Personal Year In Review

2021 has been a tumultuous year for us all. We jumped to unfounded  hopeful conclusions that the troubles of 2020 would be left in the past, but they managed to slip through and follow us into another year. While I cannot speak for everyone on how their year was, and I am sure many had a tough one, be they with job losses, loss of income or livelihoods, mental health issues deriving from lockdowns, or even the loss of loved ones, I can speak for myself and I can say without doubt it has been a year of ups and downs. So I thought I would do a little recap of what I experienced in 2021, and the lessons I have learnt along the way.

The year started off expectedly – with more restrictions. But for me, it started with goals in mind for what I was hoping to achieve this year, and another article published on The Spectator Australia’s online platform Flat White. That was my second published piece. Little did I know that by the end of the year I would have a total of 36 published pieces, 17 for The Spectator and a further 19 for The Good Sauce, who I began writing for after the publication of my second piece in February. I am grateful to both publications taking a chance on a young writer with a penchant to bring back honest journalism.

In addition to writing, I began to branch out into the world of interviews, and I was privileged to take part in 5 interviews, three of which were live, the other two being pre-recorded before being published for the world to see. I was also excited to take on a new challenge in beginning my own show and was truly privileged to interview Isabel Brown from Turning Point USA. She was very generous to agree to an interview with someone just starting out in this field of media, something I will never forget. While that show will no longer continue to air on The Good Sauce, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with them on it. I will continue to produce content for them in the form of articles throughout 2022.

However, although the show will no longer be produced by The Good Sauce, that does not mean it is over – far from it. It is only just beginning. And so it brings me the utmost excitement to announce that from January 2022 my show will return on my own platform, under a new name and with a whole range of guests. This is my next step on my journey in the media realm, and, although it will be a challenge, I am excited to see what it brings.

I was also elated to see my articles for both The Spectator and The Good Sauce in the “Most Popular” lists for each site. Several of my pieces hit number 1 and for that I must thank everyone who has taken the time to read what I write. I could not do it without the readers. Without you these articles would not be seen, let alone make it to the top articles of the day. So thank you for reading my pieces this year, and I hope you will continue to do so in 2022.

I have also continued to write pieces for my blog JJ’s Outlook, which has seen a few changes this year in design and layout. I began writing a few blog series,’ including Uncovering Christianity – Exploring The Roots Of The West and Spirit & Truth, each of which focused on aspects of religion and society. It is my hope that these have helped others in their own lives, particularly in a spiritual sense. Although I have not written any more pieces for these series for a while, I hope to continue them sporadically in 2022 and beyond. And while we are on the topic of my blog, I just want to thank each and every one of you who has visited the site and read pieces published there throughout the year. You don’t see it but there has been an increase in traffic to the site this year, which means more people are swinging by to check it out. I hope you will continue to do so in the new year, and I hope to see more people visiting throughout 2022.

Before I move on to some more person stuff, I must make note of a few people who have been on my writing and media journey with me this year. Alexandra Marshall, who also writes for The Spectator Australia and The Good Sauce among other publications took me under her wing and brought me into the fold at The Good Sauce, as well as guiding me in my writing as a political commentator/independent writer throughout the year. She also brought me on as a guest on her show, which was my first experience of an interview format, and I am grateful for that opportunity which launched me into a new part of the media realm. I must also thank Dave Pellowe, the editor of The Good Sauce, who welcomed me into the fold and included me in a number of interviews, as well as taking a chance on me with my own show on his platform. I’m also grateful to Dia Beltran, who invited me onto her show and gave me my first experience of a live interview. And finally, I am grateful to Christian Kerr, editor of The Spectator Australia’s Flat White, who took a chance on me as a young writer for a well-known publication and gave me a start in my writing career. Unfortunately Christian tragically and unexpectedly passed away in November, and so I want to take this chance to express my condolences to his family and friends, and to say that I will always remember that he was the first person to publish one of my pieces.

Now onto personal stuff. I think the last year has again brought to light what matters most in our lives and has taught us what we should value above all else. For me, despite the chaos of life, lockdowns, and restrictions, I was able to continue to grow in my faith, which has kept me going throughout the most difficult of times. I was glad to be able to attend Masses at my Parish, especially at Easter and Christmas, and to help in providing a nice farewell to our parish priest, who has now retired. During the times of lockdowns when churches were closed, I was grateful to be able to tune into online Masses with Fr. Rob Galea (his homilies are really something special).

