“Oh you’re a writer? What do you write about?”

“Oh you’re a writer? What do you write about?”

It has been four years.

Now, that is one sentence that I know with certainty I can put down.

Another, is that I can say with some embarrassment, but without a shred of shame: since that post I had not written creatively or otherwise for leisure. For communication? Sure. As a necessity for my job? Of course. Yet this wasn’t the first time that I wanted to write for leisure; it is simply the first time that I actually did it.

So when I clicked onto my site this evening, I realised there were a few posts that I made in 2016 that I didn’t recall making. My memory had been that I had made a lot of reviews, and blogged about my 2014 Malaysia trip, but it turned out that in mid-2016 I set all those on private, and started afresh. Of course, I immediately remembered why – I had just gone through a breakup, I was feeling motivated to be something new, something better, and what better way to achieve this than to prove to myself, “I am a writer, so let’s write!”

If you visit the About Alex page, you can see a caricature of an enthusiastic, energetic entrepreneur, with ideas and motivation conjured out of sheer willpower. I’ll leave those up, since I don’t know what I’d replace it with. Who am I now, anyway?

Fact #1 I have learned and accepted about myself: I’m not entrepreneurial.

Who knows? This may be the single lonesome post for the next four years, crammed into stasis by a restless mind Month Three into lockdown. Yeah, that’ll date this post for sure – the Pandemic Lockdowns of 2020.

I won’t fault any parts of my past self for being short of perceived perfection. I was, am not, and will never be the level of perfection that I deem to be acceptable. I will never become a famously regarded writer, or famously regarded anything, because I am not entrepreneurial.

And this isn’t me projecting self deprecation to draw validation from my (imagine my surprise) 12 followers, a number of whom have probably ceased to remember my existence up until 5 minutes ago. I am content with the fact that I am not entrepreneurial.

Fact #2: I like who I am now.

Super freaking weird thing to say about yourself, I know, but hear me out.

I used to be so cynical and negative about everything. I thought that was a personality trait. I thought that by being so cool and indifferent, that it would somehow validate my imperfections in the eyes of those whose opinion mattered so, so painfully much to me.

What it really gave me was a list of names – longer than I care to admit – of those very same people who no longer talk to me. My toxic, needy and ungiving attitude unsurprisingly pushed them all away.

I don’t know exactly when, and I’d like to say it was right after the previous 2016 post, but I think honestly it was around 2018, but I just wanted to stop doing all of that. Just stop the negativity, get rid of all of the emotional armor and bullshit. It was exhausting being so mean, and it was a lot more fun to be kind. And yeah, that sounds cheesy, but guess what? It really, really did wonders for me. Not my social life, or my friendship circles – me.

Actually, I lie, I know exactly what and who changed this about me. He’ll never see this, but if he somehow does – Hi Bradley!

So in 2018, Bradley joined my previous job. Bradley is, and I say this with obvious love, gay as the day is long. He is campy, he loves costume changes during the workday (I’m not exaggerating) and he calls everyone kween. And he really, really loves to love. And you know what I used to think? That he was faking it – it’s a new job, and he’s faking this super nice, loving gay persona. I was clearly projecting.

Sometime between the housewife wigs he’d put on at 3pm to serve everyone coffee and tea from a creaking tea trolley that he picked up from an op-shop, and the unflinchingly infectious attitude he’d bring day after day, after day, after day, I realised – holy shit, who cares if he’s faking it, I want to be that happy about making others happy.

I know it’s probably not ideal to model myself off of someone else, since it’s just another layer of armour, but guys – guys, I made it work. I’m not like Bradley, that’s ridiculous, he’s way more beautiful. I am Alex. I am the version of me that I’m proud of being.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to have turned into a self-help sermon. But it is one of the bigger things that changed about me. Fun side note: I voiced these feelings to a good close friend recently, one who has known me for over 14 years, who despite everything didn’t end up on that long list of friendships past, and she was gracious enough to say to me, “I always liked who you were, but I’m glad you’re happy now.” Guys, I mean, wow.

Fact #3: I’m a writer, just not the writer I want to be.

This one is tricky. This one is icky. I don’t think I’m at a point where I have fully accepted this, and a big piece of evidence for this is the fact that you are reading this now.

So, my day-job is in corporate communications. It’s a role I fell into through a series of coincidences and very, very hard work on my behalf. I won’t take away from myself the fact that I am good at what I do, and I still strive to improve, but let’s be honest – corporate communications is not creative writing.

Sadly, due to my day-job, I no longer have the creative or mental bandwidth to write the way I want. This post, that would have taken me less than an hour to write in 2016, has taken me the better half of my entire Friday evening. I find it much harder to craft artful metaphors or slip symbolisms without breaking down a few fourth walls with my clumsiness. I write directly, and I write with purpose.

