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A Saved Life With
An Uncertain Mind
A General Revelation:
My First 25 Years
Hello, I would like to immediately thank you for taking the time to read my autobiography (written in 2012, the year that I turned 25). Now, I fully understand some of the objections, queries, remarks or suggestions that you may have regarding my relative youth or purpose of such a document. I am only detailing the different paths I have wandered down, through and along throughout my short life that have led me to where I am today; as a Christian man searching for further understanding in the fractured Twenty-first Century.
Indeed, in my late teens and early 20s, although I had trusted and believed in Christ since I was a child, as well as the instructions for living a Christian life, provided in Ephesians 4:17-5:21, I was more than happy to live my life, my way. As such, I had to be awoken and redirected by God. So, as you will soon read, the phrase born again Christian is an expression that I can identify with in more than the spiritual sense. I pray that if some aspects of my journey sound like an echo back to yourself, that you too can kind find comfort in the truth and grace of Jesus Christ; irrespective of the unexpected drifts and turns our lives take.
Let us begin with my favourite passage of Scripture:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Have recently managed to turn a quarter of a century old, and upon this dating milestone, I have started to analyse and interpret how and why the events of my life have culminated in my current search for spiritual and personal vindication. When this writing finishes, it is by no means a job’s done, put the pen away biography of my life; I hope and pray that many more crucial things are yet to occur through and for me while I walk upon this Earth. To start a personal memoir of such gradient without giving much regard to the early, ‘non-compelling’ years of one's life, might indeed appear quite practical and concise. As we all know, history has a start and an end, regardless if such end has yet to come. As such, I shall briefly detail my early years including the information and events that have fundamentally determined whom I am today in this Twenty-First Century. The clearest place to start, funnily enough, is at the beginning.
My father, Hugh (or Tom) Tomlinson, has cut, built, sailed and wandered down many interesting paths in his life. He was born in England and moved across to Australia during his early youth. His father had been a member of the Royal Airforce during World War II and a policeman in Palestine. His mother has been a nurse for much of her life. They all moved to North Eastern Australia, and my Father and his younger sister grew up in North Queensland, and my father initially worked for a few years in the NQ forestry. Following this, he headed south and joined the central Queensland railways, then further south into the Gippsland forestry in Victoria before proceeding to join the Navy in Townsville when he was 22.
As he has served with the Australian Navy as a naval radio technician before and following my birth, my youth was spent moving, settling and then moving again in the typical military fashion. Both of my sisters were born in Darwin, one year apart; Rebekah in ’84 and Heidi in ‘85. I was born in the Exmouth District Hospital on the north-west coast of Western Australia on January 31, 1987. My family and I then moved Southeast, and I commenced my pre-school, kindergarten and my first year of schooling across the other side of the country at Macgregor Primary School in Canberra, ACT (Australian Capital Territory). My lasting memories of Canberra include our repeated visits to the National War Museum; my father’s huge shed below the house; regular camping at Caterpillar Flat with our winter snowmen and freezing river swims; as well as the long sections of boggy road into there after the rain. My first real hospital stay (post birth) occurred after I cracked my head open while running around the backyard, falling head-first off a sunken stone wall onto the concrete area of the rear shed entrance below the house (the design was a little bit of death trap for children). It’s curious how a bad injury and first scars tend to take some priority in one’s memory bank.
Following this time in Canberra, I continued my primary schooling years of two and three at Marrara Christian College while living at the Naval Base of HMAS (Her Majesty’s Australian Ship) Coonawarra in Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory; my first real exposure to Christianity in the fraternity sense. I don’t have an abundance of significant memories of life in Darwin. It does, of course, have some very nice camping and bushwalking areas, saltwater crocodiles, stingers in the ocean, torrential wet seasons, the risk of cyclones between November and April and the odd gang of wild buffalos wandering about outside of town.
After the completion of these two northern years, my dad was posted south-west to HMAS Stirling in Rockingham, Western Australia. In this new city, I was initially going to get enrolled at the East Waikiki Primary School, which was nearby our first rental property. However, after my parents spoke to some people at the nearby Church of Christ that we were attending, they were persuaded or instructed to change their minds. Had I continued my schooling there I’d most likely have a couple of children out of wedlock before I was eighteen and a less than a clean criminal record; the kinds of thing that tend to happen at the public schools in Rockingham. I studied my year four and five classes at Maranatha Christian College, the only private college in the growing seaside city. The school’s hall also functioned as a Baptist church for Sunday services, but my family and I continued going to the services at the Church of Christ in Warnbro, which is only a suburb or so south.
As Australian military posting protocols tend to stand, after two years in Rockingham my family was northbound again, but this time internationally to the Australian residential compound at Konedobu in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. This transition was a very exciting period the whole family. My sisters and I received our first passports (my parents already had there’s; dad being a Pom and mum having received hers to do some missionary work in India when she was younger). After we had been issued all of our necessary documents, we flew up to this ancient country.
Papua New Guinea is one of the least densely populated nations in the world. The majority of the native Papuan population live in traditional tribal societies and practice subsistence-based agriculture; only eighteen percent of the population live in the urban centres. Some of the Papuan tribes continue to have limited involvement with the outside world. Due to such cultural discrepancy, I quickly understood why the Australian Embassy, the High Commission and its associated residential compounds had extensive security measures. The entrance to the compound in Konedobu is fitted with a guard post, where the guards check the identity of any vehicle seeking entry. The compound has high, twelve or so foot walls, defended with razor wire, barbed wire and fed with electricity. Guards on shifts patrol the ‘guard-walk’ surrounding the compound with large Dobermans during the day and night; to the outsider, I’m sure it continues to bear the appearance of a fortress.
The many houses and units within this compound have bars on every window from every room on both floors. Within the multistoried, freestanding houses, an iron gate is present at the top of the main stairs. This added level of security tended to make me feel uneasy, as it is put in place to protect the sleeping residents from an intruding gang of assailants if they manage to break into the compound. These intruders would have had to get in through the gate, or scale over the walls, eliminate the guards and the dogs, remove the heavy security door to our house to get entry the lower lounge and dining story. Motion and touch sensors were located on the windows and in the major locations of the ground story; such as at the front entrance and over the stairway. All of this security was considered by the Australian High Commission as necessary because as white Australians on temporary Visas; we were a different and disruptive presence upon the ancient tribal way of life for the many indigenous cultures. Moreover, we had all the fancy Western things that the locals didn’t have, and in vast abundance.
The crime rate in Port Moresby is extreme. The capital of Port Moresby is a place where robberies, rapes, and murder rates are exceptionally high, thanks mainly to the ‘Raskol’ gangs. The mentality and operandum of these gangs are similar to those in ‘ghetto’ America, but the weaponry of the members, such as those from the 'Dirty Dons 585', consist of machetes and an assortment of handmade firearms. Although such gangs control areas of the ‘modern’ cities, as first world expatriates, Australians rarely see the dark side of this historically significant, but socially forgotten region. It is an ancient land with many interesting and unique tribes and cultures, each of which has inhabited and lived off this beautiful country for countless generations, with no need or desire for the western interruption of change.