Many of you know I also teach Scripture in state primary schools, a ministry I became involved with in the latter part of 2018. I began this year with 36 Year 6 students, a pretty big number for one teacher to handle on their own. The class ended up being split in two after a few weeks, and I ended up with around 18 students to guide in the faith. I must say, although it is nerve-wracking to teach a class of students, given you become responsible for them actually learning – you have to prepare lessons that are fruitful and help them to engage with the subject – it is an enriching experience that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to continue in the deepening of their own faith. You learn from the kids just as much as they learn from you. Unfortunately, I only got two terms with my students before Gladys decided to lock us all down again, and we never returned to Scripture for the remainder of the year. Although I did not get to teach them all I had hoped to teach them, nor wish them all the best in their future endeavours, I hope that from the little time we got to spend together they were able to grow in their faith and that they will continue to do so as they start this next chapter of their lives in high school.

Unfortunately, given the absolutely nonsensical mandates on those teaching in schools, I will not be permitted to go back to Scripture teaching in 2022 due to my choice not to take the vaccine. This is extremely disappointing, and I have voiced this disappointment to coordinators of Special Religious Education (SRE), including the head of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), who is in charge of SRE across the Diocese. The only response I received was that they were following the orders of the Department of Education to “keep people safe.” It is regrettable that Christians would not do more to stick up for their fellow Christians. It is something I have noticed increasingly over the last year, and I must say that I do not think Jesus would have excluded people because of their vaccination status. I hope things may change in 2022, but I do not expect them to, and as someone who liked having that routine of helping students each week, I will miss it in 2022. I hope Christians will stop letting the government dictate their faith lives and support each other better.

This year was also a year of loss for me in other ways. My great aunt suddenly passed away earlier in the year, and it left the family in a bit of a shock. Aunty Agnes was much loved by her extended family, and we will always remember her for being such a kind soul. Her curry puffs will forever be missed at family gatherings, as will her bright spirit and her many stories of her travels and her fondness for languages.

In August, we got to see my nan in Queensland over Zoom to wish her a happy birthday. It was so nice to see her face again, to have a bit of a chat. But things can really change in an instant, and that afternoon she was taken to hospital. It seemed that she was picking up and would return to the aged care facility she resided in toward the end of the following week, yet tragically things took a turn for the worse and she began rapidly declining. Even more heartbreaking was that most of the family is located in either NSW or Victoria, meaning we could not be by her side to say goodbye. Only one of her six children lived nearby, my Uncle Mark, and we are so grateful for all he did looking after her and being there with her in her final days, as well as speaking on the family’s behalf at the funeral which we were only able to attend via video link. We will all miss nan very much. I will always remember her every time a new Compare The Meerkat ad comes on the television. She loved those little guys.

I think it is poignant to note on this that there is something truly cruel about keeping family apart in the darkest of hours. I cannot imagine how many others have had to go through this same thing over the past two years. I had to say goodbye to my nan, someone who I was close with and cared for very much, over a video call on a mobile phone. I would not wish what happened to my family on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But I want to say this to the government and politicians and health bureaucrats that imposed the absurd rules that kept my family apart when my nan was coming to the end of her life: I will never forget what you have done to people in this country. You are cruel, you are heartless, and you have no shame. What you have done, what you continue to do, is truly evil. People do not forget things like that easily. Shame on each and every one of you who allow these atrocities to continue to be brought upon good people.

In the midst of everything that went on this year, I completed another year of study at university, bringing me closer to finishing my degree. Given I have been going nonstop for around twelve to fifteen months, I decided to take a short break for one study period and will resume my studies in March for my final year. At this stage, I am likely to finish my degree around February 2023. I have enjoyed the last year of study, learning a lot more about the mediasphere, and gaining knowledge on media law. I also have some exciting writing prospects coming up which I will talk a bit more about in the new year.

As for work, I have continued to work my job as a groundskeeper, a job I have been fortunate to have for over 7 years now, and which I still enjoy. I also had the opportunity to do some work for DPF Sales Australia and was grateful to do so. In terms of job prospects for the new year, those tie in with writing prospects, so I will leave those for discussion in 2022.

And just a quick mental health update (given I have been pretty open about this aspect of my life over the past couple of years), I have found myself doing quite well throughout 2021. Although there have been a number of ups and downs, I can say that I am in a better place now than I was in 2019 and 2020. By no means does that mean I am cured, but I’m doing better and that’s what matters.

There is so much more I could say, but I don’t want to make this too long. So I’ll wrap this up by providing a few final thoughts for the year. 2021 has taught us that we cannot take anything for granted. We only have a limited time on this Earth, and so we must choose to use it wisely and use it well. We must also search out those things that are most valuable and learn to value them deeply. It may be something as simple as family or friends, or something as complex as happiness or love. Over the last month in particular, I have borne witness to people around me in states of pure joy which in turn have brought a smile to my face and my heart. Just imagine how much better this world could be if we were all able to experience this and help others to do the same, rather than falling victim to the corruption of division.

There is an old saying – if you’re going through hell, keep going. I used to be confused by this phrase. I used to think “if someone is going through hell, why would they want to stay there? Why would they want to keep going through it? Wouldn’t they want to escape?” But now I understand. Our personal hells shape us into better people. They help us to learn and to grow. After all, diamonds are made under pressure. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to keep going to get there.

