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.

It seems that the universe would like me to stay in Brazil for a little while longer than planned.

I had very little to do with the airline going bust and my flight to South Africa being cancelled. I had even less to do with the fact that one way tickets are suddenly three times the price of the return ticket I bought initially, and that the refunds will take up to eight weeks to process.

I did, however, put it out there to the universe that all I needed for these six months of my “flow experiment” was a place to write, a place to type and a place to sleep. Hell, I even wrote these things in permanent marker on the front cover of my diary. Well, I have all three of these things over here, and it seems that it is something I have to explore a little further on my journey towards a career as a writer, and wanting to connect with people from all walks of life (one of the other things I wrote down back in December).

The latest episode of Wellness with the Schwellnus, titled “Where do you feel like you belong”, discusses my first few weeks in a foreign country, and touches on what I’ll be doing for the next few months, which in all likelihood is looking like a longer term stay in Brazil, up until the start of September.

I also talk a bit about the concept of belonging through community rather than country, as well as mentioning a few key points from my journals that will hopefully help both of us, as we embark on the third quarter of 2019. You can listen to the new episode on your platform of choice over here.

– Conrad was here.

“Dorian”— the next poem from ‘Autumn Haze’ — is a tribute to one of literature’s greatest poets and playwrights.

“Dorian”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Dorian’s picture is gray, so faded, I cannot even say —
— what it means to me anymore.
Find what I used to find alluring,
But the brush strokes of your mind demurring.

What lurks behind the picture, a notion ever Wilde,
Selfish and a need to be liked, just like a little child.
There is depth behind you, Dorian, and your heart is powerful,
Staying kind in all of this, but you know yourself doubtful.

Oscar my old friend, I can’t read you like I used to do,
My heart moved on, no romance red, but a gentle, clearer blue.
Floating somewhere between mind, body and the evergreen soul,
Getting through our thoughts, lurking in the reverence of a foal.

You wept for Dorian, he was what you never had — but something you always wanted,
Now people cannot forget, and revisit a lot, the words which you enchanted.
Ensnared and engulfed in a coffin of morbidity,
A paradox so truthful, your writing hides incivility.

Similarly to “Roaming”, this poem can also be considered a eulogy of sorts, and is a writing style I’m starting to get all the more excited about. “Dorian” is a tribute to Oscar Wilde, written after The Picture of Dorian Gray landed back on my desk (so to speak) from a friend who thought I may enjoy reading it. I read it in my early twenties but it has a different meaning to me now. This poem was inspired by the book, Wilde’s career and his writing style, which I find very unique.

If this is the first time you’re reading something from the anthology, why not have a gander over here for the rest of the poems in the series. We are getting awfully close to the end of this anthology, which will wrap up at the end of June. As always, thank you for supporting my writing by reading this poem and sharing in the journey with me.

– Conrad was here.

One year since starting the blog, I’m in Brazil continuing on a journey of self discovery.

I’ve been known to put a lot of emphasis on milestone events in the past, so what better way to celebrate the one year anniversary of the blog than by spending some time in a faraway location, taking a second to acknowledge everything that has happened over the last 365 days, and exploring a culture completely different to the comfortable bubble I grew used to in Cape Town.

At the moment, I’m in Alfenas, a small town in the South of Brazil, with a population of around 70 000 people. The townsfolk are calm and timid bunch, community oriented, and I enjoy the energy here. Foreigner stares aside, I have felt very welcome here, and also, have learned just how far I still have to go with my Portuguese lessons. I think I realised I wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped when I didn’t understand much while people around me in the boarding queue at the airport were talking to each other. I made it to Brazil regardless, which is good!

Last week, I took the week off from work, in order to explore São Paulo (which is massive, and features some of the most intense traffic jams you will ever see in your life), as well as some of the other towns in the Minas Gerais area. One of these towns, Varginha is renowned for its alien sightings, even going as far as showcasing a “UFO” (like, a real life one, you would expect to see in a Hollywood movie) in their city centre. I snapped a quick pic and had a good chuckle at this. I’ve heard it only took two people to see the alien for it to become a thing, and who am I to question this?

