they count me out time and time again
Updated: May 10
Earlier this year, I was skeptical about speaking to a therapist for the very first time in my life. After I told him about the sequence of incredibly dire events that had led me to call him, he asked me if I had ever thought about killing myself - and I was grateful to finally hear some practical advice.
To explain what led me to make this call, and to be in this state of mind, I must take you back to the preceding events that took place at the check-in desk at Heathrow Terminal 2 in August of 2020. Just hours after this particularly pivotal moment, I saw my Dad cry for the second time in my life. The first time was when I was a child and he held me in his arms while telling me that his father, my grandfather, had just passed away. This time, I didn’t just look at my father’s eyes through tears in my own, but also through a laptop screen connected to extremely temperamental wifi at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 Airport Hotel.
My Dad was crying because earlier that day, when my brother and I walked up to the check-in desk showing our passports, negative COVID tests, and travel exemption documentation, on our way to the country which we should have been able to call home, after losing everything in the pandemic - our jobs, our income, our sanity - we were told that our previously approved travel exemption was now void. On our application, we had claimed that our parents were our immediate family, and we found out at the airport that the Australian government disagreed with this apparently outrageous claim. We spent the next week in the airport hotel desperate for this to be the ridiculous misunderstanding it sounds like it should be, but my educated guess based on my lifetime of poor experiences in Australia suggested otherwise.
When the pandemic hit I hoped I was wrong, but I believed that Australia would do whatever they could to keep people like me out of the country. This was one of the very first fears I had when the pandemic hit because two of my favourite people in the world happen to live in my least favourite place in the world.
At check-in, my brother and I were shown the fine print on the Australian government website which stated that Australia doesn’t define parents as immediate family members - if, like we were, you are now wondering who the fuck is defined as ‘immediate family’, you might be baffled to learn that it is just spouses, de facto partners, and children under 23 years old. Realising that the only father allowed to be reunited with his daughter during a pandemic was Woody Allen should have had more of a visceral impact, and I should have felt surprise or at least anger. But I didn’t. I didn’t feel anything. I felt numb. I was totally unsurprised that Australia would use a devastating global event as an opportunity to do the two things they love to do the most - separate families and close borders.
I think it is very fair to say that what we were told at check-in would shock most people but it came as no surprise to me because it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to me. Growing up as a foreigner in Australia, I was never made to feel welcome, and I became accustomed to mistreatment and constant othering from the country I spent the majority of my childhood in. This might sound dramatic, but what my family and I have been through in the last two years has been pretty fucking dramatic, and I think that I should be allowed to go big - since the Australian government told me in no uncertain terms, that I am not welcome to go home or even call Australia home. The xenophobia I have witnessed from both the Australian government and Australian culture throughout my life, and particularly throughout this pandemic, has finally reached breaking point and I cannot help but hate the entire country. I must rephrase - I don’t hate every Australian, but I hate quite a fair few, and that’s how it starts, doesn’t it?
I spent my entire childhood moving from place to place all around the world. This kind of upbringing is rare, and “you’re so lucky” is what people usually say to me when they find out that this was how I was raised. In a long list of things I have in common with Britney Spears, I earnestly dispute any such claims of my so-called luck. I do not view it as good fortune to be reluctantly yanked out of one school into another repeatedly throughout my childhood. I think the lucky ones remain in one place long enough to develop meaningful friendships and foster a sense of belonging and identity.
People often confuse an uprooted childhood with ‘travelling’. Travelling as a child is not the same as travelling as an adult. Adults, although mainly incredibly pretentious ones that I would like nothing to do with, often say that you travel to find yourself, but when you are a child, travelling frequently tends to result in a loss of identity, and ironically this feeling is the only consistent thing in your life.
I grew up all around the world - my birthplace and where I view my home to be being Scotland, followed by stints in New Zealand, Brunei, Australia, America, and England, where I now reside. Such an upbringing means that I am what is referred to as a 'Third Culture Kid', or rather now, an 'Adult Third Culture Kid'. This is a term given to people who grow up in a culture (or multiple cultures) different to that of their parents or that stated on their passports. It means that they have various different places which they can theoretically call home, which psychologically speaking, often leaves them feeling like they have none. And when your accent doesn’t match the one that you identify with, people often tell you that you are wrong - that you’re not really from where you say you’re from and you’re not really who you say you are.
