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Ch 1: Handle With Care

“This Way Up”




I turn twenty-seven today.


If you’re reading this, today, the day this is published then I have just turned twenty-seven. That’s twenty-seven more years than my folks ever thought I’d have at one point. That is nine more than I would have had if that car had hit us from a slightly different angle, or if my head had gone back slightly further with the metal burying itself half an inch deeper.

If it isn’t evident enough, I’m very lucky to be here. That is what I have been told and continue to tell myself when I open up. That my near-death experiences have allowed me to live with vulnerability. Almost forced me to be this way.

I identify as a vulnerable man, I wear it on my sleeve. I have a podcast focused on it. I approach my writing with that same sincere vulnerability. My personal brand is nothing if not vulnerability and yet I have a confession to make.

I’m afraid I haven’t been very vulnerable over the last few years.

It’s easy to share the narrative of your life. Of the hard, the tough, and the unbearable and sprinkle some hints of vulnerability so that it looks all authentic but if you go back, if you read through my writing or listen to the episodes, there isn’t much in the way of vulnerability coming from me. Perhaps to make the story more palatable or to not distract from the experience of the guest, I have built a brand that looks and sounds a lot like vulnerability but one that has very little of my own in it.


Let me explain what I mean through a very real conversation some weeks back. Thursday morning in therapy, my analyst made the interpretation that while I have a narrative of what my life has been and that I have expressed as much, there is something greatly missing from my telling of it.

Puzzled, I asked, "What could that be?"

To which they replied, "Even after everything that’s been said here I cannot say I know what it felt like for you."


There was something true in it.


You see, so much of my story has been just that. A story. From abuse victim to triumphant queer on a path to help others. From the pits of heartbreak to a triumphant space of self-actualisation. From a serial monogamist to an open-hearted romantic. I have lived in absolutes. My narrative, both the one I sell to you but also the one I have convinced myself of has been in these absolutes. From one swing to the next, from one pole to the other, each charting the journey from where I was to where I now stand. The truth of it is that I’ve never really shared or expressed what it actually felt like to be on that journey because here’s the first truth of it - I’m still on the journey and for you, dear reader, I believe if you were to enquire and look at your own personal journey, it’s hardly been a clean straight narrative from point a to x. For all my expressions and acceptance of vulnerability, it has been and continues to be a very scary exercise (hence the title of this piece). When I’m in a space where I have the choice of being vulnerable or being comfortable, it is almost too easy to strive for comfort because the unpleasant, uncomfortable space that vulnerable expression brings is scary. However, I’ve found that much like any muscle, vulnerability is developed through, hours, weeks and years of constant exercise and rest. And while I would be the first to admit that I may have been resting more rather than exercising on that front, I am committed to the exercise after my stretch of absence from it. And not in some faux performative way, for the likes and the gram, but in a real, deeply personal…. Dare I say vulnerable way?


Vulnerability, my honest truth, is all I can offer and I hope it helps you.


Two podcast seasons down, I got so used to the words ‘wow you must be so sorted’ that it felt more of a trap and made me less secure showcasing the ‘I am a constant work in progress’ side. When you live even a smidge of your life in the public or at the very least offer a part of it for public consumption, I do think you bear the moral responsibility to let anyone that reads or hears your voice, know, that while your words may be true of a time and place, we as the creators of the content, or as your therapist across the chair do not have it all figured out. We are a constant work in progress and all I or anyone in a similar position can, well and truly offer you, is our honest and vulnerable self at that point in time all the while championing in equal part, the truth of what and how it feels like in the moment, which is precisely what I strive to do going forward.

Which brings me to this.

Yes, this piece that you read.

We’ve all seen a list of - ‘30 things I realized by my 30th’. And while you can bet your butt that I’ll be partaking in that trend in three years' time, for this one I want to focus on my feelings on some of the key things that I have either openly been ‘vulnerable’ about (read, shared a narrative but not feelings and failings), or have extensively written about.

So as I embark on this exercise, here are some ground rules:


ONE:


I don’t want to focus on the narrative of it. I feel like I’ve done that plenty.

What I want to share with you are my honest, unfiltered, unchecked feelings about where I was, where I am, and where I hope to be. I may use a narrative for aid or explanations but this is all about feelings.


TWO:


I will be anonymising all mentions out of respect for the people in my life. I may at times use narrative aids, but if you see me holding back on a fine detail or thing, know that it comes from a place of respecting the privacy of the people in those stories. I will own my own feelings and narrative but when and where it concerns friends, family, former partners, and even Tinder date #16, for whom I was not brown enough, I will not speak or claim to speak on their behalf.


THREE:


This is going to be my approach going forward. Not long essays setting the record straight, but more so feelings. I will no longer silence or censor my feelings either in print or voice, out of fear, shame, or in the hopes of presenting a cleaner narrative, If I am confused, I will say it. If I am undecided, I will say it. If it aches even though I should say it doesn’t, I’ll say it does. Going forward, I will actually feel my heart and speak what I feel, regardless of how it sells. This is all a long-winded way of saying I’m terrified but equally excited as I start on this new creative journey; and what better way to start than to address the one that I talk about quite a bit.


Relationships.

And more specifically… Non-Monogamy.


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