Yesterday – A Short Story

Syd woke with the sun again. The light filtered through the venetian blinds and hit the honey brown of her eyes. She blinked slowly, her dream of the night gently fading from memory. The sheets were pushed down by her feet. The evening had been warm, but the morning cool left her tummy cold to the touch. She wasn’t wearing a thing but a pair of bikini briefs. She traced her finger gently up her thigh, along her hip bone, and rubbed the back of her hand against her heavy lids.

The tanned body beside her stirred; his face turned towards hers, lips parted, still snoozing.

Syd moved her hand towards him, and pressed it to his cheek. She traced the outline of his mouth with her thumb. This beautiful man, with thick black hair and bright green eyes, was hers.

For years she had dreamed of this moment. For the longest time she wasn’t sure if it would ever come. A slew of men talked their way in to her heart and her room with no thought of staying. They left her cold and deserted, and cursing herself for letting them in in the first place. Still, she didn’t change. She let those smooth Casanovas with their big smiles and firm touches have their way with her body and soul, until after a while she didn’t have much left to share.

It was a shell of a woman sitting alone at the bar that night that Julian arrived. He was equable, he didn’t speak to her. He ordered a drink and went back to his friend. When Syd glanced over her shoulder at him, he was looking right at her. That electric stare cut straight through.

It still did.

Her touch must have woken him. He pressed his lips together and kissed the tip of her thumb. Syd sighed, and rolled away from him. She gradually wiggled backwards until their bodies completed a puzzle. Julian wrapped his arm around her stomach and pulled her in tighter.

“I love you,” he whispered. His breath tickled her ear. Syd wanted to cry. He buried his nose in to her auburn hair and breathed deeply. They stayed like this for a long time, lost inside a waking dream. When Julian’s lips pressed against her neck, Syd melted in to him completely. His body grew firmer. She enjoyed her favourite wake up call.

A while later, hair wrapped in a towel and smelling like mint and vanilla, Syd emerged from the bathroom. Her feet hit the cold tiles and she tapped towards the kitchen. She could hear the coffee grinder.

Inside the door, Julian’s hair was still dripping with sweat. He grinned at her and ran his fingers through it. “I love you,” he cooed again, planting a kiss on her forehead. He drew his hand down her back, fingers tickling her spine. She let her towel drop a little lower. “I’m going to shower.”

Syd watched him go.

“Don’t drink all my coffee, Sydney,” he called back to her. She smirked; her shoulders slumped at the memory. The first time Syd had stayed with this man, she had unwittingly used the last of his important Columbian beans to make a coffee that tasted like rocket fuel. Since then, she knew not to help herself, and he had bought her a jar of Moccona just in case.

Syd heard the shower running and walked toward the record player. A jazz artist she hadn’t heard of was replaced by the Rolling Stones. It was Saturday morning, after all.

She flicked the switch on the kettle and leaned back against the counter.

It had been three blissful months in the arms of this bronzed Adonis. Originally from Argentina, his family immigrated to Australia in the eighties. At thirty five, Jules was a little older than Syd. He had travelled extensively in his twenties, which made him wise. He had a social conscience she had never encountered before. He seemed to genuinely care about everyone and everything. The first time this struck her was also the first time she’d seen him cry. They were watching a David Attenborough documentary on a lazy Sunday afternoon. His eyes welled as he watched their planet die on television, and swiftly Syd started to care a lot more too.

He made her better, she decided; a better person, a better lover. She was selfish in her youth. She was selfish full stop. She really had to watch her words sometimes. Her fiery hair was matched only by her fierce tongue. Growing up bullied severely for something as ridiculous as your hair colour gives a girl plenty of opportunity to develop a defence mechanism.

Perhaps that was her problem with men. She could handle taunts and rudeness, sly comments and cruel stares. What she couldn’t handle was kindness. Syd would protect herself and her friends from any bro with the audacity to neg them out but give her a nice guy, a man with a compliment and a flashy grin and she was putty in his hands.

She couldn’t understand how her friends were so good at weeding out the genuine ones and the liars.

“None of them are genuine, Syd. That’s rule number one,” said her cynical best friend Marie between puffs of her menthol cigarette.

“That can’t be true Marie. If it were… what’s the point?”

“Exactly.” Marie narrowed her eyes at her foolish companion. Syd flushed crimson and felt overcome with sadness. I refuse to believe it.

One month later, she met Julian.

Syd was nestled cross-legged on the sofa when he emerged, glistening wet and a towel around his waist. She loved his rugged beauty, how natural he was in body and mind. When wet, his hair touched his shoulders. He shook it out like a dog and grinned at her.

