Speaking of pivotal moments, the dream the other day had me recollecting a moment when I was about 22, long forgotten.
I was unemployed and for a brief period living with my grandmother in Niddrie. I got a call from my uncle, living in Sydney. He had a job for me if I was interested. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how interested I was in the position, which sounded pretty basic. I was interested in a break from the routine, and a trip to Sydney, where I had friends and family sounded pretty good.
My uncle was a sales rep in the paper industry. For many years he worked for Wiggins Teape, if I remember right. He knew everything about paper and get him started, he could bore you for hours. He was also a very decent, sensitive and caring man who took his duties as an uncle seriously.
So I went up to Sydney and stayed with my aunt in Watsons Bay and caught up with my friends and re-visited old haunts. In the middle of it, my uncle took me along to the place where the job was. It was a paper manufacturer of some description, and the salient thing I remember of that visit was one of the tasks they showed me that would be part of the job. You know how you get notepads held together with the red elasticised adhesive. Well, my job would be to apply that in liquid form, like goo, to dozens of these pads held in a brace. When it dried, the notepads would be separated and off they would go.
I didn’t take the job. I don’t know if I ever took the prospect seriously, but I’d like to think I did. I was horrified at the mundane nature of the work, though with hindsight I’m sure I would have progressed quickly off the shop floor. Did I have reservations about living in Sydney? I knew it well and liked it, and had the right job been on offer I’d have probably accepted it.
I don’t know what my uncle thought. These years later, I feel as if I let him down. I spent about a week in Sydney before coming back to Melbourne. I got a job soon after and it was a much better job than Sydney, so it worked out well in that regard.
It’s a bit of a sliding door moment, though. What if I had taken the job on offer – as everyone urged and expected me to do? (I remember my dad telling me off for wasting everyone’s time). Who knows what would have happened with my career? I was always going to end up a white-collar worker, but I expect those opportunities would’ve come.
As for the rest of it – settling in Sydney, meeting different people, maybe settling down properly with the love of my life – as I thought might happen in Melbourne a couple of times, but never did. What would my life be now? How much else would have changed? What connections might have been which never happened? What destinies would’ve changed? If the dominoes had tilted in another direction, what would the consequences be?
I’ll never know, though there may be a version of me out there in the multiverse who lived that life. I’m damned sure that there must be a wiser version of me somewhere.
As always, what could’ve happened but never did doesn’t really matter. It’s an interesting speculation, nonetheless.