This Does Not Justify Abuse

It is the 4th of September 2009, and I am carting my suitcase with all the belongings I can fit inside down Dodwell Street, turning right like I had on so many school mornings, on the way to the bus station. Today, I have tears streaming down my face.This is not, as much as I’d like to admit it- the first time this has occurred. But the suitcase is new. My father’s voice rings in my ears as I plod down the asphalt, I remember with a shiver, as he walks into the room.

Entering without knocking, he demands to know where my latest performance of”Sweeney Todd” DVD was- I told him the truth- I had no idea. The performance was filmed but the show had been lost to the sands of time. I had tried every person available who would talk to me to track it down, to show off my first leading role on the stage- but to no avail. This was the time where a rational mind would shrug, and move on to more important things. This was not acceptable. My young memory does not lend itself to the entire statement my father made; but I remember the words “I’m sick of it!” before he punched me in the face for the final time.

It is the 24th of September 2008, I stand on the Great Wall Of China, breathing in the chilly air and posing for a photo. I have been listening to Muse’s “Apocalypse Please” on my CD player as the fog slowly dissipates and I climb slowly higher to reveal the breathtaking landscape beneath me and the lyrics scream “AND THIS IS THE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEND! THIS IS THE EEEEEEEEEEEEND! OF THE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD!”. It is one of the most surreal moments of my young life. I am celebrating my 18th birthday, all expenses paid by my family.

It is  August 2003. I am in Japan eating fish with a loving and nurturing host family who have the most adorable toddler of all time, and who put up with my weird habits of visiting the Official Sly Cooper Website, checking for announcements of the latest sequel of a video game of my favourite Anthropomorphised Raccoon Thief- at all hours of the night. I drink green tea and almost get conned by african american cap dealers and get a whole concert hall of Japanese school children to waggle their eyebrows at me back and forth as we wait in a state of boredom for the friendship ceremony tributes to finish.

All expenses paid by- take a guess.

Our parents, if they are right for the job, will do the best they can with the child and tools they have. They will try to make you strong, smart, and independent. They will test you, and above all they will support you. My parents did those things, because they believed in me. Countless concerts, rehearsals, lessons of instruments, karate, rugby, holidays, restaurant bills- the list goes on.

It is December 2008. I am being told “You are scum” by my father, on a bus to Rome. This vitriol stems from my lack of hearing his request to pull my seat up, to give him more leg room. With headphones on. Yet, I tried to take it with a brave face and absorb the beauty of my European trip, all expenses paid by my family. And the trip “was” beautiful, I met a love of my life there. I kissed her in the darkness and held her hand at a Welsh Lake which will be ingrained in my memory forever. I ate cotton candy with my brother Kirby at the Eiffel Tower, and I basked in the warmth and smell of mulled wine with my mother in Rothenburg.

But this does not justify abuse.

I was homeless.

I depended on the friendship of friends for a long time, and it has affected my trust and need for companionship and parental figures ever since. I am a insecure depressed individual who appears brash and arrogant because that is all I knew how to be in my family. 

There are two things however, I do not mention on a regular basis about my history of abuse in my family.

The first is this: My father was not the only guilty party. He does not deserve that blame alone.

The second: My mother, who I love as dearly as my father, despite everything- did nothing to stop the abuse happening in my family. And while hers was of a less emotionally harmful variety, she was no stranger to abuse when things got heated. Name calling and gaslighting was, sadly, a common technique.

She never made my father get therapy like I requested.

She never physically intervened when my father and I fought.

She never once called the authorities.

Because to her, she never saw it as abuse. She likely still doesn’t.

It is this month of May, 2016, and my family and I have fought again. This time, it is about opening my mouth. I had posted an article about abuse, estrangement and mother’s day, where I lamented that no matter what I was never going to be close with my mother. She read it, despite my privacy settings specifically stating that she ‘couldn’t’ and began a furious tirade I had not seen in some time. A tirade of how ungrateful I was and how much she had done, she demanded I take it down and publicly apologise, and what do I REALLY think of her?!

This, as it turns out, was a long time coming. See, as hard as it is to imagine. My family still has issues understanding my resentment. Despite the, y’know, homelessness. They consider it a rough patch in an otherwise healthy relationship. Despite, y’know, the beatings.

What do I think of her? As it turns out it’s what I think of my entire family.

