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The Annual Missive (2024)

How is Affect shaped by Communication Technologies and new year cycles of Resolution?


Have you ever noticed the ways that the platforms, devices or materials that we use to communicate (whether pencil, paper and carbon copy, telex machine, blog or social media) shape the contents? This is the essence of Marshall McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Message’. The time of year, and phase in life-cycle also shape the ways that we make meaning, or stories, to share.


A spectacular sunset with green curved canvas shelter over old caravan. There is a mud pond in the foregraound.
Brave Retreat

Networked Family Affect

My Dad used to write chatty letters to update distant friends on family news, every year around Christmas time.

 

They started when he got our first Apple Classic in around 1987? We didn’t have a typewriter and his handwriting was illegible. With the arrival of the Mac he could put some effort into a good narrative and then duplicate, with a custom top and tail for each person. Th beginning of one-to-many communications, pre internet. I reckon we got the Mac around 1987 because it was my last year at school and the first year I could print assignments at home, on paper that had detachable sprockets at each side.

 

As the years passed, Mum and Dad’s friendship circle grew smaller. Some divorced, or moved without forwarding address, and I guess some died. When Mum got sick, Dad’s newsletters weren’t so upbeat, but I guess there were always her better periods to report on – and other people’s life courses also included cancer, kids, divorce etc. I remember having a painful discussion with Mum once, asking why she never shared my personal updates (involving girlfriends) with her network like she did with my sister (who was getting married). It turned out that lesbianism, unlike marrying your first boyfriend, is ‘no-one else’s business’.

 

The missives ceased sometime before Dad got Facebook in 2009. At that stage his communications with the world shifted from his personal and humorous reflections on small successes and failures, to sharing petitions, tirades against corrupt authorities and organisations. Fake news has had a good showing, along with celebrations of the legendary perpetually fine weather in Far North Queensland.

 

Pre-digital communication rhythms and archive technologies

I’ve realised that my communications with the world have tracked a similar but different trajectory of technological communication innovation. When I spent a year in Honduras urgent messages home, like ‘I’ve run out of money’ were sent from a telex machine. Longer news was communicated in regular letters that were so personal, they were not far removed from my diary entries. I still have this archive in cardboard filing boxes and it makes interesting reading, comparing my chatty family and friend reports in contrast with my innermost angst.

 

In my first months away, I wrote with a sheet of ‘carbon copy’ underneath each page so I could keep my own smudgy version – until I realised I could just photocopy those I sent to Mum and Dad when I got home. It amazes me now that I actually took the time to do this on return, despite the radical adjustment to first year uni culture, and I filed them in plastic sleeves in a massive folder by date.

 

The gaps and overlaps in correspondence were sometimes up to 6 weeks. The same laborious process took place with photos. I sent the film canisters home, they processed two copies and sent me a set (it was prohibitively expensive in Honduras). This made for some interesting, delayed explanations of spicy photos of drinking shenanigans, always months past by the time they were received.

 

Presence, Audience, Depth

Despite my time as digital media researcher I have never been a big sharer of the personal on social media. I had an experimental phase with Instagram ‘funny things from my backyard’ images – dogs, bees, flowers, chickens, worms.

 

And of course, I tried to document the camaraderie of conferences as my peers did, but they were always quicker and better with angles, lighting, the right moment. ‘Share that with me?’ I’d say and sometimes they did, so these are in my photo libraries but I was always going to share on socials later. It’s not bad to be ‘too in the present moment’ to navigate filters and which audience to share to.

 

For me, these things take time. And you might have noticed, I’m fond of words and deep reflection… and pithy is the antithesis of complexity and breadth. Nuance and social media are not friends, unless you post A LOT, when the parts become a whole collage of complexity.

 

All of this is by long way of saying, it seems that lengthy annual blog posts have become my equivalent of my Dad’s missives in the mail. Maybe I’ve arrived at ‘a certain age’ that aligns with need for annual deep reflection?

 

Reflection: This year and last…

Last year at this time, I had CoVID and posted about growing a beard. This year I’m recuperating from burnout and I’ve cropped my hair.


Some fire-fighters discuss city-tree-change types while extinguishing a large area where fire has recently burned in a paddock.
Things to learn...

Last year, we’d just burned down the massive pile of dead weeds and box thorn at my friends’ paddock, now named ‘Brave Retreat’. It was an adventure undertaken with city naivety on a windy day and eventually attended by seven scoffing fire trucks.