I am simultaneously from everywhere I have lived and nowhere at the same time. In a more tangible and legal sense, my upbringing has resulted in my having British and NZ dual nationality. The way I see it is I am a British person with a second passport. The reason I see myself this way is because I was born in Britain, I live in Britain and my family is British - the UK is the place I have the most ties to and feel the most at home in. If I was a puppy having to run towards one of the nations I grew up in, I would run towards Britain both because it is the one that feels most like home, and also because even as a puppy, I would be smart enough to understand border control, and know that I have no legal right to enter many of the others.
However, because of my childhood and the many stresses I endured throughout it, I now live with a debilitating speech impediment. Devastatingly, right now, there is no cure. This is because, and as the doctors repeatedly tell me, “it’s not a medical condition, it’s an Australian accent”. The refusal to treat or even acknowledge my condition has had lasting impacts on my life. For example, because of the way I talk, people in England, where I currently live, are never willing to accept me as truly British - which is nice in some ways, because it finally allows me to finally have the quintessential experience of a Scot in England.
Understandably, one might incorrectly assume that having an Australian accent is a symptom of, in fact, being Australian, but this is not the case, and I wholeheartedly resent such an accusation. I speak with an Australian accent and it is, in my humble opinion, the very worst thing about me. I am not Australian, and I hate being mistaken for an Australian - probably more than any other thing that could be said about me.
My accent was simply obtained while travelling, and I wholeheartedly believe it to be the worst thing anyone has ever picked up whilst travelling. I obtained my accent by spending the years in which my accent was it’s most malleable held captive in a country I detest, against my will, by my parents (in a lovely house with plenty of acreage) and as such, I am nothing more than a carrier of this condition. It is not contagious, being Australian it is not in my blood, and thankfully it will never be passed on to my children.
As a teenager, I lost my previous accent and despite numerous calls to the travel insurance company I was repeatedly told “there is nothing they can do”. As one does after suffering a significant loss, I have experienced nearly every necessary stage of grief. It is probably abundantly clear that I am yet to achieve the final stage - acceptance. I am trying my best, mainly via long and arduous therapy sessions - I am putting in the necessary work to finally be ok with sounding like I am asking a question even when I’m not.
Of the stages I have completed thus far, denial was the most confusing stage, for both myself and others. I am now very aware of what I sound like and I understand that when I sound like I do, and understand it is difficult to be believed when I claim to be Scottish. It’s difficult to have a short conversation if asked where I am from - I'd prefer to just say "Aberdeen" and leave it at that, but I know there will be follow up questions. I often can't be bothered with explaining my life story to people I probably will never see again, so often I will lie and nod when a stranger asks me if I'm from Australia - if you are reading this and recall that when we met, you asked me if I was Australian and I said yes, please know that it is because I didn't want to talk to you and I didn't envision a future with you.
If I go for the honest answer to “where are you from?”, I am always met with perplexed looks. If I tell people the truth, if I say "Scotland" when they were expecting "Australia", it often throws them off, but unfortunately never usually enough to stop them from telling me the fun little anecdote they were always going to tell me about Bondi Beach.
When I make it clear that I do not, in any way, consider myself Australian, people will ignore this and tell me that they had a lovely time there for 2 weeks in 2014. All I want is to be extended the same basic courtesy Justin Bieber was offered - to not be defined by a short indiscretion in my youth. I feel doubly frustrated because I have lived in so many interesting places and people always feel the need to ask me about my least favourite one - given all the places I have been, asking me about Australia, is like meeting Sir Ian McKellen and asking him what it was like to star in CATS.
While I understand why people would be confused when I say “Scotland”, and am aware that if I do so without further explanation I would be about as convincing as Mel Gibson was in ‘Braveheart, I really despise having to explain my identity. I understand the misunderstandings around my identity but what frustrates me is that people constantly refute my own identity even after hearing about my background. People often ask exactly how much time my family actually spent in each place, so they can decide if I am really what I say I am. They want to decide if I have clocked enough time in the country I was born in, or in the place where I live and where my family is from to be allowed to call it ‘home’. I have to tell complete strangers about my travel history as if they are immigration, and allow them to decide what exactly that makes me and dismiss my own word. I despise that I have to have my identity up for debate and that I have no say - I hate being told that I am not what I say I am, or that I am not enough of what I claim to be.