I will never ever forget the things they’ve done. They’ve shaped me, helped me become the person I am. They’ve instilled in me a sense of pride in my work and a passion for helping out the little guy. They’ve tried their best to understand my passions.

But not once, for a second- do I believe they have tried to understand my pain and disappointment. Through their actions, and I say they for a reason- I was left to fend for myself. They have been willfully ignorant, happy to resort to emotional blackmail stating “All The Things They’ve Done” like the things above, to justify their current behaviour.

And, at the end of the day, have made no effort to change.

At the end of the day, they beat their child.

Not once have I heard an apology from them for initiating it, or for letting it happen, and continuing to justify it.

They did many things, and I love them despite their failings.

But this does not justify abuse. And I refuse to keep my mouth shut, just to make them comfortable.

I just can’t do that anymore.

What if I’m full of it?

4/04/16: A quick note. Depression Lies. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are willing to repeat that they’re on my side ad nauseum, and I am forever grateful. If you need to talk, no matter who you are, please don’t hesitate to contact me. This is an entry about my inner fraud police.

1st of April, 5:30 PM: At this moment, I am sitting on a train bound for Melbourne Central, audio book in my ears, deep measured breaths in my chest, eyes squinting… From allergies.

Yeah. Allergies.

Today has been a weird sort of one. I woke up with tangible nightmares that kept me glued to my bed. They were chronological, like a story, and they all had to do with what a failure I was in life. I remember flashes of previous jobs, loves and friends, all reminding me about the pointlessness of anything. I’ve had these sorts of dreams since I was small, and am lucky in that way, I suppose; even when my brain is being a shithead, it wants to do it in a storytelling way. I felt compelled to continue them to somehow find a happy ending. I wanted to go back to sleep, and the prospect of spending another day with the horrendous bitch of a woman, who was the head of the Toddler Room in the Child Care Centre I was training in, only sharpened my resolve. If I wanted to be belittled or ignored, I would at least do it in the safety of my home.

8:10 AM: I send an email to let them know I won’t be coming in for my four hour window, I feel too shitty. That part wasn’t a lie. But I used the term “ill”. Because “I feel depressed” still seems like bullshit.

It’s a few weeks ago, and after announcing I’m going to see a psychologist, the one doctor I had the courage to call didn’t call me back for two weeks. Our two minute conversation was, paraphrased: “Hi, I don’t do bulk billing” “Oh, well I can’t afford it otherwise, I don’t have a health card yet-“ “Oh, I’m sorry.” “Yeah. Okay. Bye.”

I didn’t have the bravery to try searching again to find another doctor. Since then I’ve rode the wave of happiness that came with initiative and depression that followed quickly thereafter, like a dickhead still raving at 6 AM, long after the party is finished.

I know in my heart, I should continue the search. But I don’t. Like an addict, I am easily able to take minimal effort and claim it’s not meant to be when it doesn’t work.

In truth… I am mostly afraid of seeing a Doctor because I fear them telling me I’m full of shit. “There’s nothing wrong with you and you should’ve gotten out of bed and rode the tide of your shitty day, crippling nightmares or not.

I doubt myself every day, and I doubt my own assumptions about my mental health even more. I feel my own pretentious crap swirl around me every time I feel the need to take a “mental health day”. What makes me think I fucking deserve it?

And the one person who can verify this… I am afraid to see. I am afraid to be judged. I’m afraid I’m literally full of shit.

4.30 PM: I have slept all day, hating myself all the while. I force myself to do at least one adult thing. I call Victoria Roads to try and get my Victorian license and be a legit bill paying adult.

4.45 PM: Hang up the phone in frustration as I fail to remember the one address out of 14 that I lived in in 5 years that my QLD license was registered to.

5 PM: Deal with my shame as I tell Issy, my partner in everything, the truth. I didn’t go because I felt sad. She was shocked and disappointed. Or maybe just the latter.

Now: I text her, telling her I love her for being the one person I can trust to kick my ass when it needs to be kicked, and I will never lie to her, no matter how ashamed of myself I am. She texts me back, with no judgement saying: “How can I motivate you better to get up in the mornings?

What a trip it is to hear your thoughts, your feelings spoken, to see them heard, and most of all, for them to be taken seriously. Validation, vindication… Catharsis… And breathe.

My audio book seranades me. I take deep measured breaths, and I squint my eyes. They well up slightly.

From allergies.

