2016 In Review

Most people looking back on 2016 only seems to have negative things to say about it, but for me 2016 was a year of getting out of a bad situation and a shitty job. I changed my new address and moved into a completely new neighbourhood, which was scary and I could have starved to death had I not accepted that change and adapted to it. I may have fallen into a deep and aimless depression, in which I thought all the skills that I built up over 11 years were now gone, but I fought it and I came out even stronger on the other side. My chronic fatigue may mean I get tired over doing 2-3 basic tasks and my likelihood of being employed even in a part time 8 hour per week job is pretty slim, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an employer out there who is accommodating of my issues.

Sometimes I think those who complain the most about things are people who don’t have enough to complain about. I still have the same atypical brain, the same energy limitations and I’m in the same hopeless situation but I have a loving family who I will always get to see at the end of the year. Sure, things could be better in certain parts but I have to accept it and wait for things to get better.

This year I made new friends who understand my mental health issues and give me hope in times when I feel there is none, and in turn I support and offer them hope and practical advice, because after all I can’t help being myself. I’ve connected to two people in subjects that I struggled to find anyone to connect to. I made a promise and a plan to a higher power and have followed through with it quite nicely. And most importantly, the passion of storytelling that runs through every fiber of my being is no longer just another abandoned dream because it just felt too hard to do with all my problems that stood in the way of me pursuing my dream of being a published and well known author and screenwriter.

This year I had to face some hard truths about situations that I couldn’t change, and I had to accept that and move on from them. To not get into too many details I will say it involves a serious mental illness with such strong delusions that they had to be medicated away, and even after coming off medication certain things in my life have to be viewed in another perspective and avoided altogether just because some place my mind took me 3 years ago.

Life is hard. Life can be frustrating and seems to be unfair at times, but the year is not to blame; it’s your attitude towards the world. Social media breeds a culture that encourages pessimism and petty arguments. It’s no wonder we’re always so negative when we should really be grateful for all we have. Most of us have more positive things going for us than some people in truly dire situations, and despite all they struggle with they don’t complain – they just get on with it.

I can’t close this blog without mentioning yet again that one big change for me was getting back into political activism and that wouldn’t have happened without meeting members of Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Alternative and a much delayed interest in the band Anti-Flag. The U.S Election results may have helped some but the real seeds were planted from an encounter from the leader of the SEP on Election Day. Australia has been under right-wing leadership for two years so there’s been plenty of reasons for me to get active again. It’s not just about saving the Great Barrier Reef, Same Sex Marriage or closing Nauru anymore. Or those countless petitions I’ve signed against Bayer and Monsanto.

Now I feel like 2017 will be a year of war, a class war because if forcing people on disability to work wasn’t enough they’re going to cut the pension. 2016 for me was just a shake-up. It roused me up from my leftist coma and made me aware that the government really doesn’t care about its people and complacency will just endure our suffering.

Wow. That got kind of serious. This was meant to be a feelgood post even though I don’t really feel that positive about work or about pursuing my dreams lately. Hope can come from many places though; sometimes dreaming big, sometimes anger. I know these last few paragraphs sound contradictory to my ‘just be thankful with what you got’ theme but there’s a line to it. No one should allow themselves to be treated unfairly by those who rule over them. Everyday annoyances should be easy to shake off though.

For the last couple of years this blog has mainly been about my mental health issues and sometimes video games, but as this blog is basically a database of my thoughts, especially the troubling ones, things are going to have to change as I change. I might get political from time to time. This is the new (old) me and you’re just going to have to put up with it.

With ❤ Spycraft 

Why I Stopped Taking Photos

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I want you to think about that one special skill you have. Something that makes you you, something you can’t live without. Everyone has one. It could be you’re a natural and talented artist or a skilled athlete. You could be a math genius, a captivating storyteller or a gifted actor. Everybody has that one thing they’re good at but some people haven’t yet discovered what it is yet. Ok so, think about your job. You’re good at your job; otherwise you wouldn’t even have it. You could be a graphic designer, or maybe you’re just really really good with people so work in sales. Or maybe you just do something basic that isn’t really that demanding and is actually enjoyable. Now what if one day you couldn’t do your job or you lost that one skill that everyone knew you for. It made them look up to you. It was the one thing that made you get up in the morning, it was all you lived for and now it’s gone. That happened to me.