People will tell me that I am not really Scottish, or that I am Australian. People will analyse or quantify my life story in front of me asking for more information and a timeline of where I was at any given time as if I have committed a crime. Like some sort of convict. When I’ve already said I’m not Australian.
Some people will ask me if I feel Australian. I don’t, but regardless, this is simply not how nationality works. Nationality isn’t a choice, and what I want to be is utterly irrelevant. I AM Scottish and I am NOT a citizen or even a resident of Australia, nor do I have any Australian family or heritage. People also often assume me stating this indisputable fact stems from me hating Australia, but it doesn’t. My frustration in being called Australian doesn't stem from a hatred of Australia, just as it would be senseless to assume I hate India if I were to say I am not Indian. My frustration is about constantly having my own identity taken away from me - it stems from constantly being told that I am something that I am not.
That being said, I do fucking hate Australia. I hate the sunshine and heat, I hate the beach, I hate their affinity for sports, I hate positivity and overt friendliness, and I hate how they shorten every single word but lengthen every name by adding an “O” on to the end of it (for the record, saying “Good day Dave” is less syllables than “Gday Davo”).
It didn’t have to be this way, and I didn’t have to have a whole country as my greatest enemy. When my family moved to Australia, I wanted to enjoy my time growing up there. At the time, I liked the sunshine and the heat, I enjoyed trips to the beach, I played multiple sports, and even tried to play one professionally. I was even seen, on occasion, smiling or even, god forbid, laughing. I am ashamed to say, there was a period of time when I referred to time after midday as “the arvo”. I tried so hard to be a part of the Australian community, but those within it repeatedly told me to - and allow me to say this in the local vernacular - “fuck off mate”.
We moved a lot, and I was always the new kid. I was regularly the shiny new toy on the playground, and other kids would always be there, ready to make fun of my constantly changing and different accent. I always had a very different accent from all of my peers. We moved so frequently and my voice in its young and malleable state changed as often as Jennifer Lawrence’s in that film where she played a Russian spy.
This led to teasing, some of which was just plain annoying and involved kids asking me to say certain phrases and then they would laugh amongst themselves at the absolute hilarity of it all, but some was awful - I would be told to “go back home”, something I can only assume the children picked up from their parents.
I didn’t like how other kids treated me so I decided to respond with what I thought was a fool-proof plan - no one could make fun of my voice if I just stopped talking. I kept to myself a lot and became reserved out of self protection. This ended up proving to be quite the arduous task for obvious reasons - especially since I was an aspiring comedian so as much as I hated the sound of my own voice I also loved it - hence the jig didn’t last long. My plan also backfired as because I was now the weird quiet kid - who as it turns out, gets picked on just as much as the kid with the weird accent. Teachers criticised me for withdrawing, but never questioned why I had done so - those in charge suggested I might have learning difficulties, but notably, no one ever apologised when my results were at the top of the class.
I eventually started speaking again, but not as regularly. I didn’t want to open myself up to friendship if I was just going to have to move again and have it ripped away from me - I was a firm believer that it is better to have never loved at all than to have loved and lost. It was also surprising to me that kids were so focussed on my voice, given the plethora of other options to make fun of me for - I also played golf competitively. Golf is a game in which being good doesn’t score you any street cred - even the winners are losers.
I started playing golf, a sport I actively hated (and you should too) at seven years old and I didn’t stop for 14 years, because my parents loved golf almost as much as I hate conflict. With my brother, our family was the perfect little four-ball and I was the only one that didn’t want to be there - I was Nick Jonas, and I kept playing even though I knew I wanted out of the band. However, dragging my feet around the golf course each and every day for approximately 10,000 hours in total had a surprising and completely unprecedented result - I got really really good at it.
I’ve spoken about this in another blog, but being really good at something and reaping the benefits of it even if you hate the activity itself can become intoxicating, and this feeling was enough to confuse me into thinking that maybe I loved it. I am a very competitive person and I loved winning. I would go to sleep dreaming about the speech I would make when I won the tournament, but would never dream of the tournament itself. I would think about a one liner I might be able to slip into my thank yous to the golf course staff, oblivious to the fact that it was both success and laughter that I craved, not golf.
