On reaching 30: A birthday monologue

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Back in early high school of the early noughties, when I liked Playstation 1 and Wheatus, there’s one moment I recall in between bland vacant times of no meaning. My teacher’s aid was having a bad day. She was turning 30. “I’m old,” she said, miserably. She was cool, someone allocated to keep an eye on me given that I was on the educational radar – the one to watch out for, a sign of troubling behaviour. She lent me her Playstation games, like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot: Warped.

I turned 30 today, and I’ve been struggling for weeks to write something that was a combination of humble-bragging of my past and a declaration of my positive future. It’s 6pm and I haven’t had a shower, and I’m having dinner with my colleagues in 55 minutes. There’s not a lot of time to write something, if I want it published on my birthday.

I’m tired. I just returned from Perth, where I visited my family for a few days. My mum drove me back to the airport and on the way we stopped at Grilled for burgers. And I told her how I feel that it hasn’t been the same since I returned from South America seven months ago, that everyone around me is starting to look old, even my younger brothers.

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An earlier birthday. Judging from my pimples, somewhere in the early 20s

She gave me the look. The one where her lips are pursed, her eyebrows are raised, and is considering an “mmmm”. And she said, “well you’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. When you were in your 20s you could pretend to be, sort of. But you’re not.” And I had to absorb that for a moment, because in my heart I’ve thought I have the best of both mindsets, where I have experience in my profession, but am young. I guess I felt that everything I was doing was training me, preparing me, building me for something else in the future, when I was in my prime, when I’d have it all figured out and controlled.

Since I came back from Peru, I haven’t felt that. I’ve felt that where I am now is who I am. And I’ve felt a bit flat over it, as I see that I’m still not having much of a social life, where I’m still struggling with work at times and balancing the feelings of inadequacy that comes with it, with the occasional sense of pride that I know exactly what I’m doing. And I’ve felt that everyone else my age, and younger, have established themselves, have their voices too, and are prepared for this world that constantly is being branded as more frightening and dangerous, in its various forms.

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Possibly my 13th? 

As I continued eating my burger, I carried on with my rant to mum. “You know what the population is? 8 million. Sorry. I meant 8 billion. It wasn’t that long ago, maybe when I was in high school in 2006, when we were told it was 6 billion.”

In that time that has been another 2 billion people who now exist, who soon will indirectly compete with me for resources, food, and are part of a collection of experiences that I won’t be able to relate to.

“Haven’t you ever felt the same?” I asked mum, who would by my count be 48. She shrugged, as if she either hadn’t thought of it, or had long ago taken such a thing for granted.

While the population itself doesn’t directly impact why I’m 30, or the significance of it, I am saying there is a lot that can change in three decades, and even in 15 years.

Such as myself.

I was fostered for three years when I was 10, and I left home when I was 15. It was only the other week that I realised the odds of going to university and completing a degree was low if you were fostered, and when I look back to the kids I knew then, I know that I have accomplished much. People over the years have said I’m hard on myself.

I’ve had to be.

I guess what I’ve done though, in the meantime, ever since my Beenleigh Centrelink careers adviser helped me apply for university, is avoid stability. It’s only since Peru that I’ve even taken out a bond, and rented on my own. I kept a job in Mount Isa for more than three years, and I told myself I would serve that time, but I questioned it every six months.

I’ve always wanted the chance to escape, or have a choice to do so, without feeling bad about it. And I can still do that. Being 30 doesn’t change that. Reaching 30 doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a milestone year. And milestones help us to reflect on what we did and what we want to do.

 

That’s where I should wrap it. And I will. Today I didn’t do much. I tried out cricket powder in my breakfast cereal. I signed my rental lease for another six months. I bought an expensive pair of jeans from a store that offered me a 20 per cent discount because it was my birthday, only I didn’t see it until after I made the purchase. I bought Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and tried watching it. It’s not a good movie.

And really. That’s it. And I’m about to go out for dinner. And I’m okay with that. But I’ll have a birthday party in two weeks. It won’t be tonight, because I work tomorrow.

The treasure trove at Granddad’s

Treasure 9

It has been 12 days since I returned to Australia, and I’ve lost count of the hours of video games and the number of coffees I have been drinking.

I have been in Western Australia to visit my family for a week. It has been almost five years since I last saw them. A few days ago, I visited Granddad’s shed to see how much of my stuff remained in boxes. It had been left at Mum’s but I can’t remember being specific about what I wanted kept.

Fearing the worst, I opened the cupboard and pulled out the boxes. There were laughs, and there were near tears. The treasure trove was better than I remembered.

The number plates for my first car, and the die cast Tardis key chain, and key, were there.

There was a book in which I had printed photos of friends and asked them to write a farewell message for me, when I moved to Melbourne for a year. Many have aged…but there was one friend in there who had later killed himself. This was his last message to me, and if I had known what to look for, I might have seen the troubles he shared in his message. Many in the book are still my friends.

 

There was the skeleton, more or less, of my imaginary friend Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. His head was missing, the repainting I had given him had peeled off, his battery was dead, his legs were missing, his wings would not work. He was just a relic.

