On How I Experience Life

Welcome back to the blog, it’s been a big old year since I’ve updated it, and there’s been a fair few things going on.

I’ve done a very small handful of solo gigs in the last year. Gigs are basically back to normal which is nice, but I haven’t felt any strong desire to play solo. I spent a ton of time during lockdown playing guitar on my own, and the thing I missed about music was sharing it with other people. I’ve still got an album to release, I just need to decide how it comes out, and carve myself out a couple of weeks of free time to promote it. If you’ve got any big bold ideas of where I should play and what format (solo? trio? full band with all nine people who played on the record?), feel free to message me.

The main thing I’ve been doing this year is teaching full-time, which was a great way to fill in time while lockdown was on and weekends were empty, but now that gig life is back to normal and national tours are starting to peak over the horizon I’m feeling a little over-committed. The plan is to cut back on teaching at the end of this year, though I’m not sure how much to cut back and what to drop, because I love everything I’m doing right now.

The other thing that’s been filling in my free time is my newest project Gusto Gusto. I wrote a set of instrumental world music in October 2021, had the first rehearsal on November 6th, 2021 and we’re launching our debut EP on November 5th, 2022. It’s been a whirlwind year, we’ve done thirteen gigs so far, we have a summer tour coming up and a ton of festival slots. This is a super duper exciting band for me and ticks every single box for musical joy (creative outlet, elements of improvisation, makes people dance, crowd participation, and it’s a band with a bunch of people I love). If you’re free November 5th, please come to the launch.

I’ve been thinking this week on how I experience life.

I’m on holidays, which means I’ve been going out to eat a lot. I go to a little Sichuan restaurant on High Street called Tina’s at least once a week. I’ve been going there for about seven years with my friend Damien, but he moved to Norway, so I’m slowly coaxing all my other friends into eating there with me.

The problem is the food is incredibly spicy and particularly non-vegetarian, so the couple of friends I have who want to come along don’t really want to go back. Each time I go I try something a little different, but all the food is just a little too hot, so I’ve developed this method to get through it.

I gather a pile of napkins and a whole jug of water.

When the food arrives I let it sit for a couple of minutes to cool down, and then I eat as fast as physically possible so I can get it all into me before my body realises that I’m in physical pain. I mop as much off of as my beard as my napkins will soak up, drink the entire jug of water and head home with full body sweats.

Its a strange way to eat, but the food is so good that I have to keep coming back.

I tie this quick consumption method back to boarding school days where every Tuesday lunch time was burgers. The canteen would cook up thousands of burgers and the kids would stack as many of them as possible on their lunch trays. If you finished quickly you could go back for more, so you’d demolish your first tray and line up for seconds. The last people in would get empty buns with half cooked onion, so the incentive to eat quickly was hard-wired in.

One of my friends would line his pockets with napkins and take handfuls of crumbling hamburgers back to the dorm with him to eat for the next couple of days. Healthy habits? Hardly.

Its similar to the way I exercise, as much as possible in the shortest amount of time so I can take the rest of the week off. I’ll smash out a twenty kilometre run on Sunday and then do absolutely nothing till the next weekend.

I’ve got a friend who parcels out experiences, savouring them in little snippets for as long as possible, but give me a block of chocolate and I’ll demolish the whole thing in one sitting.

During lockdown I started going for long walks, as a chance to both get out of the house and fill in some of my absurd amount of free time. I would walk down to the Merri Creek and sit by the water, watching as it trickles past. I didn’t enjoy it.

I was leaving the house to escape boredom and finding myself bored somewhere else. Part of the insidious trap of 21st century life is we’ve grown used to constant stimulation. There’s always another Netflix show, or podcast, or social media feed to keep us stimulated. There’s never any down time, never any off time.

So when we finally find ourselves (or force ourselves) into a space where there’s no stimulation, the mind isn’t used to doing its own thing. We’ve rewired ourselves to need this constant flow of new stimulation, little chunks of dopamine to keep the mind ticking over, and we find it hard to live without it.

I’m looking to combat this in myself, start doing all the things the experts recommend to refresh the brain – leave my phone at home when I go out, read books instead of watching shows, spend more time engaged in one activity for a deeper flow state. To kick it all off I might go to Tina’s and see if I can eat a bowl of chilli rice noodles slowly.

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