—I am thinking about moving to the country. I have discussed it with Eloise. I have discussed it with my mother. Soon I will be moving to the country. I am going to sublet part of my mother’s house and live with Eloise. Eloise and I already live together, but in the city, where I aspired to be as a terminally depressed teenager that lived in the country. I do not think he would be very happy about my plans, but he was never very happy about anything and in that way we are alike.
I told Eloise I am not excited about our plan. The plan is to live in my mother’s house and save money for a plot of land or a fixer upper to repair and resell for more money so we can own a larger plot of land with a new house built on top of it. I told her I am not excited, but I am serious and that is more important.
I am not reading. I am not writing creatively. I am writing lists, schemes, general notes in my notebook that is usually reserved for creative ideas. I am really struggling to write this because my mind cannot place it in the internal hierarchy of things that are important. I am thinking only of the practical. Of driver licenses, home loans, property inspections, collecting tools for renovating, jobs, boots, knives, axes, LMI, First Home Buyer Deposit Scheme, goats, chickens and dogs.
I am thinking about seizing on the moment in time to set the rest of mine and Eloise’s life up as the world changes. Bushfires in the country, tides rising on the coast and plague in the city. Automation, UBI, worsening air conditions, monopolisation of industry, corporatisation of politics, mass extinction of animals. I feel like even if I struggled to make mortgage payments and end up driving night shifts for Uber in a country town with out-of-towners throwing up brie and pinot gris in my—yet to be bought—second-hand Mazda 6 after I clock off from my day shift at the Ballarat Amazon Warehouse, I’ll still be better off than if I stay in the city. At least there will be fresh air, stars at night and some ability to save money by growing most of our own food. I know I am not staying in the city, that thought is now reprehensible to me, I have flown past it.
I am thinking about what I will do in the second half of 2020. I might do a carpentry pre-apprenticeship. Almost all the men on my dad’s side of the family are carpenters. I can swing a hammer and use a circular saw, but I am far from a carpenter. Is it embarrassing to be a 30-year-old apprentice? Probably something I will never really have to consider as I do not think anyone would choose me to be their apprentice anyway. Maybe having done it I would be able to start my own farm and home maintenance business. At least learning the skills will help me build and renovate my own place.
I do not know how to sure up the future. I feel like the decisions I have made and circumstances I have faced have left me unmoored from the potential of living a conventionally successful life. No one knows how to future-proof their life and the lives of their families. An aphorism that comes to mind is the harder you work the luckier you get. I will work. I will find work. I will work the soil. I will shed skin, gain blisters, endure headaches. I will be heavily medicated and will walk like a zombie in the inchoate light of the morning towards my car with its windshield covered in frost. I will sip coffee from a thermos, and I will run to the toilet. I will abstain from coffee when my bowel disease flares up. My uncle Tony also has bowel disease. He lost his entire colon. He still works as a carpenter. He told me he does not eat during the day. That is his solution. I forgot to ask him how he prepares his dinner, if he subscribes to the low-residue diet which forsakes fibre and embraces boiled, skinless vegetables. You could still shit yourself at work if you did not pass last night’s dinner in the morning. I suppose food goes through him quickly and that is the point.
I used to work a job that required being out on sites with no bathrooms. I sprayed weeds in parks, by roadsides, on farms. Once I was certainly going to empty an extremely loose bowel movement into my Hard Yakka trousers, but I made my way to the ute, took off my cotton jumpsuit, gumboots and rubber gloves and started knocking on doors. A firefighter preparing for his shift let me into his house to use his bathroom. I must have done this twice because I remember entering a woman’s house this way too. That was remarkable because in her place I wouldn’t have let a stranger into my house.
When I was a teenager, I found myself on buses at 6am watching the sun rise over the ocean on the way to the cities of Geelong and Melbourne. I’d spend a weekend partying with friends I made through friends of friends, playing my guitar in backyards or simply drinking in places that captured my imagination more than the dew-covered nature strips of Apollo Bay that my friends and I would walk on Saturday nights while punishing bottles of Smirnoff Vodka or sweet cider. From there, in my mind, the highway became a one-way and I needed to make it out.
I did not resent where I was from. I loved my family, much of which still lives there to this day, but I found myself struggling to even visit the town for years. The adolescent boredom and misery was psychologically imbued into the landscape. I could not empathise with friends who said how good it felt to visit. I thought I would never live there or any other place in the country ever again. I was not happy living in the city, obviously it didn’t change my extant mental health issues, how could it? A part of growing up for me was realising that a change of scenery can only do so much, but when I was younger, I thought a new location would mean a new everything.
When I was a child, I drew an image of the home I wanted. Unfamiliar with the concepts of permaculture or building regulations, I imagined a treehouse in which I lived alongside animals. Chickens laid eggs for my food, guinea pigs on treadmills powered a rudimentary elevator to bring freight and visitors from the ground to the house and flying upwards towards a smiling me; the bird brings the honey from the beehive. It is not surprising I would build this image of a lifestyle for myself as I grew up on four acres alongside fowl, ducks and sheep. I still cannot bring myself to eat chickens as the animals imprinted on me from such an early age so that I see them as most other Australians would see a Labrador.
I, like you, am a culmination of the people that I have been and will be. I contain myself drawing myself as the happy harvester in the tree, the teenager vomiting chips and ale on the streets of Geelong, the incontinent labourer working in Mitchell Shire, the 30-year-old carpentry apprentice, the homeowner struggling to make mortgage payments while looking up how to dispose of asbestos-based cladding, the bowel cancer patient in the country hospital, the ghost in the house Jackie built. I will continue to struggle to predict where I will be and how I will be. I will be scared and insecure and comparing myself to my peers. No matter where, I will be the person I am.