Category Archives: Where We Are

Beginnings long overdue

It’s been a while. 

I’ve been away. Thinking. Getting counselling. Reading books and columns by authors on topica around growth, development, change, behaviour, abuse, parenting, bravery, and shame. 

Lots of reading. Trying to reevaluate my priorities and needs while I have the luxury (of time) to do so.

These last four months have been perhaps some of the best four months in the last decade of my life, because they’ve granted me the time and space to pause, reflect, and think. To engage in the Socratic method. And the entire time I’ve been supported emotionally and socially by my amazing partner. 

A few months ago I started a sub-diary here, taxonomically speaking, to monitor my alcohol intake. Unlike my daily beard photo (see my instagram feed for more on this), the amount of time and energy required to produce a daily update was more than I could commit to.

But it also raised a point of concern somewhere in the dusty halls of my brain: if I have to keep a daily written log of my alcohol intake, surely that can’t be a good sign?

And I don’t think it was. But it led to a good outcome. But before I explain further, we need to time travel nine years into the past. 

Yes, nine.

A little under a decade ago I received my MA in Communication/Publishing/Some Wierd Mishmash of Stuff from the University of Sydney. 

Upon doing so, I found myself applying for a random TAFE course, and subsequently a graduate diploma in Business Management at the now defuncy Sydney Business Institute. 

During this time I met a woman who I began dating and (depending on who you ask based on acceptence of traditions) became engaged to. (In Russia an engagement ring and its associated baggage is not the standard approach; rather – two people simply agree to get married.)

The relationship ultimately broke down, due to me finally leaving my partner, due to her verbally and emotionally abusive behaviour (though at the time I would not have known to call it that, and would have simply called her “controlling”).

This had some very severe and long-lasting repercussions on my overall well-being. This includes a drinking habit that, while by no means is severe, is consistent. 

I wasn’t the biggest drinker before meeting my (now) ex. Certainly, as someone who had spent nearly a decade in the univetsity system, I was accustomed to the parties and alcohol consumption that went with them. 

But never would I have called my intake consistent. 

But. 

In the aftermath of the relationship’s collapse and the six months of legal insanity that followed (which I will never understand), I went on something of a small bender. 

Eventually, in the wake of an excellent level of therapy from a terrific psychologist, my anxieties and depression calmed and I no longer found myself self-medicating. 

However.

I still enjoyed a good “tipple” as they say here in Kangaroostan. And hardly a day has passed since then when I have not had at least *a* drink. As one friend pointed out: she did not know anyone else who was such a consistent drinker.

Time travelling back to now – the last four months have provided the time and space necessary to look back on the past, think about the present, and wonder about the future.

We’d like to start a family. Buy a place somewhere. Have enough room for all our books and computers and toys. And to raise kids that we hope to try and have be good humans requires us to first and foremost be the kind of people that we feel comfortable having our kids learn from. 

Also: I am on a pretty serious dosage of anti-depressants (75mg of Cymbalta per day). And alcohol can obviously interfere with the effectivity of anti-depressants. 

Therefore, barring a particular special occasion now and then, we’ve decided it is best to cut my consumption of alcohol down to zero.  

As we have identified that my depression and anxiety were genetically inherited from my mother, the sanest and most intelligent approach, in light of all these factors and issues, is to simply bring alcohol consumption to a complete halt (barring, as I mentioned, special occasions). 

And you know what?

I like it. This decision feels *right*. 

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Filed under Drinking habits, Food and Drink, Mental health, Telling stories, Where We Are

Imagine Differently

You may have noticed that of late my social media feeds have been quite active. It’s not without basis or reason. In part, it feels as though, after nearly four years of – what feels like! – an imprisonment of the soul, that I’ve been, well, let loose. 

“But, Ilya, you left your job nearly two months ago”, you might say. And that’s not incorrect. 

But I’m not yet well. Not yet stable.

I’m presently in therapy, to discuss, analyse, understand, and deal with the all too real and serious trauma brought upon by my last job, as well as lingering, older trauma. To become more self-aware of my own bad habits and behaviours. 

But it is a process. And one that needs riding out as the mind heals itself. I’m not there yet. Some days, the desire to address the ills of the world is strong, to rant and rage at the financial and banking sector, to right all the wrongs I witnessed during my time in the finance world. 

Other days, I want to hide from everything, and everyone, due to being unable to deal with social interactions. 

It’s all part of the self-rejiggering process. Rebuilding. Shaving my beard and hair, getting an earring and a tattoo, it’s all part of that process. 

