What if you left all your assumptions about other people at the door each day?

I woke up with a peculiar thought yesterday morning, after dreaming about being at an event with my parents, where they were supporting my sister for something which, well, took place sixteen years ago.

In the dream, I kept mistakenly repeating “it’s been ten years!” (clearly I wasn’t doing the math correctly or I was younger in the dream) and not feeling like I was being heard; perhaps indicative of being in Brazil and so far away from friends and family at the moment.

That aside, if you’ll believe it, I woke up feeling jealous, agitated and slightly annoyed. With who? My sister, of course! How dare she get all that recognition, and in an entire dream? I mean, how dare she infiltrate my dream in the first place, and leave me in a foul mood right at the start of the day?

Ridiculous, right? I can laugh now, but it’s incredible how our subconscious has the ability to bring up some of our personal demons at the most arbitrary of times. I take my rest very seriously and would prefer to ponder these things while awake, thank you very much.

It got me thinking about whether this is perhaps why I’ve always been tougher on my sister than I should be, and frankly, I know that that’s a conversation for the therapist’s office. I realised, however, that after waking up from this dream, I got up with a couple of strong assumptions about all parties involved, based on my experience, and well, my own opinions of these people. My formed opinions over time, of course.

So here’s the question. What would happen if you left your assumptions about someone at the door each day? What if I got up, and let go of all assumptions of who I believe anybody in my life to be, be it from their behaviour in real life, or even in a dream. What if we just took the people for who they are today, and what they are up to at this point in their lives. What if we didn’t hold others to the ideas that we’ve crafted about them over time? What if I let go of old resentments, which are most likely not even applicable to the people these days anyway?

Now listen, I’m not saying it’s a good idea to “leave your assumptions at the door” regarding someone who is abusive or a toxic influence in your life. We all know who those people are and it is best to maintain firm boundaries with them at all times. I’m more interested in the people we judge a little more harshly, the ones we assume “have it all together” and quite frankly, those we can be a little jealous of. Is it time to let go, in order to move forward? Perhaps.

I’d like to take more time to appreciate that everyone is a combination of the good, and the bad. We’re all imperfect, we all deserve forgiveness, and we all have some healing to do. I’m not sure about you, but I think it may just be a little bit easier if we undertake this together.

I’ll ponder this for a couple of days at least, and welcome your thoughts in the comment section or via e-mail.

– Conrad was here.

The importance of simplifying, especially when you’re trying to focus.

This past weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about how difficult it is to focus, no, truly focus in the modern digital age. While being well connected is a big blessing, and enables us to connect with loved ones even if we’re thousands of miles apart, it also comes with a downside, in the sense that we are constantly bombarded with information, from a host of different angles.

I’ve slowly started to realise what this has done to my ability to focus (productively focus) on my work, which is something I take a lot of pride in. I’ve been working as a marketer for over ten years, but over the last stretch I’ve mainly been consulting for companies from all over the world. Working for yourself has lots of perks, but also comes with lots of stress. Last week, I realised that I was simply taking on too many personal projects, to be able to give the business my full attention. I looked at all the personal commitments I had made, and realised that I was starting to burn the candle at both ends again. My body agreed, and put me in bed for a few days with a cold to contemplate this fully. Conclusion: It was time to simplify.

Since then, I’m back on my feet, and have initiated a process of simplification in my life, i.e, I’ve gone through all current commitments and cut the things that aren’t essential at this time, and taking away from my focus. While I would love to keep finishing Masterclasses, studying new languages and working on a novel at this stage, I have to also be realistic about my capacity to hold all these projects successfully (especially because they are all quite cognitive heavy), while also reminding myself that I’m one person, putting a lot of pressure on himself to do very many things and all at once. Nobody can live like that. Well, live a fulfilled life like that.

So I’ve decided to take a step back from bigger picture objectives, and decided that for now, my main focus would simply be on putting in the necessary time with regards to my business. I love working as a marketer, and have been blessed to work on some amazing projects over the years, but my attention has dwindled a bit in recent months, especially as I’ve been travelling, and as a result of living in a foreign country for a few months, and I’d like to take a few steps to start rectifying that.

Aside from removing some commitments temporarily, I also decided to go through all my notes, books and post-it’s from the last couple of months, cataloging some ideas and important information, and tossing the rest. It’s amazing how things can build over time, to a point where you don’t even know what you’re working with anymore. Decluttering this aspect of my life, and placing some items I have with me in storage, has truly made me feel refreshed and light going into the new week tomorrow. I underestimated what it would do to me to do something as simple as just keeping a handful pens with me at all times, rather than having a case with 50 odd pens on hand at all time. Simple is better!

I guess you get the same feeling from going through your cupboard and tossing or donating any clothes that have simply spent enough time on the hanger in the last year (another event that we should all be working into our calendars soon as well). Living light gives you the chance to simplify, live with less baggage, and ultimately, improve your long term focus. Try it with me?

