At last I can be me. It has taken a long time for me to realize that I’ve spent my whole life fulfilling other peoples’ dreams – rather than my own. I am 65. Time is marching on. I feel a sense of urgency. There’s no time to lose. I don’t want to leave this world with my songs unsung – or in my case my book unfinished.
My mother’s ambitions for me were centred on tennis. She always dreamt that my brother John and I would play in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon. My Dad’s dream for me was more of the practical kind. He was 42 when I was born and knew he wasn’t going to always be around to support the family. He wanted me to have financial security and encouraged me to go into real estate.
From an early age Dad had been intent on a career in business for me. I received a telephone for my third birthday, a cash register for my fourth, he taught me how to write the receipts for the rent when I was seven and gave me a typewriter for Christmas when I was eleven. He was doggedly determined to get a square peg into a round hole.
Both these professions left me somewhat dissatisfied and unfulfilled – as if I was rowing upstream against the current – there was something missing. Deep down my dreams were along very different lines. I had dreamt of living a creative life. When I was young, I desperately wanted to be a dancer – then when I got too tall to be a ballerina – an actress. I wanted to perform.
Mum and Dad were concerned about my creative side. They were afraid I’d taken after Dad’s mother, Florence, who was very musical and arty. She’d studied music at the Conservatorium in London, before coming to Australia with her husband. She played the piano, sang and also wrote fantastic stories. However, she failed to pass muster with mum and dad because she was on the Bohemian side of life, was constantly on the move, had unreal expectations of life and people, was an unskilled money manager, a hypochondriac without maternal instincts and smoked roll your owns. I adored her.
My grandmother, Florence May Alexander with her four sons looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth which was far from the truth.
My creative life, which had lain buried for more than 30 years, began to make itself known in my late 40’s. It seemed to arrive with the beginning of menopause. For two years I had a recurrent dream in which I packed suitcases every night. I had a plane to catch but I couldn’t decide what to take. I kept putting things in the case then taking them out. The clock was ticking. It wasn’t until I realized that the plane represented death, and the packing represented the things I couldn’t decide about, what I wanted to do with the remainder of my life. It wasn’t real estate. I started taking singing lessons. Poems and songs popped into my head as I walked through the bush around the lake near my home at Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
I was invited to read my poem “Road death of a Kangaroo” at an international poetry conference in Washington and reached the semi finals.
Spirituality has always been one of the most rewarding parts of my life. Although mum and dad had duly sent us to Sunday school, I found out later that they were both atheists. They kept this very quiet when we were growing up in the 1950’s. This was the era of the American Evangelist Billy Graham – a time when the majority of Australians were Christians (89.4% in 1954) and regular Church attenders. Mum and Dad only sent us there so they could have peace and quiet while they gardened on a Sunday morning.
I’ve always believed that there was another dimension of invisible energy – not anything to do with what we learnt about in those Sunday school classes, held in the freezing chamber of Sir Frederick Stewart’s old dairy. I never felt alone as I raced barefoot through the bush or sat high up on branches watching the world go by. I have always felt that there was something else – a presence. Not just what we see – another level – invisible and magic.
I sold my real estate practice in Narrabeen in 2006 but it has taken me until now, 9 years on, to relinquish my real estate licence. I finally made the decision to be a full-time writer while walking the Camino de la Plata in Spain, last year. I had waited so long for this moment. Sometimes I regret the time I’ve lost pursuing other people’s dreams. I wonder whether I’m too old to throw caution to the wind and embark on this new endeavour. The silver lining is as I like writing about things which have happened in my life, and there is certainly plenty of material to write about.
I do believe that everything that has happened to me in my life, happened for a reason and at the right time – although quiet often it didn’t feel like it at the time.
I am finally walking my own path.
*Sir Frederick Stewart was a businessman, politician, government member and philanthropist. In many ways he was the antithesis of a professional politician, being prepared to sacrifice political advancement to achieve social reform. He relished his role as a gadfly: he was critical of his party leaders to the brink of disloyalty, but always commanded their respect. More active in social and industrial policy than virtually all Labour politicians of his generation, he was frustrated in his supreme objective of implementing a national insurance scheme. His idealism, administrative talents and disregard for political aggrandizement made him one of the more effective and attractive of Australia’s politicians in an era of depression and war.