The Wrong Future

[a short story]

PART 1

I feel like my story should start with a deep quote about time.

Rather, it starts with the words “I wish I’d never met you.”

I think after that should follow a deep reflection.

Unfortunately what followed was “I know, darling.”

I am the 32nd licensed time traveller of my day [the Lord knows how many unlicensed ones are out there]. I make ludicrous amounts of money going back in time and changing small mistakes or travelling to the future to see how investments work out, what happens to the next child superstar, what a woman will say when she’s proposed to. Humanity avoids risks by paying a few of us to take large ones regularly. And yet I couldn’t even avoid the disaster of my own marriage.

And so the story goes that when I asked her what I could do to fix everything, she says, “go back to that day-” and we both know exactly which day she means- ” and tell me not to go to work the next day.”

So I went.

I see her from across the room, over the tops of twenty something cubicles, typing away on an old fashioned desktop PC. She has her hair swept up in a bun and her cheeks crinkle as she laughs at something a coworker has said, in lines that aren’t permanent yet. Her eyes glisten in the sunlight, a clear ice blue without glasses to shield them. She isn’t wearing make up but her face is rosy and her lips are pink and she takes my breath away as I know she would have the next day when she walked into my cafe for the first time.

It’s almost impossible to break the spell and walk over but I do, before I’ve even thought of a proper way to introduce myself.

“Hello,” I say.

She looks me in the eye and sweeps a stray piece of hair out her eyes, something she is yet to do a million times in front of me, when she’s distracted.

“Hey,” she replies and smiles. Her lack of familiarity catches me off guard for a second.

I decide to go with the company protocol- my name, a piece of information to establish authenticity and finally, my mission.

“My name is Andrew, although in the future you will come to call me Sourpuss-” here she laughs, and it sounds like melted honey and butter, and I almost turn around and run as fast and far as I can- “and I’m here to tell you not to go to work tomorrow.”

“I used to call my-”

“Your dad Sourpuss, I know. You used to… well, you would have said I have a lot in common with him.”

She smiled again, a dimple forming in her cheek. She smells like lemons and the mints she used to religiously keep in her handbag, back when she was working for that promotion.

“I’ve heard about you people,” she says, standing up to meet my eye more easily. One day she will spill wine on the collar of this shirt. “Well, yea, if it’s my destiny I’ll chuck a sickie.”

Her destiny, I think. Of course. Her destiny is to be happy.

“Sure, right, well, I’ll be off then,” I say, shaking her hand. Her touch still sends shivers up my arm.

As I turn to leave, she says “yea, bye Andy.”

I freeze.

She hasn’t called me that in years.

And I suppose now she never will again.

PART 2

It’s freezing out and my coat is just thin enough to leave me sweaty under the armpits but shivering. I wish I’d shaved before I left the house, I think as I catch my reflection in a shop window. I wish I’d have combed my hair and cut my nails and gotten three hours more sleep, but it’s too late now.

There isn’t room in my tiny flat for anything much more than a bed, toilet, stove and sink. When I got back, of course our house wasn’t there because we hadn’t bought it. Every pot and pan she had bought was gone, and on short notice all the money in the world couldn’t get me much more than a one bedroom on the top floor on short notice. Even though it’s been roughly six months since I returned to the day we would have had the catalytic fight, I haven’t bothered to look for anything more. My clothes are falling apart because she used to get me a shirt every Christmas and her parents would buy me a pair of socks or tie. I don’t even get photos because no one remembers any were taken apart from me. Such is the struggle of being a time traveller- you collect memories and see possibilities that no one will ever know.

I hurry to the bus stop and huddle in the corner as I wait for transport that is already twenty minutes late. Today I’m meeting a new client who wants to see how much money their father leaves them in his will. They’re not close at the moment, and they want to know how hard to try. The obvious answer is that if they have to ask, they probably won’t get much, but a job’s a job. The rain is pouring down in sheets and I can barely see the approaching headlights of my bus before it’s almost passed. I wave my wallet in front of the reader and look for a place to sit before I see her.

The bus swings into motion before I have a chance to sit, so I helplessly swing into the seat opposite her.

“You.” She says, her mind searching for the source of recognition.

“Me.” I reply, not meeting her eye.

“You were the one who told me to miss work.”

Her hair is pulled into a tight bun at the nape of her neck and she is wearing a sharply cut suit. She must have made her promotion by now. Her nails are manicured and she has this handbag she wanted for a long time but convinced herself she couldn’t afford. Apparently she can afford it while not waiting for me to finish my time training. She is still beautiful but there is a coldness, a sense of being put together that she didn’t have when I knew her. She probably has a planner in that bag.

“I am,” I finally reply.

“You’ve got to thank whoever employed you to do that,” she says, her lips curling into some semblance of a smile I’ve never seen the likes of. I guess it’s the smile of success. “Two weeks later, there was this huge stuff up at work and they went back to check the records, swept through the whole place sacking people who were responsible. I was on the team, but I wasn’t there that day. In fact, I was instrumental in putting it all back together and soon after, they promoted me. I haven’t stopped climbing that ladder since.”

That’s not how it’s meant to happen. She’s meant to be part of that team and fight to keep her friends in work. She fixes it without sacrificing her mates. Of course, I’m trained not to reveal alternates, so I just smile, nod, and look at the ground.

“I’ll be sure to let them know,” I tell her and get off the bus when it stops.

I’m about an hour away from my destination, so I slump at the bus stop and weep until the next bus comes.

PART 3

“You can’t put that there,” I say to my spotty intern with a fern in his shaking hands. I take it from him before he drops it out of nerves.

I own my own company now, with a couple of people under me. I honestly didn’t see this in my future. [It’s recommended you don’t check your own status. Apparently it’s been known to drive time travellers insane. It also drives your insurance premiums up.] We work on making time travelling more comfortable for your average man. Wouldn’t you prefer to arrive in your time with the clothes already tailored and in your bag? Wouldn’t it be good to have a handbook on the culture and politics you’ll be arriving in? I work on helping the people who change the world every day. Of course, the recognition goes to the people who secretly employed them and took their tips- prime ministers who checked future trends before writing their mission statements and chain restaurants who explored the future acceptance of possible locations before spending their millions to make billions.

I heard the first time traveller wanted to see how humanity develops, stop world wars and provide for the poor before they were even born. But this is where we are.

I put the pot plant down on the windowsill and smile at the small cafe across the road.

The day she was meant to walk in was going to be our last day. We had balloons tied to the doors and a huge sign in the window. She walks in and says “I always meant to try this place.”

I say, “if there were more people like you, maybe we wouldn’t be closing.”

I hand her a coffee, she takes a sip, and she says “it’s definitely a shame you are.”

I reply, “I make coffee just as good wherever I am. This doesn’t have to be your last.”

She asks for my number so she can give me a call next time she wants one.

She calls me the next morning.

I make her coffee for the next ten years.