The last two years have been chaotic and hellish for many, but we have to keep going if we are every going to get through this. And along the way, we must stop to appreciate the small beauties in life. I can say from personal experience that although these last couple of years have been challenging, there have been moments in which I have found joy lighting up my heart. Whether it be a beautiful sunset, seeing people happy together, seeing your dog do something very adorable, or whatever else may bring even a moment of joy to your life, take hold of it. Live in the moment. Because that will re-energise you and help you to continue on your way through this insane journey we call life.

Thanks for all the support in 2021, especially to all my family and friends, and may God Bless you all with a safe and happy New Year in 2022.

2021: Year In Review

This time last year, when we neared the end of 2020, we said something along the lines of “after what’s happened this year, 2021 couldn’t possibly be any worse. It should be better.”

Boy, were we wrong.

This year has been like a bad sequel to what was already a terrible movie. It is a film series in which the world is crashing and burning, and everyone is so naïve and panicked that they believe that only the elite among them can save them from total annihilation. The irony in the plot is that the elites are the ones causing the chaos; the so-called saviours of humanity are really their enemies.

Proceeding with this analogy, there have been numerous spoiler alerts of what is to come in this trainwreck of a film. But, like spoilers for a decent show, many do not wish to pay them any heed. Instead, they are lazily labelled conspiracy theories and ignored, much to the detriment of a society seeking to escape this nightmare. Yet the success rate of the ‘conspiracy theorists’ has been extremely high, to the point where they may as well declare themselves oracles.

Given this is a wrap up of the year, what better time to produce a comprehensive list of the conspiracy theories turned realities in 2021?

Of course, we should start with vaccine passports, which are now being utilised to segregate society by vaccination status in several countries and cities around the globe. We were laughed at for suggesting such a system would be implemented but look at where we are now. If you do not get the vaccine, you are locked out of society. If you do not get your booster, your vaccine passport expires and you are treated as if you have not had a single dose of the vaccine.

Next up, the quarantine camps – or, as the elite like to call them, quarantine facilities. Don’t mind the naming of these facilities being so Orwellian it would have any sane person questioning the motives of those who have built them. Take, for example, the Northern Territory and Victoria’s Centres for National Resilience, and the new facility in Queensland, which has been called ‘Wellcamp.’ There is far too much doublespeak going on here that sends a chill down the spine. To make matters worse, positive cases and close contacts in the Northern Territory were being whisked off to these camps by the army. But when critics called them out, labelling the facilities as ‘quarantine camps’ (which they practically are), they were hounded by those supporting such facilities, including individuals in the media, who claimed they were nothing of the sort and instead were more like a resort for people who needed to quarantine for a couple of weeks. But is it truly a resort when you are forced into it and cannot leave, let alone step off the balcony of your unit?

In addition to these two more significant theories turned reality, the following were also labelled ‘conspiracy theories’: the vaccinated can spread the virus, boosters every three to six months (we’re already down to three in several places, including the UK and Australia, with the European Union looking to follow suit), segregation based on vaccination status, unvaccinated people being denied work, contracts between Pfizer and governments, and making access to medical care difficult for unvaccinated individuals.

Oh, and despite many claiming it was insane to even consider this to be true, there are also people getting microchips installed in their hands or wrists so their information, including their vaccination status, is readily accessible. (If you don’t believe me, just look up what’s happening in Sweden. It’s mental.)

Much like what happens to film critics, the critics of this dystopic horror film were attacked, many being censored and silenced to limit their voice in the public sphere. As things progressively worsened throughout the year, those calling out the atrocities being committed by politicians and health bureaucrats against the people of their nations were labelled all sorts of unsavoury terms. Those in power spoke out against them, calling them ‘crazy,’ ‘dangerous,’ ‘lunatics’ or the like, doing all they could to discredit what they were saying to make us appear deluded.

Many of us who could see the parallels between the medical tyranny espoused through COVID-19 and the actions that led to the abominations committed by the Nazi regime were degraded. But what those who chastised us for drawing such parallels failed to recognize was that we were not saying this was the Holocaust; we were merely pointing out that the roads being travelled now were disturbingly similar to those travelled by previous authoritarian regimes of the past. The ‘papers please’ mentality that had been adopted by governments around the world was practically the same as what occurred in the beginnings of Nazi Germany. It has become even more concerning in recent months, with Germany and Austria locking unvaccinated people out of society completely. Comically, Germany imposed a rule whereby euthanasia could only be accessed by those who had been fully vaccinated, which means you have to be vaccinated if you want to die. But Austria took the covid totalitarianism even further by imposing nationwide vaccine mandates and asking for vaccinated people to come forward to work for the government in hunting down any unvaccinated individuals remaining after the mandate comes into effect in February.

