Breathe in.

I am lying in a hospital bed. The lights are dimmed low. Family and friends gawking over me. My withered skeletal frame is stretched out in front of my eyes. The plain, white walls devoid of all character, reflect the sentiment held in my spirit. I hear the incessant beeping of my heart rate monitor mindlessly tracking the life-giving contractions that stem from within my chest. I hear the monotonous drone of voices which creates an audible haze of white noise that uncomfortably settles into every crevice of this damned room. I feel my strength waning beneath the weight of my disease. My once strong and capable body, turned to nothing but an aching shell of what it once was. Spiting me with every moment that its pathetic existence persists. I feel the cold air settle on my bare scalp. My hair slowly molting away, creating a garish caricature of myself that betrays the memory of the person I used to be. I taste the acrid, inescapable, unforgiving atmosphere of death, lingering over me like an insidious specter feasting on the despair that emanates from my being. The metallic taste of blood permeating through the cracks on my lips is all too familiar. I feel the ulcers that line my mouth and all the way down my throat, punishing any attempt to talk with brilliant torture. My mother leans down close to me, tears welling up in her eyes. I can see her pain. Her soul is slowly being crushed. Letting go of her youngest son, her baby boy, has ruined her. It has ruined my whole family. It has ruined all of my friends. Young lives meant for wonder and adventure have been sacrificed to watch me suffer. Their happiness has been torn from their lives. Their days are cold, moments of joy, fleeting- stolen by the thought of me wasting away. I have forever stained their lives with a pain that cannot be reconciled with. I can see it. I can feel it. I am nothing but a burden- a nightmarish concoction of chemical therapies and terminal diseases rolled up into a miserable sack of meat. Mum opens her mouth to speak. Her voice cracking and trembling. The words barely escape, but they manage to find their strength, ‘wake up’.

Breathe out.

The light turns green. The cars in front of me edge forward. Traffic is bad today. The rain was heavy this morning but it’s starting to clear up. My heart is pounding. I’m hyperventilating. My body temperature is rising. My hands are tingling. All of my senses are in disarray. I look down to see I’m in my work uniform. I remember it’s a Wednesday, hump day. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and turn on the radio. Music always helps. The images keep on fighting against me. My disease wants to take control again. I can feel it gnawing at the back of my mind. Hungry, wanting to feed. Its been 17 years of this. 17 years of fighting for control, of fighting to be free. It follows me everywhere I go, it’s in everything I see. Like a malicious companion, it constantly twists and molds reality into a nightmare that doesn’t actually exist. It creates visions of a future that only pillage and destroy the possibility of happiness. It does not care, it does not discriminate and it does not relent. Welcome to anxiety.

Just Breathe.


The Open Journal. 2- The Deepest of Sighs, the Frankest of Shadows

For the first time in the longest time, I feel happy. To define happiness, analyse it, pull it apart and quantify it is exhaustive and to articulate what I feel exactly would take too much time. So I’m just going to stick with ‘happy’. And, this is so satisfying to finally be able to say truthfully, I’m content with where I’m at in life. I see people having crazy amounts of success, chasing their passions and having their dreams come to fruition and no amount of envy simmers in my blood. If anything, I’m happy to see other people so alive. And not in a ‘I’ll never have that’ kind of way, in more of a ‘fuck yeah go you, you sweet human’ kind of way.

See I spent so long, longing to become a successful musician. I poured my heart and soul into that dream. It was all I thought about, everything I obsessed over and it encompassed all of who I wanted to be. It was an unrelenting passion that dictated almost every decision I made. I actually made some exciting steps in the industry too. I was networking really well, I had labels that were interested in my material and I was writing about 3-4 songs a week at a decent standard. But you know what? I was never, not even for a single moment, content. Not even for a second. In fact it nearly destroyed the love that I have for my craft. I would see other musicians my age making waves in the industry and I would become so disheartened that I wasn’t making that same kind of progress. It completely deflated me. I was constantly comparing my ‘success timeline’ to well established artists who I looked up to. If my timeline didn’t match up, I deemed myself a failure. Comparison kills confidence. That is the truth.

So what changed? Well, I decided that I don’t want my life to be defined by timelines and expectations. I realised I was dealing in absolutes. It was either music or nothing. Fame or failure. And so on. Silly old Jo. I learned that life is far from being black and white. Our lives are essentially a blank canvas and we can create whatever we want to. Societal conventions and limitations only really have as much control over us as we let them, in my opinion. I’ve heard people say “Well good luck chasing fairies overseas when you have a mortgage and 3 kids”. Well if you end up with a mortgage and 3 kids, that was a direct result of your choices, wasn’t it? My point is, life is driven by our decisions and our decisions are decided by no one other than ourselves. Sure there are things like general health, psychology, personality types, values, beliefs and every little individual detail down to our idiosyncratic tendencies to consider. But even then, the things we hold as concrete absolutes can easily become fluid under some critical questioning.