– Conrad was here.

The publication of my second anthology, ‘Encomia’, kicks off today with the first English poem I wrote this year.

“Roaming”
by Conrad Schwellnus

She wandered the earth, an angel,
Broken by a spirit of trust — 
Commanding the masses,
But carry her family, she absolutely must.

In her meandering, she fumbles, she’s done —
But where were the coin smugglers in your troubled days?
I weep for you, Ms. Houston, roaming even in death,
A legacy of a ghost, but a human being like the rest.

Sing for me Nippy, lament the pop monster —
When did the people start to let you down?
Did you need to be held, need to be fed —
Your emotions on fire, sacrificed for what others did and said.

I will extend myself inward,
I will always love me… 
You remind me of my pitfalls,
Drawn into the ashes by a wave of echoed calls.

You remind me to be gentle,
You encourage me to be kind —
Rest easy, beautiful.
You’ve left a lesson or two behind.

Back in March, I submitted a poem written in tribute of the late musical icon Whitney Houston to a competition, and managed to place third in the poetry category. I gave it a lot of thought in recent weeks, and came to the conclusion that I wanted to re-publish it, as part of the next anthology and body of work I’m sharing, titled Encomia.

This felt like a good starting point for the anthology, setting the tone for the eleven other poems to come, which are in tribute of people (dead or alive) who have inspired my creative process in some or other way.

Each time I read the poem again, my attention is drawn to something new, and I guess that because it was the first English poem I wrote this year (literally), it will always have a special place in my heart. Now it has an official home as part of a body of work, and in a way it also inspired me to start writing more in the general direction of tribute poetry.

To learn more about the poem and the story behind it, see the original published article over here. You can also learn more about Encomia by reading the announcement post I made earlier this week. The anthology will be rolled out weekly between now and the end of September, and I look forward to welcoming you along with me during the journey. 

– Conrad was here.

‘Encomia’, my second anthology of poems, will be published starting this week.

Now that ‘Autumn Haze‘ has been published in full, it’s time to prepare for the release of a brand new anthology, namely a collection of encomia written in reference to a select few people who have inspired me creatively over my lifetime.

Encomia, you ask? Well, an encomium is a speech or a piece of writing that praises someone or something highly. I felt that this would be a fitting title for the collection of poems I have written using particular people as a reference point, and in a way I get to honor these people by publishing some work inspired by the way they live(d) their lives. I’d also like to look back at this time of my life and have a guide for the influences that inspired my creative expression in this particular phase of my life.

So, starting on Friday the 5th of July, a new poem from ‘Encomia‘ will be released each week, until the series concludes at the end of September.

For the first poem in the new series, I will be revisiting a piece I wrote for a competition recently, which placed third, and received some great feedback. I wanted to share it with more people as it was a particularly important piece of work, considering it guided me in more of a storytelling direction with my poetry, rather than writing from a purely emotional standpoint.

Where ‘Autumn Haze‘ was very personal and a snapshot of my life at a particular moment, ‘Encomia‘ has personal references, highlighted through others, which in a way is written in tribute and appreciation of these people. It won’t all be rainbows and butterflies, I promise. I have been influenced by a range of people, some wildly popular, and others not so much. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing the poems, and look forward to hearing your feedback once we kickstart this new chapter of my writing journey.

– Conrad was here.

‘The Gentle Collective’ — our exclusive online community encouraging joy, belonging and acceptance — is here!

I’ve been toying with the idea of building an online community through Conrad was here, primarily because I’ve received so many wonderful, kind and compassionate e-mails from people who have been able to relate to some of my articles, poems and podcast episodes. I’d love to be able to connect more closely with the followers of the blog and I’m thrilled to say, that starting today, we’ve officially launched this very community!

The Gentle Collective is a space for a community of people who share similar value systems, and are united by a sense of joy, belonging and acceptance. A collective working towards growing a network that is focused on gratitude, nurturing and paying it forward. You ready to be a part of something special?

By joining, you not only get exclusive access to my writing, podcasts, photography and more, but you also receive an invitation to be part of our brand new, private online group.

If this sounds interesting, and you would like to be a part of this exclusive Conrad was here. online community, sign up over here and wait for an e-mail from me. Looking forward to connecting with you!

– Conrad was here.

I attended my first pride parade ever — and it proved to be a very memorable experience indeed.

Yesterday was the day after my 31st birthday, and what better way to usher in a new cycle of my life than by attending my first ever pride parade, in Alfenas in Brazil.

First ever? But like, haven’t you been out for almost seven years? …I hear you. It’s true, this was my first experience at any pride parade, and the first time I actually had the confidence to go with an open mind, clear heart and with the intention to have a good time.