“I’m worried. Why are you looking at me like you want to murder me?”

Syd laughed at bit her lip. “I was lost in memories; I won’t kill you until you’re old and rich.”

“I don’t plan on being either.”

“If you keep importing that coffee from Colombia, you won’t be.”

Julian winked at her before entering the kitchen. Syd sipped her painfully average instant coffee and groaned. “Can I have a sip of your rocket fuel?” she called.

“Seeing as you asked so nicely… absolutely not,” he said, poking his head around the door. “You disrespect my coffee. You disrespect me.”

“God forbid,” said Syd darkly. This man, she thought. He loves his coffee more than me.

She thought back to the night before. Syd and Marie had gone for dinner, which turned in to dancing. Marie was wild and fun. As Syd’s only single friend, she was the one she always turned to in times of need.

“He worships you, and I hate both of you,” she bellowed in to her ear over the loud music. Syd felt smug, but sad. Her friend was stunning. She deserved the world.

“He’ll come one day,” she shouted back.

“Nah,” laughed Marie. “You took the last good one.”

Syd frowned when she thought of her friend. She was the most supportive, strong woman she had ever met. Is there really someone for everyone?

“I have a surprise for you, my golden Goddess,” Julian began when he reappeared. He pulled a piece of paper from behind his back.

Julian was an artist. Not a struggling one, as his full time job as a law clerk saw to. He hated it, but it was a means to an end, as he often stated. He didn’t have many work friends. The few times she’d been out with them, they were dull and unfriendly. One night in particular stuck in Syd’s mind. His boss, a heavy set man with a terrible comb over had looked her up and down and tapped her on the behind.

“They’re a rotten crown.” Julian cooed in her ear that night as they Uber’d home.

“You’re worth the whole damn lot of them,” she finished. They shared a passionate kiss. That was the first time he told her he loved her.

Syd moved in a few days later.

Since then, Julian’s cartoons never failed to brighten her day. Syd looked down at his latest creation: a sleeping red head with a caption ‘My World.’

“This is for you,” he beamed.

“I’ll frame it,” she teased.

He looked so proud. His chest puffed out, his wonky grin. She wanted to eat him up.

“I will draw us old and in rocking chairs.”

“I’d rather live it!” She said with love. He stuck out his bottom lip. Syd had a tendency to shut him down without thinking. “Draw our future.”

“Right after I get eggs,” he muttered. “We don’t have any left.”

“I’d rather some toast. You can’t make eggs.”

“It is my life goal,” he announced loudly to the empty room, “to make you the perfect egg.” She was more interested in his slipping towel but nodded along anyway.

“Keep trying.”

When Julian closed the front door, and said I love you for the third time that morning, Sydney didn’t say it back. She knew he knew. She said it with her eyes, meeting his and welling up. She said it in the way she brushed his hair out of his face as he finished his latest masterpiece. She said it when she made the bed, and laid out some of his clothes. She said it in ways that spoke more than words.

She knew he knew it.

But she spent the rest of her life wishing she’d said it that morning.

When the police knocked on the door an hour later she was already so anxious her hands were shaking. He hadn’t answered her texts; he hadn’t picked up his phone. He was always hopeless with that damn phone but today she knew he took it with him.

Maybe he left it in the car? Maybe the store was closed for some reason. Maybe he ran in to someone he knew and got talking and lost track of time.

‘Where r u?’

‘Is everything ok?’

‘Did the car breakdown? Do u need me to come get u?

She saw the uniforms and the look of sorrow on their faces. As soon as they opened their mouths it was like one of those silly cartoons when everything is fuzzy. She didn’t remember falling to her knees or how one of them had picked her up and walked her in to the living room. The noise coming from her mouth was something foreign; a pained moan from a ghost. Something she’d never heard before.

She heard the words ‘accident’ and ‘fatalities’ and something about a truck turn-over.

A hot cup appeared in her hand; his cup. She took a sip discerningly and gagged. It was rocket fuel. It was his coffee. She threw the cup across the room and it smashed in to a million pieces along with her heart.

“Never touch his coffee!” She screamed. She was held tight again a chest that wasn’t his and she thrashed with all her might, becoming a crumpled heap on the floor. Who can you call?

No one.

There is no one.

He’s gone.

~

Six months later she sat in a cafe with Marie. Her voice was fuzzy and cartoon-like and Syd’d eyes glazed over as she stared at the barista. He had long floppy hair and flashed her a smile. Her stone face remained unchanged.

