All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

My Life in Happy Memories

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A few months ago I wrote a blog post called My Life in Movies that was swiftly followed by My Life in Books. Throughout my depression fuelled hiatus I came up with other ideas to continue this series, so to coincide with an attempt to reignite this blog, here is another installment; the somewhat personal, My Life in Happy Memories, where I pluck a happy memory (or two) from each year of my life.

My Life in Happy Memories

1978 – Sleepy

A blissful state of calm, relaxed, inspirational contentment as I chilled in and out of sleepiness in my mother’s womb.

1979 – Aardvarks!

In March of this year I saved the world from an invasion of aardvark like aliens with an aversion to sherbet.

Or am I just writing something silly because I remember nothing from being 3 – 12 months old?

1980 – Tea Bag Sandwiches

In mid 1980 my mother passed out as a result of her diabetes. This occurred early in the morning, before Play School, leaving my three-year old brother to ensure I didn’t stab myself in the eye with a fork or ingest oven cleaner. At some point in the day he realised I would need to be fed (presumably around the time I kept screaming I was hungry) and made me a tea bag sandwich to sate my appetite. This filling was not chosen out of spite or a cunning practical joke, but merely because the bread and tea bags were the only things he could reach in the kitchen.

Unlike the two years above, this is actually true. My mother was in a coma for two weeks before finally coming out of it.

1981 – Blankie!

All I remember about this year is being a cute little boy with an addiction to his blankie. I loved that blanket!

1982 – Blankie! (Reprise)

All I remember about this year is…ummm…still being a cute little boy with an addiction to his blankie. I really loved that blanket!

1983 – RIP Blankie!

See 1981 and 1982 above…until my blankie was mysteriously destroyed in a freak washing machine ‘accident’!

Treharris Library – the site of my first memory!

1984 – My first memory

My earliest memory in life is walking from my home to the public library several miles away all on my own. In hindsight, the distance was more like a few hundred metres, but I still think it’s awesome my first memory is going to the library to indulge in a variety of literary delights.

1985 – Ummmmm…

I have no memory of this year whatsoever, sorry! I must have sustained a head injury as it’s too early in my life to have been the result of an alcohol fuelled blackout.

1986 – Let no more be said on the matter!

My only real memory of this year isn’t so much a happy memory, but an embarrassing one, as it involves Indiana Jones pyjamas and partial nudity. Let no more be said on the matter!

1987 – Rats!

Or rather, gerbils! For this was the year my brother staggered out of his room at two in the morning proclaiming his pet gerbils had escaped and woken him up. It took several hours to find them, and the whole bizarre hunt around the house still makes me laugh to this day.

1988 – Agatha

December 1988 saw the single greatest piece of acting the town of Portlethen had ever witnessed. This may sound like arrogant modesty, but my turn as Agatha (one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters) was exquisite. And yes, I looked remarkable in a pink nightie!

1989 – Summer Holiday

In 1989 my family went on a holiday to Jersey, the crown jewel of the Channel Islands. Aside from an early addiction to fruit machines my strongest memories of this wonderful holiday are play acting Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in the holiday camp’s swimming pool, and this amusing oddity.

Loch Ness © Addy

1990 – The Loch

For the five years that we had been living in Scotland, my parents had always promised to take us to Loch Ness. A few weeks before we moved to the land of leaks and marauding male voice choirs, they followed through and we set off on a day trip across the country where I, for the first time, became haunted by the epic body of water that I have since spent so much time exploring.

I recall little of the journey to Inverness, but remember arriving at the loch and beginning the circular journey around its shores. At one point we stopped for a picnic lunch. At another my father drove faster and faster, freaking out my sister, with every increase in speed. At another I swore I saw Nessie, as indicated in photographs and the old-school speech bubble stickers that were popular at the time.

I’ve often seen this visit as one of the moments that solidified my love of Scotland and, in my mind, the last time I can remember the family doing something together before the effects of my sister’s mental illness fully take hold.

1991 – Ummmmm…

I have no memory of this year whatsoever, sorry! Possibly the result of a sugar overload as I don’t recall any head injuries and it’s still too early to be the fault of alcohol.

1992 – Girls, or rather, just one girl

This was the year I developed a crush on the most beautiful girl at school. She who had such a beautiful smile and, with her excellent bottom, looked spectacular in her netball skirt. I would love to write that I got to know her beyond this, but alas, my anxiety had already started taking hold.

Damn you anxiety!

1993 – The greatest video game of all time!

If you were to ask people what their favourite Zelda game is the most common response would be “Ocarina of Time“. Occasionally, you’ll have someone respond “Majora’s Mask” which will instigate an argument of epic proportions, despite the latter being far superior. Even rarer, someone will say “Twilight Princess“. Rarer still, would be the answer “What the frak is Zelda?” because it would be easier to find a flying pig than a Battlestar Galactica fan who doesn’t know the Legend of Zelda series.

