Suddenly it all came together to this point- known as a fork in the road- or in Italian terms, the fork in the spaghetti, twisted tightly around the pasta! How to get out of this one? Once you unwind, then what? One might say- Eat the pasta and move on.
I’ve been here on three occasions.
Choice, abandon, growth and moving forwards.
Which path to take?
At each point I observed three choices.
I had finished a season at the Organ Factory playing Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s, Medea in Four Female Parts, where I stripped my black body suit down to my waist to bare breasts and lament killing my children, was this an omen?
We used a large watermelon to emulate murder. It was violent. I made people cry. What a bitch!
On opening night, I was to run into the dark screaming and then the lights would come up to reveal a female lunatic, slighted by her husband for being too old and ugly he left her for a younger version/virgin, so she decided vengeance.
What enhanced this performance was an authentic piercing scream as a result of smacking my head into one of the wooden poles, so that not only did I sound nuts, the pain of hitting my head, put a large Elephant Man lump on the top right of my cranium enhancing my makeup and adding to a convincing performance. I spent opening night in emergency being checked for concussion.
There’s nothing like a bashing your head to get clarity.
The season ended and I walked away from theatre. No fanfare or standing ovation, I just exited stage right.
I had landed a job as a drama and media teacher. My first ‘real job’. Up until then I had a number of waitressing roles that included having my arse pinched by wandering hands and frying fish n chips with co-worker Juan Carlos from Ecuador, in a boutique Lygon street fish shop and burning the tops of my hands on the bain-marie.
“Fuck” reminded me it was a hot spot.
The white uniform would not refresh with OMO and no shampoo could get the stink out of my hair.
I was 22 years old with a Bachelor of Education.
I fell in love with my life-long partner, who was also a creative had contributed to my theatrical exploits in set construction, painting a portrait for the Real Inspector Hound and provided backstage support in the theatre pursuits of friends and students. He also supported events that I organised in later professions.
As a feminist troubadour I became a provider.
I chose love, a teaching career and moved to a new address. I learnt what it meant to be independent and got my licence. Stage work did not pay the bills, but teaching did.
After six years, I decided it was not a sustainable occupation and had saved enough for a deposit on a house.
I was the youngest teacher, lacked confidence and could not keep up. It was here that I learnt about innovation, expectation and aiming for excellence. I worked really hard and long hours. I found ways to do the work even if I did not have the skills. And I just kept working. After six years I burnt out. I had not learnt how to say no. Instead, I decided on a career change into arts administration.
I started a 12-month traineeship with the dramatic group and qualified in Arts Marketing and Management. I applied for a few jobs and successfully landed three separate interviews. Non-of-which I achieved.
I was very hard on myself, and I fell into psychosis – this was not a fork, but more like a spoon- actually one could say it was a ladle of depression. I was stuck here for one month before my neurons started to respond to the drugs, coupled with the discomfort of being locked indoors all day with nothing to do but watch the television. My ambitious nature was prickling at me to find a way out. Most of the time I was off my face on tranquilisers. I did not want to take them, and If I refused, it was administered by force.
Coming down from this addiction was like learning how to dress, feed and care for myself all over again, like child to adult in two weeks. I also know what it feels like to be a drug addict. It’s like my skin was crawling with this unsettled sense of scabies. The ticks get under your skin- invisible, crawling and inhabiting, like they want to suck you alive. Like you had no control over what colonizes. Invasions are like that. They take you over, mind, body and soul.
My body changed to a personified notion of fear. My physiology of shoulders hunched and eyes aghast- my vision altered and blurred. I was lost inside my head in hallucinations looking for the path that got me here.
After six months I got better and returned to my normal life with support, love and care from family and friends. A friend trusted me to babysit her daughter while she went to work. I started to work with Merri Creek Management Committee, promoting a teacher’s resource earning $40 an hour. I achieved roles with two migrant resource centres in the West and organised planting days, community events and fundraising activities. I met people who were to be significant colleagues in future roles. Life was positive, full and laced with purpose. I was drug free.
The second fork came after I got married. I had experienced three miscarriages up to now and each one took time for my body to recalibrate.
I was working as a part-time contracted project officer in a migrant women’s organisation.
I wanted something permanent and ongoing that would give me some security in creating a family.
I applied for and was interviewed for two other jobs. I was offered both. I had 24 hours to decide.
I had also discovered that I was pregnant again. I was told that this time it was going to be a full-term bouncing bundle of boy. What to choose?
I gave notice at the women’s organisation. I had to convince the executive officer of the need to find an ongoing job to improve my family’s prospects.
When she dropped me off home one day, she saw the old weatherboard and my husband outside on a ladder fixing the gutters, she believed me and let me go.
After 17 and half years working in a local government role – another fork presented itself.
I had not been considered for a promotion, nor a leadership role, even though my success rate was high. Males were the team leaders or the strategic planners, or the officers on higher band levels than me.
The last time I was interviewed my confidence had eroded so much with anxiety retraumatised me into seeing inability, rather than ability.
I applied for a management role on four occasions and then decided this was not the place for leadership.
There had been many changes, lack of direction, no consistency and policies were not implemented to support the role.
I looked elsewhere. I was considering teaching while doing a short stint at a local TAFE. I applied and was granted a role in a local government area in the northwest.
Would I stay put, teach or take the new permanent ongoing job with the same conditions as my previous role.
I chose the new job.
The itch of needing change. And here I am now ready to start afresh.
Thinking about three forks and one ladle in the journey of career/life paths:
- Staying on one path was never an option
- Navigating the fork means diverse choices
- All are relevant, valid and important
- The choices made are the learnings gained
- The ladle doesn’t go anywhere
- Ultimately the fork is there
- I choose whether to eat the pasta.