Shout, shout, let it all out

There’s at least one child who lives near us who likes to shout every morning. He/she/they descends the steps of their home and runs around the neighbouring vicinity sing-shouting at the top of their voice. He/she/they may also be the same child/children who screams every afternoon with such regularity and reliability that it’s evident we’re dealing with garden-variety bathtime/naptime disagreement and not something more sinister.

Ah, I remember being that age (those ages?). Shouting almost always brought some kind of relief—from pain, from frustration, from boredom, from the terrors of peace and quiet. At my ever-ripening age now, relief comes from laughter and ugly crying and making time to think and re-connect with myself, but I still marvel at the wondrous mechanics these little humans have. For example, their tiny throats can vibrate air particles with such vigour that concerned passersby stop to ask if they should to call the police.

At various shout o’clocks throughout the day, I wonder what the future holds for these young ones. Rock star. Opera singer. Football coach. Market auctioneer. Quiz night emcee. Suburban mum from the 80s. Flock of galahs in a tree at sunset. The possibilities are endless in this age of technology and the noise-cancelling headphones for which I am grateful.

Shout on, child. You are made of star stuff ⭐️

Saying it with cake

When my first book got published, my dear friends got me a cake. One of them spent two hours hand-carving a penis from a candle to go on top. You can say a lot with cake. It’s the embodiment of a happy moment that everyone can share.

I think food tastes better when it’s shared. When you have no food, it tastes like kindness and gratitude when someone shares theirs with you. When have too much food, it tastes like friendship and connection when you share it with someone else. Love is the most delectable of flavours.

Today, I’m at Love Romance Reads with my current favourite cake recipe — a ginger fruit cake. It’s remarkably delicious; I didn’t expect to like it so much. Bake it, eat it, share your thoughts with me.

And if you like it, share the love with someone else.

A ginger fruit cake on a sheet of baking paper. Juicy raisins fall into the gaps in a sliced section.
A ginger fruit cake. Made based on the recipe “Ginger Fruit Cake” from Whitworth’s Spice of Life Cookery Book (1950).

Thoughts of thanks and friendship

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Perth. Yet with the weather warming up as the year winds down, I often reflect on the months gone and consider all I have to be grateful for. Not to brag, but there’s a lot. The last couple of years have been a bit odd and people have been kind to me.

This week, I’ve got a guest post over at Love Romance Reads, talking about this and more. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out…

Click clank — shh

I’ve been obsessed with mechanical keyboards lately—like, quite obsessed. I don’t know what’s brought this on, as it’s only been a passing interest for the last few years.

Actually, I do know. My mate sent me to /r/MechanicalKeyboards and I saw one too many pretty things. Is this how American college boys feel on spring break? Oh, my wallet. I couldn’t keep it in my pants. I had a little splurge this weekend.

This is not my keyboard, but I bought one just like it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByRe4EulifY

My Tada68 arrives next week (or the week after), adorned with default keycaps and Gateron blacks. Phew, is it getting hot in here? 

Again, I really don’t understand this mania, but I feel strangely driven to just talk about keyboards, read about keyboards and look at pictures of bloody keyboards all day. The other night, it helped me get to sleep. WHY?!?!?!

Can you relate? Leave a comment or ping me on Twitter. Tell me about your keeb.

Is it really a first-world problem?

One time, I was playing a creativity game with a group of of friends. I remarked that I was battling the the competitive stress of the moment, to which one guy quipped, “First-world problem!”

Oh, how we laughed!

But also, this came at a time where I was questioning privilege in our modern, tech-infused society, and whether we have a right to quantify our struggles when people in other parts of the world can’t even afford to eat.

I’ll be the first to admit I make comments like that myself. Touching on someone’s first-world guilt is a great way to win a quip war. But I also wonder if it might be unhealthy, how quick we are to call out first-world problems.

I see friends experience genuine distress as a result of certain events in their lives, but just because we “live in the first world”, it doesn’t make their distress any less genuine. It doesn’t make the things they’re dealing with less real.

And yet, I also see them experience genuine shame about feeling the way they do because they’re going through those stresses instead of, say, starving.

Example 1: A friend realised he was gay early in his life, but he grew up at a time where it wasn’t okay to come out. He tried living as a straight guy, and ended up hurting people (which he carries a lot of guilt for). What’s more, he endured family members whose own mental health issues made them toxic influences in his life. As a result, he’s lived most of his adulthood struggling with debilitating depression and anxiety. After we discussed this at the pub, he glanced at my tab-funded pint, mused about being a privileged white male, then ended our conversation in resignation—”Oh well, first-world problems.”

Example 2: A friend found herself in a job that cut her off at every turn. She would get an instruction one day, a contradictory instruction another day, and report to a (indirect) boss who never showed remorse for unleashing verbal abuse upon her and her colleagues. On the surface, it looked like your garden variety “job is crap, boss is a jerk” scenario, but after months of this, I watched her mood and self-confidence erode. She had few opportunities to demonstrate her capability at work, while her environment would reinforce that it was her own fault. But she kept her chin up. It would’ve been easy to miss the toll this had on her, had we not been friends for so long. And yet, she’d often punctuate our conversations with, “But other people have bigger problems than this. At least I’m not starving.”

No.

Just stahp it, guys.

Your brain doesn’t care whether you make fifty bucks an hour, or five cents. All it knows is that it’s under attack by something, and if you dismiss the problem out of first-world guilt, instead of appreciating it and solving it, you’re going to be dealing with it for a long time. Which is so bad for you.

There are limits, of course. You’d be taking the piss if you got in a snit because the brunch café didn’t spread your organic mashed avo all the way to the edge of your artisan sourdough toast. But even with a passing consideration for others, you can make a decent guess at where along the spectrum your problem sits between starving and extreme mashed avo.

However—and this is where that relativity comes in—if the society you live in is such that you’ll face severe consequences if you’re caught eating unspread avo, then stressing the fuck out is probably an appropriate response.

The size of your problem is relative to your experience, relative to context, relative to the consequences, relative to everything else you’re dealing with at the same time.

I’m not arguing against recognising when you’ve got it better than someone else. It’s good to appreciate your privilege. But this quote sticks out at me:

Empathy for others is a very good thing, except when it becomes so heavy a burden that we end up feeling no empathy at all. (source)

I wonder if those of us who are quick to call out “first-world problems” are maybe projecting some first-world problems of our own.

I wonder, in our eagerness to deride others for how they acknowledge and express their stress over a ‘small’ problem, are we ignoring our own small problem of controlling the urge to make a smartarse comment?

In our enthusiasm for taking the moral high ground, are we making the real problem—the implied and underlying lack of empathy—worse?

This post is a note to self to be a little more compassionate about the first-world problems of others.

And if you could use the reminder, think of it as a note to you too. Let’s be kinder together. 👭