That’s how it was once upon a time, anyway. I’m glad to see they still serve coffee though. Some things never change.

I realise it’s past lunch time, so I decide to go and grab a sandwich. On the way out I see my reflection in the glass doors of the building I now own. It’s different to that of three years ago- my face is clean and my suit is dry cleaned. My shoes shine in the sunlight and my hair is slicked back to a fashionable extent. I practically skip into the cafe, and head straight for the line leading to the till, staring into the display at the array of options.

When I get to the front, I look up for the first time and she’s behind the register.

She is wearing make up, but it doesn’t make up for much. I can see the bluish circles under her eyes patchily concealed, and her bright lipstick attempts to draw away from a face that is filled with darkness. Her hair is forced into a clip to keep it out of her eyes and her nails are painted but chipped and bitten.

“Hi,” I say quietly.

“Hello sir, what can I get you today?”

Her tone hurts for a second before I remember she probably has no idea who I am. I try to remember what sandwich I wanted but it takes long enough for the woman behind me to tap my shoulder and tell me she’s in a hurry so I step to the side and take a seat at a small table.

Her apron is dirty and her shoulders sag- she is nothing like the woman I left on that bus or the woman I married in another life. She looks broken, and I can’t help but hurt for her. She doesn’t have those smile lines that were destined for her eyes, only the harsh pattern of a crumpled brow.

Before I realise it, the sun has gone down and everyone has gone home. She comes over to where I have been sitting for what must have been hours, even though I can’t remember much of it. I’ve been watching her for most of it, not even having ordered. She smells like baked goods, and coffee. She should smell like lemons and chamomile- she was drinking a cup before bed every night by now. I try to shake my head clear of memories from a non-existent past.

“You’re the time traveller, from before.”

“I am.”

“Well, things didn’t work out so well for me in the end I guess.”

“I guess.”

She laughs. “Oh, gee thanks sourpuss.”

I flinch.

After a pause, I ask, “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

“I think, in the end, they just realised I wasn’t the right person for the job.”

That’s not meant to happen, I think.

“I see,” I say. “And relationship wise?”

She looks at me curiously but in the end shrugs and says, “there never really was anyone. At one point, I had a bit of a fling with someone at work.”

Her boss. He always had a thing for her.

She never even looked at him twice, I protest.

Yea, because she was with me, my mind recognises.

I should have been there.

“And what about you?”

“Oh, I run the company across the road now.”

“I meant relationship wise,” she says with a shy smile.

“Oh, ah, no, nothing really… stuck.”

We look at each other for a while. She will never know how much every date I considered felt like I was cheating on my wife. Especially since technically, I have never been married. I don’t wear a ring but I still sleep on the left side of the bed. I celebrate anniversaries alone and visit old date haunts by myself, and still stop in the shops when I see something I know she would have loved for her birthday.

Something breaks the silence-a car honking outside, or a dog barking- and she sighs. “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to lock up soon.”

I nod and slowly stand to leave. I can’t stop staring- how did she get that scar on her arm, and when did her hair start to grey?

As I reach the door, I feel a light hand on my arm.

“Could you… is it possible to tell me who sent you, all those years back?”

I turn to look at her. Is it against privacy to tell someone that they sent me themselves?

I take a deep breath and say, “well, it was you.”

Her face falls. “Why?”

“Because the next day you would have met me.”

Her face crumples. “So?”

“We get married, and we don’t live happily ever after.”

She begins to cry. “So?”

I pull her into me and wrap my arms around her shaking shoulders. Her head automatically fits into the curve of my neck. “It guess it just wasn’t working out.”

We stand there for a little bit until I can hear her start to breathe regularly again. I stand back.

She looks at me with such sadness I take her hand and we sit down together.

“I wish I had met you,” she says.

“I know, darling.”

There’s a pause, and I finally decide to ask.

“What can I do to fix everything?”

“Go back to that day-” and we both know exactly which day she means- ” and tell me to go to work the next day.”

So I went.

PART 4

So when we inevitably have that fight again, all those years later, and I’m dropped in the moment after I left, with her standing there, in our house, with years of shirts in the cupboard and socks in the drawer, I walk over and kiss her. I don’t know when the last time is she was kissed like that by me, but for me it feels like years. In a way, it has been.

Advertisements

Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge

A book recommended by a librarian:The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

This was given to me ages ago by a mate who lives in America. It took me way too long to read it, however it was right up my alley. English jokes, puns and a huge dog.

A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long: One Day (David Nicholls)

It had Anne Hathaway in the movie, although I never saw it, so I bought the book a while back. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed by the ending- you’ve just made your way through a huge story and gotten attached to everyone.

A book of letters: The Documents In The Case (Dorothy Sayers)

Utterly predictable outcome. I don’t know if my mind is just trained by the brilliant works of Agatha Christie, or if it’s really difficult to write a book that is just made up of letters, but I was frustrated to know that whodunnit was exactly who I thought had. Apparently this author is a good crime writer, so I’ll have to investigate further.

An audiobook: What Keeps You Up At Night (Pete Wilson)

My dad bought this for me because I was having trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really address insomnia but rather a wider scope of where our fears come from and how to overcome them by trusting God in all situations. Still enjoyed, however I dislike audiobooks in general because of the gadget struggle [he had an epic accent though.]

A book by a person of colour: Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Recommended by Emma Watson, who drops good books for people to find in subways, I thought it would be well worth my time. What I didn’t know was that it is a comic strip, hand drawn by the author about her life as an immigrant. It was one of the most interesting formats of autobiography I’ve ever read.

A book with one of the four seasons in the title: Europe in Autumn. (David Hutchison)

I like to consider myself an intelligent person, or at least an adequate reader. However, I ended this book still with no idea what was going on. Firstly, it’s about a spy. Secondly, it’s apparently science fiction which I completely missed. Thirdly, it’s set in various parts of Europe so, although he’s apparently an American author, I still got to struggle to pronounce words like Wesoly Ptek [two such consonants together?!] I really disliked it if only that it was almost impossible to follow.

A book that is a story within a story: Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

Set in Australia, it’s just about an event that happens between two families and what that sparks, how they interact with eachother afterwards. It was a good portrayal of Australian suburban life, but a bit slow.

A book with multiple authors: Closed Casket (Sophie Hannah// Agatha Christie)

It is a pet peeve of mine when people think they can eminate the writing of a famous author, otherwise known as fan fiction. It was written adequately and the mystery was there but it was three times as long as a classic Christie and I constantly felt she was trying too hard to weave the classic elements in.

An espionage thriller: The 7 Dials Mystery (Agatha Christie)

An actual Christie, it was pretty good. A bit hard to follow but really did have all the perfect elements of surprise, intrigue and a touch of romance.

A book with a cat on the cover: The Complete “Chi’s Sweet Home” (Konami Kanata)

I was panicking to my uni bible study group that I hadn’t found a book for this cat-egory and a friend brought me a book her sister owns- I haven’t read a manga since early high school, so this was quite a throw back. It was an adorable story about a stray kitten getting adopted by a young boy and his parents. Simple, cute.