The one thing I did love about golf was that I didn’t have to speak to anyone - I was living my misanthropic dream in every way apart from the having to play golf part. I had also managed to find a sense of community in an individual sport. Through all the moving, golf became the one consistent thing in my life as it offered a sense of belonging that was foreign to me - it was something I had never felt at school or amongst my peers. It gave an identity to a kid who had never had one. Sure, I was the “girl who played golf” so arguably it wasn’t the most desirable identity, but I was delighted to have one.
I was thrilled to have stability and control in my own life. I learned that you might have to move from place to place, but golf courses remain the same. When you move so frequently, you often, correctly or incorrectly, think the grass is always greener on the other side, but the grass at golf courses is always exactly the same colour as it was in the previous place, as is the skin of the creepy old men who frequent them.
In playing golf, I had not just an identity but I essentially had a full time job when I was 14. At 14 years old, I was club champion and I was selected for the Western Australian state team. I was on track for a professional career, and I would bet everything I own today that I would be a professional golfer right now if the following events did not take place.
In 2008, I received a letter notifying me of my selection for the Western Australian team and I was told that training sessions were to start imminently. We were told that going forward, we would get monthly updates on when the practice sessions that month would be as they would be scheduled around the men’s competitions - many old men at the club were vocally upset about, and had written letters to express their grievances with, the mere existence of young girls at the course, so we had to make our existence scarce. I’m not joking.
The first few months of training sessions came and went and much to my astonishment and delight, I made friends. Girls around my age who started inviting me to their birthday parties and didn’t think I was weird for being good at golf because they were too.
Another few months were turned over on the calendar on the wall, but one month there was no corresponding letter through my family’s letterbox. My teammates had all received theirs and told when and where that months trainings would be - one of them told me on MSN messenger. I asked my mum if she had accidentally thrown a letter away. She hadn’t. There was no letter. This was how I found out, via radio silence, that I had been cut from the team.
I had to book an appointment with the team coach to ask why. He told me that it had been flagged that I “sounded foreign”, and he accused me of “hiding” my nationality. He said he didn’t realise I was not Australian, and none of the selection committee realised this either.
That was that. I was a child, kicked off a team with zero tact, for a factor completely out of my control. This might not seem like a big deal, but what happens at these early stages of an athletes career define the rest of their career. If you don’t make the team at this point, then you don’t have a future in the sport. If you do, you’ll likely have an incredibly successful and lucrative one. It’s a make-or-break point and it's that simple. If you’re reading this thinking that if someone is good enough, they will make it regardless, then congratulations on getting all of your knowledge from a Nike “Just Do It“ campaign, but that’s not how it works. It takes a team to create a top athlete even in individual sports, and if that team decides they don’t want you, you’re done. It is a very necessary stepping stone to professional sport, unless you come from an extremely minted or well connected family.
Everyone who was on that team is an incredibly successful professional now. If I hadn’t been removed from the team, I would be too. Every single teammate I had at the time - those who weren’t kicked off the team for a factor out of their control - are now millionaires. My golf career, on the other hand, ended that day.
I was told I wasn’t eligible for the Australian team because they didn’t see me as Australian, but I wasn’t eligible for the Scottish team or New Zealand teams because I wasn’t able to attend training sessions given I didn’t live in either country. I was in no mans land - a place I became very familiar with throughout my life - a place where I am not enough of anything to be allowed to be a part of something.
I couldn’t become an Australian citizen at any point during the decade I lived in Australia. I was a New Zealand passport holder, and New Zealand has what is described as a “special relationship” with Australia. In theory, New Zealanders are supposed to be treated as Australians for all intents and purposes within Australia, and vice versa. For this reason, they make the pathway to citizenship nearly impossible because they insist you do not need it, and you already have all the rights of a local. In reality, the relationship is not “special” at all but does dictate that Australia has very specific rules for New Zealanders, especially young ones - your parents have to have citizenship, but if they are over a certain age, which mine were, then they can’t get it. If you can’t get citizenship through your parents, then as a child, you have to be earning $AU 53,900 p/a for a consecutive 5 years in order to apply for citizenship. Devastatingly, my lemonade stand fell short at just $52k in the 5th and final year of my application.
