Wise words

I always think that hot weather in Melbourne has a different nature to hot weather in other parts of the world. A classically hot day in Melbourne is a heavy thing. It sits upon the landscape pressing it down. When you’re a part of that landscape you feel it keenly. It has a sharp and incessant quality. Shadows are clearly defined, and the sun is as painted in the corner of the sky, ever shining, ever beaming like a heat ray. It seems inescapable and static. The only difference is when the north wind blows, which is wicked and hot; and those moments of relief when the weather finally breaks.

I experienced the hot Melbourne weather standing at the bus stop in Frankston yesterday waiting to be picked up. I watched the comings and goings: the buses stopping and starting up again, the locals passing by or entering into the station concourse, some with their shirts off, and others waiting, like I, to be collected. I was the odd man out, not just in the heat, but in Frankston in general, dressed in a suit and with a silk tie with scarlet flowers on it.

I was picked up by a friend and we drove the short distance to the chapel where the funeral of my friend’s father was about to commence. On the way we chatted, catching up on old news. It was cool in the car with the air-con going full blast. Driving down the beach road we looked out over the beach and the distant escarpment at Mt Martha, both of us commenting on how idyllic it was. It’s like a painted scene, I said, the colours rich and deep, the sea blue, the sand a rich beige, and the trees atop the escarpment a dusty green. Later it reminded me of something Rupert Bunny might have painted, a timeless, eternal landscape where ladies might once have promenaded with parasols in their hands, while today yachts scud across the water and boys in board shorts cavort.

The chapel was full. Later I was told they had double the crowd expected. The overflow spilled into another room where the service could be watched by video link. We stood at the back of the room overlooking the seated heads. It was an elegant scene, different from the sterile chapels I’ve attended in the past. It was an old house with high ceilings. A modern chandelier dangled brass orbs. A row of windows let in the light from outside. Across the road and through the trees was the beach.

As funerals go it was a good funeral. I had my own memories of my mate’s dad, a kind and considerate man with a spark of wit. He had always seemed so robust. In my memory I saw as a kind of Harry Andrews type, salt of the earth, though with a bit more levity. Whatever my thoughts of him were it was clear he was held in great esteem by very many. My opinion of him seemed validated by the crowd: he was a man of quality.

I listened as the celebrant gave the conventional eulogy, before one by one his sons got up to share their memories. This was incredibly moving. It was clear he was a much loved father. The memories shared were vivid, sometimes funny, and often poignant. Their grief was articulated in different voices, and at times it threatened to overcome them.

It’s funny, I felt glad to be there to witness. It was real and true. It was sad that he was gone, but wonderful he had existed. I felt a kind of pride at being part of the human race he had been part of. But then I couldn’t help but feel envy too. I listened to the stories of these grieving sons and wondered what I could say on behalf of my own father. I had nothing to compare, not even the smallest thing. Once more I felt a sense of being deprived. How might it have been had I a father like that? I wished I could feel so deeply, could love so much – and yet, timely as it was, when I contacted my father by SMS the other day to tell him I had to record him as a next of kin I didn’t even receive an acknowledgement. That bus has long departed.

We ended up at the Dava hotel next door. You relax. It’s a different vibe, the tie is loosened. It’s an open bar and you share a cold beer with people you haven’t seen for years. The stories flow, memories are recalled. I had forgotten some, but remembering them again they seemed just like yesterday. How does time fly? Was that really twenty years ago? There seems something strange and wonderful about it. You look around. One of your friends is unchanged. You yourself are little different. But others are older, greyer, bigger. Men now, not boys, but when did that happen?

Here we are in a funeral though. If that was behind us, then ahead was this. I stood in the chapel thinking that I will be here again sometime, and one of my friends I share a beer with today might be in the casket – and one day it will be me. But that’s in the future, now is remembrance.

It’s the nature of funerals that while it is a sad occasion we celebrate by remembering. The connections that have dissolved or disconnected by time and distance in that brief period become real again. Moments are shared and recalled, laughter blossoms, stories are told.