Undertaking my years six and seven classes at the Port Moresby International School was a brilliant experience. Each class was full of different cultures, and it was a jubilant, dynamic and flourishing tropical faculty. In year seven I fell for a beautiful Filipino girl and had my first kiss with her. As my family received complimentary holidays each year, I bought her a necklace from a jewellery dealer while we were a couple of islands across in Singapore. I quickly learned that the love and tolerance of all peoples are gained without any apparent intention when one spends some significant time interacting with other cultures. Due to its abundance of various national dogmas, this is more apparent in Port Moresby. Indeed, there has been a resounding benefit for myself having experienced such a gift during my youth.
During the time I spent there, I loved how beautiful, creative and free Papua New Guinea appeared to me, granted that that was a view taken from a guarded, alarmed and wired shelter. But, as with the majority of military families who lived in our compound, I was to move back to Australia after the completion of two years. I do intend on returning one day after I complete university if only to walk the Kokoda Trail. My father finished the walk while we were there, but I was well too young. Looking back now, if I were to do any international mission work in the future, Papua New Guinea would be a pleasant place to start.
Upon my dad’s Naval posting back to HMAS Stirling in Rockingham and to the house which they have bought in Cooloongup, my sisters and I were re-enrolled at Maranatha Christian College for the remaining years of our sub-tertiary schooling. I have retained my class reports from year’s ten to twelve, and when flicking back through the pages, it is pleasing to see that I’ve consistently achieved above par results when studying English and the Social Studies classes throughout these years, particularly since my Arts major presently focuses on these genres. Each of my year twelve units has a comment from the respective tutor about the manner in which I performed. Reading the comment from my teacher for Christian Education has brought back a smile for me:
“God is clearly at work in Joseph as seen by a change in his approach to Christian education this semester. He has been far less influenced by his friends and has begun to think independently of them. With maturity, his high ethical character will be a significant influence on others around him.”
I’m surprised, and gladdened, that irrespective of all the experiences and different paths that I’ve been through, down and around, my general character has not changed a great deal since this time at school. In my year eleven report card, the comment by my Geography tutor, Greg Crombie, still pleases me;
“Joseph has excelled in all areas of the course this semester. He is an excellent student who seeks advice and applies it. Keep up the good work Joseph and be all that you can.”
Year twelve was my most successful year during all of my schoolings. I had often been awarded some prizes at the end of year ceremonies, mostly for athletics and English, but my achievements in year twelve I owe to my tutor for both history and geography, my former mentor and mate; Dr Greg Crombie. I managed to receive the Dux award, the Physical Education Award, the English Award, the Geography Award and the Caltex All Rounder Award awards at the end of year ceremony. I’ve never taken much interest in the classes of mathematics and the sciences, besides physics, but I’ve clearly maintained an enjoyment for the Arts subjects.
Skipping forward a little bit, on the 27th of September, 2008, Dr Crombie was struck my lightening at the Tad-Tone waterfalls, 640km north-east of Bangkok, Thailand. He was on a cultural exchange mission trip with some of the Christian students from Winthrop Baptist (the school he was working with following his employment at Maranatha). This ceremony was a sad tragedy for every person who had ever met him. Upon hearing this, I went to the funeral at the Winthrop College, and it was an inspired, moving and fitting tribute to such a great Christian man. I can still feasibly question God’s purpose for taking home one of his best at the spritely age of forty, but it was inspiring to witness the amount of people at his congregation, young and old, the auditorium was full.
At the end of year twelve, all of the students studying for a TER in my class were given a variety of university application forms and were then instructed to apply to some tertiary schools for a course that fit with our final class results. Because my TER score was sufficient to study Arts at any of the major universities in Western Australia, I applied to them all and was soon offered a place by each of them. Regardless of these tertiary offers, I was destined to join the Royal Australian Army. As early as five, I have pictures of me while I was living in Canberra, wearing a World War II Army helmet (lined with thick yellow packing foam by my dad so it would fit on my little head), wearing one of my dad’s green jackets and carrying a toy machine gun. Clearly, the War Museum, our Army Land Rover, camping in the wilderness and my family’s military history each had some serious influence.
I decided that because of my above average results and my role as a college prefect and sports captain, it would be fitting for me to apply for a place at the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Canberra, and become an Army Infantry Officer. My enlistment application for this position passed all of the hurdles up until the final one. I went to the Officer Selection Board while I was still seventeen, and although displaying the necessary officer attributes, such as having passed the cognitive, physical and medical testings, the board told me to wait a year or two and then reapply; this was never going to happen. I went home, jumped online and decided to join the Army as a regular soldier. Given my schooling and overall character, I could not have just enlisted as a general infantry rifleman; as this would have bored me after a few years and I doubt my parents would have encouraged it. In the event of this, I joined as a Heavy Vehicle Mechanic trainee. Success in this field of training would earn me a Certificate III in MECH- Heavy Vehicle Road Transport. My family had no issue with this decision; I’d been pulling stuff apart with my dad for years.
So, off I went. My first stop after enlistment was to the Army Recruit Training Centre (ARTC) at Blamey Barracks, ‘the home of the Soldier’, in Kapooka, New South Wales (a wee bit south-west of Wagga Wagga). I loved it. I disciplined enough from my militarised upbringing, Private School dressing, and diligence, my long term desire etcetera. I was a good sprinter while at school, and I was successfully awarded the trophy for the Kapooka 12s Male 100m Sprint in the sporting tournament between the best sportsmen from the three companies in 2006; I was from 11 Platoon Bravo Company.
The Army basic training was what I had expected, and because I enjoyed it, it wasn’t all that stressful. It was made up of all the standard recruit school training mechanisms: five-minute showers twice a day, physical training every day, drill training, weapons training, navigation, medical field training. Along with all this fun were the insinuations from the Platoon Section Commanders that allowing dust to rest on anything displays laziness; which of course was the kind of character flaw that will get you or the guy next to you killed on the front line. We’ve all seen this training culture in the movies and on television; it’s much the same in every modern army.
Following my proud and fruitful march out of ARTC, I was sent to Albury-Wodonga for my mechanic trade training at the Army Logistic Training Centre (ALTC) at Latchford Barracks in Bonegilla, Victoria. This training was an eighteen-month Certificate III course in Heavy Automotive mechanics, combined with some more advanced soldier training; the same warfare mannerisms we’ve not extensively used since Vietnam.
We spent many hours digging extended defensive trenches with just our ETs (Entrenching Tools); one of the typified Army tasks designed to make us all work together as individual Sections from the three Company Platoons in defence of a large position. While one Section was preparing their defensive site or doing a range of tactical field patrols or manoeuvres, the others would be vigilant at the platoon’s admin position with sentry’s ‘standing-to’ on constant alert for an enemy probe or assault.
