Life as I See It

 Lying in bed this morning with a mild (poetic license!) headache from an overly indulgent evening of sushi and wine with special friends, got me thinking about Life -  and the Stages we go through, and often repeat the older we get. The thing is, I wasn't left feeling morbid, regretful, or even particularly depressed. I felt oddly comfortable and confident. Content even. Life is funny like that. As we move from stage to stage, how we perceive life, how we react and respond to life,  how we feel about life, and even who we are at any given time - is erratic and unpredictable. We are undeniably mercurial.

 I remember very clearly how I felt in my school days. This early developmental Stage of Life was carefree, and relatively uncomplicated. (Unless time has hazed my memory!) Friendships formed hard, fast and eternal. Growing up with my best friend in-the-whole-wide world-and-beyond Jennifer Dunn (She is Ray now, but will always be Dunn to me - sorry Clay!) Experiencing all of life's firsts together - primary school; high school; from school discos and house parties where doing the actions to Climie Fischer was cool - to clubbing; sleepovers; holidays and walks home after school; practically living at The Block on the beach; Sandpebbles; Rippingtons; Jewish Club; 330; Raywood; sharing boyfriends (until Clay Ray); surfer boys; Milli Vanilli; Vanilla Ice; MC Hammer; Rick Asterly; Depeche Mode; Madonna in the good years; Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue; dancing; sharing clothes; looooong land line phone conversations and even longer letters written in class (on paper!); childhood ailments and illnesses and broken bones (mostly me!) - growing up the best way possible. I wish a friendship like this for my children. WHO I was had not developed yet. I cringed at fashion faux pas; I blushed horribly when given compliments; I kept my opinions to myself should they differ to my peers; I craved acceptance; and I had a complete lack of confidence in any of my decisions. My benchmark? What other people thought of me.

University was that Stage of Life where we all attempted to Find Ourselves, and Figure IT All Out. New experiences; independence; making sometimes-less-than-mature decisions and learning to live with the consequences.  Embracing learning and new friendships and finding out that below the anxious, less than confident facade, were skills, character traits and abilities I never knew I possessed. From Rag (parading around in peak morning traffic in nothing but underwear and a whip, alongside my boyfriend and friends all dressed in much the same ridiculous way, shaking our.. um.. tins, and selling the Official Rag Mag!!); to Dome (writing for the 'Varsity paper); to wearing black and organising The Battle of the Bands. Learning about hangovers (and drinking the most awful stuff in an attempt at sophistication!) Having a crush on my History lecturer; eating roti's on the grass in front of Howard College and coffee from the Top Ref; sitting in Psych lectures with thousands of other opinionated students; reading Sartre and Goethe (and being told by a hot guy in the library I was pronouncing Albert Camus wrong!). Choosing subjects because I would be with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, and realising that was where my passion lay. Mastering the art of double-line spacing, and learning the craft of renegotiating deadlines. And no matter how many waitress shifts, or bank teller Saturday mornings we put in - never having enough money!! I left University four years later  with my Honors Degree thinking that I would change the world!!

I remember feeling less than confident in myself these years. Unsure of who I was and what I wanted. Constantly needing and seeking approval. Constantly questioning, and being too uncertain of myself to express what I thought or felt. I did a lot of second guessing. And worrying about the small things. As the Stages of Life evolved to more serious ones - marriage, homes, bonds, medical issues, careers, kids - so did my range of vacillating emotions and my sense of what was important. At some point there was an incredible sense of self actualisation. Things that worried me back then, roll off my shoulders now. I am far more confident in myself - in who I am, who I have become. I no longer question my beliefs. I stand behind my views and opinions. I stand up for things, for my family, my friends. I am completely confident in my abilities, and in the sheer determination I possess to make things happen. I have learned to ask for help, to laugh at myself and to embrace change as the one constant in life. This Stage of Life is incredible. It is full of rediscovery and exhilaration. It is about doing all the things I previously thought I couldn't or wouldn't do. And I love it!!

HOWEVER. My gorgeous children will be ten in five days time. TEN. Into double figures, hurtling towards those teenage years quicker than I can bear to think about.  As I write this, I can feel myself breaking into a cold sweat. Its not just that I am, quite honestly, t e r r i f i e d of what these teenage years will bring, but also that I just need it all to slow down. The pressure on these little things is tremendous in comparison to what we - or at least I (lest I be too blanket with my generalizations!) - had at this age. School was relaxed, friends were plentiful, sport was fun, parties were musical-statues-pass-the-parcel-catches-with-den-at-the-end-of-the-garden-and-birthday-cake-in-a-serviette-as-a-party-pack. Now its pressure at school to achieve above and beyond average marks, or its off to OT, Speech, and remedial lessons; score enough runs to maintain your place in the school sports team, or its a drop down to the next team below; cliques of (bitchy) friends (I kid you not - especially at my daughters school!); and parties rivaling our 21st's!! The pressure and the fast pace of life is forcing them to grow up quicker than they are ready (or more honestly, than I am ready) for. The clothes; the brand and image-consciousness; the lingo; the attitude; the knowledge about life and love and the birds and the bees...What is left? What is next? What on earth will we be in for in the next stage of our and our children's lives? More importantly, what will they be in for?

 As I reflect on the past Life Stages I have survived, and as I revel in the one I am in Right Now, I can't help but look forward to what lies ahead. Not altogether in apprehension, but in anticipation. Hopefully my obviously malleable state of being will adapt my strengths and render me willing and able enough to embrace the imminent life challenges both in my and my children's lives. And if not, I am now wise enough to know that happy pills really do make you happier; that wine is a very necessary and restorative tonic; and that an occasional escape from reality makes me a better person! I'm Just Saying...