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My face is in print | Claire Morley Q&A with Beat Magazine

Usually I’m the one asking the questions, but the lovely people at Beat wanted to hear all about me for some strange reason.

Here’s my some snippets of my Q&A and an adorable picture of Daisy the dog. To unlock he rest of the answers, click here.

What do you do at Beat? I talk to people, artists, bands, event organisers, and all kinds of interesting people, and then write all about it for your reading pleasure. I also write reviews of live shows, and sometimes albums.

Best story you’ve ever written?
 The cover story I wrote on The Smith Street Band was insanely special to write from start to finish. I’m incredibly proud of the message I had the privilege of communicating about mental health and vulnerability with the help of Wil Wagner, and I took so many copies of the magazine to keep forever.

Three likes?
 
Three dislikes?
 
Got any special talents or party tricks for us?

Dream occupation, if money wasn’t a thing?

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HoMie | Homelessness in Melbourne and the Pathway Program

“I was curious as to why people were living in this situation, how they got there in the most liveable city in the world,” Marcus Crook says.

Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but it brought to life a passion within Crook and Nick Pearce. After meeting in 2013, they bonded over their shared passion for tackling homelessness.

Together, they founded HoMie – Homeless of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprises – a streetwear and social justice enterprise that provides employment and training opportunities, and new clothing to people experiencing homelessness through their Fitzroy store.

Though prior to this, neither had any experience working with homeless people – Crook dabbled in photography, and Pearce in media and communications. They simply took to the streets to talk to Melbourne’s homeless population, sharing the stories of the people they spoke to on their Facebook page, Homelessness in Melbourne.

“The conversations really opened our eyes to the fact that the stereotypical drug addict or alcoholic didn’t fit into the reality of who these people were. We wanted to dispel those preconceived notions and provide more insight into the fact that everyone has their own stories. It was confronting how close we were at times, or anyone could be, to that situation,” Pearce says.

That anyone could become homeless or in need at any time is a sobering thought. Of the 100,000 people who experience homelessness each night in Melbourne, only 6,000 are living rough.

“There’s 94,000 plus who we don’t see, who are couch surfing or living in their cars or supported accommodations. What we’re really advocating for is, there’s almost somewhat of a bigger issue behind closed doors, and we need to talk about that, and how to help these people.” Read more

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2015: A cliche/reflection/massive indulgence

“Been waiting on change, but I don’t know if its coming.” – Brooke Fraser

If one year ago, you’d told me all that I would go through in the coming 365 days, I would have curled up and sobbed, perhaps laughed that it couldn’t possibly be that bad, but mostly expressed that theres no way in hell I’m capable of withstanding that level of pain. Guess what? I was.

I don’t know about you, but, besides feeling 22, my social media feeds are currently filled with sometimes long, mostly self-indulgent claims of resolution and determination. Well, that and jeering snarky remarks about how resolutions suck, (which they pretty much do).

This divide in social media discourse has made it hard for me to find a way to write on the topic without being just another wanker, thinking they’re so inspirational and wise, talking about their years, past and present.

I wasn’t going to write anything, but considering how excited I am that 2015 has finally taken a hint and fucked off, it seemed appropriate that I muse on what was the most excellent and awful year of my life.

I really, really hated 2015 at times. It was a hard year for not only me, but many people I hold dear.

I faced and continue to battle, some of the biggest challenges of my life thus far. I experienced pain at the hands of people I loved and trusted, and at the mercy of my own body. I’ve had my heart broken more than once, in many of the most painful ways. I lost my dog, one of my best friends.

I hit some points that were so low, I didn’t know they existed, or that I could continue to exist at such low mental altitudes.

But somehow, in spite of the utter shit that  2015 threw in my face, the son-of-a-gun had it in their heart to sheepishly toss me moments throughout the year that were undoubtably some of the most exciting and beautiful of my life.

I have experienced career progress this year that I didn’t know I was capable of. My work earned award nominations and garnered praise from my peers, lecturers, and an audience. As a reward for my hard work, doors have opened for incredible opportunity, and I am working every day to hone my craft further.