I caught up with my mates younger brother, a lovely, knockabout bloke (they’re all lovely, a great family). He had struggled in giving his eulogy. When I shook his hand after the service he was still grief stricken. Now, at the reception, we shook hands again and with a smile said “as soon as I saw you H I had to laugh, you remember…” and off he went recalling a moment I had forgotten altogether (from my mates wedding) that I remembered again and laughed with him. Fancy that, we thought.

I threaded through the crowd, catching up with the eldest son, and then my mates mum, while being introduced to others. Outside the sun blazed down. The sea could be seen from the upstairs bar where we stood. As it had in the chapel the air-con struggled.

At the end I felt enlarged inside. I had awareness. Life was bigger than I remembered and it ends with death. It had boundaries, but the boundaries gave it meaning. I had commented to one of the sons he must be proud at the turn out and the testament it was for his father. He told me his father lived by the precept in 7 Habits of Effective Men – live like you want be remembered at your funeral. Yes, I thought, wise words – but what would people remember of me?


Age irrelevant

Earlier this week there was a lively speculation about my age. One woman thought I might be 36, which took me by great surprise. When she conferred with one of the more sober members of the team he gave me the once over and suggested mid to late thirties. I’ve always looked more youthful than my age, and have excellent skin, but I was flabbergasted nonetheless. What about my beard? I asked. I grew a beard about eight weeks ago and most of it is grey and, I think, makes me look a good 4-5 years older. Nup, I was told, they factored that in.

The discussion went on with every Tom, Dick and Harry having a crack at it, as if I was somehow the human equivalent of the guess how many jellybeans in the jar competition. The highest number nominated was 45, which was an outlier. Otherwise the average range was in the late thirties.

At first I was chuffed. Then I was worried. In my ever active imagination I suddenly understood what a false impression I might be giving people. I’m always flirting, and in good faith, ignorant to now that the receptive woman facing me might be under the impression I was good fifteen years younger than my true age. You might think that’s a good thing being so well preserved, etc, except come the moment when I have to ‘fess up to the truth. That could be a deal breaker – but then, I probably am overthinking it.

It’s a cliché, but age is just a number, and a state of mind. Many a time I’ve sat on the train and looked at my fellow commuters. You wonder sometimes where they’ve come from, what their story is. Sometimes you see someone worn down by life and showing. Their eyes are flat, they move sluggishly. You know they’re younger than they look, but the truth is they’re older than their years.

When I was younger I had an entirely different perspective on age. Fifty seemed an eternity away, and someone that age obviously quite old. I wondered sometimes what it was like, and occasionally felt a little sad. Then one day I hit fifty myself and nothing much was different, just as it hadn’t been different much in the preceding thirty years. My body might have aged – though clearly not as much as it might have – but for all intents and purposes my mentality was little different to when I was heading out into the wide world.

Maybe I’m more mature now, certainly I’m more worldly, and maybe even a little wise in places, but who I am is pretty much the same, as are my attitudes and appetites. If I’ve changed at all it is only in degree, the fundamental me remains.

As it happens this was brought home to pretty keenly this morning on the way to work. Being Friday I had a bit more of a skip to my step. It’s Melbourne Cup day Tuesday, plus I’ve taken Monday off, and so I walk out the door tonight with a four day break. I was well disposed.

I caught my usual train and took the usual route from Flinders street through the arcades and laneways to work. On the way I stopped off a little café in the middle one such arcade. I indulge myself Fridays – you need an occasional indulgence – and so I ordered the special: a coffee and pastry for $6.50. I watched as they prepared my order, a young Italian Australian and a young Asian Australian. They were bright and energetic. About us people buzzed around on their way to work, while others stopped as I had to order something. Ciao, we exchanged, as I took my order and departed.

