I was relieved. I didn’t have to be that person anymore. I could reinvent myself. I just had to get past my paralysing shyness… I was accepted to Mitchell College in Bathhurst to study journalism. And I was determined to pay my own way, so I deferred for a year. Mum and Dad offered to pony up the cash, but I refused. I was shirty because they thought I wasn’t cut out for journalism (something to do with the paralysing shyness). My ambition was to be editor of Dolly magazine. I got the most boring job on the planet instead – working at the head office of a building society, removing staples from wads of deposit slips and ticking each one off a spreadsheet. All day, every day. Fortunately, after three numbing months, I scored a job interview at The Newcastle Herald. The editor overlooked my shaking hands and wavering voice and gave me a cadetship. Heaven knows why, but I’m incredibly grateful that he did. The Newcastle Herald preferred to give its cadetships to high-school leavers back then. It thought degrees put funny ideas in young people’s heads. (I never did get to university.) I felt sick every time I had to pick up the phone and call someone, even if it was just the port authority for the shipping news. Going on death knocks - journo-speak for turning up on a dead person’s doorstep in the hope a relative or friend will provide “colour” for your story - utterly petrified me. But I was determined to prove my parents wrong, so I struggled on. I got the nickname “Speedy” in the office because I wasn’t. I vagued around looking like I didn’t have a care in the world (which is a pretty mean trick when your guts are double-knotted with anxiety). Flush with the $180 I earned every week, I discovered shopping. I became obsessed with labels like Time and Ojay. I was beside myself when a boutique owner took me on a buying trip to the Ojay showroom for a feature story. I was still dating my high school sweetheart, terrified that he’d dump me and no-one else would ever want me again. I had a dreadful spiral perm. Saturday nights were spent drinking West Coast Coolers at a dodgy pub called The Lucky Country, followed by some vigorous heckling on Hunter Street (gelled haircuts and nice clothes obviously meant some of the males in our party were poofters) as we made our way to The Gunfighters’ Rest bar to sip on Dingo Dangler cocktails and dance to Blue Monday. The next day, I’d offer a cheery “good morning!” to Mum in bed, then flee to the downstairs toilet to vomit where she couldn’t hear me. I was still naive enough about the ravages of time to mainline junk food. My favourite snacks were potato scallops from the milk bar across the road from work. Geez I miss potato scallops. But I don’t miss the person I was back then. I’ve often fantasised about going back to the newsroom and having my time over, doing it better with the confidence of experience and age. But I don’t think I’d ever ace death knocking. I’m having enough trouble donation knocking for the school fundraiser … Who were you after high school?
Who were you after high school?
March 3, 2012
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