I felt my confidence leap and bound ahead of where it once was. Although I may still stumble along the way, I can firmly say I am in the best state I’ve ever been in.

I totally nailed eyeshadow blending, as well as the fine art of makeup, and in the process, found one of the most helpful techniques for dealing with my rampant anxiety I’m yet to find. I also wear black and purple lipstick out of the house regularly, like some kind of adventurous goddess.

I’ve met people who have become the greatest friends to me, and I am lucky to have such a divine selection of the most beautiful humans on this damn planet on my team.

Although it was the toughest twelves months I could’ve imagined, each and every step I took outside of my comfort zone proved to me that I am so much braver than I believe, stronger than I seem, and smarter than I think. 2015 was the year I became a proper, fully fledged adult-person.

I could sit and dwell on the bad things, but theres no point. When I look back on 2015, I can’t help but think of the bad things, but the beautiful things were the most significant of all. I like to think that in the great scheme of my life, I’ll remember those precious moments more than the pains.

If one year ago today, you’d told me all that I would accomplish in the coming 365 days, I would have cried with happiness and utter disbelief, exclaiming that there is no way I’m capable of achieving so much, and to such a high standard.

Guess what?

I did.

And I’m so unbelievably proud of myself.


“A toast to the lessons not yet learned, and to the trials that will teach them.” – Brooke Fraser (again(because there’s no such thing as too much Brooke Fraser))

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Would the real Claire Varley please stand up?

Take a minute to absorb that headline, if you will.

I am aware that it is the best I’ve written in my career thus far, and possibly the best I ever will write.

As a journalist, my byline is everything. My name is my brand, but that brand is not quite as unique as some.

I am a writer and journalism student, with about three chapters of my opus novel in a file on my hard drive that will possibly never be read by anyone other than myself, and maybe my best friend, if I’m feeling brave.

So imagine how perplexed I was when back in August, Booktopia tagged Pan Macmillan and I in a tweet, congratulating me on my novel.

The Bit in Between is the debut novel by Claire Varley, a writer from Melbourne.

I am most certainly Claire Varley, a writer from Melbourne. But despite my best intentions, I have definitely not written a novel, let alone published one.

I was shocked to find that there are, in fact, two writers named Claire Varley floating around Melbourne, and the other one had written this book. A quick search revealed that although she had a website, she did not use Twitter.

I sent a screenshot of my predicament to my friend, amused by the mistake, and we had a chuckle. I threw a few sarcastic tweets into the Twittersphere, and thought nothing else of it.

Just how remarkable this coincidence was didn’t set in until my situation escalated.

Bloggers, book distributors, and avid readers began sending me tweets and tagging me in their posts. Every day my newsfeed lit up with new messages.

Apparently this novel was actually really good, and the fans couldn’t get enough of me.

Yet not one of these professionals or fans cared to take the simple, one-step research process of checking if this account belonged to the right woman.

Confused? This should clear things up.

You’d think that if I’d written a debut novel, I may want to publicise it. Throughout my entire Twitter timeline, not once had I mentioned that I’d written a book, but no one who had mentioned me had picked that up.

Interviews with this other Claire Varley were published, alongside photos of her, and still attributed to my Twitter handle. Now, we both may be caucasian women with brown, curly hair, but we definitely don’t look similar enough to be mistaken for the same person.

I was fascinated by the ethical conundrum presented to me. By sitting at my desk laughing at the case of lazy PR on my phone, sending screenshots to my friends, and not outing myself as the wrong Claire Varley, was I being dishonest?

Considering I hadn’t lied about writing the book, or received any benefit from the misunderstanding, I mentally cleared my conscious of any wrongdoing.

I made the situation all the more complex for myself writing back to a tweet, for no reason other than to amuse myself. I couldn’t resist making jokes when the opportunity arose.

Even my friend, a law student, expressed that the other Claire Varley may not be happy with me.

“But why?” I replied, “what have I done?”

“She may think you’ve stolen her identity, and you’re taking credit for her work. Be prepared for it to go horribly wrong,” he answered.

After much discussion with my peers, I was left with no other option: I had to contact this woman, this other Claire Varley whose book had created such amusement in my life, and as far as I knew, had no idea any of this was going on.