The COVID era has brought to light the authoritarians among us, and has exposed much hypocrisy, especially in our leaders. Many of them have decided not to live by their own rules, excusing themselves from the mandates they impose on everyone else. But there are more people becoming privy to this. They are seeing politicians trip over their own feet. Minor parties are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the major parties, who are bleeding supporters left, right and centre.

And this brings us to some of the finer moments of the year, the moments that brought some elation into our lives despite all the attempts to break us. Because the COVID era has also demonstrated the strong will of the individual in the face of relentless attacks on their rights, freedoms, livelihoods, jobs, families, friends – practically all they have.

At the forefront were the protests, so great in magnitude and growing stronger every week. Not only did people turn out in incredible numbers in major cities around Australia, including Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, but also in nations around the world. The weekly protests in France were a sight to behold, tens of thousands turning out each week to make their voices heard to a government that was trying to force them into submission. When vaccine passports came into effect, people sat on the streets outside restaurants sharing food and company to demonstrate that they would not be excluded from society, nor exclude others. And, most recently, in Vienna, and outpouring of protestors graced the streets to show their leaders that they vehemently opposed vaccine passports.

Speaking of the French, it was a rough year for Macron this year, as he learnt that not everything is set in stone and that people can actually change their minds. The submarine saga saw the French President acting like a petulant child when they do not get their way, upset that the Australian government would back out of the ridiculous submarine deal struck in the Turnbull era and instead strike a new agreement with the US and UK governments. Macron subsequently threw a fit at the G20 Summit, which the Australian mainstream media lapped up. The Chinese were also upset to hear that Australia was getting nuclear subs, but they should not be too disappointed given we probably won’t have them for at least a decade.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Joe Biden was making a fool of himself in his first year as President. Gas prices soared, as did crime levels in Democrat held cities. Kamala Harris kept cackling every chance she got, the administration kept Biden away from the press as much as possible, and Jen Psaki spun a web of lies. While the chaos that is the Biden administration ensued, Trump continued to live rent free in their heads. When anything went wrong, they somehow managed to find a way to blame him. The Democrats must be practiced archers, given the incredulous number of long bows they were drawing. But the Dems also had trouble within their own ranks, with Democrat Senator Joe Manchin voting against their agenda multiple times throughout the year, most recently putting a pin in the infamous Build Back Better bill. Dr Fauci continued to do all he could to keep the covid narrative alive and deny the lab leak theory, although once the truth emerged it appeared he had lied to Congress, a federal felony for which Senator Rand Paul referred him for investigation. And, of course, who could forget the Let’s Go Brandon chant, which fast became the catch cry of those opposed to Biden’s government. All our Christmases came at once when he uttered the phrase himself at Christmas.

While UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied a Christmas Party that members of his government had and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau trapped his own citizens in the country, the only way out being the vaccine, after somehow managing to get re-elected, Australia had several plot twists of its own.

After being viewed as the only seemingly level-headed Premier in the country, Gladys Berejiklian plunged NSW into months of lockdown, only to end up resigning after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) announced an investigation into her surrounding her dealings with former MP Daryl Maguire. Subsequent to her departure, a shootout began in the NSW Liberal Party. Three MPs in total resigned, forcing by-elections in their seats. The Deputy Premier John Barilaro also fell flat, leaving a spot open for contention in the National Party. The scramble persisted for only a brief time until deals were done and Dominic Perrottet somehow managed to emerge as the victor, much to the celebration of Conservatives across the state, albeit with a little disappointment that Matt ‘Green’ Kean was now the Treasurer. But it did not take long at all for Dom to disappoint and show us all that he was just another politician, unable to keep his promises.

Meanwhile in Victoria, former Labor MP Adem Somyurek, having undergone interrogation by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), made a surprise return to state Parliament to spite Daniel Andrews by voting against his permanent pandemic Bill. Unfortunately, despite the amusement that Somyurek’s antics brought to Australians, it was not enough to bury the bill, which passed after crossbencher Rod Barton did a deal with the Andrews government.

And finally, we must not forget that this year has seen new variants of the virus emerge. For most of the year Delta was the talk of the town. That was until a subsequent variant revealed itself. When it came to naming the new variant, the Greek Alphabet method was continued. However, this time there was a slight alteration, whereby the World Health Organization (WHO) politely skipped over the letter Xi so as not to offend their Chinese overlords and went straight to Omicron. Next up is Pi.

2021 has been a year full of tyranny, absurdity, and absolute insanity. Definitions have been changed, including those of ‘vaccine’ and ‘anti-vaxxer,’ which now comprises anyone who merely opposes vaccine mandates. The same people that have told us constantly to “trust the science” think gender is fluid and cannot seem to comprehend basic biology. The Science™ has become a religion, people worshipping it like a golden calf. Practically every politician is now a wannabe dictator. And those who are voices of reason are cast out as crazy conspiracy theorists. Logic has become a rare and priceless commodity. Much like the volcano in La Palma, just when the chaos is over, it bursts back into life creating more havoc and destruction.