By the end of the year I’d persisted through multiple design-fail learnings and constructed a ‘temporary’ shelter for my leaky old immobile caravan.

 

Before the year closed I’d recruited a local 70 year old farmer (now ‘mate’) to excavate a hole for a natural pool. Of course it immediately filled with unseasonable rain and now I need to clear out the sludge and heavy mud before proceeding to next step of lining the cavity with heavy duty PVC.

 


This year I got my first gig as a CEO. I’ve been working 50-60 hour weeks wrangling growth of a small not-for-profit and the trials and tribulations of being trans in hostile times.

 

Despite this, I’ve maintained lots of extracurricular special interests. This year I did first honey harvest from my bees, and I’m drying apricots from first abundant crop.

 

I published a book (not my first), but one that people are reading and raving about. One that makes me proud. It’s the culmination of thinking and talking and listening to people who hope to facilitate ‘safe-enough’ spaces, and practicing being brave as a non-binary neurodiverse queer white person. It’s linked here (and you can ask your local library to buy a copy or get 30% discount using LXFANDF30).


I’m proud of my kids. They challenge me to be my best self, and give me purpose when everything else is feeling wobbly. They’re beautiful brave young adults who care about the world and their impact in and on it. Like me, they muddle along on a daily basis, tested by grumpiness (lack of sleep), lack of motivation (laziness), too many distractions (doom scrolling). But, like me, they know when to ask for help, how to listen and why, despite everything, it’s important to live with integrity. Just try and do the right thing, even when it doesn’t work out the way you’d like it to.

 

This year past, I experienced a falling out with, and cancellation by, one very old and precious friend who lost faith in me and my support. That hurt. A lot. But my hurt is trivial alongside their unfathomable pain. I’m tentatively reaching out in hope that we will find our way back into one another’s lives with small gestures and restoration.

 

Meanwhile, all white Australians deserve to be cancelled by our First Nations friends and colleagues - because we let them down in a very negative and damaging Referendum, perpetuating unfathomable harm. I grieve this and find it hard to dredge up my habitual ‘silver lining’ maxims. There is so much work ahead and maybe the cankerous wound of colonisation and racism runs too deep to ever really establish trust at a social scale… especially when this discord is echoed around the world and amplified in Genocide and accompanied by Climate Crisis.

 

Resolution: New Year’s Commitments

All I can do is muddle along, one foot in front of the other. I aspire to grow trust at grassroots, in daily life, with the individuals and organisations that I engage with.

 

This year, following 3 years building capacity and managing change at TGV (Transgender Victoria, a peak org of small team size, advocacy oriented and peer led not-for-profit), I got my first gig as a CEO.  I’ve been working 50-60 hour weeks wrangling growth and sustainability in the face of the trials and tribulations of being trans in hostile times.

 

I’m a big kid now and maybe I should have learned this sooner, but my 2024 mantra is a reminder to ‘back myself’; have faith in my instincts. This last few years, growing into a leader at Transgender Victoria, have taught me much about myself, including my strengths (calm, compassionate equanimity) and access needs (burn-out and neurodivergence mean I need clear, quick and easy to find documentation to back up my overwhelmed memory). I’ve also recently realised that being a not-for-profit CEO is not the ‘be-all and end-all’ for me and I need to start thinking about what work is on the horizon.


I have many passion-projects but few of them pay the bills. I’m re-committing to a long form fiction project this year, and there is much more to do on the off-grid building of shelter and brave retreat. I also have a lot to offer in the worlds of change management consultancy, gender-diverse employment and education, and facilitation of brave spaces for social change. The thought of becoming a free-lancer again is a bit daunting but I have years of experience as a film producer, writer, and director so it’s not impossible. I need to think about myself as an individual with ‘brand’ value and this means speaking more often to audiences, with reflexivity and opportunity for interaction. I’m going to start a sub-stack, linked to blog, socials and linked in.

 

Age has also brought wisdom and I remind myself to be patient, and not overly attached to a specific manifestation of the changes I’m working towards. Change comes in many forms and sometimes it’s only looking back that scale and depth is evident.

 

While I’m making resolutions, I’ll commit to sharing updates on commitments, bravely and in public, a little more frequently than once per year. This means thinking more about segmented audiences (different for fiction, analytical reflection and leadership statements) and modes of engagement (speaking in keynotes, posting on Substack and social media).


Let’s be patient, and see how I go with that ; )

 

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