Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Guardian


Well this is timely after last week's post.

My friend Awesome rang me up recently and said she had something big to ask me.

Seeing as she's already married to her fella and has a 2 year old with him I was pretty sure it wasn't a proposal.

What it was though was this:

Would I be willing to be made the guardian of their child in the event that they both died?


Taking into account this would only come about in the unlikely and really horrible event that they both got knocked out of the picture I had to consider the idea seriously because if I didn't look at it as if it were something that might one day happen I wouldn't be making the decision based on useful ideas.

He's a pretty awesome little dude and I definitely would want to make sure he was taken care of.

So it was time to run through the basic list.

Would I be willing and ready to:
  • make the space in my home?
  • make the time in my life?
  • make sure he got a proper education?
  • look after him when he was sick?
  • support him trying out sports and hobbies?
  • teach him the stuff he needs to know to get on?
  • make sure he didn't grow up to be an ass?
  • go through all the uncertainty and terror and heartbreak that whole package would bring?

Essentially the answer was 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhaaaaaarrghhghghghhhgh yes'.

I mean sure the idea is sort of terrifying, not only because it would only come to pass if something really awful happened, because getting catapulted into parenthood without getting to go through the beginner levels would leave you scrambling to catch up.

Like if someone decided to run through the development levels of a game you've never played before and then hand the controller over for the boss fight.

But like Awesome said, one of the reasons they thought of me because I have a big-ass family would support me and make sure he was OK.

So I said yes.

And then immediately started planning diet plans and exercise regimes and defensive driving courses for his parents.

Because he is a rad little dude and I want to be a part of his life for as long as I'm around.

But I also kind of like his parents and want to keep them.

So yay for the huge, touching declaration of trust in me but double-yay for the idea that it will never be necessary because his mum and dad will be there to bring him up, love him, and give him the flicks around the ear that he is sure to deserve along the way.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


[This is a backdated post] 

Well, I turned 30 on Wednesday and there seems to have been some kind of bureaucratic stuff up.

I haven't received my No Really, You're An Adult Now, 18 Was Just A Test Run, 21 Was Just Another Excuse For A Party, And Your 20s Didn't Count Properly Because You Weren't Really Paying Attention information packet hasn't arrived in the mail.

The manual it's supposed to contain would come in really handy right now because I still feel a bit like an impostor sometimes.

Things that I do that are grown up:
  • I have a job
  • I pay taxes
  • And fill out forms about taxes*
  • I vote
  • I drive a car
  • I pay for registration and insurance for that car
  • I have health insurance
  • I donate money to charity
  • I make my own dentist and doctor appointments etc
  • I pay bills
  • I organise my finances
  • I buy groceries
  • I cook real food for myself

Things that I do that seem to invalidate the 'no really, you're an adult' thing:
  • Watch a bunch of animated shows (all Venture Bros, Archer, Harvey Birdman, Futurama etc all the time)
  • Read comic books
  • Spend time at work imagining Looney Toons-level karma happening to the people who still act like they're in high school despite being over 40
  • Eat pizza for breakfast
  • Eat ice cream for dinner
  • Say 'ugh, whaaaaaaaaaat?' before answering the phone at work
  • Spend hours imagining what it would mean for the human race if we were no longer the apex predator on the planet and whether this would make us better people or huger assholes and whether this would be a parallel reality or some kind of nuclear event or an alien invasion that put these 'bigger/smarter/more dangerous than us' predators into the mix...

The thing is, all those items on the second list may not be refined or 'mature' but what they really are is 'things that you're free to do now because you're in charge of yourself - i.e. a grown up'.

Things that maybe all adults are still doing** even though they are also sometimes going to plays or art galleries or wearing glasses unironically and looking like they have their shit together.

The magical 'moment of clarity where you know exactly what is going on and you feel like a legit figure of authority' isn't coming, is it?
Or it'll sneak up on me so slowly that I'll not even notice it's arrived until some time later.

So when I was a kid and I was running up to my parents and aunts and uncles who were about how old I am now and asking them to take care of things and explain things and fix things, they felt the same way I feel know when my nephew or my friends' kids run up to me***?

Well, that's a bit terrifying retrospectively.