A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

I can see why J.K. Rowling wouldn’t want this book to crop up on Google searches made by her younger fans. A murder mystery with all the gory bits thrown in, it was written with the detail and eloquence her other works have but a hard dash of reality. I’m always curious as to why females choose male names to write under- I found myself searching for female touches, which were in the detail of the clothes and the qualities of the characters, as well the relationships they had with each other and their significant others. My only complaint is that, while the murderer was ultimately someone you wouldn’t have expected, he had no reason to do what he did [a bit hard to explain without giving it away, but if you’ve read it, let me know if you understand].

A bestseller from a genre you don’t usually read: Cell (Stephen King)

There’s a very good reason I never read this horror, and especially avoid Stephen King. I could stomach “Under the Dome” out of curiosity [after the show was a complete flop] but although I flew through this book, it gave me nightmares. For anyone who knows me well, I’ll put it as such: in the first chapter, a man walking his dog rips its ear off with his teeth.

A book by or about a person who has a disability: Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

I actually read this book as part of a uni project- it’s one of the greatest perks of studying education, getting to read really good books. I was touched by it, and related to some of the parts having a mother who was bullied at school for her disability. I have to admit, I thought it would be written with a sense of bitterness or naïveté but it avoided both with grace, resulting in a great read.

A book involving travel: Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

Recommended by some friends of mine, this book has everything I hate about young adult fiction. Predictable romance plot line, tortured mysterious boy with dark past, stupid girl who’s into the arts [in this case cinema] and moves to another country resenting her parents and not bothering to learn anything about the culture.

A book with a subtitle: Jesus Is [Find a New Way To Be Human] (Judah Smith)

This was such a good simple round up of Christianity. I gave it to a Muslim co-worker and she actually read it through. Addressing people’s assumptions of Jesus, which were submitted on a website over a couple of years, I think it’s a good introduction for youth or people who really are wondering who Christ was and what he means for the individual.

A book that’s published in 2017: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (Kathleen Rooney)

This I think, was the best novel I read this year. I laughed and I cried and I’m giving it to my Nan. To put it simply, I have a famous impatience with the elderly, and so to read a novel from the perspective of one and fall in love with her was something I wasn’t expecting.

A book involving a mythical creature: The Call (Peadar O’Guilin)

Another book with a disabled protagonist- the same one as my mum this time, polio- the storyline was sort of corny but the premise was pretty fresh and clever. I think it’s worth a read for young adults, particularly if you enjoyed the Hunger Games or Divergent, etc. What made it unique from those was its inclusion of a class of kids who haven’t been around in our mainstream books before, certainly not as heroes.

A book you’ve read before that’s never failed to make you smile: Betram’s Hotel (Agatha Christie)

An Agatha Christie again, yea. It was short and simple and smart.

A book about food: The Little Book of Hygge [The Danish Way to LIve Well] (Meir Wilkins)

My friend gave me a book for Christmas about the Danish philosophy of being happy. My takeaways were to burn more candles, eat more comfortable food and try mulled things (I did).

A book with career advice: Almost Adulting (Arden Rose)

I bought a book by a Youtuber and, perhaps predictably, regretted it. It was way too personal for me, in the weirdest ways and the advice really jarred me. This isn’t to say other people won’t enjoy it but for me it was definitely a mistake.

A book from a nonhuman perspective: A Dog’s Purpose (W.Bruce Cameron)

First up, yes I wept at the end of every part. Moving on, a huge commendation to the movie for sticking almost exclusively to the storyline. The book was of such brilliant writing and storyline that I think to have diverged from it would have been a stupid injustice. It was great.

A steampunk novel: Android Karenina (Leo Tolstoy// Ben Winters)

I got through Year 10 English by reading “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. I was so proud to discuss Russian literature with friends by referring exclusively to a book where the protagonist was a robot. There is really no downside to reading these books.

A book with a red spine:The Other Hand (Chris Cleave)

The only book I’ve ever read whose blurb said it wouldn’t tell me anything and I should just read it. My advice to you is the same. I wasn’t disappointed and did not expect about half of what happened.

A book set in the wilderness: Wildwood (Colin Meloy)

Apart from being a good story, it would make a brilliant gift, illustrated with hand painted watercolours of what is happening in the story. Really good, although slightly nostalgic of stories such as Hans Christen Anderson’s “Snow Queen”.

A book you loved as a child: Airy Fairy, Magic Mix-up! (Margaret Ryan)

This was given to me by a girl who was in my dad’s scripture class when I was really young and still bears her inscription on the inside. It was definitely enjoyable as a child, whereas as an adult I can’t help but question how Scary Fairy could have become anything other than an awful, bullying brat.

A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: Leaving Time (Jodi Piccoult)

Apart from being a great exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter, and including elephants, this book had the greatest plot twist I’ve ever read. I did not see it coming, and I had to sit there for a good ten minutes afterwards processing. Ignore whatever preconceptions you have of Jodi Piccoult [if, indeed, you have any] and go and buy it. Underrated as it is, I found my copy for $2.

A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Okay, so this is another book I feel it’s not fair to slam on the premise of it’s predictability. It’s a teen read, and just had so many stereotypical roles to fill (she’s from the wrong side of the tracks and a little odd, he’s struggling with the cultural traditions of being half Asian, breaking free etc.) I would like to say it lead me to read more of Rainbow Rowell and I really enjoyed those.

A novel set during wartime:And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

In case you have read this and would like to complain it’s not set on a battlefield, I’m using a little bit of artistic license. It was published during the war and has a General in it.

As for the book, I think it’s possibly her greatest, and I have read around three quarters of everything she’s written, including the play adaption of this very novel. I was still surprised when I got to the end.

A book with an unreliable narrator: We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

This is another book that had an intriguing blurb. Really enjoyed it and wasn’t really expecting what happened. The writing frustrated me- I can’t stand narrators or protagonists who are spoiled and feeling sorry for themselves. On one hand, it turns out she’s not really like that. On the other hand, you suffer 90% of the story believing she is, so you’re still left with the feeling she needed a good slap around the head.

A book with pictures: A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

A good read and a great reflection of grief, I think especially for younger kids. Another book I read for uni and so I really had to pick it apart and delve deeply into it, but it really is rich enough that you can just float along to where it intends you to be.

A book where the main character is a different ethnicity to you: Death Comes As the End. (Agatha Christie)

A really weird idea by Christie to set a novel in ancient Egypt. I figure it wasn’t super historically accurate, and was really stretched to be one of her usual mysteries, but props to her for exploring a world she was interested in and trying to write about it. Perhaps my least favourite book she’s written but definitely not my least favourite book on this list.

A book about an interesting woman: Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Now here’s a Rowell book I appreciated. This was really interesting and had unexpected characters in it, who I came to really love. Good, easy read.

