I’ve always thought looking for answers in the past rather pointless. There’s nothing you can do about the past, memory is always biased and faulty, and at worst you end up blaming others for your shortcomings.
There’s nothing too dramatic in my past that I remember. No one abused me. I never lacked the necessities of life. I grew up with 3 great brothers and hard-working and loving parents. I had grandparents who always helped, cooked, fixed and babysat.
If you know me now, you’ll know I meditate a lot. I’ve become advanced in qigong. Qigong is mostly hard work. Occasionally though you have a noteworthy experience during practice.
Recently I had what I would describe as a melancholic wander through my past, which was quite unplanned, and a little alarming. Skipping from memory to memory, like a child between rocks in a river.
My love of music and making music, and the complete indifference of my family (apart from my youngest brother) to it. Yearning to have this passion in me recognised by someone close to me. I wrote and recorded a song for my grandfather when his close friend died, which wasn’t – and couldn’t – be ignored completely. I got a quiet thank you.
My grandfather telling me a friend was a no-hoper and not to hang around him. My friend who I laughed with and felt so good around. Grandad, who cooked for us each weekend, laughed with us and supported us, now trying to bully me into “dropping” a friend. My heart beating fast in a panic at this unexpected attack that cut straight through my defences and stuck in my guts.
My academic achievements being great, but not celebrated, just kind of expected. I was in the top few per cent. As my school years progressed I continued to do well, but felt unappreciated for the effort. So I tried less. I could have done anything in University but I chose something not very glamorous. My family kept talking about high status careers, medicine, law etc.
I remember as a teenager Mum taking the wrong turn on the way to my friend’s place in Wonga Park. Being frustrated that she wasn’t going the right way, that she wasn’t listening to me. Dropping the F-bomb in the car like a disrespectful prat! Another memory when Dad was lost during a car rally and I insisted I knew better and nagged and nagged until he stopped the car and gave me such a hiding another man stopped his car and intervened. I remember being right most of the time, but it didn’t always seem like a blessing. My dad was always frustrated and had a temper. I had a “temper like him”. I remember playing tennis with him. He never seemed to enjoy our hits. I was a bit unconventional. Dad and I got along okay I guess, but it wasn’t until later on in life that I started finding mentors to help me.
Natasha in German class at high school being surprised at my academic achievement. “Quiet Achiever”, she said. I’d learnt not to celebrate my strengths too openly. Like my father’s shelf of trophies he never talked about.
My meditative stroll continues through the pain and confusion of teenage-hood and girls. The first girl I kissed at the age of 15 at some party. We’d been drinking alcohol from a cask. I have no idea what her name was, but want to remember her as Emma. The kiss was cold, wet and limp. It was over in a blink and she was gone. She spewed 10 minutes later.
Now I’m sitting in Graphics Design class at boy’s school. A class from a girl’s school was there and they were bantering with some of the other bigger and hairier guys. A laughing girl came over to chat to me. The confusion. The embarrassment. Was she laughing at me? Was I ridiculous? What the fuck do I say? Who is this? Am I cool? I froze, choked and overheated. In my head I was a screaming mess.
Still further backwards in time. Michelle. A girl blossoming into a young woman that summer, whilst me at the same age, still a boy. I think she called me “a spunk”. I was hooked. She was blonde, had curves and I felt funny seeing her in bathers. I remember following her around the camp ground like a puppy. God I wanted her, but had no idea what do to, and no one to talk to about it. I remember at the end of holidays, after loading the station wagon and trailer with dad, crying the first 50 kilometres of the trip home and no one noticing. I longed for next summer. When next summer came, she had moved on. I remember lying on the beach, sun on my back, squinting in the brightness and seeing her lying on the sand with some other boy. She grabbed his hand and pulled it up her body just below her breast. I felt stupid.
That same holiday I remember my mother and her friend casually talking about how strong my younger brother was. I commented that I was strong, felt strong myself, and they laughed and dismissed me. I was a small kid. Mum stressed about me growing. I learnt that not being small was important. “You may be a late blossomer”, she said. What? I’m no good now I assumed. I was sickly and had allergies but it never bothered me as much as it bothered her. My younger brothers were more successful at teenage hood than I was by all accounts. Sometimes you just suck apparently. I eventually reached average height.
I remember breaking up with another girl, crying in the car, then the shower, curled up in a ball. Feeling so lonely. Deciding to not see my friends for a while and go my own way. Drinking and fucking my way back to normal.
Everyone has wounds. You just get on with it, don’t you? Count your – many – blessings, don’t whinge and blunder onwards. As you fall from childhood to adulthood jarring appraisals lie waiting for everyone. Those little surprises mark you with twisted and strange beliefs about yourself and the world. There is value in looking at these painful memories through a mature lens, seeing how mundane and common – yet formative – they were.
This mad, sad wandering in my past fades away. I’m riding back from my mate Steve’s house in the dying light on my racer. As I head up Verona St hill the road narrows and the trees encroach over the road. Everything goes pitch black in the dark; the heart races and I peddle quicker and quicker.