I had an ex-boyfriend from my 20’s come and stay with me last weekend. He’s on his way down South to a weeklong wedding. He went down early to help build shit-pits and other essential festivity infrastructure. This ex currently lives on his own property over East, he bought into an MO a couple of years ago – through some kind of super whizz-bang deal where you pay the owner off slowly. He lives off solar power, a water tank, grows his own veggies and all that, as-self-sufficient-as-can-be, jazz.
In my late teens/early 20’s I lived on the dole in Byron Bay. I lived with this ex (he worked), in a share house that I leased, and through which filtered, over 35 housemates in about 3 years. I look back on this time as brilliantly lost time. I was terribly, terribly, terribly bored and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was terribly frightened of the ‘real world’; of people – of having to get a job – which meant being around people, ‘normal’ people of whom I was terribly afraid. I spent my days surfing, eating, sleeping, cooking, fucking, reading and having lots and lots of cups of tea and cigarettes, conversations with other housemates and any of the other transient people who floated through. It was a pretty carefree time, I did feel quite guilty about being on the dole, but mostly I felt sick at myself for not doing anything. I felt as though I were wasting my life and I had utterly no idea about what I might like to do and I had absolutely no fucking idea about the possibilities.
Since I had to quit the cafe that I worked and start this job that I fucking well hate, so that I can afford rent to live where I live and had to become an external student so that I could work full-time – the relentlessness of it really gets to me, a lot. I am at this point where I can see that this is it, this is my life and this could potentially be my life, for the rest of my life. I have to work, and rent is always going to be over half my wage, and I’m always going to be just ‘surviving’. The only thing that I enjoy is uni and I can see how little I am getting out of it being an external student and it really makes me wonder what is the fucking point, I mean really, what is the fucking point?
I know I whinge about that a lot. It really shits me. I live in a fucking beautiful dump, in a fucking great area but it’s fucking pricey as all fuck. I did the sharehousing thing from the age of 18/19 to age 34 and after a series of really shitfull housemate scenarios, exacerbated by my increasingly low tolerance for: people breaching my space, putting food in the recycling bin, getting erections on my couch while watching Ivan Milat documentaries, telling me they were going to ‘poonch my fookin head in if i walked through the lounge room again’, having the neighbors tell me they thought someone was being killed in my house and were about to call the cops until they realized it was just a couple fucking, being asked if I thought a previous flat mate of my current flat mate ‘wanted it’ ‘cause she walked through the house in underwear, being able to hear A Current Affair or some equally abhorrent twaddle blaring from the television before I’d even opened the front door of the house when i got home from another shitty day spent with aforementioned Hey Hey lovers, and a flat mate who responded “we didn’t have them” – to the question – “What did you do about the dust bunnies in your other houses?” – I decided to live alone. This isn’t to say that all house sharing arrangements are abominable – I’ve lived in great houses, with great people, shared great meals and great conversations in households that worked; it’s just that I then had a series of appalling experiences and my expectations were higher and as you get older, the pool of available housemates shrinks, as people drop off and get married, or do other nuclearish arrangements.
I feel so ambivalent about it too. I feel guilty that I complain about it, when I’m lucky to have a job and lucky that I have somewhere to live, lucky that I live in an interesting little house with character and leaking ceilings, dodgy plumbing but beautiful floorboards. I know that I could probably move to a unit a few suburbs away and pay maybe a 50-75 bucks p/w less (maybe). I often think though that I live exactly the same lifestyle that I lived when I was on the dole except that i work 40 hours a week.And I know that it’s my fault, you know? I know that if I had of done something when I was in my 20’s at least I might have a job that I enjoy now. If I hadn’t of had this aversion to people or if I believed then that education was worthwhile, I might still not have any money but I might not want to stab myself in the eyes every morning.
When I caught up with my ex and he was telling me about his life, the thing that stuck me was that sense of freedom that he still has. Every morning I wake up at 6.30 and I just feel utterly regulated, I have to fucking get up, I have to put on these awful clothes and this awful bra and scurry down to the train station and sit on that fucking train to get to the job that I can’t bear and still run out of money for food at the end of the fortnight, when all I want to do is sit quietly in the backyard and have a fucking cup of coffee and listen to the magpies wake up.