There was a time when I was in early high school years that I would be so prolific that if I were to read those pieces of writing now, I’d impress myself. I don’t think I can ever capture that lightning in a bottle again – and again, side note, in 2017 I accidentally lost the USB that contained everything, everything everything about me in the past 10 years , and earlier this year I accidentally formatted even more. I can’t even go back and be inspired by the younger me if I wanted to.

And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’d love to prove myself wrong – now, or in the near and distant future. But even if I don’t, that’s okay. I don’t need to build my identity around a set of self-created expectations.

What’s next?

I don’t know. I wrote this because I wanted to make myself accountable. I wanted to solidify the point in time when I was happy with myself, when I accepted my own faults, and when I genuinely feel inspired to stay on the path of perpetual improvement. If I falter, and perhaps I should say when I falter, I need this here to rouse me.

Since 2016, a few of my friends became parents, and I find myself in a position where I may actively be a part of their children’s lives by association. While I don’t plan to have children, I think there is a version of the so-called “motherly instincts” kicking in, where I wish to be a source of comfort and safety for those tiny little poop bags. I can’t be that being who I was. I can’t even be that being who I am now. There is more I can do, and I will do.

Also, one of the mothers of the poop bags told me this week that I inspired her to take steps to better herself, which was a pleasant but slightly horrifying surprise. I had tried – and began to succeed at – kicking a really bad snacking habit, and that had pushed her to wean off of YouTube. So instead she’s blogging! So I’ll be inspired by her right back.

P.S. The featured image is the picture that Demi picked for me for a profile image. Also since 2016 I adopted a new online user nickname that I tend to use a lot, and it has to do with pugs. Just thought you might want some context.

I’m writing a Training Manual

I’m writing a Training Manual

…and I’ve never felt dumber.

My current job was more or less created for me – in the sense that I interviewed for an entry internship just to manage basic content and social media platforms for my company, and have slowly evolved into a part time overall media resources manager, website content creator, basic user-end SEO, social media manager, and just dabbling in online marketing. I’m not saying that I don’t love the challenge, but it is decidedly outside of my skill-set as bestowed upon me by my education. There were a lot, and I mean a lot, that I learned on the job, testing and failing and trying again.

Now, I’m writing a Training Manual for the next lucky person to work with my amazing company. No, I’m not brown-nosing; these are folks who took a graduate as face value and didn’t beat around the bush about what they expected, but also understood that I had to slowly build my way up. They paid me for my work, rather than take advantage of an unemployed intern. They continuously give me support and inquire if there is more than can do to help me. I am writing this Training Manual not because I’m about to be out of a job, but because I also want to reflect upon the progress I’ve made so far. And also because eventually, someone will need to pick up where I’ll be leaving off.

And, yeah, I’ve never felt dumber.

There is something finite about putting down everything your job entails as a list of steps and suggestions. I’m writing the training manual as if it was for the intern me, but it’s becoming obvious that all these months of accumulated knowledge are stacking up to less than a few dozen screen shots and several three-step instructions. Many of them, I feel, are complete common sense. Of course, I feel like they’re common sense because I’ve been doing it for the last year and half – one time when I was away, someone in the office effectively deleted an entire page’s gallery of images while trying to upload just one extra photo. It turns out that I am the only one who is familiar enough with our website’s content system to upload photos. So I’m writing a manual so that I don’t have to tell them how easy it is to drag and drop an image into an upload dialogue box.

But I digress.

The first problem I encountered was the issue of how. How the hell do I write a manual? Every instruction I’d been given when I started, and every skill I learned along the way, were either delivered verbally, via an outdated and heavily erroneous instruction booklet (yep, there is one already, but it has so many scribbles and corrections that I might as well start from scratch), or by trial-and-error. I’m not really the type to be able to neatly organize a lot of jumbled information into a coherent and useful structure. I’m much more the creative type who comes up with small bursts of prose and ingenious hashtags. I had to Google the solution.

So then I encountered a training manual for writing training manuals. It was horrific. It began with something about ‘identifying your audience’, ‘knowing your goals’, and ‘creating a structure that builds towards the goal’. I thought, “dear God, do I have to be this condescending on my manual? Do I have to use this many Clip Arts?”

After several more minutes trying to find a template that spells out how I should structure my thoughts, I realized, “What I want in a training manual is the goddamn answer. I just want a piece of reassurance for even the simplest of problems I might encounter, like forgetting a password, or how big I should be making an image. Who cares what order it’s in, as long as it’s grouped together properly? There’s always Ctrl+F, right?”

I’m sure I’ll come to regret that decision in the near future, but for now, I’m writing a manual that includes everything from the company’s Instagram account password, to how big the photo for a blog post’s main image needs to be. I’ll be sure to include exactly which buttons will add images to a gallery, and which ones will delete the whole page.

The best part? I’m doing it all with puppy photos as placeholders – because eventually, some poor sucker is going to have to read this.

Maybe someone should write that lady a training manual for writing training manuals for training manuals.

