The Ballard of a Proud Broken-home Boy
So, I’m still alive.
Better still, I still have a home.
But we’ll get to that. I want to start in the way back machine. You see, when I was but a wee lad, not entirely wee but wee enough. Maybe fifteen or sixteen. I discovered a very difficult thing, in a very difficult way. I discovered the now obvious fact that our parents, no matter who they are, are simply someone else; they are human, and like all humans, they can fail; and mine failed, in a very big, very dramatic fashion.
If I remember correctly— and do not quote me on this as it’s been a distant memory for quite some time — as I recall, my father was a heroin addict. He’s since settled down with a lovely family up in Newcastle; the picture of a nuclear family. But when about five years old my mother moved me away and that would be the last and most I’d see or know of my father for over twenty years. Beyond that, from my age of eleven, my mother was a heavily medicated alcoholic who tried too find happiness in a series of men who would be my step-fathers, but only managed to find guys who enjoyed either emotionally torturing me, or beating the shit out of me for acting like a child…y’know, because I was a child. My mother and then step-father, Greg, coined the nickname “The Blob” because I liked the classic 80’s B-Movie masterpiece by the same name…and because I was fat as fuuuuck. That name made it to the schoolyard and spread like wildfire. That’s right, my mean high school nickname wasn’t made up by some jock-y asshole getting an ego boost, it was by my own parents.
Greg was a limp sack of flesh shaped like a man who had all the guts and balls of…well something that has no guts or balls…because Greg had no guts or balls. A sad, sorry excuse for a person. The only thing he tried less to do than be a father figure to me was the rest of his life, which is why my mother would go on to have not one, but two affairs. They were both pretty bad at the whole relationship side of things, which is probably why I can count on one hand the number of people I can say I’ve met and gone “YOU! I LIKE YOUR FACE AND YOUR BRAINMEAT THOUGHTS! LET US DEVELOP FEELINGS ABOUT ONE ANOTHER!” It’s an elite club.
The point is, between the complete trash fire that was my family, the failed experiment/s of finding a father figure and a relationship with my mother of which I have not enough metaphors to accurately describe the complete mess that it was; I discovered my first lesson of pride.
That lesson came in the form of a phone-call when I was fifteen. It was my neighbour, with whom my mother was having an affair. An affair that Greg knew of, but did little about — the weak sack of unmotivated shit that he was — it wasn’t that he didn’t care. I’m sure it cut deeply, but boy did he not have the gumption to do anything about it. The call was from my neighbour, and he said these exact words to a fifteen year old with an already extremely tainted picture of the world “come get your fucking mother, she’s passed out drunk on my floor” and passed out she was. Naked, lying on the floor of this fat, slobbish, grot of a ‘man’ while he watched TV not two meters away on the couch. I snatched a towel off the clothes line outside, and without saying a word dragged her arse — literally — out the front door across the road and into the house.
That was the day my heart hardened a little, I learned that I would be on my own from thereon out, and so it was. I wish I could say I used that sense of self-preservation and pride to do something good with my life, but I’m gonna plead the victims creed. Broken home kid that I was. I became the angry, vitriolic and malicious son of a bitch who started an underground empire of stealing alcohol and porn and selling it to the other kids in school, so good was business I made a hell of a profit.
A few years later came the second lesson, this one’s rough. My baby sister had been born into the same cesspit I had lived, at that point, more than three quarters of my life in. With her now sharing the same circumstances as myself I had since straightened out my shit, turned a page and decided if she was going to have the same upbringing as me, I’d be the difference maker and she’d at least have a brother to look up to. I credit her as being the reason I went to Uni instead of winding up in jail or peddling drugs for a living, and am proud to say she now has a very, very different story than my own.
She was less than a year old and I was studying for the HSC in my bedroom when I heard her crying from the living room. I figured she’s just baby whinging and kept reading the oh so very uninteresting book my nose was buried in. But the crying continued. So I went to check on her…
In the living room, my mother was passed out, face down with an empty bottle of 4lt port wine on the table. My sister was lying on the ground next to her with shit spilling out of her nappy and onto the carpet. Red faced and balling her eyes out, her own mother a foot away from her, passed out drunk. Heartbreak? How much time ya got kiddo, cause I’ve got buckets of the stuff.
I took my sister up, cleaned the carpet and went back to studying with my sister now comfortably asleep in a pillow cot on my bed next to me.
One day, my sister and I are going to have a veeeeeery heavy conversation, one I’m still not sure how to word.
“Soooo…why do you and mom not get along?”
“Shit’s fucked! So how was your day?”
I learned on that day to protect the things I work for, to stiffing the chin and soldier on when the clouds gather overhead and starts raining down down oily black torrents of shit on you. Pride may be a trapping that’ll get you in trouble if you let it, but friendo lemme tell ya, it makes a real good anger feud when you need it.
