A New Chapter Begins

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Welcome one and all to my new blog. I had to delete my old blog due to severe technical difficulties and sadly, it could not be saved. However, after doing some reflecting, I now realise that I am in a completely different place now since I started that blog five years ago, so I’m choosing to take this opportunity for a fresh start, to make something new.

What you’ll find here is a collection of my thoughts, ideas, views and general feels about various topics. Mainly these will include my passions, the things which I find take up the forefront of my mind on a regular basis; comics, gaming, music, books, movies, some TV shows and of course, writing. In addition to these, I will also be posting general social commentary, including observations and thoughts about human interactions that occur both in person and on social media.

My professional background is in both criminology and psychology, so I tend to discuss most topics from these perspectives. Frankly, I can’t help it. It’s just the way my twisted little mind works. This blog will be dark at times, perhaps lighter on occasion. But rest assured, every word will be the truth.

So welcome to the inside of my mind. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy your stay.

“I am a writer. Therefore, I am not sane.” – Edgar Allan Poe

 

Oh Netflix, What Have You Done? The Warrior Nun Cancellation Drama…

I should start this post by admitting up front that I’ve never watched Warrior Nun. I was vaguely aware of its existence, but it hadn’t even quite made it on to my “I need to watch these shows” list just yet. And now it likely won’t ever because Netflix has decided to pull the plug on it…

I do not have anywhere the strength of feeling that actual fans of the show have. That is obvious. But I do understand the agony of an unfinished story. And to wrap it on a cliffhanger only makes matters even worse.

Can it get more dire than that? Yes, it can! Because in 2017 Netflix cancelled Sense and received such backlash that they took to Twitter to assure viewers that they did not like leaving a story unfinished, and would try to not do the same thing in future.

Needless to say, Warrior Nun fans have pointed this out on Twitter. And to their credit, they have achieved a trending hashtag of NETFLIX CORRECT YOUR MISTAKE which is gaining worldwide attention. Yes, a trending phrase in all capitals is doing the rounds on Twitter and gaining more momentum and support by the minute.

Warrior Nun fans, I wish you the best of luck in getting your show back. Whether on Netflix or another platform, I am hopeful that the story you’ve been enjoying can continue to be told. And to the cast and crew of this show, I send my love and best wishes. Let’s hope this fight is won!

Why Support is Everything in Online Businesses

So, firstly, hello everyone. Yes, I know I’ve been a long time. I do have the best intentions of writing here more frequently, but sadly time gets away from me and it just has not been happening. But a recent, I’m sorry to say, negative experience in the online consumer world had prompted me to emerge and have a say.

Now, I’ve been heavily debating whether to name the entity involved. Given my experience has ultimately resulted in me reporting them to the authorities in their own country, my decision has been to refrain from naming them yet, in the hope that justice will be done.

The short version of this story is as follows:

I purchased a game online, something that I have been known to do quite frequently. I had no issues with it at first. But then one day, the game stopped working. The bane of every gamer’s life, a malfunction that seems to have no earthly explanation. After searching forums and trying every possible fix imaginable without success, I finally contacted support.

Initially, they seemed helpful. Asked me to provide a whole bunch of detailed information, which I did. Then swiftly told me they couldn’t help and I needed to follow up with the game developer. I attempted this. But when I could not even get a response from the developer, I got back in touch with the store and asked for a refund. And they refused.

They proceeded to blame me, the developer, and even Microsoft. But nowhere in the course of their blame throwing did they offer any possible reason that any of these other entities were at fault. It was simply them arguing it wasn’t their fault, therefore they had every right to keep my money in line with their “policy.”

Attempting to stay objective, I did some research. And discovered something interesting. The law requires a refund to be granted when requested if a product does not work. This law applies to toasters, cars, televisions, and yes, games. I informed them that if they did not provide me a refund as requested, I would report them. They still refused. So, I did what was necessary.

I do not have an outcome as yet, the matter is still being investigated. But I can’t help comparing this company to other, similar ones, who have been nothing but helpful in the past. I will name Steam, as I have nothing but praise for them. Sure, they might not be able to assist with all technical issues as some things are the domain of game developers. But I’ve only ever found myself needing to ask Steam for a refund once, which they immediately granted. Similar situation to this one, a game didn’t work and nobody could seem to work out why.

