Sunday, 27 March 2011

Pursuing Your Dream

People are always telling me to follow my dream(s), to the extent that I've recently been thinking about this indepth. In some sense, I am living my dream. In some sense, I have a long way to go.

In what sense am I living my dream?

I have eliminated one after another of a long list of partly alluring but ultimately destructive career choices, and stripped it all down to 'the written and spoken word'. When I visited Artists' Square at Montmartre I wanted to purchase some drawing / painting materials and make a little space for myself on the plaza, weaving myself into the fabric of Paris society. My dad wasn't so enchanted with the idea, and so we returned to Sydney. The art I have created has actually received a lot of praise, and I have often thought that if I focused on it, I could make money through it.

In another life, I would love to be a psychologist, an interior designer, an Information Technology person, a photographer, a film director, a sociologist, a politician, an architect, an actor, a dancer... you get the idea.

Even as a 'writer', I'm always asking myself 'what kind of writing do I most want to do'? The questions evoked by that are always changing.

'Am I primarily a poet?'
'Is postmodern philosophy something I should take more seriously?'
'Should I focus on being more eloquent, or more direct?'
'Should I try to write a longer text, or a stream of witticisms (very short texts)?'

'Should I write about [feminism, sexual orientation, the creative process, etc] more or less?'
Should I follow up on something I've previously written, or forget everything I've ever written?

The fact that I have some a clear goal (Write!) and that it leads to so many questions is a sign that I am following my dreams.

Ways I could be living my dream further?

Becoming financially independent is something I haven't yet been able to do, and it's something which I'm preparing myself to tackle. However, there is a lot of fear of failure involved in this, because my previous attempts to 'have it all' while moving to another continent haven't worked out. (This happened three times, on three different continents, by the way.) So I guess this is where I learn from my mistakes and note the successes behind them.

Someone once suggested to me that if I wanted to move to Europe but didn't know exactly where to base myself, I should start off with London, so I can adjust to life on the continent, and then see where I go from there.

I know that I see Stockholm in my future - it's a place where almost everyone speaks near-flawless English, yet still gives me a foreign language to learn; I know that I find Barcelona irresistable also. I'm not completely sure about Paris, because it's not on the sea, and the people can be rather pretentious and Anglophone-phobic.

But this is the easy part: Deciding which society I want to join.
The hardest part is making enough money to be able to support myself, wherever I am.

I heard someone (I forget who) say that, these days, writing a book is a good way to boost your profile. Well, perhaps I can write books on the side, as a way of maintaining my blogging practice... :o)

The Motivated Learner

One of the areas I identify myself as having a strong interest in is studies of sexual orientation. I have never received any formal training in this area. None was available in high school (we briefly discussed homosexuality in one PE/Health/PD lesson (- that's Physical Education / Health / Personal Development -) but that was it. At university I was in an Introduction to Feminism course for a few weeks, and that was about as close as I got to anything resembling 'queer studies'. Some universities do offer these courses, but mine didn't.

However, I had been busy learning outside the classroom from the age of fifteen, when I first became aware of finding females sexually appealing. I read encyclopedias, social commentary, personal accounts, history books, relationship and sex advice, more statistics and anything else I could get my hands on during those first couple of years. I was intrigued by how I had forged an entirely new dimension of experience. It was exciting to re-evaluate my perceptions, indulge my curiosity and stray way off the well-trodden path (or what I perceived it to be, anyway).

So when I listen to Sugata Mitra speak (allude?) to the tenacity of those who develop an interest in learning complex things on their own, I pay attention. There's nothing more motivational than finding your unique journey in life, which might be guided by your mentors, but should never be dictated by them.

It wasn't until Years 11 and 12 that I really started devouring the English education I was getting - in previous years, I had felt like I had had to adopt affected stances in responding to literature, which often didn't intersect deeply with the experience I had had with the text. It seemed like there was a 'set' way to take pleasure in, and speak of, literature, and I always had to adopt mannerisms which didn't come naturally in order to play by the marker's rules.

During the last two years of high school, however, my interest in learning became extreme, due to a shift in the way we were asked to look at literature. The syllabus had become more postmodern! The emphasis was now on such things as a gaps and silences within the text, and we were introduced to a number of traditional critical perspectives (Marxist, psychoanalytical, feminist, postmodern), to just name two of the changes. I was very enthusiastic about the new educational tools I was offered, and my grades in English became the highest they had ever been. That was at the beginning of year 11. Two years later, I still got very high marks, but I felt like I wasn't as encouraged to inform my existential crises by the material I was learning as much - at that point, the teaching had become all about refining exam technique, and I was left with just a simulacra of the original inspiration to guide me through.