It was one of those mornings when I had had a greater sensual awareness of the whole world about me. Your senses seem keener, and everything seemed fresh again. There’s a feeling of youthfulness because everything appears new again. I’ve experienced this hundreds, maybe thousands of days in my life, all the way through. It seems a connecting thread, from who I was before to who I am now. Everything felt new, but it was so familiar also.

When you feel things so rawly your sensations feel a slow sizzle, and for someone like me, a world of possibility yawns open. I confess I feel that most particularly when it comes to women. I walked through those arcades and laneways and felt something like I first did when I was just a teenager. There’s been a lifetime of experience in between, but the simple sense of it is no different – which I’m grateful for. My eyes went to every woman that came my way. For every one of them I felt infinite possibilities. I was receptive, open, a sponge soaking up every sensual variable, alert to every prospect. There is raw desire as part of that, but it is more sophisticated too.

What a world this is, I think. How lucky am I? I am appreciative that I can experience this, glad that I have the fortunate capacity to feel the full depth of it. I feel that strong sensual tug, like a tide that has awoken in me, but it is tempered by knowledge. As much as I want to feel and experience, I want to understand. I want to conquer their bodies, but I want to look in their eyes too and see the endless worlds they inhabit; want to lean in with my eyes closed and breathe deep of their scent. There’s a feeling like art, an appreciation of simple things that generally you disregard – the line of things, the sense of a cohesive whole, the very mystery of being and creation. You want to share that, and in sharing it, celebrate it.

It’s something beyond the number of years you’ve been on earth. It’s something outside your physical self. It’s the spark of something individual and unique, a spirit that has always been and rouses so often.

I guess I’ll feel that way till the day comes when the spirit remains willing, but the body can no longer follow.

Feeling my age

It’s been a unhealthy year for lots of Victorians. The flu season has been just about the worst ever, with over a hundred now having died from it. There have been lot of coughing, sniffling workers, and a lot of sick days. Looking about me there’s no-one who sits in my vicinity who hasn’t suffered, and just about everyone among my friends too.

By comparison I’ve been pretty good, which is a surprise as I start from a back-mark because of my chest. I had one day feeling pretty crook, and a few days otherwise significantly less than 100%, but nothing debilitating, touch wood. I’ve soldiered on pretty well, and in theory the worst should be behind us.

All that sounds good, except that for the last month I’ve been feeling generally unhealthy. Sometimes you feel bursting with health and energy. Most of the time you feel a level of health which is unremarkable because it tracks the middle ground. There are times when you’ll pick up an infection or virus and your health will dip before, having mended, you return to an unremarkable level. And there are times when there is no particular ailment but you feel generally off. That’s been me. Not bad enough to see a doc or take time off or indeed do anything much different, but sufficiently poor that energy comes hard and the little bits and pieces add up to a feeling of being run down.

It’s got to the point that I figure I need to do something about it. In reality there is little I can do – perhaps eat more healthily, exercise more, sleep better. I’ve made an effort to eat more sensibly and I’ve upped my exercise regime. Sleep is not really an issue – I always sleep well, though perhaps I could sleep longer.

I’ve started to think about it more too because some of the niggles are distinct things I know won’t go away, and potentially could become worse unless I do something about it. I reckon I’ve had a very low-level cold for the last 6 months. I don’t notice it most of the time, except for when I get to bed and my sinus feel half blocked. Sometimes it flares up – as it has now – into sniffles, or I will start coughing again, which I have been lately. In fact there have been times lately when I’ve felt slightly short of breath because of congestion in my chest.

Then there’s my foot. The DVT I had means I’m meant to be on permanent medication (which mostly I can’t afford to buy). It means that each day my left calf will swell, and with that my foot. It’s got to the point that it’s become painful, and potentially causing other issues.

The problem is my left shoe is not big enough for my foot when it swells. My little toe and left edge of my foot is calloused from rubbing up against the size of the shoe. By the end of the day my foot feels tightly bound, and come the evening – even with shoes off – my foot aches, the sole feels as made of small, delicate bones, and occasionally I’ll suffer from shooting pains.