Back to my headline. Support is crucial in online business. It doesn’t matter how nice you seem to be in emails, if you aren’t providing genuine help, there is no point. I found myself becoming angry at this other business for their “niceness” in emails when they were basically telling me to go away and they were keeping my money and it was just too bad. Fake courtesy is worse than overt rudeness. And nowhere is this truer than in the online world where text-based communication is the norm.

If you run your business online, you need to make damn sure you have a strong, dedicated support team. You need to ensure your policies are designed to help your customers. If you fail in these areas, it doesn’t matter what exclusives you can offer, how flashy your product is, or how fancy your website, you will lose business.

I’m a massive gamer. I’ve purchased one game through this company and will never use them again. Compared to my Steam library which has almost 200 games and continues to grow. Why? Because Steam cares. Their support is real. And that’s why they will be getting more of my money in future, not this other company.

Why Businesses Need to Keep Embracing Remote Working

So, it seems the worst of COVID is behind us… allegedly. And now we are finding more and more businesses are forcing their staff back into the office, despite them having proven they can do their jobs remotely and do them very well.

It’s almost as if companies are trying to recapture pre-pandemic habits for the sake of “feeling normal.” But this is dangerous. Because what is “normal” needs to evolve as society does. We cannot keep looking to the past to try and reclaim “normal.” We need to look at today. Now. And what works.

Do not be fooled by businesses that claim to embrace remote working. Most will say this, yet in reality they are most likely only willing, and begrudgingly so, to let staff work remotely one day per week. This is not embracing remote working. This is pretending to in order to secure staff.

Think about this. Think about the amount of jobs that can be done from home. Then consider the lessened burden on roads, public transport. Consider the environmental impacts of having less vehicles on the roads. Consider the time saved by those that cannot work from home, avoiding sitting in traffic with people who are only attending on-site because of arbitrary rules. Think of infrastructure. Think how small offices could be if most employees worked from home. The land that would be saved. The rent, utilities, insurance costs. The more people working from their own homes, the cheaper a business ultimately is to run.

Now, some people cannot work from home. Some jobs do not lend themselves to such an arrangement. Others may have unstable or unpleasant home lives where leaving to attend work is their only real escape. And some may be able to easily work from home but prefer working in an office. I say, let those who want to work in an office do so. Don’t even question it. If that is the person’s preference, then let them. But the same needs to be true for those wanting to work from home.

Businesses might be concerned about staff not working as hard from home. So set them targets. Make sure they remain accountable for their workload. And monitor their productivity. If there are issues, you simply manage these in exactly the same way you would a staff member who is lacking in productivity in the office. Identify the barriers and work with the person to navigate these.

Trust is a big one. But consider the above point. You will know if work is not being done. All businesses have some kind of measure of the output of their staff work. Targets, deadlines and quality assessments do not go away just because someone is working remotely. Stick to these and manage performance issues as you would any other way.

Loss of the social aspect of work is another concern. But consider this. How many people at work are you actually friends with? How many have ben to your home? How many can you honestly say you WANT to see every single day? Yeah, thought so. Socialisation should be with people whose company we enjoy or it defeats the purpose. And hearing the 20th story about Karen’s kids at AusKick is not going to improve your work performance or mood.

Businesses need to embrace remote working. And I mean REALLY embrace it. Make it the first preference for staff, but allow those that really want to be onsite to work from the office. Give staff what they want. Let them choose how is best for them to work. Happy and comfortable staff are productive staff. Give them true autonomy, and soon your business will reap the rewards.

To Jab or Not to Jab, that is the Question

I should start this post by telling you all that I am not an anti-vaccer in any way, shape or form. I fully support vaccinations and encourage people to get them. My view is that if the medical technology exists to protect us from nasty illnesses, why not embrace it? Why risk becoming sick and potentially dying from an entirely preventable disease?

I should also tell you all that I have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. And while the second dose was admittedly a little rough, seeing me needing to take half a day off work and have an extremely restful weekend, I suffered no adverse effects.

