On Easter Sunday, I was lucky enough to spend the day with a little friend of mine, I'll call her Miss H, who I taught in kindergarten a year or so ago and have known since she was a toddler. With her family's permission, Miss H and I spent the day at Melbourne Museum, looking at the dinosaur bones, viewing the stuffed animals, wandering through the living forest gallery and, finally, spending our final our hour in the Pauline Gandel Children's Gallery. The Children's Gallery is a fully interactive, open-ended play and learning space, where children aged 0-5 can engage with science, literacy, maths and other concepts through specially constructed spaces. You can touch everything, there's plenty of room for parents and carers to watch, supervise and play with the children, and everything is appealing and well set out.
As you can imagine, Miss H loved all of it, although her favourite area by far was the "Camouflage Disco", which lights and images projected onto the floor turned her and her fellow youngsters into stripy, spotty, bubbly, leafy, watery creatures spinning around a hall of mirrors. I took some videos of her in the Camouflage Disco and, with her mother's permission, I have included one below.
As she ran around popping bubbles, Miss H was totally in the moment, unconcerned with what came before or after; she was enjoying herself to the max with something as simple as projected bubbles.
When's the last time you enjoyed something like that? Just for the sake of enjoying it, without worrying about why it was fun, what anyone else thought of you or what you were going to do next?
We live in a world that glorifies speed, rushing from one task to the next with no room inbetween, so we often end up tired, frustrated, angry and burnt out with no time to enjoy ourselves. Watching Miss H and the other young ones running around the Camouflage Disco, popping bubbles and following projected animals footprints on the floor, reminded me that it is so important to enjoy yourself for the sake of enjoying yourself as often as possible. Fun and happiness shouldn't be optional extras at the end of the day or once you've finished an important task, they should be every day compulsory inclusions. It doesn't have to be big or expensive either: buy bubble mixture and go and blow some bubbles during your lunch break, take your shoes off and go for a walk through the grass in the local botanic gardens; visit the Universal Laughing Room at Do As One and laugh for no reason other than because it feels good. Put your favourite music on when you get home and dance all around the house, or watch YouTube videos of cats, or babies, or dogs, or whatever makes you smile. Bake a cake for no reason, sing loudly to your favourite song without worrying about whether you're in tune or not, watch your favourite Disney movie (The Princess and the Frog is mine), or paint your toenails bright purple. But, whatever it is, make it fun and do it for no other reason than to make yourself happy.
Miss H and the children around her didn't stop to analyse why they chased the bubbles, they didn't wonder if they should or if there were more important things to do. They just did it for the fun of doing it.
So let's follow their example and enjoy ourselves. Fun knows no age limit and the perception that it is only something for children, or to do be enjoyed only by those who have 'finished' everything is not only ridiculous, it's making us angry and fatigued.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he that does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
The twelve month calendar I have in my room opens each month with a different quote. I'm quite attached to quotes, so thought I'd start sharing them with you.
My most recent transformation challenge at EP was in December 2017, prior to starting FIRE in March this year. That challenge culminated for me, like so many others, in a fitness photoshoot.
Each photoshoot I do with EP, I choose a theme. The last two shoots the theme has been pole dancing and yoga/meditation, but this time I decided to do something that represented my journey from scared, shy young girl to proud, brave, confident woman. My theme for December 2017 was NO SURRENDER.
No Surrender, for me, took into account all the struggles I'd endured to get to the point I was. I was at my strongest, I'd just performed in my first Showcase with PDCS and choreographed my first pole solo and performed it in front of an audience. I was eating well, staying on top of my workload and generally feeling great! I remember reflecting back on the past five years - the time I've been training with Hilal - and shaking my head at where I was now.
So why the 'pirate flag' for No Surrender?
The Jolly Roger, traditionally called the 'Skull and Crossbones' or the 'Pirate Flag', is probably one of the most recognisable symbols in history. The Jolly Roger I am flying in my photoshoot is the design used by the historical pirate captain John "Calico Jack" Rackham, who is famous for his expensive calico shirts, and for having two women on his crew: his lover Anne Bonny and Mary Read, a woman who had been raised and dressed as a boy since childhood and had served in the army and navy respectively before becoming a pirate. Calico Jack is one of my favourite historical figures and, while his life ended prematurely on the gallows in 1720, his name has continued down history and, along with Blackbeard, he is a pirate most people can name, even if they know nothing about him.
This is easily my favourite of the many Jolly Rogers, incorporating both that famous symbol of death: the skull, but eschewing the cliche of crossed bones in favour of crossed swords, being the instruments that bring death. It's a powerful image, and its minimalistic nature appeals to me aesthetically too: it would have looked very impressive (and undoubtedly terrifying) flying against a stiff sea breeze as Calico Jack and his crew descended upon a helpless merchant vessel in the Caribbean seas 300 years ago.
But this symbol is not only a favourite of mine, it is also a symbol that refuses to die, despite the fact that the men (and few women) who flew it and sailed under it are long gone. The Jolly Roger endured despite all attempts by the colonial powers who eventually exterminated piracy to eradicate it; it has cropped up again and again through history and most children can tell you about a skull and crossbones long before they know what a Union Jack (or other symbol from modern or recent flags) is or represents.
This is why it is so powerful for me. Everyone, everyone, at the time this symbol was a common sight loathed it and, once piracy was nullified in the areas where it once flew, the powers that were probably thought they'd seen the last of it. Yet, despite their best efforts, it wouldn't go away, it wouldn't die, and it stubbornly refused to surrender to defeat, or to be confined to the dusty annals of long forgotten history. It survived, being reinvented over the centuries to suit the needs of those using it, and even attempts to link it to the colonial version of the pirates - filthy, blood-thirsty brutes who wantonly raped, murdered and butchered for sport - and to paint it as a symbol of death and destruction, nothing history did to the Jolly Roger could make it go away.
For me, there have been plenty of times when events in my life and those around me have done their best to make me disappear. There have been times when it felt like, every time I pushed back or tried to climb back up, everything conspired against me and down I went again.
But stubbornly, I refused to surrender.
Six years ago this year I walked into a gym and met Hilal, and since then I have been on a journey that has not only got my body in tip-top shape, but my confidence, determination, and perseverance grew, as did my courage to try new things, to speak out when I had something to say, and grow as a person. I have learned to love my body and my mind, but it is a love born from strength and I refuse to give up, to let it go, or to let anybody take it from me.
Like the Jolly Roger, I will not give up just because those around me tell me it's time to shut up and move on.
And that's why I call it Straight Living, even though I'm standing up proud with the Jolly Roger. Because this is my opinion, straight as that, and I won't surrender or give ground on it; the Jolly Roger is representative of that.
You don't have to like me. I'm not a Facebook post.
Me With No Apologies.