It’s Complicated. Actually, It’s Not.

not complicated
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Layered and textured.

A million moving parts, all intricately put together.

Depths that unfold the greater the exposure you have to me.

I thought I would find the fullest, richest, most rewarding version of myself when I understood how complicated I was.

I believed, or at least hoped for dear life, that I was, in fact, complicated.

As Ezra Furman says in his song, Lousy Connection, I wanna see myself from the outside.

My surface is just for show – an easy smile; an accepting look; unruffled and unshaken by an unexpected turn of events.

Then there’s what’s going on underneath – an instinctive understanding of your motives; perception and foresight; a knowledge of the ages that will neuter the immediacy of your needs.

In high school, specifically Year 11 and 12, I would walk around the halls with my headphones on, pretending, yes pretending, to listen to music. Pretending to be lost in my own world.

Why?

Well, AA batteries were expensive and my Walkman chewed through them with never-sated appetite.

Also, I wanted people to notice me and wonder what I was listening to, this kid who defied No Walkman at School rule.

Even in free study periods. I’d be sitting next to my friends in a classroom while everyone else revised through practice test sheets or read and reread their notes for an upcoming exam, questions and answers flying around the room in a randomly conducted cacophony. I’d have my headphones on and be staring off into space, acting like I was in my own world, making it seem like I considered that what was going on here was inconsequential to me.

I was tending to more serious issues, contemplating life and the universe and my place within it all.

But not really.

Really, I was wondering who was paying attention to me; what were others thinking about my affect?

In Year 8 through 10 I got into the bad habit of wagging school. I wouldn’t take whole days off. I didn’t have the balls for that. What I would do is go to roll-call, sign in, attend classed up to recess or maybe even lunch and then soon after, along with a friend or two, we’d sneak out the back of the school into the labyrinthine streets of St Clair and off home. Mostly my motivations were too spark the curiosity of my classmates. To have them whisper to one another, Where’s Ken? He was definitely in 4th Period English.

What a badass. What a rogue operator.

I didn’t fully get this at the time – what I mean is that I didn’t have a name for this type of behaviour.

I do now – passivity.

I hoped what I couldn’t do while physically present, my absence would make up for. I imagined myself the centre of attention without being there.

This says a lot for how I valued myself at the time, that I assessed my worth by the impact my absence had. It was all I had, absence.

My point of difference.

My unique selling-point.

I needed a strong enough reason to stay and during those days, struggled to find anything to hold on to.

I eventually did find a reason to stay but even then I still enacted certain behaviours that served to put up barriers between myself and others and create separation.

I wanted to be there, but it was hard to be there in my skin.

The clearest example to can link this to is when I was twelve. There was this girl I had a crush on, Phillippa. Funny thing was, she had a crush on me too and she was open about it. She was the pursuer. She’d come up to me in the school yard and tell me she liked me and ask if I liked her?

I’d play coy.

She’d write me a note and pass it to me in class. Will you be my boyfriend?

I’d nearly pee myself.

But I liked her, so of course I wanted to be her boyfriend. And more than that I didn’t want her to be anyone’s girlfriend.

The thing was, I loved being pursued. I got a kick out of the attention.

And it was the same in Year 8 when I wagged off class.

It was equally as true in Year 12 when I sat in the Year 12 Common Room surrounded by my friends with a pair of headphones over my ears.

I wanted to be pursued.

I wanted to do things that made people gravitate towards me.

I just had no idea how to do this.

In the end when any attention came, I resented it.

You’re not the person I wanted to talk to me.

You’re not asking me the right questions.

You’ve distracted me.

You’re attracting unwanted attention in this direction.

No, no, no, no, no, no.

This attention made me feel awkward and exposed.

Nothing I did seemed to fit. Nothing seemed to work for me.

It was as if I was walking through life wearing the wrong size pair of shoes – some days they were too tight, other days too loose and slipping off.

I went ‘round in circles getting closer to no-one. Getting further away from myself. Becoming the person I thought I needed to be – someone else.  Not following my gut instinct. Second guessing myself. Trying to become but spiralling in unfocused directions.

I thought my truth was in being complicated, mysterious, enigmatic, aloof.

But I’ve come to understand that my truth is very far from this place.

These past years have been about uncomplicating myself.

Taking apart any fixed notion I’ve held of who I am.

I thought because I aspired to be a writer, depth of character meant being in possession of an intellect that set me apart, placed me above others.

Only by turning myself into a human Rubix Cube would I then be able to put something of worth on the page.

The reality is I’m not complicated at all.

I don’t always understand myself completely. Sometimes I betray my feelings or my intention by taking an unjustified contrary and stubborn position. There are times I make things harder for myself (and as a result those around me) than they need to be.

I’m quite simple when it comes down to it.

I need love. I need attention. I need to feel like I’m making a difference in the world around me. Seeing progress being made is essential. I have to believe I’m consistently contributing to making myself better and better and better.