A book set in two different time periods: The Perfectionists (Sara Shepherd)

I was a big fan of “Pretty Little Liars” for it’s duration of 7 years, so I thought I’d read something by it’s author. Regrets. Very predictable, kind of gross (I’m pretty touchy about when male teachers are portrayed as creeps seeing as true are about two guys in my education course) and wasn’t resolved- frustratingly, it was meant to be part of a series that she only got around to writing two of, so I will never even know what was meant to happen. Stay away.

A book with a month or day of the week in the title: A Week Without Tuesday (Angelica Banks)

Two initial surprises: Tuesday is the name of the female protagonist [wrestled with whether I could include it in my challenge, but couldn’t find any other books I hadn’t read that were within my local libraries with such a specific requirement], and it’s smack bang in the middle of what seems a very complicated series of children’s books. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and could follow it. Don’t think I’ll be searching out the other books though.

A book set in a hotel: Hickory Dickory Dock (Agatha Christie)

Cheated slightly, as it’s set in a hostel. And yea, it’s another Christie. It was a good idea, but set on the sad and incorrect premise that someone will be mentally if if their parents were. I guess that’s the hardest part of reading older novels, is they don’t fit my modern “political correctness”. (If you think you’ll struggle with this, stay away from “And Then There Were None”.)

A book written by someone you admire:Death In the Clouds (Agatha Christie)

SHE WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST AUTHORS IN A MALE DOMINATED FIELD AND SUCCESSFUL DURING A PATRIARCHAL PERIOD OF HISTORY!!! You know, I didn’t even try and fit all of the Christie’s I read this year on the list. Anyway, it was a good book which was pretty cleverly written. There was a little bit of dodginess in the solution, but sure. I’ll take it.

A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Case For Christ (Lee Strobel)

A pretty chunky book, but definitely up my alley. Full of facts and figures and history- I keep recommending it to people and if you have a friend who is caught up on the science of the reality of Christ- the likelihood of the resurrection, the authenticity of the gospels- I would recommend getting them this. Plus, each expert he talks to, he also asks about their personal conviction about their faith. He himself was an atheist who turned to Christianity- even if you’re a Christian already, there is no reason to not get to know more about what you profess to believe.

A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Flipping flapjacks, this was a children’s book, and was adapted to film by Disney. Set around Halloween, I was on the edge of my seat. Scary.

The first book in a series you haven’t read before: Curious Minds (Janet Evanovich// Pheof Sutton)

Although their names are corny [Knight and Moon], the book was really clever and easy to read. Different from the mysteries I usually read in that it was set in modern times, the protagonists were I’d want to be friends with and the way people related with eachother was very different to 1940s Britain; very similar in that it was surprising and kept me thinking. [Speaking of interesting names, try saying hers five times fast.]

A book you bought on a trip: The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

Picked it up at a book stall in Katoomba, although weirdly it’s set in the area where I live. Read it in a day. Loved it. Written by an Australian, it’s funny and sweet. A quirky romance, something a little different.

ADVANCED

A book recommended by an author you love: Travels With My Aunt (Grahame Green)

Started this journey by reading the wrong “Invisible Man” [one is a quirky story written about one hundred years ago about a literal invisible man. One is a commentary on racism in America, written in the 50’s.] Then, frustrated, I googled Christie’s favourite author and read some of him. It was really weird to think she had probably read what I was reading almost a century ago, but the book was really enjoyable. It was sort of like sitting down to dinner with a really crazy family around a bottle of wine and hearing their stories.

A bestseller from 2016: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Written by a doctor who had terminal cancer. I didn’t really know what to expect- it was sort of a collection of his philosophy and what he found out on his journey, as well as his medical knowledge and personal story. This is non fiction, so prepare your heart to have to deal with a really intimate look into a dying man’s world. However, it’s ultimately worth it I think.

A book with a family member term in the title: Just Another Manic Mum Day (Mink Elliott)

Regrets. So many regrets. Definitely my least favourite book on this list that I finished.

Written by a Brit who moves to Australia, it’s already cringe worthy- moves to Bondi, everyone’s attractive, lives on Didgeridoo Road and has a friend who’s a mystic at the markets on Sunday. Let’s display every stereotype Australia hides in their closet, and whip out “Good on you mum” [from the Tip Top bread ad]. Then she’s middle aged and pregnant, so let’s whip out all the stereotypes middle aged mums don’t talk about- weight gain, sex life, kids in cafes, only having other mums as friends. I just wanted it to stop.

A book that takes place over a character’s life span: Elephants Can Remember (Agatha Christie)

In the television adaption of this, Zoe Wanamaker plays Ariadne Oliver and it is just perfect. [This probably seems really random, it’s just me being happy at so many of my favourite things coming together.] I enjoyed having a clever woman come to the forefront and add a bit of humour to what are usually stoic novels. This was a good read, and I actually spent about two weeks reading it out loud to someone over the phone so it has some funny memories attached.

A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Island (Armin Greder)

After I’d read this for one class at uni it came up in another class where the lecturer pointed out that not all picture books are for kids. This is definitely one of them. I would probably recommend it for senior high school students if anyone school aged. Really harrowing and gripping, on one hand it’s just pictures. On the other hand, a picture can tell a thousand words.

A book from a genre/sub genre you’ve never heard of: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (Italo Calvino)

So, antinovels are a thing. And the worst part is, I didn’t even know this book would fit the category when I read it so that was really trippy. It’s like being on one of those things at the theme park where they lock you in and it turns you in heaps of different directions really fast- you take a second to grip on and you finally think you understand what you’re seeing, right in front of you, before it’s torn away and you have to get used to something completely different. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is probably a good book but make sure you’ve got distraction free time on your hands or you’ll have to reread a page a couple of times [this happened to me on the bus].

A book with an eccentric character: The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)

Nowhere near as good as the first book, and it was actually kind of sad. The first novel was an easy and romantic read, and perhaps he was criticised for that because sure, this one was more realistic. But damn, we don’t always want to read to recognise reality, sometimes we need to read to escape it. Still has a happy ending, it’s just tough getting there.

A book that’s more than 800 pages: The Bible (multiple authors)

This was a really rewarding challenge for me. I followed a plan, and did it with a friend. I think it was good, as last year I had so much Christianity pumped into my week that it taught me if I want to find God, I need to seek him.

If you are not a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible before you challenge it or you don’t really know what you’re challenging. If you are a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible to know what you’re defending and proclaiming to believe. It is not easy, and there will be a lot of soul searching [and internet searching] either way.

A book you got from a used book sale:Landline (Rainbow Rowell)

I picked this book up from Vinnies on my way to watching my friend perform in a pole dancing exhibition- thinking about all the books on this list, I realise what a crazy year it’s been. The book was really funny and it wasn’t easy to guess the next move, although it still had a happy ending. I was really pleased with this book.

A book that’s been mentioned in another book: The Sittaford Mystery (Agatha Christie)

Christie has been mentioned in two books I’ve read, so I took the liberty of choosing one to read myself. This plot was kind of scraping the barrel, but still enjoyable.

