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Vaughan Rapatahana: Advice to my 22-Year-old-Self

Vaughan Rapatahana
Vaughan Rapatahana
Novel front cover
L'homme blanc est venu
Poetry in Multicultural Oceania
The author and poet pens his insights and reminds us to pay respect to your mātua, learn from those with mana and mōhiotanga, and: don't rush.


You know the key thing I would tell my 22-year old self?

To slow down.

There is a hoary saying, ‘More haste, less speed’ and like all such ancient proverbs, there is more than a grain of truth in it, Sorry, I just iterated another cliche, eh. Aroha mai.

Slow down in everything you want to do, mate. Why be in such a rush to ‘settle down’ and raise a family? Why be in such a dizzying hurry to jump on a plane and vanish overseas? Why expect to become a successful published author so swiftly and with insufficient life experience to be able to even write about the vagaries and vicissitudes, the despairs and demises of life? You know fuck all at 22, whatever you may think. I know because I experienced all of the above by that age.

Everything revolves around this mantra – s l o w  d o w n. All other learnings travel furcate from this nexus. Breathe deep. Grab your anxiety, bottle it and then throw it far out to sea somewhere, but not in a plastic bottle, eh. Think about what Baba Ram Dass chanted repeatedly in 1971; namely, ‘Be Here Now’. Don’t get neurotic about the future; it will be here soon enough.

Old Rapatahana finally learned this – it took far too long and he took inordinate missteps. Here are some valuable learned edicts:

Take time to be loved and to fall in love. Experience broken relationships and failed romances also. Only write thereafter.

Take time to read lots of books/comics and to mull over what the author is attempting to state, if indeed they are attempting to state anything at all. Glean their talents. Same with music and musicians, painters and paintings et al.

Take your time to write, to learn from failed attempts and rejected returns. Value the wise words of all mentors whom you respect. Try again sometime later with a revised poem or story or whatever you are involved in artistically. Then try again to run the piece past those with a measure of critical nous; never being afraid to ditch something that is manifestly not working.

Travel carefully and slowly, taking in everything you experience, you sight, you taste and smell. Travel to places off the usual Kiwi OE map; what is the point of associating with mainly monolingual Kiwi in another culture? Write only then.

Pay respect to your mātua. Listen to those with mana and mōhiotanga and don’t fall into any swift ignorance of what they are imparting. Always. Ask if you are not certain what they are inculcating; never be afraid to enquire.

Discover a spot, or spots, where you can relax peacefully and thwart those driving synapses; the ones, trying to impel you to do this and that and then this again, at warp pace. Once you are calm, your imaginative brain can work wonders. If you believe that only by being pissed/pissed off or even more ‘out of it’ can you write wonderfully, you can’t - and if you want proof of this, look at what you wrote, the next day after you wake up, wherever you might be and whoever you may wake up next to. It will probably be crap.

So -

When you cease your speeding you become more giving, you become wiser, you will live more plentifully and longer. With luck, of course, because there are a lot of nutters out there, who may intrude, whatever you do.

When you cease your speeding you actually can and will become a better writer. In other words, WAIT to write. Experience some ordeals, some adversity.

E hika, all that sounds like a Readers Digest interlude, yet it is ‘right on the money’ eh.

Ka huri ahau ki tāku reo tuatahi ano.

E mahara koe tēnei whakataukī te tāima katoa hoki –

He panehe toki ka tu te tangitangi kai.

[A small axe that is patiently used can bring about heaps of food.]

And you know one more thing, 22-year old Rapatahana?

Sometimes your 65-year old self also needs reminding of all this essential wisdom, even now. He should have listened to his older doppelganger when he was 22, so as not to fall into the multitude of snares he experienced by travelling through his passage too fast and by attempting to accomplish far too much, far too soon. Only now can he look back, decelerated by age, and ruminate and write well about a multitude of life experiences.

Kia ora.


Vaughan's 2018 publications this far, Novel, and Poetry in Multicultural Oceania. A collection of his poems have also been translated into French, L'home blanc est venu.
The flood is of his home in Philippines and in his own words,"shows a bit of the adversity all writers need to impel them to write - we get flooded fairly regularly, because of the typhoon season". 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

4 Dec 2018

The Big Idea Editor