I never feel particularly mature or ambitious or whatever.
At least until I meet people who are technically old enough to vote but seem like maybe they shouldn't be allowed to...


There's some stuff I'm still planning to get around to that 20-year-old me would have assumed I would have done by 30 because 30 is soooooooo ooooooold and soooooo faaaaar aaaawaaaaaaay but there aren't any things that I really regret doing or any specific opportunities that I feel I missed or passed on that I shouldn't have.
I didn't really have a 'things to do before you're 30' list because those kind of things always make me want to yell 'YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! AND ALSO ALL YOUR IDEAS ARE STUPID!'

So here I am, older, probably a bit wiser, eating doughnuts at midnight because I'm a motherhugging adult.

*Ugh, paperwork.

**Or whatever their personal equivalent is. Gardening is totally the grown up version of playing in the mud.

***Which is 'Well, I think I can work this out but stop looking at me as if I am McGyver/Santa!'

Sunday, 14 April 2013

You Can't Say 'Yeah, But It's Different'

There's a big old stereotype that America knows a lot about America but doesn't necessarily know a lot about the rest of the world.

Various comedians have had a great time going over this, it pops up in jokes, entertainment media, arguments, debates, the whole shebang.

As with many stereotype it may have a grain of truth for some people and be completely inaccurate with regards to others.

When I was 19 I spent 3 months living, working and travelling in California with a friend.
We were asked various questions by the people we met, some a bit baffling, others perfectly reasonable.
I had the experience of my cousin who had done two terms of high school in the US to prepare me for the weirdest things I may be asked, or in his case told.
A student at the school he was attending insisted that the national language of Australia was French and refused to believe him when he (the Australian) said that it wasn't.

When I took a video of my workplace one of my coworkers did a rendition of  Denis Leary's 'Because we've got the bombs!' bit that I a) didn't recognise until several years later when I saw the original and b) thought was the way that a certain percentage of the world saw Americans and a way that a certain percentage of Americans saw themselves.

While I was there I borrowed a couple of Australian movies out from the library because I was feeling a bit homesick and then got indignant when I realised that the versions released in the US had been altered.
In The Castle they changed the reply to 'what's this love?' from 'rissoles' to 'meat loaf'. Probably because they decided that the US audience wouldn't know what rissoles were.
Well yes but that's how you learn, you hear something you've never heard of before and you look it up.
Assuming people will get so annoyed by strange and unfamiliar things that they'll just tune out seems kind of insulting to me.
You wouldn't believe the stuff I know now because I read or watched something produced in another country and had to look up what it was or work it out from context.
Also anyone who doesn't like things that are different or unfamiliar would have turned the movie off 5 minutes in because The Castle is considered a cult film for a reason, it represents a particular kind of person at a particular point in time.

The change that really cheesed me off, however, was made to the movie The Dish.
In the original - and one true! - Australian version, the people operating the satellite dish at Parkes lose the signal from Apollo 11 and were panicking trying to work out how to find the vessel again before they are asked to report in. A local girl who was just coming around to bring them some sandwiches says 'Why don't you just point the dish at the moon? That's where they're heading, isn't it?' and it's a lovely 'oh yeah, common sense, ha ha' moment.
In the version I saw in the US, they reshot the scene so Patrick Warburton, the American character came up with the solution because apparently they decided US audiences wouldn't be able to deal with the idea that an American was present but wasn't the one who saved the day.

This was all 'experiences and anecdotes that support the stereotype*'.
Not all my experiences and the stories I heard supported the stereotype but enough did that it remained the subconscious default that applied to X% of people.

But then as life bobbled along and I accumulated more experiences I started to hit more 'wait a minute' moments.

The ones where you saw people somehow manage to plaster the stereotype and its attendant assumptions all over well-read, well-travelled Americans even after hearing them talk about the places they had been and the things they were passionate about and had looked into for their own curiosity.
The stereotype was so strong that even evidence jumping up and down in front of them wasn't powerful enough to overcome it.

And then you noticed the big old hypocritical moments.
The ones where you would see fellow Australians asked questions about foreign countries and realise that their answer is 'yeah, we don't know that shit, we're Australians, the rest of the world is so far away that who can be bothered to- uh I mean LOOK OUT FOR DROP BEARS, ALL OUR WILDLIFE IS POISONOUS, WHEEE!'

