Diaries Revisited

I warn you, O Gentle Reader, that what follows is self-indulgent.

I’ve been going over my old diaries. I’m amazed by some of it, disturbed by other bits, and nostalgic for the days of yore.

For instance, my diaries from 2001 talk about Amelia, my girlfriend of the year. At least they do in the early part of the year. I was really keen on her before we were together, it seems:

Amelia has a fascinating flavour about her, like pepper and rosemary. Hearty and firey at once. A texture and volume of being alive, of being a woman. Her is-ness and who she is make her unbearably, unsayably sexy when she chooses to be sexy. I think I’m hooked. She makes it hard to speak.

She read this later, and I think on the strength of it we hooked up.

Meanwhile I was struggling to make ends meet, for I was in Sydney, thousands of kilometres from home. There I found myself, “washed up in fisherlab1”:

It’s now my second week in Sydney and I still don’t have a place to live, still don’t have a job. Frankly, this sucks, because a lot of that is my own sorry fault. I just haven’t been pushing hard enough to get those things under my belt before The Rush begins in earnest. I predict that The Rush will begin to become a tidalwave by next week.

I am from Darwin, I study in Sydney. These cities are thousands of kilometres apart. The Rush is the flood of Sydneysiders who – no longer able to hack cheap food and accomodation at home – flood into the inner west region trying to get houses and flats near to the University. What a pity that in doing so they completely fuck over those of us who need to find a place to stay because we have no alternative.

I never did beat The Rush. I was saved by the Green Light, as I put it in a diary. I moved in with Amelia. In retrospect this was a staggeringly poor decision. I had known this girl for about 3 weeks. Feeling head over heels I thought moving in with her was, if not fate, then at least Murphy’s day off. How wrong I was.

The seeds of the miserable year I reaped in 2001 were sown here.

Around the same time I had written an article about “strategic government”. I was very proud of it. Looking at it now I recognise that it was eloquent, a good read and fairly convincing. I also believe now that it betrayed real ignorance on my part. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Funnily enough I was toying with the idea of doing postgrad economics, for as I noted:

If I am to become Dictator of the World (it’s on my To Do list, behind “Cross Rubicon” and “Defeat Senate”) then I’ll need to be conversant in the Latin of the Economicus Pontifii Maximi (I’m guessing at pluralisation here).

I first met Amelia’s parents in February. Later I was to discover that her mother has a borderline personality disorder. Her disorder would distort my life to the point where I became clinically depressed and occasionally suicidal.

But in these early days I thought I had made a good impression. All was going well:

The Parents. I had been primed for a rough time. I was admittedly as nervous as all hell, and in said situations I usually cope by devolving into a Polite Young Man. It is a facade, a spare self that has served me very well over the years in such situations. The PYM is generally something of a hit with parents and the eldervolk, and it’s an excellent way for one to disguise one’s absolute white-knuclke knee-bending gut-ripping terror oh lordy lordy save me from this pit of fearsome hell. So to speak.

But it went well. The parents like me – quite a lot, I am told.

Indeed.

I also got to meet Amelia’s church. They were seventh day adventists. They were kind, caring, and utterly convinced that the end of the world was due any second now. My agnosticism of the time probably hardened into my atheism today in their presence. Perhaps they never knew: I might as well have been a mute for all I said at church on saturdays that year.

I was also renewing my relationship with the Sydney University Liberal Club. Already I had developed a healthy disrespect for my leftist opponents:

Perhaps I should explain to my US readers what I mean by “Liberal”. Whereas in the US, “Liberal” is synonymous with the left-wing, the bleeding hearts, the crippled black lesbian whales against capitalism and so forth, it is in Australia basically the primary right-wing party. …

We campus Liberals were handpicked by Hitler Howard, you see, to enslave our fellow students whilst sucking down cocktails and laughing at the half-nude Arts students forced to dance in chains. Muahahahaha!, and so forth. Apparently we are heartless, brainless, spineless and pointless. The “left” are the spiritual inheritors of the hippies. But while hippies preached Free Love, my “enemies” seem to be happier to preach Free Hate. Call me nostalgic, but I prefer the classic model to the new plastic activist.

What’s amazing is how vividly I expressed opinions which today I just as vividly put down. On public education, for instance I wrote in a sequential diary:

I may be a Liberal Club member, but I cannot approve the shitty underfunding of Australian tertiary education by the Federal Government. All you American ultra-libertarians can go jump. Markets do not provide a better education. Universities are public goods and need public funding.

Today I am one of those stinking libertarians, although I remain proudly and robustly Australian.

