Retracing my roots

Retracing my roots


Writing is something that I have always been passionate about, and have enjoyed the creative process of.

Writing letters to friends in classes that weren’t particularly stimulating, while taking that long ride on that four hour bus ride to and from the Riverland. Or now when I’m up in the air, phone in flight mode, quiet and uncontactable; in that big metal bird flying across states.

Scratching down notes in the morning in a journal, splashing instant coffee from the steaming cup I’m using to prop myself up for the day. Or writing through the night, in a way that felt like pacing through memories or experiences, trying to figure things out or to remember, room illuminated by soft warm lights.

In shredded exercise books, that soft a4 book, with comforting blue lines guiding the words through the pages. Littered with cheeky words to friends, doodles of flowers, hearts and diamonds. Working through creative developments, using giant spaces, halls, classrooms, with paper everywhere like giant oversized pieces of confetti. To eventually build narratives for scripts, playing together to create theatre, boldly and fearless.

Feeling that pure glow that comes from feeling proud of just making something.

All without the learnt habit of being incredulously harsh on yourself with that internal monologue. Sans the value judgements of ‘is this really cringey?’. ‘everything i make is awful so why bother’. ‘i won’t be able to look back and be embarrassed by this, because I’m embarrassed right now, and no one should ever look at this ever again’.

Looking back, there is so much comfort in that nostalgia in being creative and collaborating. Unapologetically inspired by other people, so beautifully earnest and forthcoming about that. And i really, really miss that.

Most of what I have been writing recently are essays, journals, social media posts, zines that i write on my phone and share with no one. Or performance poetry that is shared in small rooms, with so much safety in that. But I want to again, step outside my comfort zones and back into the arena of vulnerability (any Brene Brown fans out there?).

Its so refreshing to make something, with no real idea of what exactly its going to be beforehand, and then deeming it good enough to be shared, in that raw vulnerable state. Or to reject completely that scale of what ‘good enough’ is, or to completely protest ‘good enough’ by creating and intentionally sharing things that would not be seen as ‘good enough’. Over edited, under edited, experimental, raw, mistakes, spelling errors, and grammatically incorrect. And all of the political discourse is likely there, to show that ‘good enough’ is a ableist construct upheld by other, or internalised and self policed.

Its so wonderful to embrace being a rookie and being imperfect, and understanding that its totally ok to enjoy the learning curve of cultivating your own craft. Especially when instantaneous success is so unnatural. To be good at something thats practise, so it makes sense that being brave, also needs practise. Its such a disservice to yourself to not allow yourself self expression, due to real or imagined critical voices who’s interests are tearing you down.

We are all worthy of making our own creative safe spaces, where we can be seen, to allow ourselves, our lives and our work to be witnessed.

So here we are again. Lets go.


What I know about Leaving

In this time of transition I wanted to reflect upon the first that I made my first big leap on independence, when I moved out of home, to attend boarding school in Adelaide when I was 15. This I wrote as a blog, in my myspace days when I was 15. I have also published this particular post on Heywire. Its kind of a mix of what the Riverland means to me, what home means to me and trying to prepare for the unknown.

As most of you do or do not know. I am leaving my beloved little suck town and am heading off to the bright shiny lights of the smutty city.

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember the joy of playing alone?

I used to have this game. My bed would be the ship, the wooden floor was a open blue sea. Anything that I wanted to take with me on the adventure had to be on the bed. So I would first rush about. Choosing. Grabbing things. Chucking them on the bed. So that they wouldn’t get ‘wet’ in the sea that is the wooden floor boards and dusty old carpet.

Toys, My favourite dress, the little red shoes, drawings, dolls, umbrella, torch.

Everthing that I needed.

My number one priority was my favourite bunny rabbit. It always had to come.

So that I would never ever be lonely.

And then out onto the ocean we would go. Without a look back, the wish for adventure strong, to find what was beyond the horizon. The little ship would take me far away. To islands, countries, places people have never heard of.

Doing this for real is doing my head in. Everything thats coming goes on the bed.

Anything on there gets to come. Anything thats not is left behind.
Underwear, letters,  photos, music, soap, books, favourite things, special things.
The bunny rabbit
So I’ll never ever be lonely.

In a strange new place all you have is your idenity. Lets hope i remember mine.

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you’re moving”

All I can do is remember and make the most of what i have left.

These thoughts erupt my mind. Landed quotes slip in and out of memories.

I remember the wine and food festivals. Having water fights in the street, taking cover in the toilets, getting drenched wearing my favourite top. Dipping my feet into the river, waving to the houseboats, dancing in the hot summer breeze, surrounded by a human wave of movement.

“There is something about the way the leaves smell in the summer, that holds me here, but at night I can hear the wind calling me….”

I remember the weekends. Walking barefoot down the empty roads on a Sunday afternoon, playing in the shopping trolleys, camping on the round-a-bout. Coming home after the holidays, gazing out at the transformed grape vines, which were once shriveled, nasty, scratchy things explode into life, luscious green leaves and huge juicy grapes, dangling down.