These duties were put in place around the clock at hour intervals. We were only using blanks in our rifles, but these field operations were designed to be and feel very realistic. It was always a lot of fun to get out of the workshop, put on your pack and webbing, apply some cam cream and dress in your DPMs (disruptive pattern material/cams). Most importantly, it was the chance to carry a loaded rifle around all day instead of a filthy spanner or a torque wrench. I guess it reminded us all that our role in the Army was to be soldier’s first, tradesman second.
One day while I was doing my mechanic's training; I discovered that my engines and electrical tutor had started a small youth group at his home with some of the other trainees. I started going to this group and also attended a small Christian church; the Potter’s House in Albury. A couple of months before the end of my course, I had, for whatever circumstance, decided that it was time to be baptised in the name of the Lord. So, I got baptised. I had now officially become a member of the faith inscribed on my dog tags; alongside my name, rank, blood type, and personnel number were the acronym; OCR – Other Christian Religion. So, I was now an official Christian, meaning that I was saved lock-stock upon death.
One of the major advantages of training in Northern Victoria was the proximity of the three barracks’ (North Bandiana, South Bandiana, and Latchford Barracks) to the Victorian snowfields. I first headed up to Falls Creek (Victoria’s largest alpine resort) with my Army mates during our first winter over there, and we all got a serious affection for the atmosphere and thrill of snowboarding. Two of our Company’s Platoon commanders were avid snowboarders and were very keen to make it a platoon thing and the first of my trips up there went well under their leadership. A lot of the boys had never previously been in or around snow; we had a good number of Western Australians, Queenslanders and South Australians in the Wing.
While I was in Queenstown, New Zealand in the summer with my elder sisters at the end of the first year of my training, I bought a snowboard and all the associated gear. The next year I went back up to Falls Creek with all my kit; primarily because rental prices for snowboarding are pretty high anywhere in the world…apparently, we have a habit of breaking stuff. I’ve only glimmers of the memory of driving my 1972 Holden V8 Ute up the beautiful mountain roads for my second winter in Victoria while at Latchford Barracks, but I expect she handled it quite well.
I had bought this Holden HQ one tonne Ute from a guy in Wodonga for $3500; this was an absolute bargain considering today’s prices. I went to his bank and paid for it with my ADCU (Australian Defence Credit Union) Visa. Upon getting it back to base, I quickly discovered that there was a reason it was so cheap for its age, make and model. Although she fired and handled relatively well; the roadworthy certificate I received after taking her to the pits listed seven particular defects, nothing too significant besides the left lower ball joint and idler arm. Sure, the horn button was dangling around on its wire, the hand break was only at 71%, and there was no number plate light, but hey, not bad for three and a half thousand dollars!
I still wasn’t licensed upon the point of this purchase, so I just practised my skills by driving around the large barracks grounds and a short distance outside of the base around to the Hume Weir; we used to climb and jump off the dam wall into the river below. Given the drop in the river water levels attributed to the recent drought conditions, you’d break both legs and probably your spine if you do that today. The barracks is more-or-less thirteen kilometres to the east of Wodonga, so there was little chance of being caught driving without a license or performing other vehicular violations by the VIC or NSW Police.
When I bought the HQ, she was a metallic blue-green in colour with an airbrushed orange, blue, purple and silver lion head with a flaming mane in profile on each door. I bolted a large checker-plate tool chest on the back and added some checker guards. I got rid of the stock exhaust system and replaced them with a set of three-inch pipes from the manifold to the tail. As is most V8 enthusiast’s opinion; stock exhaust pipes are a serious strike of cruelty to an engine who just wants to breathe freely and spit its flame. A couple of guys from the other two platoons of the Vehicle Technology Wing (VTW) had Holden Utes of a similar era as mine, and they helped me get mine road worthy for its registration. As they are just large country towns, Albury and Wodonga have a lot of vehicle wrecking and disposal yards in which one can easily get cheap parts, especially for old Holden Utes.
After getting her certified, I increased the engine's power significantly by extensively reboring the cylinder blocks. My little one tonne Ute would now have made me suitably proud at the annual Deniliquin Ute Muster, although today she would have been illegal on most Australian roads given the newly imposed power to weight restrictions (kilowatts to a metric tonne). This thing would have now roared exactly as the flaming lions on the doors promoted. Upon bolting the engine back in, I had managed to get my license, which wasn’t all that hard to get in Wodonga. I quickly decided that I needed to give my Ute a sufficient test run before driving her to my future consolidation training at the 3rd Battalion, stationed at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, 1,870 kilometres by road to the north. This training was to start a few weeks later. I had one unit of my certificate left to complete, and I was eager to have all of the boxes relating to my Ute ticked before moving to this new seaside location.
In choosing the route for this test drive, I would have elected, or been advised, to drive a short distance west to Wangaratta and then head sou-southeast to the town of Bairnsdale at the end of the remote three hundred-odd kilometres Great Alpine Road. After Wangaratta, this road passes through four towns of reasonable size and significance: Myrtleford, Bright, Omeo, and Bruthen. There were also enough truck stops and the like to have given me assurance and assistance if my old Ute was to get sick along the way. The Great Alpine Road does, as its name suggests, meander through mountainous National Parks practically the entire way. I must have looked on a map, or talked to some of my mates and Platoon staff and seen that this track would offer a variety of undulating terrain conditions for my refurbished engine and drive train to work through. Quite conveniently, I set out at the end of winter, so the exterior air temperature was not going be an issue.
After setting out on this expedition, I would have arrived in Bairnsdale some five hours after leaving from Bonegilla, provided I wasn’t testing out the new and improved engine’s capability; acceleration or top speed too regularly. Upon arriving in Bairnsdale, I would have most likely hired a campsite at a nearby caravan park, as this would have been cheap and convenient. I would have just driven onto the lawn and unrolled my mattress and sleeping bag across the Ute’s tray. One of the best things about one tonne Utes without an enclosed tray is that you’ve got a flatbed behind your cab if you get weary anywhere you drive.
The next morning on the 24th of September 2006, I started my trip back to base. According to the records that I have, as I was driving north on the Omeo Highway near Sarsfield, I overtook a semi-trailer around a long, sweeping blind bend. My swift calculations that a vehicle would not be in the oncoming lane were incorrect. Imagine you were in my position; I had just started overtaking a semi trailer around a bend with limited to nil vision. A grey, Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon suddenly appears in the lane which I had chosen to intrude. I couldn’t go left; there was a truck there. I couldn’t go right; forested mountainside there. The only possible result was a high-speed collision with the oncoming vehicle.
According to the Damage Assessment Sheets from AAMI Insurance, I did indeed cause quite a bit of damage; some $25,000 worth. I was uninsured, but for whatever reason, I only had to refund $11,355. I can probably thank my lawyer Uncle for that. I am very lucky, regarding legalities, that I hit a 4X4, not a lighter vehicle. His roo bar, air bags and so on kept the driver and his young son free from any real injury during our high speed, Alpine collision. This factor was very likely to have helped keep the police off my case; besides automatically taking my license I wasn’t charged with any offence. I haven’t thought about getting into contact with the outer driver, but I hope and pray that the 8-year-old lad in the passenger seat didn’t suffer any lasting emotional or psychological problems in regards to his future driving as a result of the horrific sights of me tangled in my mangled old Ute. But, at this time they were physically okay; even though I wrote their car off. I, however, didn’t come off very well at all.
