I always get a bit finicky when someone gives me a compliment. I don’t quite know how to break it to them, I’m not the person they think I am. I’m not a bad person, and it’s not that I’m a liar either, it’s just that I’m not completely honest about what it takes to be who I am, and if you knew, perhaps I would not be so applauded. Learn to take a compliment, sure, I could do that, but also, learn that not everything is as it appears. I’m unfortunately, devastatingly human, and my life is equal parts amazing, as it is a disaster. Social media distorts reality, and I’m not the type to delude myself or others, and so I want to share a bit about my year, the parts that people don’t normally share. I want to share the full story, not just the good bits, because they’re just as important even if they’re ugly to acknowledge. These are the ugly parts we all experience in our own ways, and I don’t want to hide these parts of ourselves, because there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t want others to feel guilty for their mistakes and shortcomings either, at least not to the point where they isolate themselves away, only to the point where they learn their lesson.
I don’t misrepresent myself on the internet because I want to give a false perception about how good my life is, although it is good, don’t get me wrong! Rather, I prefer peace and tranquility, often at the cost of transparency and authenticity, because I don’t want to expose others to my chaos. I don’t want to explain myself because when I do, it’s often met with disbelief. The strangest, littlest things seem to take people by surprise. I only recently learned that the honor and altruism I find automatic and inherent within me, comes across as so unbelievable it must be suspicious to others. Similarly, practices I’ve developed to keep me sane seem so complicated to others, like my ability to sleep with strangers for money, without an afterthought.
I don’t want to fight for acceptance, so I avoid rejection, I avoid sharing parts of myself. I show and share what people want to see in me, whether that be compassion, kindness, and understanding, and refrain from sharing any momentarily true, but unrefined, feelings and thoughts; at least, not until I interrogate the purpose and reason for such brash things. I find as I get older I am more conservative about what I show to the world, but I wonder if it’s truly a wise thing to do. In a world full of smoke and mirrors, is authenticity a breath of fresh air, or is it just putting a target on my back? I think the answer is to pick your moments and the end of the year seems an appropriate moment to reflect.
If, for some reason, someone wants to see me or know me, I only show them the good things about me, the successes, the joys, the achievements, the dreams, the things they would be proud of. But just as valid are the things I do not share, the difficulties, the issues, the struggles. I feel uncomfortable when someone admires me, not because I feel like an imposter, not because I don’t deserve or feel unworthy of their adoration, but because they’re seeing only half the picture. And I wonder if they had the full picture, whether they would think or feel the same about me, or whether they too would be just as disappointed in how tragically human I am.
I’m not ashamed of myself. If anything, I feel ashamed for not sharing more of myself, for not sharing my pains, my griefs, my woes, when I know many people have similar experiences. I feel ashamed for being too scared to showcase my vulnerabilities, my weaknesses, my failures, in the name of sparing you the concern, in the name of protecting myself. I’m not scared of your judgment, I’m scared of my own judgement, because I can turn on myself should I disappoint myself. I do good things, but I am not totally a good person, and this is evidenced by the ways in which I have hurt myself again and again, and will inevitably continue to because I am only human. I overestimate my resilience, underestimate my zeal and forget what compassion looks like.
And I hate that I can’t celebrate having overcome my own self-destruction, because that would require me to admit there is a violence within me, and that would shatter the carefully curated image of myself I present to the world. I don’t want to disappoint you or have you pity me, but I also feel no honor or pride in hiding the antagonist of my life, and I find there is no virtue in silence. If anything, when you hide parts of yourself from yourself or others, those parts gain more power over you. When I’m admired, I’m uncomfortable because it means the parts I hide of myself are acknowledged, but not in the ways they need to be acknowledged. There is a cost to success, there are risks that come when you exit your comfort zone, and there are setbacks when you decide to grow. Here are some of mine for 2023.