By May things weren’t too bad. I was pursuing a scheme to replace the University of Sydney Union’s website with something that hadn’t escaped from 1995. I also wrote a humourous ditty of a member of K5. It was voted down by I kept it in a diary for posterity. My favourite passage talked about myself as a troublemaker:

Shit-stirrers are the spice in the otherwise porridge-like existence of intellectual discourse. They are like sand in lemonade. They do not please us, but they do get us to re-express our beliefs, to wit: “I hate sand in my lemonade!”. Amen.

But I never quite learnt the gentle art of shit-stirring. I never quite grasped its subtleties and intricacies. I never stood atop a mountain of frothing prophets and disciples, laughing cheerfully as I cast my rod into the raging seas of controversy.

By July of that year Google had purchased DejaNews and launched Google Groups. In doing so they also had an archive of the material I had committed to Usenet and which I had, by degrees, considered lost.

I started to repost bits and pieces. I called this the “Ego Archive”, and drew up material from a haiku to “sub-vignettes” to short stories:

Ping.

snowing sweet jasmine,
that which was to be proven:
has server lost group?

Why’d he die? Nobody is sure. But the world is a
funny place. You can see a pattern in the hubbub,
in the static and noise of existence. It can be

a voodoo chant or an interlocking grid – it doesn’t
matter – what matters – is that it’s there.

I also posted my first movie review. Previously I had reviewed Guest House Paradiso for the Honi Soit (I lated reviewed Chopper for them), concluding that interested persons should “wait until this movie is available at a video rental store, then rent something else”.

To my diary I committed a more considered review of Enemy at the Gates, which is a movie I recommend to anybody.

Into August I continued to commit old stories to the diary, including snippets of text carved directly from a novel which I hope someday to write.

In September comes the first recorded sign that not all is perfect in relationship paradise. My discontent with Amelia, with the “us” that was, had been growing stronger since perhaps June. Also missing from my diary is mention of the difficulties I was undergoing. I had already moved several times.

In a diary which discussed computer science, and then student politics, comes this nervous aside:

I can’t break up with my girlfiend. I tried and then three days later, fell back into the relationship. She wants more than I want. I don’t what I’m doing. It sucks.

What it doesn’t said is that Amelia still came to see me, even though I had suddenly moved out. Even though I had slunk away like a thief in the night, unable to see any other way out of the relationship. What it also doesn’t say is that she cried, and cried, and cried, until I felt so much pity that I got back together with her.

Together with the stresses which radiated out into every corner of my sydney life from her mother’s illness, my failure to break away from Amelia apparently and clearly plunges me into a real depression (even though I deny it to myself). Just ten days after admitting that not all is perfect, I write:

Depressed? Not clinically. But intermittantly, refusal. Denial, ignorance, disdain of self and nothing to cling to. Reason delivers neither comfort nor warmth in the dark, still nights of the soul.

Emotional? Sometimes. Angry? Yes, now, and too often. Burdened by my own ignorances and private fantasies of self.

Broken. Spent. Worn out like cheap shoes. Next to throw away.

Redemption rare, but special. Family, yes; deep old friends most. But cannot redeem self. These dirty hands cannot wipe the muck from the self. They make it worse. Writing is variant, therefore unreliable, therefore no redemption. Thereafter, nothing remains. I wish sometimes I was my writing.

Tired? Fuck yes. Want no more than to finish and FO. Let others dream now, I am sick of it. Want to go Home, soul to curl up and wrap itself in quiet and hot sunday afternoons. Foetal-position spirituality is the only cure I know or want.

Bad decisions. Hard for soft, soft for hard, without tact or timing. Yin when needing Yang, Yang when Yin was better. Hope will get it right someday.

Take it away. All of it.

If that’s not the writing of a depressed man I don’t know what is. What’s remarkable, looking back in retrospect, is how doggedly I refused to admit that I too was now ill. I did not seek help, I simply accepted things and ceased to see a clear way out. This disturbs me because this is the classic profile of an early suicidal: a miserable person for whom options other than death seem to be closing out.

The greatest evil of this kind of depression is that ultimately it’s not true. I always had options. But by this stage my mind was playing such tricks on me that I had lost the will to exercise them.

Into October I poured myself into a computer science assignment. It was an ambitious computer science project, but I just couldn’t concentrate. In one instance I spent a week re-reading the same page of a C++ textbook. I would read a sentence, state blankly for a few minutes, then read it again. The code I turned in was marginally functional and thoroughly subpar for what was expected of me.

The diary shows that in October I distracted myself with writing and student politics, to the point of mania. I scribbled bits of fantasy and I worked on a club constitution written with a clearly paranoic slant towards internal politics.

