Like half (probably more) of the population of Australia, I am in love with Samuel Johnson. He appeared in my life when I was a teenager and entertained me with a long line of quirky and lovable characters.
But last week, during his Gold Logie acceptance speech, the reason that I love Samuel Johnson was expressed in his heartfelt and genuine words.
It was a fairly muddled ten minutes of Australian television. And the message in Samuel’s speech was overshadowed by the media comments and opinions that followed. But, for this mum, teacher and advocate for the Arts, his message rang loud and clear.
“I was a very spirited, very confused kid. With a colourful background and fairly savage amount of energy. I was an outlier of sorts, just desperate to find my place in this world and I found my home here in the Arts. A place that celebrated difference.”
Samuel was the kid that I see everyday. In the playground, in my classroom and in my house. A kid that is different, quirky, unique, creative and doesn’t quite fit the mould. Spirited, energetic and colourful. But also confused, an outlier and desperate to find their place in the world. You see, our aussie society celebrates the sporty kid, the kid that fits in, the kid that does well on their NAPLAN tests and the kid that sits in his desk and does what he’s told. Our society does not celebrate the quirky kid who thinks outside the square, the kid who daydreams and hums a new melody rather than answering Maths questions or kicking around a soccer ball. And it breaks my heart that these kids think that they shouldn’t be like they are.
And this is why it is so important that Samuel’s message gets out there.
"I found my home here in the Arts. A place that celebrated difference."
Cause you see, in the Arts, you can be whoever you want to be. You can stand out, you can be unconventional and most of all, you don’t have to try and fit the mould to be accepted…..You have to try and break it!
So thank you Samuel Johnson for reminding us how important it is for us to create schools, homes and a society where difference is admired. Where our kids don’t have to fit in and the fact that their unique and eccentric ways are what sets them apart, is celebrated.
Thank you for reminding us that the Arts is not just an extracurricular activity.
For some, it’s home.
I didn’t go to my ten year school reunion. The thought of it made me ridiculously nervous and after two or three weeks of ‘should I/shouldn’t I’, the decision was made not to go…..and I have regretted it ever since.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I received a FB message. A close friend was organising a get together of any women from school, who were back in the area and just wanted to catch up for a drink. And this time, I went.
And it was fantastic! Catching up with girls that I spent all day everyday with for the 7 years of high school was very cool. Reminiscing about old teachers, crazy parties, old boyfriends and horror stories from nights out at the Macca (those of local heritage will understand. Those that aren’t, every town has a pub like that Macca…..You know the one!). The drinks were flowing, the laughter was raucous and heartfelt…...and the barriers, social lines and ridiculous status quo from high school had disappeared. It was beautiful. Those years of social hierarchy and “cool groups” had disappeared and what was left, was a group of women.
And I wish that every pre teen or teen girl that I have ever taught could have been there.
I wish that they could have seen that the dramas of high school, disappear the day that you graduate from Year 12 and that the tears and anxiety of being 15 had melted away.
I wish that they could have been there to see that the status quo of the playground was now non-existent. That no matter what group you were in, what extra-curricular activity you were involved in, what clothes you wore….the list goes on….you were now all just a bunch of women talking woman stuff...kids, work, partners, memories…...
Most of all, I wish that they could have seen that, as these women had gotten older and had experienced life, they had realised that every women in that room, every girl that had been on their bus, or in their roll call class, or on the playground, ended up being phenomenal with an amazing story worth celebrating.
I wish I could tell them to just sit tight. That High School and everything that goes along with it, is just a small blip on the journey. That one day, they would sit with those same girls, as grown women in a bar and drink and laugh and celebrate.
Celebrate the journey…..Celebrate the seemingly never ending years of High School….Celebrate the zits and the high school crushes and awkward first kisses…….
Celebrate the phenomenal women they had become.
Is anyone else exhausted?
It seems so. Everyone I talk to at the moment seems tired and worn out. People are stressed, busy and just plain exhausted. The world is full of noise and manic energy, and we just never seem to stop.
When did our lives get so damn busy?
Maybe it’s our stage of life. Maybe that time of your life where we all have kids, be they babies, toddlers or teenagers with better social lives than our own. Maybe we are all at that stage where we are trying to balance the unsolvable juggling act of work versus family versus just having time to collapse on the lounge and chill. I was busy in my twenties, had my first bub, got my first teaching job…..but then I hit my thirties and BOOM! It’s like the only time that I stop is when I’m asleep. And even then, I’m dreaming about work and kids. I can’t even escape when I’m unconscious!
