Dream chaser


Over the past four years, I’ve written thousands of words about chasing your dreams, all the while not having the gumption to do it myself. Until now.

Not that long ago, I walked into my boss’s office and quit. He wasn’t expecting it and seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would walk away from such a lofty journalistic position. Little did he know that I’d been planning my exit for a very long time. I just didn’t have the balls to do it – or the female equivalent, which I presume is ovaries, but doesn’t quite have the same gravitas does it?

I’d long dreamed about throwing caution to the wind so I could be a “proper writer” but the risks always seemed too great to me. Could I make enough money to pay the bills? What if my dreams of being a successful writer are just that, and I’m really only mediocre with as much talent as a seventh season reality TV contestant who has 25 seconds of fame and then disappears to work in a fish and chip shop in a rural or remote region?

But over the past 12 months, my desire to take the leap from being a regular nine to fiver with a consistent income and morph into (in my mind) an avant garde penniless writer grew and grew. Long-term followers of this blog will know that elements of the past year have been about as much fun as a bad case of gastro whilst on a long overdue holiday in an exotic location.

As a family we’ve continued on the longest of goodbyes with our mum who has Alzheimer’s, I lost two aunties in relatively quick success, my relationship finally broke down after careening to an ending that should’ve happened months before if I’d only I’d had a better understanding of what’s okay and what’s not, and I realised that an extrovert like me isn’t suited to a job that required me to sit on my (ever-expanding) arse almost every day sub-editing thousands of words, which will be fashioned into a magazine, with very little contact with the outside world. Lucky I’m a terminal optimist otherwise I could’ve ended up a tiny bit depressed.

When life throws you so many curve-balls it’s like being in a never-ending game of world series baseball, I think you can either jump over the edge or let yourself be pushed. Sure, I’ve had a few moments of morbid introspection – especially last week when I found out I didn’t get into a prestigious film school so I could become a better screenwriter – but wallowing in my own despair just makes me look old, wrinkly as well as sad. And who wants to shag someone who looks like that?

So, I realised that I was sick of writing earnestly about chasing your dreams from the safety and security of a steady, yet creatively unfulfilling, job with a weekly pay-cheque. It made me feel like a fraud and I also knew that my creativity was simultaneously leaking out of me like tears of regret. So I pulled the pin.

I start my new life in February and I’m filled with a weird psychological mesh of excitement, liberty and fear. The fear is about not earning enough from my own endeavours to keep me fed and watered. But one of my friends, who has to be one of the most motivational people who has ever lived, told me the other day that I’ve actually been doing that for years already – just for someone else. That made me feel better.

I’ll still need to work as a journalist, but freelance so I can hopefully pick and choose who I work with and what I write about. I’m thinking of going to work in a book shop now and then too. Just to be with other creatives and be surrounded by the published books that my dreams have long been made of.

Most of all, I’m going to write. I’m going to finally finish my screenplay, and then write another one. I’m going to make short films with my cousin and approach publishers about this blog, which now has nearly 100,000 words and an awesome following (that’s you!) And, like 20 years ago, I’m going to go wherever I want and experience it all so that my writing, and me too, becomes more complex, more adventurous, more everything.

So what started out like a risky business to me, now seems more like carpe diem. And if a significant life choice already has a Latin phrase associated with it, well, that’s got to mean something, right?


Let’s talk about toilet texting


The other day I learned in crystal-clear, surround-sound audio that some people text while on the toilet doing a poo.

This epoophany came about when I frequented the toilets at work. Now, these loos are the communal-type – not meaning boys and girls, but they service the entire floor, which is made up of a number of different and diverse businesses.

This is an interesting dynamic in itself, because the chances of bumping into someone you work with is quite slim so I must admit there’s probably more “number two” action than normally would take place during the hours of nine to five.

On that note, why is it that the walls of cubicles in so many public loos don’t go all the way to the floor? Cost-saving measures? In my opinion, they really should so everyone can just get “on with business” with some modicum of pride.

In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than, after making a break for the toilet when nature’s calling big-time and thankfully finding it empty, you suddenly hear someone entering the facilities when, you know, you’re halfway through. And you have to freeze and wait and wait and wait for them to leave, which seems to take an eternity at that particular point in time. The joys of workplace toilets, right?

Anyway, on this day, I was in one of the cubicles when I heard something rather strange happening in the stall next door. Someone still had that clicking noise activated on their mobile phone so I could hear they were texting someone – while on the toilet. Then all of a sudden the texting stopped and the person’s bowels opened very loudly. Obviously, unlike me, she had no qualms about the length of the cubicle walls.

Then the texting started again – all the while her bum farted and burped like a colon opera because she clearly believed she was actually in our own home all alone. She wasn’t. By this stage, I’d exited my cubicle and was washing my hands. I was also thinking: “Really? Is texting while you’re doing a poo a thing today? Was the message so urgent that she had to kill two birds with one stone in the office loos? Did the person receiving the ‘poo-text’ know that it was created in such a scatological fashion?” I dried my hands, and to the sound of more bum-gas explosions, exited the facilities with a quizzical look on my face.

