I’m writing this a few days early because I’m going to Houston for the holiday and am unsure if I’ll have time for blogging on Tuesday, but July 3 marks three years since I packed up my life and moved from Australia to the US.
Moving across the world, especially alone, is beyond terrifying and the fact that I’ve made it work here for three years is something I’m really fucking proud of. I remember being so scared that I couldn’t do it, that I’d struggle to make money and to adapt to the different way of life and would have to return home feeling humiliated, like I was a giant failure. Rationally, I would tell myself, even if that happened I hadn’t failed at all because at least I’d TRIED, which is more than a lot of people do, but the idea still felt like a dark cloud hanging over my head.
You make a lot of sacrifices as an immigrant, hell, earlier this year I missed my own brother’s wedding in Malaysia because my visa renewal was in “processing status” meaning I was legally allowed to be in the US but would not have been able to re-enter the country if was to leave at that time. Going through the immigration process itself is legitimately one of the most stressful, complicated things I’ve ever experienced and unless you’ve done it yourself you cannot understand how much it sucks. Despite all that, I feel so fucking lucky that I set my life up in such a way that I was both eligible to apply for a US working visa and financially capable of doing so because I truly am so grateful to be here.
It feels a little weird to me to be opening up on a blog about this kind of thing… even saying I’m proud of myself for moving to America feels like I’m exposing some kind of vulnerability, because god knows there’s so many angry, miserable voices out there on the internet who like to cut you down and shit on your achievements. But you know what, fuck it, because I am happy for me and what I’ve done.
I couldn’t be more excited to be spending this year’s July 4th on a ranch in Texas shooting guns, drinking whiskey and celebrating this country that has become my second home.
Even when I was shooting regularly for mainstream bikini magazine covers, I never liked calling myself a “model”. Perhaps it was the way people often react to that word or perhaps it was my own internalized body image issues but I never felt really worthy of that title and referring to myself as such always made me incredibly uncomfortable. Modeling was, for me, almost a strange kind of masochism, something I fiercely persisted with despite how terrible and anxious it made me. Getting booked for a cover shoot was both a thrill and a curse, a rollercoaster of pride and self deprecation, “I’m so excited that they chose me” mixed with “I’m not good enough, I need to lose so much weight in one week.”
Despite probably appearing very confident through my online persona, I’ve struggled for much of my life with body dysmorphia and a variation of eating disorder behaviours. The voice in my head telling me my body isn’t small enough has held me back from so many opportunities throughout my career as… whatever the fuck it is that I do. Anxiety about looking fat in photos that I was unable to control the distribution of was a major factor in me not pursuing DJing as hard as I should have, anxiety about people thinking I was too fat to hold that title had me knocking back a lot of appearance offers when I was the reigning Australian Penthouse Pet of the Year. I have put my mind and body through HELL before major photo shoots in the past… starvation, diet pills, purging, you name it. It’s kind of sad and frustrating to think back on it all, really.
And so I quit. I stopped DJing, I stopped modeling, I chose instead to stream on Twitch in a home environment where I had full control over what parts of me are seen and what content is shared. I kept my photo shoots solely to ones where I hired photographers I knew and trusted, where I had the final say which images would be seen. I truly never thought I would take an offer to do an actual paid shoot for someone else ever again… and then along came Campout Magazine.
So here I am back in LA, post-shoot, and I actually feel okay. I shot a cover yesterday and made it through with minimal anxiety or toxic self-deprecating thoughts, I had a good time, and I’m really excited to see the photos. I realised it’s been almost exactly a year since I started going to therapy and I think without that I probably would have been an emotional wreck yesterday, if I had ever even accepted the shoot at all. It’s definitely not something I want to start doing regularly again, but it’s nice to think I’ve made some kind of mental progress towards learning to accept myself and the body I have.
Please don’t comment on this with anything like “You’re not fat,” that’s literally the least productive thing you can say to someone discussing their body dysmorphia issues and not at all the point of this blog.
On Tuesday my belongings that I had shipped from LA arrived safely in eight giant Fedex boxes, thus ending the last of my moving related stress. Once I started unpacking it all, it became apparent how it ended up costing me so much more than I expected – almost every single item had been individually wrapped in at least two inches thick of bubblewrap. As much as I appreciate them being careful with my stuff, this really did seem wildly excessive (like SURELY a USB drive still in its original protective packaging did not need to be wrapped up as if it were a delicate archaeological relic) and it took me all day to unpack everything. Now I have a literal mountain of bubblewrap sitting in my living room that I guess I’m going to have to hire someone to come and remove as I’m not allowed to put that much shit down the trash chute.
Yesterday I woke up a little hungover from a fun first date the night before with a guy I met on Bumble… that’s right, folks, I have downloaded the app and made a new account for approximately the 874th fucking time now. As much as I generally loathe the concept of dating apps and would absolutely prefer to meet my future partner organically through friends or at a bar or literally any other way than absentmindedly swiping through a superficial sea of online profiles, when you’ve just moved to a brand new city it seems like a good way to at least get out and meet some different people and check out new bars/restaurants/events. This guy took me to an X-rated bingo night at a local bar, which, as my friend put it, was a “pretty ballsy first date idea” but it was really funny and I had a good time.