With that in mind, you are probably expecting me to write that everybody should get vaccinated against covid. That I fully support the government lifting restrictions for vaccinated people before unvaccinated people. Thing is it’s not that simple…

Yes, I do believe that all eligible people should get the covid vaccine. I am enraged by the misinformation being spread about the dangers of these vaccines as these lies are costing people their lives and seeing this pandemic prolonged. The needless fear being cast into people by those who share untrue and dangerous comments and yes, I’ll say it, fake news, is infuriating.

But here’s why it’s not so simple. The vaccines do not stop you from getting covid. Yes, they decrease your chances of getting it. Yes, they are highly likely to prevent you dying from covid if you do catch it. But letting vaccinated people roam freely is a premature and foolish move. Because these people can still catch and spread covid.

While the government should incentivise people to get vaccinated, I do not believe this is the way to do it. Because it will not solve the pandemic problem. It will still run the risk of the virus spreading and throw more conflict into the minds of people who are already uncertain on whether to get the vaccine or not.

Some people will not even be permitted to do their jobs without getting the vaccine. Now I do acknowledge that some occupations have had similar rules in place even pre-covid (nursing and childcare for example), but people go into those jobs knowing ahead of time that certain vaccinations are a requirement. Now people in other industries that previously did not need to give any such thought to getting inoculated, are being forced to or they will lose their jobs. This is not incentivising. This is coercion.

Thus, the question, to jab or not to jab. I got the jab because I chose to. I’m fortunate that I’m not someone who has been felt coerced to do so by an employer. It was my decision and therefore I was comfortable. But even I, a strong pro-vaccer, felt conflicted at first. Because it felt to me like the government in general was being coercive. The commentary about keeping us locked down until a certain number of us had been vaccinated almost sounded like a threat. In truth, I feel much of the messaging from the government around covid has been poor and could have been handled much better from the start.

The government should focus on getting the correct information about vaccines out there. They should focus on making all varieties of the vaccine available to whoever wants it. And they should focus on continuing research into these vaccines to ensure ongoing safety and if even more improved versions can be developed.

Should you get the jab? Absolutely. But do it for yourself. For your family. For your loved ones. And to help get this pandemic under control. Don’t do it because I, or the government or anyone else tells you to. Do it for you.

How I Found Random Wisdom on Instagram

I’m a huge fan of @crimebydesign on Instagram. Their content is consistently awesome and every so often they throw out a quote that just hits me in all the right ways. The other day, they posted this:

“Work so hard that people’s biggest flex is that they used to know you.”

It brought an instant grin to my face, my head nodding at the truth of it. I loved it. It’s rare that a random quote on social media has me so physically reacting with enthusiasm that way. But it hit me hard, in a very good way, and I think I know why.

I’ve had a rough time in lock down. Like many others, I’ve found that even the little things have become a struggle. Sensitivity has been up, I’d been drinking more, not eating right, failing in exercise and feeling my anxiety spiral way out of control. I’m finally getting myself into a healthier frame of mind lately, and I genuinely believe I saw that quote at the exact right time.

You know how it is. When you’re not feeling great, and someone says something that hits you harder than it should. When your boss or a friend makes a comment that ordinarily you’d shrug off, but in your fragile state, you take to heart and start feeling more down on yourself than you should. But the key for me has been separating what should affect me, from what shouldn’t. And slowly discovering that my strong negative internal reactions to certain comments, events, etc, were not all because of my own poor mental state.

The realisation that some things in your life are just really not okay is a big one. When you start to gain control over your own insecurities and anxieties and see that you need to make some very big changes to be happy, it’s time to take notice of what’s wrong. And then it’s time to start working on fixing things. Which is where I find myself currently.

So, from now on, that’s what I’ll be doing. Working so hard that people’s biggest flex is that they used to know me. And those very few, special people that are dear to me who support me and join me on my journey of hard work, self-improvement, and pursuit of my goals will get to enjoy the biggest flex of all. That they still know me, and get to share in my happy, stable, positive life.

Why Being Lazy Isn’t Selfish, It’s Necessary

Who doesn’t love a lazy day? Or for those of us that often find ourselves exceedingly busy, even a lazy few hours can feel like bliss. But often with a little downtime comes guilt. Our seemingly never-ending to do list of life weighs down upon us, making us feel like we are doing something wrong by doing nothing.