If 2020 was the first film in a dystopic film series, and 2021 was the sequel, 2022 may well be the third installment in a terrible trilogy. But how much worse will it get? Will people line up like good subservient slaves to Big Pharma to get their third and fourth doses and subsequent ‘boosters’ every time the government says jump? Will politicians be able to maintain their power now that a more infectious but less deadly variant is on the loose? Will the ‘conspiracy theorists’ finally be widely believed? Will we see endless jokes about Pi/pie? Will this chaos and hysteria all finally come to an end?

It is all up to you.

Think of 2022 as a choose your own adventure film, but a special one where the choices you make could bring the medical tyranny that has plagued the world for the last two years crashing down or build it up even more to the point where we are beyond saving.

If we truly want to leave this world of dystopic tendencies behind us, we must be prepared to fight back hard in 2022. We must be willing to defend our liberty, and to stand up and say no. This goes for all people, regardless of your beliefs, your vaccination status, or whether or not you have been affected in any way by arbitrary rules and restrictions. We can either descend further into the rabbit hole of tyranny which only leads to a tragic ending as in 1984, or we can rise to the occasion and put a heroic end to government overreach like the people did in V for Vendetta.

We should not speak too soon about 2022 being better than 2021, given when we said last year that 2021 would be better than 2020, we were way too ahead of ourselves. 2022 does have the potential to be a year of good change. But, like all good things, it is not going to come easily.

So as we bid farewell to 2021,  let us consider what we want to see in 2022. Hopefully, we can all agree it is time for change. The power for change lies in the people. It is up to you to make a difference.

Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #4 – Courage And Grace In Times Of Hardship (Special Easter Edition)

One of the things that makes humanity so great is our ability to overcome. There are often times when we shoulder incredible burdens, when we face the most difficult of challenges, when we climb the highest, steepest mountains. We are subject to pain and suffering, but that is part of human life. It is essential to growth, to build more resilient human beings who can bear not only their own burdens, but aid others in carrying theirs. While it may be a difficult task to accomplish, it is finding courage and grace in times of hardship that allows the human race to flourish and thrive, creating a far greater society.

Courage is not at all easy to come by. It takes strength to muster it, to manifest it into being. There are two parts of us from wherein courage takes form and burgeons out: the heart and the mind. For the most part, courage derivates from the mind. Our mentality is what determines how we navigate the journey of life, how we approach obstacles in our path and ride the waves of emotion that ebb and flow. The heart is where courage catches ablaze and burns bright, flowing out into the rest of our body. To put it into an analogy, the heart is like the furnace, where fires of hope, love, courage, and the like are all lit and burn, spreading warmth throughout the body, throughout the soul, brightening the life of a human being. But fires do not typically occur spontaneously. They must be sparked and kindled by other forces. In the case of humanity, that force is the mind. It is a powerful force that can change the way we feel, see, and act in an instant. In order to create the spark of courage, or indeed of hope or love in our hearts, we must steer our mind in the right direction.

This is not an easy thing to do, especially when we are at a challenging point in our life. Throughout each of our lives, we are guaranteed to face times of hardship. If we did not, we would not have the opportunity to learn and grow as human beings, and this would be a truly dull existence. Framing our mind to deal with these times is a task that takes focus and self-trust. The ease with which we do this depends on where we are at in our lives, what we are dealing with, and any factors that may increase the difficulty of achieving the two key factors of framing the mind.

Factors that may increase the difficulty of framing the mind to spark courage in our heart include those such as anxiety, depression, or any other mental health conditions. Stress and other factors also contribute to this. Opposite them are those that decrease that difficulty, allowing us to frame our mind more easily and effectively. Calm, peace of mind, relaxation (although not too relaxed because that can create a sense of complacency from which we can slip quickly into a world of chaos as we begin to lack awareness of our surroundings, both in a mental and physical aspect), and others can help us to quickly achieve the frame of mind we wish to enter. There are, of course, ways to transform the factors that make this task difficult into those that make it simpler. We can do this by exercising the mind in certain ways, be it through breathing exercises, meditation, closing our eyes and acknowledging our thoughts, or any other method that allows us to focus. Sometimes we need some help to find the right method/s, to order our minds. There is nothing wrong with that. It is something many of us would have done, and continue to do, and no-one should be afraid to do so.