Despite that small fear that she may be upset with me, I took the plunge and contacted her. Within two days of emailing the other Claire Varley, we met in the flesh, and joined powers. It wasn’t hard, considering we were shocked to learn we live a mere 20 minute drive away from each other.

She was equally amused by my predicament.

“The only reason I would have been unhappy with you in this situation, is if you’d be rude to people, or tarnished my reputation. You’ve just made a few funny quips, you’ve done nothing wrong,” (the other) Varley said.

Yes, our situation is all good and funny, and no one has been hurt. But the case of Varley v Varley is just the tip of the social-medial ethics iceberg.

Mistaken online identity isn’t always as harmless as my experience.

In an extreme example, activist group The Yes Men purposefully impersonate entities that they dislike, or whose actions they disagree with. They do so by creating websites near identical to the ones they are attempting to impersonate, and the lack of research into the authenticity of these websites results in invites to interviews and conferences.

“The places we trust, TV, news outlets, we know we can trust because they should have fact checking processes in place. But everyone else is on Twitter, and we trust Twitter more than we probably should,” Varley said.

Unlike traditional media, which should have professional editors, in the realm of social media, fact checking is the readers responsibility.

“We have to do our own fact checking, and we’re not used to it,” Varley mused.

Back in July, Andrés Iniesta wrote that his Instagram account was shut down, and given to the Spanish professional football player of the same name.

Although it was later restored, the Communications Manager of Instagram, Gabe Madway explained that Instagram purely made a mistake, did not research, and assumed that Iniesta’s account was a fake.

Even people in my own life didn’t bother to check facts, assuming again that there must only be one Claire Varley.

Fact remains, its a phenomenal book. Still totally worth the express shipping, Soham.

 

This experience has served as a great reminder of how important it is to check the facts, and how in the age of instant communication, how easy it is to get things wrong.

Before I became a professional writer, my name didn’t really matter, but now it has great significance.

Claire Varley and I are both building a career in a remarkably similar arena, using our name as a brand.

If we were a doctor and a social worker, no problem. But we’re both doing things that revolve around making a name for ourselves.

This raises so many questions.

Can we both exist as writers from Melbourne with the same name? Considering our brand is so similar, can only one of us keep it, and if so, who? Should it alternate on a basis of who is more successful at the time? Do we flip a coin? Does one of us take on an initial? Do we combine ourselves to become one super-being of industrial, writing proportions?

Rather than feel threatened by this other Claire Varley roaming my neighbourhood, and stringing sentences together, I have chosen to embrace her.

For I am a writer, and so is she, and this remarkable coincidence has given me something wonderfully unique to write about.

Instead of fighting for supremacy as the real Claire Varley, I think it best that we revel in the uniqueness of this situation.

Hopefully the world, and Internet, is ready and big enough, for two Claire Varleys.

I know I’m sure as hell proud to be one of them.

This article was originally published, in a far more glorious and pretty way including some of the Tweets from the saga, here on Medium.

Since publication, the other Claire Varley has relented and joined Twitter (she may have realised its usefulness through this experience), you can find her here.

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To the friends of a person living with a chronic illness (in this case, me)

Dear friend,

I know when you first met me, you had no idea what went on beneath my skin.

I know that the first time I told you I was having surgery, or the first time you asked about my scars and you heard just how many operations I’ve had, it came as an almighty shock. Especially because I’m so pedantic about hiding my chronic illness as best I can, but also committed to being as honest as I can be when asked about it.

There have been times where I’ve felt like I’m falsely advertising myself to prospective new friends. Here you are, meeting this bright, vivacious young woman, brimming with love and appreciation for life, when underneath all that, I’m not as shiny. There are moments where I feel so far from jubilant, like I wish I could curl up and let the pain stop.

But I’m aware I’m not the only person my illness affects.

I’m writing today to apologise to you, for all the times that my chronic illness has impacted on your life.

