Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things my parents taught me

Maybe because I'm getting older, and my parents are getting older, and it's closer to me leaving for another indefinite period of time, that I appreciate them now more than ever. As the distance between my teenage 'growing-pains' years and adulthood grows, things have become clearer. The blur of my childhood has had its focus sharpened on the infinite ways I owe my parents my life, literally and figuratively, for all the things they've taught me.

1. You can be anything you want to be

This, perhaps, is what every child of our generation was taught. It's particularly true for us children of migrants whose parents have left language and culture and land behind with the casual air of those that are accustomed to struggle. We are now able to do what they were not - and don't we forget it! Yes, dad, I know, *nodding* you walked 10 kilometres to go to school.. in the rain... without shoes.. on an empty stomach. We know. Instead, we can bludge our way through highschool, we can take up arts degrees and gap years and galavant across the globe in search of no more noble a cause than ourselves. But they let us, and they tell us - you can be anything you want to be. Be it a bum or a business man.

2. Live within your means, money is only a means to an end

Don't spend more than you earn. Don't buy crap. Don't spend your life chasing cars, the rich, fast, leather two-seater kind that are meant only for those in advertisements for what they tell you is success.  Don't gamble, don't develop a drug addiction. Money comes and money goes. You can't eat it, you can't drink it and you certainly can't grow it on trees. Know this, accept this.

Back when I was shorter than I am now in a way that was proportional to my age, I remember how we lived before we'd 'made it,' so to speak. We were living in a small rented house with bunk beds, tree houses, chickens and goats running around in the backyard like the fresh-from-the-philippines filipinos we were. We'd run through sprinklers in the summer because we didn't have a pool. We had a small car and too many children so sometimes me and my brothers would have to lie down in the boot of the toyota or have my little sister crouch in the front passenger seat so the police wouldn't see, like a magical circus car full of midget clowns. The money we didn't have meant little then, and the money we have now doesn't mean all that much today. It can buy you holidays and cars and houses but it doesn't change the quality of your memories or the volume of nostalgia you'll feel years later for a life lived well.

3. What love actually is

It's nothing to do with big romantic gestures, of running to airports to catch the love of your life before they leave on the wrong plane before some over-dramatic, articulate speech detailing all the reasons they should stay or all the ways you know some stupid mannerism they have that makes them somehow different from every other person of that sex you've ever met. Love is my dad making dinner for my mum before she gets home, waiting to eat with her even if we've all already eaten because she doesn't like to eat alone. It's her always forgiving him for his sarcastic jokes about her taking too long to get ready all the time - and that he always forgives her for taking too long to get ready all the time. It's folded laundry and tea made without asking and a thousand daily tasks that whisper always and steadily, I am here for you.

The more I am away from my family and the more I come back I realise this all. That I am the way I am because of who they are. Because of everything they've taught me. The lessons that never end, the parts of your parents lives before you were born that you learn only later, when you're old enough to understand what it all means. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The way we were

This is how you get through life. You put one foot in front of the other. You try and walk in a straight line. You take detours, get lost, lose the map you were never given and ask people for directions that are only more contradictory and nonsensical the more you ask. Walk straight. Go right. Keep going. Turn around.

But after five years or so, everything comes full circle. Five and a half years ago I was sitting at Bondi Beach with my best friend celebrating my seventeenth birthday with the April warmth of Autumn and a bottle of baileys (because clearly, I was a young woman of class). I don't remember what we talked about. Only that we laughed and talked and jumped around in the night.

Today I sat with the same best friend at Bondi thinking about that stretch of time between our seventeen year old selves and now. Things have changed and they've stayed the same.

It's correct to say that we are not who we thought we would be. We are strange, altered versions of ourselves. The straight lines and sharp corners have been smoothed by experience. We've learned to bend, or else be broken. And we think differently and believe with more caution and wish with more thought and dream with the knowledge that it may all just come true. Because it has before.

We've dreamed of living overseas, of finding loves, of being friends throughout it all. And it happened, and we found ourselves back here - to this beach that is iconic to us in a way that has nothing to do with tourists or backpackers or billboards and everything to do with the way we were and are and will be.

And as tradition called we made new predictions, dangerous jinxes on our future selves. The only sure thing was that you never know. Because we didn't know, five and a half years ago that this is who we'd be, having been where we've been, having done what we've done. Wouldn't have guessed it.