I think the solution is that I need new shoes, and probably custom made shoes to account for the difference in size between my feet. Of course, I can’t afford that.

And when I get up in the morning both feet feel tender, and my Achilles foreshortened.

Some of this is just getting older. I have my situations, but I’m still relatively fit. I regularly exercise and average about 9,000 steps a day. I’m lucky enough to still look years younger than my age. It all catches up on you though, and I reckon there are some things I just have to get used to. There are some things I can do something about though.

Comes a time in your life when you realise that you can’t play as fast and loose with your health as you did before. That time is now for me, and I have to commit to repairing and looking after myself more earnestly, as much as I can.

Family relations

I caught up with my younger nephew for lunch last week. I’d seen him a couple of months before when we went to the footy together, and in the time between he seems to have grown more. He’s 16 and about 6’3”, with the frame of someone who will grow a few more inches yet and fill out into a powerful physique. Right now he is very lean, as I was his age, and in fact everyone says he looks like me, though I don’t see it completely. He’s a lovely, gentle, sensitive kid, but he’s also had issues with his self-confidence.

We’ve always been close. I love his sensitivity, which is a greatly under-appreciated quality. I guess I appreciate having someone to care about too, and want to guide and support him as much as I can.

I’m an important person for him, I think. His father died a few years ago, but even before that he was absent, living in England. There are no male figures in his life but me, and at times it’s been hard for him without someone to lean on. He basks in my affection, and draws strength from it. I am family, but remote and disaffected from his mother, and it would be simple for me to fade away – not that I ever would. That I choose to remain in contact and speak intimately with him is a form of reassurance, proof that I see something in him worthy of love.

We had a pizza each in the Emporium, my shout, while I asked him questions about school and what he wants to do next, his friends and potential love interests. He was quite open with me, I think because these are conversations he can’t – or won’t – have with anyone else. I skirted any questions relating to his mother or grandfather, not really interested in any case, while in reply he asked questions of me about work, and what I wanted to be when I was growing up. Afterwards we went for a walk.

It felt strange in a way. He will grow into an impressive looking man, and even now he’s well ahead of the curve – Donna says she sees my nephews much as she did William and Harry growing up (my other nephew is tall and good looking also, though less so, and has done some casual modelling). He is taller than me now, though I’m still much the bigger, and beside him grizzled, and even wise. I feel older about him, and remember that the years are ticking. I realise how it must be as a parent and the feeling of passing things on. There’s no sense of loss in that, rather extending something which you already possess.

That night, or the night after, I dreamt of his mother. It’s been a year since I’ve spoken to my sister, and haven’t missed her at all. We always had a difficult relationship, and after we broke I acknowledged that I had never liked her. It was her doing – she took offence at an honest answer I gave to a question from her. She said she wanted an honest answer, but really what she wanted was an answer that confirmed what she hoped for. I had done that in the months before, but when I failed to on this occasion she took offence. She sent a bunch of very nasty SMS to me, and that was that. I haven’t missed dealing with her difficult personality.

I hadn’t dreamt of her once either, which was significant. I missed the kids, but she was out of sight and out of mind. Meeting with my nephew brought her back to me, though the dream was innocuous.

Then yesterday I returned home from work to find an interesting envelope in my letter box. Mail has become relatively rare these days, and personal mail almost non-existent. The envelope was coloured and across the front of it in fancy ink and script was my name and address. I opened it inside the house and found in it an invitation my aunties 70th birthday in December.

I’ll go, and I’ll be happy to go, and look forward in particular to see my cousins. But it also means that I’ll encounter my sister. I suppose it had to happen sometime, but really I would have been happy to put it off permanently. I’ll be civil and polite, I’ll happily break bread with her, but no more than that. There are family things I have been excluded from, and I’ve had to make separate arrangements in its stead. I’m not someone who holds grudges, but nor am I someone who will sweep things under the carpet. Even if my sister knows she has done wrong there is zero possibility of her apologising, or even admitting to it – my sister is one of those people who have never been wrong. Under those circumstances I am unwilling to return to a phony and convenient family arrangement.

