Last week, I turned twenty-four. This birthday was stealthy - a tiptoeing thief of youth who crept in unnoticed. When days tailgated on the backs of previous days and breathing was a luxury, I had no time to count down in excitement; I just found myself blindsided by the event.
For the past few years, I’ve always had the intention of writing some profound article to commemorate the anniversary of escaping from the womb. Of course, I never did.
I thought it was high time I break that tradition and write again. So here is a (semi-chronological) list of twenty-three highlights from the year of twenty-three:
1) Twenty-three started with the close of my six-month sabbatical from life. I touched down on Sydney soil and leapt straight into my boyfriend’s arms. Miles apart were reduced to minutes, and proximity soon had us laughing in the face of Skype dates over lagging Internet connections. The days, maybe weeks, that followed were a blur of laughter and with faces I left behind.
2) And then it came time to get back into the daily grind. I caught a case of idleness, which turned into a fever of restlessness. (There were only so many spaces in a day I could fill with food.) Some girls grow sick with longing – and I – I became one of those girls. His name was Employment, and he only ever turned around long enough to sneer at me. I wanted him badly, but he delighted in being an elusive prick.
3) So then I reached my peak physical state. For a girl with too many hours in a day, what else was there to do but eat clean and train mean? And so I looked forward to the moments where The Pussycat Dolls would grace the gym screens, just so I could sing-along my version of “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend could squat like me…” (mid-lift, mind you). My strength was at an all time high and body fat percentage was at a fabulous all time low. (Unfortunately, the aged and weathered twenty-four year old physique no longer looks like this:)
4) While still in vain pursuit of work that could somehow make use of the Communications degree I spent three years attaining, I filled the spaces in my days with extras work, promotional modeling and even getting paid a hot dollar or two to pull faces while cameras clicked and softboxes flashed. The industry term for this time in my life could have been ‘Freelance’ but I felt that ‘Fraud’ would have been a bit more appropriate.
5) Discovered the world of theatrical societies and the subsequent joy they brought me. Found myself still completely terrible at auditions, but even made it into a show about Dusty Springfield as more than just ensemble cast. “Finally,” I thought, “Some sort of routine to my week!” as I excitedly went about preparing for my first ever (and possibly last) role as a sassy black woman.
6) For weeks, I snuck into the uni recording facilities where my boyfriend was a student, and we painstakingly put together a five track original EP of my music. When I say ‘we’, it should probably be noted that ‘he’ painstakingly put together a five track original EP of my music.
7) Suddenly it was already three months since I turned 23. The first quarter of my year had disintegrated into oblivion and I panicked once again. As if on cue, Cameron Mackintosh announced that Miss Saigon would be the West End’s new undertaking, and auditions would commence IN MY HOMELAND. Wanting nothing more than to play a Vietnamese prostitute on stage since the age of ten (yes, big dreams), I naturally jumped on a plane in reckless abandon and flew to Manila to audition.
8) Nothing came out of the audition except being able to un-ironically declare YOLO, and also maybe end up slightly poorer. But expense is nothing in the face of experience, and I nabbed myself another month long holiday in the tropics; a holiday from stressful activities back in Sydney like sitting around and twiddling my thumbs.
9) Arrived back on Australian soil to attend the wedding of my first pair of good friends to get hitched. This was a telling epiphany that some people my own age were grown up enough to start a new chapter in their adult lives, and I was still quite content to entertain dreams of becoming a Vietnamese prostitute. What’s that, biological clock? Your ticking doesn’t phase me!
10) Suddenly it was December – almost half a year had passed since I turned twenty-three. I ate my feelings in Christmas food; brought on the new year with a little more padding. I’m not so sure though that the extra padding helped me as I ran away to join the circus… No, that didn’t really happen, but I did enrol in an aerials class - to finally defy gravity, perhaps. The reality was I didn’t do as much gravity-defying as I did skin-defying (I bruised nicely from hoops and trapeze), but I did fall in love with silks…
11) In January, I was abuzz with resolution, but the world snored on, still comatose from minced pies and port. Boyfriend told me to relax; businesses were still on holiday; no one would be hiring yet…And after months of waiting, I finally scored myself an appointment to have my little (unreleased) EP listened to by a heavyweight set of ears – ears that had been in the business for a while.
12) It goes without saying that The Ears thought it was shit. Or at least he thought it was shit in the context of me wanting to be an indie darling – because it sounded like I had a finger in every slice of genre pie. I was a misguided pop princess with too much of an inclination for musical theatre. (Little did he know just how much I actually loved theatre…) But thus began a mentorship that would help me refine my direction in the coming months.
