a note of nostalgia and no regrets

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This time last year I’d spent my weekend colour coding timetables, drawing up seating plans and stocking up on stationary. Through necessity and remedy in equal measure, I was keeping myself busy.

Standing expectantly at the door to my classroom, I awaited my new allocation of bright eyed students. Somehow I’d managed to rally myself to a state of quiet optimism, and I couldn’t help but envision the brilliant things that could potentially unfold within our humble space throughout the coming year.

There’s something pretty special about those first few weeks back to school at the beginning of first term; everyone is so hopeful and willing. The atmosphere buzzes with anticipation. Teachers and students alike allow themselves to get lost in that romantic notion of the possibility of the clean slate; something which lasts at least until that first fresh sheet is tainted with the clumsy scrawl of reality. At the beginning of a new year, the past has become a distant misdemeanour, easily forgiven. The kids exhibit an innate thirst for knowledge and discovery, and you’re blessed with a glimpse of what things could be like, were it not for a backward pedalling education system, intent on extinguishing their spark with watery, outdated doctrines.

As always, my hope was to extend those first week feelings at least until midterm. By then I would have to name a new source of motivation. After all, it wasn’t just the kids who grew quickly downhearted by the sheer multitude and rigidity of uninspiring syllabus requirements; I was busy convincing myself it was all worthwhile.

The truth is that this time last year, I’d spent my holidays battling with what had become an almost constant internal dilemma; what am I doing with my life? The prospect of returning to school for yet another tired year had left me feeling helplessly despondent. During that extended break I had considered throwing it all in and moving away. I’d even applied and attended an interview with RMIT University with the intention of commencing my masters in Journalism. I piked at the last minute. It didn’t feel natural to be abandoning four years of training and as many again spent dedicated to a profession. Besides, five weeks had been almost long enough for the truth to lose definition. Vague recollections of the idealistic notions and fanciful fictions that had attracted me to teaching in the first place had ebbed back into my mind, easing my doubts. When the hour eventually arrived to return to school, the past had been purged. Like the students, I’d tricked myself into thinking I wanted to be there.

However by the time the first influx of kids filed in and I began my usual welcoming spiel, the morning’s taste of bureaucracy had already turned my visions sour, and I was secretly consoling myself with the promise that this would be my last year. In 2012 I would get brave and try something different, no matter the cost.

And so here I am. The new chapter has begun and so has my chance at a fresh start. In the spirit of new years, I am eager and hopeful. This time, no amount of red tape will stifle my optimism.

Despite an undercurrent of discontentment, I’m glad I held on at school for that final twelve months. As well as injecting me with courage, the time I spent in classroom 1.11 offered countless memorable moments. One of the many benefits of being a teacher is that you’re privileged to share in the lives of many stunning individuals, occasionally impacting positively upon them. Fortunately it works both ways; a teacher with an open heart and mind learns so much more from their many pupils than they could possibly hope to impart. So thanks, guys; you know who you are.

I’m proud of myself for exhibiting the bravery necessary to quit everything and begin something new, whatever it turns out to be. I think of the new school year commencing and get a bit nostalgic, but the teacher within me, who doubtlessly will never be quieted, suggests I turn to Frost, and I’m somehow encouraged by his words, regardless of the ambiguity of the text therein.

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less travelled by,

and that has made all the difference.

to melbourne, with love

I have always loved a city; the bright lights, the exhilarating hustle, the easy, perfect chaos of it all. Cities are always awake and wired; they draw in life like moths to a flame. 

In my brief life I have enjoyed some fantastic cities. I have walked, wide eyed through the scenic streets of Paris, wandered the delightful alley ways of Dublin and strolled the cobbled paths of London. I have found myself mesmerised in the back roads of Amsterdam, have been stunned by the fantastic beauty of Berlin and was charmed by the diversity of Rome.

Yet despite where I have been and regardless of where I am yet to go, my heart belongs to a single metropolis; Melbourne, the most beautiful city in the world.

Melbourne, I adore you. Every time I walk your streets, I fall in love anew.  Being with you is like coming home. Everybody loves a beauty and your simple and unassuming loveliness draws people to you. In fact, the most diverse of societal cross sections seem to unite here in their shared adoration of your gorgeous parks, historic trams, the eclecticism of your outer suburbs, the way your towering skyscrapers and age old architecture can somehow sit side by side in a happy, haphazard harmony.