And then you notice it everywhere.

Every country has some people who don't bother to learn about other countries.
Every country has some people who think all other countries are doing it wrong.
Every country has people who are very vocal about these two points of view.

It's just that statistically there are more Americans, and y'know what, they have the bombs, so them not being 100% up to date on the facts is a lot more nerve-wracking in certain situations.

People living in countries jammed right up against each other, geographically speaking, should know a lot about each other but you just have to listen to some of the jokes and stereotypes that different Europeans countries hold about their neighbours to know that this is often not the case.

As a species we're getting better, we are actually learning more and we're more connected and we have more opportunities to get the facts and not rely on old material or stories we heard from a cousin of an uncle's friend etc etc.

We just have to be aware of these stereotypes and the part we each play in keeping them alive because they are lodged pretty deep in there and they inform your attitudes and actions more than you might think.

No country is perfect.
No country is completely terrible.
All countries have points of achievement or beauty or interest in their history.
All individuals within that country deserve to be seen for themselves.
Being proud of your country is fine.
Being a douche about it isn't.
Getting all defensive if somebody points out your country isn't perfect usually isn't that useful.
Sometimes people will react to you based on how other people from your country has treated them. This isn't any more fair than the original shitty behaviour that they experienced.

Basically, be interested in the world, don't stamp 'case closed' on what you know about people and places, and don't be a dick.

*And rather cheesed me off. Wind it back, America, sometimes other people work shit out, tcha!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

So Help Me, If I Don't Behave I Will Turn Myself Around And Go Right Home!

One of the weirdest things about growing up is when you get past the initial 'ha ha, I'm in charge of myself and I can do whatever I want!' glee spasm...

... and realise that this means that you are the adult in charge.

Yes, you can do whatever you want now but you have to look at the consequences and make the hard calls to make sure that you don't miss out on what you want long term because you were too caught up in the joys of the short term.

Essentially, you become your own strict parent.
You are the angel on your own shoulder as well as the demon on the other.

Whether you hear echoes of your mother or father as your inner voice prompts 'do you really need that?' as you reach towards the supermarket shelf, or you just hear your own voice saying 'you'll regret that later and there is other shit you should be doing with that time/money', the fact remains:

You are the authority figure in your own life*.

And like being an authority figure anywhere you have to figure out how to make this work for you.

Do you respond better to bribing or 'firm but fair' reasoning?

I know something that doesn't tend to work well for me - at least in the long run - is threats or punishments.

For a while I successfully dragged myself out to start the day by telling myself that any day I hit the snooze button, I wouldn't be allowed to use the internet for personal/recreational reasons that day.

It eventually lost its power because I've never been a disciplinarian by nature, I'm not very good at being imposing or stern.
And like they say 'never make a threat you aren't prepared to follow through on or you will lose your credibility'.
The first time I slept in and then let myself fuck around on the internet later in the day was the death knell of that particular tactic.

Finding a way to reward or incentivise yourself without invalidating the good behaviour** can be a bit tricky but you have to work out what works for you otherwise you just end up berating yourself for your actions but not doing anything to change them.

I'm still fine tuning my own approach as I am both incredibly reluctant to get into the bed at the end of the day and incredibly reluctant to get out of it come the next morning and this kind of 'you know you'll be annoyed with yourself later but you don't care enough to stop yourself now' bad habit is a fairly typical example of 'things I am trying to knock off but uuuuhhhhhhhh'.

I'm better at other things like budgeting, planning trips or projects, making myself decent meals.
I just need to work out how to bring those skills to things like getting out of bed, putting down that book, not having that many biscuits with a cup of tea.

I still feel like a complete imposter when people react to me like I'm a grown up but I fully expect to feel that way when I'm shuffling towards my final rest so I'm not too fussed about that any more.

Get past that first stumbling block so that I can make self-control automatic rather than a big pouting tantrum in the middle of my frontal lobes and I'll be unstoppable!
Or at least getting started earlier!
Baby steps!

*Or at least you should be. Once you're a grown up you should at least get an equal vote in decisions that concern you.

**"If you go to the gym you can have a pizza for dinner and a bowl of ice-cream the size of your head for dessert!"