Going Back.


I drove out to Newcastle with a mate on Wednesday night. He lives in Toronto, but he’s back Sydney-side for a few months, and it’s been great catching up.

We decided to get out of Sydney for the night to catch a small hardcore show. A UK group, Basement, was headlining, with a few local Australian acts. Tiny little warehouse gig.

It was the first time I had been to a “local” sort of show in years. Back when I was younger, I’d be down at The Den every Thursday, and the Hype rec centre each weekend. We used to memorise every lyric from the local acts. Bands like Game On, The Valley, Die Trying…It felt vibrant and alive back then.

Wednesday’s show felt like stepping back in time to 2006. There were even a few familiar faces, people who we used to hang out with, back in the day. As I looked around, I couldn’t help feeling excited for the younger kids there. For some of them, it might have been their first gig. I recognised the looks on their faces, slightly intimidated but thrilled to be there. That’s how I used to look.

Over the last few years, some of that old excitement has faded for me. I don’t go to many shows, and I gave up playing music. I’m quieter now, than I once was. More inclined to stay at home and work on art or writing, less interested in cutting loose.

Maybe the biggest difference between now and then is in my mindset. I no longer believe that everything I am doing was never done before. That’s how it used to be when I was a kid. I thought we were doing something unique and remarkable.

I guess feeling and thinking that way was pretty ridiculous. I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense now. Maybe it’s feeling that way that enables great music and great art to sometimes burst out of nowhere and change the game. I don’t know.

I’m writing this over a coffee in a small back alley cafe. The kind of place I would never have been inside 10 years ago. I’m feeling calm, I’m feeling relaxed.

Looking back, I miss who I used to be. But all the same, I like the guy I turned into. I might not ever feel a fire inside me again, and I might not ever make art that changes the world. But I’m happy.



I picked up a pair of boots the other day. I think these are possibly the simplest items of clothing I have ever owned. They’re not showy, they’re almost completely unnoticeable, unless you were really looking at what I was wearing (and as I’m not a celebrity, I don’t think anyone but my girlfriend will be doing that!)

Why did I buy them? They were functional, they are from a reputable company and are built to last, they are simple enough to go with anything and I can wear them on all sorts of different occasions. All in all, a pretty good purchase. So then my question to myself was this. If I can think so clearly and make a good, reasonable decision to buy a pair of boots that will serve and last me for a long time, why am I never like that with other decisions?

In other facets of life, I will often just be distracted by shiny objects and shiny things. I will make choices that reflect a mindset of a particular moment and don’t necessarily reflect who I am as a person. Once I have made those choices, I will sometimes just force myself to live with them rather than acknowledge that I was, in any way, wrong. 

Looking around me now, I can see that I am still coming out of the woods, in that I am surrounded by material things and by the residual effects of my life’s choices, and they don’t quite compute. I take at look at my nice new boots and I feel that in some way they represent my new and healthier mindset.


I am a work in progress.


Whatever there be of progress in life, comes not through adaptation but through daring.

- Henry Miller

If I am completely honest with myself, I think I can safely say that I have diligently avoided my potential for a very long time. It was simply easier that way. It was easier to work on creative projects that had something of a “lottery” aspect, some chance to them that I would get lucky and strike it rich.

In the past ten years, there are few things I haven’t tried. I have written countless stories and drawn countless cartoons. I have been in a multitude of bands (beginning with my 13 year old self’s short lived “Airborne Avocado”), created short films, and even at one point produced hip hop music. Funsies.

However, through it all, I have studiously self sabotaged. It was simply easier to do all these things and act like I was the second coming than it was to focus and work my ass off.

Don’t worry. This isn’t a negative whinge.
Because I have come a very, very long way.

Eventually, I realised that things had gotten very much out of hand. And I realised that I couldn’t keep going the way I was. So you know what I did? One morning, I woke up and enrolled in my Masters Degree at UTS. I left my house every day and I took the hour and a half bus ride to college and I put the effort in. I quit my band and put that part of my life behind me. I completed an internship and found a job working for a company in Sydney, in Digital Media. And I joined the founding team of a startup called Tuteable.