A book about a difficult topic: I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)

This was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited as soon as I saw how beautiful the cover was. Thank you to that friend, because I think that was one of the best stories I read this year. It covers a couple of difficult topics, but with a kindness and carefulness that doesn’t seem like the author is being brash. Rather, I felt like I was being led through the story by someone gently holding my hand and showing me all of these beautiful and precious things.

A book based on mythology: The Hobbit

If the guy who finally introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien reads my blog, thanks. I have been avoiding him for many years [perhaps due to the rivalry between Harry Potter fans and the Lord of The Rings Club]. It was really sweet and mystical. I did try starting the LOTR but it got a bit too serious. I missed my frolicking hobbits.

What I Learned From Reading The Entire Bible

I was challenged to read the entire Bible last year. It sort of got away from me, and I was disappointed at the end of the year that I hadn’t managed to keep my mind focused enough. However, this year from the first Monday to today [because I’ll be busy tomorrow and I didn’t want to stuff up] I kept to my plan, I caught up when I fell behind and I finished reading the entire Bible.

Now, keep in mind that while I looked up commentaries and asked wise people when I didn’t understand things as well as regularly watched “The Bible Project” videos on YouTube [highly recommend] I don’t claim to know it all or have had any grand revelations. However, I have come away with a thing or two.

I went to Hillsong for a long time. If you have never heard of them, I think the safest thing to say is they love love. They preach it every week, and I basked in it for so long, safely shying away from an image of a God who would judge and wreak havoc on humanity from time to time. However, fear is often based in a misunderstanding and so, when confronted by atheists and Christians and Muslims and everything in between about the very clear passages about it, I didn’t know what to say. And, if you know anything about me, I hate not knowing what to say.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect loves drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Now I go to an Anglican Church. Last year I did a gap year with a bunch of Anglicans. And call it close to culture shock to hear as much as I did about repentance, and supplication and fearing the Lord my God. We literally just sit in silence sometimes and say sorry. When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes and look at my watch. I think also this anger- this arrogance- was part of not seeing the full picture.

“You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.” -Malachi 2:17

Perhaps the best comparison is hanging out with your parents. You think you know them really well, but as you sit and actually listen, they tell you crazy stories about themselves [my dad once got on a bus to Perth to meet a pen pal who wasn’t at home in the end], and they give you advice you tend to ignore until it’s too late and you’re heartbroken, and they say things you really weren’t expecting and maybe if they didn’t know you as well as they did it would be offensive [oftentimes, it still stings and you need to stomp off and think about it for a bit].

“My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgement and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:21-24

Hanging out with the Bible was not easy. It really does say crazy things sometimes. And there are all these sentences you’ve heard a thousand times but never seen what came before or afterwards. There are so many things people use out of context! What really hit me in the guts were the stories and proverbs I’ve heard a billion times and never really thought about before.

It won’t be much of a surprise to some people, but I realised to how much of an extent Jesus was a great guy. You have this huge build up of the Old Testament towards this king, this prophet and preacher and shepherd and stronghold, and salvation and conquerer and then you get hit with this man who gravitates towards the sick, outcasts and kids. I can almost feel the overwhelming anticlimax, especially as you get to know the Israelites and all they’ve gone through to get to this man. We all knew he’d have to be born as a baby, but it just does something to you as you travel these wonders and songs about an amazing God, who again and again refuses to be contained, and then submits himself to that as a part of a master plan which ends in death at the hands of those he created. Thank God it concludes not with death but with triumph [literally].

[#christianjokes]

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature [or, in the form of] God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled himself

Buy becoming obedient to death-

Even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8

You need the Old Testament to bring colour to the rest of the story, add depth and dimensions and bring out aspects you couldn’t even see before, whereas for so long I was afraid of it.

Ultimately I think my perspective of God became a lot clearer. I have been warned to steer clear of trying to fit him into my little human box, but I can see this clear pattern that pastors with degrees and wisdom have been trying to drill into my brain since I accepted Christ.

He just wants people to love him, and he loves them.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

All of the rest of the stuff fits so clearly into that. Inextricably comes how we behave towards others.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

The consequences of rebellion are often highlighted by non-Christians; the fire and brimstone, etc. But it is just so significantly highlighted that every time there is punishment there were so many signs and warnings to turn back to God. The laws are so the people can love God and eachother properly, which is again demonstrated in the Old Testament where God says to the religious people he despises their religious festivals because their hearts are in the wrong place [Amos 5:21]. Jesus goes on to call them whitewashed tombs, who are so right on the outside but so dead on the inside [Matthew 23:27].

It was sometimes really difficult to look past what was happening to and with God’s people and the people around them, but this message of hope, this call to love and God’s offer of blessing was always open. It was there from the very first book, where he called them to be rulers in his image, and they screwed up [Genesis 2-3]. Then he blesses and makes covenants and keeps doing this until the very last book [Revelation 1:6]. It is moments like that when I realised my view was all too small.

In conclusion, I think you should read the Bible whoever you are. We love claiming we know what it’s all about- it’s a common problem in these “Christian” countries, surrounded by religions that claim they have taken bits of the same book. I’d warn you against making a cake from a recipe you thought you knew or with just a few ingredients you chose. If you want to disagree with it, read it cover to cover. If you claim to agree with it, read it cover to cover.

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 3:15-16

Be fairly warned though, it might take you a year.

Comfortable

It’s been about three days since I got back from a Christian training camp in Canberra, and I haven’t written about it. Partially I think that lies in not knowing what to say, despite the usual burning desire to get something reflective out of it. Partially it might be in being afraid to say it. To acknowledge that it wasn’t what I wanted and I don’t really know why.

To be honest, this all really starts from when I was asked whether I wanted to go and I said no. By some cosmic joke, someone paid for me to go anyway.

And because I just can’t- make of that what you may- I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm I wanted, or the right response when people asked me how I was feeling. So much of life involves putting on a mask, it would seem, of being happy and perky because it’s expected- my work with kids, making friends at uni and trying to be grateful for an opportunity to go and learn and be stretched in God’s work. I just couldn’t be happy. That, ironically, makes me sad.

On one hand, I want the people around me to know that when I smile it was because I am genuinely happy and when I laugh it is because I am genuinely moved to- I want to be as raw, and as real with the people around me as possible. On the other hand, I felt ungrateful to the person who paid my way, and grumpy to the people around me and trapped in my own emotions like a tiny ant in a thick spider web.

I have wondered since then whether it was because I was uncomfortable. I was worried about all of the people and what it would be like trying to make friends with everyone I met. The people driving me, the strangers in my tent- on one hand, I knew things probably wouldn’t go wrong if I put in enough effort. On the other hand, I was terrified of the amount of energy it would take to get where I wanted to be. It was overwhelming to get to a conference of 1,800 people, and tiring to put up a tent in the rain and I honestly just wanted to go home because I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t even see it.