Maybe it’s our age. Maybe where you’re up to in your life map has nothing to do with it. Maybe we just all hit our mid 30s and from then on, amongst the hectic chaos that is 2017, we just never take the time to step off the treadmill.
Maybe it’s our generation. All those awesome feminists in the 60s and 70s, who fought and took a stand for the amazing choices that we have today….maybe that all gave us a subconscious sense of owing it to both ourselves and those strong feminist women of the 60s, a sense that if we don’t at least try to have it all that we are letting down the team. That we are letting down those women who weren’t allowed to work, or vote or have a say. Who all chipped away bit by bit so that we could.
Maybe it’s the mother guilt. The guilt that drills into the back of your brain every time you hear about another kid who is doing some amazing extra curricular activity and you think, “Oh shit, is my kid missing out because they aren’t learning to yodel like the kid next door?” (Just kidding, learning to yodel is so Von Trapp and Julie Andrews). When you feel like your kids should be getting every opportunity that you can afford. When their busy adds to your busy.
Whatever it is. I’m stuffed. I’m tired, and exhausted, and in need of a good holiday with a pina colada in hand. (Lucky for me, I’m a teacher and it’s the last week of term!)
So here’s to admitting that you are tired. Here’s to admitting that you just need a break and that you need things to calm down for a bit. No matter what your job is, how many or how old your kids are, how many extra curricular activities they do, how much running around you have to do before the next lot of visitors arrive….Here’s to just stopping and taking a breath.
The school holidays start in exactly 2 days. No manic mornings, no ballet, no Tae Kwon Do, no piano lessons….and if anyone is looking for me, I’ll be snuggled up on the lounge watching a good movie with my kids, just…..slowing down.
I was a third year uni student when hubby (then boyfriend) and I fell pregnant with our girl. It was a very full on time in our lives, but one that I look back on now and think, “What were we so worried about?!”
One thing that I was worried about, was not succumbing to the stereotype. I was so determined not to become another young mum. Admittedly, I was exceptionally lucky that I had just happened to be in a relationship with one of the most awesome men on the planet, who when I told him that I was keeping my baby, smiled and said “OK, Let’s do this.”
And that we did. 16 years after our first drunken encounter at the Canberra Black Opal Stakes, we are still going strong and probably more in love now than we ever have been.
And when it came to work, I was determined. When our precious surprise package was 6 months old, I went back to uni. And within 2 years, had completed my degree. I certainly didn’t do it alone. Hubby had continued on at uni as if nothing had ever happened. I remember him sitting on our second hand lounge, at a coffee table that we had picked up off the side of the road, studying for his fourth year exams in a double degree in Actuarial Studies and Commerce, complete with a newborn baby being burped over his shoulder. Serious champion.
My brother moved in with us, and we organised our uni timetables around each other so that he could watch our gorgeous girl while I attended tutes and lectures during the day.
My amazing friend, worked casual teaching days, then would race to our dingy little townhouse in Canberra, to babysit so that I could make my night lectures.
And with my village working hard around me as support, I completed my degree, got a job straight out of uni, and with a three year old in full time care, proved to them all that I wasn’t just another teen mum.
And now here we are.
And then, in a casual coffee catch up recently, a friend said something to me that changed it all.
“Wow, in 4 years, she’ll be gone”.........And I was floored.
I have spent so much time proving everyone wrong, that now here I am, with a nearly 14 year old, who has known nothing else except a full time working mum who is always rushed and busy. And then someone says one simple sentence to me….and it knocks me for six. I don’t get this time back. Once she walks out that door, I can guarantee that our dedicated and driven girl will hit the ground running. Probably without looking back. Heck, she is already planning her gap year, dancing and singing her way across Europe with her best friend….No, I really can’t see her hanging around King Creek all that long once those HSC results come in.
Can you tell that I’m having a major panic attack?! A panic attack that has lasted the last four weeks!
And so with that one comment, my life has been turned on its head. It’s made us think about the next four years. What do we want that to look like? What is our main priority? What is my main priority?
When our girl was a baby, we heard the old cliche over and over again. “Enjoy it now, because it goes so fast.” And in our sleep deprived haze of broken nights, sore and leaky boobs, vomit, poo and catnaps, we scoffed.
But you know what? They were right.