That all took a lot out of me. I’m not trying to boast, I haven’t accomplished anything incredible. But what I have done is steered my life back on track. Through a lot of hard work. I’ve heard so many stories from people who talk about how their lives weren’t going so well, and they pulled themselves together and got book deals or became touring speakers or made a million bucks selling their stories to Hollywood. But the point I want to make is that no one has to do that.

If you’re going through a rough patch it’s enough to just get better by 5%. And then 10%. And then 20%.

You don’t have to be the next biggest thing in the world. You just have to be someone who is trying. I consider myself a work in progress.  I need to do so many things. Like get more exercise. Drink less Iced Coffees (I’m drinking one right now, sigh!). Read more. Write more. Be less stressed.

Being a work in progress is okay. You’re never going to finish being you.
So you might as well stop focusing on the end point.
Not that you have to listen to me, remember?

In the final analysis.


“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself he becomes wise.”

- Alden Nowlan 

In the final analysis, what matters?

I was considering this question just the other day. You know, the old saying, you can’t take it with you. That applies to almost everything. You can’t take your possessions, your accomplishments, your friends or your family. But I think there is something you can take. I think wherever you go, wherever you end up, you take your choices with you.

Your choices are the only thing that can ever truly be yours.
Every time you choose to hurt or help someone, to treat someone like they matter or like they’re not worth a damn thing, only you can make that choice. 

That, I find, is something so hopeful and positive. Because as long as you can own your choices, you own some wonderful and incredible things. The trick is to make sure you actually DO own your choices. I think a lot of the time, our choices can be made not necessarily by us but by the contexts that surround us.

For many people, some of the biggest, hardest, best and worst decisions are made by their own reflections of their parents. Or their siblings. Their best friend, their bad experience. And this isn’t always a bad thing. It is just something that you have to be aware of. You have to be aware of who or what is making your decisions. 

I think, honestly, that it is better to make a bad decision yourself than to make a dozen good decisions for someone else. If you can step back and examine the times you messed up, and equally, the times you did the right thing, and then acknowledge that those choices were yours…well, you’ve picked up some things that will mean a lot more than anything money can buy.

The quote above, from Alden Nolan, is something that has meant a great deal to me over the last few years of my life. I think its meaning only grows more and more as we become older. It brings to mind the hardest step, which is of course to learn to forgive ourselves, after we take our choices on board.

Have I started to accept my choices and decisions? Yes.
Have I started to take ownership of them? Finally, yes.
But have I begun to forgive myself for them?

I would have to say, that remains on my bucketlist.


Ups and downs.

Art, Creating, Culture, Dreams, Lifestyle, Writing

I have learned that life is full of ups and downs. That’s something that people tell you all the time, I guess I’m telling you now. But you never really understand it until the realisation hits you on your own.

I always had this idea, when I was a younger and far more arrogant Jon, that things were only going to be “down” until I reached a point where I had “made it”.

Somehow, I think I had convinced myself that life couldn’t possibly be happy and cheery and fulfilling until my band was successful or my art was popular and so on. There was some event on the horizon that would, in my mindset back then, wash away all the bad and leave only the good.

I’m tempted to believe that I was right. That the only reason things just didn’t just go up and stay up is because I never made it to those distant goals and dreams. But that just isn’t true.

I think I missed noticing a great many good things because they weren’t the good things I was waiting for. I think I let myself believe that nothing was going my way because things weren’t going exactly the way I planned. I was blind to some things that made me lucky.

What I’ve come to understand, the hard way, is that life will just be whatever it is. No matter where you are or what you are doing, there will be moments where you ride a high that feels like you’re on top of the world. And you know what, then there are going to be moments when it all comes crashing down and you feel like you could never fall so far and so hard again.

