Friday, 23 April 2010

The Big Questions

I borrowed this idea from a friend, who borrowed it from Frankie Magazine. Loved her answers because it perfectly captures who she is, but realised I had totally different ones. I recommend you try and answer these too.

- What is the meaning of life?
To do something positive with it. Share your love with the people who matter and do everything you can to make the world a better place.

- Is there life after death?
No, there isn’t, that’s why its death. Stop thinking about it and enjoy life because you may be gone tomorrow, worry about it when you encounter it

- What do you see when you look up into the night sky?
I think about how expansive the universe is, and how I’m just a tiny but significant part of it.

- What amazes you about the world?
What is given in one hand, is taken away with the other, without exception

- What does beauty mean?
The moments in life you take for granted, but remember forever.

- What does happiness mean?
Happiness is accepting who you are flaws and all. Realising that things will never go your way all the time but accepting it

- What are we here for?
Depends on the individual. We all have a unique purpose

- What are you here for?
To change the world.

- Five words that sum up your values:
Loyalty, empathy, perseverance, passion, awareness

- What motto sums up your approach to life?
‘Knowledge is power’

- If you were gone tomorrow, what would you have left undone?
The purpose described above. My life as it stands now remains unfulfilled.

- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a thing. The balance in the world is what defines it.

- What are you most passionate about?
My family, my friends, my music, my political party, and my football team in that order.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Devising The Game Plan After Quarter Time

I always knew this year was going to be a challenge in every respect. 2010 is the year to make enormous strides with the thesis. The goal for the year was to the write the ‘majority’ of the thesis, which is a delightfully vague concept. The intent of the ‘majority’ concept is at least get the heavy lifting done, possibly four of the six chapters at a rough estimate. Yet more than a quarter of the year has past and I feel like I haven’t achieved much. Much of this is due to the trials of being an external student, using a regional university as a base where to describe the access to the resources I need as scarce is to be over generous. Despite reassurances from my supervisor at Griffith that things are on track, I have this nagging feeling in the back of mind that I’m behind where I need to be. Call it ‘Postgraduate Paranoia’ but I have this fear that six months out from the due date only half the required work will be done, and then I will completely lose the plot. This will most probably last until the thesis is encased in leather binding.

Consequently I am always working overtime in an endeavour to ‘catch up’ in the most self defeating exercise ever created, because I will never be ‘caught up’ in my own mind. Whilst talking to a fellow Postgrad student on Twitter this week, she said she doesn’t have the time to blog even though she’d like to. Well I can say that creating this blog was probably the best thing I could have done to help my thesis, at least it has given me an outlet. I may never be fully at ease with the workload, but at least I feel centred and calm most of the time.

This week I checked another box on the career checklist by giving my first ever university lecture for the Politics and the Media class I am tutoring. I discussed some of the leadership theories I have been developing over my two theses, but the main focus was on how politicians use Twitter to communicate with the public. I won’t say it wasn’t a big deal because it was, but unlike writing the thesis or marking papers I felt totally at ease with the process. I know the students, they know me, and it didn’t really feel like a ‘lecture’ at all. It was just me shooting the breeze mixing theories with anecdotes. I know my parents were proud of me, as they snuck up the back to watch what I guess they consider ‘a ‘milestone’. I’m sure not for the first time they wondered how I got the political gene, and how we got to this place in my life.

In addition to those two major events, there is of course a Federal Election coming up, with the preselections for the ALP candidates in my local area having just been finalised over the weekend. I won’t bore the non political types with the ins and outs of the process, but the main thing to grasp was that the process was longer and far more arduous than I anticipated. I had originally intended to be a major part of the campaign team going forward into the ‘big show’, but I realised over the weekend I just can’t take on anymore work than I am already doing. There are two simple reasons for this: I miss my friends, and I need to find the time to have some balance in life. I have learnt that when I don’t have this balance it leads me into the deep, dark abyss.

I was talking to my best friend last night and we were discussing the possibility of chilling out for several days when I can spare it, to enjoy the two wonderful past times of watching both AFL and Skins. My immediate reaction was ‘Yeah I love that idea, but not for another two years until I finish the thesis’. Then I did a double take and thought ‘Hey why the fuck not? We deserve to have our own version of fun!’ And so it has been scheduled, far enough away so I can get all the necessary work done, but close enough for me to actually look forward to it.

