Lazy Luddite Log

27.10.10

2001-2005

As once century turned into another and the cheers of a New Year's Eve party faded into echoes I reflect that things were much of a muchness but there were some exceptions to that in store for me...

There are plenty of ways I can fill the time and feel satisfied with my life even if nothing much is happening. Things like deciding that even nerds need exercise and lap swimming regularly... or reading on topics like popular twentieth century music history... or writing random short fiction. And then there is always some party or dinner on the weekend to look forward to. Still sometimes things just happen to you in new ways...

Every once in a while that patented courting method worked for me. In this time frame - once more - it worked only once but gave me a most surprising life experience. I was at a party... the host told one of her guests that I was nice and interesting... that guest made moves on me. We interacted. We exchanged numbers. We talked and arranged to meet. This was an effort on my part as it involved rural public transport to visit my new friend living in a tiny Victorian township!

We got along very well but wanted different things. She was set on the long-term plan of a subsistance farmer producing her own everything including human progeny in numbers. She had one as it was - a lovely precocious toddling daughter. While my hopes were far more vague I knew they were contrary to hers. One statement I made was that I must always live "within walking distance of a milk bar". I am a child of suburbia and need population. As much as we enjoyed our time together we also agreed that anything between us was doomed. So we called it a day...

And then as the result of a phone call we changed our minds. Companionship in the here-and-now was worthwhile and we would just see what happens. In looking back at this I am reminded that I am more subject to instant gratification than my self-image tells me. It was a fascinating but difficult time filled with both fun and frustration as we negotiated between different preferences and philosophical stances. It had to end however - at 12 months I think - and I came away from it with a number of things. One was an appreciation of the life of a sole parent... Another was the fascination of observing human development in a child (I now think that I find personal development fascinating in all ages). I also got a fuller sense of both the charming and dismal aspects of rural life. And I have yet another friend with whom to talk on the phone.

While I spent many weekends away from home, I spent many weekdays working in the office of the Australian Democrats. Office work inevitably blurred with tasks undertaken in my growing number of roles within the party. This cause I had chosen and those I worked alongside became a powerful motivating force in my life and in some ways I think I was at my most proactive and competent at that time. At my most involved I was coordinating the behind-the-scenes organization (as distinct from political campaign work) of the entire state division.

I was sitting once at Huntingdale station in flannal shirt and jeans with my back to the wall and my feet on the bench. I was on the way into State Office. Suddenly the incongruity hit me - someone like me with such a responsibility in my hands and party secrets in my backpack as I waited for the train. Still it was a kind of calling for me and some fun things I remember include forming the Monash Democrats with Julie, developing draft mission statements with Corey, and campaigning for the election of Jess.

Politics amost devoured my life but I still did other things alongside it. I decided to codify my clerical work experience by undertaking a TAFE course in administration and look for roles accordingly. I also moved into a new share household on the invitation of Polly & Olav who purchased a home in Mulgrave. This setting fitted my lone walker persona well and the presence at Waverley Gardens of a cut-price cinema helped me while away slack Sundays. In some ways seeing a movie alone is the best way to see it - just you and the story you are drawn into.

However towards the end of this time things were starting to pall. A desire for emotional self-sufficiency is all very well but can be difficult to find. I was at a loss and turning to and fro wondering what to do. Things were set to change a lot... become more complex and generally better. And both luck and making active decisions played into that development as I look back over the most recent part of my life to date...

Concluded here.

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20.10.10

1996-2000

In the last instalment I had gone to university and just rediscovered my solitary self. Now I will continue my autobiographical blogging till the turn of the century…

I had known all my teens that there was a lack of love between my parents. Eventually circumstances overcame inertia and they divorced. Having this happen as I was finishing uni and Lukas was only starting was much more convenient for us than if we had experienced it as kids. And yet it still left me with a lingering sense of the impact on others of forming a family, a feeling that is with me even now.

Within a relatively short time we went from four under one roof to four under four. I had the opportunity to move into a share household with good uni friends Damien and Polly. I had spent long hours hanging at other student share households and so now I was in my own I embraced it fully. Staying awake into the night chatting or watching re-runs of the very daggy Prisoner... hosting awesome parties crammed with friends… giving younger friends a place to hang as had been done for me. We went from bad landlords (Cesspool) to good landlords (Flea Circus) but in both cases made these houses our home. A bit later I lived in another household (Currajong Street) with an ever-shifting cast of residents a few blocks from the new share house of Lukas – Stoned Henge. It was lots of fun visiting them and having a sense of both family and friends in the one neigbourhood.

I was an emergency teacher for much of this time and yet never managed to become permanent – a mix of factors including lack of demand for particular subjects in the late 90s played into this. Over time I became jaded with the whole thing and, looking back, I wonder why I ever expected to manage adolescents, given that I had never coped all that well with them while I was one. Over time teaching work ceded to other things, including volunteering in the Australian Democrats state office.

I had been a member of the ADs in my uni days but never got much into it. In the late 90s however there was an active youth wing which I was drawn into. My academic interest in politics was complimented by a hands-on experience of campaigning and even candidacy. It was an exciting time to feel part of a movement and everyone needs a sense of belonging to something.

In other ways however this was a very lonely time for me. I had to decide who exactly were friends and acquaintances on having left the constant human throng of uni life (even if I still visited it regularly). I held onto key friends and we did new and interesting things… Sean and I went on long interstate drives… Emily ran a small singing group… Jen got us into exclusive costumed movie premiers. And yet in this time I quietly became more insular.