None of this should have mattered anyway - I was selected for the Western Australian golf team - this is a state team and there were no nationality requirements to represent a state. The selection panel introduced these rules just for me - they didn’t previously exist and what they did was make a conscious, and life changing decision, based solely on the fact that they thought I didn’t belong. I had no way of meeting their new and arbitrary criteria, so I asked the coach what I was supposed to do. He responded by telling me that if I wanted success, I should “go back home”. But I had no idea where that was, and 14 year olds don’t often have much control in where they live. I lost count of the number of times I was told to “go back home” in Australia, which in itself, probably tells you why I never once felt that I could call Australia home.
When I was kicked off the golf team, the thing that offered me a sense of belonging was gone. My teammates stopped talking to me. The invites to training sessions stopped, and the invites to the birthday parties did too. I was expected to just take it on the chin, to continue to deal with being told I am not welcome, because I was a foreigner - so what the fuck did I expect? If I wanted any other treatment, I should just "go back home". In Australia, I learnt over and over again that you cannot be a part of something if the people already on the inside refuse to let you in. This painful lesson that I learnt in a coaches office was reinforced in the cruelest way 12 years later at an airport check-in desk.
Since last year, people, including some who I thought would be lifelong friends, have cut me out of their lives because I have dared to criticise what the Australian government is doing to families like mine. Someone who has known me since I was 12 years old - who I thought would be in my life forever, someone who I thought would be a bridesmaid at my wedding, who met me in Australia and spent the next decade with me living in Australia - told me that the Australian government was right to keep me out. "You're not Australian" she told me. She said I have no right to be upset about being let into Australia when I am so vocally anti-Australia. But this is not only heartless but it is ridiculous logic - I applied for entry to Australia on the basis of getting to my immediate family, to go and stay long-term in the house where my childhood bedroom is. I have never and would never claim to be Australian, I simply claimed that my parents were my immediate family. I hate Australia but liking a country is not a criterion at border control - I don't need to like Australia to deserve to see my family. I hate Australia and every minute I lived there, I dreamt of getting out and seeing it in my rear view mirror - I would argue that makes it the very definition of 'home'.
When I was 14 and kicked off the golf team, my fleeting moment of feeling included was over, and I, once again, became incredibly withdrawn at school. I was then, once again, criticised for not making an effort to integrate with my peers. I was simultaneously told that I fundamentally and unchangeably didn’t belong but it was also my responsibility to rectify this - I should make more of an effort to try to fit in. But that's not fair, it's impossible to open a door if those on the inside have bolted it shut and boarded up the windows. When you are constantly told you’re not welcome somewhere, you do exactly what I did - you leave.
This gut wrenching experience has reaffirmed my greatest fear - that I don’t really have a place I am allowed to call home. My upbringing and what happened to me last year has made me redefine what home is to me. I am aware my latest epiphany isn’t exactly revolutionary, but the events of the last couple of years make me truly believe in the oft cross-stitched cliché that home is where the heart is. I truly think home is wherever you feel you belong.
To be told that you are not welcome anywhere is a really painful and isolating experience for anyone to go through. Being told this repeatedly throughout your entire childhood is a lot to deal with. But being told it mid pandemic, after losing everything, when all you need is to be with your immediate family, is an indescribable feeling and it was the reason that I made the phone call that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
I talked to the therapist about feeling suicidal and he suggested I think about times and places that have offered me a sense of belonging or a feeling of being "at home". During my time on the Western Australian golf team, I'd found this for the first time in my life, but it was ripped out from under me. I didn’t find that feeling again until I started comedy - and when I did, for the first time in my life, I found that feeling in a place that I never want to leave. I was finally home. My new therapist suggested I come up with a list of reasons to stay alive and I wrote ‘comedy’. My agent dropped me the next week.
My agent did so knowing exactly what I had just gone through and exactly how I was feeling about it. Even after everything else I had been through in the last year, and everything else you have just read about, being dropped, in the way I was, was undoubtedly the worst I have ever been treated. It was the worst way I’ve ever been removed from a roster. It wasn’t nice to go through and it really wasn’t done nicely.
However, I have thought long and hard about this - in fact, I have thought of nearly nothing else since it happened - and I have decided not to write in any more detail about the worst experience of my life here. There is no need to put myself through that by dredging those feelings up and I don’t think it would be right to give them a blog post. Instead, they are getting a whole show.
Come see it live, all dates are listed under ‘live’ 😘