“It sucks here! I wish I could pack up all my friends and leave”

I remember hating this place because of the boredom and how it stripped me of all my original friends. Knowing that I will lose my friends to the city, wanting to fly away, crying in the arms of my best friends, splattering them with tears, not wanting them to go and leave me by myself.

“I am a part of the Riverland, I am the embers in the fire…..”

I remember playing fairies on the grass, exploring ‘The great Aus bush’, hiding away in my room, under the bed, waiting to be seeked and caught. Sneaking into the swimming pool, my back being sprayed with a water bottle in dance class, squashing my feet into the mud. Covered in the red earth, feeling like part of the land around me.

“… But one day I guess I will have to leave the Riverland, to do what I want to do, to be who I want to be….”

I remember rehearsing Landed.

With people I was getting to know in the process. Learning lines, buying food and hanging out in the kitchen. Sleeping in-between performances, on the itchy carpet underneath the chairs which the audience sat. The bus rides to and from rehersals. Standing in front of the air conditioner, icy air blasting our skin.

The excitement and laughter we shared at the Fringe festival, exploring the nightlife at the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Yelling at buskers to do backflips or to make us bicycles. Being paid to go inside a freakshow and scream, because it made more people come inside.

Late nights out on the balcony, gazing out at the dirty air and lights.

The actual realistic thought of leaving is hideously scary, wonders and exciting.
I will be wandering out into the darkness of the unknowing.With the feeling of moving away and leaving all my toys behind.With the hope of bigger and better toys ahead.

Even though it breaks my heart to leave my scraggly teddy bear behind. I will be reunited with old and new friends. Walking the streets I doubt to see anyone I know.

I will just be one faceless person in a sea full of names.

All aboard!   The little bed boat.

* Landed was a collaborative performance created with Riverland Youth Theatre  that toured around the Riverland and went to the Adelaide Fringe festival that i was involved with in ’06. The play, explored what it meant to move from one place to another, to be multi-cultured, to be a migrant, and to be a Riverlander.  I still think that it was the best experience that i have had with theatre.

11 Months ago, how i felt about youth allowance

Please note, this has already been published on Heywire
My spelling and grammar is probably terrible.
But this is very significant to me.
I am currently working on my gap year, & i need to catch up with the youth allowance issues in terms of its current status.

‘Youth Allowance, its personal’

“My name is Shaylee, I have only recently turned 18 years old (yeah baby!), and am in the final stages of finishing year 12.

I literally have about 2 weeks of school left to go, and honestly, I am terrified.

For of course, the typical reasons that are very prone for the teenage adults, which can be put into a personalized equation like this:

Life = School x Homework+(EXAM REVISION) x fatigue + coffee+ hormones/philosophy + Heart ache + homesickness + feeling thirsty x Procrastination x yr 12 “pressure”/being told that you are stressed + incoming exams – Freedom + irrational parents + Coming of age x living in the moment/responsibility x too many late nights / Low immune system + Vitamin C + Fish Oil Capsules – Not have P’s plates yet x Uncertainty for the future

I’m at the peak of my youth, and hopefully the only way to go now is up.
But there is something that keeps me awake at night, something that makes me quiver before someone asks me the dreaded question:

“What do you plan to do after year 12?”

This question dries my throat. I myself have spent quite a lot of time trying to figure this out, but mostly keeping my fingers crossed.

In attempting to prepare for the future I obviously have many questions before me.

Who am I? What will I be? What are my passions? What do I want to do?

My stock standard questions, for those people that ask, but don’t really care, and are asking for pushing conversation’s sake is.

“What do you plan to do after year 12?”

‘I’m going to Uni…Cycle”

Smile and scamper off, as they contemplate my answer, then frown with confusion.

Why do I tell people this?

Because I really don’t know what’s going to happen next year.

I don’t mean in this a Holden Craufield ‘I don’t know what I want’, teenager with no direction.

Because of a brainwave of budget cuts, it is making my head spin, anxiety rise as I ask myself:

How will I get there? Will I ever get there? Is it even possible?

What is going to happen to me next year?

Other times when people from my home town have asked me this, I have told them, I think I’m going to do a gap year. After saying that, people my age look at me knowingly and nod. Anyone my parent’s age look at me and frown, they tell me,

‘I’m hesitant when kids tell me that, because sometimes they start off doing that, and never make it to university’.

This is both frustrating and true. My friend whom has started off as an apprentice bartender, and hopefully chef tells me that they guy that he works with keeps telling him that ‘once you’ve got your foot in the door, get yourself out of here and don’t look back’.

After school the Riverland becomes a kind of depressing waiting room, where everyone wants to breakout of.

When my schoolmates and people generally from the city ask me

why a gap year? Do I want to travel or something?

I tell them: Well ideally, I would like to travel, but that doesn’t seem realistic.

