Be the puppet master.

Hey guys, as you know… it has been a long time since I’ve blogged. Firstly I want to apologize but also to thank you all for your continued support in encouraging my writing. In hindsight, I believe my writing is and was an awesome outlet of expression that I should never have put down. We have a lot to catch up on, and while this piece of writing may take a more solemn tone at points, the reality is that the year has been unpredictable to many of us but I hope you find it insightful or educational. 🙂 

It’s alright to dip your toes into the dark depths at times, we all fall victim to it at one time or another, just make sure that you keep your head above water because perspective has the potential to catapult you from heaven to hell. 

Stepping into the industry full of lust in the later months of 2019, I had been in the scene for a mere 4 months prior to the horrific bushfire season, swiftly followed by the pandemic we won’t forget the name of any time soon. I, of all people, have no true reason to have felt victimized by the events that unfolded in 2020. I haven’t lost anyone close to me. I wasn’t isolated from loved ones, or with loved ones I didn’t love enough to be locked up with. I wasn’t ill. I had some pretty fucking cool experiences in hindsight and even though I can openly acknowledge this, this is a mentality that I still fell prey to amongst what felt like the bombarding barricade of bullshit that was actually just life. My passion for most things all but disappeared. The progress I could have made, given that I reigned in the feedback loop from hell, would be phenomenal. When I look back on what I’ve written; I gave it my all as a sex worker for only 4 months. In those 4 months, I grew more as a person, lover, or friend than I had in my entire life, I had understood more than ever seemed feasible, I had been opened up to a multitude of new experiences, new places, new cuisines, new ways of living that I never dare dreamed was possible. I kept looking back, wondering how it is that I get ‘back to that’ or where my passion went. While I faced minor adversities, the cold hard reality is that the suffocating gloom I felt for the better part of a year was a result of my own creation.

I don’t intend on spending a blog bitching about the occurrences of the last 12 months, but for those that have been following my journey and are curious, it went a little something like this – I was sitting on the balcony of my apartment in the Midnight building in Braddon reading the news hour by hour as it was unfolding, bouncing ideas off my best friend as to what the next step was. At this point, it became a matter of temporarily quitting working or no longer seeing your family. 

With immunocompromised members, this was the reality as I simply couldn’t bear the guilt of being at fault in the event of a loved one passing. No more work it was. News was announced of landlords being unable to evict residents, and my bond money had almost been consumed by weekly rents that I couldn’t afford being unemployed. I have a tendency of going against the grain, and instead of ‘sitting tight’, there were now big choices to make. I estimated that if shit really hit the fan, I could expect this to extend for up to 18 months. I had 2 rental properties at the time to facilitate what I needed for work and within my personal life, and having sat in the same position for 18 months would have accumulated a debt of nearly $80,000. I would have rather moved nowhere, than moved backward after the bounds I had taken. Reading about the fierce lockdown in Italy during the unfolding episodes was another devastating realization. I was living with friends in a townhouse inappropriately sized for the pack of us mates throughout a pandemic, not to mention the arrival of Mr Prophet from Bankstown: a rescued 10-month-old German Shepherd pup who was neglected for the duration of this youth. I’m certain that there are many out there with gruesome lockdown stories, but it certainly wasn’t a healthy environment for anyone. No where really is. I adored these new friends I had fostered relationships with, primarily because they were just so unconventional in all ways. I grew up a fair bit easier than them, was a sheep, and feared everything unknown. They rolled with the punches of life and enjoyed every day as it came for what it was. I was scrolling through Facebook marketplace when I came across this colorful goofy bus for sale. She was called The Wandering Gypsy. Vanlife has always been the dream, for my adventurous soul at least. There were 4 of us sitting around the kitchen table, we collectively decided that in our usual style we would say “Fuck It”, buy a bus, and quarantine in our motorhome somewhere beautiful. She was rough, but I’d never fallen in love with the idea of something as fast as I did when I scrolled through those photos. In saying that, during the time I committed to buying it, I had never been so anxious or cried so much in my damn life. The money had stopped coming in, quarantine was ramping up faster than expected across Australia, the bus was across state lines and I was still $9,000 short. I made the choice to sell my Toyota GT86, and for those of you who know these spunky little cars, you’ll know that while it’s no Ferrari, it’s a damn good time for any 18-year-old. I had worked 100 hour weeks at times across retail and security, sleeping in my car when authorized and showering at the gym in between workplaces for this set of wheels.  It was what I was most proud of, and it formed a huge part of my personality in Canberra as I had spent a lot of my social time involved in various car events. Admittedly, it felt like a bullet hole was in my chest for a long time on that one. You ask me now, and I’d say I’m fucking crazy if I believed a chauvinistic car could bring me as much joy as to where my choice took me. Perspective is a funny thing isn’t it?