“Cherish the ones you love Marie,” she said flatly. Her friend fell silent. A hand cupped hers.

“Always,” she said quietly.

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Who Are You?

My darlings.

I'm starting this post having just rewatched the first ever episode of a show I feel I've grown up with, Catfish.

For anyone unfamiliar with concept, Catfish features two amazing men, Nev and Max, who help people who have started relationships online with people they have never met. Spoiler alert, more often than not, the people they are speaking to aren't who they say they are. Be it fake photos stolen from someone else on the internet or pretending to be someone they know personally, it's clear that the Catfishers are unhappy with who they are.

Often they've been bullied or have had a hard time and use this persona like a shield. They don't feel good enough.

I think it takes a pretty cruel person to bring someone in to your insecurity, and use them to boost your self esteem through deception. However… imagine if they channeled their negative life experiences in to making themselves better people. Instead of using a mask of someone else.. imagine the self love they could generate!

Dialling it back, let me tell you my story.

I remember starting high school. It was a big public one a half an hour walk from my house, just outside the Yorkshire village I grew up in. Almost all the kids I went to primary school with went with me. Masses off us trudged through the rain and the snow, across the train tracks to the intimidatingly massive new chapter.

In time I grew to love that school and it's long corridors and kids twice the size of me, shoving everyone around for fun. You had to have a drawstring bag otherwise someone was bound to unzip it and knock your stuff on the floor. You had to keep your hand down in class so no one could take the piss out of your answers. You also knew very quickly who the top dogs were and to remember your place.

Bullying is such a normal part of growing up. I put it down to trying to fit in to this new environment, and me being a bit of a bossy boots by nature, but my two best friends from primary school decided they didn't like me anymore. After that, I had a really hard time making friends.

When I did start to bond with someone, often a false rumour stating I'd said something behind their back quickly ended it. I guess that was the thing with me. If I took issue with someone, I would just say it to their face. Maybe that was my problem. Being too upfront made me a target for the whisperers. I was so scared of what I did say getting twisted that I just stopped speaking. It took me years to get the confidence to voice my opinion back. I make up for it now 😊.

I wound up having to go to a 'friendship group'. It was designed for myself and fellow lonely kids who were struggling a bit. We'd do quizzes and talk about our interests and hobbies. Everyone was weird and it was nice to have people to eat lunch with. Yes, there were a few sandwiches ate in a toilet cubicle. What a cliché.

A few long months in, having truly learned the importance of empathy, I reconnected with a couple of the girls from my primary school. We ended up in our own tight knit group.

Rarely a week went by without some of the five of us falling out, of course, but blissful were the lunch breaks spent giggling our heads off in the hot lunch room and getting kicked out for being too loud. Through many hours spent in the library, I discovered Louise Rennison's book series about the most relatable tween on the planet, Georgia Nicolson. I was proud of my new little Ace Gang.

Times got real tough again when I found out I was moving to Australia. Slowly but surely I felt the girls retreating from me, my closest friend especially. She became quite cruel, and though an adult brain understands self preservation and the primal need to lash out in order to protect ourselves, a scared thirteen year old did not. Some of my memories of this time are so vivid. One, I was sobbing at my work station in Food, not wanting anyone to see me. I'd been handed the notes some of the girls had been passing about me. I think it said something about me being a try hard and a made up thing I hadn't said. I'm pretty sure that was the day we made rice pudding.

In the very end they had tried to fix some of the damage caused, and there was a leaving party at my best friends house with Sing Star, baked goods and lots of trampolining. It felt like the end of the world.

Then I left England and didn't really look back.

As with most new kids, I found myself right back where I started in Australia, too.

This new high school was tiny, and I started week three of term three of year nine to be precise. I was buddied with one of the 'cool' girls. I think my teacher thought she was doing me a favour, but she and her friends were very uninterested in me. We were very different people.

In this school watched Napoleon Dynamite, I heard rumours about a boy getting a hand job behind a textbook in class, and got teased for my big shoes. I had to wear UGG boots and a miniskirt to be cool, and I definitely had to shave my legs and pluck my mad Wog eyebrows. What a different world this was!

Yet again, I had a hard time making friends. I'm a girl with a lot of passions. At the age of fourteen, it was Harry Potter and Home and Away. I could barely make eye contact with a boy without turning crimson and I was best friends with my family (and still am).

It was a long and lonely summer, but year 10 began my ascent in to one happy young lady. I made friends with four incredible girls. I can't remember how we found each other exactly, but I distinctly remember one incident in particular.

