#BreakTheSilence

In an article published online by the New Zealand Herald on 4 July 2017, entitled “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted: The Untold Story of Teen Suicide in the North,” I read of the harrowing, silent crises that ordinary New Zealanders face every day.

Please take the time to read the article in the link below (PLEASE NOTE: Trigger warning for some graphic content).

What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted | New Zealand Herald

I have had too many precious friends, family members and acquaintances who have faced similar situations. This has affected myself, my church and my community so deeply that we never have never talked about it because the truth is too terrible.

People often ask me why I left my small, beautiful hometown of Nelson to pursue tertiary study in Christchurch. I hear voices all around me telling me that my degree will be worth nothing in the end, that I will only succeed if I have a specific, well-paid job title in mind, and that I won’t be able to change the world around me.

When I tell others that I plan to change my Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communication to a double major with Political Science, people get nervous.

“Oh dear, don’t get too Political!” “Can’t you do something, you know, a bit less…political?” “Can you tell Council that I want my rates lowered?” “You could be a politician and makes loads of money!”

But…if I had it my own way, then I would have gone to drama school. Or film school. Or art school, at a small polytechnic where it was safe for me to hide. But this isn’t about me. This is about people. I don’t want to be a politician and I don’t want to make loads of money for myself. This is about taking responsibility and stewardship, and to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I think of those who have gone before, such as the likes of  William Wilberforce, who dedicated his life to abolishing the slave trade within the British Empire. During Wilberforce’s time, to suggest that the African slaves – who had been taken from their homeland and treated and sold as objects – were people and subject to equal rights, was controversial and heavily frowned upon. Regardless of the expectations and opinions from his political counterparts, Wilberforce remained steadfast and succeeded. In 1833, three days before his death, the second reading of the Emancipation Act was passed by Parliament, and a month later, the abolition of the slave trade was put into effect.

“From every consideration I shall deal frankly with the House, by declaring, that no act of policy whatever will make me swerve from my duty and oblige me to abandon a measure which I think will be an honour to humanity…Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce, speaking to the British House of Commons on 12 May 1789.

So what has William Wilberforce got anything to do with the current suicide rates amongst young people in New Zealand? From my perspective, everything.

Why did the Government cut mental health funding in Canterbury, only 5 years after the Christchurch earthquakes of February 2011? Why is there such little emphasis on suicide prevention and little to almost no advocacy from bureaucrats and those within Governance? Why do we tend to treat those with mental health issues as outcasts? Why have we turned a blind eye to the suicide epidemic, and act with complete shock and utter surprise when we’re given the annual statistics from the Ministry of Health? Why do we rarely talk about it, when the most important thing IS to talk about it?

Everyone else is running around pointing fingers at millennials and their avocado toast, telling them that they will never be able to afford their own homes. Everyone else is running around telling you that your degree is worthless and won’t get you a decent job. Everyone else is running around, completely oblivious to the fact that the statistics of teenage suicide in this country is still rising.

But what can you do? You can talk about it. You can start the discussion. You can break the silence. Be like William Wilberforce and take action for those who have no other hope.

He aha te mea nui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

#BreakTheSilence

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It’s Been A While…

Well, hello friend.

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you. You must forgive me when I say I have been a little occupied recently.

Since April, I have found myself working hard as an administrator in the CEO’s office for local government. When I am not constantly printing things and running up and down stairwells and running after Executive Assistants, I am studying. When I am not studying I am illustrating a children’s book. When I am not illustrating a children’s book, I am drawing portraits and writing things (anything and everything under the sun basically, short stories, rants, ideas for youtube videos, a script that I gave up on ages ago and trying to pick it up again, a book that I gave up on ages ago and also trying to pick up again). When I am not doing either of the latter, I am at church. When I am not at church, I am eating food, and when I am not eating food I am sleeping, and so on. I think you get the idea.