But now for the big news… which of course you’ll already know if you follow me literally anywhere on social media and have seen my abundance of posts about it over the last 24 hours: I adopted two kittens. I’m a cat person, I always have been, but life circumstances over the past few years have not put me in a position to have one of my own. I’m at a point now where I finally feel settled enough to take on that responsibility and yesterday decided to give a home to two beautiful brothers that a friend was fostering. I named them Walter White & Jesse Pinkman and my heart feels so full of love and happiness every time I look at their perfect little faces.
I suppose the next step in life is to decide whether or not I want to become the kind of person who makes an Instagram for their pets.
Yesterday was fun. After spending the first half of the day moping around my apartment throwing a self-pity party because nobody had hit me up to hang out or invited me to any Memorial Day weekend events, a girl that a friend back in LA had connected me with called me and invited me to the lake with her and her friends. “I’m right by your place, I’ll pick you up in a few minutes” meant a frantic rush to get ready that resulted in me leaving the house wearing no makeup, slippers and an inside-out swimsuit, but I ended up having such a great time and met some really cool people. Our boat broke down early in the afternoon which briefly seemed like a day-ruining disaster until someone suggested we get in the water and push the boat to ‘Party Cove’ ourselves… Thirty minutes later we made it to our destination and spent the rest of the day swimming, drinking beer and dancing to old school country, then had our drunk asses towed home by some very kind people in a boat that had pulled up next to ours.
It’s hard to explain how happy it makes me to be around people that genuinely love and want to listen to country music. A lot of people who follow me seem to think my country obsession is a “new” thing but that couldn’t be further from the truth, it is in fact a big part of me that has been largely suppressed for a long time due to not having many people in my life to share it with. If there’s one genre of music that’s fucking polarizing, it’s country – people really love it, or they really aggressively hate it. As an adult I’ve had a handful of friends who were happy to sing along to Garth Brooks in my car or put on some Keith Urban at the afterhours, but it’s only since spending time in Texas that I’ve found whole groups of people who want to listen to it all day at a party. For the first time since I was a kid, listening to the music I love the most isn’t confined to my bathroom while I’m getting ready to go out or my headphones while I’m on the treadmill.
I realised last night that I don’t think it’s fully sunk in that I actually live here now and I kind of just feel like I’m on vacation. Maybe it’s because I’m still living out of suitcases and have no furniture, or maybe it’s just the hot humid nights reminding me of traveling to places in Australia’s tropical north for work. Last night at the bar felt like being in Darwin.
It’s a holiday in the US today, so I think I’m going to lay out at a pool with a girl I met last night and probably eat too many tacos.
It’s 10.47pm on a Saturday, my fourth night officially living in Austin, TX, and I’m sitting on a single inflatable mattress alone in my huge empty apartment staring longingly out the window at a nearby bar wishing I could find the courage to go to a place like that on my own for a drink and maybe try to meet some new people here.
It was less than two months ago that I arrived in this city for the first time ever, and here I am now with a fifteen month lease signed, brand new furniture purchased and the next chapter of my life about to start. Shortly before I took my first trip back in early March (which was ultimately for the Houston Rodeo but I spent my time between the two cities), I actually said to a friend, “I have a feeling I’m going to end up moving there one day,” but I’d say that was less to do with intuition and more to do with the countless times people had said to me (usually upon discovering my love for all things country), “Have you ever been to Austin? You’d love it there, it’s SO you.” And they were right. I’m a progressive redneck and Austin is the perfect mix of both worlds.
My closest friend here has gone out of town for two weeks which has left me to mostly fend for myself, but I’m someone who thoroughly enjoys the feeling of accomplishment that comes with handling your own shit and I’m genuinely content to be Ubering myself all over town and lifting boxes and doing whatever else I need to do. Today I went to the Google Fiber office and picked up my installation kit then visited a well-known taxidermy store I’d seen online and bought myself the cow hide rug I’ve been fantasizing about, the first piece of my “rustic western meets bright colourful modern” home decor vision.
Now that it’s Saturday night and I’ve run out of tasks to occupy myself with I’m feeling a little lost but I know this is just part of moving to a new place. Almost all of my belongings are still packed into FedEx boxes traveling somewhere between LA and Austin and all I have for entertainment is a Macbook and an iPhone (and thankfully my new lightning fast internet) but I’ve restarted watching The Office (US version) and have been shopping online for furniture and I guess now I have this blog too. I was feeling pretty depressed and lonely earlier when sitting in my bedroom but I moved the inflatable mattress out to the living room and opened up some of the windows so I could hear the music and talking from the bars nearby which was oddly comforting, and now I feel a lot better.
I’m going to end this here and go back to staring at a picture of some bright green metal bar stools I want to buy. I really think they’re gonna look fucking amazing with my dark wood cabinets and my cow hide rug.