13) And not more than a week later, the elusive bastard called Employment finally came knocking. I landed a fun job, minutes away from home with a great boss (responsible for my expanding waistline) in an environment that kept, and still keeps, my fingers dipped in the modeling and entertainment industry. I finally had my long coveted weekly stability, and I could thus crawl out of my cave of unemployment shame.
14) I then began weekly jam sessions with two scoundrels I met from ads online. This is usually the premise for a D-grade horror flick, but I haven’t been brutally dismembered yet and dumped into the bottom of the ocean, so I have to say I’ve been quite fortunate. Huge bonus too that both of them – the double bassist and the drummer – were definitely skilled in their weapons of choice.
15) At the same time, I began bi-weekly rehearsals for another theatre show. This time, it was Shakespeare – a rock musical adaptation no less – and I had the opportunity to play the petulant female protagonist in Helena. And so my days of work and nights of rehearsals (band and musical) kept me heavily occupied, and one too many text in my inbox would’ve read along the lines of, “I haven’t seen you in so long!”
16) I attended TDP Open – a week-long performance and development workshop designed for those roughly in their twenty-threes… give or take ten years. Yes, with a very polite email, I managed to attend the workshop designed for thirteen to eighteen year olds. I’m not sure if the fact that I fit right in and made some dear friends makes reference to the maturity of young people these days, or is actually more indicative of my true social age. Whatever the case, it was completely enriching and life-changing, having had the opportunity to learn, perform and receive feedback from some Australian greats.
17) In April, I said goodbye to love. There were no shoes hurled at faces, no seismic collision of egos, no raised voices. There was only the quiet acknowledgment of the wisdom in parting, and a bittersweet appreciation of the past two years. And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
18) Like bloodhounds, they sniffed out the fresh scent of my singledom. The casting directors of The Bachelor Australia had approached me to audition for the upcoming premier season. With a reasonably hefty weekly ‘wage’ for the arduous tasks of living luxuriously in a mansion, going on extravagant dates and nurturing true love (™) under the gaze of perpetually rolling cameras, “Sure,” I thought, “An audition can’t hurt.” And off I went, armed with some questionable pants and my complete honesty. “What traits do you look for in a man?” I was asked. “Ambition,” I said without thinking, “So that we can both work towards something we’re passionate about and not have to see each other much.” I didn’t hear from them in the end. To this day, I still wonder if it was because those pants made my ass look big or if it was something I said…
19) I really got into the spirit of learning and made myself a permanent fixture at almost every MusicNSW industry event and every other industry conference, which included but was not limited to: Indent’s Feedback, Inertia and Song Summit. My boss graciously allowed me to go off on several days of leave so I could nurture these pursuits. I think there are few things more valuable than lapping up advice and opening yourself up as a sponge to insight. At one particular event where I listened to some top Australian producers talk, I made the resolution to contact One when the time was right and when I had something to show for myself.
20) And contact him I did. Around this time, I had been working with Industry Ears Number One for a little while and we had already refined some tracks with the band. We also found our guitarist (thanks to an online ad yet again!) and the hole in our collective band heart was filled. To my absolute surprise and delight, Heavyweight Producer gave the tracks a listen, and several weeks later, we found ourselves sleeping over at his studio for a weekend, recording and breathing new life into our songs. If I said that the same ears that touched Silverchair, The Presets and Birds of Tokyo touched our music, I would be a braggart, but certainly not a liar.
21) Industry Ears Number One LOVED our tracks, and we are now in the process of our first official single release!
22) The upcoming music video (following the single) that has seen many hitches and changes (including song choice!) since I first met with the to-be Director and started dreaming about the clip is worth a mention. This incident was one of several where the Universe offered me an olive branch and led me to talented people who recognised a dream on its first legs, and were willing to lend a hand (or crutch) in the pursuit of that dream. And the clip after the clip that’s soon to be made but hasn’t been made yet? Yeah, the guy who once did a clip for Alice in Chains wants to get behind that.
23) And while all the recent band developments transpired, I again had the opportunity to be a part of a cabaret show, which meant bi-weekly rehearsals and the occasional Sunday. Despite the stress of a very tight rehearsal schedule and the subsequent toll it took on my body, the friendships, the thrill of being on stage and the pride in seeing it all come together was nothing short of fulfilling. Sold-out shows for our limited season was also a delightful surprise. And you know we’ve definitely reached the end of our list because I’ve become a total sap…
So, I’ve had a thrilling twenty-three. Certainly chock full of new experiences and appreciation for my current circumstances (LOL single and still living at home!). I don’t currently wish for much except maybe a new immune system. And to finally banish fear from my life. But things could seriously be a lot worse.
So to twenty-four I say this and I say it loudly, “Come at me, bro.”