So basically, I wanted to write something for you that made sense. And as usual, this blog post is making absolutely NO SENSE WHATSOEVER! Just wanted to make sure that you knew that I knew that you knew that I’m still here and that I still care about you. I’m writing this because I miss you, and I just wanted you to know that I still care about you and I want you to know what I’m up to these days. So what you see is what you get.

So far this year, I’ve been…

  • A retail assistant
  • unemployed
  • A commissioning portrait artist
  • A student (and still am)
  • A YouTuber (a bad one at that)
  • A blogger (ta-da!)
  • An administrator for the Governance department (yeah man, I’m a winner!) of a local Council (I already said that, but I just wanted to rub it in a little bit)
  • A children’s book illustrator (Yoiks, nervous!)
  • A scriptwriter (Pah, hardly! getting there, getting there)

And I haven’t felt much like an “aspiring filmmaker.” I really want to pick up the guitar again. I want to sing better (yes, I do sing…sometimes), and I want to dance.

I’ve started to write stuff on my mirror with a whiteboard pen: “I’m a winner!”, or “Watch me run!”, or something like that. It’s great stuff, makes me feel awesome. There’s something really wonderful about speaking positivity over yourself and watching it take effect.

So, a bit of a heads up. When I have completed the children’s book and finished some more portraits, I’m going to start a series of impressionist paintings in oils. The theme will be worship, in the form of portraiture that corresponds with the Song of Solomon, the book of Ruth, Esther, and elements from Mary Magdalene’s story. The idea is that it will explore different facets of the “risk of intimacy”, such as closeness, abandonment, and dance. The paintings will be done in the style of Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Renoir. There is something so beautiful about using erratic movement to gild the stillness of a moment, to bring it to life and to create atmosphere. So that should be fun. And interesting. Interesting because I can’t paint.

Ok, I have to go now.

The Road Less Travelled

An old piece of writing my homeschool days.

“Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.” So said by the country rock star Jon Bon Jovi, this statement is true. Everyone’s life is an extensive, heavily-detailed road map. We each have one of our own: unique, colourful, and designed specifically to show us the way on and to get excited about our futures.
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In the world of cartography, there are several formats as to the mapping of a location and its route. It could come in the form of a globe, an atlas, a flat survey, or an electronic screen. One of the most common types of maps is the small, single-page map. This is usually slipped into somebody’s glove box and is used to show the overview of a region’s major routes and features. It is simple, straightforward, and easy to follow. Sometimes, in a particular season, a person’s life is uncomplicated and elementary, much like the single-page, easy-to-read road map. Another format of a route plan is a folded map. This one offers greater detail than the previous and covers a larger area. Accompanying that is the electronic geographic chart that people often use on their everyday smartphones, iPhones, and iPads, for the fast-paced business workers. They can also be suited to specific features by the user. These different formats of viewing and studying maps could also attribute to the way that we see ourselves.

The three main types of road maps are highway, street, and road atlases. The first gives an overview of major routes within medium or large regions, and they can range between a few dozen to a few thousand miles or kilometres. Close to this is the street map which is often used to help navigate through towns and cities and covers only a few miles or kilometres at the most. The latter of the three is the road atlas. This is usually bound into a book because of its extensive scale and is a collection of road maps ranging from a city to an entire continent. It can also include states or provinces and is best suited for the long-haul traveller. These could all metaphorically speak for the way in which we view our lives and futures, depending on the type of lifestyles we have or the situations that we get ourselves into.

Each of us exists inside our own, living road maps. But within the cartographical features of what we do, we have two choices: to either pencil in our own route without seeing what’s around the corner, or allow God to draw the line with vivid, indelible ink. Because each of us are unique and trod our own walks in life, we individually explore the road less travelled. Our adventures may prove to be a long haul, but in the end, we all reach our destinations. The place in which we land our feet is our journey’s end. It could be temporary, it could be permanent – who knows? We could go through several road maps before we reach our intended ports of call, we could just stay on the one, familiar spot that we know, or we could dare to investigate the unknown and take little baby steps.

And there we have it. Happy travelling.