I’m sorry for the tears you may have cried when my surgery went wrong, and complications dragged it out hours beyond when you expected to hear from me. I’m sorry for the seemingly never-ending wait where you didn’t know if you’d see me again.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve called you sobbing, crying and screaming unintelligibly as the sadness consumed me. I’m sorry for the times I’ve fainted, and you’ve had to catch me, or nurse me in a concussed state.

I’m sorry for the anxiety that has followed my physical illness, for the panic attacks you’ve witnessed, and the emotional strain they caused. I know seeing me like that must be terrifying, and so incredibly hard, and you’re so strong and kind for sticking with me while I shake, cry and hyperventilate.

I’m sorry for the anxiety that I’ve caused you, and for the toll I’ve taken on your body and mind.

I’m sorry that you have had to see me in helpless, sick states, and felt there was nothing you could do.

But I want to thank you.

Thank you for being here with me.

Thank you for sitting by me, holding my hand, and making sure I never felt alone. Thank you for your never-ending optimism, for not giving up hope, even when I felt I had. Thank you for always being there when I need you, and for bringing joy into my life when I need it most.

Thank you for being my friend, above all else. Thank you for not running at the first sign that things weren’t perfect, and instead assuring me that nothing in life is perfect, and this is small in comparison to what else I have to offer.

I want to thank you for each and every little thing that you’ve ever done for me, but writing the list would require a lifetime of typing.

There’s not a day that goes by where I wish I would wake up to a miraculous cure, where I wish that the pain would cease and my body would function perfectly, but that’s not just for myself. I wish I could take the hurt away from you, I wish I could lift the weight of my illness from your loaded shoulders.

I am adamant that loneliness is a far greater pain than any symptom my bowel could produce. The fact that I am no longer lonely is the thing I am most thankful to you for.

Sometimes people run, for the idea of befriending a chronically ill human seems daunting or hard. At many times in my life, this left me feeling unlovable and worthless.

Your friendship has helped show me that I am a person with value, that my illness means nothing in comparison to all the other parts of me, and your support has helped me grow and blossom into the woman I was born to become.

I used to identify myself as a sick girl before anything else. Thanks to you, I now know with that I am so much more than that.

You’ve helped give me courage to take on things I never thought I could do.

I am a journalist, a high-achieving university student, a musician, and according to you, I could be a part-time model (though I’d probably have to keep my normal job). The fact I have a chronic illness may be a part of me, but it by no means defines me.

Most importantly, though, I am your friend too, and I will always be there to support you in return when you need me. It is my honour to return the favour for as long as I am on this planet, or even on a spaceship, or mars, if I’m unable to avoid the inevitability of space conscription.

I don’t think you realise how wonderful you are, and how much I admire, appreciate, and love you.

I have to stress that: you are incredible, and not a day goes by where I am not thankful for your presence in my life.

Things can be really hard sometimes, but without doubt, the pain I’ve endured in my 22 years pales in comparison to the happiness I’ve found with you.

Love and thanks, always,

Claire.

This may be a personal account, but according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, chronic illness affects about half of the Australian population. 

Please be aware that chronic illness exists in many shapes and forms, and is often invisible.

I hope this personal thank you can show just how much a simple friendship can mean to a person who may be suffering more than you realise. 

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I can’t get no body satisfaction

Trigger Warning: Eating disorders and body image issues are discussed in this article.

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I’m not proud to admit I’ve spent much of my life dissatisfied with my body.
And it seems that most people within our so often mocked first world feel the same. Sadder still, there is no age limit for this dissatisfaction. From an elderly woman complaining about the ‘spare tire’ around her middle to a young man slaving at the gym to bulk up, appearance and weight have become an obsession and an absolute priority in modern life.

This body obsession is lucrative. The flourishing diet industry, gyms popping up on every street corner and the hordes of people signing up for these services are testament to this fact. These businesses sell the message that if you are fit and thin you will find ultimate happiness, but while fitness and diet are incredibly important aspects of living a healthy life, when an underweight model delivers this message of health, the line between healthy and unhealthy is blurred.

As the Victoria’s Secret fashion show filled my Instagram feed just a few months ago, I found myself regretting the burger and chips I’d had for lunch. Gazing at their concave stomachs and knowing that none of them had eaten a meal like mine in a long time, I mentally scheduled a salad for dinner.