So many CDs (white metal. A lot of militant Christian metal, that’s for sure), my old Stryper T-Shirt (ever heard of them? Youtube them. Anyway, on the back of the shirt it said ‘To Hell With The Devil’ and I wore it to uni once and freaked out the Gold Coast chicks),  Xbox games, and Nintendo DS games (including my old Pokemon Pearl with its 240 hour game file still intact. 240 hours for one game!!! Are you kidding me?). There was the short story I had published in an edition of the now non-existing writers’ magazine, Wet Ink, which was called ‘lonely Leather.’ Not counting journalism, it remains the only piece of writing I was paid for. I had my aeronautical goggles, the Gryffindor scarf that Mum made me, and the Sonic Screwdriver replica belonging to the 11th Doctor.

There is also some of the more favourable feedback from university assignments.

I suppose I have prided myself on the way I can move from place to place, having to start again from scratch. But really, much of it remains locked in a shed cupboard.

Top 5 Weird or Obscure CDS I Found

  1. The Cambodian Space Project (bought at the Ubud Writers and Readers Fest, 2011)
  2. Johnny Cash’s ‘My Mother’s Hymn Book’
  3. A burnt copy of a ‘Within Temptation’ album
  4. Stryper’s Reborn Album (their first album for more than 10 years, after their controversial ‘Against the Law’ album in the early 90s). Too heavy for conservative Christians, too preachy for the rebels.
  5. A burnt copy of The Doors’ Essential Rarities (which includes a live version of ‘The End’ and Jim Morrison is screaming ‘bring out your dead!’ over and over at the start). “The killer awoke before dawnnn….he put his boots on….ergh!”

Top 5 Video Games

  1. Pokemon Pearl (I tried playing it again. I was in the Elite Four using a level 99 Gengar.  I was bored quickly. It took too long to do things)
  2. Beyond Good and Evil! (This was a cool spacey game with some central American influence done for the Xbox, but this version was republished for the Xbox 360 in part of some ‘three games collection’).
  3. Assassin Creeds (1, 2, Brotherhood, Revelations , 3)
  4. Crash Nitro Kart for the Gamecube (but where the heck is my gamecube, Luigi’s mansion, Smash Bros Melee, Timesplitters 2! The finger points towards my little sister)
  5. Two games in the Prince of Persia trilogy.

 

 

On dating and honesty on an exotic continent

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What ended up being a meet up for coffee ended up being a late night (on a work night) which included a photo gallery, coffee and cake, and deep and meaningful conversation in the plaza de armas. 

It has been at least 11 days since my last blog. My mind has been occupied with the good and the bad. It has thought of Tinder and dating and women and work and students at school, and of struggles and workaholism, and of what I should be doing in my life right now.

I had been on a lot of dates lately, and mostly with the same girl who makes me feel good. It caught me off guard because I certainly didn’t come to Peru for a relationship. It felt like I had finally figured out Tinder just as I met her, and suddenly not only did I have so many matches, but so many girls actually wanted to talk, and hey! Holy crap. Even meet me.

There was the date with the lawyer who invited me to her house where she fed me and tried to speak in broken English. Then there was the date at the shopping centre with the girl who knew next to no English. I don’t know how I thought that was going to work. I suppose it was because she was a really nice person who wanted to see me.

I went on one date (after the clowns date) which ended up in a nightclub. She knew English with difficulty, but as a travelling violinist in a symphony knew much more German. We went to an expensive hipster coffee bar where after the conversation slowly stopped she blushingly pulled out a piece of paper with questions in English to ask me.

I had arrived at that date wondering what the hell I was doing when I had just met another girl I liked and wanted to spend my time with. I thought about cancelling, but didn’t. And all through the coffee as I liked this girl more and more, with her awkward charm and piece of paper, I thought to myself, ‘you are scum.’

As we walked to eat dinner she asked me ‘so are you single?’ and technically I was. But I told her there was another girl I did like, over Google translator, and explained further I was not after a relationship. But I really wanted her in my life, so I begged that we be friends. The friendship continued eventually to the nightclub where everyone stared at me for being a gringo, and gradually we stole the centre of the floor dancing to regatone.

But late that night I felt whatever it was, wasn’t the same as the girl I met on the clown date. And as I took a taxi home that night I felt alone, and certainly didn’t want to push good people out of my life. When I arrived home at 4.30am I sent a tired message to the first girl and said I certainly wanted to keep seeing her.

I deliberately don’t think about the future because doing so only worries me unnecessarily, where I see problems when I am not equipped with the answers. I can adapt with solutions with time and experience that I cannot predict from the situations that have yet to happen. Mountains are much easier to see than the roads and the rope and the boots and the caves.

But something happened in the days after I sent the tired message. I realised that I couldn’t keep going on heaps of dates with different girls, especially if they ended up being really nice girls. It would only get confusing.

And so, when the girls I spoke to who I did care about wanted more detail on our future or our dating, I had to be honest and not worried about being liked by the most people.

The more honest I was the more powerful I felt. Girls appreciated it and to a degree admired it, having had enough lies and double-standards in their dating lives. I discovered that being honest was the fastest way to get what I really wanted. The obstacles or the confusion cleared, and for the first time in my life it felt like the people I knew moved around me and to what I wanted.

But of course, when girls found out that I was dating someone more regularly than once, they stopped talking to me, even if the conversation ended politely. And there is something really sad in that, that by being honest I lost the pleasure of their intelligence and conversations, but I understood that they had for a long time realised something I was only just discovering – you cannot waste time on the things that do not fit to what you want.