Millennials … tsuk. Tony Stanton talks to Mel Palummo about Bali, being young and making the right choices. Photo: Ryerson Anselmo for Costes Portrait.
Mel, how did you first come to know Bali, and what brought you back here?
My friend Jesse, who I met in Sydney’s Manly where I’m from, moved here a few years back. He had been trying to get me over here for a while because he felt I would do really well here. I never considered it seriously though as my main focus was my studies, but when I finally finished and worked on getting my business going I was constantly met with the challenge of wanting to live a balanced life and falling short. I tried a few ways, like working at night in a bar so I could work on my business during the day … to working full time in the day and trying to work my business around that, but I always found myself struggling with money and time. Early last year Jesse booked me to shoot a campaign for his sunglasses brand Enki, which is when I started to look at maybe staying in Bali long term. When I finally came out here I fell in love. The excitement in possibility grew, which I knew meant I was on the right path. So I decided to save some money, sell everything and give it a crack.
You look of mixed heritage, what’s the story?
My father is Italian and my mother is Filipino but I was born and raised in Australia. They met in the Philippines whilst my dad was on holiday.
What was it like growing up in Australia and being part Asian and European?
For the most part, people were pretty accepting and non-judgmental. I struggled mostly with my parents as their value and belief systems were still strongly rooted in their countries of origin.
Do you think racism is stronger in Australia than, say, Bali?
I personally see more racism in Bali than I do in Australia, but maybe if I grew up near or with an aboriginal community it might have been different. In Bali I really notice two worlds colliding. A traditional village mentality and a western mentality. It saddens me to hear people being put down when they haven’t even tried to understand the culture they are coexisting with. That is why it is so important for me to learn the language and traditions of the Balinese people, out of respect and appreciation for what their culture brings to the planet and our human family.
We hear you studied meditation and coaching … how did that happen?
The journey was sparked from a single moment. I remember walking out to my car one morning to go to work. I was feeling dusty from the weekend when a thought stopped me in my tracks. “Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? Work Monday to Friday, nine to five? Go out on the weekends and write myself off, then feel shit for three days trying to recover?” I understood then that there has to be more to life. At the time I was only 24 and I had a really good job managing a cardboard recycling company. I was earning good coin, I was in a great relationship with my partner.
Things were going really well for me, but I still didn’t feel satisfied. That question burned inside of me and led me down a path that I never knew existed. I became obsessed with understanding the nature of reality and my purpose for being here. I read books and watched videos on a vast range of subjects, from quantum physics to conspiracy theories to spiritual mastery.
I began to become aware of the power of the mind and found happiness in other activities that were largely to do with self-healing. I studied a variety of healing modalities such as shamanism, crystals, energy healing, mediumship and tarot but realised that everything we experience and want in life starts in the mind. And so I studied meditation and then transpersonal coaching.
Do you still use what you learned?
Yes, every day. I used to live in such a victimised mentality and struggled with depression and suicide for many years. I’ve changed a lot as a person since then and live a much happier and fulfilled life. When you become aware of this power that you hold within, you become addicted to knowing more of who you are and what you’re capable of. To see your limitations and grow beyond them is an incredible feat and so satisfying. I still have days where I’m emotional and reactive but it’s increasingly less and less. Life is whatever you imagine it to be and imagination is limitless, so everyday I push myself to dream bigger because I know that something magical and extraordinary is just around the corner.
What’s wrong with today’s Milennials? What’s right with them?
This is such a huge subject to cover! I’ll try my best to keep it succinct. Being a Millennial has its challenges but also advantages. Most prominently, we have been born into a time of great technological advancements and continue to grow with them. However I observe that there is even a big difference between people born in the ’80s and people born in the ‘90s due to the fact that technology is advancing so quickly. In my eyes I consider myself lucky for being born in the ’80s as I didn’t experience mobile phones and internet usage until I was in my teens.
The only kind of technology I was exposed to was TV and the Atari. Social media only came on to the scene through MSN chat and Myspace when I was about 14, so the way I connected with people was still mostly face to face. I am grateful for this because it taught me valuable interpersonal skills. If I wanted to talk to someone, I would have to meet with them, showing up as I am without the pressure of meeting the expectations of an internet identity.
My community was limited to people I had immediate contact with and so if I wanted to meet new people I would have to go out to bars, clubs etc. or I would have to have the courage to go up to someone on the street or cafe and start a conversation. Now we can construct whatever identity we wish to share with the world. We are inundated with information, and societal expectations and advertising bombards our senses through our phones, watches, TV advertising screens and billboards.
It has become so normal to be constantly stimulated that I feel people are losing touch with what it is that truly makes them happy. I feel this is directly linked to the rise of anxiety and depression within our society because people are being swept away in the information current and don’t know how to swim. In saying that there is the other side of the coin. We are more connected with each other, information on any subject is available in just a few clicks in many formats and creativity abounds, making it easier for us to learn and grow and make informed choices.
How do you spend your time when you get to choose what you do?
I am very clear on what I value in life and so my choices revolve around this. Every day is a little different depending on what I’ve got going on but generally I map out my goals for the year at the beginning of each year and have some sort of routine.
My daily non-negotiables are generally exercise or moving my body in some way, meditating, journaling, spending time in nature and getting a good amount of sleep. I have a list that I tick off every day and I make room for fun activities, adventures to new places, travel, time alone, time with my partner and activities that make me feel nourished … like learning something new, massages, chats with family or friends or sharing a nice meal with someone.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
That’s a tough one. Close mindedness? The inability to even try to see another person’s perspective.
On what occasion do you lie?
To save someone from feeling hurt or uncomfortable. I’m working on that!
Mel, thanks so much for your time!
Love and good vibes to you at The Yak.