You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
I am in Sydney for Gondwana Voices National Choral School and with a few days of joyous wanderings to myself, I am in total heaven.
The nostalgia hits hard, making my heart somersault at the most unexpected moments; the dirt and heat of the trains, the impossible hustle of Town Hall Station, the buzz of tourists and sunny ease of Circular Quay, when all you want to do is get from Point A to B, the cocoon which comes from a coffee in a quiet alcove in Glebe, the eclectic assault of Newtown, and the hipster, “single-origin-coffee-smashed-avo” vibe spilling out unapologetically from tiny nooks and crevices of mis-matched, town-housey cafes onto the pavements of Surry Hills.
I am pulled and pushed right back to 2014, to all the struggle, new connections and learning in a year of leaping into the unknown in a manner unprecedented for me, someone who finds pure joy in the ordinary.
Every smell and sound is a reminder and overwhelmingly, I am most reminded of how lucky I am to have taken this opportunity, and how slight a change in mindset can change the momentum around you forever. The thing is this; 5 years ago, despite all, my spirt was unfathomably naive, strong, and buoyant.
Here I am, wandering Sydney as a tourist, and I realise how easy it is to just exist in this exciting yet unforgiving city, where just the commute home can exhaust you, and daily interactions ask more of you than you expect because of the emotional cost of living.
Your brain goes into overdrive for day to day work + survival, and I wonder how young students with not a lot of money figure out how they will make their way when there are hundreds of others, equally as hungry to find their path, doing exactly the same, and doing all the right things.
And yet, some determinedly optimistic part of me thinks that it is still as simplistic as how hard you want to work, how you see things, and how you choose to interact with the world. Sitting on a train going to and from work, you could easily pass 10 years just existing. Just making enough of a living to survive with some semblance of happiness and comfort. But then, sitting with a coffee, dreaming possibilities, or looking out over the harbour on a humid summer morning, and you can wonder what you might do differently. What can you choose for yourself that is a step above just living from one day to the next?
I have everything I need to make whatever leaps of faith I want right now; time, energy, support, love, good health, a wonderful network of friends + family, a beautiful home, food, financial security, and a rewarding place of work. I can literally choose whatever door I’d like; I can take whichever version of sliding doors I dare to reach out for and walk through or pass.
Part of me thinks I was so much braver and grittier in my year in Sydney than I am now, despite being much more sure and confident professionally and personally here and now, five years later. I marvel at how intrinsically the same, yet different, that I am now and how I will awaken the parts of me that have been lying dormant due to a secure way of living.
I was always the girl standing on the edge of the bridge, throwing metaphorical streamers into the wind when I had nothing else to give, and coming into work each day on four or five hours of sleep, and being joyous and playful when that was all I had to offer. To be sure, I worked my arse off. I learned and studied the curriculum I was responsible to teach, I prepped my lessons over and over, I worked at my composition like some sort of obsessive creative habit.
My creative work was as determined as it was impossible, and I never questioned it. I wrote five choral commissions and fulfilled a Composer-in-Residence position that year with limited access to a piano, limited energy and time, and with 3 months of travel and very little money to spare. My God, I was a daring and audacious little biatch! I make myself laugh even now as I reflect, how the hell did I think I had what it would take in time and personal resources to make that year happen when I was so stretched and depleted?
But I did it. Snippets of writing and composing in tiny moments of the day, by the window in the corner of the Conservatorium High School staffroom while everyone else was at lunch, snatches of time in every coffee shop in Surry Hills and Paddington, and sometimes even with a delicious and savoured brunch on the weekends when I could afford it. Something I can afford without thinking now, and that very fact makes me so tender for the me from five years ago. Stolen weekends in practise rooms at the Sydney Conservatorium, where I asked for time on Saturday and Sunday mornings when no other university students were practising, and I would finally be able to hear what I was creating.
Damn, I was courageous.
And in these few delicious days of wanderings, mostly down memory lane with renewed wonder, I am reminded of how to be courageous now that I have everything I need to do so.
Each day, we do our best. And each day, we need to look for ways to strive to be more, to push our boundaries, to be inspired by others, and to be humbled.
This is today’s dose of all that for me. Beautiful, inspiring, and humbling. A reminder of how strong and supple we all are, how innately beautiful, courageous, and creative.
Don’t live within the boundaries. Nobody knows they can be pushed up against and broken unless someone does it. You can’t live life always looking for an example of “someone who’s done it”.
Why don’t you be in the front line, and go and do the impossible?
My Grandmamma killing it. Vanessa + Mels thought it would be cool to bring her the 3D Cube Game as well as the playing cards she requested. We bought it for her when it first came out and she MASTERED it within a few days, but hasn’t seen it for about 8 years.
This is her first go today. 👊
She is NINETY-SEVEN YEARS OLD.
Meanwhile, my god-girlies and I had a go this morning and we actually had to give up and YouTube the solution. 🤣
And yes, my Grandmamma is a Port Power girl. She yells at the tv when they’re playing. 😄
One of those days where I was totally up against it in terms of navigating, negotiating, and behaviour-managing, with my poor Year 12s walking into class after lunch with me in full-behavour-management-flight with a student.
Very quietly and respectfully did they all sneak in, dotted themselves around the classroom and quickly got to work.
After 2 minutes, a cup of tea appeared on my desk in a mug inscribed with “BADASS.”
Then, when my back was turned, a muesli bar + a handful of Minties appeared alongside it.
All of a sudden, I realised my camera was fully set-up and ready to roll for performance masterclass.
While I was looking over some Composing + Arranging issues, a message appeared on the whiteboard, “Kwokkie: Tiny Awesome Teacher! 😊”
And walking to Year 8 Music, I found the downstairs classroom door covered in post-it notes with various encouraging messages of, “GO KWOKKIE!” + “SMASH IT!” + “HANG IN THERE!” + “YOU CAN DO IT!”
