2021: that's a wrap...
Hours working in bed = lost count.
Hours walking in bush, with dog = so many, never enough.
Check-ins at local supermarket and bottle shop = too many.
At the beginning of the year, after 12 months of lockdowns in Melbourne, I bought a campervan, thinking that things would be different in 2021. I was pursuing a fantasy of beach holidays in lieu of international travel. Sadly, my sedan wasn’t really powerful enough to tow it because, in 1984, they made ‘pop-up’ to last - that is HEAVY.
My life, and my dreams, are filled with unsubtle signs and directives.
After months of looking at cars I couldn't afford, I was desperate to make it to Adelaide to see family during the April school holidays. In a hurry, I bought an obscure Korean 4WD. It was gutsy, comfortable and looked good in dark burgundy.
The car developed a series of unrelated and ironic functional fails. A broken immobiliser caused us to stop at my Auntie’s in the Adelaide foothills. And it wouldn't start again.
Unphased, I got the van towed to the beach while the used car dealer in Melbourne attempted to source an immobiliser from a wreck in NZ. He failed. At the end of our break, I risked the 10-hour drive back on the basis that I should avoid switching off the ignition. We made it to Bordertown. Remember, my signs are obvious.
When the immobiliser was finally replaced, the door locks developed a mysterious habit of locking and unlocking themselves. They’ve since been disabled while another set is sourced from a wreck in NZ. For now, each door needs independently unlocking and a separate key starts the engine. Very annoying, but not impossible.
In retrospect, that very pleasant sojourn in Adelaide with dog walks on an Autumn beach was the last time we would get out and about. The beginning of a year of frustrations, of thwarted progress navigated with humour.
A year without certainty, or borders in between lockdowns, a blur. I can make a list of things that I know happened this year, for the record… but locating them precisely? For that, I’m dependent on the meta-data provided by image captures and QR check-ins on my phone.
To be clear, this year has not been without its gentle joys and slow learnings. Perhaps I am even more attuned to a daily ebb and flow of feelings, being present?
I put roots into rented soil, briefly grounding myself, despite insecurity. I planted a peacherine, a mandarin, a kaffir lime and a blackberry.
I watched the beehive flourish and realised I will never know all the things about bees. They’re magical, and most days they send me back to the internet with new questions. I’m yet to harvest honey, but no hurry.
I reacquainted myself with my amazing, complex, turbulent adult daughter as she sheltered in our lounge room throughout two lockdowns, struggling to engage in a film production degree online and remote.
I let go of arbitrary screen time regulations for the tween who got through first-year high school with a potato face filter and multiple gaming platforms that connected him with mates. We became MORE familiar with re-runs of Brooklyn 99, Parks & Rec, The Office and Schitt’s Creek playing on the iPad as background comfort.
I subscribed to five, and then six, streaming platforms and discovered some awesome queer youth content, including ‘Euphoria’ and ‘We are who we are’ (directed by Luca Guadagnino). I also indulged in not-so-secret soapy comforts like ‘Wentworth’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy'.
I committed to the grind of finally finishing a co-authored academic article, despite untethering myself from university metrics and imperatives. It features a butterfly analogy to evoke ‘the social life of data’ in a reach beyond scholarly vocal constraint.
For 6 months I got up at 6 am every morning to chip away at a manuscript on the impossibility of Safe Spaces. After 3 extensions over 2 years, I submitted. It’s not perfect, but good enough. I’m proud to have written 95000 cathartic words that nobody forced me to write.
I worked 6 days a week in 2 jobs – 0.6FTE for 2 employers. I cut that out in mid-year and moved to a full-time WFH leadership role with Transgender Victoria. It's meaningful, world-changing work that I love.
However, as someone who prefers to collaborate, support, and facilitate rather than lead with directive authority, I learned that I can’t make everyone happy. For some folk, trauma and systemic oppression mean that enough will never be good enough. And that’s okay.
Becoming COO, or managing director, means reconciling my historical preference for staying out of the spotlight with needing to step up, lead, and influence. In my self-cast 'supporting role,' I have become alert to a slowly percolating and surprising need to be affirmed...
I learned to look squarely at my lingering resentment towards academia, and before that, the film industry, where I failed to find a foothold for long, or claim celebrity status. Is that my secret desire I wonder? I am often the runner-up, second-best in a strong candidate pool, a very square peg in lots of round holes. A mix of poor fit, systemic exclusion of difference, and explicit abuses of power. And that’s okay.
I lost a young friend and mother to terminal illness. She was beautiful and smart and funny and generous and I loved her and still love her. I downloaded our massive chat archives and the random still-lifes and landscape pics we exchanged. Beyond these, her spirit is present in occasional spectres, glimpsed in the corner of my eye. Her passing from one realm to another reminds me that incarnate life is short and unpredictable. She invokes me to stay curious, and leap into the challenging unknowns…
During lockdowns, I spent hours on real estate websites, cross-referencing local weather conditions and council regulations. I sustained a fantasy in which I buy a block of bushland and develop an off-grid retreat for queer and trans folk. We are committed to rebuilding faith with First Nations people, new arrivals and people at all of our margins. A ‘centre’ for Brave Retreat. Restoring connections among the alienated, with a thriving natural swimming hole and permaculture principles. Nurturing gender diversity among biological and chosen families.
When the iron curtain finally lifted I drove the kids to a gorgeous block 2 hours away, with a creek. They complained about the dust, ants, grass-seeds in their socks.
I realised building my dream is A LOT. Too much to undertake solo. It will take time and energy to build solidarity and I need to start where I am. Doing a tax return. Maybe running a weekend retreat for TGD kids and their families, hiring a space. I don’t need to own the land to give back to it. A goal for 2022.
At the end of the year, I adulted my way through unbelievably drama-free chest surgery. Transforming my body in a way that feels simultaneously surreal and mundane - like these scars have always been here. I've been making art exploring who I've been, and who I am becoming.
I'm keen to start buffing the body desirable. I've started by halving my wardrobe, donating anything that doesn't make my heart sing. And buying an inflatable kayak to take camping.
This year I also studied. More permaculture and process-oriented psychology, for trauma-informed group facilitation. The book is nearly finished and tentatively called 'The Safety Trap: why we need queer brave spaces'.
And now, in the closing hours of 2021, a good sign.
Having moved at the beginning of COVID, we’ve lived through six (?) lockdowns without air-con. We haven’t suffered badly because the heating works in winter, but I’ve been known to use wet towels and fans when it's hot. Today, when a kitchen device stopped working, I discovered that there’s a separate fuse for the air-con. All of a sudden, this creaky old unit above my bed is puffing out cool air!
How cool is that?