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Another Ramble of My Thought Life

In a month, I’ll be leaving home for the first time. I just got a full-time  job so that I can do my business administration course, and it’s on the other side of town in another district, which means I have to move in order to get myself to work – which is perfectly fine, because it’s not that far away from the city centre, and I’m so pleased!

I’ve been doing this thing where every now and again I would go to a different cafe, try out their coffee – sometimes, if not most of the time taking an Instagram photo while I’m at it – and do something creative like writing a blog post or starting on my children’s book illustration project.

I cut my own hair, and it looks amazing, and it’s the best haircut I’ve ever had in my entire life.

I spent 2 hours last week talking to a stranger on the street. He was an atheist and was quite adamant that he wanted to have an intense – but not that unpleasant – religious debate. I was getting nowhere until I managed to scratch the surface by proving him wrong with a bit of Harry Potter trivia. That needs its own explanation – and it’s worth mentioning, but that story can wait for another time – but I did manage to scratch the surface a bit, and inside I was like, “Owned!”

As of November last year, I have over 20 portrait projects that I’ve been wanting to start, continue on, or finish, but I can’t because I have commissions to do for people, and it looks bad if I do those and not theirs. Though I do manage to sneak in one or two of my own pieces between commissions, every time I upload one to my Facebook gallery, literally that day, one of my clients would message me and say, “How’s the drawing going?” I’m not being rude or anything. It’s just that people need to understand that if I don’t draw for myself I get no pleasure in my drawing, and I have to be able to refresh my creative juices as it were. I’m not mucking them around, I’m merely keeping my headspace in line with every other thing that I do. It is really hard for me to spend months and months and months drawing stuff for other people and not being able to draw for myself. Drawing for other people requires a lot of head space, and it tends to clog things up if I have more than one on the go. It’s frustrating. Yet I keep saying “Yes, sure, I can draw that, of course, I can.”

I need a cup of tea.

Mockingjay

“It’s crucial that young readers are considering scenarios about humanity’s future, because the challenges are about to land in their laps. I hope they question how elements of the books might be relevant in their own lives.  How do you feel about the fact that some people take their next meal for granted when so many other people are starving in the world? What do you think about choices your government, past and present, or other governments around the world make? What’s your relationship to reality TV versus your relationship to the news? Was there anything in the book that disturbed you because it reflected aspects of your own life, and if there was, what can you do about it? Because you know what? Even if they’re not of your making, these issues and how to deal with them will become your responsibility.” – Suzanne Collins, The New York Times. 

▶ The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 “The Hanging Tree” Scene [HD] – YouTube

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The One When I Laugh At Fear

This is so out of sequence, non-linear, and full of grammatical errors, so please excuse my latest rambling. I am kind of all over the place today. This blog entry is not exactly a proper one (but I guess it makes up for all the times that I’ve taken so long to write a new post) so you will have to bear with the fact that my mind flicks between twenty different things in the space of about a minute. It’s a real problem. But I kind of like it.

I am, at this very moment, sitting in the most glorious vintage art gallery cafe. I am writing with the traditional pen and paper, which will later be permanently embedded into my computer screen. (The paper in question is actually the back of one of six curriculum vitae’s that have temporarily made their homes inside my handbag – for which will now and forever be known as my tardis bag: it’s no telephone box, nor does it identify itself within the cool colour spectrum, but it is, however, smaller on the outside and massively huge on the inside. So large, in fact, that I often joke that I could hide a body in there).