Here’s the thing; the 1972 Holden, one tonne Ute, was designed before any significant vehicle safety regulations had been written into the Australian vehicle manufacturing processes. Safety items such as such as smash proof glass, ABS brakes, air bags, and multipart, collapsible chassis were yet to be conceived. My Ute was a good looking and rather swift crowbar. As I was overtaking a semi trailer around a corner, it is highly likely that my vision would have been obstructed for much of the turn (very Evel Knievel). I would have hastily considered that the odds of a vehicle being in the oncoming lane of this rural stretch of road would have been unlikely, particularly given the failing weather conditions. Remember; I was a young and inexperienced probationary driver in a V8 Ute with a pretty high power to weight ratio. Not a great combination for an inexperienced driver. As it happens, on January 1, 2010, the licensing rules for probationary drivers were amended; perhaps five years too late?
Upon impact, the driver of the other vehicle called the police and the paramedics so they could cut me out as that is not the sort of thing one is usually equipped to do themselves on a typical Sunday afternoon. It took them a couple of hours to get up to the scene and then open the mangled can I had put myself in. According to local Victorian police, it was a very tricky situation and location for the emergency personnel to safely access, particularly when considering the declining weather conditions. Fortunately, the helicopter made it across and safely landed on the road. Once cut out of my car, I was given a laryngoscope to facilitate tracheal intubation down my larynx during general anaesthesia to allow me to breathe. After getting stabilised, I was lifted away by the helicopter paramedics and flown about 250 kilometres westerly to the Alfred Emergency Hospital in Melbourne through the fittingly rough weather conditions.
At the Alfred Hospital, the surgeons noted my many critical injuries and gave the Army the news that, in their professional opinions, I had a 98% probability of death. My crash marked the third serious road accident of a Vehicle Mechanic trainee from my Company that year. We had lost an excellent Lance Corporal after he drove his car into a telegraph pole while intoxicated and another from driving off the road while he was driving home drunk…rule of threes, though I was sober as a bird.
After a quick review by the doctors at the Alfred Hospital, I was X-rayed to ascertain that I had; three fractures to my skull, a fractured nose, two broken ribs which had managed to penetrate and puncture my left lung and a minor fracture to my L1 vertebra at the base of my spine. I was put into surgery and got all my slashes and cracks sewn up or stapled closed. This degree of injury is precisely the reason not to touch a road accident victim without the necessary crew, equipment, and experience. I was very fortunate that the man I hit had the sense to let me be and call in the professionals.
Given my critical state, I was induced into a coma to allow my physical wounds, brain haemorrhages and pressures to stabilise. All of my other fractures were insignificant in comparison to the swelling of my brain following the sudden impact, skull cracks and the resultant effects which are very similar to that characterised with shaking baby syndrome. The ICU doctors told my parents who had immediately flown over that my injuries were a 10/10; I was expected to die during that first night, “expect the worst, hope for the best”. On a side note; the surgeon my parents met that evening was wearing a bowtie; that’s how the pros work. My dad prayed by my bedside for a miracle with the Army chaplain from my barracks who was opportunely in town as he has family in Melbourne. My sisters left at the end of the first week and CT scans showed that I had many small bleeds across my brain.
On the 9th of October 2006, I was brought out of the coma after two failed attempts earlier that week. I woke with the overall physical and cognitive status of a six foot two, very skinny infant. My temperatures were still high, and I was not responding consistently to neural observations such as pain response, normal pupil dilation, use of intelligible speech, limb power and reflexes. In God’s grace, I have absolutely no memory of this early period.
During week 4 (16-22 Oct. 2006) of my treatment, I was able to communicate by squeezing hands and rolling my eyes. Bek and Heidi were excited after experiencing “the worst time of their lives”. I could identify people and pets in photographs; I recognised my sisters and Flight Lieutenant Dudderige; one of my VTW Officers and I was able to wave goodbye.
During week 5 (23-29 Oct. 06), after making it through the first traumatic and intensive care stage at the Alfred Hospital, I was transferred to the rehabilitation ward at the private Epworth Rehabilitation Hospital in Richmond. I started the week more alert, but I needed a stomach peg ( Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) as I wasn’t able to take food orally. Soon after the tube was put into my stomach, I had gotten ill and was diagnosed with Pneumonia. In the words of my father; “Very low on Friday; nearly croaked again. Apparently, his life was saved by Bek and Heidi who were present when his breathing tube clogged”. One of the advantages of having two elder sisters that are qualified nurses!
At this time I was put in a locked and padded room on a tilt bed to keep my systems operating and prohibit me from any form of harm or from getting up and wandering around. This latter point was exampled soon after my stay there. One of the patients climbed out of his Craig bed (a unit composed of a foam mattress and four padded walls that connect to form a safe, padded cubicle), exited the rehab ward, went down the lift and wandered south from Richmond to St Kilda. I’m not sure that there’s anything worse than seeing a tall, heavily bandaged and tubed lad, out and about in his pyjamas and diaper on a Melbourne street.
As has been recorded on a family DVD recorder, I was now able to read and respond to simple commands when they had been written on a whiteboard. Both of my arms were becoming stronger but my temperatures were still a problem, and I still got exhausted.
During Week 6 (30 Oct-5 Nov. 06) my tracheotomy (breathing tube through my throat) was removed, and I was able to speak in a slurred state. My memory from greater than a year was almost unimpaired; however, my short term was sporadic at best. I was now able to answer questions, and my first words were “I feel awful.” My father wrote in his journal that I often seemed uncomfortable and agitated. He was praying to hear me speak in a normal fashion.
By the end of the 7th week (6-12 Nov. 06) I was eating a lot by mouth. My manner of conversation was mostly unintelligible besides; “yes, no, Bek, Mum” etc. I had a ~20-minute memory span. On one occasion, I was being questioned by my family members with a video camera. When I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, I thought carefully and said “a car” as well as “to get better”. When asked whether I knew that I had had an accident, my response was “yes.” I was then asked: “what kind of accident?”, I wasn’t entirely sure, but answered with; “a helicopter?” Now, as I was shepherded to the hospital in a chopper, this may appear to be an accurate enough answer. However, as my short term memory was erased, there is nil chance I could have remembered flying to the hospital while I was under anaesthesia and intubated. The general anaesthesia drugs paralyse the muscles of the body, including the diaphragm, which makes it impossible to take a breath without a ventilator or intubation.
During my stay in the hospital, my dad wrote that I was often bored and showed some scepticism when told that my legs would get better as I still had no sensation or motor function. I laughed for the first time during Week 8 (13-19 Nov. 06), and my speech was becoming more intelligible, but I was still confused and couldn’t hold a conversation; I also thought that I was in Perth.