Between those two moments I learned to be motivated, self-starting, and proud, which culminated in where I am today. It’s that old hallmark, ‘For as bad as it was, I wouldn’t change it for the world.” I really wouldn’t either. I wouldn’t like much to have to relive any of it mind you, and if I had to go back I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have the stomach to force myself too. But at twenty eight, looking in the rear view mirror I’m at least glad I had that life experience to inform the ruggedly handsome, charismatic, dashingly brilliant word smith tapping away at his keyboard today (ladies). I learned to be proud in an environment that in most situations sends the person walking the path in a different direction. That kind of up bringing takes pride and wipes its arse with it. Instead I took the experience and chopped it up to fuel the rage machine that made me eager to prove myself time and time again no matter how heavy the weight, it’s gotten me in trouble of course; I snapped two tendons in my left foot on set last year and instead of being practical I was back on set the next day. Not all together a smart move but I’ve never been mistaken for a smart man either; pride makes you stubborn, and stubborn I am. I was proud to have not been stopped by the injury. Proud to have not needed help…
…proud to have not needed help…
…do you know what a full circle is? Before you answer that, I don’t mean literally you arsehat. The metaphorical full circle. Because I sure do now.
One day shy of a week ago, I put aside pride to talk about the importance of needing help, and more important, the importance of being okay with needing help. Talking. Sharing. It was probably the first time I’d actually done that, I often write these kinds of things or when I volunteer with mental health communities (I something do the whole big brother thing on the down low) I’ll talk about struggle with life, upbringing or my many years of managing clinical depression; I’ll talk about them as something that happened to me. The last thing I wrote however was in the midst of something happening to me. This is pride, there’s pride in talking about the struggles of the past because they were overcome; something to be proud of. There’s a lot to be gained from pride and more people need to harness it and use it to better themselves, but I was looking around at a fuck load of friends and fellow film peeps all going through similar shit and I didn’t see pride, but I saw what pride in the wrong places does; because everyone, myself included just didn’t want to appear scared. Too proud to admit they were scared.
I didn’t that article looking for help, but I sure as shit needed it and before I knew it, I had all the help in the world. One minute I was a baby lying on the floor in a nappy overflowing with shit, only it wasn’t my brother scooping me up to wipe my arse but a literal hundred people reaching out a hand.
I posted that article at 5:30am, and an hour and a half later my friend, Paul Ayre was at my doorstep dragging my barely slept arse out for breakfast and lunch. All the while, I was oblivious to what was going on while we ate and hung out. Like I said, hundreds of people had reached out is more ways than one and that was my third lesson on pride; not to have too much of it. What I learned growing up helped me to establish my own supports to lean on; self-worth and building myself. What I learned as an adult was that you will never have enough of your own supports. You can try, but it will hurt in the long run. You’re building a house when you go through life, adding to it and expanding it room by room, and it will be an amazing house, one worth being proud of. But as it grows taller and wider. If you only build it upward so it balances on only your own supports you isolate yourself at the top, only ever looking out at those around you, and if you build a thin tower up it takes only a small breeze to send it crashing down. But if you build outward to accommodate others, have a grand and grounded home you can’t support it on your own, which is why if you’re going to do anything worth building grand you sometimes need to be okay with having someone else to lean that house on.
BOOM! METAPHOR ACHIEVED MOTHERFUCKER!
Beyond what writing that article meant to me, reaching out and being brutally honest about my fear; I came home to over 70 missed calls and texts — some from people I didn’t even know or have any connection to. The article (on here) had been read 600 times and had been republished on a bunch of other sites by people sharing the point. I was returning calls for three days, dozens of people wanting to tell me their own stories of struggle; living out of roach infested storage units, sleeping in their cars or on park benches; charging their phones at central station before rushing to set to work and pretend to everyone around them that everything was peachy keen. Embarrassed to let anyone know or ask for help. Nearly one hundred individual stories of struggle, I’ve got most of them saved away or I’ve written out from memory. I think one day I might make a coffee table book compiling them (anonymously or course) with hand drawn sketches. It’s not all gravy mind you, some people exist only to shit on your parade, I found a lot of people who I’d thought had burnt bridges that still had my back and of course a few who I thought would pick up sword a shield for me, preferred to stick their heads in the sand or make it about themselves — those are the breaks when it comes to being brutally honest— but I can’t say the article didn’t do its job, all I wanted was to talk about community and being okay with not being okay. So in that way it did what it was supposed too, and in turn people taught me a little more about my own words.
Shout out to Lauren “Pink” Moore who — now a butcher — rocked up on my doorstep the other night, all the way from the Blue Mountains, with a massive bag of fresh cut steaks, bacon and a ridiculous amount of other carnivorous goodie. We don’t even know each other that well either, we had mutual friends at Uni and occasionally chatted over facebook, but through a common sense of dry sarcasm, wit and shared stories she’s officially my guardian angel — if there’s good, selfless people in the world, I’m convinced she’s one of them. She provided steaks after all; there’s literally not a thing not brilliant about that.
Remember to talk, remember to share, looks, see, know, love, hate and when that fails, create — plus a bunch of other pretentious buzzword wank.
So here we are. It won’t be the last time I’ll have too drop my pride or struggle to keep my head above the water — oh the dark days still yet to come — but shit kid, I still got stories to tell, dick jokes to make, things to create, and hearts to break.
I ain’t going nowhere…except maybe France, I’d like to go to France.
Peace out motherlickers!
P.S. Soundtrack of the day; one of my favourite music videos, for one of my favourite songs, by one of my favourite musicians. Watch and listen to it, you’re welcome.