And that’s just the way it is. You can’t change it.

So how does that all relate to art? I want to say this. Your art has to be made for all of the up moments and all of the down moments. It can’t be made because you think it will solve all your problems and make everything better. Your art, whatever it is, can’t be made because you think it will get you a lucky, life changing break.

Life is never really going to change. You could have everything you wanted and still fall down.

The only thing that will change is how you interpret life. Of course, you won’t fully “get” this from my ramblings. You just won’t. Not until you reach the point where you start to understand everything on your own terms, through your own experiences.

I’ll tell you though when that starts to happen, it’s bloody amazing!


Creating, Culture, Dreams, Writing

I have seen so many films and read so many books that talk about journeys of self discovery. The most obvious to most of us is of course the whole Eat Pray Love shebang. These are all very inspiring. The idea of gaining a great insight into ourselves from a lofty mountain or while chowing down on a plate of unimaginably scrumptious pasta is super appealing.

Unfortunately, the past few years, no matter how much I have wanted to embark on such a quest of my own, I’ve never quite managed it. Why? Well there’s a lot of reasons. Some of them are pretty unavoidable. I’ve had a rough time of it with some issues my family have been working through, and my studies have definitely been an obstacle. Not to mention money. Oh, money.

Probably the biggest reason has been that it has just seemed way too hard to pack up and go. And that is something I will have to work through on my own. But in the meantime…

I’m not entirely convinced that you do have to be on a mountain to actually “be on a mountain”. I think it is entirely possible to realise a few home truths about yourself and change the course and nature of your life without leaving your home city. I know that is something I have done myself.

Let me take you back to last year. 2012. Not an easy year for me at all. I was going to law school after having graduated with a bachelor of arts. And things weren’t going well. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the issues I had dealing with in my personal life had slowly eroded my positivity and my motivation and I had become a very difficult person to be around. I mean, even I didn’t like hanging out with me, I can’t imagine how everyone else must have felt!

I knew that something had to give. Something had to change. I couldn’t just keep living my life in a negative space and mostly on autopilot. I couldn’t just run from my problems. And at that stage of my life there was no way I was about to get a book deal and head to Rome. So how what did I do? Well I didn’t just kickstart my life overnight. That is just not how these things work. I wish.

No, it took about 11 months for me to get to a place that I was happy with. The first thing I did was look for the most immediate and obvious thing that was stressing me and using my good old 10 seconds of courage rule, I just got out of it. It was actually a job that had become a very unhealthy workplace for everyone employed there, and I found it quite soul destroying. Leaving that job wasn’t easy, financially speaking. But in the end I realised that it was either leave or just keep going down a really negative road.

The second thing I did was the proactive one. I looked for the most immediate and obvious thing I could do that would instigate positive change in my life. I left law school and started studying media and film at UTS. Such a good decision.

The effect that those two choices had on my life is remarkable. One plus one minus. After thinking about that for a while, I adopted it as a rule of thumb. If you need to change your life, operate on a principle that requires you to minus one thing, remove something from your life, and then plus one thing, add something of value.

If you need to quit that job you hate, like I did, you need to add something new to your life as well. Taking on a new course, a volunteer role, golly-gosh-darn it even going to a therapist or picking up yoga.

Same if you need to cut someone toxic out of your life.
Same if you need to change your diet.
For every negative add a positive.

It just helps keep your life balanced and even, and trust me, it will keep you sane.
Even the most insanely talented artist cannot realise their dreams without a touch of sanity. Somewhere.

The best things I have ever done.

Creating, Culture, Dreams, film, Music, Uncategorized, Writing

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It has enabled me to pick out the thread of my life from what felt like total chaos while I was so busy living it. I have started to look backwards now in a way I never used to. I have started looking back without the ache and the pain that a lot of memories can conjure, and in doing so I can begrudgingly say that a few things did turn out for the best, though at the time I thought they were the absolute end of the world.