My close friends – my ‘chosen’ family, as I think of them – know of my past mental health struggles, and my emotionally –  and occasionally physically – abusive upbringing, and how that’s been reflected in past relationships, to say nothing of my current non-relationship with my biological parents.

It’s a peculiar process to go through, healing mentally. It’s difficult to know what to expect some days, and it’s different for everyone that goes through therapy. 

So bear with me. After all, you’ve got to start with ‘A New Hope’ if you want to get to ‘The Return of the Jedi’. 

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Filed under Mental health, Telling stories, Where We Are

Job Hunts and Salutations

So I’m currently job-hunting, and it’s a drag. There is absolutely nothing fun about it. Job hunting is like the administrative work that one does at the end of a massive project: a neatly bow-tied set of annoying tasks that need to be completed, and in a certain order, for there to be microcosmic harmony in thy microverse.

Luckily, I happen to know people who understand that being unemployed sucks, and have gone out of their way to do what they can to assist me, so as to minimise the amount of time I spend sitting at home, firing off CVs at websites and making phone-calls to people who would rather not have to suffer one more dire American accent interrupting the flow of calls from otherwise entirely more delightful Australian accents (I don’t think much of my accent, and I’m stuck with it for life, so what can I do but mock myself?).

One such friend just happens to be a pro at this whole job hunting thing. And so today our lessons began. In an empty pub.

There I sat, at the Royal Hotel, preparing cue-cards, nursing a Coke (as one does on St. Paddy’s Day) when my friend walked in. A quick meal later, we were sitting on the couches near the front entrance, doing our best not to fall in (due to there being a distinct lack of springs in the mattresses, a by-product of many years of abuse from students – mainly engineers), and she was prepping me. “So, begin” she said.

“I…what?”

Her eyebrows flickered like a match that had just been lit. 

So I began. And blustered my way through about 2 minutes of incomprehensible nonsense about…a career path layered in the blood of cheesecake-making virgins and there’s a butterfly over there and who the fuck else knows what else. She took notes. Serious notes. The kind that I took when listening with deadly urgency to lectures on Thomas Pynchon.

And that’s when the feedback and the graphical structuring began. But only after first having the wind taken out of the sails of my ego.

The presentation needed a lot of work. A lot. So the exercises continue tomorrow. And possibly several more times throughout the rest of the week, until I can comfortably sit down in front of a group of random strangers and communicate in an intelligent way with them the way I would with friends, or family.

Oh, and before I forget, in far more important news, my friend Malcolm was appointed the new Australian Marriage Equality NSW convener, so many claps, hurrahs, and salutations to him on this most excellent appointment. Also, he throws wicked dinner parties.

 

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Filed under My relentlessly fascinating life, Telling stories, Where We Are

The State of Gaming

For many years, I despaired, for videogames had taken a route that was no longer of any interest to me. Following the decline of isometric games, wildly expensive sandbox games, first-person-shooters and MMORPGs became the norm. Almost excessively so. And those of us who came of age during the RPG renaissance of the mid 90’s weeped, for there was little room for our particular palette.

There has been some discussion in the last year or so, on various gaming sites, discussing how games have changed in the last decade – the unbelievable budgets, name-brand focused approaches, the importance of sequels, the necessity for graphical improvements…the list goes on.

That all seems to be changing now. The games that I grew up loving, like Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, System Shock 2, Anachronox seem to be slowly returning to the market, but in highly unorthodox ways. Kickstarter. It’s making it easier now for game developers to take stock of the situation and ask: “Are $100 million dollar budgets what we really need? Isn’t that excessive?” For many, myself included, the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the article posted on TheWertzone, about the contemporary nature of the gaming world. I’ve a few friends who work in the industry, and know – through them – that it is a difficult one. Especially in Australia. It’s a difficult industry in which to be involved, when living here. Fortunately, there are tablet games and smaller, smart-phone games, that are keeping people employed. However, the big studios, one after another, have over the last decade, faced increasing financial difficulty, and it’s unsurprisingly related to the spiraling budgets and excessively long development times of computer/console games.

As Adam Whitehead points out in his article:

How times have changed. Today, it takes teams of several dozen people anything from two to six years to make a game, with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars. Dozens of game development studios have closed over the course of the last generation of gaming (which began in 2005 with the release of the X-Box 360), in many cases despite selling millions of copies of games. It’s no longer enough to be successful. Now you have to produce a fast-selling megahit from day one, otherwise your company might go bust.