There had been a time in which I would discuss personal issues but during this time I decided that I knew what my issues were and only had to choose to act on that understanding. Why discuss these things with anyone other than myself? And one nice thing with living in a share household is you can go for a walk at any time of the night to take care of them walking blues.

Even change for the better is scary and so it was simpler just to take solace in the same past-times and friends. I developed my patented method of courting – circulate among those you know seeming nice and interesting till eventually someone jumps you. It works! It worked I think once in this whole timeframe. And then I was paying far too much attention to political activism to truly attend to that fledgling relationship. What was the matter with me? Possibly it is just difficult to decide what is important in life because so many things are important and some of us can only ever throw ourselves into so much. As one century became the next more was set to stay the same than to change.

Continued here…

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13.10.10

1991-1995

It has been over six months since I returned to Melbourne and in that time a lot has happened. Or rather I have been experiencing more introspection than usual and those who know me as "thinky" will appreciate just how much introspection that is. One of the things that has provoked reflection is getting invited to the twentieth anniversary dinner of my HSC class at Noble Park Secondary College. Suddenly I am looking back over two decades of adulthood and this is as good a time as any to get autobiographical. So I will do four blog posts each dedicated to a five year chunk of my life to date. This is part one of four.

On graduating from school I was a gangly nerd from a working class background who was thrilled to be accepted into Monash University. From 1991 to 1995 I did a Bachelor Of Arts with Honours and a Graduate Diploma In Education. In all that time I lived in the family home half an hour (by bus and walk) from Campus with my mother, father and younger brother Lukas. It was a time of many new things - hardly surprising since I was a rather sheltered 18 year old.

I made friends during a United Nations Tertiary Youth Conference (an opportunity that flowed on from another such event during HSC) which was wonderful. A small group of us recognized that we were some kind of group within the wider group there and dubbed ourselves Us. It was giddying to spend so much time talking all day and night but there was a sobering aspect of this - everyone in Us (which included my two best school friends Guy and Steve) went to different unis and O-Week was still in the future. At Monash I knew pretty much nobody so had the experience of wanting to spend my spare time with these new friends from far off campuses. And yet I had to find a way of belonging at Monash too.

If you can do something once then you can do it any number of times and I did find friends at Uni. I tended to regard tute mates as colleagues and focused my friend-making efforts on cross-faculty groups of common interest. I was most drawn into the Fellowship Of Middle Earth (FOME) - fellow fantasy and science fiction fans. Suddenly I was sitting every day in the Caf - what we dubbed Korner - with assorted FOMEites and fellow travelers. I attended discussions and sleep-overs and picnics and it was fantastic. If you can be infatuated with a group then I sure was. And I must have also practiced one or more of the GSFs in my youth. However I also had the opportunity to compare and contrast the way things worked in both Korner and Us which may have helped me develop a sense of skepticism for the virtues of group identity. It at any rate told me that it is worth keeping your eggs in more than one basket.

Life involves work as well as play and I did have some of that. Principally I was a student and focused on that with the support of my parents. I had some work at a library on Campus and volunteered at the old Musuem Of Victoria (now solely the site of the State Library). I had barely any income but my needs were also small what with living at home. We expected fewer things then. I met the Internet (a two-tone text-only version) for the first time at uni but it was just a method of communicating with friends. I adopted my moniker of 'Luddite' in recognition of the fact I still did things like prepare essays on an electronic typewriter at home (and there is nothing as amazing as a reel of correction tape). Lukas - the technically savvy and stubborn child of our parents - forcibly sat me down to show me how to word process in time for my political history Honours thesis. Backspace is so much cooler than correction tape let me tell you!

All those classes and study sessions were interspersed with lots of sitting in the caf or under trees. In this time I got a lot more friends and over time went from having a majority of male friends to a majority of female friends. At the risk of generalizing, women talk better than men and - dammit - talk was what drove me then. It was only a matter of time till romance came along but it still surprised me once it did.

I am sure that every insular adolescent nerd has those gloomy moments in which they feel sure they will be alone forever. And in a sense they are the only ones of us who are right because we are all alone - nobody will ever truly understand what it is to be me. But it is too soon in my narrative to introduce such philosophical considerations. The fact is that I had the good fortune of stumbling tentatively into one relationship and then another over time. Sure - prospective partners had to make huge hints for it to ever happen and I suspect that experience has only shaped my tendency to sit back and let others make the overtures. I give my apology now to anyone who was exasperated by my ellusive ways.

Between relationships there is still plenty to do in life and I turned my hand to all sorts of solitary past-times. I discovered my favourite band in Queen - suddenly I was a fan like all the cool kids - but that band ended round that same time with the loss of its singer to HIV. I honed my native drawing ability somewhat by attending a life drawing short course. This exposed me to nudity in a frank and everyday way - the only time I ever felt embarrassed was while a model was disrobing or re-robing. I made a pathetic attempt at running a stall at the craft market selling hand-made novelty greeting cards. I even penned poetry back in those days. I remember writing some while in Germany of how homesick I was and I was only away for a month!

I visited relatives in Germany - something that could only happen because Germany had been re-unified and we were now free to visit and be visited by family from the former German Democratic Republic. In that month I spent most of my time in two townships and, because I never embraced the local interest in cigarettes, beer and sausages, I became something of a loner walking streets I had never seen and gazing at houses seemingly as old as the hills they obscured. I remember then thinking that I had rediscovered the solitary me of childhood, an aspect of me that had atrophied while I was ensconced in friendship every day between classes. It was something I valued and drew on in the days that followed university.

Continued here...

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