I’m doing a gap year to earn some $, and get some ‘life experience’ in this ‘real world’ that everyone has been lecturing me about for the past two years. Also,

I don’t think I really have a choice; I’m from the country so I can’t just cut costs and live at home when I go to Uni.
I don’t want to struggle financially in uni, I don’t want to rely on my parents because that doesn’t seem fair, I don’t want to work various jobs at crazy hours to pay bills because I’d rather focus on studying, and I don’t really want to be part of the population of Uni Students living under the poverty line. I heard that a girl got scurvy because she blew her budget and only had baked beans to eat for a month!

But most of all I need to do it, because I want to try to apply for Youth Allowance. But you know! That might not happen because of changes that apparently making it ‘fairer’ and possibly impossible for a lot of country kids to get it!

At this point I’m fuming.

Then they say:

‘Oh? What changes? I haven’t heard anything about that… Well actually I remember reading something about a relocation scholarship, you get like a few grand when you move, just because you’re from the country, how good is that!’

Ahem. * Face-palm-slap*

‘You only get it if can actually apply for Youth Allowance’…

‘Oh right… So scurvy like pirates huh? I heard you can stop that just by drinking orange juice…’


It kills me, how people have no idea of what is going on around them.

But I guess it isn’t a new thing, city kids, not understanding how various issues affect the rest of the country.

I.e. water wastage, them having half-hour showers, enter me ranting about the drought, they squint at me and look confused. Oh right, the don’t have constant reminders of what drought does, they don’t have family friends that are slowly becoming depressed, because they have had to cut down half of their vineyards, and so-and-so from down the road has been stealing water.

The school’s career councilor is demanding I put my preferences in for uni.

I bite my lip, I’m so hesitant, I don’t know what to put.

Most of the courses that I want to do are non-deferrable, and I really don’t want to say yes to something I’m not passionate about, just so that I can get a place there. Let along all the other courses you can only defer for one year, so maybe it doesn’t matter what I put down anyway.

There is just so much that I don’t know or understand.

I don’t know where I would live if I had to move out of home. I don’t know what its like to drive in city traffic in peak hour.

I don’t understand why people keep complaining that young people aren’t leaving the nest as early, meanwhile its getting harder and harder, due to prices going up, finding rentals are getting harder, and support systems like Youth Allowance is being messed around with.

I don’t understand why the Government didn’t look at rural communities, saw that they have already been suffering the effects of drought; their produce hasn’t been as much or as good. So there is a lacking of money, lots of people are selling or closing their businesses, because they can’t survive. So there are a lot of people losing jobs, the juice factory ‘Berri’ being sold is a prime example. So by losing jobs, there are more people looking for jobs, making it harder to get one. Our healthcare isn’t that great, their has been a shortage of doctors, because no one wants to work here, being a local you get sick and don’t bother to make an appointment, because by the time you got one say in about two months time, chances are you would be over it. All of which are depressing perks, and not at all beneficial for young people’s mental health.

I don’t understand how they can see communities like this, and then decide to make it harder for the youths living, here.

It’s like kicking someone in the stomach, when they have already fallen to the ground.

By picking on the class of 09, and the future classes, it is affecting these kid’s families, which in turn is a domino effect where it starts to hurt everyone.

Or maybe it just has been completely overlooked.
I don’t understand why I can see the changes were a bad idea.
And why Julia Gillard couldn’t see it when it was first proposed.
I don’t understand at all.


I am so sick of hearing people complaining about ‘kids these days’.

When they are complaining  and criticizing about my generation, they are forgetting who were the people that raised it.

And personally i have a bigger problem with the baby boomers that whinge on about the kids with no respect, listening to that rap music of ours. Yo, Thanks for the gobal warming Homie! Oh yes, its nice weather we’re having, pity about the climate!

And I really don’t care to listen to people whom deny that climate change is happening, especially when the solution could be as simple as turning off your lights, so if you believe and it turns out its not real, well the worst thing that has happened is that you’ve been considerate to the environment. So quit the adult talk, open your eyes and close your mouths, because you are not the ones that will have to clean up this mess.

I can’t even think about this for too long without getting upset, weepy, angry, frustrated or restless. I’m scared for myself, I’m scared for my friends, I’m scared for my community in regards what will happen to them. I’m scared about the enormous amounts of blind-spots that the people in charge are having, as I feel that we for some time have been overlooked. As I write this I am trembling. Because I know there people that are living in towns smaller, so the effects will be even harsher.

I’m afraid of the rest of my life.”

Nostalgia: 2009

Time actually goes pretty fast. With my incoming 19th spin around this world, its hard not to get the smallest bit nostalgic. Enter, 2009 wave, year 12 for Shaylee.

At my school we had these massive shared lunches, where everyone brought food, that was always more then enough to feed this many people.

And of course, they were themed, so dressing up was a given. Friday the 13th style.

Harry Potter day anyone? Those who didn’t dress up, were deemed muggles, the science staff came as death eaters, and the chamber of secrets was officially open.

Our year 12 production, ‘The Secret Garden’, our indian celebration dance was pretty wick.

The year 12 corridor always felt like home, with these ladies around.

Seeing AFP live, being on her guest list, and seeing the show for free!

Roadtrips with the people i love…

Even if it was just to BrokenHill.

Ahhh memories.