Australia: Hard Work and Hope

I am changing. I am changing, I can feel it, and not only that but I can feel it’s a change for the better.

I’ve been a very bad person for the last couple of years of my life. I’ve done things I’d be embarrassed to write here, that I’d be afraid to admit to strangers for fear of judgement. I’ve been selfish and stupid and confused, and in trying to right previous mistakes I’ve made dozens more. A large part of is a result of cowardice and dishonesty. I won’t contextualise, I won’t make excuses. I have been a coward, and I have been dishonest. That’s all that matters.

Living as I have for the past three weeks in the Australian outback has given me hope for my own future. With no strings remaining to unatonable sins from the past, I am finally free to consider myself a worthwhile person again. I am able to like myself for the first time in two years, because I am not hurting anybody anymore, and consequently I am no longer ashamed of my life.

The weeks at the hostel have passed quietly, peacefully, joyfully. My working visa isn’t yet granted due to an error in my application, and so I have been unable to work. During the day, the hostel empties as all cars and pickups in the drive head out to the fields to pick blueberries. I spend the silent mornings cooking breakfast, lifting weights, writing my book, playing guitar, reading, sunbathing, or listening to music. The internet at the property ran out a week ago, and since then we’ve been almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world. No news, no social media, nothing. The occasional message to family is all I’ve used my phone for. It is so very quiet. It is so very beautiful.

I have immersed myself in farm work to ease the days along. Years working behind a desk and drinking to excess has made me lazy. But I feel awake out here in nature. Somebody calls out that we need firewood, I take an axe outside and cut logs into small pieces until I get blisters. Somebody tells me the pigs need to be fed, I grab a bucket and a sack of pig pellets. Somebody mentions that the mound of manure out the back needs moving, I find a wheelbarrow. A shed needs tearing down, I grab a hammer.

There is astonishing clarity to be found from immersing yourself in dirty, simple, honest work. When I am outside, sweating through some repetitive task in the sunshine, my brain, whose overactivity is the bane of my life, suddenly becomes quiet. I become fixated with the present moment, with my sole, simple goal; I am not concerned with past sorrows or future fears, only the task at hand.

My palms, my forearms and my legs are coated in cuts and bruises. I like it. My clothes are mucky and hang off me; gone are the tight fitting tees of 2015, gone are the drab black garbs of Berlin. Last weekend I picked up a bundle of free work shirts from outside the local charity shop one sunny Saturday. They are practical and comfortable and all I need. And every evening I sleep soundly, satisfied that the firewood I cut up that afternoon is keeping everybody warm in the living room.

Weekends are spent in a haze of cheap wine; you can get five litres for nine dollars from the nearest town, an hour away. We lounge together on the grass, twenty or thirty backpackers, music playing, and the farm dogs lay between us. We have all arrived with equally colourful and fucked up life stories, yet the laughter never stops. Two hundred miles from civilisation, adults discover that they never quite grew up, not really. Despite all our years of experience, all the wisdom, out here on the farm everything is as it was at eight years old. Friendships are born, relationships spark and fizzle or burn out, rivalries form, alliances are made.

Arguments have broken out several times as personalities jostle and clash and vie for position at the top of the chain. I stay away from social politics. It bores me. Let the angrier boys and girls yell at one another until they’re blue in the face; I’d rather sit with Ben and Seth and chat shit together in the afternoon warmth, sipping sweet white wine out of chipped white mugs.

I’m not thinking about the future. I have barely eight hundred pounds to my name now, and until I start working, dreaming of the future is a luxury I can’t afford. The past still rears its head most days, whether it’s in the form of a familiar song or a stumbled-upon photograph, and it still hurts the same as it always has, but I’m not afraid to look back anymore. After years of hating myself, three weeks on a farm on the far side of the world has helped me to see that I am not a bad person who occasionally does good things, but a decent human being who has made mistakes. And from this point onward in my life, starting everything anew, I am going to be honest, and I am going to be brave, and I am going to channel all my efforts into becoming the man I was meant to be. Somebody I can be proud of.