A keen student of people and the way they form and reshape their perspectives, I was bored.

At university I learnt about narrativity, and how to write about it. I learnt about poetry, and how to take more pride in my fragmentation. I eventually came to the conclusion that university was too limiting, and that I had a fervent desire to design my own education - an education which was informed by the best of the techniques I had already learnt, but could not be created within a system in which the worst of the techniques were firmly entrenched.

An education is what you make of it. Even the dullest of permanent influences can play a charmed role in your development of brilliance. Going through the education system is no guarantee of living a passionate, fully engaged and personally meaningful life. For me, the first step I had to take to drastically redesign my life, was to say goodbye to the University of New South Wales, and all the dreams my parents, teachers and peers had associated with becoming the popularly socially acceptable version of successful.

These days I pay close attention to what happens in academia, and also in the marketplace... it's good to know what's going on, even though it rarely intersects with my personal style of writing. And despite all the conformity I am constantly shaking my head at, reading widely means that I also find many inspiring texts which compel me to stay in an ultra-creative zone for as long as possible.

What is your own story with, around or against the educational systems you've known?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Into Inequality

Pretty girl.
How far can we hurl
Her away from the position
Of authority that we wield?

My most cherished brother,
We must group together
So women don’t get closer
To us or each other
Than they currently remain
We couldn't possibly handle
Facing our vulnerabilities
We'll rule out that option
Again and again

Our intimacy coloured
By our brilliant insecurities
Dulled sense of idealism
Cruelly neglecting our inner pain
The most question-raising entities
Are the ones we'll have erased
From the spectrum, the scope and the range

Something somewhere went wrong
And we'll spend a lifetime pretending
That we're sufficiently moved by the inherited song
Too busy to innovate because we're hung up on ending

So much for your hopes of reintegrating
Your dislocated poignant refrain
Within your body of fragments
When the worst thing one can call another
Is the space between a woman's legs

Take a break
Travel far
You're not entitled 
To such baggage
Can't you see
You crave an equal

Gender inequality is a state we tend recreate
Find a better place within yourself
Then you can light the way for everyone else

The Poetic Process

The first line
Kind of sets the bar
We'll see what we can bring to it
By now I've realised I've
Made the wrong start
And too discouraged to go on,
I say: to Hell with it!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

What is an education?

How can we improve - no, change - no, revolutionise our current educational systems? Two men offer two different and groundbreaking theories:

Monday, 21 March 2011

Swept Away

We meet by the river, you are open to suggestion
I am your distorted mirror- radiating desire back at you
You are the Answer to my Question, which I pretend to accept
You cannot find a resting place in my bed of deconstructed duality
I cannot find a home in your harshly muttered finalities
So we're kneeling close-by in soft, stubbly grass
Relishing each other in a way not designed to last
Today it matters not what you lack
We lean our bodies forward, toss our heads back
You reach for my arm and I
Dissolve in distress
Upset at my dream life,
Ever an elaborate mess
But I know it won't be long, won't be long
Before I've found the courage to move on

Sunday, 20 March 2011

[Write your own title!]

[Write your own poem!]

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Mobilising those at the margins

I enjoyed watching this, today:

Fragments of Lykke Li, Bjork & Robyn

I've recently discovered another interesting Swedish artists, and there are two of her songs I'm loving these days:

Continuing my Nordic theme, I've also been getting high doses of Bjork (check out the PoMo videos)...

And finally, how can I resist some new(-ish) Robyn...

Potent Confusion

Three scratches -
The perfect addition to the texture
Who wants an unblemished premise?

A sip of counter-intuitive spirits
To offset the mellow cocktail
Savour the taste of the unfamiliar

I deserve love, and you do too
If only I could tear my gaze away
From all the self-loathing you do

This voyeurism is really affecting me
I need to close my eyes and simply just be
Too often I let my hopelessness take control of me

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Marching to my own tune

Today, sometime in the early morning, all the pieces came together:
I learn best when I have a private tutor. I love music. I don't like fixed structures or sitting in a room with twenty other people. I don't like getting up at 9am. I had gained a lot from my previous language swaps, but felt like there was something missing - like I was out of control.
And then, suddenly, it all became clear: I should advertise for a partner who wants, like me, to learn language skills through song! Can there be a more enjoyable or interesting way to learn?