The point we are at on our journey through life depends on the path we take, which, as I mentioned in the second edition of this series, may change as we progress. When we are at a point in our lives where things are cruising along, where we are not coming up against many obstacles, we will typically find life is easy, and be capable of framing our minds without much of a challenge. When many obstacles are in our way and we are struggling to comprehend them all, we will find that life is difficult, and struggle to frame our minds in the necessary way to deal with the blockades in our path. But then there are times when we are at a crossroads, when we come to a point where we must make a decision that will determine the trajectory of our life. These are times when we either thrive or struggle. But it is in these times that it is crucial that we are in the right frame of mind. We might be able to make a decision quickly, although this is not necessarily a good thing as it may come from a sense of complacency that has become self-defeating and has created an unhealthy lifestyle, sometimes physically, but more so mentally. When it comes to important decisions, we need to be able to take time and reflect upon the potential outcomes, but not to the point that they become overwhelming because this can significantly increase the difficulty of the decision and the time it will take to make it. Being in the right frame of mind will greatly assist us in determining which of our potential choices will lead us to the greatest outcomes for our life, both spiritually, and in our quest for growth, understanding, and leaving our mark on the world.

What we are dealing with will greatly influence how we deal with it. There is a wide-spanning array of situations and scenarios that we must navigate throughout our lives. Each individual will deal with these in at the very least a slightly different way to another. These may include things like the death of a loved one, broken family relationships, determining our career, or indeed figuring out our place in the world. There are indeed many others, but these are some of the most fundamental problems many face in their lives that take immense courage and grace to traverse.

Death touches us all at one point or another. Losing a loved one is an immensely difficult part of life to transcend. Sometimes it brings a slight sense of peace knowing that someone important to us who may have been suffering and in pain is now at peace. For Christians, we find solace in believing that when we pass from this world, our spirit moves on to the next, to the Kingdom of Heaven that God built. That same Kingdom that we all now have the opportunity to enter because of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. God the Father sent His Only Son to this Earth to live amongst us, to walk amongst us, to teach us how to live a good and faithful life, and to ultimately bear the greatest burden of all and go to His death on the Cross so that we would be saved from sin. Jesus knew the way in which He would die, He knew the events that would take place, and He fulfilled them to the last. Even though He knew He would suffer, even though he had such a heavy load to bear, He continued forward, and allowed it all to happen. Only someone possessing great courage could shoulder such a burden and keep going. Throughout His final hours, His Mother and some of His disciples kept near Him, following Him to the place where He was to die. His Mother, Mary, and disciple, John, watched on as He hung on the Cross, through to His last breath. They watched Him die, great sorrow filling their hearts. On the third day Jesus would rise, having conquered sin and death, but in the time immediately following his passing, there was great despair amongst His followers.

This is what death does: it spurns sorrow and pain in the hearts of those close to the person who has passed. I remember in the days and weeks following the passing of my grandfather, I was trying to contemplate, trying to make sense of why this had happened. Even in the days preceding his passing, I was deeply emotional and began questioning God as to why pop was not getting better, why he was fading away. I wondered why God would allow him to die now rather than giving us more time with him. It was indeed one of the most difficult times in my life. Compounded by mental health problems I was facing at the time, it resulted in a spiral that left me in pretty terrible shape. But in those weeks and months that followed, I found solace in the blessings we had been given in the months prior to pop’s passing. We had gone on a cruise to New Zealand with him only two months prior and had hosted him for a couple of weeks at our home during the bushfires just weeks before. Upon reflection, I was even more grateful to God for giving us these incredible opportunities to spend time with pop before he passed from this world to the next. It was these moments of grace that helped me to overcome the tremendous loss I had felt.

Death is, however, not the only hardship we must face in life. Broken relationships within our own families can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It is especially difficult when we value family greatly, and we do not wish to lose these connections we wish to have for the duration of our lives. Within Christianity, family is one of the most important things in existence. We will discuss the family unit in more depth in a future edition of this series, but for now let us dip our toes in the water. When we have known someone for most, if not all, of our lives, it is difficult to comprehend what life might look like without their presence. Yet when conflict arises in families, particularly with extended family (eg. cousins, uncles, etc.), it can create a divide, a breakdown of communication, and lead to a sort of alienation. This kind of scenario can be quite difficult to overcome, given it may not have been your doing (i.e. It may have been the doing or overreaction of the family member who has cut ties with you) and the action you take may affect others outside of yourself and the family member you are attempting to reconcile with. As someone who greatly values my family and does not want to see them divided to the point where they are unable to reconcile with each other, I will do most anything to ensure this does not happen. Conflict must be addressed and resolved, not permitted to hang in the air unaddressed creating tension wherever it is present. Sometimes, we must help to bear the burdens of others, just as Simon of Cyrene, a man entering Jerusalem on the day Jesus was carrying His Cross to the place where He was to be crucified, aided Jesus in carrying the Cross, helping Him to bear His heavy burden. It takes grace to help shoulder someone else’s burden, but it can be incredibly rewarding.