All the other times I had the opportunity to go in South Africa, I always managed to talk myself out of it, be it because of feeling scared of being othered, because of inherent voices telling me that I’m not allowed to express myself as a gay man as openly and publicly, or just because I felt like the music would be too loud (which it naturally was, but that’s besides the point and one of the weaker excuses I gave myself over the years).

Sure, I was a little anxious arriving at the parade hand-in-hand with a man, especially being in a fairly conservative small town, but, I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout, the energy and the general feel of inclusivity. Surprised and excited. People were all dressed up for the occasion (my partner and I actually wore a matching outfit, including some heart stickers on our shirts and some face glitter, which you can see on Instagram) and I was thrilled to see more than just the gay community mobilized and showing support for the LGBT cause. Seriously, it was a mixed bag, which was surprising. There were families, children, teenagers, regular-ol’ straight folk and all kinds of attendees out to show their solidarity for the cause. When I think about it now, it’s easy for me to get emotional about it, having spent a lifetime feeling shameful about who I am and my sexual preference. Yesterday was almost like another coming out for me; I got to express myself openly and in a way it was a healing experience too, having been the victim of homophobic abuse in the past.

The afternoon included great music, friendly faces, a few speeches, an appearance by the head of UNIFAL (the public university of the town), as well as lots of drag performances, photo ops and general merriment. Sure, the alcohol was flowing and the drugs were all over the show, but I’m glad that my partner and I got to experience this sober, fully coherent, and in a way that made the experience about more than just a party. This year, it was really about showing up, and showing appreciation for those that fought for the rights of the community fifty years ago in the Stonewall Riots. We were able to be out in public, expressing ourselves without fear of retribution as a result of these heroes, and it is something that everyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ movement should be thankful for.

All-in-all, it was certainly an experience I will never forget. It also brought me closer to my creativity, as being surrounded by so many fabulous people in their finest gave me a lot of ideas about my writing and general creative expression moving into this new cycle of my life. For example, I woke up rather inspired this morning to start sharing some of my photography, including a picture I took at the parade yesterday showing your “everyday” Brazilian woman watching a drag performance with a flag of solidarity. In a time where the country has an openly homophobic president, this seems to have a political connotation of sorts, but you can make up your own mind about this. Have a look at the new section of the site (and to see the picture) over here. I’ll be uploading more pictures to the section very soon.

Happy end of Pride month y’all, and thank you to everyone who showed their support this year, advocating for compassion, empathy and inclusion during and outside of pride month.

– Conrad was here.

The ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology officially draws to a close with the final poem in the series, “The Ledge”.

“The Ledge”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Bare my soul, I am exposed,
My mind and body widely predisposed.
To management standards, alive in a dream,
Stoic and passive as a wave crashes over me.

Pour into the depths, greet the tall dark stranger,
I might do better searching for a crib and a manger.
Stroking my ego while a downfall does begin,
Raise myself, as I mourn the depths of things.

Bare my soul, yet I do feel more exposed,
A hand with a tingle, a finger yearns to know the toes.
This came to me, like a series of latent dreams,
A wishful reminder, that nothing is as it seems.

Raise my hand to the sky, give a joyful inflection,
Listen to my beating heart, expressing bountiful introspection.
Am I in a haze, am I falling off the edge?
Hopefully hopeless, as I step back from the ledge.

“The Ledge” was the final poem I wrote for Autumn Haze, and it is a blessing to be able to share it with you today. Initially written in the third person, the final version of the poem ended up being first person, as it is something I wanted to share as a snapshot of my mental state when I finished the anthology back in March of this year. To me, it summarizes what felt like a rather dark headspace at the time, but also indicates a renewal in the last stanza, with my mind “hopeful” and “stepping back from the ledge”. There is a progression from some of the earlier poems in the anthology and I hope readers will experience this poem as something that vividly describes the depths of my mind during this particular point of my life.

Autumn Haze has now been published in full and is available for you to read from start to finish over here. It has been special to be able to share my first anthology with you, and I will have some news about Encomia, my new anthology, which will take a bit of a different direction, very soon.

– Conrad was here.

What do you know with absolute certainty?

Do you have an answer to the question on hand? If not, let’s take stock together.

In the latest episode of Wellness with the Schwellnus, I discuss this topic in particular, highlighting the things that I inherently believe and how that has changed over the last year. I also encourage you to take some time to reflect on what you believe with absolute certainty and why these things are important to you.

That’s not all though. I also touch on the benefits of ASMR vs. traditional meditation, as well as reflecting on on #pridemonth and the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, reminding us of the importance of embracing minority groups with empathy and compassion.

Have a listen to the latest episode of the show, or the four episodes that came before it, over here.

– Conrad was here.

Reviewing the “Five things I know for sure on my 30th birthday” post a year later ⁠— including a new addition to the list.