Thirty minutes ago, I considered giving away one of the sheets from my makeshift stationary set to a local newspaper franchise. (Recently, I’ve been in desperate need for an office job so that I can begin my administration course, but have had no luck so far. What am I doing wrong? Maybe I should have gone for something creative. Stupid, stupid, stupid!) However, as I stumbled towards the towering grey entranceway to a possible career, something inside me said, “No.” No? You serious? No?! Some people could say that it was instinct or intuition or whatever. It probably was. But then again, it was probably God. Because there’s something better, I just have to be patient and wait for the right thing at the right time. I’m so over waiting. But I have to keep at it. All good things to those who wait, I guess. Including those who endure a very long, vigorous, and proactive job-hunting ordeal. It’s a long story. But as I sit near the window of this lovely vintage cafe sipping away at the most delicious fair-trade mochaccinos I’ve had in a very long time (seriously, Kiwi barristers are really great. You Americans can learn from us, we know how to do it the right way), all I can do is laugh. At what, you might ask? At fear.

It’s the sort of place that belongs on somebody’s Pinterest board. I just love stuff like this. Alabaster whites, pastel greens, natural wood, mahogany, cornflower-blue rhododendrons, little chalkboards, unique artwork – all set to the jazzy melody of a classic Louis Armstrong record.

There is, however, one thing that I do not particularly enjoy about visiting lovely places like this: I am alone, and I have nobody to share the aesthetic experience with. I watch people walk past the window, both beautiful and ugly, legendary and insignificant. Though I have to say that having alone time to myself is perfectly healthy. Because, today, I am at so much peace with myself that it makes me feel unbelievably happy.

I may be indoors, but it doesn’t stop the fact that there is a beautiful male sparrow darting about the place searching for crumbs. He doesn’t have a care in the world for those who judge him; he is so free, and he is what he is.

I hope that it does not rain while I am still in town. I may be armed with a halfway-decent umbrella, but it will not protect the enormous bulge of my tardis bag from succumbing to the elements.

I would like to point out, quite dramatically I might add, that on the other side of the world at this very moment, Hollywood is celebrating it’s 87th Academy Awards ceremony. I’ve made my predictions: Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore will win Best Actor and Actress, respectively (UPDATE: I was correct!).

But what do I want to do? Who do I want to be? I want to be a dreamer. A dreamer who is a listener, and a dreamer who is a doer. An artist, a writer, an entrepreneur. I want to work for legends, and I want legends to work for me.

For a little while, things looked as if though life was an uncertain shambles, but now things are starting to slowly piece back together. Focus, excitement, joy, beauty, and hope. I am having such a wonderful day! Why? I don’t know.

I’m thinking I may start painting again. Impressionism has become a thing for me as of late. Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Painting gives me a bit of a rush sometimes. Once I’ve sat down with a clear head and a definite subject in mind, I can easily lose track of precious time indulging in my own creative selfishness. It’s a lovely feeling – and the results are even more so.

I should think that I may have been in this cafe for over an hour. I might have to buy another coffee – is it rude of me to stay so long writing in a place like this? I am not sure. The guy behind me has been tapping away at his laptop since before I got here, so obviously it’s okay. Maybe he’s like, a proper writer or something. Or a novelist, or a columnist for the Nelson Mail across the road….or a playwright? Or a scriptwriter! He might get famous one day like Philippa Boyens. I could ask him for his autograph in advance. Yeah, Nah.

Earlier today I found myself sitting in the local courthouse as a potential juror – waiting for my call on the ballot. I and at least a dozen others were excused. So I sat there, in my best office clothes with my nose in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – one of my favourite classic novels by the way, though North & South totally leaves that one behind. The courtroom was freaking awesome. For my sister, it would be like me going to the cinema (or the airport…personally, I love both equally). She, the highly academic law student, would be very jealous of me. When the prosecutor and lawyer entered the courtroom with their swishing, black silky robes, everyone dropped what they were doing and stared. These young and beautiful young women with their degrees under their belts, passing the bar, getting themselves out there…such elegance. Yet so much respect. Respect, respect, respect.

I do have a lot of respect for civil servants – they work harder than you ever do, and sacrifice more than you ever will.

To think that my sister may well hold that position one day. It’s like being related to a celebrity or something. I’m proud, very proud. She knows what she’s doing. Good on you, chickie!

Red Cafe Art Gallery, Nelson

Red Cafe Art Gallery, Nelson [Instagram]