Determining our career and our place in the world go somewhat hand-in-hand. I suppose the former could be seen as a critical part of the latter. What we choose to do in life obviously gives us some sense of direction, some inkling of our place in society. Say, for example, one chose to be a journalist. They would be responsible for getting information and conveying it to the public to keep them informed. Choosing a career is not always easy, considering it will play a significant role in where you end up in life. Oftentimes people change careers throughout the course of their lives, thereby changing its trajectory to a degree. Our career choice is important in that it gives us some sense of purpose in life. But finding our place in the world does not simply derive from our chosen career. The way we live, our families, friends, and those who we choose to allow into our lives and maintain connections with, our talents and what we choose to do with them, all these things contribute to our greater purpose in this world. If we look back on the Biblical times of the first Holy Week, that is, Palm Sunday (when Jesus entered Jerusalem), Holy Thursday (the night of the Last Supper), Good Friday (the day He was condemned, sent to die, and crucified on the Cross to save us from sin), and Easter Sunday (the day of His Resurrection), we can see that Jesus Christ’s purpose was to take upon Himself all our sins, all our wrongdoing, and face pure torture and a tragic death so that humanity could be saved. His purpose was written from the moment Adam and Eve consumed the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Like Jesus, our purpose is also written, but it is on us to discover what it is. And we cannot do that without courage.

When we look back on the first Holy Week, on the first Easter, we can see that courage and grace were central to Jesus’ willingness to die for God’s people. That courage, however, did not come easily to those around Him. For the most part, His disciples hid, or, in the case of Simon Peter, denied him (three times) to save themselves. They were scared, and rightly so given the Pharisees were angered by how Jesus had taught the truth, the unfettered moral principles and laws laid down by God Himself, rather than the appropriated versions instilled by the Pharisees to maintain power and authority over the people. Jesus was courageous in breaking their rules. He knew He would ultimately pay for the transgressions of the people, and yet gracefully accepted this hardship. Jesus’ disciples did not necessarily possess the same degree of courage that He did, but there is no doubt they had some in following Him and, after His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, spreading God’s Word to the people. We must also remember that Jesus Himself was a human being like us. He felt pain and sorrow, particularly on the final day of His human life. He was also somewhat fearful when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His death, requesting of His Heavenly Father that He would “remove this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). But His courage and grace rose to the occasion and were with Him to His last breath, evident in that even after all that the Pharisees, the Romans and the people did to Him, He still prayed for them, saying in His final hours upon the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Like Jesus, each of us possesses the capacity for courage and grace. When we face our own times of hardship, we must ensure that we focus on what matters most, and do our best keep it intact. We must navigate to the right frame of mind via methods that work to get us there and remember that fighting fire with fire is not going to help, no matter the circumstances. The only fire we should even be thinking of is the one of courage that we need to enflame within our hearts. With just a little courage, and a little grace, we can do incredible things: we can mend broken relationships within our own families, we can bear heavy burdens, help others to shoulder their own, land a job that we have been working towards, make a new connection with someone, start a relationship, stand up and speak out for what is right; the possibilities are endless.

Holy Week, the week that changed the world, all began with grace and courage. Christ’s coming into the world started with grace and courage from His Mother Mary. The greatest sacrifice made for mankind was made through courage and grace. Every time we face hardship in our lives, let us remember the incredible courage and grace that Jesus Christ showed in the final days of His life on Earth, and reflect that in our approach to these challenging times.

2020: A Year To Remember

2020 has been a very challenging year for most of us. I think we can all agree it has really left its mark on us all to varying degrees. We have faced many trials and tribulations. The world has become a different place in the era of COVID-19. Over the course of the year, in particular over the last few weeks, I have heard a fair few people say that 2020 is a year to forget, that we should just write it off and hope 2021 is better. But I have to disagree with this sentiment. I think 2020 is probably one of the years we must remember most. Yes, it has been nothing short of a nightmare at times, but it taught us many valuable lessons that we should carry forward into the rest of our lives on this Earth. Each year I usually do a wrap up of the year, be it personal or otherwise. This year I will be combining the two and going over some of the lessons I have learnt that I think we can all take heed of in our own lives.

2020 started with fire. The fires that ravaged Australia left us all living alongside a haze of smoke that seemed as if it would never dissipate. For me personally, the fires led to my Pop coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks. During this time, we all spent some quality time together, watching shows, playing pool at my uncle’s place, and having many a memorable conversation. Not long after he returned home to the South Coast, Pop had a fall and ended up in hospital. Just a few weeks later, at the end of January, he tragically passed away. I was there in the last couple of days of his life. Seeing him as he was in his last days, it really impacted me. It had a major effect on me on those days, and the days that came after his passing. As I have mentioned before, I don’t think I realised just how much of an impact it had on me, particularly from a mental standpoint, until a few months later. But that is for the next lesson. This tragic event in my life, despite its harshness, taught me a truly valuable lesson that I will remember as I continue forth in my life: We should always value the time we have with our family, friends and loved ones. Life changes fast, and so we should always make the most of every moment we have with the people we care about. Because we really don’t know when we’ll be spending our last moment with them. Make good memories with them that you will always remember fondly. Those memories can be such an incredible source of comfort in times of sorrow. I sometimes find myself thinking about my Pop, wishing he was still with us to celebrate special occasions, to talk to. But I just remember the memories we made, and I am so ever grateful for them.