On the tram on our way through the city we pass a park. A group of young people sit cross legged on the grass, sharing a guitar. A man snoozes on the bench beside a fountain while a woman reads the paper, sprawled on a red rug in the sunshine. Parents walk beside children who wobble precariously on small bicycles and a businessman paces briskly through the midst; head down, clutching his briefcase like a prize.

I have seen some terrific things in this short life. I’ve stood dwarfed by the Eiffel Tower, had my heart broken by the beauty of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and spent the shortest day of my life devouring the majesty of the Louvre. I’ve dived with whale sharks and swum in the phosphorescence off the coast of Mozambique, witnessed a lion take down an impala in South Africa  and had they let me stay, I would still be sipping Sangria in the crazy cottages jutting out of the rugged cliff face in the Cinque Terre. Yet in this moment I could trade it all for the freedom that comes from sitting in a warm tram, a mess of thoughts in my mind and the knowledge that I’m headed exactly where I want to go.

 

 

on escapes and clean slates

For the past week I’ve been waking, horror stricken in the night with the realisation that I can’t breathe. Don’t worry; so far it’s all false alarms. I sit in the stillness of the dark and rationalise that the thick warmth trapped in my room is in fact the result of the too much breathing that comes from possessing a mess bomb of a mind and being an anxious wreck while if anything, sleeping all too heavily. Opening a window, I release the fuggy night terrors onto the lamp lit lawn, before crawling back into bed.

Lately my slumbering self has been plagued by an overabundance of unwelcome dreams. You know the kind; you’re scrambling naked through some public place, entirely conspicuous, or you’re back at school and stuck in that moment before you give a speech, sweaty palmed before a staring, dumb faced class.  Worst still, the dream where your past lovers rock up in a posse and begin casually listing your many and numerous shortfalls, unanimously agreeing that you were singularly their biggest mistake. It’s very disconcerting.

The source of my sudden restlessness and increasingly fragile sense of self is that in the very near future I intend to quit my life. And I am terrified. As you know, I had already made the decision to relinquish my full time position in the New Year. In my mind I figured I could throw in my job, but remain in the area and work for my boss on a casual basis, as a kind of safe guard against the prospect of having to fend for myself. I figured it couldn’t hurt to establish for myself a safety net. After all, surely starting over isn’t something one should rush?

As is often the case, the sneaky little nuisance of a notion came to me without warning. I was chatting to my sister about the cultural Mecca that is Melbourne City, and suddenly I was announcing, in a tone that sounded all at once flippant and completely foreign to me, that I plan to move there before the year is out. Naturally, my sister was both shocked and impressed by my apparently sudden display of recklessness, and believe me, she wasn’t the only one. Me, who had always been grounded and sensible and safe was now announcing impulsively, yet with total conviction, that she planned to pick herself up and, with zero prospects, venture into the unknown. I have since learned that backing out of a terrifying decision is a lot more difficult once you have spoken it aloud, for I am as proud and stubborn as I am cowardly. Maybe I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Perhaps I should have begun speaking my thoughts a long time ago.

If you’re thinking I sound a lot like a pathetic pansy, you’d be right, though it should be noted that although I become a cot case in the small hours of the morning, by the light of day I am typically quite composed. Sure, there are moments when the prospect of walking out on the life I’ve spent the past five years establishing summons my old friend Anxiety, who meanders in unannounced and casually sits on my chest, stripping me of appetite and making basic functions such as breathing an encumbering experience. But for the larger part, my pathetically irritating and unrealistically confident inner self is sitting back with an air of self righteousness and superiority, reflecting like a would-be philosopher on our very brave and risqué life decision; that by throwing it all in we are winning back our freedom. It is true that in some moments there is a sort of weightless calm that comes with recklessly abandoning everything, but I can’t help but think that this feeling is not dissimilar to that which is felt by a suicide bomber or a man enduring the final stages of a terminal illness. And I’m certain at times I possess the same desperate look in my eyes.

Needless to say, it’s not all bad. For a girl whose life has always been plagued by indecision, while I certainly don’t have a grasp of what it is I want, I do have a growing awareness of the things I could easily do without. My current life, for instance.

 

So. Know of anyone in the big smoke who’s in need of a writer? As of the New Year I am officially unemployed. Feel free to drop me a line, or look me up; address, Struggle Street.