I Am, I Do, I Know

As Good As Can Be Expected

My Dad passed away two weeks ago.

People keep asking me how I’m going, as though they’re half expecting me to break in front of them.

I’m glad they ask.

I’ve realised it’s much nicer than not being asked.

How am I going?

I’m not sure.

Mostly I say, ‘as good as can be expected.’

I suppose that is true.

I’m not sure what the expectation is when you lose one of the most important, pivotal, beloved people in your life, but I feel like I’m doing as good as I can be – I’m waking up, and showering, and eating, and caring for my son, and driving my car, and running errands, and seeing family and friends, and cooking, and cleaning, and checking emails, and making phone calls, and planning, and doing all the little things people do that fill their days.

Some people don’t know what to say, which I somewhat understand, but here’s something else I’ve realised; it’s not that hard to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I hope you are doing as good as can be expected’.

I have been showered in support, and love, and thoughts, and I feel them, wrapped around me. I am so appreciative of every single one of them.

But my Dad has died.

He’s gone.

And my life is forever changed.

Everything is kind of the same, but paradoxically, absolutely nothing is the same.

Nothing will be the way it used to be, ever again.

I am mostly fine, except for when I am not. I am mostly ok, except for when I am not.

Sometimes it slowly creeps up on me, like a looming dread in the pit of my stomach, and sometimes it hits me, bang out of nowhere, and I catch myself clutching my breath.

I’m as good as can be expected, but I am angry.

I’ve got a simmering rage inside me that I’m containing, but boy does it bubble. I’ve had to remind myself, every day, to ‘let it go’, that ‘it’s not worth it’, to ‘calm down’.

I’m as good as can be expected, but I feel robbed.

Robbed that Dad didn’t get enough time, that I didn’t get enough time, that we all didn’t get enough time. Robbed for what he’ll miss, for what I’ll miss, for what we’ll all miss.

It’s true that we don’t know our own strength until we need to; people have commended me for mine, which is lovely, but also slightly odd.

I’m ‘strong’ because being anything less seems like a disservice to Dad; to his honour, and legacy. I’m ‘strong’ because I have a child to raise, and a family to love, and being anything less seems like a disservice to them.

People see strength as ‘getting on with it’ – helping organise a funeral, and saying a eulogy without falling apart, and running yourself into the ground with errands, and doing as good as can be expected, and they say, ‘Good on her, look how strong she is,’ like you’re a show dog at a competition.

That is not strength.

That is autopilot, running on adrenalin.

Do you want to know what strength is?

Strength is not snapping someone’s neck in rage.

Strength is not losing your shit at someone else’s incompetence.

Strength is repeating the same story, over and over, to sympathising guests, when all you want to do is lie down in bed with the doona well above your head.

Strength is choosing not to be negative; choosing life, and beauty, and adventure, and wonder.

My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t give me the right to act like a dick.

So I am being as strong as I can, in the way I know how: by not being an arsehole. The world has enough of those.

Death evokes all sorts of feelings and reactions in people, and they’re all ok. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, or empathise. For the most part, people use it as an opportunity to think about themselves. At the centre of their own universe, they think of how death affects them. I’ve discovered, in this fortnight that feels like a year, who is really there for me, and who is not, who my true friends are, and who are just people I know.

There’s one small thing I’ve found exceptionally difficult: how quickly ‘is’ and ‘are’ become ‘was’ and ‘were’.

The instant change in tense is jarring.

And, there’s another thing: how the world just keeps spinning.

My Dad may have died, but that doesn’t mean the world stops.

I get that.

That is the way it should be.

It’s just a little unnerving, how everything goes on, swiftly, at full tilt.

It’s all very surreal; that this has happened, that this is life now.

I’m not convinced that anyone can truly know what it feels like to lose a parent, until they have lost one. And the well-wishes are pleasant, and the thoughts are kindly, but the advice is inordinate and borders on offensive. You either know, or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re fortunate.

I’ve unwillingly become part of a club I don’t really want to be in but the other people are lovely, and they get it, and the biscuits are nice.

I’ve discovered there’s no real preparation for losing a loved one; whether it strikes you out of nowhere or you have a long lead-time – there’s no difference whatsoever. There’s only here or gone and until they are gone, they are here.

Predominantly, I understand there’s no right or wrong way to go about any of it. Being close to my family and friends has helped me, but some people might choose to shut off. I know that people mean well – and it’s better having people mean well than not having people at all. I recognise that, like with anything in life, there’s constant challenges and choices, and I get to choose my choices, and own them too. I acknowledge that grief is a bit like a wave, and I think I’ll be buoyed forever…

but I also know that I’ll still laugh

and love

and soar

and that the thirty-two years I got were better than thirty, or twenty-five, or ten, or none at all

and that so much of who I am is because of him.

So much. Of who I am. Is because. Of him.

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I See

That Sky…

That’s the thing about Far North Queensland.

The sky.

That big, beautiful, magical expanse of sky.

Far North Queensland Sky

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I Know, I Write

Why Generation Y Won’t – And Shouldn’t – Settle

Previously published in Trespass Magazine

I once read the opening of one of those ‘let’s bash Gen Y’ articles and it started something like this: ‘They’re hip, smart-talking, brash and sometimes seem to suffer from an overdose of self-esteem. And if there’s a generalisation to be made about young Generation Y people, it’s that they don’t like waiting. With an iPhone in one hand and soy latte in the other (not to mention the iPod earphones surgically attached to ears) they are ambitious, demanding and apparently born to rule. Right now!’