I’ve spent so many years tying myself up in knots only to spend these days unravelling the tangled ball of wool I’ve wrapped around me.

Life doesn’t have a Ctrl-Z to undo previous actions, erase past behaviours and unhelpful patterns from my journey. All I can do is make sure each sentence I write is as clear, clean and true as I can make it.

And what ends up on the page is as close to whom I am as I can write it.

Seek Forgiveness, Not Permission

forgiveness permission
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It’s a theme.

It reoccurs.

Somewhere in my programming is this line of code that activates when I have an idea. The idea generates and little mind minions pop it in my brain’s suggestions box. Then at some point in the non-specified future, I’ll receive a reply, that sounds something like this:

‘Ken, Idea #45Gj0AA is a go, repeat, is a GO.’

That’s me made up.

Off on an approved path, with all the requisite validation and official stamps I need to get me through the necessary security checkpoints, past the permission police.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?

There are flaws. I’ve got two issues here:

  1. I’m not a natural asker; and
  2. The world isn’t often a Yes, and… place

It a self-worth thing. I’m forever waiting to be told I’m a good boy, to be told my idea is a good one and applauded before I’ve even done anything about it.

There’s a cycle that goes like this:

 

An idea is had -> Excitement is felt -> Some brainstorming is done -> Notes are taken ->

A connection to the great EVERYTHING in the universe is momentarily experienced ->

An ambitious next-step is devised -> Then the notion that I should seek permission arises -> Momentum slowly drains from the venture like a body dehydrating during a long bushwalk on an extremely hot and humid day.

And I’m back at the beginning again.

Here’s an example:

Towards the end of 1996 I wrote my first short story, To The End. Soon after, in early 1997 I wrote another, Sunday, Sunday. Later that year I began a novel, (!) Bang which would take me about a year to write. By the end of 1998 I had started in earnest on For Tomorrow, as well as having sketched out ideas for another novel, Chemical World.

Have you picked up the link between all the story titles yet?

Yes? No? No matter.

They are all Blur song titles. That was my thing you see. I’d decided all my fiction would be named after different Blur song titles. Maybe at some point I would incorporate a Radiohead song or two because they’re influence was growing on me. But Blur, mostly Blur was where my head was at.

I can see now it was about who I was trying to align myself with to give my work, and myself, a clear and definable identity.

Listen to Blur’s songs.

Read my stories.

See? See? You get it right?

So as a permission seeker, what did I do around the middle of 1997?

I found Blur’s official website, went to the contact page and completed the ‘Contact Us’ form.

 

Dear Blur (these are not the exact words – they are in fact a rather sharp and self-critical retrospective rehash)

I am a writer. I am the same as you. I use your song titles as the names of all my stories. I would be more than happy to send you a sample of these if you like. How about To The End or Sunday, Sunday?

Are you okay with this? For me to use your song titles to name my stories, not to send you in a copy of one of them, or both – I could do that. I’m not worried about the cost of postage – I have part-time job you see.

I plan to have a long and successful career as a novelist who writes sharply about the heart of humanity whilst existing on the fringes of it, and it’s important at the outset that I get your approval so that down the road when I am as well read as you are listened to there is no conflict between us. You mean too much to me for there to be anything but mutual respect, understanding and acceptance between us.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience. I will wait for your response before proceeding too far down this path.

I look forward to a long and meaningful connection with you and your body of work. Who knows, in time maybe we will collaborate and one of your songs may come from one of my stories and the symbiosis between us strengthening until it’s considered I’m like the faceless fifth member of the band. Did I mention you’ve inspired me to learn guitar because you published the chords to each song in your CD liner notes?

Thank you Blur. I love you Blur.

Ken

Wake the fuck up dude.

Okay.

Deep breath.

It only takes six consecutive deep breaths to change your state – I do this quite a lot.

The good news is I don’t hate, and am no longer bitterly angry at, my much younger self. It wasn’t his fault. He was just naïve and didn’t have the savviness to know he needn’t give a fuck and simply plough ahead regardless.

The difference between then and now is I tell myself just to proceed anyway. No-one is waiting for whatever it is I write other than one person – me. So just get on with it, whatever it is.

If I ever produce anything that might actually make it into the world, let those issues be dealt with then. Don’t let them hold me up at the beginning because they are just EXCUSES. My Worry Bug is looking for reasons not to try and, therefore, to prevent me from the embarrassment and shame of failure.

Fuck succeeding, just don’t expose yourself. Great life lesson.

If I’d told that girl who approached me in the basketball stadium back in 1991, ‘No, I don’t want to meet your friend,’ the whole Hi, my name’s Ken… incident would never have happened. (that’s to come – don’t worry)

But that’s not how I want to live. I’ve always wanted unexpected things to pop up that lead to great adventures.

Saying yes is, sure, daunting, nut it’s much more fun. And fun should be had, as often as possible.

Now I know permission begins with me. So, I tell myself to just get on with it and be what may if anything happens down the line. I’m not letting the fear of anticipation rule me anymore.