We worry we are letting other people down, that we are falling behind in our work, letting our house get messy. We worry that doing nothing is a negative thing because we aren’t attending to these important matters that drive our every day.

But here’s the thing. You are not doing anything wrong by taking time out. You are not being selfish by being lazy. Believe it or not, you are actually making yourself more productive, happier, and a better person for those around you.

Sounds crazy, right? Well it’s absolutely true. Because we need to rest and recharge. We need to allow our minds and bodies the time and space to break from all of our busy tasks, chores, and being there for others. If we do not take the time to do this, we end up being slower and worse at everything because we exhaust ourselves into not being at our full potential.

Think of a cup. When a cup is full, you can pour from it. When it is empty, you cannot. Think about that again. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

If you don’t allow yourself time to be lazy, to just be, to fully rest all of yourself, you are not allowing your cup to ever refill. You will be trying to give when there is nothing there. So, you NEED to be lazy from time to time, to fill your cup and keep on pouring.

Do it today. Do it every day. Allocate yourself time to be lazy. To do nothing. To be alone and just chill. And don’t feel guilty. Remember this will benefit others, just as much as it will benefit you.

Are You Okay? No, Really?

Recently here in Australia we had “Are You Okay Day.” Now leaving aside there seems to be a national day for just about everything you can think of, this one is important. But has the question itself lost its impact?

Think of all the times you have asked someone if they are okay. How many times did you genuinely mean it? How many times can you honestly say that you wanted the truth? Be honest with yourself. Did you ask because it felt like a social convention, or did you really care if that person was okay? Were you willing to lend your time to them to listen and help?

“Are you okay?” has become such a throw away question these days. We ask it all the time. Sure, we may bear some measure of concern. We may even tell ourselves that we care. But more often than not, our busy lives prevent us from being able to truly give ourselves to that person in need.

In today’s locked down world, most of our communication is remote. We do not get to see each other as we once did. While we do have video chats at our disposal, most of our communication has become increasingly text or voice based. With text becoming the far more common option. It is quick, it is easy, and it allows us to communicate with multiple people at once without any of them being any the wiser.

And therein lies the problem. If you are texting or messaging multiple people and find yourself asking one of them “are you okay?” you are going into that conversation half-assed. Unless you are prepared to put your other chats on hold and really BE THERE for that person in need, you are wasting your time even asking about their well-being. And worse, you are wasting theirs. Because you are depriving them of the opportunity to potentially speak to someone who is willing to give them 100% of their time to really listen and really care.

We are all busy. And we do all want the best for those we care about. But be mindful of asking the “are you okay?” question as a habitual query. Because asking that question is more than just asking a question. It is an offer of support. Please do not put it out there unless that offer is a genuine one.

And check in with yourself. Ask YOURSELF, “are you okay?” And make sure you really listen to your own answer.

You Are Responsible for Your Own Happiness… Right?

It’s a saying that gets thrown around endlessly. Popular in memes and inspirational quotes on social media, common mantra of self-help advocates. The notion that you can simply “choose” to be happy is lovely. That you can somehow magically decide to remain unaffected by any hurt people or situations sling your way. But how accurate is this?

Firstly, it depends on what you classify as “happiness.” If to you, happiness means waking up every day with a smile and an eager zest for life, certain that your day will be wonderful, then you are very different from those who view happiness as successfully getting through a day without breaking down into tears.

Point is happiness is relative. It is not the same thing to all people. Some will not settle for less than unrestrained joy in their every day, while others will have a far lower threshold.

Secondly, it depends on whether you consider happiness to be a more or less permanent state, or a particular mood that is subject to change. A person can consider themselves to be generally happy, yet still be floored by receiving devastating news. Informing someone who has just suffered a tragic bereavement that they are responsible for their own happiness is cruel, not kind.

The point here is that happiness is not a static state. It is subject to change depending on factors that can be out of our control. Even the happiest people cannot be happy all of the time because life just does not work that way.

The bad news is that you cannot control how you feel. Emotions are what they are. Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, hurt, jealousy, they will all crop up from time to time for the average person. No matter how happy or secure you think you may be, nobody is immune from that sting of feeling something bad. Something that triggers you to feel a certain way.