Smash the Rose Tinted Lenses

Smash the Rose Tinted Lenses

Why did we stay in bad relationships for as long as we did? Could we not tell how bad it was? Were we not in tune with our own misery at all?

When we are feeling miserable, we look back into our past for positive moments to lift us up. When we sift through the memories, it’s the heartwarming gems that rise to the top. We pick those up, put them in our pocket, and reassure ourselves that it is all worth it.

But it’s the sludge and waste that falls onto the ground, splashing on your shoes and staining your legs. If you don’t change, if you don’t try to change, you’ll feel its cold, squelching presence, every step of the way.

And the next time that you sift through the memory, there will be less gems, and more sludge. It will creep further up your legs, stealing its cold fingers into your very being. It will even stain the gems that are in your pockets. It will keep rising until you drown in it.

Yet, for whatever reason, when we put on those rose-tinted lenses, we fail to notice the sludge at all. All we see are the brightly shining gems.

Take those rose-tinted lenses from your eyes. Smash them. See your misery for what it is.

Then act. Change. Make it so when you sift, there are more gems and less sludge. You’ll never be rid of sludge entirely, but you’ll have lovely bright gems to pay for new shoes. The happy memories will boost you to work through the bad.

One day, you’ll look back on the path you took. You’ll wonder why you let yourself trudge through the misery for so long when the road to happiness is right nearby.

“You do you; the rest doesn’t matter”

Before I begin, let me address the elephant in the room.

The last time I published anything, I had just celebrated my 22nd birthday. I was in my cushy hotel room in Langkawi, Malaysia, trying to find the energy to finish off a long blog post about a long day. Across the room from me, my then girlfriend was reading something off of her phone. I told myself, it’s your birthday. You don’t have to post this until tomorrow, so just take a break.

The funny thing about breaks, they have a habit of disguising themselves as temporary visitors. In my case, they didn’t even need to don the mask; I was feeling tired, not just from a long day, but from the expectations I had placed on myself. I’d set out to document my entire holiday trip, and told myself I had to be articulate, funny, and engaging. You want to write more, don’t you? Well, then, write!

But what I really wanted to do was to blog, not publish; I wanted the catharsis of taming my thoughts and feelings into consumable chunks. Yes, but who will consume it? I remember haphazardly (sloppily, even) trying to ‘market’ myself everywhere, to anyone who might feel empathetic enough to read. Your writing has always been good, so that should be your selling point. Yes, but the moment I started writing to publish, my writing stopped being mine. The moment I began to put on a show for the sake of appearances, it had already failed.

Earlier this year, my relationship ended. It was a four year relationship that had, during its course, been a relationship that the people around us had heralded as the epitome of what relationships should be. It wasn’t. After the break up, I thought back, and realized that the last moment I was truly me in that relationship, had been when we holidayed together in Malaysia. Somehow, somewhere and sometime after that, I began to stop putting myself into the relationship, and instead installed the version that everyone had expected me to be.

Like I said, the moment I began to put on a show…

So give that big elephant a wave. Yes, hello, I’m back again. There are quite a lot of you who may suddenly see my name in your inbox or feeds again, and think, oh, I thought she died in Malaysia. If we’re being melodramatic, maybe a part of me did die there. But the truth is, I had given up.

Pat that elephant on the trunk. Yes, I’ve removed every previous post from this site. I didn’t want to read them, and hear the echoes of a person trying to be something “ideal”. To me, those previous posts felt like the ghosts of my memories, resurfacing from every oily-skinned, shaggy haired, awkward teenager photo that ever existed of me. Those posts felt cold and reeked of the antiseptic of edits and re-edits.

Finally, look the elephant in the eye, and remember that it will remember you. Life isn’t going to give me redoes after redoes. I can’t select a handful of memories, and disappear them from memory. I’ve addressed the elephant in the room, and it is addressing me.

“You do you, the rest doesn’t matter.” The things I will do here on this blog, they’ll be for me. From the photos, to the captions, and each and every single joke – they’ll be for me. This was the advice given to me by a close friend during my breakup. I was so consumed with trying to do the right thing, and abide by the right people, I had failed to see that the only person I should answer to is me. It’s advice that I had given to others, without heeding myself: once you have figured out who you are, the people whose existence complements yours will naturally follow suit.

So let’s end this on a more positive note:

Why the wolf? I’ve always liked wolves. Ever since reading a children’s abridged version of Jack London’s White Fang, I have felt a closeness with wolves. I enjoyed their pack mentality, but I also felt drawn to their tenacity when forced to survive alone. I like wolves so much, I had one placed permanently on me last year.

I thought about changing this blog’s name, and the tagline. But for some reason (perhaps laziness), I felt that what it used to be oddly still applied. I will still do things, and tell you about it here – maybe you, too, should do that (elsewhere. I welcome comments, but not necessarily your entire life story).

Alright elephant, alright wolf, let’s do this.

Alex.