Looking back at my 35 year old self – #6

In 2013, I spent a term of studies in Nanjing, supported by a Hamer Scholarship. This was a transformative experience, and a moment to pause and reflect after an intense early period of migration. At the end of that year, I wrote down a series of journal entries, one-per-day, capturing my thoughts. COVID gave me the chance to revisit them: I was somewhat moved at meeting a younger version of myself. Now that I near the end of my PhD and a major book, and begin a new major venture in green energy, I realised patterns and struggles remained oddly similar. So, I thought I might share this journal here over the coming weeks – who knows, it might resonate with someone, trigger a useful insight, or just a passing moment of self-compassion.

20 decembee

I’m just back from a party. I hadn’t stayed out partying till after midnight for a very long time – and even if I didn’t follow on to the ‘1912’ district, to drink and dance more, I still had a great time. It was good: mixed ethnically, gay-friendly, smart: I felt comfortable. Still, at times, I had to say – this party needs more Latin gay men.

So, if I liked it so much, why do I party so little? Why have I adopted this puritanical attitude to bars, alcohol, loud environments? Have I always been like that?

Looking back, I have enjoyed partying. I did go to clubs in high school – rarely, but I did – and then danced, and had fun – possibly more than others. It all stopped when I moved to Paris at 18.

Those were the worst two years of my life. Not coming out, working too much in preparatory class, and miserable at home. So, once I got into Ecole Normale at 20, I was afraid that, if I was to start going out, I would lose what I fought so much to win. Puritanical attachment to whatever relief I had gotten through work. And so, I couldn’t let go of that stress I had accumulated.

Also, clubs and bars are sexualized environments, and I’d been in a couple since I was 17. I didn’t want to go to clubs and bars, so that I could ‘stay faithful’ – and didn’t feel the need to go to get sex. This remained true later: I had the pleasure of life in a couple – bars and clubs may be more suited to single people?

I did sometimes go gay- clubbing, in Dublin I did; in Paris I did. Even in Melbourne, rarely. Sometimes, I would come back depressed; others, with a deep sense of relaxation – any tension had been pushed off through dance, sweat, alcohol. I had released something deep, purged. And I could start again.

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