It should be an interesting night, but I’ll have Donna there to lend support.

Expanding and contracting

One of the many things that confound me today is the apparent need for so many to say anything just to be saying something. What I’m referring to is the trivial, pointless and occasionally childish intercourse between people who might in another circumstance know better. It’s most prolific on the internet, and particularly in internet forums, where contributors dash off a line or two between thinking and encourage others in so doing. It’s a strange, mental regression which I have little patience with. Words are precious, why waste them? Who hasn’t had to wade through pages of nonsense that might have seemed clever at the time, but in retrospect is nothing more than inane? The jewels, the hard information and genuine wit are sparse and deeply buried.

I am pre-disposed to such an opinion. By disposition, I’m more laconic than most and have become more so as the years pass by. I haven’t always been completely so, and understand the tendency to be garrulous sometimes. When you’re younger, when you’re exposed to the full scope of life for the first time, it bubbles over in you and demands urgent expression. I get that, and there is something endearing about it, but my experience is that it pales over time, and in my case at least, leads one to more sardonic ways.

In saying this I run the risk of sounding like a curmudgeonly old man, which I can’t rule out. I grew up being told that if you don’t have anything worth saying then don’t say anything. I haven’t always abided by that, but on the occasions I haven’t I generally regretted it not long after. I always knew when I was being stupid, and it caused no end of disappointment. These days if I err, it’s on the side of silence – except when I get grumpy, when I can be very profuse and eloquent, and occasionally profane (and which is enjoyable).

I’m aware also that in crucial ways I am different from most people. I’ve never sought the kind of acknowledgement that some conversation invites. I have no need of validation, and if someone agrees or disagrees is, in general, a matter of indifference. Of course it’s a different story with people close to me, but to the world, in general, it’s very true.

What it boils down to is that I have no need to say anything unless to request something, share something meaningful, express an opinion I think worthwhile – or to be courteous. Perhaps I can add to that the need often simply to get something external from the internal, but little of that is nonsense. You might argue, but most of this blog falls into that category.

This becomes relevant not just as a general observation, which is what prompted this post, but also in my recent decision to be ‘more charming’.

That decision was based on the notion of taking things down a notch or two, but after writing it last week I had to stop to think what it actually meant, and then my personal history with it.

Firstly, my personal definition of being charming equated to not much more than being more expansive. I can be clipped, and am known to be direct. There are occasions when I change that up, but that’s generally limited to my friends, or when I’ve found someone to flirt with. As much as anything I found I had no interest in being charming anymore. Whose opinion was so important that it mattered? Too few.

Yet I have made a decision to let things go and chill more and to indulge in whimsy and charm. For me, that’s no more than being expansive – speaking aloud the things that I might otherwise simply think.

There was an example the other day when I was telling a colleague in a different department how I was the sole remaining member of the group I had been part of. I told her that I was like the last of the Beatles, likening myself to Ringo Starr, though much preferring to be John because he was much cooler, but not an option now that he has so long departed. It came out naturally and she looked at me and laughed.

There was a time when I was like that all the time, and a thousand times over. It was when I was younger and discovering the myriad delights of being a young, intelligent, curious, healthy and virile male. How good was this? I could go on all day, riffing – quite eloquently, I think – about anything that came to mind. I had recently discovered the beauty of words and my mouth was full of them, and I used them well. It got so that people around me would smile and laugh, and lead some to suggest I should be on the radio, or even have my own TV show.

