Finding myself on the train to Melbourne

I was on the train earlier in the week standing there without a seat and listening to my music. My eyes wandered, and alighted upon a middle-aged man sitting by the window tapping at an open laptop. He had his back to me, and so I could clearly see the report he was working on. I glanced at it curiously, recalling many a time I had authored or worked on such a report in the past. I remembered how immersive an experience it could be – not just deadlines looming, but the sense of being engaged in something fundamental to the immediate future. For all of that not once did I work on a train to or from work.

I looked upon this man much as I do anyone I see working on the train – with a mix of disdain and pity. I’ve always had a clear division between my time and paid time. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I’d intrude into my time with some necessary paid work. Sometimes that’s the way it is, especially when you work for yourself. You do what you have to do, and fair enough.

What you realise though once you get into your time is that the things that consume you so at work have some immediate importance, but really don’t amount to much in the bigger picture. We rush around as if the world depended upon it. A sense of frantic urgency grips so many. Everything becomes vital.

It may be heresy to say, but unless you’re a brain surgeon, or something similar, it’s hardly ever the case.

That’s the main reason why working on the train seems so lame. What’s so important now that can’t wait half an hour? I’ve always figured that journey into work as my last gasp of free air before I enter the conditioned environment of the office. Why contaminate it when you don’t need to?

A couple of days later I was on the same train. This time I had a seat. It was rainy outside and the train was slow going. It slowly filled as we drew closer to the city, and while I listened to my music again I was more keenly aware of the people around me. Something had woken in me.

I felt a kind of hungry impatience. I considered the work I was doing and the job I was in and wondered how long I could contain myself. I felt as if I had put my mojo in a jar and set it aside. I had managed that for a while, reluctantly, but I realised it was not something I could do for too long, and understood how unhealthy it was to try – and with that realisation I felt it in me again surging like energised blood through my veins.

I had set myself to get the job done, and the first part of that was mastering it. I had been head down, bum up doing that. That was my go. That attentiveness and concentration had a naturally dimming affect upon my mojo (for want of a better word), as if that energy had been re-focussed on the task of learning. That was acceptable, but at the same time I had made the conscious effort to adapt myself to a role much diminished from what I have done in the past.

There’s a necessary humility in that. Just because you’ve done more, or capable of doing more, does not mean you deserve more. Being more capable does not make you a better person. I’m not better than my circumstances, but I can hope to better my circumstances. And so to knuckle down was a necessary discipline – for a while. It was a stepping stone, and a fair cop if it meant I could survive another day. Unfortunately as part of that I was made to feel that I had fallen, that I was a nothing, a pawn, a minion. Part of that is structural, which I’ll write about another time, but the other part was personal – I was put in my place intentionally.

I’m full of energy still, and ideas, and ambition. I feel mighty still, though with little opportunity to show it. It’s been suppressed though, and yesterday in the train I seethed with it. No more, I thought. I will be myself – strong, confident, determined, fearless. It’s natural for me to strive, to have ideas, to want to do more, and to break out of the conventions that restrict personality and creativity. What that means is doing what I think is right and true, rather than limiting myself to the narrow confines of the role designated me.

What this boiled down to was self expression. To strive for more is a form of that. You have things inside that must be let out. They are who you are. They define what you believe and how you think, your attitudes and beliefs. There’s different degrees of this, which I know too well in my present job. Some people have a stronger, better articulated sense of self than others; and it takes people in different directions, according to what that self is. It’s the great thing in life – to find yourself as the cliche goes. The pity of it that many never do, or even begin to look.

As I sat there on the train I was aware of the women around me. That’s often the case, but it was keener this time. I looked beyond them as cut-outs arrayed about me. I wondered at them, who they were, what they were thinking about. Ultimately I saw their sexual selves.

There’s an exuberance about sexuality when its switched on. You feel it, and the world about seems more vibrant, and you more sensitive to it. That’s how it was for me. There was a swagger to my step.

These things are not unrelated. I’ve read before how high sex drive and alpha personalities are concurrent more often than not. There’s good reason for that, as they come from the same source. Restless energy and drive and curiosity, but ultimately expression too. This is my self. Sex as self-actualisation.

In every person I think there are at least two people, quite different perhaps, but often sharing common traits. I’ve written many a time about the screen characters I’m drawn to innately because they correspond to different aspects of myself – characters as disparate as Don Draper and Hank Moody. I’ve been watching Jack Irish lately and enjoying it, particularly how it portrays Melbourne (and the Melbourne I know and love so well). I like Jack too, though we share little other than a similar winter wardrobe, and a need for independence. He was in me when I observed the man working on the laptop in the train earlier in the week.

On Friday there was some other self uppermost. It’s curious. There is a central you, a real you, and these other selves, which are representations of different aspects of that. I see now that in me there are two prime archetypes – the restless loner, the seeker who craves independence and space and refuses convention; the other side is the striving man who seeks to compete in the world of men and to surpass it. He’s competitive and sometimes cavalier, but driven too.

One of me would be happy living quietly on my patch of earth somewhere tending to my soul and the things vital to it – art and travel and good food and inquiry. The other me delights in the trappings of the race, a nice suit, a challenging job, good wine and vibrant women – and something to overcome. He delights in doing things because they can be done.

Between those reference points is me. It sounds complex, but I’m sure this is quite common. I have no complaints. It makes for an interesting life. And I’m curious which side of me will lead me where.

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