The Big Issue : Edition 481
THE BIG ISSUE 3 – 16 APRIL 2015 23 PHOTOGRAPHYBYiSTOCK STOP THE WORLD, I want to get off. Just for a week or two, maybe three... tops. Just some time away from my head and the question that buzzes constantly through the synapses of my brain: who am I? It seems amazing to me that, at the age of 45, I don’t know who I am. I mean, yes, I know what I look like: the colour of my skin, my hazel eyes, the sound of my voice, the way my cataract-stricken eye slips lazily to the right when I am sick. I know myself so well externally, and yet in many ways internally I hardly know myself at all. Maybe that’s the journey. Maybe it takes us all until our last breath to finally understand what it’s all about. And with that last shred of enlightenment we slip into the unknown, satisfied. Nice thought, but somehow I doubt it. Throughout my life I have made countless mistakes, and will no doubt make many more. Let’s just take a look at my latest mistake... I had worked in retail for seven or so years and felt like I needed a change, something to re-inspire me. I was offered a painting apprenticeship by a local builder and friend. Wait a minute – I’ve never painted anything in my life. Maybe my BMX when I was 12, although most of that was done by my dad...and it was spray painted. Painting with brushes? I had a go, but I soon realised I sucked at it. Good choice, Paul. Real clever! There’s a saying: you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. If that’s the case, I should be Einstein by now. So I found myself a member of the legion of the unemployed, and it sucks. Just driving past a Centrelink makes my palms sweat and my skin turn cold. I have nothing against people who work there, I would just prefer never to see them. For me there is a certain humiliation about not being able to contribute to my family’s welfare, an overwhelming feeling of failure. For someone who has worked steady jobs for 25 years, being unemployed puts a dent in one’s self-esteem. Ah, self-esteem... It would be nice to be able to pop down to the corner store when the self-esteem well has run dry, refill, and be off again. I always assume everyone else has it figured out while I’m searching through the darkness for answers. I feel more and more separated from society and less able to deal with the minutiae of life. I find trivial things annoying and am only engaged when there’s something I feel is worth talking about. I often daydream about moving to some isolated location, home schooling the kids, growing our own crops and letting the world do its thing without me interfering... I often look at myself and wonder whyandhowIgotthisway.Ihada wonderful upbringing with fantastic, caring parents. I have talents. I can play the guitar and drums, I sing, I have won photography awards, have written a novel as well as more than 10 children’s stories, brought up two kids... And yet I am filled with this feeling that it’s just not enough. Maybe it is enough, maybe one day I’ll be satisfied. But I doubt it. I used to want to be the best person I can be; all I want now is to get through the day without disappointing someone. Yet I know I’m lucky. I have so much when so many have so little. I’m healthy, I have food on the table every night, I have two healthy kids and a partner who loves me. I am not addicted to drugs or alcohol or gambling. So why do I feel so empty, and how do I fill this void? I’m not depressed – just perpetually melancholy; searching for meaning, like so many people. We live in a world full of wonder and beauty, and the technological capability of humans is incredible. But as a species we seem more divided than at any other time in history. Maybe that’s the root of my malaise. Maybe I’d feel better inside my own skin, more comfortable to be a member of the human race, if every night I turned on the news and didn’t see the violence, sexual abuse, political turmoil, abductions of schoolchildren and thousands of people misplaced because of war. But, for now, the question remains: who am I? Stop the world...I may need a year or two. » Paul Morton lives in SA. Since writing this, he has found employment. He says he feels a bit better about himself but is no closer to knowing who he is. If troubled, see beyondblue.org.au, sane.org or lifeline.org.au. WHO AM I? WHEN HE’S FEELING SMALL, PAUL MORTON CAN’T HELP BUT ASK THE BIG QUESTIONS.