committed a terrible crime, ‘yes’ she said, ‘but most crimes are committed by black people’. Sigh. Hobart.
I pushed on and jumped on board with social activities. I met up with a group of students from Uni for drinks. Another part African girl attended and we started to chat. She told me, without a hint of shyness, that she hated her black skin. She told me she had been adopted by white Christians as a child and brought to Hobart. Her adopted siblings had teased her about her skin colour and hair. She tugged at her hair and lamented ‘what am I meant to do with this shit?’. She looked me up and down and wished her skin was just a little lighter, like mine. She talked about hating her skin colour so much that even the white people started to feel awkward, one moved away. I talked with pride about being brown, I talked about how I sometimes wished I was a little darker. She looked at me with disbelief and I felt a kind of sadness and anger I’ve never experienced. I knew her self-hatred was a learned one, she had been taught to hate herself by her adopted family and her environment. Her self-hatred was a major catalyst for me wanting to love the skin I’m in, without abandon.
I bailed on the Uni course but stayed in Hobart and sought opportunities to be creative. I wrote to festivals asking for internships, I sought out writers groups and submitted written pieces to competitions. After a few submissions I received a call from ABC Radio and was asked to present one of my written pieces to a live audience without notes.
The theme: The First Time.
My story: The First Time I was Asked Where I am From.
I stood in front of an audience and told my story. I wasn’t scared, I felt like I was throwing a metaphorical molotov cocktail in the face of all those questioners. People in the audience gasped, some visibly blanched with discomfort when I told the story of a man who said ‘where are you from, and don’t say Australia!’. We laughed together at the ridiculousness of a man asking me in the sauna at the Hobart Aquatic Centre. When I finished I felt like I’d achieved a minor victory. The story would be broadcast on local radio and interstate. People who had asked ‘where are you from’ would suddenly understand the complex nature of their simple and stupid query.
Telling my story and quitting nursing marked the end of the shitty part of 2015. For me, the rest of 2015 felt great. I didn’t get any internships but I did get a role at Falls Festival, which paved the way for more festival work.
I attended numerous festivals, partied with my housemate, screamed at apple trees during the winter solstice and spent many a day wandering around the natural environment. I learned how to turn my frown upside down by doing hikes up Mt Wellington or writing and playing guitar.
I found friends, good friends, who I could bounce ideas off or simply sit and talk with. I had a Melbourne friend who had also moved for study. We laughed about how shit our 2015 had started off until we cried. She moved back to the mainland shortly after and our communication naturally ceased. After her I made other friends and on Boxing Day partied with my neighbours till the early hours when I rolled into bed with a smile on my face.
Toward the end of 2015 I started to love Tasmania, it took a while but by the time 2016 clocked around I was feeling less ambivalent about my place in the world. The moment came at Falls Festival, sitting in a paddock and staring out at a field of corn. I sat with a fellow festival goer and we talked about how beautiful Tasmania is. We laughed about the odd-bods, we relished the ever-evolving culture of Hobart and conjured memories of delicious local produce and meals we’d had. I talked about how I loved the silence of the place, how the beach and the forest are always close by, how the air is fresh and crisp and I knew that Tasmania had found a place in my heart.
Forget about the bad parts: the lack of cultural diversity, the absence of good dumplings, the poor employment rate and Anglo focus. The actual land, the ground, the earth beneath my feet, which makes Tasmania what it is, is beautiful. It’s inspiring, it’s breathtaking, it makes you want to leave your house and climb mountains.
So Tasmania, I’m still here and might be for a while now. I’m not entirely sure but for now, Tasmania you’ve got me.