When someone asks me what my favourite Zelda game is I always respond with Link’s Awakening. Not the dodgy colorized reboot, but the monochrome original, which is simply the greatest video game of all time. From the quality music score (yay, Ballad of the Wind Fish), to the storyline, to the awesome bosses (yay, Genie in a bottle), to the Pegasus feather, to the fact you can steal from the shop (yay, THIEF!) every single aspect of this game is pure excellence.

In a year when my mental health issues were beginning to escalate I have never forgotten my trip to Cardiff that summer to purchase an imported version of the game, and then playing it with a massive smile on my face until – twenty-four hours later – I’d uncovered every nook and cranny of the game.

Nearly twenty years later, I can still remember the laugh that erupted from my mouth as the timeless Zelda fanfare chimed out to the text “You’ve got Marin…!”)

1994 – Assembly Anxiety

In a year that saw my self-harm and anxiety escalate, the conversation I shared with the girl of my dreams (see 1992, above) as we bumped into each other on the way to assembly stands out. She really was incredibly hot!

1995 – The Secret of Mana

Given my admittance that I screwed up in choosing my A-Levels, my early weeks of this period were markedly improved with an epic multiplayer game of the SNES classic Secret of Mana with a school friend.

1996 – Even Andrew is drinking!

In 1996 I embarked on a school trip to the University of Exeter for a series of Maths based lectures. Yep, other schools got trips to the Alps or Venice, I got to go to Devon to listen to old men talk about algebra!

Upon arriving we were shown to our share rooms and sat around talking. As a couple of the girls walked past the room discussing their boredom one of them glanced in and saw me sipping on a bottle and proclaimed “Even Andrew is drinking!” – which, given I was one of the ‘geeks’ of the school was considered somewhat unbelievable. One of the boys in my room called back that it was just Sprite – unaware that I’d cunningly replaced the contents with vodka before leaving that morning.

1997 – My first homeless experience

Although many would consider it selfish, immature, heartless and plain naughty (rightly so) my happiest memory of this year was when I ran away from home. I understand how that sounds, but, in a valiant attempt to defend my choice, after years of dreaming, wishing and self-hating I got off my arse and did something for myself.

I can still recall the shrieks of the gulls as I disembarked the train at Inverness station and gulping in the fresh sea breeze as I ignored the enormity of what I was doing. That first day I walked nearly 30 miles down the A82 with a ridiculously heavy backpack purely because I (irrationally) decided it would be a good idea. The second day I explored the legend of Nessie. The third day visited Fort William (my home from home) for the first time. The fourth, my introduction to Glenfinnan occurred. The fifth, back in Inverness. Then, over coming days, Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh.

No matter how much of an arse I was disappearing, for which I spent a considerable time apologising, I can recall few times in my life where I felt as happy as I did exploring my adopted homeland as I did that week.

1998 – Ummmmm…

I have no memory of this year whatsoever, sorry! This one is most likely an alcohol fuelled blackout.

1999 – A Shy Guy in Scotland: Addy’s Scottish Adventure

After years of depression, anxiety and angst I jacked in my job, my home and the promise of a secure future to tackle my social anxiety head on with a backpacking jaunt around my favourite country in the world; Scotland.

Months of traversing Glens, Lochs, Sounds and Cities marked the coming of Addy and one of the greatest periods of my life; four months long-terming in a backpacker hostel in Inverness. Hence why I will shortly be writing a retrospective of this period on this very blog!

So keep your eyes peeled for A Shy Guy in Scotland: Addy’s Scottish Adventure.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney © Addy

Athabasca River © Addy

2000 – A Shy Guy in Canada: Addy’s Canadian Odyssey

The year 2000 will always be the year of Elks, endless train journeys, Kittyfantasticobeaver and Loonies. Three months of heaven yo-yo-ing across this great nation is one of – if not the happiest memory of my life. Hence why I will shortly be writing a retrospective of this period on this very blog!

So keep your eyes peeled for A Shy Guy in Canada: Addy’s Canadian Odyssey.

2001 – My first time (laugh if you will)

As previously mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I was a virgin until the early hours of the 1 January 2001. However pathetic this sounds, my first time was actually remarkably wonderful, hence why it, and the relationship that followed, will always be forefront in my mind for the year 2001.

2002 – Arriving in the land Down Under

After, quite frankly, a frustrating and annoying year of feeling like shit whilst living in my parent’s house as my girlfriend gallivanted around Europe and then returned to Australia without me, my year took a more positive turn at the end of October when I left the UK and journeyed to the other side of the world.

