All the feels

I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard lately. We’re packing up Mum’s things and selling her house, and the family holiday home. That hits pretty hard. I’m starting a wild and crazy new not for profit enterprise that I’m not quite ready to launch yet but will be soon. It’s a huge deal and there are lots of parts of it that are waaaay outside my comfort zone, but it’s already getting a lot of support and it’s an idea whose time has come. So yay. But also OMG!

My baby (please don’t tell her I called her that) is starting year 7. My husband is travelling a lot for work. Next week I’m going to Science Meets Parliament. I am trying to be a good Mum, a good daughter, a good friend, a good Executive Director. All the things to all of the people. And sometimes it feels a little bit overwhelming. (Other times it feels massively overwhelming, but let’s not think too hard about those times!)

Recently I visited my former school’s swim carnival and got mildly mobbed by my students. (Hush. They are still my students. They always will be.) It was lovely to see them, and to catch up with my former colleagues. I won’t, as it turns out, be working a long way away, so I can still drop by, and not entirely be a stranger, but gosh, it hurt tearing myself away from them. And I only managed to catch up with a handful of them.

I love teaching. And I get such a buzz from hanging out with those amazing kids. Who are actually not kids but grownups with more poise, resilience, and potential than I can even imagine.

Some of my former year 11s are presenting their Computational Science Projects from last year at Lorne Genome next week, and they are justifiably stoked at the chance to present their work to this eminent audience. Their work is incredible. They have totally earned this opportunity.

It’s making me a little sad, though. I left all that. I left it because I believe with all my heart in what I have set out to do. But it still broke my heart when one of my students looked at me today and said plaintively “Why did you leave?”

I wish I could do all the things. Be everything to all the people. And keep working with these extraordinary young people who will go on, I tell you now, to utterly transform the world for the better.

Sometimes when you’re busy putting one foot in front of the other, you forget how far you’ve come, and how hard you’re working. And how much you’ve achieved.


Trying to give away my past

We are packing up Mum’s things so we can sell her house. I have no particular attachment to that house. She moved there with Dad long after I left the family home. It was never mine. But her things… oh… her things. Look, I’m not into stuff. I get a little sentimental from time to time, but I’m not particularly interested in things, or even places. For me it’s always been about people.

So it has come as something of a shock to realise that things sometimes contain echoes of people. That memories can hide as easily in the smell of a camphorwood chest as in the face of a loved one.

I thought about keeping some of Mum’s jewellery, but there was too much sadness and anger wrapped up in each piece, so I turned my back.

I want to keep it all, and I want to burn it.

I want to hug the blankets that were kept in that chest, that smell of my past, and I want to shred them and scatter them on the wind.

I want to scour the house clean of the pain and anger that dwelt there for so long, and I want to preserve it as it is – a snapshot of history. An instant in time.

I sometimes wish I had kept my family surname, having since developed a relationship with my relatives that my Mum, in her pain and confusion, taught me was permanently out of reach. But I still want to reject my history with a visceral strength I can’t explain.

I thought this packing up, this moving on, was a mere technicality. An effort, certainly, but without emotional cost.

I know better now. Pain and rage are ties as strong as love, and harder to process. And these things from my past contain echoes of the pain, but also of the smiles – because, of course, there were smiles. Few lives are wholly bleak. Few families entirely traumatic. Although I can’t always reach it behind the drama, there was happiness. There was love.

And taken as a whole it made me who I am. Quick to anger, hard to fathom, but also overwhelmed by love and compassion. I fix things. I help people. That’s who I want to be. But I don’t know how to fix my memory, or my heart.