It just took one night of forced motivation to make myself do something I wasn’t feeling up to and I ended up screwing up so much that I can’t even stand to even try again. OK, I’m going to stop being vague. I’m a band photographer. I’ve been taking photos for 11 years. I’ve been capturing rock moves under the colourful and dancing stage lights. I captured emotional moments that are easily missed from standing back in the crowd. A missed moment that now exists forever in a million ordered pixels. So how could I one night mess that up on a monumental level? And why is it keeping me from ever trying again? Am I so scared of failing I’ll never try again? Well, yes. Failing hurts. But this isn’t just limited to my band photography, it pervades to every part of my life.

This all started when I lost my job after just working there one day. It was the most basic and menial job that they usually give to immigrants who can’t speak fluent English. Those are the only jobs I can get. The jobs no one else wants. And I can’t even do them. My communication is stunted by my autism. My energy is exhausted in a matter of hours because of chronic fatigue. I feel like my whole body is falling apart and I’m feverishly and hopelessly trying to hold it together. No doctor or scientist can restore it to what it used to be. Am I overreacting? Maybe, but sometimes it feels like no matter what I do to help it it won’t be enough.

So lately I’ve been in a state of apathy. I don’t care about getting another job, mainly because I don’t think I can take being fired again. I’m not talking of disappointment but something far deeper on a psychological level. I basically gave up on my goals. For years I’ve just been trying to reach both short and long term goals but now it all feels like it’s for nothing. I get moments of motivation and creativity but it doesn’t hang around long enough for me to really do anything with it. And I’m not a person who can exist without creating something or making something out of myself.

I’m still trying. I’m still planning to overcome this fear of never taking the same quality photos again. I mean, that seems like such a small thing but the thing is it’s my only skill – no, not only skill – it’s the only skill that I can actually do with the energy and motivational limits I have. I’ve started to think about working on screenwriting too but the same issues come up. It’s a project that relies on self-motivation and organization. It takes commitment. And the final pitch takes high level communication skills, and you have to accept failure over and over again.

Life Goes On

Here’s an update of sorts on my life. I’ve had way too many thoughts to come up with a single subject to write about this time.

Lately, I’ve not been doing much aside from playing Mass Effect 3 for a few hours a day. On Sunday I clocked over 4 hours which to hardcore gamers is nothing but to someone who likes to divide their time by doing a variety of tasks I was beginning to feel a bit…non-functional.

You see, I have this problem where I can get stuck on doing just one thing and then forget to take care of my basic needs, like buying food and making my own healthy meals. I showered today, right? Yes. OK, good.

So, as I was saying I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 3 and getting pretty far with it. It’s always surprising when I’m actually good at a game. I’m expecting to get so stuck soon that I’ll just quit the game in a fit of rage.

Something interesting to note about playing through ME:3 is that during the dialogue scenes where you get to choose what Commander Shepard says and decide where the game gets to go, I’ve not only been learning that my decisions have some real consequences but I’ve also picked up some extra social skills along the way. I’ve noticed how Shepard does take care to speak warmly to people even when you just select ‘goodbye’ as a piece of the dialogue. He doesn’t just say ‘bye then’ but will gently reveal that he’s going but will try to reassure the other character he still cares about their situation. If it was left up to me I’d probably just say ‘bye’ and leave it at that. Another thing I picked up which could help me with my erm, defiant reactions, is that I’ve learned not everyone will be pleased with the decisions I made within the game even if a few others might. For example I helped a race called the Krogan get more power by having them cured of the genophage; it sort of limited their growth as a species. The Salarians weren’t impressed with that. Even my own General Hackett wasn’t impressed that I freed a creature created by the Reapers, our enemy. Maybe I was a bit naive in believing her when she said she’d help fight them. At least I didn’t free a psychopath or work with a ruthless gang just to help win the war. However, I think I made a bad call not letting the Grissom students join the fight. Fortunately, I have saved my game on several slots and I can replay the mission to see what having the students fighting alongside me will be like.

Yep. A video game is teaching me social skills. Add it to the list of emotional family drama shows and science fiction which have also helped me develop socially.