Now I can understand parents of small children having to resort to such tactics, although their time on the loo isn’t necessarily always sacrosanct, but at work? Surely no text has that degree of urgency?

To say I was poo-plexed is an understatement so I turned to my 12 and 13-year-old nieces, who aren’t related to me by blood but whose mum is my bestie, the following week and “delicately” asked them: “Is texting while doing a poo okay to you?” and without skipping a beat they said in unison “yes”. Silly aunty, they laughed, everyone does it. Of course, I was morally outraged. “What has the world come to?” I cried. “Where’s the dignity?”

And so it came to pass that yet again, I learned that I might be getting a tad older – and a little “wiser” about such modern-day shenanigans. Seemingly, according to the young folk, texting while you’re in the loo doing a poo isn’t a biggie – I guess, unless you accidentally hit FaceTime while you’re in the middle of it.


Trouble in my town


As I drove towards the place I’d fled, with a busted-up heart, some 12 years before, I wondered what I’d find there, and what I’d feel. And, even after all these years, I wondered whether I’d see him again.

I returned to the place that was the start of everything career-wise for me, but also the scene of my greatest heartbreak last weekend. I’d passed through once or twice for work in the past decade or so but generally kept my head down and scurried away before I even knew I was there.

This time, however, it was time to catch up with old friends to spin some yarns about the days when we were fresh-faced, uber-left journalists, who thought we’d change the world – one regional town at a time.

Times sure have changed since then, but mostly in our profession. We joked that night about having to resort to making dozens of phone calls “back in the day” just to find sources for our stories because, you know, we had no internet. Indeed, the old-school electoral roll was our best friend.

We grumbled about how “easy” journalism has become (if you’re lucky enough to have a job, that is) when the world, and story leads, are literally at your fingertips. In “the old days” we said in unison, we had to hunt down our news because stories weren’t handed to us on a digital plate via press releases and Twitter, which for some unbelievable reason has become a bona fide media resource.

And so we went on. It was cathartic to reminisce and remember the days when life wasn’t so heavy and we believed, body and soul, in what we were doing. How the years unfortunately wash away such earnestness. I wish it wasn’t so.

Not only are we older – and let’s admit it, a little fatter – but even the two-hour drive there was much altered in my perception. It wasn’t as if the roads had been improved – in fact, as I drove, I passed each landmark with a familiarity that genuinely surprised me. But unlike in the early 2000s, today I have a nice car, so the drive was more comfortable, you know with air-con, and not once did I worry about conking out on the side of the road with no mobile coverage.

I also had access to thousands of songs on my iPhone versus the three cassettes I had back then – tapes which I played on high rotation during my thousands of kilometres on those lonely country roads. They were P!nk’s 2003 Try This, John Butler Trio’s 2001 Three and, oddly, The Greatest Hits of Neil Diamond – I still know every word to every one of those songs, especially his duet with Barbra Streisand, the etheral You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore. 

Yet, last weekend, as I drove towards my destination, the memories that came flooding back were of the dozens of times I’d completed that journey during an era when I’d regularly escape back to the city searching for my sanity.

I remembered fleeing from that place when my relationship with a man – who sang to me (he was a musician) and told me he loved me but then pushed me away, and then repeated the process many times… and I let him – became too much for this huckleberry to bear. It wasn’t until many years later that I understood why he did that – and, unbeknownst to him, forgave him.

Back in those days, mum was a hands-on woman, so one particularly dark day when I arrived back on her door-step with tears in my eyes and fractures in my heart, she put on the CD of Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman and sang and danced with me around the kitchen. She then, randomly, took me to a mosaic class where I smashed up bits of glass (perhaps with a little too much gusto), which ultimately became a very ugly  “decorative” plate that thankfully has been lost to this world forever. She also told me that sometimes when we fall in love it makes us a little crazy. These things, I now know, saved me.

And yet there I was, all these years later, all grown up, successful and independent, hoping to see him – if the truth be told (and it is) – which freaked me out since I have as much interest in dating as I do in quantum mechanics. After the breakdown of our relationship, I limped on in that town for about six months, tried to love someone else and failed, all the while he was regularly (and anonymously to everyone but him) the fodder for my newspaper column. My “Mr Big” I suppose you could say. Then I split and tried not to look back.

We never did bump into him that night but a few days later I found myself for the first time (guiltily) looking him up on Facebook. There he was, still looking the same. Still taking my breath away, which was an epiphany I must admit. He’s a single dad with two kids these days, still sings and nobly works in disability. And it like looks life has thrown him a few curve balls, too – such is the way of things if we live long enough to bear witness to it.

And so I spent about five minutes “spying” on him, contemplated sending him a message (for what purpose I wondered?) but thankfully thought better of it. He looks happy and healthy and I know I am too. I realised I have no desire to fuck up my hard-fought serenity, even though my heart still soared like a trebuchet at the sight of him. To partly quote P!nk I’ve had enough bloody trouble in my town, even if people can and do change. So I closed his profile and, possibly, finally relegated that particular story to my past.