By week 9 (20-26 Nov. 06) I had also forgotten that I was in the Army and was confident that I was at school. What is interesting is that I could recite my seven digit PMkeyS (Personnel Management Key Solutions) number when asked, but then seemed rather confused. My father writes “When asked why he was in hospital by the Psyche, he said because he was pregnant. Not good Joe.”
During week 10 (27 Nov-03 Dec. 06) I was nearly passing out due to low blood pressure. I had started having morning meetings with another patient and played some UNO. I had some difficulty opening a plastic container at dinner time but used the French term “Voila!” when I succeeded. I briefly read the National Geographic magazine my dad had brought, but I made the same mistake in the same paragraph three times. I was progressing some days, but digressing on others. I had started watching the cricket on television and made some valid comments, but quickly lost interest. I began to get some Psyche questions right, and the Psyche was happy with my progress. All of my pain had passed by this week, and I noticed my left broken fore-tooth for the first time in the mirror.
Week 11 (04-10 Dec. 06) was a good week. I was now able to explain my accident with greater accuracy. My dad reported I was genuinely distressed at losing my car and the pain that I had caused my family. I had remarked, “I loved that car”. After speaking with the Psyche for half an hour, I assisted my dad with a crossword puzzle, and I was “quite surprisingly good.”
I showed no enthusiasm for anything external of the hospital; I was too busy with physio relearning how to sit and stand. By this time, I was able to eat unassisted; I was fairly sure it was the year 2006, and I could get my age and birthday correct. I could sometimes get my location right, and I started walking again for 10m lengths. I took a keen interest in reading the get-well cards from my Army mates, but each day I saw them as new again. My speech was still about 90% confused. In week 12 (11-17 Dec. 06), Dad had to leave. I was now convinced that I could get out of bed and walk around. I was soon found lying on the floor. I started being able to fool strangers as I was “still talking fantasy but very convincing.”
My physio routines had become more intensive by week 13 (18-24 Dec). I could now talk well on the phone, and my speech was assessed to be at 40%.
By week 14 (25-31 Dec. 06) I was becoming more aware of what had happened and why I was in my situation, but my short-term memory was still penniless. I had become a bit gloomy with my condition at times by week 15 (1-7 Jan).
I was officially out of my PTA period (Post Traumatic Amnesia) of about three months on the 9th of Jan of week 16 (8-14 Jan. 07). My sisters had put a lot of photos on my room’s whiteboard to encourage and stimulate my memory about who I was and what I was doing in the ‘real world’. I am very grateful and thank God for the time they spent helping out their dumb little brother. I managed to score 12/12 on my Psyche tests three days in a row.
My short-term memory was improving by week 17 (15-21 Jan. 07). I started showing a lot more enthusiasm for things, I was a lot more reflective, I didn’t laugh as often, and I often spoke about the accident.
My cracked, upper-left-central-incisor was repaired during week 18 (22-28 Jan. 07), and I could now hold better conversations. I continued to ask the same questions regarding my accident, but I started to prefix them with “I’ve probably asked you this before…”
During week 19 (19 Jan-4 Feb. 07) I stopped asking questions relating to the accident and now talked about recent events. On my 20th birthday, I went to the Melbourne Zoo with my Grandmother and sisters. My Grandmother hadn’t seen me in the past 12 months before the accident; she told my father that she could see no evidence of mental impairment. She said that I thoroughly enjoyed the zoo and she saw no fatigue. Doctors mentioned that the Army was considering medical discharge and would review me on 14 Feb. Given my progress, this was quite discouraging for me. During week 20 (5-11 Feb. 07) I was now very concerned about my military future.
After a visit from an Army doctor in week 21 (12-18 Feb. 07), she had expected to commence discharge proceedings but was amazed at my progress. The Epworth staff told her that my recovery had astounded them and the Army Doctor tried to get a further extension. As it was still likely that I was going to be discharged, the Epworth staff started to investigate funding from the TAC (Transport Accident Commission); this was a relief. It had cost the Army $800-1,000 a day for me to be accommodated and treated in the rehabilitation ward at Epworth Private Healthcare alone.
As part of her training to be a nursing officer for the Navy, my eldest sister, Rebekah, worked at the Epworth Hospital, though not on my ward. When I was allowed to leave the hospital during this time for short periods, both of my elder sisters would take me to some of Melbourne’s other enjoyable and relaxing places like the botanical gardens and Underwater World. I was still in an electric wheelchair for quite a while-while I was learning to walk again, as using a conventional wheelchair would have increased the tone in my upper arms too much. As such, my family never had to push me around during my recovery and our expeditions, I’m very grateful for that.
Meal times at Epworth were in either a communal eating area where each patient would sit down, or roll in and receive their particular meal as specified by their doctors or dieticians. Many patients ate alone in their room during the early stages of their recovery in consideration for an individual’s willingness, ability, and safety for social interaction. There were groups organised for the more able patients to get out of the hospital to do something fun, or to go to a restaurant for some different food. I expect that the repetitive hospital food drags most patients down during their lengthy rehabilitations. As far as I was concerned, military food, even ration packs were and most likely still are, more satisfying. My hospital days were typically and gratefully very full. Each week, my days were filled with the excitement (no pun intended) of a variety of rehab periods, such as; occupational therapy, speech therapy, neuropsychology, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, circuit group and running group. All of these therapies took place at different stages for approximately eighteen months in total.
When I was nearly ready to enter the real world, I was transferred to the Transitional Living Centre (TLC) in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury just seven kilometres north of the central business district. This place was, as its name suggests, designed to teach patients how to live independently in a household environment outside of the hospital and other critical care facilities. A small group of very supportive Occupational Therapists was there to teach us how to cook, clean, shop, do laundry, budget our money, catch public transport and all of the other general household and life duties; this has been useful for me, particularly the cooking part. While in the Army we lived mostly out of the barracks mess hall, out of the tavern below it, out of the bars in the town or out of ration packs while on our field exercises. Cooking for oneself (in the traditional sense) had never been necessary; suddenly it was.
While I was at the TLC, I was fortune enough to be able to go back up to Albury and to the WWTS (Weapons Training Simulation Systems) at Latchford Barracks to fire the training F88 Steyr (a simulation rifle that shoots at moving targets on a massive screen). It has all the same kick and rifle tendencies, besides the great smell of burnt gun powder. So, I went up to the barracks, got out of my wheelchair, laid down and shot a passing mark for the test. I managed to out-shoot my platoon commander who was there with me. I guess he lost purposely, but who knows?
I was still technically in the Army throughout my hospital stay which was very unusual. If a soldier attains a serious injury, it takes only three weeks out of service for a recruit, or member under initial training, to get terminated. This long extension kept my head in the game and my gradual recovery on point. All I wanted in life was to be back at work, to swing spanners with the boys, get filthy in the field and to have my Ute back. My Platoon Sergeant had managed to organise for me to go on the yearly field exercise, Broad Horizons, with the regiment for a couple of days. I was only a spectator, but I assume that my Epworth doctor and medical staff knew how much good just being around a military environment again would do for me psychologically.
