Move over Plan B

 

I am a uni drop out again. I enrolled in a masters of social work in a hope to find some certainty to that perennial ‘what do you do‘ question in this far from sure world.  There’s dysfunction dripping thus demand for social workers is high and I wanted to find a ‘secure’ profession.

But life had a trail of little wakeup calls. I was shaking after a colleague downloaded about her abusive boyfriend and hearing yet another stress leave story, found me in bed contemplating:

What is driving this decision? And for whom am I doing it?

I am a slow learner. It takes me several times around the block over the same terrain for things to become clear. This current vocational plan (there has been many..) is yet another time I’ve placed onus on Plan B as a protection from owning up to my true desires, Plan A. It gets exhausting trying to hoodwink your soul. This conflict is something many artistic creatures face as following your passion in the arts is a hard, bloody road, not helped by society perpetually questioning its relevance, legitimacy and economic prospects.

But is it really a choice?

I lay there quietly asking the deeper parts of myself, and the answer was no.

After years of feeling like I need to find a career- an answer tied up with a pretty bow,  it was there all the time.  When I stood at the photocopier at my graduate job for a multinational, a poem licked my face. From the recovering heroin addict with a PhD in mathematics who helped change a flat tyre on my courier bike to the elderly lady who asked me (a support worker) to collude with her by hurriedly changing her spotted blood dressing gown so she could look ‘put together’ before the resident nurse came to do an in home assessment, stories have coloured my life. As I tidied away the decay in her Mosman apartment, we chatted early days at Women’s Weekly, her role as editor and laughed about the wickedness of life. I stood poker faced when asked if she was fit enough to remain living alone. Later I got a call from Deirdre’s son with a heartfelt thank you and news that she passed away peacefully in her own home weeks later.

I remember being asked ‘What do you want to be?’ upon graduating from high school for our school magazine. With ‘unthinking’ speed I answered

A constant Kombie cruiser

I have lived up to that. I have found by seeking new places, experiences, jobs and people- I find endless material, stimulation and variety that feeds my writing. Not good for a CV per se but when you are called to write and reflect on what you see in the world, you can’t turn it off.  Where do you learn how to be a writer? Yes you can do university and always get something out of it. But the qualitative research comes from living life. And maybe that’s what I have actually been doing, even when I felt I was ‘failing’ at this career game.

In Maleny, I am waiting tables, gathering dialogue and indulging in voyeurism. Chatting with customers and asking questions to tap into threads that hold opinions together. Moments that may find another life one day now I’ve fired Plan B.

I’m sitting here naked ready for Plan A-rse in the chair work of dancing whispering ghosts with grit under my keyboard.

Wish me luck and thanks for reading thus far.

Love Amy

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Story?

On the weekend after another trip to the hospital, nothing serious this time Beau split his toe open when a heavy wooden chair left backwards on to it.  The kindly security guard with good English always has a joke about life philosophy. Beau slept through the dressing and rectal suppository. Not requiring stitches, we’re ushered home again.

An old shed from the outside but what a find..

An old shed from the outside but what a find..

Quinn and I took off for Mother and Son time whilst the other two were shacked up at home. We discovered a swish, indoor skatepark minus the skates. A concrete maze of curved waves, jumps and pillars. Bikes and rollerblades were the choice. Quinn took his bike for a spin and even tried his hand at blading. Not a bad first effort, especially considering his guts weren’t great.

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I’ve barely made it through the door when the owner, a middle aged Khmer with a pleasant round face asks me the obligatory question;

‘Where are you from?’

His eyes lit up as he shares his story:

My father live in Melbourne. I call him 5 years ago except he say he’s not my father.

What kind of curlie is this?

I search for him on internet. He has same name and from photo he looks like my father. And people I know who knew him in Cambodia believe it is him as well. I haven’t seen him for 35 years.

Geez this guy has such a sweet face. He keeps talking.

He escape during Pol pot regime because Pol Pot was going to kill him.

We’re all versed in the horrors. But hearing it firsthand and seeing the fallout all these years later really brings it home.

What about your mother? Does she know if it’s him? I ask

She doesn’t like talking about it much. He left her.

He’s on a roll now:

So I call my (not) father, I speak to him and ask him if I am his son. He says no. He has new wife and family in Australia now. His new wife doesn’t want him talking to me.

Why don’t you write him a letter? I suggest.

