Back in the day, when I was a fresh uni graduate, I couldn’t find work in my ‘field’ for just over three months. I remember it as a period where I was rudely awaken to the fact that having a uni degree and some decent marks meant very little. My days consisted of various physically exerting activities. I was the fittest I had ever been. I would wake up, spend the morning applying for jobs that did not always exist (the ‘stab in the dark’ application was the most depressing, whereby I sent my resume to law firms that were not actually looking for anyone but I seemed to think that I would blow them away with my undergraduate credentials and my absolute lack of experience), then I would ride my bike to my local pool at Emerton and would swim like a billion laps. Often I would be the only one there, a swimming madwoman, and would get tips from the bored lifeguards, who assumed I was training for something or other, and who would advise me on how to strengthen my freestyle kick.
Emerton, for those who are not aware of Western Sydney’s demographic stats, is not in any shape of form on the ‘fit list’ of Sydney’s suburbs. The exact opposite in fact, with the McDonald’s directly adjacent to the pool getting more traffic in a day than the pool would see in its entire open season.
Then I would ride back home, check my rejections in my inbox and then go out running in the very ugly suburban clearings of Plumpton. On Thursdays I would head off to the local Centrelink office for my dole check at the Druitt and resume my physical exertion the very next morning so as not to slit my wrists. But the spiral effect worked in the reverse. I was propelled out rather than sunken to the bottom. The moment of clarity came, when standing in the dole queue I spotted Mem with whom I went to uni. We looked at each other and bitterly laughed. Mem had finished psychology with first class honours, and he too was grovelling for his $300 fortnightly pick-me-up. Unemployment all of a sudden wasn’t the complete pits. In fact we started regularly playing squash, after Thursday Dole Day, until we were both happily settled in 9 to 5s.
My first job out of uni was as a judge’s associate. And a different kind of spiral kicked in. Namely the circuit spiral. I was for the next two years propelled out to various nooks and crannies of NSW country towns on a regular basis. From hot and sweaty Moree (where the local pool still exercised its apartheid – ‘blacks at one end’ and ‘whites at the other’), to the locust infested Dubbo (yes, I was there during the biblical Plague), to Inverell where the squash court was in a tin shed and you played in about 89 degrees temperatures, to Coonamble, a hamlet of 70 with a courthouse that looked like a toilet block (the architect apparently soon after designing it topped himself).
The job in retrospect taught me loads about the State I lived in, and how as a Sydneysider, I had no actual idea about rural and country NSW. It was straining on my friendships and relationship (somewhat) because I was never home, but now I think I was so lucky then to be a domestic frequent flyer. I’m happy my judge was crazy enough to never want to sit in Sydney. My skin got thicker and my city-dwelling preconceptions were somewhat put in their place. Now being stagnant in the one town for the last six years, I miss the mobility of my old job. But maybe what I miss most is that then I was younger and responsibility-free and could undertake such ventures without having to take much of anything else into consideration.