I was eating cheese and pickle sandwiches for lunch. English people reading this know what I am referring to I'm sure. The two Australian girls that would let me sit near them had no idea what the weird brown stuff I had was. They were loudly ridiculing me, for not the first time unfortunately, when a tiny, wonderful, sparkly eyed girl from southern England barked at them 'its Branston pickle?' With a level of sass I've yet to hear since. They soon shut up, and I soon changed who I sat with at lunch.

Next joined Shaz, a witty and cool as a cucumber girl whose best friend had recently changed school. Then there I was Bek, the green eyed and incredibly intelligent girl that I absolutely idolised (and still do). Thus, Ace Gang 2.0 began. We had sleepovers, long chats, giggles and an obsession with YouTube videos. We talked and sang and danced and we're allowed, encouraged, to be 100% ourselves with each other. We were not without our disagreements of course, teenage girls are a nightmare, but we thrived together. They saw me through my first kiss (literally) and all those other fun things 15 year olds do.

I got in to anime and started writing fan fiction and making music videos. I made the pilgrimage to the city for the final Harry Potter book with Abby and Danica, the two pickle-girl life savers, at 530am one brisk morning. I drew a lot, very averagely. I had a puppy Rio and two six month long crushes that went absolutely nowhere. Two others joined our crew, and soon we were going on adventures to Freo for Timezone photos and sushi train.

My second six month long crush, and first taste of heartbreak, got wind of my affections when I got up the courage to ask for his number on the school bus one day. 'I don't know it,' was his earth-shattering response. Lorraine, one of our new editions, heard from a mutual friend that he intended to pretend to like me and then thoroughly humiliate me in front of everyone on the bus the next day, so she decided to berate him in the hallway for all to hear. My heart was crushed but my friend was golden.

Of course, things changed over time. Boys, Abby moving back to England and just growing up different pulled us apart. By year 12 I was back to my lonely self, this time with two equally lonely companions, Jessie and Arran. Those cynical bastards are still my best friends to this day. God love them.

It wasn't until many years later, having lost all of the things that made me me, that I realised just how important it is for us to be true to ourselves.

I can pinpoint the time when I started to lose my kook. I was deep in a relationship where I didn't feel like myself anymore. It can be hard for natural born people-pleasers like myself and every other Cancerian in the world to stay true to ourselves when we're in love. Sometimes we go too far the other way.

For a lot of people it's their experiences with bullying at school that dilutes their colours. They're sparkling too brightly, and it seems to be in a lot of humans' nature to dim that rival sparkle as much as possible. But the thing is, if we don't care what other people think of us, it completely removes their power.

I am incredibly proud of baby Leigh, because my God did she stay true. I wore all of the nerdy, weird shit I loved on my sleeve for all the world to see and I never felt any shame for it. I surrounded myself with people who were proud of me, and I was proud of them. We lifted each other up and protected one another from the evil outside which slowly stopped mattering. My self preservation developed in to completely cutting people out who I feared would hurt me. It's served me quite well so far. I just can't do fake politeness. My face is too emotive. I give myself away.

As an adult I've gone through the cycle again. When I don't feel like I can be myself I tend to retreat. I look inwardly for that place of peace and power. I remind myself why I like me, regardless of if others do or not. I'm still a pleaser, and I still need validation, but I'm getting better. Maybe I need to ask baby Leigh how she did it. Through all the shit, I was always me.

In telling this story I'm hoping that others who have been shaken by self-doubt due of external factors realise that they were never ever the problem. If you have a good heart, that's all that matters. Let your freak flag fly! The most attractive people in the world to me are the passionate ones. I don't care what you love, if it matters that much to you then you're a dream come true. Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine.

At the ripe old age of 26 I know who I am and what makes me happy.

I love the Beatles, I love looking like I just walked out of the 70s, I love loud live music and I love writing. I love connecting with people, and I love talking about aliens and politics and nature. I love the ocean, and I love red wine and cheese platters.

Most of all I love all of the incredible people all over the world that I have met. Be they weird, loud, artistic, spiritual, gentle, wild, funny or my polar opposite, they are completely and unapologetically themselves.

Being a people pleaser isn't as good a quality as it sounds. It's easy to lose yourself, or change to fit an ideal instead of fulfilling who you really are. Being judged is scary. It's a constant battle not to care too much.

Two years ago I would never have walked down the street in my Rockabilly gear. I also didn't eat much and was overall pretty fucking lost.