He shrugs not believing the letter will reach its rightful owner without interception

I don’t want money. I just want to know‘.

He has 3 school age children and a shiny black Lexus parked out the front. Even though he has obvious pain around this large question mark, he looks peaceful. He can discuss this with a contagious calm. Maybe he gives him some solace disclosing it, or maybe he’s an expert poker face. The conversation turns to DNA tests and possibly another phone call. I get this uneasy vision of the father who is over 70 now confessing on his deathbed in a ramble of delirium.

But what’s the truth? Maybe it will never be known.

Leong Bo’s story reminds me of meeting my own brother when I was 26 for the first time. The joy around finding a long known but not discussed piece of a puzzle. I knew I had a brother who lived on Norfolk Island. He had a name but I hadn’t seen his face.

As the hedonistic, self absorbed university chapter closed, I remembered the baby photograph sent by his mother in 1987 of a chubby, blue eyed babe in what looks like a Christening gown.

Unsure where to start, I call the telephone operator on Norfolk. I ask what PJ Wilson’s number is?

A bonny madam replies ‘Auy, PJ! You can call him on Pelly and Dinty’s number, 6475839.’

I’m scrawling down this gold on a tightly held paper. Within minutes I’m yards closer and I can’t quite believe how easy and quickly this is all happening.

The oil still spitting in the pan, I dial the number.

A spritely, strong female voice answers. Hello. I introduce myself.

A bit of a pause, and then ‘Oh Amy. Hello! I’m PJ’s mum Dinty’.

An easy conversation follows. I find out PJ now lives on the mainland. His proud mum tells me he got a scholarship to uni. I get his direct line.

Dinty and I taken at PJ's wedding

Dinty and I taken at PJ’s wedding

It takes me another week to digest it all. When I’ve worked up the courage, I’m sitting on a park bench in Glebe, the grass lush from summer rain. He answers, I’m up on my feet pacing circles under the trees.

I remember hearing the warmth and excitement in his voice that first time. His Ma had given him a heads up. But what struck me so clearly…was the ease of it all. We must have spoken for half an hour. Filling in our stories. Talking about his uni, friends, life at college. Our shared love of horses.

We arrange to meet, a necessary step to complete the journey. With Easter bunnies jeering from supermarket shelves, Tim and I fly north. We stay at a friend’s place in New Farm, a treehouse built high on a hill, its deck amongst the banana palms. Art books line the shelves, a dishevelled, lived in feel. The smell of coffee grains, peeling paint on the kitchen table.

PJ and I plan to meet at Queen Street Mall outside Hungry Jacks. What a romantic place! Ha. When in doubt find a fast food landmark. I remember responding to a foot model advertisement once with an ‘interview’ at McDonalds involving a dubious character salivating over my sandals. I digress…

The day arrives, I can’t walk slowly instead I stride out with nerves leaving Tim in my wake. He is sensitive enough to leave me to it. I spot the glaring red/yellow sign and I can feel the spike of tears forming. By the time I reach the spot I see a tall dude with jet black hair and a beaming smile. I already know who it is. I’m crying and we give each other a huge hug. I’m home in my brother’s arms.

Family resemblance?

Family resemblance?

We spend the rest of the day cruising the Brisbane River on a ferry. Non stop talking as we catch up on a lifetime of news. We have similar crinkles around the eyes, snub noses and flashing whites. We disclose our dreams, his to improve Norfolk’s environmental practices still stuck in the 70s where rubbish is burnt or worse ends up in the sea . I speak of my love of art and artists. He meets Tim. I hear about his homeland: 35 square kilometres of rock in the Pacific Ocean nearly 1500 miles from my birthplace. Only 2300 ‘odd’ people live there- a courageous, heavy drinking, outspoken lot with resilience in their veins. PJ talks with love for his clan not by blood, but forged through childhood, birthdays, bruises, work and acceptance.

'Odd' lot

‘Odd’ lot

Our friendship has grown. PJ has stayed at my house several times, meeting both my sons after their births. I’ve seen his Norfolk and met ‘Pothole’ (named because everyone wishes to avoid him) and his childhood bestie. We went to his wedding last year in Sri Lanka. I have a beautiful sister in law Ashley. Life is richer and reflecting on having made the step to meet him, I’m thankful to have answers and for those answers to be easily found.

wilson