The year I wasn’t myself

Caught up with the friend last night who calls me P Diddy. He’s a high-end tax accountant, which is a long way from being sexy, but otherwise he’s always been a cool dude. He’s from Africa once upon a time – the actual whereabouts a persistent mystery – and has always had great interest, and success, with the girls, as well as being a very chilled out party animal. For all that he’s been calling me P Diddy for years now because in his estimation I’m the urbane man about town par excellence, and because he reckons that – and won’t take no for an answer – that I’m a killer with the ladies.

I’ve had my moments, but it’s always been pretty overstated. It was then, and it certainly is now. Whenever I see him it makes me smile. He takes such great pleasure in believing this, and sharing it with whoever might be in listening range – sure, I like the girls, but you oughta see P Diddy in action! I deny it every time, laughing at his irrepressible spirit, secretly thrilled I suspect, and wondering where in the world he got those notions from. We spent a year working in close proximity, and partied – or at least played up – on a pretty regular basis throughout that. I have to admit, I did have my fun.

By now all of this is a bit of a running joke with me, and an ongoing sense for wonder. It has become a part of the narrative of our friendship, something we share notwithstanding how ludicrous it is. It’s old news.

There was new news last night though. Donna had joined us. We had a drink at Ponyfish Island and then went to one of the restaurants on Southbank for dinner. The conversation came up about my workshop. Like everybody who wasn’t there he asked why he wasn’t invited. And then like everybody who wasn’t there, chipped in with his 2c worth. In this case he said I was the nicest person he had ever met.

At first I took it as hyperbole – you know, the biggest, the best, the most, the way people talk in superlatives about small things. But no, he meant it literally, sincerely, I was the nicest person he had ever met. “Too nice”, in fact, as he went on.

I was surprised. Certainly Donna was flummoxed by the assertion. How did he come to believe that, I wondered – I’m under no illusions that I’m that swell a guy. But then, as the conversation went on, a few pieces began to join together in my head. It still wasn’t real, but it began to make more sense.

The year I worked with him was a very unusual year for me. I look upon it now wondering how it fit in with what came before, and with what came after. I always think it’s the year I wasn’t myself. I had just returned from Brisbane, where I’d been unhappily living. I returned with a sense of disorientation. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I’m not sure I had a complete handle on who I was. With the benefit of hindsight I’d suggest that I returned to Melbourne in the grip of depression. I may have known it then, but never acknowledged it.

It was in that mode that I got myself a job  It was a cool job in a cool company, about $30K under what I’d been earning, but in the state of mind I was in I figured it was a lifestyle choice. I was working in an industry I had a passion for, and with a bunch of cool, very likeable characters.

I was not myself though, and felt it every day. Part of it might have been the job – I felt like I had to squeeze myself into a smaller box and didn’t quite know how to go about it. Much more of it was just in me though. I felt so tentative, like I never had before. My confidence had dimmed, I questioned, doubted, wondered. I was vulnerable like I never had been before, or since. It’s strange, but this last 12 months has been by far the toughest of my life, but I’m rock solid now in comparison to how I was then.

Looking back I know I came out of it, but at th time I seriously wondered if I would: was this the new reality? I hoped not. I craved what I had lost, that sense of brash and confident certainty. I lived on tippy-toes, in a way that is hard for me to comprehend now. Perhaps I make more of it than I should, and I guess people looking upon me saw little of this – I still had a way about me. But perhaps in that more vulnerable me there was also exposed a nicer me.

There have been many times I’ve wanted to go back and clear any misconceptions. Hey look, I might say, don’t take any notice of how I was. I’m not really like that. I’m like this, you know, hard edged, confident, decisive. This is me, not him.

Through that year I formed a strange relationship with a girl that ultimately went bad after nothing much really happened. She would chide me in the period she still cared for me. She wanted me to be more, to be the person I had been – the person she had never seen and didn’t know. She wanted me to live up to her ideals of me, which were really quite reasonable – and doubly hard then because I couldn’t. That was hard for me, because I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just be him still. If I had been before, why then not now? But it’s not as simple as that.

I wonder what might have happened had I been the man I was before. Would she have come with me? Or would she have failed to fall for me in the first place?

There, that’s the crux. My friend says I’m the nicest person he’s ever known on the basis of that year. I think I’m a decent man, an honest man, but I don’t doubt I was a nicer person then. He remembers how I was and I become that forever for him. For her she knows me only as that and nothing of what I have become since.

You see, it did pass. I left that job in pretty abject circumstances, but within a couple of months had found my mojo again. I question the value of it often, but I’ve never really lost it again since. The obvious question then is: is there an inverse relationship between ‘mojo’ – whatever that might be – and that good, gentle, kind ‘niceness’? If so, must it be the case? Can I not be that good person – nice is a word with unfortunate connotations these days – and still maintain that masculine sense of self?

It’s all in the mix this, the things I think about on a daily basis. It matters to me. I want my mojo, it’s like a security blanket, or maybe a shield no-one sees but you. Is it worth it though? The’s the subject for more consideration, and a discussion for another day.

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