Now I find myself curvaceous, sassy and proud of my wild outfits and huge smile. I am proud of myself for all I've done, and I love the person I have become very much. I still love all my nerdy things, and I will gladly talk about them to anyone with remote interest (glazed over eyes works too). If it wasn't for all of the negative experiences I've had, not fitting in, feeling lonely, having my heart broken, I wouldn't be who I am now.

None of us would be real without the shit. Don't let it change you, though.

There may be people who love you unconditionally, but it's you who needs to love you most. You're the cheerleader. You're the one whose been there through it all and lived to tell the tale. You're a bloody legend!

Talk about yourself, be proud. It's ok to blow your own horn sometimes. If the people around you don't want to listen, they aren't your people babe. We should all be rooting for each other. What are friends for?

We are all so unique and have so many stories and experiences. We are all part of this great big mad world, but there's only one YOU.

So be you, be free, be everything you've ever wanted to be. Let the love pour out of you. You'll attract the right people, this I promise you.

In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

So tell me, beautiful people, who are you?

Love your second biggest fan,

Harleigh Q

Xo

Bohemianism and the Art of Love

The last month or so I feel like I’ve been living in a love bubble. I made a choice to come out of my shell again and open my heart to people here in Perth. I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled at the curves, instead of frowning. I decided I wanted to radiate that same warmth I found while driving across America. I wanted my pure adoration of other human beings to paint a smile on my face and it hasn’t left me.

Since I made that choice, I’ve been taking care of my body more; daily yoga and runs, less binging or extreme control when it comes to food and more balance. I’ve taken time to find beautiful music I connect with, I’ve been practicing my piano every day. I’ve found my flair for writing has returned.

I don’t like being vulnerable just as much as the next person, and it can be really hard when you spend a lot of your time in a stressful or negative environment to not let in engulf you. It’s true though, you cannot see the light unless you push through the darkness. 

With my reemerging confidence I’ve managed to connect with the people I care about more too. My nephew finally kicked for me! I have happily and openly conversed with strangers and stayed out until sunrise by myself when my ladies got tired because I wasn’t quite done vibing. I’ve met new friends this way, spent the afternoon at the movies with them or a new coffee shop.

I had a complete epiphany the other day when I stood in the unfamiliar hallway of a new art gallery/coffee shop in Freo, a place I rarely venture. As I waited to greet a friend of a friend who I had barely met before, I didn’t feel nervous. I was completely calm, smiling at the pretty posters on the walls. Of course she turned out to be amazing, but for someone who has had anxiety issues since very young, this was… massive. I have officially pushed myself to the point where I no longer fear the unknown. It’s doable guys. It’s fucking doable.

Tying in to my recent developments, I’ve been doing some research in to exactly what it is I stand for and if there’s a word for the kind of lifestyle I’m living. It’s not very square, but it would be great to meet some others who share the same ideals.

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I have felt like a penniless writer in vintage Montmartre pretty constantly lately; all bright eyed, emotional, open and excited.

Do you believe in freedom, beauty, truth and love?

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.

Thanks Wikipedia!

As some of you may noticed I’ve been switching my brand up a little, slowly but surely. My end goal is to be the most authentic, free and open human being I can. The ideologies I follow can be summed up perfectly by the above paragraph.

I’d heard of the Bohemian revolution before but it wasn’t until the tender age of 11 that I was truly able to comprehend the amazing things those people stood for and just how much I identified with it.

It’s all thanks to a wee masterpiece called Moulin Rouge.

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Oh man Baz really is my spirit animal.

It’s not a fashion trend; to me it’s a life. It’s a way of being. Penny Lane is a perfect example. She’s a seeker of beauty and truth, an adventurer, a vagabond.

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I am so in love with the idea of love without restraints. Life can be lived without a path in place. We can just make our way down, weaving through obstacles and connecting with people in shared experiences along the way.

I don’t know if I can live my most authentic life in Perth. Not for a while. Adventure always seems to happen away from home, for me. Home represents safety and love and so much happiness, but my wild days are only just beginning.

As dad said to me recently, ‘If you were a 70s kid, you’d be in a cult wouldn’t you?’

Most likely some hippy commune. I like to think it wouldn’t be Manson’s or the COG. I’m quite confident there were many tribes that weren’t quite so fucked.

I never feel more at home than when on the road. Sitting on an aeroplane is the birth of a new story and I always feel so content in that moment. There’s no where else I’d rather be. I’m sure my fellow wanderers are smiling away as they read this.

I’m looking forward to my next feat. Mid May I will be hopping through Singapore and Zurich to the great city of Roma. There I will meet my gorgeous Swiss angel Martina, and we will galavant through the south of Italy for two weeks, ending up in Athens.