In fact, I’ve experienced quite a few extraordinary things while being here, like spending time in a public university library exploring local literature, visiting an art exhibition for one of Brazil’s most famous contemporary artists, as well as having dinner at a bakery (strange to think about, I know) that serves the most delicious treats you can imagine and sells them off as meals. I’m trying all kinds of interesting local cuisine, thanks to my partner (a Brazilian native), who I am travelling with at the moment, and of course, I’m having a cappuccino wherever I can. This is part of a personal mission explore the myth around Brazil having the best coffee in the world. So far, so good. I particularly love that they enjoying adding chocolate and cinnamon to their cappuccino’s, which is something I want to start doing when I make coffee at home.

Caffeine aside, I recently also got to experience to most incredible bookstore I have ever been in, which featured different sections, each with a unique ambiance (the art section, for example had a unique feeling, when compared with the history section, not only based on how the books were cataloged, but also in terms of the music they play in the section and how you experience the particular part of the store). I loved this, and found myself particularly impressed with the fact that the store featured so many local writers, which is not something you would traditionally find back home in South Africa. Brazil is a nation of great cultural diversity, with writers from many different backgrounds, so I am curious to know more. I’m particularly enjoying learning more about Clarice Lispector, an early 1900’s writer, who is very well known across the country.

This week, I’m doing a little less traveling, in order to focus a bit more on work, finishing up a new episode of the podcast, and naturally I’m doing a lot of writing (I’m already a few poems down, and have picked the title for my next anthology, launching in July). I think it’s a good idea to take it a bit more easy this week, as in the past ten days, I’ve covered over 10 000km between car trips, flights, Ubers, bus trips and walking. It’s certainly been a memorable journey so far, and I’m keeping an open mind about the next 10 000.

– Conrad was here.

“A Fever Poetry” may well be the most introspective piece in the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology. Read it now.

“A Fever Poetry”
by Conrad Schwellnus

How are you seen, does it even really matter?
The ingredients gently mixed, into a tumbling sourdough batter.
To be successful you need to be loved, to make it out you should be liked,
A world alone that lingers, where your emotions have been spiked.

Shelf life aside, you’d do well to disregard your feelings,
Love was always what you craved, even in your primary dealings.
A time to make amends, a time to forgive and forget,
You are whole and loved, even without a sliver of regret.

How are you seen, why do you gaze into the mirror?
Never have you seen your flaws, evermore yet clearer.
Dare to coast in subtle mania, but you manage to channel it kindly,
Better to be free of it, than to shelter it benignly.

Carry all your confidence, at times false it may still be,
It’s time to give over, in vulnerability you may see —
The truth behind the glass, a fever poetry,
Did you disregard the power, in the shallow waters of the sea?

This poem poured out of me and at the time it felt like it struck quite a few chords. Initially written from the personal perspective, it was later changed to encompass a more general view of a struggle that so many people go through. I myself can take a lot from these lines, even though I will admit to not being in the most positive of headspaces when I wrote it. And yes, I considered calling it “Shallow Waters, but I didn’t want to pay Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper any subtle dust.

Next week, the third last poem from Autumn Haze will be shared, and I will be publishing it from the town of Alfenas in Brazil. If this is the first time you’re reading something from the anthology, feel free to read all of the poems in one place right over here. Looking forward to having you back next week as we bring autumn to a close and get ready for winter.

– Conrad was here.

A realisation around how we should be closing chapters, and generally try to navigate change in our lives.

My latest podcast episode might be titled like a Game of Thrones episode (it’s called “Winds of Change”), but I promise that it will contain far less theatrics and twists and turns, being dedicated solely to leaving you satisfied (sorry, GOT writers) with a few learnings around how we deal with change.

I felt a pull towards discussing change during this show, ahead of leaving my home in Cape Town and setting my sights on a longer trip to Brazil. Featuring some personal stories and a key learning around the way we deal with others (a total a-ha moment, if you ask me), the show packs a triple punch this week, also highlighting the importance of looking at how we close chapters, rather than why we do.

If you’d like to listen, there are various platforms you can choose from over here. Next episode drops in June and will be recorded in five different cities!

– Conrad was here.

“Safely in my Heart”, the next poem in the ‘Autumn Haze’ series, is all about the courage to be your true self.

“Safely in my Heart”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Keep shining little boy,
No matter your preference, nor the colors bringing you joy.
You can be who you want, even in a world ever cruel,
One day it will all be over, with your victory in the duel.