Brotherly Tolerance

The year is 2001. I am 10 years old, my brother, Kirby is 8, and my first dog, Shadow, is 5 and still with us. I am in Kingscliff NSW, in a Caravan Park I can no longer remember the name of. The days are long, fresh, and filled with childish abandon, where the hardest decision was to take another lap around the park on my bycicle, to try and con my Mum out of another dollar so I can go play pinball, or to go swimming.

Kirby, sporting his ginger curls, almost like an Irish afro, long before he grew ashamed of them and kept his hair to a buzzcut, shouted merrily “LET’S GO CLIMB TREES!”

I looked to my mum. She was the boss, even though my dad liked to think he was. You know the phrase “Behind a great man is a woman?” that’d be true for her if the man was wearing a leash.

She smiled and nodded. “Just be careful!”

That was more directed at me than at my little brother. I was the bigger brother, it was my responsibility to keep Kirby safe. But in my history, I was categorically bad at it. In fact, I am 100% serious when I say it would likely have been better for us if the roles were reversed. I am impulsive, sensitive, and emotional. He is logical, with a thick skin and is very much the glue that has kept our family together through our drama.

So off we went into the green brush of Northern New South Wales, which interestingly enough, is not that far from the beach. I always say, if you’re filming a movie which requires multiple locations, Jungle, Beach, City, Shithole… You can find it all in Australia. Particularly the latter, but I digress.

Suddenly, a gigantic tree revealed itself, like a bogan Whomping Willow. We grinned and began our ascent.

Kirby has always been the more socially able of the two of us, which is hilarious considering our respective choices in careers. I, a fledgling actor, he a very successful personal trainer in business with our Dad, running bootcamps with equal dose of encouragement and asskickery that they deliver together.

Kirby in these days was always the one to go swimming with Dad, he on his boogie board and my father on his surfboard, while I would climb up the cliffs, alone. I liked the feeling of being the only person on earth as I scaled my Everest- add that to my love of being on a platform and I guess it certainly explains a lot. But when Kirby decided to indulge me and participate in an activity I enjoyed, I appreciated it quite a bit then, and a lot more so now.

Slowly, but surely we climbed and climbed, grabbing branch after branch on this seemingly endless trek. Up and up we went, Kirby below me, and I, his carer, and the person he trusted the most, above.

This story is about when I broke that trust.

As I stopped for a break at about 15 feet up, I felt something brush my foot. It was Kirby’s hand. His tiny, trusting hand, grabbing the branch to pull himself up to me.

In doing so, he touched my foot.

I didn’t like that. I never liked being touched, as a child, teenager, and adult; unsolicited. This has led to many altercations, some funny, some horrid. One involved a costume assistant on a film set and my bundle of anxiety and fear of her as she snuck up on me, and grabbed my waist to tuck in my shirt… But that’s a story for another day.

Kirby had touched my foot. In my verge of puberty, “THIS IS MINE” focused brain this was crossing the line. I tried to claim my territory, like we had both done a thousand times in the car. We shoved. We pushed. We had full on fist fights.

This time, I slammed my foot on his hand, gripping the branch. He dropped. He screamed.

Crack. Thud.

My world stopped.

The ambulances came some time later, Kirby had cracked his skull open, he was lucky to be alive. For years, I always wondered if he hated me. I knew for certain he didn’t trust me as much. Really, I should be glad I hadn’t been the accidental murderer of my own flesh and blood, but all I felt was guilt, loss and self hatred.

I held onto it for years. In petty future squabbles Kirby would use “YEAH WELL, YOU CRACKED MY HEAD OPEN” or some version as his Manum Opus for years to come, and as far as I was concerned, I deserved it.

I had asked for his forgiveness many times, as a child does, not truly knowing how badly I had betrayed his trust. Then, he would forgive me as a child does… Not really meaning it.

No matter what though, no matter how many times I approached the subject, and went through the song and dance I call “Jack, Don’t Worry About It”, I did. I was supposed to be his protector. I had failed. It tore me up.

The year is now 2008. I am 17, Kirby is 15, the last year of the Irish Afro, and our dog is dead. We are in a Vietnamese restaurant my mother loves to celebrate the visit of my Aunty Jenny and my two cousins. It is a happy affair, despite my poor table manners and my father’s love of talking slowly to our Asian waiter, who clearly didn’t need it, spoke perfect English, and was quite offended.