I have been fascinated with Greek Mythology since I was a baby nerd (now I’m a big one) so the thought of entering the Parthenon, the temple of the great goddess Athena, takes my breath away.

After my little Eurotrip I’ll be jetting solo to the land of dreams, USA. LA to LA, 54 days, one mad adventure with a whole new Contiki fam. On this loop I’ll be revisiting some old favourites (Dallas, Vegas, Memphis, NOLA, Orlando…) and exploring loads of new places. I get to turn 26 in Quebec City. Bon anniversaire!

I want to try and carry this spirit with me; this openness. It’s so freeing. Suddenly I’m not worrying about people’s opinions of me because I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge that I have achieved a lot, I have so much love around me and, to quote one of my favourite goddesses, Kaitlin: your vibe attracts your tribe! It’s a really hard thing to learn to do, and we all slip sometimes, but I think giving yourself the time and care you need is vital.

Self care looks different to everyone. For me, it’s not weighing myself, not staying in bed the entire day watching Netflix (just most of it), waking up at 5.30am so I have time for my coffee and yoga, and persuing my creative outlets. I need to write, draw, read my comics and books, play my piano, listen to my records, watch some anime.

Do things that make your soul smile. 

Live by the great philosophies of freedom, beauty, truth and love.

I think it’s incredible that we are on the cusp of another revolution. Women are banding together, men are coming to fight with us. People want to know what’s happening in the world, they want positivity and change. I am so proud to be a part of it, right here and now.

I will always try to understand the world around me and question things, without judgement. I care about the people and things around me so much. I’m going to stop thinking that’s a bad thing and fucking embrace it. One more kind human is never a bad thing, and thank you gorgeous friends for also being the kind of people we need in this world; open, honest, fun and fucking woke! You guys rock.

Anyone fancy joining my tribe? Send me a message. I’m always up for a coffee (alcohol) and chats about the universe.

Now, let’s go a little deeper.

Another artist I am so connected with at the moment is Nico Tortorella. My most recent post was about him.

I wanted to explore his methods more by interviewing myself in the style of his incredible podcast, The Love Bomb. I’m honestly obsessed guys. If his cute laugh and amazing poetry doesn’t do it for you I don’t know what will. So here it is:

What was your first experience of love?

Without a doubt the love of my family. Sometimes I feel like we have a bubble around us. I’ve never met a tighter familial unit than ours.

It probably started with moving to Australia. When I was 14, thanks to the incredible hard work and dreams of my parents, we packed up our lovely little home in York, England and flew across the world. We had never been to Australia before. Do you think that’s where my wild side comes from? I’d say definitely. Since I was a wee baba dad had been talking about moving to Australia, and with more of our friends doing it and his trade coming up on the wanted list, the timing was right. It took us two years and a lot of meticulous planning, documenting and typing. I remember getting an AIDS test at the tender age of 13. It’s no easy feat, moving to Aussie land. Immigrant and proud.

Flash forward to us all huddling around a store bought gas fire in a huge rental house that backed on to the golf course. We landed in July 2005. It was cold, even by our northerner standards. The houses here have high ceiling and tile floors. We swam in the pool with the golf balls by day, and put the oven on with the door open at night. We watched Home and Away. Finn died of skin cancer.

In the next six months we went from being a close family to a united front; a tiny clan. We needed each other. Dad tried new work, mum created a new home, Kelsie and I started new schools. Everything was foreign and terrifying. Friends were friends out of convenience, not connection. We were us. My Yorkshire/Geordie twang quickly reflected the Australian dialect around me through regular ridicule and a desire to be understood. Though, if you hear me talking to anyone from home now, it’s still my natural tounge. Aussie is pure acting  😉.

We met our best friends to this day when they moved in across the road. God bless my dad for being such a friendly soul. We moved in to a rental more suited to our needs and got a beautiful Rottweiler named Rio. My baby sister changed school and gained 110% happiness. I moved in to year 10 and met the girls who would heavily influence the woman I am today. Always, there was home. There was mum, dad and Kelsie. My family. La famiglia. The loves of my life. I don’t want to think about the person I would be without them, because they are everything; they always will be. Roots and wings.

Have you ever been in romantic love?

As I have gotten older I have questioned this more and more. My answer is no.

I don’t believe I have ever been in love with another human being in a balanced, true, mutual and romantic capacity. I think young love is an infatuation. Just because you are willing to do anything for someone doesn’t mean you love them; that’s just a giving nature. If you condition yourself in time to love things about someone that you have never liked or enjoyed before, that is loyalty. If someone tries to change you, put you down, control you or place negativity on you in any way, that is not love.

