Balls and Bravado

The body in motion is not without pain.

Arms gasping.

  Eyeballs askew

At the end of my sinews

  Blood bleaches like fingernails.

The dead protein of my love for you

  splices thoughts, memories

     Lips in the wind.

And all around me, the loving audience

  bleating my name

Calling, calling

  For the same loss that engulfs

Every whispered word.


The transition into adulthood is fraught with emotion and unbound intensities. It is a time of testing – we pit ourselves against the world, against each other and we emerge scarred, occasionally beautiful and sometimes damaged. But what shape do our scars take and what is their legacy? What of those who do not successfully shed their battle worn skins?

Unfortunately, many young men don’t make the transition in one piece. The complications of life, unexpected responsibilities, depression and anxiety can all play a part – where we increasingly find ourselves isolated, set apart, on the edge.

Felix and BernhardI wrote this poem many years ago. And while it seems as though I am listening to forgotten whispers, the emotional impact still claws my chest. Poetry was an outlet for me. It was a connection with an unimagined audience.

But every poem brought me closer to someone. I would be “caught” writing. I would ask friends for advice on the poems, or ideas on their construction – all the while realising it was a thinly disguised call for help.

These days, young men continue to find themselves in situations which feel insurmountable – resulting in higher than average rates of drug and alcohol dependence. Furthermore, rates of suicide are through the roof and young men are three times more likely to develop schizophrenia than young women.

But thanks to sites like ReachOut, you no longer need to suffer in silence (or resort to poetry). This week, the ManWeek campaign kicks off – and you can tune in to Triple J to listen to the experiences of young men across the country – from the Alpha Male to the Mummy’s Boy and everywhere in-between, ManWeek will show that your story is just as valid – and just as common – as other young men who are trying to find ways of dealing with life.

Let’s face it, it doesn’t just take balls and bravado to be a man these days. Sometimes it means coming to grips with your family, acknowledging that your Dad isn’t a rolling stone, and that dysfunction can be just as beautiful as any other way of life. The important part is to begin reaching out – communicating and sharing how you feel. It’s not easy. But it’s not as hard as you might think (and you can always leave a comment here). You can also share your experiences at the ReachOut blog or on the forum (yeah you need to register).

If you happen to be awake early, you can tune in for the Triple J Breakfast show; and if you have a Twitter account you can join in with the hash tag #manweek. Talk to me, I am @servantofchaos.

Tagging update: Every man must have a story – but what is yours? I am particularly interested in hearing the tales of Zac Martin, Craig Wilson and Frank Sting.

4 thoughts on “Balls and Bravado

  1. Its funny how there’s a tendency to reminisce about our formative years (particularly in the movies) as if it were all first kisses and rugby victories. I remember high school as being incredibly venal; those who stepped on others had status, achievements were ridiculed, looks were paramount. Its unsurprising that so many kidults stray.
    I think the mutual benefit of a mentor/protege relationship is extremely undervalued. Obviously fathers mentor their sons in a fashion, but familial history, love and expectations are an impediment to sons flying the nest and standing on their own. A good mentor should be like the best combination of boss and friend. Someone to respect and look up to personally and professionally. Someone you can argue with, but can’t talk back to.
    Unfortunately, delineating generational divides actually divides us. Gen Y are scrutinized and criticized as if the the older generations have no faith in them. And the mentor/protege relationship has been diluted into the workplace hierarchy, to which seniority doesn’t necessarily bestow respect.
    Guys entering adulthood see this vast, impersonal wasteland of a life, where you work, settle, retire, end. It seems simultaneously complex and mundane, difficult yet comfortable, purpose without purpose. If a guy whose been through it and come out on top shows them that isn’t the case, life won’t seem so confounding.
    But its interesting that doesn’t have a mentorship program, only “Youth Ambassadors”. With JJJ behind them, they already have access to professional communities with youth cachet. Seems like a squandered opportunity…

  2. I think all generations are skeptical of those who follow. And while we like to think that our own generation and our own point of view is unique, to me, it feels like we simply repeat the same lessons as part of the ritual of life.
    It will be interesting to see what comes out of the ManWeek campaign – maybe a mentoring project will eventuate!?

  3. hey gavin – as usual, your writing is incredible. i’m in awe that you seem comfortable discussing a wide arrange of topics and being so honest.
    you are a “what you see is what you get” kind of a person and, in your case, that is a pretty cool dude.

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