My first week in Australia was marked with randomly falling asleep on the beach (cheers, jet lag), getting lost trying to find a bookshop in Elwood and ending up in Elsternwick, a somewhat anxiety challenging party and falling in love with the recently opened Federation Square.

Good times.

2003 – Residency

It was November 2003 and I was walking along the Princes Street bridge in Melbourne. My beautiful girlfriend’s hand was in my own and as we walked toward the city she stopped, turned to me and smiled. Before she gave me a soft, delicious kiss, she told me that for the first time in over a year I looked perfectly happy and relaxed.

She was right; twelve months of stress, residency applications, unemployment, adjusting to a new country and oscillating in and out of depression had ended. I had just attained a full-time job, was deeply in love, financially fine for the first time in years and had slowly begun accepting Australia as my ‘home’ after being granted temporary residency.

2004 – Mum and Dad, this is Australia.

It had been over two years since I’d last seen them when my parents arrived in Australia for a three-week visit. I’d taken this entire time off work so I could relish in showing them around Melbourne and Australia. Cue tourist trips to Melbourne Zoo, the Aquarium, the Great Ocean Road and many of the finer places Victoria has to offer.

This period is populated with wonderful, happy memories – my parents have often said this is the happiest they’d ever seen me – one of which has been written about already, with more to follow.

2005 – An Oasis in the North

At the tail end of this year I had, after years of hard work, managed to turn a rather crap little backpacker hostel in the North of Melbourne into one of the finest accommodation options in the state. An achievement I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if not for the sterling work of my dedicated, talented team.

2006 – No comment

The happiest day of the year involved: ice skating, the circus, bikinis, an embarrassing public display that happens to men from time to time, salad sandwiches, a moonlit stroll, pasta and a woman covering herself in raw meat.

I shall leave it to your imagination to piece all this together.

2007 – A bet that is best described as Fifty Shades meets How I Met Your Mother!

Glandular fever, breakdowns, self-harm, manic phases, suicide attempts, the loss of everything I owned and my spiritual and emotional death dominate every week and month of this year, thus making happy memories few and far between.

Aside from the state of mind I reached in January/February, where, for the first time in my life I was happy with who I was, where I was and the direction my life was heading, there is only the viewing of series 3 of Doctor Who and Samantha left.

And however much I love Tennant’s sophomore year in the role, not even he can eclipse the night I met Sammi.

I read somewhere that episodes of mental health don’t change a person’s personality completely, they merely remove inhibition and amplify a person’s innate character. Under normal circumstance I would never in a million years walk up to a woman and say ‘hi’, let alone introduce myself by smacking them on the backside, but this is exactly what I did…and followed it with a near ninety minute monologue.

Sammi once told me she didn’t know what to do during that initial ninety minutes. Torn between being totally freaked out by my incessant talking and driven by curiosity to see whether I would stop talking before I passed out.

Thankfully, the curiosity won out, and as the evening progressed into alcohol fuelled manic insanity it was she who suggested the bet that I will never forget; cue streaking Rundle Mall in order to win it :)

2008 – I am come home

This year will always be remembered by my two trips to Scotland, the first time I’d visited my homeland in six years.

The first, a catalogue of memories beginning with walking through the High Street of my home from home as I made the journey from train station to hotel and continuing through day trips to Rhum, hiking Glen Nevis, a blissful three course meal in Drumnadrochit, making video diaries in the middle of a storm on Aberdeen beach and ending with the lesson that you can never go home again upon witnessing the changes Inverness had gone through.

The second trip was less outward exploration, more inward reflection and soul-searching. Meeting up with Sammi in Glasgow saw philosophical and intimate conversation take the front as she demolished my barriers to bring out the person she could see buried deep beneath the surface. A tact that saw the realisation of a dream and one of the greatest memories of my life, which alas, my anxiety prevents me from writing about in detail.

2009 – Geckos!

In the year that saw me become homeless, one of my last happy memories was a moonlit hunt for geckos (and other reptilian delights) in Central Australia.

Central Australia © Addy

2010 – One Tree Hill

Being the second worst year of my life (given that the vast majority of it was spent going insane in a park), my only real happy memory amidst the cavalcade of assault, insanity, loneliness and self-hate is the period I spent watching the oft-maligned, oft-misjudged One Tree Hill. I’ve written about this previously, and with the imminent Australian release of season 9, will most likely write about it again soon.

2011 – Taken for Granted

After months of sleeping on the street I managed, with the help of my parents, to afford a motel for the night of my birthday. Only once you’ve been away from the comforts you take for granted – running water, toilet, bed, warmth, shelter – can you fully understand how blissful this was for me :)

>>NEXT WEEK: MY LIFE IN…well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

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