But the thought has occurred to me that, like a pot plant, growth doesn’t happen once you’ve reached the limits of your comfort zone. If God’s intention was to grow me, I’d have done a lot less of it at home.

Apart from all of the new people and new experiences, something that hit me hard was seeing the people I already knew. A couple of Christians at the event but also catching up with a few who lived in Canberra.

For some reason, I just thought at the end of last year, when we were all so happy, that we would all stay happy. And when I saw my old friends, and all the different ways in which their hearts had broken, and all of the different ways they had grown, whether apart from each other, apart from God or apart from their plans, I felt such sorrow for the people I love. On one hand, it reminded me that not only my year hasn’t gone the way I thought it would- at one point, we were all going to grow up and get married and live happily ever after, and I was so torn apart when that didn’t happen for me. Once again, you can’t only trust God’s plan when it follows yours. On the other hand, I felt slightly powerless- only there for a couple of days to listen and leave, not sure when I’d be there again. That’s not within my hands, I know. However, I must admit, it was a bit of a shock to be reminded of. I know enough of them to know they’ll probably be okay but, more to the point, I know enough of God to know he’ll take care of them whether I’m around or not. [And if they quit smoking. Seriously. Stop.]

Anyway, there were positives. The likes of many, I’m sure I won’t see the results of for many years to come. However, I did learn a lot. I learned about prayer [coincidentally, one of the greatest things I learned is that when God promises to work all things for the good of those who love him – Romans 8:28 – that isn’t his promise to change our circumstances, but rather to change the people who love and trust him to be more like Christ, which is ultimately the best we can ask for. That mentality really came in handy], and I learned how to seriously pick apart a bible verse.

In the end, I did make friends, especially with those former strangers in the tent. It’s good to have a few more familiar faces to look forward to around campus. I was reminded of the benefits of pushing through feelings- one of the sermons actually said outright that our feelings are unreliable, particularly when faced with fact; I’m glad I didn’t leave. I met up with some old friends who are still as awesome as they were when I left them and it was sad to say goodbye again, sometimes only after a brief chat at McDonalds.

I still have a while to go before I feel as zen on the inside as I try to look on the outside, but I’ve been encouraged that if I’m starting to pick up on my own habits and ideas, the next step can be to change them. It would probably be worse if I were completely oblivious to them- like a parent with a brat, it’s better I know rather than don’t.

At the end of the day, with all the concern from people who care about me, and the fears pulsing through my brain, and the really, really good reasons [like pouring rain and a cold] I don’t want to say it was hard, so I gave up. I want to say it was hard but I did it any way.

And that wouldn’t even be true, because it was hard, and I wanted to give up but God did it through me anyway, and all I can do is pray I’m a little more like Christ.

My joy in sorrow’s tears,

My strength to cast out fears,

No other name but Jesus, Jesus.

My hope in darkest night,

My broken soul’s delight,

No other name by Jesus, Jesus.

-No Other Name [Emu Music]

My First Year At Uni

Today we come to the end of my first year at uni.

I have finished two semesters of work, and 8 subjects.

I made roughly fourteen new friends. Maybe 15, if I’m pushing it.

I handed in around 20 assignments.

My hair was four different colours.

I have spent my entire time at uni so far single.

I have the rest of the year to go, to be fair.

People were telling me that uni is the best time of ones life and it is when one truly finds or understands themselves. However, now that I am in university and I tell people what I have been told, they scoff and tell me no, really I’ve just got to try and get through it. Cynics.

I don’t know whether I’ve found myself, but I can trace a clear trajectory from the first day to the last. On the first day, my hair was pink (blood orange), I was nervous and I was sad because I had just broken up with my boyfriend. Today, I have people to regularly sit with, I have an undercut and I know my way around the campus. It never occurred to me at any point to drop out of my course, although I did consider changing it but, after seeing my classes rapidly decrease, I realise that’s not usual- I’m glad to still have that feeling of belonging.

I can clearly remember the moment I made most of my new friends- in the first week, although I was very quiet, for my “secret talent” I wrote “story telling”. The only other person in the class with something similar was my new friend E, who wrote he’s good at talking. Another friend I made over her reading my blog post while we were acquaintances on breakups- she too had just gone through a break up. Although I met one girl very late last year, I would confidently say we were only made friends during my time at uni- similarly, I met another girl when I was in primary school but only truly got to know her over good food and reflection as we decided to meet up this year.

I think I have gained more than I have lost, although I feel l have lost a little.

I have lost contact with many of my year 13 people, and lost that comfortable atmosphere although I strive to keep in contact with those who are important to me.

I have lost a bit of anxiety as I have found where I am meant to be, but gained a tad of depression, which mellows life out. This year at uni, I started seeing a counsellor.

I lost (got rid of, flung out a window) a crap job and gained two great ones, one actually working for my uni- I met an old friend while making a speech at open day.

I did actually gain a lot of knowledge about teaching, and heaps of experience in the classroom (both the opening photo and the blue banana are characters made out of playdough by some kids I did a workshop with).

I have lost a lot of time to gaining great stories.

I know I am better off and I suspect I have changed in ways I cannot even see.

The year didn’t turn out how I’d thought- I haven’t been to any mad parties, I haven’t travelled, I haven’t found the love of my life. However, I have tried tea flavoured jelly, duck with waffle fries and a sweet Indian dessert I was previously too afraid to get. I have been to three concerts (two by myself), been to a French bar and gotten Netflix. I attended two different university bible groups, smuggled onto campus by my friend. I have done things that seemed previously impossible, especially when I had a safety net of people- I am blessed with parents who are protective but have encouraged me to pursue adventures and opportunities. Although I still prefer the bustle of children, I started hanging out with an elderly gentleman, learning patience – a lesson that has waited too long. Not a conventional adventure, but still a journey.

All in all I am grateful for a year that was largely out of my control. It was not always fun, but I believe it was always monitored by God, laughing benevolently at my roller coaster ride. I say benevolently because, after all, I am still alive and do not regret anything. I have purchased a planner for next year which has a large focus on to do lists and goals and resolutions and on one hand, I am immensely excited to fill in those lines and tick those boxes but if there is one thing I have learned from this year, it is to embrace the unexpected routes and trust in God unreservedly.

And, as I say, the year itself is not yet finished.

A comic found in Science class, artist unknown.

Why I Decided To Be A Teacher (part 1)

I was inspired to be a teacher by three particular women.

Unfortunately, you have probably never heard of them but weirdly, they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t really mind that. Quite happy to leave their mark on a small portion of the world, they certainly made a mark on me.

If you want to put it into simply terms, they changed my life.

The first, Ms N., inspired in me a love of English teaching. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl- not much has changed in that respect. I have also always appreciated the English language and everything it affords people from dry sarcasm and puns to deep explorations of the human condition. However for a long time I wanted to be a primary school teacher. A few people told me I would be good with high school students but frankly, especially while I was IN high school, they scared me. Sometimes they still do. But thankfully, my university offers a course where you can end up teaching primary and high school, so I can back out in the end if they are still too threatening. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m Ms N’s age.

