I remember sitting in my Year 3 classroom when Ms Bull had just informed us that we’d learn how to cursive write the following year.
I thought, ‘Wow, I’m growing up. Next year I’ll know cursive writing and then I’ll be in senior primary school, then I’ll graduate and before I know it I’ll be in high school and really old.’ I can remember that thought as clear as day, but ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday and my brain will forage for a while (actually that’s a lie, always weet-bix). It fascinated me when, how and why I remembered THAT thought.
In the years following, I reminisced on that memory in year 3 and wanted to create another that I’d recall just as vividly. ‘I really want to remember this moment,’ I’d start, rubbing my temples. ‘Focus, Angela. Look at your surroundings and remind yourself of this every day until it’s cemented in your mind.’ Kudos to me, I clearly remember trying, but that’s about all I remember. The details of where and when proved too insignificant for my mind to keep filed away.
I’ve realised that our most significant memories are those representing pivotal times in our lives that are out of our control. Think about it – how you met your partner, heard about the job you ended up scoring, lost a loved one or fell pregnant. We cannot physically MAKE any of these happen. Sometimes, even at the time they’re happening, we won’t realise how they’ll affect us until later down the track.
I began thinking about instances from my life that have greatly shaped who I am, and now I am sharing them with you.
- When I found out my parents were divorcing
I was thirteen. Dad had just picked me up from work and we were about five minutes away from home. I would have been babbling about my day at school and he would have been listening as he always did. My life revolved around crushing on boys, convincing my parents to let me go out with friends unsupervised, and theatre. Unbeknownst to me, my parents’ lives revolved around greater responsibilities; protecting and caring for our family. Tears soon trickled down Dad’s cheeks as he began with, ‘You know I would never want to hurt you.’
He proceeded to tell me that he and Mum were separating. From that day onward I lived between two houses. It was tough, but I’m blessed to have two parents that love me unconditionally. They were present at every musical, awards ceremony, sports carnival, choir concert, speech and even my violin recitals (I’d get more money being paid not to play – really, I was dreadful). Whilst at times it was easy to feel unlucky, I learnt that what made me SUPER lucky shone brighter. A family who loved me.
- When I got the job at Burger King
In 2015, I was unemployed for 3 months. I’d sleep at 5am and rise at 4pm. Each night I’d pass time watching Youtube or movies and each day I’d wallow in self-pity. I had zero motivation, zero money and what felt like zero life. After submitting countless resumes for receptionist positions and anything office-related, I had zilch luck. Cue Ashton Kutcher’s quote,’I’ve never had a job I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job.’ Okay, so maybe I needed to stop being so picky (for now) and just focus on getting A job. Any job. A few days later I secured an interview with Burger King (Hungry Jack’s). I was jittery at the thought so I’d prepared answers to every question Google warned me about; alas, I was asked almost every one of them. At the end of the interview they offered me the job (and possibly a pacifier if I’d kept squealing of joy.) As I drove home, all my burdens lifted off my shoulders as I revelled in finally getting my sh*t together. The opportunity came to me in a time of need, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
- Losing a young school friend
Her name is Katie. And I say is, because her spirit will always be alive. She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at the end of 2015 and passed away less than 12 months later. Her family posted the news on Facebook and I sat in front of my computer screen in disbelief. How could a 20-year-old be robbed of her future so young and so cruelly? Why Katie?
But the truth is, life isn’t fair. It isn’t controlled by one entity and it owes us nothing. When you’re young, people tell you that your whole life is ahead of you, as if ‘whole life’ grants at least 80 years. But for Katie it granted a quarter of 80. We didn’t have any classes together in our last years of school but I have fond memories of our science lessons earlier on. She was so kind, empathetic and always smiling. I struggle to imagine what she went through with her battle, and it makes me bitter that she had to endure it all.
The only way I’ve been able to come to terms with death is to acknowledge that a long life is not a right, it’s a privilege. Each day should be cherished and appreciated. When we’re down, we should find something to be grateful for. When we don’t like what we’re doing, ask ourselves why we’re doing it. We are the ruler of our own lives but too often let life rule us.
- When I was hit on by an older woman
I was 17, she was about 34. Her name was Faith and she owned an American-style karaoke restaurant in Brisbane, where I lost my doughnut chicken burger virginity (need to veganise this at home!). At the time I felt rather mature eating out with my grown up, scholarly male friends; they were the ones who introduced me to her. She was a tall African-American with full lips and many a story to tell, but never revealing too much. She was quite mysterious and palmed off any questions deemed too personal.
After finishing dinner one night, and being the only 3 remaining in her shop, we stayed around for a chat and some karaoke fun. Somehow the conversation developed into Faith insisting that if I kissed her, it would be the best kiss I’d ever had. She gestured to the back of the store, offering privacy. ‘But I’m not attracted to women,’ I tried to convince us both.
‘How do you know until you try?’
I kept uttering the same sentence until it was time to go. My skin was crawling on the car ride home and I shut down any talk of what’d just happened. Given that my friends were gay themselves, I’m sure they recognised denial within me, well before I ever did.
I wasn’t sure what I was afraid of: I’d been an advocate for LGBTIQ rights for years. But I get it now. I correlated lesbianism with being provocative. In films when a woman is depicted to be at her wildest/sexiest, often it involves locking lips with another woman; despite sexual orientation. When my lesbian friends go out clubbing or camping, their sexuality is seen as public business when men are aroused at the thought of them together. It’s because lesbian ‘acts’ are so publicised and erotic (think about the famous Madonna and Britney kiss at the 2003 VMAs) that lesbians aren’t always taken seriously or respected. I knew I liked men, but people didn’t view me sexually because of it. But women? I was afraid it’d be different.
Fast forward 4 years and I don’t associate with any label. I like men, but I also find women attractive.