Things felt like a bit of a blur from this point forward, it was absolute chaos – packing, cleaning, breaking leases, and downsizing the lives of 4 people and one very full-on Shepherd, to fit into an old Action bus from the ’80s. We now had the money together but due to travel restrictions coming in, sadly the seller couldn’t see us for some time. I was terrified I had just done all of this and would end up stuck in another state with no bus. Thankfully, within 2 weeks we were able to drive to Albion Park near Wollongong where we wrangled up our dear friend Danika Deep to cruise our mighty land ship home. It was a fun experience except for the part where we barely made it up Macquarie pass then spent the next 3 hours driving slower than a snail’s pace to make it a whopping 11kms, (insert town name here). After the cleaning of the clogged diesel filters, Danika and I smashed down 3 bottles of wine we were lucky enough to find behind an old cabinet covered in dust that had been forgotten about for god knows how long (thank you Gypsie bus lady!). Danika and I forged a beautiful friendship, woke up in the morning feeling less than crash hot for the epic cruise home. We may have almost taken out someone’s mailbox doing a U-turn in a residential street but hey, we made it home in the end. My friends and I had organized to park the Gypsy up in a friends backyard while we figured out our next moves. Fortunately these properties were semi-rurally zoned. Meaning they had farm gate access at the rear, the Gypsy made it in with about a centimeter to spare. It was pretty fucking awesome having such a huge vehicle as an asset, it certainly felt like an upgrade to the 86. All this metal!? But, I didn’t feel this way every day. 

There were plenty of days where I longed for clean floors, nice bench tops, room to move, nice clothes and the modern interior of my previous homes. That’s honestly probably one of the biggest reasons I found this change so difficult. I have always been so caught up on the materialistic shit fed to us by a society that benefits off our consumerism. Look better, dress better, drive a faster car, pay $500 more for that faucet because your neighbour will think you’re 20% more successful. Most people wait 65 years before they can make a dream of a motorhome come true, and I made myself miserable during what should have been one of the best times of my life because we have been so brainwashed that we are never truly grateful for what we have. We’re wired to want something better, the next thing, the newer thing. The grass is always greener right? Mind you, the dream was to drive around in her, not hang out in a backyard throughout one of the wettest periods of the year. Everything was covered in mud which made it hard to appreciate this episode of life. Amongst this, there were a number of things that turned my world upside down and sent my mind into a dark place over the space of a few months. Family fall outs, putting my life on hold to support friends (more than a couple times), the death of a family member, some bizarre throuple, moving past old friendships, and a whole lot of partying the pandemic away. I struggled to maintain a healthy lifestyle and wished most days away. I became a rather unenjoyable person to be around, finding and focusing on the worst in everything. 

Given that the 86 metamorphosed into the Gypsy, I’ve always enjoyed my independence and needed another car. With the adventurous life I intend on living, a big old Troop Carrier became the dream. I ripped out the superannuation I had accrued over my 8 years in the workforce. It would be a terrible idea for many, but to me; if I had that car set up, that was my retirement. I sat on various sites hunting for the perfect Troopy for a few weeks, when one popped up in Melbourne which had a working 383 chevy. Yum. I was fortunate enough to be able to fly into Melbourne and drive it home just as the pandemic was ramping up. I was one of 5 on the entire plane. It was an eerie feeling. She drove home perfectly fine, then once in Canberra the issues with the engine became apparent; she needed to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, I still have only driven my car a couple of times. This killed me for months. Relying on people for transport was putting unnecessary stress on everyone, but I was too stubborn to buy a cheap run around car. Life continued as the process of the repairs rolled on, and I had made the craziest decision I thought I would never make; I got a puppy of my very own. Mila came into my life and became my rock. She helped me fiercely. While it has been incredibly overwhelming at times, it’s a decision I thank myself for everyday, except for the times she peed on the carpet. She reminds me to stay present and appreciate each day of which she made a big point on the evening of Christmas. She gave me a huge fright by having an accident on the farm, she managed to get a pretty nasty laceration to her leg and spent the following day having surgery to repair the damage. She’ll make a full recovery, but it’s moments like these that remind us to hold deep gratitude in our heart for the creatures, people and things that bring us the most joy even on the quietest of days. 

When I was able to start work again I bounced between the bus and the hotel for work, keeping in mind I had Prophet and Mila and they of course needed a home while I worked. Thankfully my friends had supported me every step and helped care for them when needed. This backyard quickly became rather claustrophobic. There were dogs for neighbours in each direction, and the owner’s dog (of the backyard) had developed issues with Prophet; they had a couple of rather serious fights and it was driving us insane to be unable to let our dog outside without fear of his safety. To top things off, another adjacent dog had just attacked our friend’s cat and was behaving so aggressively towards Mila it had me worried. Enough was enough, we needed out. 