When I think critically about the Army’s intention for inviting me to take some part in this training exercise, they wanted to see how I would handle it, both physically and mentally, given my rather critical range of injuries and associated medical category of five (one is fully fit, six is dead). The only thing I struggled with on this little trip was getting out of the Bushmaster (an armed, armoured and bulky off-road troop carrying vehicle). My balance will never be perfect (something to do with damage to the labyrinth; a maze-like structure in the inner ear), and that fact was evident by the more than slight stumble I had after jumping out; my Sergeant had seen this and would have taken note. Some of the guys I had been doing training with were still completing their course requirements, so it was nice to see a few familiar faces around me. This exercise further stimulated in me the desire and motivation to get back to my previous lifestyle and as previously highlighted; this was one of the purposes of it.
On one afternoon back in Thornbury, an Air Force Sergeant whom I knew working with the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) training group at VTW came down to my TLC flat to drop off all the stuff I had in my barracks room. Included in this collection were some of the items that I had in my Ute that were able to be salvaged, including my checker-plate tool chest. I bolted this good looking tool chest onto the Ute’s tray and up against the cab, underneath the back window; essentially keeping it pretty secure. It was nice to suddenly have half a dozen boxes of miscellaneous items to rifle through.
Later down the track, the Wing Commander of VTW came down to tell me in person that regardless of my miraculous recovery and the time of administrable delay, I was to be medically discharged. I knew this day would eventually turn up, so I wasn’t exactly on the floor rolled up in the foetal position wriggling and wailing like a baby. I’m just so grateful they gave me some eighteen months’ respite before issuing me with what was always going to happen. As said, this process usually takes only a few weeks, and I’d read about the SOPs (standard operating procedures) throughout many of the military documents relating to my medical category. Following the resultant injuries from my accident, I was considered to be of the worst medical classification:
“Member is permanently medically not deployable or employable for current trade/employment category, but may be fit for another ECN [Employment Category Number].”
A little while after this, I was in my TLC unit one afternoon, and I received a text message from one of my old school mates from Maranatha. He told me that he had flown over to America to see a girl he had met online and they had fallen in ‘love’. He asked me if I’d be his best man as he intended to marry this girl, I said that I would.
After showing that I was sufficiently capable of leaving the TLC, I started looking for a Melbourne rental residence. It was, however, the wrong time of year in a very busy area for an ex-soldier in a city with no previous rental history. In the end, I put all my gear in storage and bunked in with my sisters at their Navy funded flat in the middle of Melbourne. While here for a week or so, I found a Hotel in the paper’s lease section that offered long term stays for a relatively reasonable price. I was being paid by both an Army pension and an equivalent wage by the TAC (Transport Accident Commission) at this point and this equated to about a thousand dollars a week. So, I moved into the Rydges five star Resort in Preston for three months. I had the serenity and the freedom to relax and think my future over while I was there.
As previously highlighted with my collection of school reports, I have always kept a black folder with all my certificates, and other achievements and documents for safe keepings. While I was flicking through the pages, I came across my university offer sheet. I had a scan through this and saw that the offer was still valid for five years. Soon after this discovery, I went to the ADF office in the city on one morning to pick up my discharge papers; my course completion papers and all of the other documents the Army had collated about me. In addition to this, I had received a notice from the Army in regards to my final, discharge removal and relocation. I could either stay where I was or go back to my original place of residence upon my enlistment, Rockingham. Pause and think.
I had been looking around Melbourne for places where I could either finish my course or where I could work as a garage hand, changing tyres and mopping the floors. The Army has given me accreditation for all of my coursework; I only have a year of on-the-job training to compete to get my civilian course equivalency. Going from a full-time Army lifestyle to nothing in a neutral context, but on double the wage, was a confusing mind trip, believe me.
I was on a tram one day, probably coming back from the gym and I received a message from my friend who I was going to best man for in Rockingham. In this letter, he told me that he and his partner had split up because she had slept with one of his housemates and a couple of other guys while he was away working to the north. As such, he’d lost his beautiful future wife, one of his housemates and, as he was only an apprentice electrician, rent was tight. I told him about the position that I was in, and he asked if I would move back west and live at the place he was renting.
Back at the hotel I sat in the chair at the room’s desk and did some more critical pondering. I drew up a pros and cons list and flipped a coin. So, I now had a house to go to, a likely new life as a university student on the cards and had attained it seemed, a peculiarly rare sense of clarity for my next path. I reached over to the Army’s final transit forms, filled in the blanks and signed all the boxes. The next day I made all necessary calls and flew back to Western Australia in quick time. The Army is good like that. This move pleased my parents quite a lot.
Due to their employment categorisations and commitments, particularly my father’s, they were only able to see me for short periods during my lengthy medical incarceration and rehabilitation and a brief time over the respective Christmas holidays.
I had organised all of my belongings to be delivered directly to my new place of residence so that when I got back west, I was only living out of my suitcase for a short time. Before my gear arrived, I had the time to purchase all the necessary bedroom furniture which I was supplied with by the Army and at the hospital. I bought my first queen size bed, a chest of drawers, a great study desk with a big timber chair. I had already bought a nice TV unit from a department store in Melbourne, so I had to ensure that all the wooden furniture that I was to buy was of the same or a very similar breed. I guess that I’ve developed this mentality from both my love of furniture and design and my wearing of uniforms throughout my youth and early adult life.
Soon after I had settled into this new branch of accommodation, I replied to the Bachelor of Arts degree offer from UWA (the University of Western Australia). Within a fortnight, I received the acceptance letter with my enrolment date. I didn’t do a great of planning as to what units I was going to choose for my first year, so I left it to chance and what looked good out of the many Arts choices. I managed to pick a combination of units from the Earth and Environmental Sciences, Classics and Ancient History and Archaeology. These groups appeared to align with the subjects that I had done well with during my schooling. It was a bit of a gamble, but my first year passed quite satisfactorily given my amount of time out of school and permanent cognitive ailments.
The next brief episode occurring during the early stages of this particular chapter is indeed rather interesting, and I was about to step back into the realms of neuropsychology. While I was living in the two rentals with my high school mate; his family owned the second of the two places that we shared. As such, I was living with him, his parents and his younger sister up until his mother and father, who was a Baptist pastor, moved somewhere in the Eastern States later in that year.
Now, during early May, his younger sister had her 21st birthday party at the house. I was busy minding my own business in my room when; the handle turns and in walks a girl, dressed in the typical Sixteenth-Century, dark Gothic way (Google it). It appears that she had figured, or assumed, that it was all right to walk through my door, without a knock or a word, and have a look at all the old books, swords, music and other items I’ve collected. While she was gazing over my Nazi German Calvary sword from WWII, she asked if I wanted to attend her birthday party at ‘Sin Nightclub’ in the city that next week. I’ve never been the kind of lad who’d say “no” to this kind of random invitation, from a person whom I had just met, so I said that I would. She gave the address and told me to dress in black, though not in the Johnny Cash style.