Sparkle in pink, you wear it oh so well,
Simple and dashing, your mother can surely tell.
Will she hide you from the public, no, she’s brought you out to here,
Though a pot plant cut you’ll continue to wear, with a grin from ear to ear.

Keep shining little boy, nobody can put out your light,
Abandon those who try; build protective walls, you might.
For self will and care is the greatest gift, you’ll see,
Safely in my heart, you can be who you want to be.

Note from the author: I wish you love and light as you navigate your days. Be strong, little boy. Thank you for crossing paths with me on this journey.

Next week Friday, the ninth poem from the Autumn Haze anthology — titled “A Fever Poetry” — will go live right here on the site. If you’d like to catch up to the other poems in the series, feel free to read the entire published catalogue so far over here. Planning is already underway for a second anthology, so watch this space.

– Conrad was here.

I’m heading to Brazil next week to reflect, celebrate and get out of my comfort zone just a bit.

Contrary to popular belief, I won’t be going into hiding as a result of ‘Game of Thrones‘ coming to an end.

This year, I have some surprising plans for winter in the southern hemisphere, which include reflecting, celebrating and pushing myself out of my comfort zone just a little. Gently and kindly so, of course, but a push it remains.

Conrad was here is turning one year old next week (insert proud parent moment: “my baby is starting to walk”), and as part of marking the milestone, I will be flying from South Africa to Brazil, to spend some time processing everything that has happened since last year this time.

The thing is, this will be the first time I’m travelling on my own to a foreign country, which is daunting yeah, but also, incredibly exciting. At this stage, I’ve surrendered all control and and put faith in the process, to bring me whatever experiences and lessons it may. As a friend told me recently, “you can’t try to control a trip to a foreign country. It defeats the entire purpose of going”. Truth guuurl, truth. I needed to hear that.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some updates from the trip on the fourth episode of the podcast, which I will be recording early June. Posts on the site will also continue, including wrapping up of the sharing of the ‘Autumn Haze‘ anthology, and other life ponderings, as is usually the case.

I’d like to take a quick moment to say thank you to you for walking this journey with me over the past year. It has been a pleasure to have you with me for the ride, and to be able to have a platform (a voice, really) to share with people from all walks of life in different countries from around the world is truly a gift. I’ve talked about what it has done for my confidence, which is nowhere near the ditch it was living in twelve months ago. I can only be grateful for that. Here’s to seeing where the wind takes us next. Until then, remember to take things just a single day at a time.

– Conrad was here.

Inspired by a chance encounter, “Pink Scarf” is the next poem to be published as part of the ‘Autumn Haze’ anthology.

“Pink Scarf”
by Conrad Schwellnus

Pink scarf, you smile at me,
A drawing of my soul, this is somewhat sure to be.
The reason that we’re here, in this moment we connect,
Hook, line and sinker, are we in the ship to wreck?

A shadow lurks in peace, alive beyond your years,
Your rings are barely fraught, but bring forth all your fears.
You wear them cleverly, yes, but wear them better in mind,
A lessening of the swelling, behind the mask you live behind.

Pink scarf, it seems the week has slowly strangled you,
Loosen the noose, lift your hand, it’s the only thing to do.
Spark the tip, forgive the sadness, you are gentle and you are kind,
Care for yourself, even if your chambers rule your mind.

“Pink Scarf” had two other names before publication. Firstly, it was called “Temporal Demise” (a little sombre, if you ask me), and then, I considered calling it “Chambers” (a little too obvious). Somehow, the others didn’t stick and I’m happy they didn’t, because the title represents the strongest part of my memory from the inspiration for this poem.

I wrote “Pink Scarf” after a chance encounter with a woman who was sitting at the other end of a coffee shop I was writing from, and yes, she was wearing a beautiful pink scarf. I recall she was also writing, and all we shared was a short moment including a smile, and in that moment she seemed like someone important to my journey. I immediately started writing this poem, which is now the only recollection of the event, and perhaps, the only time in history that our paths will ever cross.

Next week Friday, the eighth poem from Autumn Haze will be shared right here on the site. If you’d like to catch up to the other poems in the series, feel free to start from the bottom and to read them over here.

– Conrad was here.