A year ago I wrote a fairly popular piece called “Five things I know for sure on my 30th birthday“. If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that a lot has happened since I shared that article and I’ve recently been feeling curious about revisiting the content of the post, to see if I still have the same feelings I had back then, and with the idea that I’d like to take stock of where things stand, considering that I’m turning 31 in just a couple of days.

In case you also need a bit of a refresher, the list included the following points:

  1. Nothing is supposed to be any which way. I still believe this and if anything, this last year has reaffirmed the idea for me in multiple ways. Your career doesn’t have to be on a static trajectory. You don’t have to get married because everyone else is. You don’t have to feel like you’re “falling behind” because of what people project on social media. Hell, I started dating someone who lives on another continent and ended up travelling all the way there to pursue the relationship, which happens to be going very well and has given me a new perspective on the world we live in. Who said dating had to be traditional? Who says anything has to be?
  2. The rug can be pulled out from you at any time, and it will happen again and again. This is the kind of thing that will always be true. We’re a bit like seashells, constantly being swept up by the current, spat out to the shore, and drawn back into the water. We can only sit tight in the swell and wait for the comfort of the shore that follows. Something I would add to this would be to be appreciative of the days that contain minimal bother: they are the ones we should be thankful for and the ones that make the “rug pulling” more tolerable.
  3. Life’s pleasures come from the simple things. Nature, flowers, a smile, a glance, a hug… there is so much pleasure to be had from the little things and they are all around us. I’ve learned to pay better attention to it in this past year (my Instagram is a reflection of this for sure), and it is something I still believe in firmly as I approach my 31st birthday this weekend.
  4. Know yourself and stay true to that. This is something that happens over time and I think I feel a little bit differently about it now. I’d likely change it now to read Get to know yourself, and stay true to that person. I feel like I know myself a lot better since going on this self care journey and am still learning new things about myself each day. Life remains a process and a journey.
  5. Nothing is certain, except for change. There’s nothing else I can add here, except a loud ‘GUUUUURL‘ (not only cause I want to, but because I’d like to give some kind of a shout out to #Pride month too). This is something that I have to remind myself of each day, and it has become a key part of my gratitude practice. If you remind yourself that nothing is permanent each day, being thankful for what you have in this very moment becomes paramount. This runs deep in stoic and Buddhist philosophy, and is something I am learning about with a keen interest at the moment.

If I was writing this list for the first time now, I’d likely keep the same points, but I would add one more to the batch. Live with the faith that while things may get tough, your life is exactly where it is supposed to be, and is unfolding as it supposed to be. Trust in the difficult, especially because this is where you go through the most growth. Giving over and surrendering to the journey will not only reduce your anxiety, but will allow you to enjoy your days more, especially when it comes to the things in life that you hold most dear to your heart. Was that one, or three points? Regardless, I’m learning! Looking forward to revisiting this again in 2020.

– Conrad was here.

“Feins” — the second last poem from the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology — was particularly difficult to publish, but it’s here.

“Feins”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Silently quiet, silently curious,
A depth you imagine as the crux of notorious.
Look past the creation, a gaze brings you more trouble,
As you feed your temperance, heeding a life within a bubble.

Sip from the glass, the lemon bitters your palate,
As far removed as the time of Sir Mallet.
Did you forget how to breathe, do you dream of others now?
Higher and lower, as we plunge, a reaping bow.

You see me there, I find you somewhat endearing,
A judgement based on a deafening bearing.
Are you still bloody, morose, a vastly wild hunt,
Forgiven for you vapidity, as you stay ever so blunt.

The journey still matters, feel the music in your core,
Decipher this true moment, as you quit keeping score.
Troubled chalice, time to let go of the reigns.
Hidden from my view, yet a memory still feins.

“Feins” is the only poem in the anthology that I struggled to put my finger on 100% and questioned whether I should publish it, due to its deeply personal nature. It contains many layers, and there is a lot going on, but ultimately, the first stanza drives home the point of the story, which is meant to represent an emancipation from a perceived life of living in a bubble. I explored a few titles for this one, and it went through only a few slight tweaks before publication. If you’re curious about the original, feel free to reach out to me in the contact section and I’ll give you a heads up about the changes.

Next week, thirteen weeks since starting to publish, the final poem from Autumn Haze will be released, and my first full body of work will be out there to enjoy as a unit. The last poem is a favourite of mine, titled “The Ledge”.

If you’d like to read the other poems (“Yanked”, “Hearts at Half Mast”, “Knife Party”, “I Dream in Black and White”, “Flourish”, “Turunen”, “Pink Scarf”, “Safely in My Heart”, “A Fever Poetry” & “Dorian”) in preparation, head on over here to find them in one place, and I’ll catch you back here next week.

– Conrad was here.