Ms N had a smile, when she was truly elated, that looked like she’d just tasted a lemon or done something naughty. I don’t know, perhaps she had. She told us stories about the farm she owned [she drove a convertible and her neck was usually adorned by pearls], and explained how she believed the world should be. She once told us that buildings should only be half as high as the street they’re on is wide, so we don’t feel trapped by concrete as we so often do in the city. I often think about this and agree, especially as apartments are built in my area that I am old enough to remember used to be quite quaint.

Best of all, though, she made books interesting. She was happy to make fun of authors who were stuck up [Alain de Botton, we are looking at you]. She read out the entirety of Shakespeare’s “Tempest” by herself, pausing to add her own commentary or thoughts on the characters [after much reflection, Miranda was decidedly naive]. She read our essays and short stories with intrigue, not with the keen eye of an eagle minded marker who has many other papers to mark. When I myself had to do some marking on practical placement recently, I tried to afford each paper the same care. My supervisor told me I wrote too much, but after all, that’s what I wanted from my teachers and that’s what Ms N afforded in her spindly, graphite handwriting. I wonder if it was lead pencil so, in case we wanted to, we could rub it out and treasure our work rather than the black crosses drawn by other teachers.

She made me feel smart.

She also once told me I have great style.

Then there was Ms P. She was the favourite teacher of many of the students at my school. Soft spoken with loud opinions and a quick wit, she was as affectionate as she was clever. Once we walked into a lesson on Pompeii only to be faced with Russell Brand who had recently said something smart, so we watched that and discussed it before getting into the lesson. Perhaps that sums her up rather nicely- she had a deeper fascination and care for what was living rather than what was dead and unchangable, although she was very good at teaching it. I appreciated her for her heart for us. When it came to our final exams, she said she expected us to help each other rather than work for our own marks, which is the way it’s usually done- she told us we were a team.

In year 11, the thing happened with my friends. She was actually the only one who sat all three of us down and asked whether we couldn’t work it out and apologise. “Sorry” was muttered simply because we couldn’t bear to disappoint her. She was strong, and calm and steady- a good mother hen figure who reminded me that teaching is not just a job. It makes you a conductor, facilitator and fixer of relationships, communication and love. You are not dealing with machines but people which makes it both dangerous and exhilarating.

The final lady who encouraged my love of teaching was Ms J.

She once told us that she was actually a businesswoman but, frustrated by the lack of world knowledge young people were arriving to her with, she decided she could either complain about it or fix it, so she dropped everything and became a teacher. She once jumped a fence in New Zealand to bring back a contraband sample of raw cotton for us. She wore 1920-1940’s style hats and high heels every day, except for when she sneaked running shoes out of her purse so she could jog down to the road to her other job teaching at a university. She just spent every day changing lives because she could. And I wondered why I shouldn’t do the same.

Last year, I held a concert to fundraise for a mission trip to Fiji and went to school to personally invite her- she came.

She told me I am a good person, and I believe her, especially when I don’t feel like one.

I could have that sort of impact one day.

Me in high school, on the right. (Cancer fundraising face painting.)

The Cat On The Moon

  

There’s this cartoon I watched when I was a kid about a cat who hated people. He hates the noise and the way he’s tramped on and treated by kids, he hates the constant hustle and bustle and movement. He just wants to escape. 

Sometimes, I feel like this. 

It’s not that I hate people, so to speak. But I can relate to that black and white cat. Sometimes it’s just too much. 

Don’t get me wrong. People are great for heaps of things. The other night I went to a concert by myself because no one else I knew appreciated the type of music, and afterwards I felt euphoric but had no way to express it. When I got in the car, I tried to explain it to my dad, but I had to recount everything that had happened and my emotions, whereas walking to the train station, I had listened to everyone chat to their friends and families about what they’d thought. Part of me just wanted to choose a group and join in [I did tell a woman on the train she looked beautiful, because she’d dressed up all specially. She told me I looked great too.] I found out later my friend had gone and I’d had no idea- I hope we’ll get a chance to talk about it, because that will feel good. I already know chatting makes me feel better. Hugs feel good- comforting and squishy and they produce happy hormones. People make you laugh and make funny YouTube videos and say amazing things and think up crazy things. They sing, and make music and look beautiful and fellowship feels good, when you’re part of a movement. 

But sometimes I feel like I’m in a line of people linking arms and I’ve tripped over. And as I fall, everyone else in that line turns to look at what is holding them back, what ruined that movement.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe because there are so many people in a room that look so good and talk so right and act like they know what they’re doing when I didn’t even get a script. 

Sometimes that feeling wells up behind my eyes and turns into tears.

Sometimes I feel tired for no reason other than I tried to keep a smile up for a day.

Sometimes I am hurt by something but I don’t mention it because I hate being called “oversensitive”. 

A lot of the time I miss the people who are special to me, but I know I can’t always have a room of just the right people- that’s a shout out to my Year 13 friends, who are all so far away. 

People do great things, like dance and paint and kiss and listen, but they also do cruel, unpredictable and unfair things. 

I worked for five hours on a project today that I got halfway on. When I suggested a time to come back next week, they said yes and later on called to say I shouldn’t bother. They’re scrapping the whole thing. 
Sometimes there is just so much noise. 

  

So this cat, he buys a relatively cheap rocket and flies to the moon. 

Tomorrow, I’m going to a hotel for a night. It’s about ten minutes from my house, and at first my parents were a bit confused [and grumpy] as to why I would spend so much money on not even going anywhere. I tried to explain it’s not even quite a holiday [I couldn’t afford one of those]. It’s more like trying to create a space for my mind to settle down, to recalibrate. It’s kind of just like I’m going crazy from the noise. 
Sometimes I feel so, so sad for no reason at all. Sometimes you telling me you don’t care hurts so much more than it should, or wondering whether I’m worth anyone’s time takes up the energy that should be spent on inserting myself into your time meaningfully. And I feel like I’m typing out an essay and my ‘r’ key is stuck but I can’t even hold onto the backspace key because it doesn’t completely cancel out what is already a flood of the wrong thing. Like I don’t know exactly what to do or how to help, and I feel like deleting the document or panicking and pulling the keyboard plug. What you actually have to do is really uncomfortable- wedge your nail underneath the key so it pops back up- which is metaphorically just getting out of your comfort zone. 

  

That cat ends up on the moon and really hates it. It’s strange and so uncomfortable and he’s away from everything he knows. I think the worst part is probably that he’s away from anyone he can talk to about it. So much has happened in my life that has been so weird and unexpected, and I’m grateful for my mum and dad and friends and dog who I can talk to about them. I wonder what my hotel experience will be like, because weirdly although it’s about being alone, I can’t wait to tell them when I get back. 

That cat ends up coming back down to earth. 

