This time last year, May 24 2013, it was raining too, grey miserable skies, cold and altogether uninspiring. It’s memorable because it was the day I walked away from one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It was an ending, and as it transpired it was a weekend of significant endings. I walked away, with a bit of a push, from a job I had done for nearly thirty years, and at this place for over five. It was an odd feeling last May 24 to walk away in the rain: it felt oddly appropriate that it should be raining on such a day. I thought it was the last day of my teaching career. Ah, me, pathetic fallacy is everywhere.
By the end of the weekend I had lost my job and my father. It was one of those ‘stranger than truth’ moments, compounded by the fact that my father died on my mother’s birthday. So this weekend, especially with the rain appearing once again, gives me moment to pause.
Life, as often happens, has shifted both dramatically and not at all. I remain my usual annoying, determined, mostly optimistic self. But it’s been a hard year. Being pushed from your job (through no real fault of your own, other than your face absolutely not fitting) and losing your last parent, seems a bit of an Oscar Wilde moment, to lose one is unfortunate, to lose both in a weekend might be seen as careless.
Being a certain age it has not been easy to find work again. But really, as I now settle into a long-term position once more, I realise how much my confidence had been damaged by my previous work-place. How difficult it was to feel as if I could still do my job, that some institution would find me valuable again. I know I am not alone in this. My sense of self worth had been eroded over time, to such an extent that you lose sight of what is real and what is made up. You lose control over your life, your sanity sits on a precipice and you are impossible to live with.
You shouldn’t even apply for work in this state as your own feelings of unworthiness seep through and you have no hope of finding work. Then you end up in a spiralling recursive falling to the bottom, the more you apply, the more you are rejected, the worse you feel, the more your confidence is eroded and you come to believe that those who initially pushed you out – who rejected you – were right after all. You are rubbish: you should be condemned.
In such instances you should retire from the world, if only for a while. This is when you must be kind to yourself. You cannot dwell in darkness, where resentment roils through your being and you make yourself sick with the unfairness of the world, of your own powerlessness.
We know the world isn’t fair, we know it everyday when we read the news, or go about our business. The rich in the UK are now twice as rich as they were five years ago, yet the poor are poorer. How can this be allowed? The recent Australian budget attacked the powerless in society, hiked up charges for ordinary people, but took little from the rich. All in a budget of austerity that the country doesn’t need, that won’t make a significant difference, all to erode the living standards of those at the bottom. How fair is that in the ‘Lucky Country’?
The worst unfairness is the sudden loss of family or friends. There is no chance to say goodbye, to make amends, to speak of love and affection. To say I was surprised by my father’s death is not quite true. He was in his 80’s, he’d had a heart condition for 40 years, he’d become frail. But for him to die in a car accident, not in his bed, was a shock. For him not to be there, on the other side of the world, pottering about in his riverfront house, drinking red wine, reading and machinating about his share portfolio took some time to accept.
But a year takes us many places, and a year in the wake of significant changes does shake you up. I do not look at the world with a stinging sense of failure, of strange relief to be away from truly odious and terrible people. I no longer plan their downfall, or even think of them much. I am no longer filled with rage and resentment, at those who wronged me, or even my father who had a knack for upsetting those nearest and supposedly dearest to him.
This morning I feel quite differently to this time last year. I have a sense of calm and looking forward to the future again. I give little time and no emotion to those I walked away from last year. I think of my father with fondness and remember the good bits, the sailing as kids, the wombat house, his happiness on my wedding day, his happiness with my step-mother, the wonderful Easters at Police Point – which now, most happily belongs to the kids and us. He died quickly and did not wither in a nursing home, which he would have hated. So perhaps he went as he wanted.
And perhaps, even though I did not leave work as I wanted, I am now where I need to be. I am free from that insanity, have a pleasant place to work, have my amazing family and excellent friends, and I think I’ve nearly got my mojo back. (Images courtesy Private Collection)
Tags: 'the lucky country', a year in the life, death, endings and beginnings, father loss, job loss, new beginnings, Oscar Wilde quote, redundant, retribution, unfairness of life, what a difference a year makes, work