This year has been a real test for our mental wellbeing. COVID-19 has led to lockdowns and isolation. As human beings, we are social creatures, so isolation can have a significant impact on our mental health considering we do not have those physical, face to face connections that we so enjoy. Many of us have experienced life-changing circumstances throughout this year. Most of us have probably been on a mental rollercoaster ride, having to deal with far too many ups and downs for one year. So, the next lesson 2020 has taught us is this: We must always take care of ourselves. This year in particular has reflected the importance of looking after our mental health. For me, that meant getting help when I was in a pretty bad way mentally. About a week or two into May, my anxiety had built up again, and had led to a sense of depression because of how anxious I was. As I’ve explained in a previous article, I ended up consulting a GP and then starting sessions with a psychologist. While I began the process of recovery and figuring out ways of managing the anxiety in particular, I decided it would be best for me to take another three months off from university (that’s one study period for me). So, my three-month break that had started after the conclusion of a study period in February turned into a six-month sabbatical. This turned out to be a necessity. If I had kept studying while I was trying to get better, I don’t think I would have truly been able to. I needed to have my mind focused entirely on that recovery at the time. I knew this would mean my studies would take a bit longer to complete, but I needed to put my mental health first and get my head right before I could continue. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right one. To anyone who is struggling mentally, I would encourage you to take heed of this particular lesson that 2020 has taught us. Look after yourself. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you can maintain good mental wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone, to get help. Because that can make all the difference.

2020 has also taught us that we cannot take things for granted, especially our freedom. If the age of COVID-19 has taught us anything it is this. Having endured lockdowns and restrictions on our lives that have changed them, inducing fear in the population, we must all awake to the reality that freedom is never a given. Our movement has been limited. Who we are permitted to see has been limited. What we are permitted to do has been limited. Many of us have allowed politicians to control almost every aspect of our lives. We took our freedoms for granted, and those in power took advantage of that. So, if we are to learn one thing from the harsh reality we have faced and continue to face, it is this: we must never take such a thing as freedom as a given. We must recognize that the freedoms that we should value so much are easily able to be stripped from us if we do not defend them from power-hungry, controlling individuals who will seize any opportunity they can to take more power than is given them. COVID-19 has given them the excuse they needed to take power under the guise of keeping us all safe. We have been told that life will never really go back to what it was before the virus. While it is easier to roll over and accept this, it is much more beneficial in the long-term to push back and ensure that we can live as free a life as possible.

Now to probably the most valuable lesson I have learnt this year: In the darkest times, an unexpected ray of light can enter your life, changing it for the better. 2020 has been especially dark for me, as I’m sure it has for many. Looking back, that darkness really started to consume me from May, putting me in a position where I needed to get help. But even after getting help, there was still darkness. There were still times when I wondered if things would ever really get a lot better. I still wasn’t really motivated. I still struggled to work up the resolve to get things done all the time. I would still put things off, telling myself they could wait until later. I still had periods of anxiety, albeit more manageable than they were before, but I suppose I felt as if I wasn’t really where I wanted to be just yet. In fact, that didn’t happen until later in the year.

In mid-September, that unexpected ray of light shone through the darkness surrounding me, guiding me out of it. My life changed. I became more motivated. I started writing again. I worked ahead in my university studies. I got back into an exercise regimen. I felt happier. All of these things have continued from that point forward to this day, and I am so incredibly grateful for that ray of light. As I’ve said before, sometimes the most incredible people come into your life when you least expect it, their impact profound. This is the very reason I cannot just write off 2020. Because even though 2020 has been one of the most taxing years, it has brought me some of the greatest things in my life. It is those amazing connections in life that turn up when you least expect it that make the biggest differences, the greatest of impacts.

2020 has been a wild ride, but it has been a necessary and meaningful one. Sure, there has been a lot of bad news this year, and sometimes it is difficult to see past that, to find the good in the world. But we cannot write off this year. We cannot just forget it. 2020 has brought with it important life lessons that are of great value to all of us moving forward. If anything, I feel like this year has helped me to grow significantly as a person, and to become a better version of myself. I am grateful for all that this year has taught me and brought me, and I’m looking forward to growing even more in 2021.

As I round this out, I would just like to thank everyone who has followed along on this blog over the past year. I appreciate all the support, and I hope you have all enjoyed what I’ve been publishing. This is my last one for this year. More to come in 2021.

A Happy New Year to all of you.