Looking back now it seems a novelty that wore off by the time I was 30. I still had the words, but the wonder faded, life happened, and I became less inclined to share – to be expansive. With that the open personality I was slowly closed, though never completely. Though I was wary of showing it, I was a sensitive soul who believed in vulnerability – it’s where life flourishes. I grew harder though too, more measured and less spontaneous. Occasionally I would indulge in those larks showing off how clever I was, but less frequently, and when I did it was entirely for my own benefit. It was rare I sought to impress anyone unless I was attracted to her. (And for balance, my personality was sufficiently bright to be compared to George Clooney just a few years ago).

That’s how it has become, compacted, I imagine, by years of struggle and strain. I’m tough as old leather and I think give something of that out. I’m respected and maybe even admired, but not understood (there are people I work with who think me a lovely, kind person, it must be said). I banter, sometimes I tease, but end of day I’m a set of eyes that miss little and say little besides something to the point or some throwaway wit.

I think it will be good for me to be more expansive. It’s probably what I need. It brings colour back into my self – but I’m never going to say something just to be heard. If I have so many words in my life then they must have value, and if not value, then wit. That’ll do me.

Great winds…

About 18 months ago I broke with one of my oldest and closest friends. It was not an easy decision, but it was a long time coming. It came as a shock to my friend though, I think.

It still makes me sad, sometimes, and I still care for him. You can’t just switch off years of friendship and memories like that, and there were many splendid memories. We travelled quite a lot together and had adventures abroad, and at home too. We had much in common – an independent spirit, a love for the good life, a sense of adventure, ambition, hunger and intellect. Throughout all of that, there were some cracking times and a lot of deep and meaningful conversations. Though both of us are innately competitive, there were a surprising number of tender moments. We got each other – by and large – on a deeper level.

That’s why he became my friend. I found in him a lot of traits which are conventionally attractive, and he has conventional admirers because of them. Generally, I’m not much interested in the conventional stuff because very often it tends to be more shallow. What I admired was the man inside. At his best he was a warm, incredibly sensitive man with a generous, giving nature. For many years, and through lots of ups and downs, he was a great friend to me.

I’ve given him a fair boost, and the obvious question is if he is all these things then why are you no longer friends? (And bear in mind, there are two sides to every story – this is mine).

Let’s face it, all of us have more than one person inside us. He used to complain about how blunt I was sometimes, used to complain about my strong personality and attitude. All fair calls.

In my friend there lived this lovely person, and side by side with him was another person – selfish, terribly self-absorbed, often petulant and precious, driven by ego and status – and surprisingly insensitive and rude occasionally. I hated that side of him. I thought it was a common, low-rent personality that did no credit to the friend I knew and loved.

This character was always in him, but early days only made a fleeting appearance. As the years went by, as challenges crested and then riches came, this character became more present. It was not helped that life had taken him away from his old friends and the naturally democratising influence of us. You know what it’s like, when a friend starts talking shit you tell them, and soon enough they pull their head in. We were not there anymore to do that, and in our place was a transient number of acquaintances willing to flatter and admire him for his conventional qualities. He was always receptive to flattery, and it turned him from his more individual gifts that only few of us knew to admire, to the more prosaic but superficial qualities the crowd knew him for. Still, for much of this period he remained a great guy to be around, and dear friend for much of it.

In the last couple of years, the balance changed. Geography meant we hardly saw each other. When we did mostly it was by email and phone. He remained a generous friend, but more frequently he was harsh and inconsiderate. At times I thought I sensed disdain, though at other times he was charming. Often I thought I had only to be out of sight for him to forget about me. By and large, I felt discounted and disregarded.

Now this coincides with a tough time in my life and I was probably more sensitive than I would normally be. I factor in some fragility, but at the same time if I am, then he should have to – and that was part of the issue. I’d felt some disquiet for a while, and we’d clashed before, and smoothed things over. It wasn’t great. To help me out (helping him) he would put some paid work my way occasionally, but more and more there was an attitude – I felt – of master and servant. I was his mate, I saw myself doing him a favour, the money was secondary and I didn’t appreciate being ordered around so rudely. Then he demanded I do something I wasn’t able to and he became nasty and personal, as he was wont to do. I went away and thought about that.