I have loved many, many people since then. I have spent an hour with strangers and fallen in love with their soul. Some people have the most intoxicating spirits. I love people who are passionate, kind and in tune with the world around them. I love people who give a shit. I love people who will have intellectual conversations with me about politics and space. I love people who will say kind things about other people when they aren’t there. I love people with compassion and empathy. I love people who love travel.

Romantic love is incredible, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The most important love to me is what I share with the people around me, and myself. I struggle with negativity; it’s like a poison that seeps in to the air and chokes the goodness out of a room. That’s why I want to surround myself with souls I connect with. It’s why I love to travel so much. I want an open mind and an open heart. As Nico says, I’m a student of the world.

So you identify as… I love everyone.

What is love?

To me, it’s when you look at someone and the world slows down. Everything else is irrelevant, because this person is here and they are spectacular. I love a lot of people. I think I understand love on a pretty deep level. I believe it’s unconditional. To love someone is to accept them exactly as they are, and enjoy any way in which they grow and change and be proud of them. Always be proud. You have to love someone as a complete being. That is why I completely and wholeheartedly believe that you cannot know real, deep and true love until you honestly love yourself. Beauty isn’t love. Admiration isn’t love. To me, love is when just feeling someone’s presence calms your entire body. If you can smile just knowing they are near, and feel a warmth in your chest when you know they are happy. Absorbing every moment together but appreciating the time apart, because it’s necessary to keep your sense of self strong. In essence, love is the complete appreciation of another human being, just as they are; wanting their happiness, sometimes above your own.

To my fellow Bohemians,

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Harleigh Q

Xoxo

Honey, that’s just the blues

I’d like to preface this one by stating: my family are my life. They are my best friends, they always will be and they know it, but for those who have gotten used to a life a few thousand miles away, coming home can be quite the challenge.

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A lot can happen when you move away or travel for an extended period of time. It’s not just post-holiday glumness when you return to your 9-5. You change. You have gone through a period of questioning every single thing about yourself and have met people who challenged you and taught you things. You had to create a new life, a new happiness. The nights spent alone become easy. Spending time with strangers teaches you how to sus people out quickly, and how to bond with new friends.

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The people you clicked with so well before start to glaze over when you tell stories from your time away. They’ll lose interest in what you learned and who you met. You think it’ll be easy to fall back in to what you had before, but it’s actually impossible. You aren’t the old you anymore.

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It’s my fault really. I’ve left part of myself with my Brisfam and for a while I’ll be living in the memories of what we created there; until we make some new ones here at least. Every day there was filled with new possibilities. I’m definitely going to try and recreate that here in Perth if I can, but it’s a very different mental space when you have the comfort of home and old friends. I don’t want to lose everything I gained during my forced independence.

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Ive always had my friends spread all over the place. I have people I consider among my best and closest from Brisbane to Melbourne to Wellington to England. I love people, I like spending time with them. I love stories and their tellers more than anything in the world. Most of all, I love people who share my passions.

I value every single one of my mates. They all bring something amazing and different to the table, but unless they’ve experience these kind of blues it can be so hard to explain the disconnect. You can still love people and feel like you don’t belong.

Maybe it’s because in the last year I have learned to love change. Something I used to fear has become my way of knowing I’m alive. I love living day by day not knowing who I’m going to meet or what’s going to happen. Routine has never been my bag. I just can’t wait to be on the road again.

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Perth will always be my home. It’s where I see myself settling down and starting a family. But right now, 24 years old and desperate for adventure, it’s just not where I see myself. I’d like to also note, I made this decision while still living in Brisbane. A few months ago in the throws of homesickness I made some rash statements about starting the rest of my life here, but when that became a reality I understood very quickly that that is a commitment I am absolutely not ready for. I know. I’m exhausting.

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Coffee?

I told you itchy feet would kick in! At the end of this year once the debts are cleared I’ll be relocating. I love Australia. I don’t know yet if it’ll be Brisbane or Melbourne, but I’ll be going. This is my chance, young and free with the greatest job in the world, to embrace every opportunity. I’m going to grab this bull by the horns.

I’m sure some will say, ‘in time you’ll settle in! You can’t make that decision yet. You’ll find happiness again in Perth.‘ I don’t doubt I will. Leaving will be difficult I’m sure! But my goal is to live as many places as I can, and become the strongest and most interesting person I can. I love what being away from home does to me. I like independent Leigh. I’m not tied down financially and I have a job with incredible flexibility (don’t get me wrong though, I work damn hard to prove I’m worth hanging on to!). I’m not about easy or the comfort of home just yet. I want stories.