Ever since I came back from seeing and photographing The Ape I feel like I’ve lost the spark of life. At least I had been. I don’t do very well with transitioning from one thing to another and once it was over it was over. I really wanted to meet them and my anxiety seemed to resurface at the moment the opportunity arose. It was a fine mix of social anxiety and avoidance that made me decide neh, I don’t want to do this. I was so set on going to Free Comic Book Day the next day that I thought it justified making a quick exit. Plus I had to work on the photos. Enough excuses, kid.

Then I felt incomplete and for several days just wanted to go back to try again. But I have to wait a really long time to get that chance again. My main aim of the night was to take certain type of photos of them, particularly what I call ‘rock moves’ which I kinda aced, but I missed out on few good shots, mainly because my lens wasn’t wide enough and the one lens I needed I decided to leave at home.

Leading up to the gig I had this whole theme of loneliness surrounding me. I had been struggling to talk to other MARVEL comic book fans and knew that I would literally know just one person at the gig who I also couldn’t go up to talk to. But fans did start talking to me. I had never realised that just hanging alone by the stage with a drink would make me appear to be so isolated. I guess I do look that way but I’ve got one aim: take the best photos at all costs, and that is what I accomplished that night. I even spent two days post processing the photos and was glad I sacrificed all that time to produce some pretty damn good looking photos.I kind of wonder at times whether using flash was the right call. The Ape’s lighting has always been challenging to work with and when I used the flash I barely noticed it. Actually, I think I was too over focused. I barely noticed anything going around me.

It took me awhile to get back into my interests or to even want to keep living my normal life. There’s a lot coming up but at the time I didn’t want to do it. I basically have two functions: zero motivation or extremely excited about my life and everything. So, I may just have been lacking motivation again. Then I made the decision to start playing Mass Effect 3. I didn’t think I could even get past the first cutscene because it was so damned long and then there were so many options I felt like pulling my hair out. But I was able to focus for a bit longer this time and carefully selected how I wanted my soldier. I’ve clocked about 15 hours of gameplay so I’m pretty happy about that. I even want to play a few more games.

I was still having trouble motivating myself to keep going to gigs and taking photos, mainly because it was hard enough to get the clearance to take photos. I can’t always rely on one helpful band member to get me in to take photos. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m probably just going to have to risk taking in my camera to Dallas Crane and I no longer felt like going. Then the support band, Greta Mob said they could get me in and ask me to take press shots of them. Nervous, excited and so very ambitious I decided to take them on. Then, I hear back from Pete Satchell from Dallas Crane. Sure, we could get you in.

Now the spark has returned to me, though it does wane at times. I’m pretty good at thinking the worst about a good opportunity. For now, I’m just waiting to see what happens on Saturday. I’ve kind of put myself into quarantine to keep me hidden away from the masses of sick sniffling and coughing people who carelessly spread their germs on someone who can’t affect to get sick.

Still, it’s hard to get through each day. Not long ago the only thing that could bring me happiness was the prospect of playing Mass Effect 3 for a few more hours a day. Could be depression or it could be that I don’t really care about anything except going to this gig. I was like this with The Ape, although with less anxiety. I was looking forward to Free Comic Book Day too. Then on the day I had extreme anxiety and then depression (thanks beer) but you know, I got over that. It might have taken a week but I got over it. I was a little ashamed of my behaviour that night and some thoughts I had that were just ridiculous to have because things turned out to be the opposite. Life goes on. And can I be any more vague than that?

But I do have things to look forward to. Tomorrow night (or tomorrow – depends on my patience) new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premieres and it’s the season finale. I also have my S.H.I.E.L.D Origins comic book to read. Are you detecting a pattern here? Plus I’ve got new Big Bang Theory to watch as well as a few re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tomorrow I’ll add Parenthood to the list. Yeah, don’t ask. Two characters have Asperger’s syndrome in it – we could be best friends! They make me feel normal, like Sheldon Cooper does. Ray Romano surprisingly makes a good autistic character.

I seem to be the kind of person who has to constantly give themselves things to look forward to do to keep my motivation going. I think it’s got to do with my ADHD. My mind is often struggling to focus while my thoughts are racing so to give myself some few minutes of stability I will just come up with a variety of things to do. When I don’t do this I get bored, under motivated and become easily depressed, empty, longing for something that I can’t see. I jump at any opportunity when my mind finds that focus, even if it’s just for an hour. And I’ll stick with it until exhaustion.