A similar process took place four days earlier when the initial lineup for Splendour in the Grass was announced. I was initially skeptical not because of my time constraints, but rather the festival bill itself. I have had both good and bad experiences at music festivals. I had seemed to have forgotten that the enjoyment of such festivals was directly related to the people I went with. Fun people = fun times, shit people = shitty times. Although the lineup is a tad anemic, this time I will be going with someone who actually SHARES my music taste. No more enjoying thoughtful indie rock bands by myself while my companions check out derelict, drunk and obnoxious local bands. All of this of course is contingent upon whether we can actually get tickets, an ordeal in itself. Please keep your fingers crossed readers for the sake of my sanity.

Before that mighty festival comes along I of course am going to see the mighty Tegan and Sara, in two weeks as well as a rare solo gig from Little Birdy lead singer Katy Steele. Both gigs will again be with similar groups of friends. Perhaps after a tough start to the year, the middle period will be a little more productive both professionally and otherwise.

Friday, 9 April 2010

The First Line of the Obituary

You know my story, right?

Baby boy from a dedicated family gets diagnosed with a debilitating physical disability at eight months of age. Doctors tell the family to give up hope; the boy has no future they say. Through hard work and a fair slice of luck, boy beats the odds and finishes school when nobody expected him to. He then completes his first university degree where he excels in a world which finally understands him. He carves out a life simultaneously in politics and academia, and completes an honours degree with remarkable results. He is now completing a PhD, teaches politics at university, and is a member of several key components of the Sunshine Coast ALP.

This is a very, very abbreviated version of my life story, one that has been told so many times that I’ve lost track. In a world where first impressions count I’m the ultimate case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. People see the wheelchair and automatically jump to the wrong conclusions: that somehow a physical deficit turns into an intellectual one. That it is not possible for me to be a political scientist. Every time I mention my profession upon first meeting almost everyone treats it like some miracle. It is and it isn’t.

I don’t know how I got to a kid with ‘no future’ to a man who does all these things listed above. The doctors don’t know. My parents don’t know. Sure, they and I worked hard to beat the odds, but surely some of it was due to some slice of luck too, we just don’t know the exact recipe. How hard did we have to work so that I could earn that luck? It is something I think about every single day, it is something I struggle with every single day.

The relationship I have with my disability is by far the most complex I have. I hate having a disability, hate it. I wish to kill it, but know that it is not ever possible. No matter what I do, even if I were to become Prime Minister, have an affair with his wife, or plot to bring him down in a clandestine affair, the first line of my obituary will still read ‘Suffered from Cerebral Palsy’. Only a person with a disability knows what it is like to be defined by what he can’t do, rather than what he can. Because of my achievements I am looked at as an ‘inspiration’. This is a title I do not want, need or desire, but know I am going to get lumped with it anyway, regardless if I deserve it or not, all because I can’t walk.

If I achieve all my goals I’ll most likely be defined as an ‘inspiration’ by the general public at large, end up being profiled by Australian Story or 60 Minutes, the former a great program, the latter an utterly shithouse program, but still their purpose remains the same: the angle won’t be ‘he has changed political strategy as we know it’ it will be ‘He’s in a wheelchair, and he has changed political strategy as we know it. I hate, hate, hate that

As I’ve said a few times previously I hate the disabled community. I know a fair few people with disabilities will read that and bristle at the thought, but again it all comes down to deficits rather than empowerment. However I have no choice but to accept that I am part of a community that I loathe for the rest of my life. That I may well be uttered in the same breath as absolute wankers like Paraolympian Kurt Fernley, who despite his phenomenal athletic abilities continues to use his disability as a tool for arrogant martyrdom. He does not represent me and I do not represent him. I wish to be treated as if I never had a disability, but know that cannot possibly happen. I wish to disassociate myself from any and all ‘disability issues’, but know that can never happen. At seven years old it was my dream to play full forward for the Port Adelaide Magpies, and at some point I had to learn that it would never happen. Soon after I learnt that I knew that I could never escape my disability no matter how hard I tried.

The last year has been the most satisfying period in my life for a number of reasons, but also the most frustrating. I understand why my peers literally go crazy at the thought of managing their disability for the rest of their lives. If I didn’t have a disability I could do so many things, but without it I wouldn’t have met the people I have and I’d be in an entirely different place, and I would have just as many problems, although they’d have a lower profile. I wish I wasn’t disabled 200 times a day, but I am, and I have to deal with it no matter how much I hate it.