By now the passion for buses was real and my best friend had previously spotted a bus on a farm past Bungendore, The Gifted Horse. We went to check this baby out, committed to buying it and then proceeded to throw a shindig with plenty of alcohol to mingle and become closer to the family on the farm. Low and behold, these incredible people offered us a space on their farm to rent for the foreseeable future for us to relocate our buses too. Whilst it may have taken bobcats, excavators and the crushing of several fences, we made ourselves a bus commune located in the middle of nowhere, away from the exhaustion of the city in lockdown. Unfortunately we picked the wrong spot in a gully and were literally sinking in mud now. Our decision started to feel like a mistake with the torrential downpour and lack of creature comforts – We were completely off grid and supplying ourselves with water and electricity via solar and generator power. Eventually we had enough and decided it was time to relocate to another area of the farm, and along the way the Frankentrus truck bus joined our fleet of motorhomes. I think we got a bit over excited with all of these purchases, but I tell you what; they all ended up coming in handy as various rooms of the gypsy commune we had created. We used a bobcat to level the ground as best we could, and moved the buses into their final resting place – for now. The farm opened up so many opportunities during this bleak period for society, there was now easy access to rivers and dams with kayaks and paddleboards, dirtbikes, and livestock to keep me and Mila more than entertained. Not to mention the copious amount of projects to now work on. 

The next upcoming mission was our friend’s 18th birthday. I was meant to be in Fiji with this gorgeous girl to show her the world beyond Australia, but unfortunately our travel plans were made null and void just like the rest of the world’s. Collectively my friends and I poured our absolute heart and soul into making our new area comfortable and aesthetically pleasing for the sake of this night. Blood, sweat, tears and several weeks worth of relentless work meant we had built a 9×6 meter deck by hand, canturfed the area, gravelled the area, fenced it and constructed a roof. I mustn’t have been used to hard work because I found this period so difficult, every day my body was aching and I found it hard to keep motivated. I’m so glad we managed to pull it off because the party that ensued was off the richter. We had thought of everything, lights, presents, enough alcohol and party drugs to fuck up a small army and even purchased huge ass PA speakers to drown ourselves in the bass. I even tried acid for the first time. Prowling through the grass with my dog while I was tripping balls watching the laser lights cascade across the paddock and merge into the night sky has to be my favourite memory of Covid19. It felt like a huge celebration of months worth of hard work and planning. 

Things from here have become easier and easier, I managed to secure an apartment in Kingston which solved the stress of hotels, and gave the modern luxuries but somehow I managed to even make this place feel like a prison of my own creating at times – desperately still wanting to get back to that happiness I held at the start of 2020. What I have learned is that until you change your mindset, you will never find happiness. You will always want more. The grass will always be greener somewhere else. I have loved the experiences this home in Kingston allowed me with my dogs throughout such an unstable period. 

Another bus came across my screen a couple of months ago, and I managed to secure Skelator bus #4. As it turns out, with all of the knowledge I had acquired over the course of spending the year in and around motorhomes, it turns out that Skelator with all of its bare metal is actually the bus to build and take around the country. With engine and rust repairs already completed, huge storage compartments, and the capacity to install auto-leveling legs, this project is well and truly underway and will carry us across the country in 2021. The dream was still alive! The prospect of finishing a bus within the timeframe we initially imagined simply wasn’t going to happen, and so I hunted for a van to get myself on the road ASAP. After finding the perfect one, getting it repaired, on the road, registered, and ready to fit out, Murphy’s Law decided to remind us of its presence and the engine seized despite all best efforts. Funnily enough though, this event didn’t rock me as much as I thought it was going to. Admittedly it sucked, but I honestly feel I’ve grown to be a little tougher throughout the year and have learned to roll with the punches myself. This proved to be the case last week when I found out the landlord is selling up the apartment, there is certainly fear of the unknown but everything has worked out well so far, and I’m not about to quit fighting anytime soon. It’s just another chapter. 

When I sit down and write all of this, it’s hard to spit out so many months worth of events and the intricate details that help elaborate but I’m pretty sure I had a point with all of this! I came to a personal learning myself throughout the year. Every choice, every interaction, and every event that occurred in 2020 had felt like it had happened to me. Like I was a paper boat being washed downstream, or a plastic bag caught in an updraught. I felt powerless and like a puppet to the waves that rolled in. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I can sit back being a year older, a year wiser now and reflect on the year that I’ve had. I made decisions. I made choices. I chased dreams. I built things. I learned so much. I chose my friends. I chose my mindset. We can continue to run ourselves into the ground each day by allowing ourselves to become so neurotic we can’t function and so cynical we’d willingly take a dose of cyanide, or we appreciate the reality we’ve created or change it if we no longer enjoy it. No one else has the power to. We have the power to be happy individuals by finding things to be grateful for but if you look for the shit, I promise you that you will find it. After the highs and lows of the events of 2020, I’m happy to say I can stand here and look back confidently proclaiming that I am not a puppet in the show of my life. I am the puppet master and I can’t wait to see what I can create in 2021.

2 thoughts on “Be the puppet master.

  1. Mr S Fox

    You always make me smile, Valerie; even with the dramas that have been thrown at you in 2020, you still have a beautiful positive outlook on life. Enjoy every day!

    Reply

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