And after Dallas Crane there’s WAITS to see who are made up of ex-members of After the Fall including my buddy Mark, so I can actually talk to someone at a gig again. Then there Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos. Such band members include Davey Lane and I’m always going to go up and say hi to Davey.  During this time I should also get more prepared to go to Portland. At times it’s the last thing I want to do but it could be a good experience for me. Also, I get to see one of the more likable members of my family. I’m kidding of course. I do miss my big sis though. And I want to become best friends with her pug.

I’ll miss seeing my Australian bands. That’s why when I’ll return I’ll be seeing The Used and Taking Back Sunday. Heh. I’ll at least get to see Darren Middleton again. I just love Australian music more than any other type of music. I still love my welsh rockers Funeral For a Friend and Thursday/Bayside/Jawbreaker/Cursive/Anberlin/etc who all come from the US, but my loyalty lies with the Australian music scene. People in my family have been hinting to me falling in love with Portland so much when I’m over there I will move there, but I won’t. I want to move to Melbourne, or Wales. Or Canada. Nah. I’m not that obsessed with Stargate anymore.

As I’ve been getting older my music taste has been changing so I’ve been going to a lot of gigs where the music and music scene is quite new to me. Sometimes I neglect to listen to the bands from the old scene. I kind of feel a bit left out about not knowing much about the history of the Australian rock scene or most bands people talk about. I can make more sense out of Star Trek than I can Rockwiz, but I am learning. At times I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot, but then I’m glad I never just stuck with one genre or sub genres throughout my life. At different parts of my life I’ve been pretty obsessed with a variety of music. As varied as emo/punk/hardcore is. I also like folk music and recently I’ve been getting into You Am I, Dallas Crane, The Gin Club, etc. I still listen to bands like The Used with a sense of guilty pleasure and I listen to bands like Jawbreaker, Refused, Thursday and Brand New as though I’m experiencing something incredible few people have, because I hardly know people who listen to them anymore. Basically put those bands make me experience far deeper emotions than most of the Australian rock bands can. Scientists say that we always feel nostalgic about the music we listened to as a teenager and because I’m autistic and a few years emotionally delayed my teen years were experienced more in my early to mid 20s. Some of those songs made up the soundtrack of what was happening in my life at the time. At least two or three were break-up records.

I’m an analytical person and much like Data from Star Trek or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory study the behaviour of people to get a better understanding of them, I’ve decided to focus on the different demographic of music fans and how it manifests in them, i.e teenagers probably get the most obsessed. They have posters on their wall, frequent fan forums, wear the band’s merch and learn pretty much all they can about the bands. I’m partly still in this demographic though I’m not really into the hero worshiping thing like they are. I’d rather have a drink with a band than get an autograph. I’m over collecting 10,000 set lists too. Then, I wondered how the older fans (40+) differed from this. I’m still conducting my research so I don’t have much to put forward yet. But in time I might be more capable of articulating my thoughts on this matter. One can speculate they spend less time in fan communities and being obsessed and their love of the band is pushed to the background as they work, raise children and whatever else they do. And gigs are a place they can unwind. They stand back in the crowd and watch from afar. Unless they’re my best friend. But I’m basically looking for a general picture here and not the exception to the rule.

Moving on.

It’s disappointing to me that the bands I used to always see and photograph have become difficult to get photo access to. Anberlin are playing one last show ever and I probably won’t get to take photos. I’m seeing Taking Back Sunday and probably won’t get to take photos. All I really need is the Dwarf to send me an e-mail asking people to apply to take photos at those shows and I’m in. But at least now I can rely on The Ape, Dallas Crane and You Am I to get me into take photos. And depending how much Matthew Davies wants to help me I might get some photo access to Funeral For a Friend.

So, life goes on. It goes to Portland, returns to buy video games and read more comic books. It goes to more Australian gigs (and a few overseas ones as well) and takes photos. It reignites and loses the spark to enjoy everything that comes its way.

Eventually it will get a job and on some medical treatment plan.