My Year 12 kiddies. NINJAS of little acts of kindness today. You guys totally got me over the line!
Day 26: Vancouver to Auckland
I did it! This is incredible to me, that I have had the opportunity to see + experience all these places. 🌟
Day 20: New York to Washington.
The Day of Unexpected Okay-ness! 😃
Today I’m flying from New York to Washington. Not gonna lie, was expecting many moments of today to suck. So when things sucked less than I thought, or actually reached a level of okayness, I was super-excited.
1. The trip on the LIRR line from Penn Street Station to JFK. Hey, it all worked! They post the departure platforms like the post baseball scores, then everyone goes ABSOLUTELY BUNTER to get on the train, and then it’s literally half empty! I got a whole row to myself. 😆
2. The TSA + security line at JFK Terminal 2, which has a reputation for sucking THE MOST out of all the terminals at JFK. Wow. What an honour. And yet, I flew through in 15 minutes. AND got a smile from on of the security ladies who said, “You’re a long way from home and those damn-fine Tim Tams you got goin’ on there, Missy!” 😂
3. The ACTUAL terminal, which has the same reputation as above. On reading the reviews, I thought I was going to be walking into chaos + squalor. It just reminds me of Adelaide Airport, it’s not a comprehensive shopping mall and I didn’t need it to be, but it has everything you could possibly want before a flight just like in Adelaide, and it was TOTALLY FINE.
4. The toilets. Wow, the reviews were HARSH. But being well-hydrated comes with the need to go, so I took a breath that I intended to hold the whole way though the bathroom stop + ventured in. THEY WERE OKAY! DEAR GOD, THEY WERE OKAY! They’re not the Taj Mahal, and I wouldn’t stay there any longer than I needed, but they were clean, they worked, they had toilet paper, and soap. Free woman, oh what a feeling! 🤣
5. The coffee. Yes, I KNOW. What was I thinking?! But when I was tossing up between a kombucha + a flat white, the flat white won. AND IT DIDN’T SUCK! It was, in fact, low-key successful Cibos level. Mind. Blown. 😜
6. Places to chill. Reviewers cautioned over-optimistic travellers that they would struggle to find a seat, that they would be screamed at for loitering, and don’t even think about finding a place to do some work. I’m sitting in my quiet little nook, with my coffee that doesn’t suck, completely chill + ready to start my new novel.
Today, at “OKAY”, ended up being a “GREAT SUCCESS”.
Day 15: Charlottetown to New York, via Montreal [my favourite airport, and the place I single-handedly spent more time than any other while visiting Montreal! See previous posts.]
I’m in New York! And in the languid and iconic ballad as performed by Alicia Keys:
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
And a jungle it is. I am exhausted today, but I absolutely need to share the place that I am staying!
I am staying the the Library Hotel in New York, a themed boutique hotel where there is free continental breakfast, free daily wine + cheese afternoons, unlimited tea, coffee, water, fruit + pastries, and free access to the New York City public library.
But the COOLEST thing?! The rooms are themed. Each floor corresponds to one of the hundreds in the Dewey System. And each room is actually furnished with books + pictures corresponding decimal identification that it would be in a real library.
I GOT LEVEL 7: THE ARTS!
And the absolute cherry on the cake; I’m in room 700.003; PERFORMING ARTS.
Day 11: Montreal to Charlottetown
There are no traffic lights in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island. You just cross the road and the cars figure it out, as well as figuring themselves out.
MIND. BLOWN. 😳
The convenience store looks like the one in Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. One brand of everything, like it or suck it up! 🤣
I just walked along the waterfront against a glorious sunset, watching the sun make shadows out of the ships in the harbour.
On my way back to the cottage I am staying, an elderly man sitting in a rocking chair on his porch dipped his invisible hat at me, all the while softly singing Gershwin’s “Summertime”. 😎
Oh my goodness, I think I’m going to love it here.
This guy. WHAT A CHAMP.
Apart from being a total HERO and making me laugh out loud into my coffee, he made me wonder if I’d have the courage to stand up (or not!) and fully embrace myself if I could not talk or stand. Would I have the grace, and the shit-load of humour and wit, to do what he is doing?
What a serious example of courage.
But he’s also just DAMN FUNNY.
Today, I was asked by Tiny Little Plucky Miss Year 7 to be her “safe teacher”. I didn’t even realise that was a possible thing to be until today.
So I said, “I would be honoured to be!
…uh, what do I need to do for you?!”
She wanted a female teacher to check-in with as she travelled through school, life, puberty, friendships, and “just because”, if and when she needed it. She has a male home group teacher who is fabulous but, in her words, “Probably doesn’t want to talk periods!”
The outright humour + PLUCK of this kid! Man, I was laughing and my heart was over-flowing.
Because this gorgeous, feisty, vibrant, amazing little kiddie has autoimmune disease. She’s pint-sized for her age. She has monthly infusions to be able to just “do life”. Her family are EXTRAORDINARY. She is beloved. If she takes a beating out in the quadrangle, all the Year 7 boys rally up and are incredibly protective of her, demanding apologies on her behalf. She WANTS every ounce of every day that she is energetic enough to be present for.
There are loads of other female teachers she sees far more often + could have picked for the job. Why me?!
“Because you being small hasn’t stopped you doing your thing. You ARE big, even if you’re small. And you love every Year 7 in my class, even those that don’t want to be loved.”
OH MY FREAKIN’ GOD. My heart is exploding right now, and I just want to hug this tiny dot of a kid breathless and say:
“KID, YOU’RE ALREADY DOING ALL OF THAT!”