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Just know I love all of you, regardless of whether I’m a drive or phone call away; but let’s enjoy this year first shall we? I just don’t want to drunkenly spill the beans one night, so here it is!

I am beyond lucky that my family are so incredibly supportive of my choices, and to be honest they probably enjoy the phone having a hang up button. Chatter-box in person does not! My drive probably stems from them making the mad move to London when they were young anyway. Now that’s bravery! But la famiglia e per sempre.

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This is just for me; some accountability, and a goal to keep me level.

xo

P.S. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re contemplating a big move: DO IT. People are wonderful, honestly. You just have to go in with the right mental space. Don’t go backwards. Don’t give up.  You can handle absolutely anything! I promise you that. I would know. Softest, most family oriented, broken and codependent 22 year old over here turned wild adventurer. Be whoever you want to be. Our days are numbered. Spend them happy.

A Love Letter to Brisbane

Dearest B

I never expected to fall in love this way. It happened so slowly, then one day the realisation hit me like a moving train. I love Brisbane.

At first I resisted your charms, dear city. I was very unsure and yearned for the familiar. I missed the sand between my toes, the wide open roads and commodores. Then one day I found myself in one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to (still my favourite local haunt) listening to music I love, surrounded by people who were clearly loving it just as much. They were dressed amazingly, dancing brilliantly and having the best time ever; so was I!

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You are bold and interesting, fun, vibrant, progressive. Everything a city should be. You’ve opened my eyes and my heart.

I landed here a broken girl and am leaving as a woman; stronger, wiser and wilder than ever.

I never could have imagined the complete makeover you would give me. I have had my ups and downs with you, don’t get me wrong, but I’m leaving a little piece of my heart here.

So much can happen in 7 months.

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I got to see a show by the great Baz, listen to countless numbers of incredible live bands, pop over to Sydney for work, road trip to Byron and Noosa, be a finalist in a pin up parade, master the art of frozen veggies and chicken, watch the world go by from my balcony…

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Jess and I have cemented ourselves as sisters. We may fight like cat and dog over dishes, but there’s no one I would rather have spent this time with.

People have come and gone in our stories. Some came along to make it better for a little while, others were just another lesson. It’s what being a young woman is all about! I look forward to meeting all the new people to come. I want hear their stories and create some new ones with them. Meeting people has to be my favourite thing in the world. They are amazing.

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We have two weeks left in our little home. I won’t miss fighting with the tourists to get in the lift, or the construction work at 8am on a Saturday, but that damn balcony has known so much. My little happy place. It’s heard hour long phone conversations with distant friends, tears over a glass of wine, dinner and debriefs, drinking games with new friends, early morning music sessions with Rock stars (I shit you not mate)…. It’s been a wild ride.

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This last weekend in particular will go down in the history books as one of the coolest fucking weekends of all time. Anyone who knows me knows my obsession with live music and passionate views on soul, funk and new wave. We reached peak Brisbane when we pulled a visiting Melbourne band. We aren’t groupies. We are Band Aids. The rest of that story can stay in my vivid memory. Just call me Penny Lane…

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So what does the rest of our year hold?

Well, after a two week rest in our beautiful little home of Perth (and a quick trip to Margs for my second pro stalk of the season) we will be jetting to America for 3 months of debauchery before coming back to business time. I plan on being a little money making gun in my new team, looking after my dear WA agents, smashing out the savings.

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Come October my little Ling Ling, Elana, and I will be partying in Thailand. I will finally be visiting the place that’s been top of my bucket list since I was 16: Maya Bay, Phi Phi Island.

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Come 2017… Who knows? Melbourne has been thrown around as an option… A rather delicious one for a live music junkie like myself. Maybe another big trip or another 6 month stint. Perth will always have my heart, but I’m going to live this life I have chocked full with every adventure I can create.

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So if anyone is ever keen for something cool to do… Hit me up guys. You know where to find me!

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Thank you Brissie for teaching me to be me, embracing my weirdness and teaching me what life is all about. The independence has been incredible. I think I’m just about ready to take on the world. Goodbye fragile little girl from a year ago! Same heart, bigger self worth. Why not? You’re going to spend the rest of your life taking care of other people, so right now, you just do you. Fiercely and unapologetically; and most definitely, don’t give a single thought to what others think. They don’t think about you as much as you think they do, and those who do love you regardless!

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I’m going to miss you B. Thanks for the memories. I’ll be back to make more, you can count on that.

Love always

Harleigh Q

xo