So what did I do? Nothing spectacular really. I got myself a simple job as a labourer which pays well and set myself a goal: Save enough cash for a 6 month adventure through Portugal, Spain and the rest of Western and Northern Europe. And the best part? I’m gonna cruise along those crystal coastlines every step of the way in a fucking Combi van. Yeah boi. The work is hard, the hours are long but honestly I haven’t been this happy in a long time. And as for the future…I’ve finally decided that I want to work in the area of counselling and/or psychology. That stuff interests me far too much to not at least try to study it properly. But for the short-term- adventure is on the horizon.

So to all you people out there. Single, married, partnered, kids, no kids, disabled, able, homeless, sheltered, healthy, sick, black, white and all the colours inbetween- wherever your life has eventuated to up until this point. Have faith that life remains beautiful, and you can make whatever adventure you want out of it. It’s never too late and you never have too little. I believe that with all my heart.

As Gang of Youths so eloquently put it;

‘Not everything means something honey. So say the unsayable, say the most human of things. If everything is temporary, I will bare the unbearable terrible triteness of being’.

Go farther in lightness, you sweet human!

The Open Journal- 1. Searching

I’m sick of it. Sick of what? I hear you ask with extreme curiosity from behind your iPhone screen. Well let me be candid with you, friend. I’m sick of being a simultaneously driven and complacent person. I’m sick of conjuring up alluring dreams in my head and losing all of my ambition when their magic is stripped from them as they’re hit by the windscreen of reality. I’m exhausted by the battle of wanting to be fiercely creative and longing for financial security- of wanting fulfilment and employment to go hand in hand. And most of all, I’m sick feeling like someone who doesn’t belong here. Am I too idealistic? Are all these problems completely and utterly my fault? Have I just twisted an otherwise simple reality into something that is now overcomplicated and overwhelming? Yes. No. Maybe?

This is open, this is real and it kinda sucks. The worst part is, I feel like the only person who feels like this. I feel like everyone else has it all figured out. And I know that simply isn’t true. I think experience is remarkably universal and for most people in their 20’s treading water through this millennial, modernistic culture- I’d say a lot of our struggles are similar. We are all vastly different as people and although our perceptions follow that difference, experiences still have a similar impact on the way we think. But since we can’t read each others minds, I’ll give you a glimpse into mine.

I’m a very emotionally driven person. It’s what gives my life colour and beauty. I think a lot, probably too much, and I’m on a constant search for purpose. I hate doing things when I feel like a commodity, like a cog in the machine. I need to feel like I am bettering the people around me and contributing intangibly and practically to their lives. Oh and yes I am very idealistic. Haha. Fuck me, right? Well when all of this meets reality, I’m left at a loss for what to do. I swear I have an existential crisis every few days. Its exhausting. My thought process goes something like this:

‘I should be chasing purpose more than I am’ (for me that’s making music, a passion I’ve had for many years).

Go on a creative run and write 8 songs in a week. Be incredibly inspired and excited.

Release said music, perform it, talk about it, think about it.

Get a reaction that ranges from decent to amazing.

Life remains the same. Still working the same job, feeling the same longing for purpose. Still not touring the world. Dammit.

Creative drive goes away, feel lost. Stop writing music. Rinse and repeat.

So I’m sure someone reading this can relate. Or maybe I’m insane and this is gibberish to you. But I guess what I’m trying to say is, I feel lost. I know that’ll change but for now it sucks. This world doesn’t seem to be conducive to the kind of person that I am, but perhaps it’s because I haven’t looked hard enough for a way to fit in.

Nevertheless, my 20-something friends (or indeed friends of any age) you are not alone if you feel this way too! I think there’s a dangerous and toxic culture that perpetuates itself surrounding how ‘good’ you’re doing in your life- with your job, relationships, friends etc. As much as many people wouldn’t say it, we are essentially running the rat race and it breeds confidence-killing comparison. Social media makes this substantially worse. One tap on your phone and you see 12 friends in Europe living it up, another 20 graduating Uni and another 100 partying like they don’t have a care in the world. And you’re there, 7 slices deep into a family sized pizza binge watching The Office on a Saturday night asking yourself what you’re doing with your life.  This is a very dangerous place to be, being exposed to that facet of social media I mean. Because when everyone puts their best face forward, it can coerce you to feel the need to do the same. And that can permeate real-life social interaction. Putting on a mask and pretending that life is all rosy and sweet can be easier than talking about what you’re struggling with and that’s a very, very fine line to walk. Because if you don’t feel like you can talk to your mates about that stuff, it can create isolation and that can lead to all sorts of nasty places.

So let me tell you if no one else has: everyone is insecure about something, no one is remotely perfect and everyone needs someone to get real with them and talk about the hard stuff. It’s totally normal to feel like you don’t have it all figured out. If you feel that way, just understand that it’s a part of the journey to finding your place in this world. It’s long, arduous and full of terrifying and beautiful things but you’re here now- you’re alive. And there’s no turning back. So you might as well revel in what it is to be human. You are not alone. Chris Martin once said, “Life is beautiful in all of its colours”- but I think its up to us to find it. Keep on dreaming you sweet human!