After our meal, I exited the restaurant, and for some reason Kirby and I were alone outside. I took a deep breath.

“Listen man…”

It all poured out. My guilt after all these years, my belief that I thought he secretly hated me, the fact “I” hated me for my idiotic, selfish act that could have killed my only brother.

“Jack… It was years ago.”

“I know. And I know it’s stupid, but I just wanted to say I was sorry again. I don’t expect you to forgive me or whatever, but I wanted you to know.”

“It’s okay, mate.”

Kirby was a man of few words. Has been ever since he thought that’s what a man should be. Now it’s part of his charm. He clapped my shoulder and smiled as we stood and waited for Mum pay the check.

Even though I’d heard it before, this time it was different. Maybe this time, I was just ready to hear it.

“Thanks, man”, I said with a smile that hopefully didn’t show how grateful I was. Men didn’t show their feelings after all, we show it through how hard we can clap each other on the arm.

HA! Had you going didn’t I? Remember, I’m the black sheep artsy one of the family. I’m sure I cried or something.

About a year later, I would leave the house after my dad hit me in the face for the last time, taking what little possessions I could cram into one suitcase and hitting the road. I didn’t talk to Kirby for a long time.

But you know, whenever I feel guilty, I remember that clap on the arm, his “It’s okay mate”, and I know that even if he doesn’t understand, he will always be in my corner, and that means more to me than he will ever know.

“Ready Freddie?” my mum said to me as she passed me on the way to the car.

“Yeah.” I said and climbed into the car, cramming into the car with my brother and cousins.

We played Corners all the way home.

Must Try Harder

This past week I have worked every day. Weekends included. Performance, study, assessment, auditions, or children’s entertainment.

Yesterday I spent the morning cleaning and trying to relax after a stressful week, and received a phone call.

The phone call nicely told me that my services were no longer required.

An hour later they had picked up my gear.

After the phone call I had a boost juice and felt so sick I stuck my fingers down my throat and vomited it up just to feel better.

Today they did my final invoices, with a three word response to my effort:

“Thanks for that.”

Today I didn’t go out. I felt sick. I felt beaten, I felt like a rudderless ship.

Today I tried making progress and found my engine was stalling.

Today I tried to find a new agent and was told “We’ll get back to you when we can”.

Today I wanted to throw up the few bites of waffle and strawberries I bought as anything in my stomach felt like poison.

Today I watched what work I could have done fly by as I wrote this message to no one in particular.

Today I drank water as I couldn’t keep down anything else.

Can’t keep down.

Can’t keep up.

Can’t.

Can’t I do anything right?

Can’t I just get started making money doing what I actually want to do? Can’t I be accepted as who I am, not something someone wants me to be? Can’t I be doing what I want?

How long can I keep this up for? When do I just stop trying?

Must try harder.

Hard to try.

Harder to stop.

Can’t keep it down. Won’t shut up.

I wish I could.

I really, really do.

All I can do is try.

Must try harder.

 

It’s Important To Not Give A Shit

That title is from George Carlin, who’s a hero of mine. If you don’t know him, start with his piece about stuff and enjoy going down the rabbit hole of his genius.

But it’s that advice that he gave as he neared the end of his life that I find myself think about this evening, as I plan my day tomorrow. Depression has taken a brief reprieve (potentially because I did something as simple as begin the search for the right psychologist), and I’ve been taking advantage of that to the best of my ability- in fact, I had my first big audition here in Melbourne just yesterday.

While I don’t feel comfortable admitting who they are at this moment, I can tell you that it is paid work (which is a huge tick right there as any slogging actor knows), and it’s ongoing all year round. So naturally, after not acting in anything big for over six months for The Brain Room I was pretty nervous, and I said it was probably unlikely the audition would go anywhere.

I entered the space, confident, determined to do my best- but not overly concerned and/or desperate as I know I have been in the past. And here’s the thing- I fucked it up. Not a lot, but… enough. A fudged word, here and there, a need to improvise through to the next bit I know, move along, move along, hope they don’t notice. But I did what any actor does on stage and faked it, kept moving forward. I tried to have fun with it and  ended up only showing my mounting discomfort at staying on the metaphorical bicycle right at the end.

They seemed cheery. Nice people. They told me that I took direction well, and I projected well and that even though I messed up “I didn’t let it show” which is important.