October also saw an experience which later turned me on to being a law student. I was having a dispute with my landlord about a drier. When I had moved (for I think the 7th, maybe 8th time) into the flat, the drier had been functional, with its knob attached to the front. Shortly after I paid my first fortnight’s rent the knob vanished.

Now in the state that I was living in, the petty wrongs like these grew and mutated to be great and inconquerable monsters. It was just another example to me that misery was meant to be my lot in life.

This time seems to be about rock bottom for me. This is the closest I ever come, in real terms, to suicide. I wrote an incredibly dark piece which I was only able to post in my diary a year later, with some nervousness. Called QED Hates Me, it expresses in ten lines a year of growing misery. I reproduce it here in full.

QED Hates Me.

You can never know a person.

I expect that if people knew just how much I hate me, they would be surprised. Surely I am some bon vivant, some passionate intellectual.
Am I not that man?
Hardly. I hate him. My self-hate is its own thing, some protean beast of the mind. It consumes me from within me biting biting chewing like hot viral acids spitting in the black-blooded ulcered stomach of my inner.

The protean is Oblivion, and I want to make love to it, be subsumed in it and sunk, to drown in the river of nothingness. Not to Die, for to Die is to have Been, to have Done. Death implies causality and former existence, and that implies me and I hate me. I want not to be. I want to wrap myself in my own pathetic nothingness, I want to disappear into a world by myself where I belong, away from all of You.

Some sad egg I want, eternity in silence where I can get to know and hate myself properly. I want to savour oblivion, as slowly, I and Nothing become acquainted with each other.

I am broken. I am broken and I cannot fix myself and I don’t know what to do except hate me and hope I go away. And I hope You go away too.

But I can’t. If I let myself into Oblivion – and it is the hardest thing not to do – I will never come back because You won’t let me. You will never forget that for once I told You to get fucked, I wanted to spend some time hating me for myself. And I’d be worse when I came back a new man, a different man, because You would forever tie me to hated me and I would never be free.

Because of that, I hate You too. You can’t fix me, won’t fix me, will hate me because I am broken. So I lie to you and pretend to be happy, and sometimes I think I am. And because of that, I hate me, and because of that, you hate me, and because of that, I hate you, and because of that, I hate me. I am broken and I hate me.

All of which proves that you can never know a person.

I am still scared by re-reading that today. What I realise is that what kept me alive was the thought of what my mother would feel like if I jumped out of my room’s 6th story window.

I shortly thereafter failed some of my units. I’d had a deal with my parents that if I failed anything that year they would bring me home.

Funnily enough at this moment, Amelia decided to break up with me. She’d found someone else. It’s odd how, even though I was now freed from what I had a few months earlier seen as a burden, I felt insanely furious and jealous. After all, had I not (I said to myself) turned down other women for Amelia’s sake, because it was the right thing to do? In retrospect it was petty, but in retrospect I had been reduced to the state of a child. Small injustices ring loudly to children’s ears.

Somehow I’d found time to write another of my profiles of a K5er. She sells art and is still extant (and still beautiful).

It is a love letter to eternity, written in sombre words with subdued tones. We, the animals, form this imperfect union in the pursuit of sanity, peace, and maybe some company. Or a little sex. Sexual division being a clever way for one beast to exploit the labours of the other one.

And who the hell is Jin Wicked?

Artiste, beauty, unwilling Texan, iconoclast, egotist, borderline psychopath.

At the heart of willworking is the absolute conviction that one’s will may impose alternative realities. Of course, failure at this juncture leads to psychosis and paradox, the retreat into the world of the self. But it nevertheless requires egotism and egocentrism to take such a view: I am right, and all of you are wrong. I am smart, all of you are dumb. I am good. All of you are fucked up nobodies.

Well, I suppose it sounds cool; doesn’t really seem to mean all that much though.

And then, the diary records, I was home.

For those of you unfamiliar with Darwin, it is a city with which one can dismiss once, or fall in love with over and over and over. If it were only a woman, I’d give my life to it; even as she waxes and wanes to the passage of the seasons. Whatever else it is, Darwin is my home. I love it.

Here begins a short trend of self-treatment by storytelling. I wrote a dark little ditty in which the protagonist-narrator can’t decide whether or not to rape and kill his enemy. For if he does so:

I would lack definition – or justification – or purpose or reason to be. I would not be. Other than as a bundle of self-hatred, self-loathing. I needed another person, someone from whom meaning could be snatched, upon whose crooked hook I could hang my self-worth.

It’s clear that here I’m still depressed (and in the comments accompanying the story, I finally admit it). However I’m improving, this is up from the low point of QED Hates Me.

