I am a filer and collector. I save scraps of paper for ages before throwing them out. I think it might come from my grandmother who saved absolutely everything, old tin cans, bolts, pieces of string. This habit doesn’t sit well in the modern world of disposables. I come off as a bit of an oddity.
I did a bit of a clear out of my two drawer file cabinet this weekend, and came across some papers from when I first moved to Sydney, six years ago. On this one page of lined paper, three holes punched in the side – I notice that it’s North American sized, so I must have brought it with me from Canada – is a list of names and phone numbers and music companies.
See, I wanted to work in the music industry.
I’d worked four years at that time in gay and lesbian politics and HIV/AIDS education, and I figured it was time for a change. I had the confidence to believe that I could do anything (this has been tempered by age). Somewhere in the music business would be room for me: project management, administration, human resources, publishing, something.
I made calls. I found ads in the Sydney Morning Herald. I sent e-mails. I wrote to human resource departments with polite enquiries and my C.V. Names: Vanessa Greening, Jo Ballanzano, Mitchell Rubin. I wrote at the top of the page, “if I could send my CV or arrange a meeting with you, I would be most grateful.” I suppose this is what I intended to say if I got through to someone who cared.
More importantly, something which could have yielded success, is that I used personal contacts. I plugged into the gay mafia. I had names from a friend in London, and met one person, who then gave me three more names to try. People gamely met me for coffee, and sometimes had more contacts, and sometimes gave friendly advice. This went on.
I’m a believer in fate, and I think the path I’m on is the right one for me. So, if I had gotten one of those jobs that I’d wanted at the time, I wonder if it would have interfered with what I’m doing now. When I look back, I’m happy for my small quest. It gave me something to do and focus on, and the biggest problem, I think, when you have nothing to do, and when you’re unemployed or underemployed, is aimlessness. Malaise and lethargy that creeps up on you and steals away your days.
It was a little like when I travelled in Europe the first time. I read a series of books. When I finished the one I was reading, I would make it my mission to find a used English bookstore in a city – usually there was only one. It seemed a bit silly: rather than seeing a famous museum or landmark, I’d be reading an unfamiliar address written out on a piece of paper, and trying to figure out a local map. But that was the point: along the journey, I saw how the cities lived and breathed on a daily basis, I got lost in pretty, ornate streets, I learned how to use the public transportation systems, I let myself wander.
So, now, as I take this piece of paper in my hand, and crumple it up before I put it in the recyling bin (see, I still never throw anything away), I remember those months, which I’ve barely thought of recently: that excitement, the cells of my body infused with this unfamiliar, hot weather; my young courage and bravado, meeting unfamiliar friends of friends and extending my hand out wide and steady to introduce myself; those first few months in a city I never knew I’d stay so long in, where I’d live longer than anywhere else besides the city in which I was born.