This year, I have spent $20,000 or so on disability support services like therapies, doctors, cleaning, cooking, just to be living at a tolerable baseline, not even to be well. This is just the general maintenance fee to not wanting to readily exit this existence. I spent $3500 on prescription medication so I can operate in my day to day without hurting myself or anyone else. I spent double that on recreational drugs. I didn’t monitor my recreational drug use at all, stopping only when it was inconvenient or uncomfortable for me to access more. I’ve spent something similar on non-vital supplements like vitamins or tinctures, under the guise of supporting myself, though it’s probably just a silly form of pittance. I lost 5k gambling this year, chasing the dopamine to feel alive. I have spent 10k or 20k on clothing and other stupid shit to feel like I am gaining something since I don’t have the energy to do anything more. I’ve had sex with 52 different people, sharing an intimate moment in secrecy, whether that be through gritted teeth or with a smile on my face, to afford all of the above, as is tradition the last 15 years. I have spent an absurd, Olympic gold medal worthy amount of time on masturbation, to regulate my states. I rode my motorbike countless times over the speed limit in no gear, caring not if I fell off and skin myself alive, secretly wishing I might. I’ve had unprotected sex, convinced myself it was love, even though that person would throw me in a pool of acid and laugh at my face should the opportunity ever present itself. I’ve cut myself often and deep enough that I had to cover myself with my clothing, or face explaining how this is a better alternative to other forms of harm. I’ve smashed my wrists repetitively on stone bench tops until I couldn’t move my fingers because that feels better than whatever it is that stirs within me. I can’t even count the number of hours I laid in bed, staring at the walls, unmoving, disassociating, feeling guilty for not doing more, feeling grateful that I can’t hurt myself any further .I have neglected myself to filth and despair for days at a time, refusing to call for help and revealing how unwell I am and causing concern, but more selfishly, to avoid having to get better because it hurts my loved ones to see me like this and because I won’t really get better. Almost every moment of every day, my fingers seek some sort of stimulation, to distract myself from the feeling of overwhelm and overload, a feeling that descends to disturb every waking moment. I have cried many, many nights, but never in front of another person. I have frozen up when people have reached out for help, paralyzed by my own fear of disappointing them, rendered incompetent, demoralised by my own helplessness and inability to support them. I have had one bad dream and nightmare after the other, relentlessly haunted by my own mind. I have even attempted to take my own life this year.
But that’s not all. I completed a prestigious fellowship, presenting my journey to a crowd of important people, knowing full well this is perhaps the first time they’ve been exposed to this industry and still finding the courage to represent workers as best I can. I’ve experienced the longest, slowest burnout of my life, and despite this, founded a community project aimed at bettering the health and safety of sex worker. I’ve hired 5 other sex workers to help me achieve this. I’ve secured funding to make this vision a reality. I’ve traveled the world, given my mum the holiday she’s never allowed herself to give, readied my sisters for their first day of university, held my crying step mum as she begged for forgiveness, and let my dad in to be my dad, even though I risk him disappointing me as he has so many times before. I have danced with my friends to music I wish never ended, was reminded of my favourite memories when viewing art, made new friends I know will be with me til the end, met weekly with strangers turned friends to play games of deception and deceit, and cuddled with my cats who love me unconditionally. I have done the most exercise I ever have, boxing and Jiu Jitsu and I took myself on walks when I don’t know what to do or how to feel. I’ve been there for workers in crisis to help them with what they need even though I can’t even help myself. I celebrated my birthday and put myself first for once.
I’m really proud of myself and everything I’ve managed to do, but I’m also really sorry for the things I’ve put myself through and forced myself to do. But it never comes from a place of hate, just frustration, disconnection and dysregulation. And to think, this is one of my best years to date. Like I said, I get finicky, I struggle to accept a compliment because if you look at the details, it’s not pretty.
This is my life, I am not just the image I present to the world. I am a mere mortal, susceptible to feelings and thoughts that are irrational, uncontrollable and unfair, but capable of resolution, resilience and commitment to peace. I won’t get better but I’ll try to do better, like I do every year. Admire me or compliment me, but this is a reminder that not everything on social media is as it seems, there is nothing to envy, there’s nothing to aspire to, I don’t want you to be like me if it costs you the same as it costs me.
Now that I think about it, perhaps I am worth admiring, not because of the good things I’ve done, but because of the bad things I’ve done. The bad things I will continue to do, the bad things that will never go away, but also will never fully deter me from doing good things. Maybe what’s worth admiring is not the achievements per se but the ability to strive irregardless of how many hurdles get thrown along the way. Of all the things listed, it is not being left for dead that was most difficult, or spending hours gambling for nothing but a slither of triumph, it is the burnout that has followed me throughout the year that leaves me feeling empty and alone.
The burnout will be with me in 2024, but I’m not sure I will be able to meet it in a way that disables it. I’m scared it will get worse, and I don’t want to be looked up to, I want to be looked after. I feel like I’m losing myself, that I am incapable of gaining control of myself and my life, that I’m not enough even though to everyone else I’m too much. It’s a small comfort to know I am not the only one with these feelings, and I hope you give yourself the chance to grow for 2024 even if it feels like you can’t do anything right. I see the parts of you that you try to hide and I want you to know it’s okay, I accept you the way you are and I hope you do to. Small steps lead to big results. Here’s to another great year waiting for us on the horizon.