The good news is that you can always control your behaviour. I’ll say that again. You can ALWAYS control your behaviour. No matter how angry you get, you can always control whether you become violent. And no matter how sad you get; you can always control whether you allow it to take over your life.

I need to state here that I am talking about standard emotions arising in mentally healthy people. Some people with mental illness do have less measure of control over their actions at times. Note here, I said “some” and only “at times.” One day I’ll drop a post on my opinion of the DSM-5 and you’ll see my views on its use as a diagnostic tool that labels people and offers excuses for terrible behaviour. But that’s a separate issue…

If you find yourself feeling unhappy, you need to ask yourself “why.” Are you generally unhappy? Or has something just happened which is prompting you to feel this way? If you are generally unhappy, then chances are you need to make changes in your life. If something has happened triggering a response of unhappiness, then simply move away from it. No, I am not saying run from everything that makes you unhappy. I am simply saying that if social media is dragging down your mood, log off. If a particular song is upsetting you, skip it. If a person in your life is making you unhappy, speak to them about it. Or distance yourself if needed.

The short answer is you are not responsible for what you feel. But you are responsible for controlling your environment to the best of your ability to increase your happiness. Do not knowingly expose yourself to hurtful stimuli. Do not put up with toxic people in your life. And do not let anyone dictate what your happiness should mean to you.

So, let’s all make our lives happier by controlling what we can. We got this, guys.

Anxiety and Escaping My Silent Prison

Let me just say upfront that I am not making this post to garner sympathy. Far from it. Sympathy and pity feel like poison to my usually steadfastly resilient soul. No, the purpose of this post is to shine a light on a darkness. To normalise. To give a name to the pain. And to stop hiding myself away in isolation.

Anxiety sucks. How’s that for the glorious eloquence of a professional writer? But it is an apt and accurate commentary on my feelings on this illness. I have lived with anxiety for most of my adult life. But it has usually been in the background. A sort of lingering passenger on my life’s journey. The source of productive stress, which led to motivation. A motivation which has seen me achieve me many things.

But when the anxiety takes over… when it ceases to be a passenger and takes the wheel… when it is no longer a silent partner in life spurring you towards progress and helping you set and attain goals… it becomes an unbearable feeling.

My rational mind knows that I am not stupid. It knows that I am skilled in some areas. It knows I am attractive. It knows I am a good person. It knows I am worthy of respect, kindness and joy.

My anxiety convinces me that I am stupid. That I am useless at everything. That I am ugly. That I must be a bad person or why else would bad things happen? That I am not worthy of anyone’s time or attention, much less their respect or kindness. And that joy will be forever out of my reach.

My anxiety has caused me to withdraw from everything. I have kept working, but it has been begrudgingly. Jobs that I once loved have become a chore where I constantly feel like I am performing poorly and failing at every step. I have kept writing but hated every word I’ve put down. Feeling like I am a terrible writer, not worthy of ever being read.

I’ve been slack with basic life tasks. Cleaning, gardening, all those little things that used to bring me such a sense of pride. My anxiety told me these were insurmountable tasks and that doing them was pointless anyway. That it was far more productive to spend my time drinking, wasting time watching Netflix or gaming, anything to fill my mind with nonsense until it was time to try and sleep again.

I’ve been distant with family and friends. Absent on social media. Hiding away as I feel like I, the REAL me, should be alone. Not wanting to inflict my constant fears and steadily growing self-loathing onto others. I’ve lied to people. Told them I am okay, fine, just kicking along doing my thing. When the truth is I have been far from it. My anxiety has lied to me and then made me lie to others.

I have tried so hard to fight this alone. To battle my anxious mind. Mindfulness. Breathing. Exercise. Healthy eating. I have even been seeing a psychologist regularly for the past six months. I have fought and fought against taking medication, as I felt this was a weakness. That if I reached the stage where I needed to take pills just to feel normal, it would mean I had failed.

As I write this, I am five days sober. For… I’ve truthfully lost count how many times I have previously achieved this milestone. As I write this, I am also medicated. I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve always been one that believed the mind could heal itself without psychoactive drugs. But here I sit, two days in since commencing my new medication regime, and this is the first time in as long as I can remember that I have been able to put words down without hating them and hating myself.