When budgets are massive, and one’s employment hinges on whether or not a game is successful, it’s hard not to stress, and lose one’s joi de vivre. Many studios seem to have forgotten that making more modestly-budgeted games means that they don’t *have* to sell as many copies to make a profit, and there’s less risk involved. Of course, what might get sacrificed is the quality of graphics. But videogames were never about that to begin with. Rather, they were about the gameplay, and the story. Some of my favourite games were immersive not because the characters in the game were lifelike, but because the storylike sucked me in. Anachronox, Planescape, System Shock, Deus Ex, all these game featured less-than-amazing graphics. But what they lacked in that department they more than made up for by having incredible writing, memorable characters, interesting storylines, and some wickedly excellent music.

They were immersive.

With the rise of Kickstarter, the opportunity to return to that style of gaming is returning. The spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment (Torment: Tides of Numenera) is now officially in development, and they’re asking for all of $900,000 (a paltry sum when compared to the budget for the Call of Duty games). The spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate – Project Eternity – is now also in active development. Like Numenera, the developers have asked for a relatively small sum of $1.1 million dollars. To date, they’ve passed the $2 million dollar mark in funding.

It appears to be a good time for gaming. Alternative revenue sources have appeared, which might, at the very least, lead to a bit more stability for those involved in the development of these games. And it might just very well lead to an industry-wide reassessment of how games are made, how much they should cost, and how the current publishing system could be restructured in order to facilitate the transition to a more economically sensible method of developing (and marketing) videogame content.

 

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Filed under Ruminations and Musings, Where We Are

Scenes from a Lobotomy

I love reading Twitter feeds during important debates in the US. Oftentimes, the snark from the Twitteratti (is that what we’re calling them these days?) is more revealing and interesting than the stream of platitudes that fall out of the mouths of those engaged in the debate. And never is it more revealing and valuable to me than when it’s presented from the point of view of someone who walks in shoes very different to mine. In this case, someone who is not a young, white (well, Slavic), privileged male.

The comments that caught my attention today?

DC Debbie ‏@DCdebbie

Both catholic men running for Vice President, but only one of them wants to impose his religion on my medical choice.

The other choice comment?

Laura Anne Gilman ‏@LAGilman

Biden is calm, reasoned, and factual about a woman’s right to chose, and why it’s important. This will doubtless infuriate some people.

In short, and in agreement with what these two ladies have said: It’s 2012. Abortion shouldn’t be an issue. It shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion.  Watching Ryan and Biden discuss the topic through the prism of their religous framework strikes me as fantastically weird, and brings to mind the image of a plumber trying to act like a lawyer in a court of law. So much of what was discussed at the debate just seems to fantastically weird. Being dubious towards a government-backed medicare system? It makes no logical sense. I even wonder if there’s anyone out there who actually understands how wildly complex (perhaps overly so) the US medical system is, and is cognisant of just how badly it’s in need of reform.

But then, when people are interested in putting local, native cultural norms ahead of pragmatic, obvious solutions, this is where you get: the USA, circa 2012.

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Filed under Ruminations and Musings, Uncategorized, Where We Are

Where We Are

There’s a little scene in The Newsroom that hit me in the gut, when I recently watched the premiere. Mackenzie MacHale (what a mouthful of a name!) says:

“There’s going to be a huge conversation. Is government an instrument of good or is it every man for himself? Is there something bigger we want to reach for or is self-interest our basic resting pulse? You and I have the chance to be among the few people who frame that debate.”

Sitting on the couch this morning, reading the news, one can’t help but feel that this comment is very timely, given Mitt Romney’s recent declarations in which a serious hate-on for nearly half of his would-be constituents was revealed. As reported by the BBC:

The Republican candidate is shown saying that the 47% of Americans who back the president do not pay income tax and would never vote for Mr Romney.

“There are 47% who are with him [Mr Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

I make no claims to being even remotely surprised by Romney’s comments. What dispirited me was the blatant smack in the face that this suggested about the role of government, of civic duty, towards actually improving the lives of others. Not everyone has an easy ride in life. I see people struggle in Australia every day, and know just how completely rogered they’d be without a civil service that gives as much of a damn as this one does. And to see Romney – purely through his comments, besmirch an institution whose purpose is to help others.

Rather than suggest that Romney’s comments are selfish or cynical, I would actually suggest they’re simply disrepectful, to the history of one of the most important countries to have stepped onto the world stage in the last half-millennia, and disrespectful towards the body politic that he would wish to govern.

And it makes me sad to see that this is what it’s come to: we’re now trashing the very thing that exists to help us, and that we once upon a time said made us great.

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Filed under Ruminations and Musings, Where We Are