I dressed in whatever black clothing I had in my drawers, jumped on the train north and wandered across to the nightclub which was at the quiet and dark eastern end of Murray Street. I showed my ID to the grim looking bouncer and walked into the club through the old high arch. The atmosphere immediately felt rather medieval.
Once inside, when I gazed down the stairs at the dance floor, I could see, and smell the fumes of musky smoke, pierced by dark coloured lights and a lot of slow-moving, dark, figures. The music was good. It wasn’t the typical rubbish played at most trendy nightclubs; these Gothic tracks sounded as old as the culture itself. I went down the wide spiralled stairs and came across the birthday girl dressed in a much darker fashion sense than the time before. It could have been whatever was causing the smoke, but I immediately felt rather comfortable in this environment. Party girls and jocks define most nightclubs in our popular culture, but this place immediately felt different. There was a sense of union and equity, a sense that we were inside our gates in our separate world and everyone else was out there. It was a clear sense of personal definition, something I once had as a soldier but had then lost.
Over the next year or so I became more involved in this forbidden environment. I admit that it was rather enjoyable and exciting; as I’ve noted, it was indeed a marginally similar atmosphere to that I had felt like a soldier. When you get on a train for fifty kilometres wearing a multi-zippered, six-foot trench coat, baggy black pants covered in chains and knee high black boots; you often have a train carriage to yourself. People tend to fear and avoid what they do not understand. Before it changed its name, Sin Nightclub was one of the oldest clubs in the city. In its history, there was almost no incidence of crime by its patrons within its doors. The reality is that in the twenty-first century, to be a Goth is just to be a member of a particular music culture. Sure, the music is often of the R 18+ variety, speaking a lot about the paranormal, supernatural and darker sides of life, but it’s neither a violent or entirely evil way of life. Indeed, dark things just look scary, and scary things bring fear; no one likes fear.
A few times during the train trip up to the club I had some conversations with different individuals about why I was doing ‘the Goth thing’. I told them excerpts from earlier in this chronicle, and most of them didn’t judge me but did outline that being a Gothic Christian was somewhat of a contradiction. I ignored these truths up until one morning in my city apartment.
I had always started feeling a dark weight or shadow over me since I started becoming involved in the Goth scene. I ignored this and just said that I was just having a bit of fun, I didn’t practice ‘the dark arts’, I was all right. I convinced myself that God understood what I was doing; I was just examining how the secluded and misunderstood cult personalities behaved… Don’t worry; I know how foolish that sounds yet I had fooled myself; it was never just a costume.
When I woke up on that mentioned morning, I felt the pressing urge to grab all the dark Gothic stuff I had accumulated, tear it all up and discard it throughout some the block’s garbage bins. So, I did. I would have liked to have burnt it all, but the council bins in Australia are plastic…so that would not have been a splendid idea. This ceremony of dispossession brought me an immediate sense of relief. I could have sold all the rather expensive European and Californian made garments, jewellery signed with pentagrams and the like on eBay and made some of what I had spent back, but I considered that the transfer of what I felt to be sinful to others was as bad as retaining it for myself.
After getting out of this dark genre, I started going to bible studies and other church-affiliated groupings from the Unichurch. I allowed God to show me that spending time with ‘normal’ people can be just as fun, however far more fulfilling, than with the seemingly lost individuals in a below ground club, drinking spirits that had enough ethanol in them to start a small engine. Additionally, the blue flame upon lighting a shot of absinthe is not a great sign, especially when doctors provided me with many a warning concerning the effects of drinking alcohol on my body and mind after my serious injury.
Given my young age, my previous lifestyle and my desire to be one of these people I had felt comfortable around, I took these risks and warnings with a grain of salt. When I look back, I can see that God was giving me the freedom and patience which I had both needed and desired to explore this strange new society. He had snapped me out of the trance when He had determined that I had had enough; He is our grace-filled Father after all.
Now, I apologise that this autobiography is written in a less than entirely sequential fashion, but I’ve seldom held onto the same path or lifestyle for a significant amount of time since getting out of the hospital. My early years at university were run in a distinctly bipolar way. I was a typical student during my class days, but I was a rather lost and much darker individual during the weekends. Regardless of this, life studying at University was my new constant.
In the event of disclosing to the University the full degree of my medical history and overlying status, the university granted me certain liberties such as an individual exam room by myself, with some extra time per hour. I still find it rather curious, though very admirable, that a prestigious university would grant these academic liberties to students with medical deficiencies. University is considered by the common populace to be for the elite and brightest individuals in regards to academic ability, not for a cognitive impaired man with an Army medical discharge on his resume.
My grades continued to improve throughout my second year, and one morning during my third; while I was just passing the time between periods; I had a look at one of the notice boards in the Campus Arts area, and I came across an advertisement for the UWA CU (Christian Union). I logged the meeting place and time into my phone as I was curious and interested to see the accuracy and manner in which this kind of student union would operate. I went along to the meeting, and I was quite impressed and inspired to see how many young faces of many different colours and creeds filled the lecture theatre with its bright and calming aura; Christ was clearly with each of them. Just like that time at Mr Crombie’s funeral.
After all the announcements and focus talks, I picked up a broacher to the CU’s MYC (Mid-Year Conference) which was concentrating on the power ascertaining to the Cross of Christ. In addition to this, as I was living close-by in East Perth, I started riding to the Sunday services at the Nedlands St. Matthews Unichurch where I volunteered to help with the set up for my first few weeks.
The MYC camp resuscitated my mind and spirit. All the Christian Unions from each of the five universities of Western Australian had gathered there. As such, there were a good number of students. We were all assigned into specific groups each with different trains of perspective. My most defining moment was the final night at the end of week-long camp; while I was just walking around the campsite talking with Christ by myself. As I look back, this was probably the first time that I had taken a chance to speak to Him directly, and I felt His presence close to me. That calm feeling and knowledge made me smile, and it continues to today.
The camp’s theme, as I’ve mentioned, was the significance and power of Christ’s death and what it does and should always mean for every Christian person. It was a very new way to teach and comprehend what it is to be a follower of Christ. Throughout my Christian schooling, the religious topics tended to rely too much on history and didn’t speak much about what we are to do in this new world. We must not wholly avoid the dark realities prevalent in our lives and hide behind the defining power, mercy, and light of His word alone. As the flaws in my life have brought me ever closer to God, I regret nothing.
The camp’s messages did of course focus on the reason and necessity to live in a Christ-like manner but didn’t go much further. I believe that as I was a student at a Christian school, many of the academic fraternity, including myself, felt saved through association alone (just like the OCR on my Army tags). By the end of this camp, I knew that I needed more. The Lord was back on my mind and in my heart; the many questions relating to the different paths in my life were pushing me towards Him. I immediately signed up for the proceeding National Training Event (NTE) by AFES (Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students) and the Bus Trip to Sydney and Canberra at the end of that year.