There’s a great song by Keith Richards that sums up my general state of mind at the time – You Don’t Move Me Anymore. A tipping point had been reached. It was harder knowing him than not knowing him. I had precious little energy, precious little belief, and what I had he chipped away at. The time had come to move on. I went to him and told him, I’ve had enough. That was that.

Towards the end of last year, I contacted him again. It had weighed on me that he might think I was bitter or angry towards him. I’m not really that type, but I was concerned he might think that. I wanted him to know that I thought well of him. We’d had great times, and I didn’t forget that. I was grateful and appreciative, it was just that we’d moved in different directions. It happens. Happily, he accepted in the spirit and with the grace it was intended. I was relieved.

These days I dream about him every 6-8 weeks, and he crosses my mind or comes up in conversation sometimes. In truth, our lives had become so separate that there wasn’t a huge wrench. Sometimes I feel sad, but not regret. It’s unfortunate, but I mourn a friend I lost years before we parted.

I dreamt about him again last night, which has prompted me to write today. In the dream last time it was as if we still friends and at our best. I felt sad after that. Last night we met again in a group situation having made this break. It’s a bit awkward, but civil, and then something happens to break the ice and it’s as if nothing ever changed.

I have these dreams and it makes me reflect on the ebbs and flows of life. It’s a dynamic thing. You think sometimes that something is forever, but then a year or two later it is of the past. There’s good in this, growth and regeneration, but there’s inevitable sorrow on occasion as you let go of things that were precious to you. I don’t know what to think of it sometimes, but at the end of the day, it just is. It reminds me of a Sioux proverb I heard once read:

“Sometimes I go about pitying myself. And all the while I am being carried on great winds across the sky.”

It’s a proverb that always gave me solace. I can only hope that it’s true, but I’ll only know in the fullness of time. In the meantime, I hope he’s well and, even more, hope he’s found a way back to himself.

Hail the individual

Was walking to work this morning when I passed going the other way a tall, slender, stylishly dressed woman. She was about 32, 33, and what I would call handsome, rather than pretty. It was the strong, confident face of someone who has experienced life and drunk it in. It would not be unusual for me to appreciate a woman like that as we passed by, but what really caught my eye on this occasion was her hair.
She had beautiful hair. It was dark, and fell to just below her shoulder, though ‘fell’ is the incorrect verb. Her hair was gently kinked and had an airy quality that immediately put me in mind of the seventies. It was an emanation, a halo of beautiful hair that was impossible to miss. It was a statement in itself, of style certainly, and certainly of individuality.
I felt a thrill just seeing her hair. You go, girl, I thought. I admired such strident independence. She was someone with her own mind, her own view of the world, her own unique way of expressing herself. I wanted to know her, but at the same wished their were more people with such irrepressible individuality.
I really think it boils down to that in the end. There’s no point in being anyone other than yourself all the way through. What joy is there in compromising on your individuality? The highest attainment of selfhood is to understand and embrace that individuality and express it without compunction.
I think there is a real practical benefit of this. Society is such that often we feel obliged to conform to norms which are ultimately quite arbitrary, and often no more than temporary.
That’s especially true within a work environment. We become a part of an explicit hierarchy. We have defined roles and responsibilities. Most of the duties we perform are clearly prescribed, and we must comply with office rules and regulations. We are squeezed on every side.
One of the reasons I managed to climb the ladder relatively quickly is because I rejected much of that. I always had a strong sense of self, had the confidence to speak my mind more often than not, on top of which I’ve always been stubborn. All the same, I’d never have got away with it if I couldn’t deliver.
Still, you have to play by the rules, even if you might stretch them a bit.
I reckon most major advances come from someone having the balls to defy convention. That’s true at work, and I think it’s true in history. I reckon we should celebrate individuality more, and in fact, encourage it.
If nothing else it’s liberating to see someone so completely themselves.