I have absolutely no intention of staying on medication forever. I remain determined to fight my anxiety and win. Somehow. But for now, I will not hate myself or judge myself for using these meds as a steppingstone towards becoming myself again. I have hated and judged myself enough over this past year to last two lifetimes. That ends now.

For those of you out there dealing with anxiety, I am with you. You are not alone. Please do not give up. Reach out, seek help, use all the tools available to you to keep fighting your fight. I am absolutely going to kick my anxiety’s ass. And I know you all can too.

Much love,

Harley

Work From Home, But Don’t Live at Work

Ever since the dreaded COVID hit, more people than ever have been working from home. Some adapted to this change easily, even embracing it as a far better way of working. Others struggled, finding the new way of working to be a significant challenge.

The reasons for this vary. Regardless of your own experience, working from home presents with both benefits and drawbacks. No travel time means being able to devote more hours to work, the home, family, friends, or other projects. There are cost savings that come with no travel also. Not needing to purchase coffees or lunches has also saved people a few dollars. Being able to dress in comfort, get more sleep, spend your lunch hour with the loved ones in your home, including your pets. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

Not entirely. You may be saving money on travel, food and coffee. But you will be spending more on electricity, heating, internet. Then there is the shift in social interaction. We would be lying if we said we would otherwise engage with our colleagues if not for work. Sure, we all have friends at work. But the majority of our co-workers only converse with us because we are in physical proximity in the workplace. Working from home means we are only speaking with colleagues if we need to for a specific purpose. The random lunchroom and water cooler chatter has been lost.

You could argue that this increases productivity. And studies are showing us that in some cases, working from home does indeed result in people achieving more in their workday. Those that have stable home lives, who are able to set up an appropriate workspace in their house, and an absence of home-based distractions, are thriving in this new way of working.

But not everyone has a happy home life. Some unfortunately are burdened with factors that are not conducive to an enjoyable work from home experience. It may not even necessarily be as extreme as a family violence situation, although that is undoubtedly a devastating and extreme example. People with children have demonstrated significant loss of productivity when working from home. The combination of needing to home school their kids and still maintain their employment has proven a difficult task. It has almost become socially acceptable to parent your child while trying to work. Previously, the two tasks were mutually exclusive as work necessitated absence from the home. The problem here, is that the parent trying to do both is not only stretching themselves, but they are also not giving either work or their child their full attention. Spreading yourself too thin leads to stress, which is something we can all use far less of.

The key issue that is causing people to suffer when trying to work from home is an alarmingly simple one. We are not working from home. We are living at work. Think about it. Prior to COVID, people who were able to work from home were the envy of others. You would hear that and wish it was you. But how would you react to the notion of someone living at work? Hopefully with horror, as this is not the way life is supposed to be lived.

But the two states have become blurred. We continue to place the same expectations on ourselves in terms of our work and home lives. Trouble is, now we are working from home, we feel the pressures of both worlds at all times. We cannot put the responsibilities of our home aside when working if we are working in our home. And we cannot put the responsibilities of our work aside when home if we are living at work. So how do we fix this?

We fix this by finding a way to separate work and home, regardless of where we are working. One strategy is to “book end” your day. Do something before and after work each day to consciously separate work from home. Go for a walk, have a cup of tea, engage in mindfulness to prepare yourself for the mindset you wish to step into. Make the choice to shift from home to work and back and do a specific activity to help your mind and body adjust.

From there, you need to stick to your chosen mindset. If you are working, work. Give your work your full attention just as you would if you were in the office. Do not do household chores during your work time. Leave them for after work. Do not try and parent your toddler while working. Use childcare services, family, or take the day off work. No matter how tempting it may seem, do not allow your mind to exist in both work and home states at the same time. Separate them. Clearly and strictly.

As stated above, some people (like myself) have thrived working from home. We are more healthier, happier, and more productive. Not because of any favour or fortune, but because of possessing the ability to train our minds to create a clear divide between home and work, no matter where we are working. And you can do it too. Work from home. But don’t live at work.