Sorry this post is so jumbled. It doesn’t have a point so to speak, I think it’s just more an insert of my life. Maybe it will be helpful to those who know just what I mean, or helpful for those who don’t know what is going on inside my head. —

Going Postal

THE VOTE ON GAY MARRIAGE

The postal vote on gay marriage has turned Australia into something uncomfortably absurd. 

Over recent months, we have not demonstrated ourselves to be a country that is young and free, welcoming and jovial. On an early morning talk show yesterday, two guests were presented with the chaos currently surrounding the vote- uni students being beaten, lives being threatened, a campaign lunch interrupted by protesters with signs that said “burn churches, not gays”. One guest suggested that maybe this is all acceptable because gays have been treated this way for years. 

“An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind”, said Ghandi. Of course, Jesus said something similar, but I wouldn’t dare quote him in this current climate. 

What’s interesting is that, because of the things happening from the campaigns, people are voting based on a heap of things other than the actual question [should gay marriage be allowed in Australia?]. I have heard Christians decide to vote yes because they are sick of seeing innocent children caught up in the crossfire. I have heard gay people are voting no because the conditions of the vote don’t satisfy them. I have heard people who don’t want to vote at all because they have no idea which decision would be less harmful. And so, an often opinionated Australia is caught up in a tidal wave of confusion, even if people are just too scared to say what they really think out loud because they know they’ll cop backlash.

I have made it no secret I am a Christian- just check your web browser. I have no qualms calmly discussing the matter with those genuinely curious to hear my views, however I haven’t found many people who are ready to hear me out using their inside voices. I have kept my head down and why? Because not for the first time in my life, I am afraid of the repercussions from people who call themselves my friends. 

In Year 11, someone got the wrong gist of my opinions and instead of confronting me, told everyone who they thought I was. In two weeks, no one would meet my eye and yet it took me two years to find out what had actually happened- what had I actually done wrong? Nothing. 

About a week ago, my friend changed her profile picture to include an “it’s okay to vote no” frame, and her boss, instead of engaging in personal discussion and hearing her out, fired her and posted to Facebook about it. It must make a coward feel a whole lot better to be surrounded by a select few backing her up. 

This is not okay. 

This cannot be okay. 

I decided not to write a post about what people should vote. I know two things about Australians- 1) they hate being told what to do, and 2) they’ll tell you all about it. I decided to write a post, therefore, suitable for any voter. 

The madness has to stop.

I saw a post by someone I met and friended a couple of years ago on Facebook who asked anyone voting no to unfriend him. I have seen “no” voters called homophobes, even when they may be gay themselves. I have seen relationships broken over words that can never be retracted, and to think this is all happening over a clash of opinions. It really didn’t take much. 

I refuse to lose friends over a vote. I refuse to limit myself and my discussions to politics. I refuse to be defined by a box I ticked or ostracised by gossiping ever again. I refuse to live in fear, and the solution to all of this stopping is ironically exercising what the vote is meant to be advocating: love. True, pure love. 

You who are calling for acceptance need to stop bullying those who are different to you. 

You who are advocating for equality but ignoring pleas from the opposite side that their rights are being denied need to listen. 

I am asking for an end to the madness. 

You may be left with the question, so what am I voting?
My answer would be to first ask yourself: 
1) Should it matter?

2) Would you ask me face to face?

3) What would you do if I said something you didn’t like?

Adulting

Today, I was almost reduced to tears [it really doesn’t take much. My record is a dog food commercial] because I tried to be an adult and it didn’t work. 

There was a lost dog wandering around our compound which followed me home while I was walking my neighbour’s dog, so I decided to do the grown up thing and call the council, seeing as it was friendly but didn’t have a tag. The friendly man on the phone named Timothy informed me that someone would be around to pick him up within half an hour.

 I waited in the cold and the dark for an hour before finally giving up once the dog started to get super friendly with another dog- I have my limits, and today I reached them while sitting on the curb watching the driveway because I had to watch anything other than that dog right then. 

I went inside, had a hot shower and fretted about that dog. I hadn’t gotten a phone call, no one had come to the door and eventually, I decided to sit down and watch funny youtube videos- after all, I had been mature enough for the day. 

THREE HOURS LATER, a man knocks on the door. He has driven from over an hour away, in the cold and the dark, to pick up this dog. It not having a collar, and us having a canine-phobic canine, I had left it where it seemed happiest. I wanted to bring it into the house [and force poor Enzo outside], but it would not follow me and I wasn’t going to get in the middle of it’s new found love affair, so I walked away. And now this man had turned up and I had nothing to show for his travels. What was worse was that he’d called three times to check we had it before coming out, and my phone had been on silent in the living room. 

So I present to you this situation. 

I was kind of proud of myself for trying to do the right thing. I went above and beyond to do the right thing, for about an hour. And then, somewhere along the line, I lost that thread of grown-up-ness and I got in trouble with a tired man who thought I could have done more. And I also got lectured by my parents about having my phone on hand. 

So I did what any adult does, and I went to my room and sulked. 
I don’t know when I became an adult. 

Oh sure, there’s the legal adulthood, of drinking and voting, but those are two things no one really wants to do so they make an age where at least one of them is compulsory. 

On the other hand, there are all the subtle nuances that are expected of adults. When it’s unacceptable to dress however you feel is probably the first sign I noticed. When I actually started trying with make up and “my sense of style”. But also just the way you speak to people changes. You make an email signature that says “regards”, and your email isn’t “christianawesomeness” it’s “patty.ayres”. Or you start having conversations with people who casually swear and it’s no longer a big thing. Plus, you have no one to dob to. I don’t know when I thought I was wise enough to make an official call to the council, and I don’t know when it became a big deal I don’t answer phone calls, and I don’t know when it became so that I have to take responsibility for when I do something wrong, although I guess you always have to face the consequences for inconveniencing someone else. And I don’t know what happened to that darn dog. 

Trying to find a job has been a big eye opener for me. Figuring out the split in my wardrobe between “smart casual” and “every day” is the most boring thing I have ever done- I now own a plain navy blue shirt just because I realised that nothing I have was boring enough for a job interview. My last job fell into my lap because of a family friend. This new one matters.

No one ever really said, you’ve got to grow up now. The worst part is, people always used to tell me I’m mature for my age. Now I’m worried I just had a head start and everyone’s catching up, or even passing me by. 

You know the last time I had my phone off silent? It went off during that job interview, the one with the navy blue shirt. 

Adulthood is a series of not winning, no “participation awards” and high expectations. It’s everybody watching you and fewer people watching out for you. It’s scary and big and as simple as not picking up your phone so you lose a dog and a man yells at you while you’re in your pyjamas. I’m sure there are some perks to it. I’m just too young to have found them. 

Maybe adulting is just sleeping through your alarm but still making it to class. 

Maybe it’s as simple as staying up too late but discovering concealer.

Maybe it’s picking up the damn phone. 
  

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God.