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Finding New Horizons: On Perception

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Finding New Horizons: On Perception

Andrew Ryan

So about two months ago I decided to start studying Youth Work, almost on a whim, after spending a night at work standing in the band room bar serving drinks to heaps of people who came to see a band called “The Stiffys”.

I felt pretty weirded out at how strongly I felt like my time was worth far more than the less than $25 dollars an hour I was getting paid to be in that situation with that band when I could have been spending that time making my own art, or like, reading a book from which I could learn about native title or neuroscience or ethics and morality or something/// it’s not often I feel like my time is wasted in that venue/// goddammit novelty/joke bands that do pop styling and glorify idiotic sentiments and ARE JUST HAVING A GOOD TIME GUYS have so much to answer for.

You know the type, capitalising on a majority-well-off-white-crowd who clap and scream in laughter at songs about erections and body boarding as the singer repeats the words “WE’RE AN ART ROCK BAND” between each song, and I think I’m a fairly gooooood judge of humans in music venues by now, and from what I could tell, those audience members looked like they would have brought a cheaply made colourful party hat and vanilla flavoured cupcakes to a Birthday Party gig if Triple J told them over and over for weeks that it was bound to be the Coolest Show Of The Year.

But I guess, like, you know, they’re entertainers.

…so I had an epiphany that night, born of disillusionment and social-issue pains, and within the month I was enrolled in an Open Colleges Certificate IV in Youth Work, something I never, ever, ever, ever expected of myself, but something that makes so so so so so so much sense now that I’m deep in it, sitting at home in front of my computer, researching the ever-loving shit out of everything related to the questions in my assessments, with a whole bunch of books I’ve collected over the years sitting in milk-crates behind me, books that completely relate to this thing I’m studying which I never thought I would study. Seems like I knew what to do without even knowing it. And I got a HD for my first assessment!

Looking at and also spending a long time thinking about case studies of hella-troubled young people is teaching me how to open my heart and focus on learning how to actually care for people, which is something I’ve found difficult to do in the past. I mean, I’ve tried to care for people, but I never really could, not properly, because I used to struggle with shit memories of abuse, you know? Childhood trauma. And I still do, struggle I mean; those memories are always going to be there, but it’s something I feel a bit more at ease with these days thanks to having access to a free (government funded) counseling service specially tailored for victims of sexual abuse and assault. Those services are there, but when I was younger, when I was more “at risk”, when I was going through puberty and my mind was still developing, and I was traumatised without evening knowing it, I was just diagnosed with depression and that was it, medication for you girl, I had no idea, and I didn’t know how to seek real help, and I didn’t know what to do, so I spent years drinking away all the memories, cutting myself if I felt upset, just being like: WHATEVER I’M YOUNG/DRINKING ALL THE TIME IS FINE/ and also: FUCK I WISH I WAS DEAD and also: oh yeah, whatever, and also: PLEASE SOMEONE JUST HELP ME and also: FUCK EVERYONE I’LL FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT MYSELF.

Resilience. I had it all along but I couldn’t see it. I would love to help other people going through similar and worse shit to see it in themselves too. And also get them connected to other people who wanna help them too.

It’s an interesting perspective shift, to go from experiencing life as one who is fighting personal trauma (on top of multi-generational trauma from both sides of the family) and trying to be a good person, but feeling like I kept failing over and over, to deciding “fuck it, I’m going to learn how to help people who need help” and then to suddenly find yourself to be one who has almost left the adversity behind, and is actively working on helping what is left over, and is charging headfirst towards a (fingers crossed) ripple effect of care and warmth and safety for others. I am not perfect, no one is, but I feel a whole lot better about the fact that I am alive and standing and stretching and productive and capable of loving other human beings than I ever have been before. It’s weird how perspective changes can so fundamentally affect the way you treat yourself and your history. It’s nice how years of searching for the right educational training (after plenty of educational drop-outs) can finally get you on to something that feels right. It’s just a bummer that education isn’t free in order to make that process easier and quicker.