I have noted that I am most motivated to learn when a song worms its way into my ear, such as Robyn's Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa or the Spanish Besame Mucho. I also think I would be great at helping any student of English grasp the subtle nuances of any song through my passion for the written and spoken word (or, in this case, the sung lyric). I have good memories of Utada Hikaru songs like Automatic when it comes to Japanese, and if I'm really lost for lyrical muses, I can always tackle the national anthems.

I hope other people are as enthusiastic about this as I am. Learning some elegant yet popular metaphor is so much more interesting than learning how to tell the time. And who's to say it's less practical? It all depends on how you intend to express yourself, no? I remember being so proud that I could say 'Oh, what can I say of the state of my heart since you entered my life?' in Hindi, after falling in love with the song Tumse Milke, brought to life by Shah Rukh Khan in a Bollywood film... I can still remember selected parts of the song, which is delightful.

Should people be too shy to take up my offer, I guess I'll just learn foreign songs by myself! ;o)

Worthwhile TED Talk

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Revolutionary's Anger

In the Mathews Building of UNSW I spotted a poster for some kind of Marxist group. In a few boldly rendered colours stood out a woman with her mouth opened as if in yelling protest, and a fist raised high. It seemed to me that the Australian left-wing scene was a repositary for angry young people with a high degree of intelligence and little practical experience with inevitable corruption, concealment and devastation wrought by Communist governments over four continents.

It's all about the anger.

Now, anger is a constant presence if you're a radical thinker of any kind. You witness the majority resort to things that make you shudder on a regular basis, and over time, the resentment becomes intense. University provides an environment where the anger of the intelligentsia is encouraged to build, and as such plays an important part in keeping all sorts of idealism alive.

Because infuriated Marxists are much more inspiring than those pleasantly plodding along, ticking off items on The To-Do List of Life every couple of years as they buy houses, secure promotions and have children.

I, too, am angry... and I think getting in touch with my aggression may be just what I need.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Thoughts on Religion

Religion: It doesn't register or resonate with me.
I have some religious friends, and I invite them to believe whatever they want to, but I will be eternally questioning of any claims to a universal truth represented by an omnipresent deity - or some such.
My resistance to Christianity can be articulated in the following way: I don't have, or wish to have, that much guilt. I lack the investment in guilt as a motivational emotion. Christians always seem to be struggling to overcome the darkest parts of their nature, of which they are ashamed. But we all have light and dark, and this is where self-acceptance comes in real handy.
Of the major religions, I am least turned off by Buddhism. I make use of some meditation techniques, and practice my own version of 'mindfulness'. And there's something quite beautiful about the Cao Dai temples in Vietnam, with their warm and light colours, and creative blend of world religions and particular theorists. But I would never believe in a religion, not even if I had to pretend to convert to one at gunpoint.

My parents were raised in a period of Bulgaria's history when religion was banned. (The dictator replaced the role of god, entrenching nation-wide veneration - the more adamant, the better.) I was raised to barely give religion a second thought, something about my upbringing I am thankful for, because religion breeds xenophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia. I do have a grandmother who is deeply Orthodox Christian, but I hardly ever see her, and in multicultural Australia it's unusual for religious groups to strongly assert their beliefs, so it's only when I listen to clips from Fox News (brought to me courtesy of American progressives) that I get the sensation that anyone believes my spiritual beliefs need improvement.

Today is one such day. Hence this post. I figure the atheists among my readers will sympathise, and the cool religious people will at least have a better understanding of my views. Lots of love to you all! :o)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

One day...

One day I will be based in a number of cities/towns such as

Chiang Mai
San Francisco

(*These are places I project I will develop a strong relationship with, but we have yet to see as I haven't been there yet.)

I believe I have the sophistication, culture and appreciation for the fine things in life of an European, the friendliness, independence and open-mindedness of an Australian, the inquisitive nature and idealistic passion of an American, and the love for social harmony and amiable presentation of an Asian.

It has come to my attention that Melbourne would probably be to my liking much more than Sydney, and as such I wouldn't mind visiting it once in a while. But at this stage I have an overwhelming urge to get out of Australia, and since there is so much more of the world to see, I'm not at all sure that I'll return.

I also have constant (fun) disagreements with myself over which places are best suited to one-off holiday experiences and which places capture my imagination enough for me to get more attached. Vienna is a good example - I felt very stimulated by it in a way I didn't expect, and didn't want to leave. Places I haven't been before, like Brighton, inspire me, and I've recently been sussing out a city that wouldn't seem immediately compatible with my needs, Dublin, but might prove very rewarding all the same.

I think, if I can visit Taipei, Reykjavik, Brighton and/or Dublin this year at least, I would be a very happy girl.