I’ve also been able to see where I really did go wrong, and where that affected the course of my life. And I’ve been able to identify the times I did the right thing and made the right decision. I think it can be hard to pick the things that changed your life without focusing on the negative. Overall, - and this is by no means conclusive because everything is still being written - I have decided that I really do think these are the best things I have ever done…so far!

1. Go to drama classes

I was a very very shy teenager, and struggled to express myself. Having a speech problem that required regular visits with a speech therapist to overcome really didn’t help. I was often nervous and unable to hold a conversation with people. I found that people never understood me and every time someone asked me to repeat myself I died a little inside. One of the best things that I have ever done (if not THE best thing) is attend drama classes with the Helen O’Grady drama school program. It brought me out of myself in an amazing way, and taught me a confidence I didn’t think I had in me. My ability to interact with people and project something more than stifling nervousness was directly shaped by those drama classes.

2. Start a band

When I was in my first year of a liberal arts degree, I founded an electronic music duo called The Bright Young Things. This was a big step for me, and it was certainly something very new, as my music up until that point had been largely focused on punk rock and hardcore. Creating an entirely different kind of music pushed me to think very differently about songwriting and performance. And it also pushed me to collaborate in a way that I hadn’t really before. The guy I started the band with, AJ Dyce ended up becoming one of my best friends, and I’m now one of the Groomsmen in his upcoming wedding. That connection is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Some pretty cool stuff happened because of that band too. We did end up being signed to an independent record label, which enabled us to put out some music we really believed in, and we were played on national TV and on the radio. The other day, in a book shop, I even heard one of our singles played and it was such a great feeling. I learned a lot from being in that band. I learned how to deal with failure as well, when things sometimes just didn’t quite go right. No regrets there at all.

3. Leave my band

In the end, for a number of reasons, I did end up leaving the Bright Young Things. We parted on great terms though, and those guys still mean a lot to me. I believe in their music and I believe in the ability of their music to really touch some lives and get people moving. In the end, I guess my creativity led me in some very different directions. And having the courage to say you know what, that is just okay was really good for me. I was able to take a lot of the things I had learned from BYT and put them into new projects with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement. My work this year, while definitely not life changing for anyone is certainly stuff that I am happy doing. Stuff that inspires me.

4. Study my masters

I ended up going back to Uni at the encouragement of both my Mum and my girlfriend Emily. I took up studying a masters in media at Sydney’s University of Technology. Suddenly, I had a reason to get off my butt and get out of the house every single day, work on new things that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise and be pretty far out of my comfort zone. Suddenly, I was surrounded by other creative people that I collaborate with and bounce ideas off. I made some great friends as a result of which I am now working on a comic book a bunch of short films and a web series. I have edited scripts for some super talented writers and directors (I’ll share a bit more about one of those projects soon) and been able to really thrive.

5. Fall in and out of love.

I know. This one sounds pretty emo. But you know what? When I was young, I was a total emo kid. So I’ll own that. One of the best things I did was fall in and out of love for the first time. Because the fact is that when it happened it wasn’t that person’s fault any more than it was mine. I learned a lot of empathy through that, I learned how my actions and words can hurt other people, and I learned that I am not always the most important person in the world. I am not really proud of the way I was in that first long term relationship, but I am proud of who I have become in the years following it. It really showed me some things about myself that I think at the time I wasn’t really happy to see, about the way I interacted with people and the way I communicated. In showing me those things though, that experience taught me what I needed to change the most. Plus I think at least to some extent it introduced me to the importance of particular memories and moments.


Those are just the things I’ve thought of right now. I’m hopeful that this list will grow a lot over the next few years. I’ve written it down in a notebook and I’ve put that notebook on my shelf. I’ll read over it again maybe in a year’s time. And I shall write some new thoughts on it. I think life can be really tough. It can be heartbreaking. It can be full of some really difficult lessons and realizations. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way. No matter what I say during my Tom Waits listening sessions!