I can only be better tomorrow. (2)Reading Time: 6 minutes
This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Read part 1 by clicking here.
Perth was a lot of things for me. It will always be home. I still, to this day, ponder on coming back. Why? I’m not really sure. I have a lot of good friends over there who I do miss a lot and who I care for a lot.
But Perth is also my past. A past that’s my own and one I can’t deny, but it is a past.
Being in Perth felt like that I had to try and fit in with people, it wasn’t until closer to the end that I started making friends who I consider good for me.
I never considered myself ‘good’ at making friends with people. I’m not sure why, I guess I never felt I understood how to actually make friends. I know I am capable, I have friends, but how that comes to be is a complete and utter mystery for me.
So I held on to my attitudes, I tried fitting in wherever I can, to a point where I hid my own sexuality or had agreements with people where it wouldn’t come up or be mentioned. This was all in the name of not being alone. Eventually, those things you fake, become almost real. Your attitude becomes second-nature and you automatically dislike people your group dislikes, regardless of the reason.
I’m really not sure what happened to make me change this.
But there was a period of my life where I decided to be an outcast.
I was gay, with homophobic friends, in an area which (I truely believed) to be homophobic, amongst all of the other biases that they had. I was also self-hating. This imprint that gay wasn’t OK from the groups of people that I hung around with.
This part of my life was a blur, spending as much time going out to places and drinking, without feeling like I wanted to be around people. I wanted to find a place to be in, whilst at the same time wanting everybody to fuck off.
I didn’t want to hang out with the gays, I never felt I belonged there, I always felt the scene was bitchy, hateful, shameful. I hated gays and I hated being gay. Anyone I remotely identified with in other ways were also the people who I had built this dislike towards for no reason, people of other ethnic backgrounds. So I never gave them a chance. This wasn’t fair to them.
Not understanding my own bias and the discrimination I held on to pointlessly, I built and built this loner persona.
I was incredibly good at this, burning bridges wherever I could, keeping people at arms length, making assumptions about people so I could justify not liking them.
It was a toxic way to live.
I had managed to keep as few people in my life as possible by building up my own hatred of myself, and using the hatred of others that I had learned to keep the fire burning.
I built my persona, a loner, a tough guy, someone that was happy to be alone and happy to burn away the bridges and fuck everyone off.
To this day I don’t think that personality has completely gone. I do it without thinking, but I keep that lone wolf persona going sometimes, that intimidating appearance with tattoos, tough motorbiker, listen to heavy rock, metal. Find it difficult to show emotion and find it very difficult to open up to people.
But this was worse, I didn’t do this passively, I actively pushed people away.
But things started to change. I still had my own internalised hate for people, but somehow I managed to find some friends who, despite my best efforts, wouldn’t let me be an asshole and wouldn’t abandon me for being one either.
I was introduced properly to the gay community in Perth. I spent time with other gay guys and managed to make a few friends out of it. Not many, but it was a start.
I went to my first Pride March. Though I was still uneasy with being gay or being near gays, I enjoyed it. It showed me that there’s something to be proud of. That being gay doesn’t define you, that it isn’t the end of the world, that acceptance was coming.
Eventually, this friend helped me find my first job in IT. It was a professional job, had to dress the part, and it was with a very diverse company. This wasn’t something I was used to, but I took the job. I met the people. We had some characters in our team, all of which were people that I, prior to that, would have never given the time of day because they didn’t conform to the little perfect world I made up in my head.
But these people were all friendly, all nice, all welcoming. This was humbling almost. It was destructive.
Destructive? To my little world I had in my head, my little bogan racist sexist homophobic little world was breaking apart. The assumptions I made of people were broken, faulty, stupid.
I am making this sound more simple than it is, a lot of small things happened over the next few years that caused the destruction of my little perfect world.
I developed a bit of a relationship with a person from India who worked for the same company I did, doing the same job. He was a really nice guy. One day, he’s getting shit from a customer because the customer is assuming they’re in India. He insists that he’s in Australia, but his accent was not convincing the customer.
I ask him if I can step in, he is happy for me to (at this stage he’s ready to hang up). I don’t remember the exact words, but in a thick Aussie accent, I told the customer that Australia is ethnically diverse, and that, despite their stupid predjudices, that someone from India can well be working in Australia for an Australian company, and the guy he was talking to was sitting right next to me in Perth. I then told him if I hear racist shit like that again, I’ll cancel the account.
This was odd for me, in that I defended someone of colour, and I defended Australia as being multicultural. I know that sounds horrible, that I’m making this out to be a big deal, but at the time, for me, it was.
There were many examples of this, where I found friends of different backgrounds, saw situations where they were discriminated against for whatever reason, and I’m on the other side defending them. Not that they couldn’t defend themselves, I just felt they were a friend and as a friend I should support them.
I started to realise that skin doesn’t matter, sexuality doesn’t matter, looks don’t matter, none of it mattered. These were nice decent people, who were my friends, and I really didn’t want to continue adding to the hate in the world. Especially over something that fucking trivial.
It’s Hard to Escape if you Never Leave
Old habits die hard. As much as I was changing, it didn’t take much to go back to old ways. It was never as bad as it was, but I was not the person that I wanted to be.
You’d meet up with an old school friend, or someone from your past, and it didn’t take much to bring back some of those feelings. The feelings that being gay was bad, or that there’s only one type of skin colour that mattered.
Hell, just being in the same place wasn’t helpful to me.
I want to say it was never a full blown return, but that doesn’t matter, it isn’t about how far you regress, you become just another asshole who’s causing a problem, who makes a racist statement here or a homophobic one there. This wasn’t who I wanted to be and it isn’t an acceptable thing.
I felt like I was changing. But Perth always felt very small for me, that everything that I’d done, everyone I interacted with, everybody I know knows each other and knows me.
I really felt Perth wasn’t the place for me anymore. I do still have some good friends in Perth who I deeply love and miss every single day. But Perth doesn’t feel like my home right now.
One day, a few years ago, I went to Melbourne on a holiday. I fell in love with Melbourne within days of arriving.
I’ll admit, living here, it isn’t perfect, but it was a far cry better than what I experienced in Perth. Melbourne was wonderful because it was such a diverse and inviting place. People seemed to mostly just coexist.
People seemed less interested in people’s ethnicity than them as a person. The gay community also seemed more accepting and much more friendly.
I wanted to escape myself, start over, leave my past behind and live somewhere that didn’t have history for me. I really wanted to be a better person and to no longer add to all the hate that exists in this world.
When the stars aligned, I made the decision to move from Perth to Melbourne. I left behind my past and moved to a city where I was nobody. Where I could find a way to correct those things that I wasn’t happy with.
So here I am.
I don’t want to look at people anymore and feel anything negative from that. I don’t want to hold on to biases learned from my youth.
Because I’m meeting more and more people from a range of different places and backgrounds. I love all of them. Because they’re my friends and that’s all that matters.
I’m not blaming my upbringing, I’m not saying I’m perfect and I’m certainly never going to deny my history. I own my past. I apologise to anyone that I unfairly treated in my past for any reason.
I just want people to understand that I can’t change who I was, I can only be better tomorrow.
Conclusion in Part 3.