32 years ago, I arrived. It’s true to say the world has not been the same since.
31 years ago, I lived in my little world in a little house in a humble suburb with my young parents. It was the seventies; my dad’s hair was long, my mum’s hair was short.
30 years ago, there was another. The bane of my existence, the apple of my eye. A symbiote, a stranger, a partner in crime, a brother, a friend. Someone to run from, someone to look after. Someone I was bigger than. Someone new I was bound to.
29 years ago, I dislocated his arm by trying to help him to fly. He has never let me forget it.
28 years ago, I was in pre school with Miss Yee who I thought was amazing because of her long, long black hair and her beautiful Chinese face. I remember a creepy Santa Claus visited us at Christmastime and we all got to pull a present out of the sack. I got a blue and white plastic tea set; I remember being not especially impressed.
27 years ago, I started at Mascot Public School. I don’t remember much about it except for the Book Parade when I wore pink velvet knickerbockers. They were very special.
26 years ago, I decided that since our house was across the road from my school, it would be logical for me to walk home on my own. I neglected to tell my mother this. She wasn’t that happy when she went to pick me up and I wasn’t there, but it made perfect sense to me.
25 years ago, we forged a new life in a new place. We moved to Papua New Guinea and a tropical climate and curfews and states of emergency and buai on the pavements and unseen danger around every corner and Pidgin English.
24 years ago, I wrote stories. I won a short story competition and didn’t even know I was in it. I am an accidental writer, mainly because it’s so ingrained in me I don’t even notice it.
23 years ago, I stood up to a bully.
22 years ago, we went to Disneyland and England and then we moved to Singapore.
21 years ago, I was happy in my red and white pinstriped school uniform, with my gang of rag-tag friends from all over the world and a crazy teacher who taught me about Monty Python, the joy of Fridays and never to use the word ‘nice’ if I wanted to be a decent writer. That was also the year I heard something at church that made my soul dance. I don’t remember the specifics, but I knew I had to make a choice. I chose Jesus and was baptised at the International Baptist Church by Pastor Ray.
20 years ago, we moved back to Sydney and I started high school. Again. I was the new girl, again. I stood in a corner at recess, biting back rancid tears of fear and loneliness, wondering if I would ever fit in, anywhere.
19 years ago, I still had penpals and a best friend in Singapore and we loved a certain boy band and our obsession knew no bounds. Our letters were full of fantasies and imaginings and the secret language of teenage girls. If, at the time, you had told me 19 years later I would be mildly embarrassed about this, I would have shot daggers at you with my eyes and told you flatly that it was impossible. My love was timeless. Sadly, the band was not.
18 years ago I had two best friends, both boys. We had a band and we played jazz standards and Billy Joel and songs from the Blues Brothers and we made lots of noise and silly movies. One of these boys became my first boyfriend. I can’t remember how; it probably began with a kiss, or hand-holding, or shy shufflings. We were inseparable, we were hilarious. Everything was fun and funny. His mother thought we were more devious than we really were, thought I was some kind of Lolita. I didn’t even know what a Lolita was.
17 years ago, I realised it wouldn’t last. We stayed friends, but it was never the same.
16 years ago, I wanted to be cooler than I was. I was still learning that coolness is intangible and worthless. I spent a lot of time at Kings Cross and Elizabeth Bay, discovered Rickie Lee Jones, and ate cherries while my stoned friends danced in the park.
15 years ago, I finished high school. I got into a relationship with a man twice my age, a jazz guitarist who should have known better but didn’t. I thought I was grown up, but I wasn’t.
14 years ago, I was in love with jazz. I played Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock and Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald and I went along to my boyfriend’s gigs and sat in the darkness lapping it up. I still thought I was grown up, and that I was accepted by all his thirtysomething friends, but now that I am their age I think their kind expressions must have been ones of bemusement.
13 years ago, my parents split up. I was unsurprised. I think that was also the year that the unimaginable happened, though as with those sorts of traumas, I don’t tend to remember times and dates. Looking back, it’s probably no surprise either. I wasn’t really in the mode of protecting myself from the world and its evils, I was just trying to obliterate and was in the danger of being obliterated myself.
12 years ago, my mother’s best friend and fiance died. The world is a smaller place without him. Every January when the nights are hot and the Australian Open blares from the television, I remember those times sitting in the hospice. I remember holding hands and the sunkenness of his face and the sad relief when he was finally free of his body.
11 years ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday with a masquerade ball in the Chinese Gardens. It was a magical night. I was worrying about who to invite and who not to invite and when I look at the photos now, I don’t even know half the people who were there anymore. But I wore an amazing dress and sat in the dark on a stone bridge while friends sang ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ in four-part harmony.
10 years ago, I finished my Bachelor of Arts with honours in Theatre and English. I had written and directed a play that was very well received; I loved theatre and was going to work in theatre forever, start my own company, do something amazing, though that star seemed to blaze brightly and burn out quickly. That year I moved out of home, although home by that stage had just become an idea. Each member of my family was living somewhere different. I was living in a studio flat in Glebe, overlooking the city. My boyfriend, an actor, came to stay one night and never really went home. That’s how we ended up living together. We cooked together, had sleepy Sunday breakfasts in the sun, listened to crazy music and learned lines together.
9 years ago, that relationship imploded and I lay on the bathroom floor in tears and distress, unable to work out what to do, where to go, who I was or why this had happened to me. I had wandered a long way away from God. That was the year he pulled me back in. It was like healing, like learning to walk again, like bones knitting. I was broken, shattered, wrecked beyond repair, and he put me back together; the same person, but better. Whole. That was also the year my grandfather died, my Papa, who had always been. I moved back in with my mother.
8 years ago, according to some, I “still had no music taste”. This is a disputed ‘fact’. I love music so much that sometimes I just don’t discriminate and quite like the fact that I enjoy so many different things. I think it’s called eclectic taste.
7 years ago, my mother and I went to Europe together. I discovered the joy of exploring England and the thrills of Italy. She smoothed over the bad memories of her past travels by seeing it all afresh with me. I wandered through Venice alone, and imagined great things.
6 years ago, I started working for AFES, in what felt like a proper, grown-up job. I continued to grow as a Christian, but felt the growing pains keenly.
5 years ago, I started sewing a quilt with Danielle that took me five years to finish. I exulted in the friendship of women who encouraged me in my faith.
4 years ago, I graduated with my MA in creative writing and half a book in my hands. I moved out again, to live on my own in Kensington.
3 years ago, I couldn’t write anymore. What had once been like breathing to me was now difficult and laboured. I got involved with someone who seemed right but was very wrong for me. As my life seemed to fall apart again, I wondered why I had such terrible taste in men and why I found it so hard to disconnect from them.
2 years ago, I started seeing a counsellor and taking anti-depressants. I realised that through the fog and the fug, God was still holding on to me, and that was very reassuring indeed.
1 year ago, I was very sick. It was then discovered my gall bladder was very diseased and I was rushed into hospital to have it removed. Mum also had a total knee replacement. It was a year of hospitals. I was heartbroken when my best friends moved to the other side of the world, and then almost surprised to discover new kindred spirits. I started to write again. I started to sing again. I started to laugh again.
32 years ago, I arrived. It’s true to say the world has not been the same since.