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A Life Less Ordinary

There’s something a little kitsch about being born and bred in Sydney. A childhood in the ‘burbs, quarter-acre block, walking to school, riding my bike around the streets, Galaga at the milk bar, paper-boys… there’s a simplicity to it all. Growing up that way makes us practical I think. We become managers and physiotherapists and publicists. I, for example, work full-time in the IT industry in middle management (I won’t elaborate because trust me when I say, you’ll glaze over in about 15 seconds flat). It pays well and I’m pretty okay at it. It’s a solid career. Part-time, I throw together stories for magazines and websites, write copy for TV ads and turn out scripts for short films with unreliable regularity.

Had I grown up in Berlin on the other hand, I’d be a highly functioning heroin addict with a successfully indifferent career as a screenwriter in the German underground film scene, with regular showings at the Elektro Geräte artists’ atelier and O Tannenbaum. Had I been formed and molded in Amsterdam, riding my bike along the grey canals and weaving in and out of narrow lanes walled by thin, leaning houses, I’d now be running a hugely successful high-art burlesque house servicing über-wealthy young couples on weekend trips from London and New York. It all sounds so much more exciting and elusive and mysterious. And of course, achievable.

I never wanted to be famous. Celebrity seems like an irritation I can easily live without. Interesting, that’s what I wanted to be. I have this fridge magnet that says, “To be average scares the hell out of me”. And yet, here I am. Decidedly normal. Decidedly average.

But you know, there’s a romanticism about the fantasy that doesn’t bear examining in reality. Success in an out-of-the-ordinary venture is by no means guaranteed, and statistically, more likely to fail than succeed. Having an instable income is an inherently stressful way to live which not only affects you’re ability to, you know, buy things, but it also add a lot of pressure to your relationship (if you’re in one). And, being able to buy nice things from time to time is fun. There’s a certain level of pretension that comes in surrounding yourself with unusual people and removing yourself from ‘average’ people; which is inevitable no matter how certain we are that we will be different; and when everyone around you is fabulous, there is a tendency to think that fabulousness is the norm and there’s no one left to remind you otherwise. Most importantly, it’s about how successful you are as a human being. Can you develop graciousness, kindness, generosity, strength of character and integrity as effectively if your focus is on more esoteric matters?

Jealousy for another life robs you of finding joy in this one. There’s pleasure to be found in the little moments in life. The smell of freshly washed clothes warmed by the sun, opening the fridge & finding a forgotten block of crumbly vintage cheddar, the feel of crisp, clean sheets on just-shaved legs, a much-loved niece’s tears when it’s time to go home, freshly painted toenails and takeaway-Thai on Friday night from that local place that knows you always order the same thing (one bbq duck salad and one Thai beef salad thanks. Oh, and two young coconut juices please).

I do believe the world is richer for having a variety of different people. While I may be envious of what I imagine these other lives to be I can’t help but suspect it’s not altogether that different, that the day-in-day-out dreariness is a common human experience, no matter what life or job you’ve chosen.

I have this thought that lives in the back of my head and keeps me warm at night. Happiness can be found anywhere. There’s no great secret to it. It’s a choice. The rest is just window-dressing.

words: Kristen Hodges


March 23, 2010 at 2:42 PM Anonymous said...

and, this is the type of writing i enjoy to read and admire :)

whatever happened to the milkbars!?!

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