But also I begin to revisit humour again. It’s not great, but it’s improving. It seems like I was trying to self-medicate my depression with alcohol:

As intimated elsewhere, I went to a friend-of-a-friend’s place, equipped with a shitty barcardi substitute and a middling to so-so port. I ran a race between the bottom of the bottles and my liver, somewhere around 10 pm, the bottles moved decisively into the lead. For those of you thinking about sculling port, here’s my advice: don’t.

that I was glad to be home, though still adjusting to the pace:

Then we preceded to follow what is known as the Darwin Schedule: jam-packed with such events as Nothing, Not Very Much Happening and Sweet Fuck All.

However, Sydney still threw out to me. Amelia called me, even though:

Right now all I want to do is bury my memories of Sydney, all of them, under a very big green pile labelled “Darwin”.

After that the diaries go to more mundane matters for a while. Discussions of Access 97 and IT business make the next two entries. I briefly however express an interest in trying some drugs I hadn’t tried at that point. Probably another attempt to self-medicate, as judging by the diary I was still depressed at this point:

Here, in the gritty downtime of my soul, I have made a simple enough decision. I want to tweak my brain’s function. I want to fiddle with synaptic clefts, retard reuptake, tickle dopamine and serotonin receptors. I want to do so not by discipline or by thinking hard about it, or by experiences. For the moment, I want to do with chemicals.

Perhaps the final gasp of the depression is a short story I wrote for a competition. Titled Stained Angel (in the competition you had to take this title), it’s a surrealist tale about a man who wins freedom and finds love, but who then loses both again. Stated like that, it might as well be 2001 in a nutshell. There are differences, of course, but there are similarities also.

It’s got some lovely bits, however. This passage is my favourite:

The days with her were perfect, wonderful. She was not human, he knew it. She was Love given form. He was content to bask in her soft glow, to lay fallow for a while. Perfection was the only word for it. In her arms, on her lap, sleeping next to her and awakening next to her, defined the world more surely and solidly than the break of dawn or the trees they played amongst. Slowly he healed. Slowly he forgot.

But there were black moments. He would simply look out over something and some horrible memory would come slicing out of the blue skies, and he would cry again in her arms, sliding away into the oblivion.

He marvelled at the statuette of her, how perfectly it was her, except perhaps the wings and torch. “It’s just like you”, he’d say. “It is me”, she’d reply, smiling, but somewhere, sad. Then: “But I give better hugs!”

And so it went, the world turning, heavenly and correct. There was no misery but its memory. And that was fading, until one day he forgot it altogether. He turned to her, and gazed into her eyes, and knew that the world was right, and said “I love you”.

And then she was gone.

Later my diaries were to record how I had taken to law well, and how I had fallen in love again. But by this point I’m more or less healed from 2001. All that’s left is to cast one last, reminscing look back to the days before it:

Sydney is a distant country to me now: the gulf between here and there is a vast ocean, the bottom of it littered with unwanted sunken wrecks, and punctuated with little islands of sweet nostalgia. Thalia is just such an island. But she is also a wreck. She was always going to disappoint the trajectory I set for her in dreaming.

I don’t think I’ll ever see Thalia again: the odds of our crossing paths are infetismally small. When I went to call her number recently, I discovered that she had sold her phone to someone else. It was as if fate has thrown a gate across the lane of memory. You’ve passed this way once, says my memory, and once is quite enough.

Enough of this sentimental pap. She’s a memory, possibly even a daydream, something that never happened. And when I sail over the big blue ocean of recollection, I will one day find that her island is gone, and I will never think of her again.

What this self-indulgent ditty goes to show, I suppose, is that keeping diaries – even public ones on ecelectic websites – is a good way to mark the path of our lives. I have neglected my diaries since 2002. I hope in the new year to establish my own website and take up diarising again.

It also teaches me that I’ve changed. That I am not an Archangel David, feet rooted in rock. I suppose it teaches me also to give some space and credit to those with whom I disagree. They could be me, just three years ago. It’s a lesson I often forget.

I think that’s all of it. I apologise for wasting anyone’s time.

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One Response to Diaries Revisited

  1. David Wise says:

    Dear Jacques, keep up the good work. Life was not meant to be easy – but it can be beautiful. I have found some solace in poetry and music. Love, life and relationships are hard work. Orwell said that ignorance is bliss, but I prefer to be informed about the ghastly truth, as I think you do too. I always considered you the best of the ULC and was equally insulted and flattered when you called me the ‘champion of the left’ on campus. The venal and incompetent inhabit all of the political spectrum; left, right, whatever. Unfounded optimism is one way of dealing with it all. Works for me so far…

    Best Wishes,

    David

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