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.
Labels: Nostalgia And Reminiscences