As the name suggests, this next event was to get all of the nation’s University Christian Unions together as one body. Thousands of young and intelligent pilgrims, who were all seeking the message as to what it meant to be not just ‘Of Christ’, but to be ‘In Christ’, were brought together as one fellowship. Many of the Western Australian Christian Union members, including myself, went to Sydney and Canberra across the Nullarbor together in a big bus named Henry and a smaller bus named Gemma. I had travelled along the Nullarbor trail before and journeys of equal length in my dad’s 1964 Land Rover which has a maximum speed of about 60 miles per hour. As such, sitting in the large, full and mechanically questionable big bus for a couple of days with minimal personal space wasn’t a huge drama. I volunteered to be the mechanic for the trip as trucks and buses run off very similar mechanical components, just about everything in a bus’s drive system is at the back and rather tricky to get to (unless you are tiny).
According to the journal I took, I only slept for a few hours for the trip across. There were always new, different and exciting people to talk to, songs to sing, things to read and drivers to keep awake. I feel that it would be of some value or me to transcribe some of the key passages from the contents of the ‘My Trip’ journal I took in this part of my chronicle;
On repetitive times during the bus trip over east, I noted that I was tired of feeling like a fake in my life and that I wanted to act and feel in the same manner as what I knew that I should and that I was expected to. Here are some key remarks from my journal: on the 27th of November 11, “All I am I owe to you my Lord, please help me be what I believe” … “I’ve only felt loss despite the endless gains; a clear path is what I seek” … “I honestly feel like an actor, merely playing a role. Rent and University are my cultural absolutes” … “I’ve rarely taken the time to give thanks. I seem to feel that I’m owed all I request, this must stop.”
These read out with a clear sense of personal vindication; I had felt quite lost and alone. My remarks of the following day were much more scholarly, particularly when examining the changes in geography and topography across the Nullarbor trail;
28 Nov 11; “The plants and animals are forever and naturally dependent on their geography and topography to ascertain how productive their lives will be. The majority of humanity has the advantage of a creative and intellectual brain, yet this will not save him/her. The conditions for the survival of the ‘lesser’ species will be forever deteriorating because of the actions of us, the ‘greater’ organisms. We ignore (or forget) that these things were made before us, indeed to allow us to live.”
“On the sixth day, Man was created in God’s image. Humanity’s arrogance as the ‘greatest’ of God’s creations, has, from the start, blinded us all. We rely on the ‘lesser’ life forms; they do not depend on us.”
My notes for the beginning of December show a quick-step change in my level of clarity and the development of my overall sense of calmness and situational perspective;
01 Dec 11; “Today was very satisfying. After working on the bus’s injection issues yesterday, I was able to achieve a sound ignition and idle today. My prayers to give me mechanical clarity helped me to find the fault. It is fulfilling that I’ve been able to use my given and specific skills to take the load off the leaders. Akin to this; “do not worry that you don’t have the strength, to begin with, it is in your journey that God makes you stronger” (quoted by Vicky Gorman). I also did some carpentry for the owner of the house we are staying, and I’ve realised how happy I feel after helping others.
Furthermore, I thank the Lord for making this experience as real and honest as I can. I have a lot to learn in regards to being of better use in sharing His name. I’ve been a life which has suffered turmoil, but I’ve always known that so long as I can still speak, I can praise His name. I enjoy searching for my place in this world, a context which will make me smile. Day by day, my burdens lessen, and the Joe I know is coming out of the shadows. I am learning to be patient as I know that I am owed nothing but already have His eternal love. I indeed give thanks for the verse by Vicky on the opposite page (within ‘My Trip’ journal), whether she knows it was from you or not.”
For me, 2012 is a new year in a new location, going to a new church ministry and into a new and exciting life group. When my rather expensive lease ended at my flat in East Perth on Adelaide Terrace, I received word that one of my sister’s friends, who is quite a character whom I had met previously, needed a housemate in the home he had bought with his ex-girlfriend. I prayed about this decision, and the answer was clear.
I had always felt a bit out of place living in the CBD of East Perth anyhow, particularly being a Christian student on a military pension. I wasn’t exactly embarrassed, but I certainly did not dress or indeed act the part of either a student or a saved Christian. Let’s just say, the majority of my clothing items were of a more expensive manner, made in countries that say ‘arrivederci’, ‘au revoir’ or ‘ciao’. I also tended to drink long blacks and espressos in the more prestigious cafes of the city, just to feel satisfied and appear to the outside eye to have been somebody of some importance, success or definition. It is now clear that my elaborate behaviour upon living in the Perth CBD was straight out of a Psychology handbook, particularly in regards to one’s individual need for a standard definition:
What is the relationship between what we are (on the inside) and what we do (on the outside)? Philosophers, theologians, and educators have long speculated about the connections between attitude and action, character and conduct, private word and public deed. Underlying most teaching, counselling, and child rearing is an assumption that our private beliefs and feelings determine our public behaviour, and that if we wish to change behaviour we need, first, to change hearts and minds.
I love how fantastically simple that assumption sounds. That is of course just a psychologist’s way of categorising humanity as a species, without regards to individual choice or ultimate circumstance. In reality, a person’s expressed attitude can rarely be used to predict their future behaviour with any certainty; this is just one of our factors which allow us to be at the top of the food chain, the ‘greatest’ of beings. When the choices I have made and paths of which I have taken surprise me, you can understand why I feel a sense of uncertainty regarding my future.
In regards to knowing all of this now, I can see that I had always held doubts as a youth regarding the actual nature of God. The ‘tragic’ circumstances about my departure from the Army have since helped to remove this haze. God has given me a violent shake and a good slap to wake me up. I understand, and I give thanks that my success and intelligence prevalent during my schooling, my desire, my strength and my trained discipline as a soldier as well as my courage and perseverance following my car accident, have all been provided for me to get me to this point. There is also absolutely no coincidence that I was baptised only a couple of weeks before nearly losing my life. My mind is one that requires concerted proof, cause and response, the Lord has provided this for me.
At this present time in my life (January 2012), I am about to begin my fourth-year UWA, and I am happy with how I feel about both my cognitive and spiritual sustenance. I have recently started thinking about what is to happen following the receipt of my Bachelor of Arts, and it would appear, from the types of units which I have typically chosen, that a career in teaching might well be on the cards. If this is the path for me, I’d have to stay at the university for another couple of years and do my Graduate Diploma of Education. I have, however, been granted the time to work these things out.
Myers, David G. Social Psychology; Ninth Edition. New York, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2008.
- 33 - the Joe I know is coming out of the shadows. I am learning to be patient as I know that I am owed nothing but already have His eternal love. I indeed give thanks for the verse by Vicky on the opposite page (within ‘My Trip’ journal), whether she knows it was from you or not.”
In regards to knowing all of this