I nodded, I smiled, I said “thank you”, but in my head I was quietly confident that it would proceed no further. I received compliments from the casting directors, but as far as I was concerned it was just them trying to be nice so I wouldn’t throw a chair at them on exit. I’d heard it all before.

Imagine my surprise then, when I learned I had a callback! A real one. For real acting. What a huge step. What a opportunity. What a-

Okay seriously, who’s messing with me?!

I was legitimately shocked. But then I remember that sage advice from my husky voiced hero, George, (fun fact, a lot of my heroes have weird or overly loud voices, go figure), it’s important to not give a shit.

I went in there, confident but not needy, not too intense, just wanting to perform for the sake of performing. Not too long ago I may have cancelled on my audition just to save myself the embarrassment my brain conjured up for me. Now, I seem to be handling writing out my schedule, keeping to it, and even doing work WAY BEFORE A DEADLINE.

Tomorrow I go back in there to improvise and do work with other actors, which I’m so excited about. Amongst that I’m going for an audition for a music show among lots of other creative endeavors.

And I’m okay. I am legitimately okay. I’m not freaking out, despite the fact I am busy and having to balance many things.

I owe it all, I think, to finally taking Uncle George’s advice. I feel deeply passionate about my work, I’m willing to go through hell to get closer to my goals. But I think I’m finally finding a balance, learning to relax, when to let go, to not give a shit. I didn’t get that thing? There’s another thing. No feces given.

I don’t give a shit, for once. And it feels great.

A Mantra To Remember (Anxiety)

Humans typically have a period where they have been shitty people. How they grow into being good humans is as simple and as difficult as admitting this, and trying not to make the same mistakes twice.

I myself worry constantly that I am being judged for some phantom action I’d done in my past- and it’s way past the point of being healthy or productive. So I’m making myself a mantra to repeat.

Repeat after me:

I am not my past.
My past failures are no indication of whether I will fail again.
I will not let shame dictate my future.
The people who matter will stand by me. Those who choose to leave are not my priority.
I will focus on those who see good in me.
I will focus on the good in me.
I will use the good in me to make my world better.

I will not hide from my past- but to drive well I must focus on the road- not the rear view mirror.

I am going to be okay.

If this helps someone, I really am glad. If not, I hope you’re having an awesome Tuesday.

xx

-Jack

 

 

What The Heck Do I Want?

In which Jack wonders whether he’s juggling too many balls in the entertainment industry circus.

Another short one, and spoiler alert, this is depression/lack of self worth speaking.

So recently I’ve just gotten back into seriously giving acting a go. And in all seriousness, I’m doing kinda well. I have four auditions this week, some paid, some not and I don’t even have an agent. I’m trying to empower myself to write every day and try to get words on paper in regards to a pitch for a pop culture related TV show. In short:

I am doing many things.

So why do I feel like shit about it?

My partner Issy listed a concern that has been plaguing my mind since- “I think you’ve got your fingers in too many pies.”

This isn’t news to anybody who knows me.

I do kids parties:

kids party bumblebeeWhat’s that? My instagram? Follow me if you want. :3

Film

20150302_122427
Find the product placement!

Educational Performance

racq docudrama
Well he called me chicken! NOBODY CALLS ME CHICKEN!

Comedy

comedy still
That place isn’t a comedy venue anymore. I blame myself.

And Voice Acting

voice acting anti hero

Today I have an audition for a radio serial with other creative comedians, and I’m super excited. But I yearn for results on paper. Real, tangible success, ideally in money form.

Remember that Beyonce article I wrote? It still holds true. But the problem, I’ve come to realize- is I don’t know what I want. I’m 24. I’m good at writing stories, I’m good at making voices, I’m good at making people laugh and I’m good at pretending to be someone else.

Which begs the question? Am I doomed to live a life of mediocrity because I can’t “get focused enough”? Do I really have to plod through who knows how much mediocre film scripts or uninspired comedy shows because I’ve got to pick one thing?

My desire for respect says yes. But my creative urges say Fuck. That.

So what do do? I guess it’s just a long journey of me growing to accept that it might not get me to the position I want in life (at least not any time soon), but I can’t give up any of these things I do that make me happy, anymore than I could choose which child to abandon.

I’m with these shitty, unprofitable kids to the end. I just hope they’ll start help paying the rent soon.

Update: I got the gig! I’m gonna be in a radio serial! Hooray!

Snapshot_20160117_2

-Jack