So we blaze forward with international flight tickets in our hands, ready once again to jump off into new eras marked by job changes or residential shifts in continent, by hair cut phases and long-term relationships, by acquired tastes in wine and that bittersweet aftertaste of change and goodbye-for-nows.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Permission Slip

You're allowed to feel strange around
friends you used to get along with
and it's okay that things aren't the way
they used to always be

You're allowed to stop being able to relate
to shit that doesn't relate to you
because that's when you know
you've actually changed

You're allowed to have new kindred spirits
that get you, or the "new you"
the wanderlust and running away
and coming back all drops of jupiter

You're allowed to not know what the hell
you're doing, or meant to be doing
or where you'll be in five years
because five weeks months years is a long time

You're allowed to because
you can't even make a decision about
what to eat for lunch so it goes without saying
that you can't rush food life

You're allowed to be conflicted
because who the hell was born
knowing everything and what would
be the point in that anyway

What you're not allowed to do
is feel guilty about change
or try to camouflage your
dreams so they match the masses

Because you could be anywhere
with anyone, at anytime
so why would you copy
somebody else's answers

What you're allowed to do is
make your own mistakes and
be the mastermind of your rise
and your own breath-taking fall

You're allowed to try and fail
as long as you mute the
nagging voice in your head
that says you need approval

Because you don't
You have my permission
to kick ass in life

. inspired by this


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The road is home

The Great Ocean Road starts discreetly enough, with a sign you will miss if you're looking out the other side of the window or changing songs on the radio. You drive on a road that starts off like any other. And then it becomes good, and then it becomes great.

There are signs for crossing wombats, koalas, echidnas and kangaroos. It'd be a while before you saw any that weren't roadkill, the animal speed bumps on the highway from Sydney to Melbourne. The beach side views begin at Bells Beach and continue through to Angle Sea, and through to the a lighthouse with a red cap straight from the nostalgia of your childhood TV series Round The Twist. You sing the theme song on repeat in the car, aghast that you are face to face with a ghost of your younger years, here on the Victorian coast.

And the road begins to turn, a shoe lace through national park and that big ole pool of water; blue, green, big and beautiful. And then there are the wild koalas that move at dusk at the back of a caravan park. Slowly they migrate from small forks of gum tree branches you think will snap underneath the weight of lazy fur. You go on a bear hunt in socks and sandals, neck bent upward squinting. They sit in their respective trees, inconspicuous except for the moon-shaped shadows they cast. You count the koalas on your hands and run out of fingers. Two kookaburras sit and watch, you don't hear them laughing but you feel like they are.

Your excitement fills the car, wildlife has that effect on all of you. Giddy like children after the bear hunt. You make daisy chains in Lorne to hang on the car's rear view and slide down a grassy knoll on a skateboard. The hostel in Apollo Bay has a fire place and a glass interior you see from the outside. You wake up to see the sunrise from the rooftop and fall back to sleep. The twelve apostles are waiting, or the nine that are still there; the troopers that continue after the others flung themselves into the waves below.

The sun is generous when you thought it would be stingy. So you walk bare foot in the sand and your friends climb rocks and you dance around the bush with a native american head dress on, making tribal calls and beating on an African drum while photos are taken and tourists laugh. You have no shame, shame is overrated.

Driving from rock formation to rock formation, eating fish and chips by the sea and speeding back to see the sun set at the twelve apostles. Darkness sets in and you find yourself driving to Melba Gully on a hunt for glow worms. You meet a german couple and set off into the forest, scared, excited and armed only with a flash light. They surprise you, these glow worms that light the sides of the track like nature's fairy lights. A constellation of blue stars dotting the moss covered rocks and disappearing at dawn.

You love this road, your favourite road. Where on your last night you dance around a bonfire, outnumbered by germans who you teach drinking games. The smell of bushfire stains your clothes, the odour clinging to your skin as you reach Melbourne - a reminder of the country in the city that seems too urban after a week of small towns.

And it's here that you discover, again, how beautiful your own country is. How awesome and strange and adventurous it is. The bizarre animals, products of thousands of years of isolation and the sheer scale of this island continent. You climb a fence to frolick in a canola field, you drink sangria in a roof top bar in Melbourne that plays 80s video clips on it's big screen, you sing at the top of your lungs in the car with the windows down and eat, and eat, and eat.

You're saying hello and saying goodbye at the same time to the road, to your friends, to your country. The dates are rushing by you and you will never be here again. So you breathe deep and keep driving, vowing and wishing over and over to come back to this place some day.