I nearly fell off my seat. Excluding the surgically attached iPod earphones, everything else mentioned seemed to fit the bill; I think I’m hip (without intentionally intending to be so, of course), I certainly don’t lack self-esteem, I can be brash and actually prefer to get straight to the point, and I definitely don’t like waiting. I have an iPhone, however I tend to prefer long macchiatos over soy lattes. I’m incredibly ambitious, fairly demanding at times, and love the idea of ruling the world.

I’m Sandi. And I’m from Generation Y.

Without a doubt, we are the most complex generation ever. We lead a life of contrasts and contradictions. We are avid supporters of the environment and recycling, but still buy ‘Balance’ and ‘Fiji’ water with gusto. We support human rights, but would have no problem flattening a fool in a moment of road rage. We’re overscheduled and gadget-ed up to the nines, but constantly crave a quiet holiday in an idyllic location. We reject multi-nationals but are the most brand conscious generation ever. We are the most educated generation yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, but will job hop as much as we bed hop. We’re either running at full pace, or strolling along.

For many Gen Ys, there is no such thing as a weekday or a weekend. There are just days. Very few of us have the kind of careers that end at 5pm on a Friday. There is always work to take home. Thinking to be done. Or work to slot in with post-graduate study. We elect to have random days off – like a Tuesday, because we wake up in the morning and see the sun shining and decide it’s the perfect day to hit the beach. We have our fingers in many pies, and as a result, don’t get too many ‘nothing’ days. But stimulation? Gratification? We’re never out of it.

Friendships, for a Gen Y, are as important as family. Television shows like Friends, Sex and the City and Seinfeld may not have featured characters from our generation, but they did feature one common lesson; family sometimes won’t be there, but friends always will. Being the generation with the most experience in family breakdowns, is it any wonder we are more peer orientated?

My family is, by far, the most important thing in my life. It’s just that we, the Gen Y crew, view our family as a combination of flesh-and-blood actual family and friends. Where other generations have always separated the two, my generation combines them. Your friends, by default or choice, become a part of your family.

Generation Y is many things – educated, tech-savvy, ambitious – but there are many things we are not – selfish, thoughtless, inconsiderate, unreliable.

I recently read a ‘letter to the editor’ in Melbourne’s Herald Sun describing us as, “a self-destructive bunch that value idiotic and anti-social behaviour. Completely self-obsessed, they have no concern for their community and are an utter drain of social resources.” Pardon? I am much more of a gain for this community, and country, than a drain. Let me assure you of that Mr.Tom, who writes into newspapers with wild, unfounded statements and generalisations. I, like so many other people that make up Generation Y, have nothing but respect for our community. So much so, that we work incredibly hard to create businesses, programs and events to keep our communities alive.

Generation Y is often accused of having no work ethic, shunning responsibilities and throwing money into the wind. I’ve often retorted that people need to have a strong, hard look at the world we grew up in before questioning us – terrorist attacks, unstable economies and nations, natural disasters, the explosion of technology and the digital age – to understand why we may feel that life is fleeting and simply made up of moments to enjoy.

We, the children of Baby Boomers, have learnt a great deal about what we don’t want our lives to become. We’ve seen our parents work in jobs and get slapped in the face after twenty years of service, with not so much as a thank you. Do you blame us for job hopping? We are accused of being spoilt – for not working under a certain pay figure, or under certain conditions, and for quickly leaving a job if an employer bullies or bothers us. If that is what constitutes being spoilt, then I am. I work hard, but I won’t do it for peanuts. I refuse to be unhappy at the end of each day; moan and whine about my job, and then rise the next morning to do it all over again. If my boss bullies me, not only will I leave, I’ll give him or her a mighty good verbal spray on the way out. I know that I am talented and smart enough to get a job elsewhere. If that’s being cocky, or having an “over-dose of self-esteem”, then I am guilty of that. I am guilty of belonging to a generation that values themselves. That takes pride in their abilities. And that refuses to settle.

Generation Y is one that travels the globe and soaks up its beauty. One that wants to see the world and be a part of it. A generation that has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. That wants to know what’s happening from Australia to Zimbabwe. We’re more tolerant of people, races, ethnicities, sexualities and choices than any generation ever before us. We’re curious, honest and have so much to offer the world, it should, and someday will, actually startle you. We’re not the biggest generation – children of the 1980s and 90s were born at a time of rapidly falling birthrates – but we’ve certainly got get-up-and-go.

So, my dear Gen Y-ers, despite what all the reports may say, despite our own contradictions, and individual complexities, never stop believing what will always be true; that you can change the world. That moments really are the only things that matter, so make them matter. That, at any point in time, we are one tiny speck in an enormous universe, and that universe awaits our knowledge, passion and skills. That we may job hop, or bed hop, and that’s our choice. Settle, if you want. Don’t, and do not.  But always aim for blissful happiness. Have your cake and eat it too. And, when questioned on anything, always answer with the only and best response – “Y not?”

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