We’ve all heard that the media fuels the modern obsession with appearance by providing an unrealistic image to aspire to. However, working at a gym for a short time last year opened my eyes to how a place supposedly campaigning for health could contribute to the problem as much as the media.

The fitness professionals I worked with were entirely preoccupied by their appearances and obsessively dieted. Their hatred of carbohydrates was particularly baffling. The manager would often buy lunch from Subway but of course, she cannot eat bread, for it is the mortal enemy of the thigh gap. Instead she would return with a salad and a large coke. That’s right, not even a small one, because nothing washes down a carbohydrate-free meal like bucket of sugar water. Logic.

The only thing the staff discussed at the gym, besides Crossfit (apparently Crossfit is the way, the truth and the life, even if it destroys your joints, form, and ability to have a conversation about anything else) was calories, and the body weight of themselves, the gym clientele, and me.

“If you had no cheat meals, go paleo, eat clean, cut out grains, and do Crossfit, you could lose all that weight,” they would tell me, “you’d look and feel so much better.” At one stage, I was advised a diet of one thousand calories a day. A ludicrous amount considering I am nearly six foot tall and require double that simply to sustain life.

Though I knew their diets would likely leave them with osteoporosis, and I felt physically fine, their words fuelled the message that my body was inadequate and unattractive. Despite standing at 180cm and wearing a size 10, nowhere near needing to lose weight, over time, I sadly began to believe them.

The body shaming didn’t stop with me. What was more shocking was their attitude towards those who trained at the gym. I would listen in bewilderment as my co-workers told me overweight people are impossible to help, because they are lazy, gluttonous, and don’t want to change.

Leaving the gym filled me with such relief, but I’ve since become hyper-aware of how this industry affects every aspect of our culture. During university lectures, girls talk about their 12-week challenges filled with no carbs, no sugar, and lots of exercise. Tea is advertised on social media promising that simply by drinking it, you will achieve toned abdominal muscles, when in reality, they are selling laxatives, and robbing your body of electrolytes and hydration, a process anything but healthy.

During time spent in a paediatric ward as a teenager, I met many young women with eating disorders. One ten-year-old girl in particular brought me to tears. I witnessed her painfully thin arms being strapped to a bed while the nurses forced a feeding tube into her nose. Her screams filled the ward for what seemed like an eternity, until she was suddenly quiet. She had been sedated.

School bullies calling her fat had brought on her disorder, mocking her to breaking point. It is simply not good enough that children her age and even younger than her are now preoccupied with their weight and appearance. Body obsessed culture has gone too far.

Despite the fact this culture of body shaming has become so ingrained in daily life, I believe change is possible, as more people are becoming aware of how important it is to change their attitude towards body image.

Hopefully we are not far away from a day where there are no airbrushed photos in the media, and we are no longer encouraged to strive for a ‘perfect body’.

But until then, the more important shift must take place on a ground level, wherein people no longer comment on another individual’s appearance or body in a negative way, and acknowledge that appearance is the least important aspect of a human being.

We must also be aware of how the media is influencing our mindset, and strive to logically process how nonsensical body hatred is. We must stop buying into the lie that we are inadequate.

In the last few months of my life, I have come to terms with the fact that my body dissatisfaction is unwarranted. I am now working each day to embrace my body. This isn’t easy and I still feel inadequate more than I care to admit, but I have resolved to love myself and am slowly learning to appreciate my own, unique beauty.

Our bodies are the most amazing contraptions we will ever come across. They work tirelessly each day to keep us alive, healing us, propelling us forward, and allowing us to do all the wonderful things that make our existence worthwhile.

It’s time we stopped hating them simply for the way they look or measure up to the media’s unrealistic standards, or starving and overworking them in an attempt to change. The least we can do is nourish them and take care of them so that they can continue to exist healthily.

But we must also learn to love them, no matter what shape they are.

They deserve it; you deserve it.

If you are struggling with body image issues, an eating disorder or just needing to talk to someone, please reach out to the Butterfly Foundation.
Ph: 1800 334 673 Email: support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

This article was originally published in Rabelias magazine