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Spiral Work Days by Justyna

28 Oct

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.


Spiral – by Karen

27 Oct

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

That’s from a poem called The Second Coming, by WB Yeats, and it is in all honesty, the first thing that sprung to mind when I read this week’s topic. I think that goes to show how deeply highschool imprinted its texts on my brain. If you told me a poem today, or no, let’s update that, if I were flicking between ten tabs on my web browser, and my Google reader were open in one of them, and one of my RSS feeds happened to quote a poem, and I scanned that part of the post before moving on to the next tab…. well, I would probably not be recalling that poem fifteen years from now.

Woah, fifteen years.

Reading again, that is one absolute cracker of a poem. And it brings back memories of 3 Unit English, and indeed 2 Unit English, both of which were taught by a cracker of a woman, Mrs Grimm. I believe I may once have blogged about her before, perhaps on my Livejournal (since we’re being sentimental), but she bears repeating. This is a woman who I believe was in her sixties, but with a figure that proudly looked a trim 40, who every day took a train from her no doubt rocking Redfern pad to godforsaken Pennant Hills (40 mins), walked the 20 minutes from the station with a spring in every step, and proceeded to PASSIONATELY lay down the literature for a bunch of prudish, pimpled, unimagining embryonics such as I was. Whether they were crippled by shyness or bursting with teenage bolshevism, this woman actually cared about each of her students, I have not a doubt in my mind about that to this day, and actually thought it was important to teach English literature to them. At the end of our year she carefully chose a line from Shakespeare as a gift for each student. Astonishing to recollect.

At the time though, the most striking thing about her was her obsession with sex. Much like Tabitha, she saw sexual innuendo in everything, but she relished it in a way that I’m not sure Tabitha ever has in front of a class full of teenagers. Heather and I used to go into transports of hysteria over her manifestos on the true meaning of the swan’s “feathered glory” in Leda and the Swan (really?? a feathery penis?), but like me, Heather must have been touched in some deeper way as she ended up naming her daughter Leda.

I did hear later that Mrs Grimm died of cancer, so she won’t be around to read my blog, but I am very happy that even my teenaged self had the sense to thank her with a gift and heartfelt card at the end of that year. In those intense and intensely bored years, she was one of the few figures who contributed something epic to my small suburban life. I hope I can do the same for some other pained and peinlich teen one day.

Spiral of despair – by Tabitha

25 Oct

I recently caught up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years. Her account of the intervening period since we’d last been in touch was a litany of failures, disappointments and dark days. She was in that place where unhappiness perpetuates, unrelenting, bulldozing through whatever hopefulness or positivity you lay down to curb it.

I was reminded of one of the many self-improvement courses which I (and everyone else – it wasn’t just me needing improving!) was sent on by Vodafone as part of their generally excellent human resources program. It was billed as a course on “resilience”, and I have thought of it often, because as I get older it seems to me that resilience is probably one of the most useful life skills a person can have. That and being able to roll your tongue like a taco.

There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about the content of the course; it basically put forward a toolkit of resources you can apply to bounce back from setbacks. There was practical stuff about sleep patterns and exercise, and mental tricks for overcoming critical thinking. One of the ideas was about how to stop yourself sliding down the spiral of despair, where negativity begets negativity, and then next thing you know you’re listening to Fiona Apple on repeat.

It’s a lot easier to stop yourself when you’re close to the stop of the spiral, before you’ve gathered too much momentum. Even then, it’s a struggle. You claw yourself back up, slide down a bit, and claw up again, until hopefully you can get a stable foothold. This, to me, is basically the difference between despair and depression: a depressed person completely loses the resources within themselves to even cling to the sides, let alone drag themselves back up. My friend had plummeted to the bottom of the spiral with a thud, but she was ready to make the long climb back, and just working out how.

Thank God I have never experienced depression, but I’ve listened to some Fiona Apple in my time. I’ve received such good advice from friends over the years that I find I can now draw on that to life-coach myself out of most tailspins these days. I also feel I’m so much better at recognising patterns in my own behaviour and kyboshing any teetering steps in the direction of that spiral. Isn’t getting older just the most amazing thing? I feel I’ve left wallowing behind me for good, along with French existentialist literature.

I also keep in reserve the Things That Make Me Happy. If, one day, I find that these Things That Make Me Happy don’t in fact make me happy anymore, I’ll know it’s time to head to the doctor’s office.

Things That Make Me Happy:

  • Videos of pugs on YouTube
  • Chocolate
  • Sleep.

Where the homing pigeons roam – by Beth

24 Oct

One of my favourite things in the whole world is watching a flock of homing pigeons going for a fly to stretch their wings. Marrickville luckily, sports the highest ratio homes to homing pigeons I’ve ever seen, and almost every day I see a flock go for one of their organised fly-pasts, with all the precision of an airshow. Do you have homing pigeons where you are? I’m guessing maybe not, but you never know…

I took these photos in our backyard yesterday afternoon. I find it hard to describe their manoeuvres, so I was grateful of the excuse to call it a spiral (this week’s theme). Like a genie let out of a lamp, they soar into the sky as if connected by invisible spiderweb, turning corners sharply as one, in order to stay close to home. After several swoops, they decide they really ought to be getting back to their home (probably prompted by food). They gracefully spiral down back down and into their roost, like water down a plug hole. I wonder if they spiral down in a different direction in the northern hemisphere?