It's a wonderful life

Brunswick, Australia

I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to write another blog. I don’t know why, but for the last month, I’ve felt like I had.. I guess you could call it writers block?

So, where did we leave off the last time? Ah, yes.. the house that I didn’t move into. Yes, as I watched the guys jumping around, all excited, I felt good, I had trusted my intuition, followed through with it, and this was the outcome. Happy people. Yay.

Having said that, there was a slight uneasy feeling of doom circling its way around inside of me, and I knew what it was. Work. I love to work – I’d get up at 6am and travel for 2 hours to work, with a smile on my face. Well.. sometimes that would depend on my fellow passengers – their hygiene routine and their respect for the elderly and the pregnant. God knows how many times I’ve had a go at random strangers for not giving up their seats. Oh.. that one time I had a go at a man who was sitting down whilst a 70-80 years old lady was standing up.

“Please give her your seat.”

“Oh.. don’t worry, dear. I’m perfectly fine. I’m getting off soon.”

“No, it’s not right. How can you be so rude? Give her your seat.”

“No, no.. leave it,”

•squints my eyes and snarls at him•

“I’m pregnant.”

“What the…?”

•shows me the ‘Baby on board’ badge•

“Oh my God.. I’m SO sorry.”

It was actually an very unattractive, pregnant lady with excessive facial hair. FML.

Yes, I appear to have gone off track here, but the moral of that little story is, ALWAYS give up your seat for the elderly and the pregnant because one day, you’ll be pregnant and old. Not at the same time, though. That’s like, biologically impossible.. unless you’re thinking about the 69 years old lady who gave birth in India five years ago.. or a man.

Abigail. Get back to the story.

Oh. Sorry.

Anyway, I wanted to work. As much as I loved prancing around Melbourne without a care in the world, I needed to be productive. For me, I used to have a ‘work to live’ attitude, and I thought that people who had a ‘live to work’ attitude were just.. sad. But then, I grew up. I realised.. yes, you can work in order to earn money to do whatever you like. But where’s the satisfaction in that? You work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year with roughly about 26 days off thrown in..? If you work to live on that odds, you’d be depressed. I’ll put my hands up and admit that my early 20s were spent faffing about – I went about my work in a half-hearted way, and lived for the weekends where I’d go out and get drunk and have to drag my equally as drunk friends out of the Southern Fried Chicken place from our house in Dalston, especially a certain person who once screamed, “1p?! 1 ******* pence?! Is that all you think I’m worth?! I’m not that cheap!!! **** you, you *******.. and **** your chicken! I didn’t even want it!” to the poor guy who was just trying to give her change back from the pound she had given him for a 99p chicken at 3am.

But I wouldn’t change it. No. Looking back, those events resulted into me moving to Ireland, where I made lifelong friends, and then I went on to work for the VSO in Preston, Manchester and Nepal. I can honestly say that those two decisions I made absolutely changed my life – the butterfly effect and all that jazz. The people I met, the communities I became involved with, the love I received and the values I learned made me see that there was more to life than stumbling out of Heaven at 5am. Those experiences instilled a strong work ethic and determination within me, and I’m glad.

Truth be told, I actually applied for a job with Vicdeaf the day after I arrived in Melbourne. I just didn’t want to say anything in case I was unsuccessful – pride comes before a fall. I was quietly hoping that wouldn’t be the case though.

A week later, I heard back from Vicdeaf, and they wanted me to come in for an interview. Great.

The next day, I went shopping for clothes for my interview. I had found the perfect outfit – now all I needed to do was to go and sit down and do some research on the company, my role and so on. So I went to a bar and ordered a glass of wine and set about researching, only to find that they had no wifi. So, I drank wine and did some writing instead. Now.. there’s one thing you need to know about me – when I drink wine, I get all smirky (my closest friends will know what this particular smirk looks like, unfortunately.. and winds me up to no end about it), a mischievous glint will appear in my eyes, and I will lose all of my inhibitions.

So I decided to leave before I did something stupid.

Little did I know what was coming next..

There I was, strolling down the street, smirking and minding my own business when I happened to meet what seemed to be an angry mob of students protesting against the federal government’s plans and threats to slash funding to student organisations, to remove participation targets for disadvantaged groups, and change the current number of university places offered.
There were placards everywhere with ‘**** FEES, **** CUTS’, ‘TAX THE RICH, FUND EDUCATION’ and so on typed out on it. This intrigued me, I observed for a minute and then walked on by. 10 seconds later, the glint in my eyes appeared and I couldn’t help but halt, turn 160 degrees and smirk with a raised eyebrow (you know, like Jafar from Aladdin when he comes up with a wicked plot? That.) and walked towards them. I had no idea what they were saying but I got the gist of it. There was a strong police presence, but they were outnumbered by the protesters. There must have been about 100 people or so. They were really passionate and opinionated, and obviously cared about their education. It’s a shame that we have to fight in order to learn.

They then decided to march onwards to Parliament. I watched them walk into my direction and I decided to walk along and observe too. It didn’t take me too long to realise that I had actually inadvertently got myself caught up in the protest. I was surrounded by the protesters and flanked by the police on both sides.

Now.. it would’ve been VERY easy to just say..

“Excuse me, could you just let me through? Thank you very much.”

But.. this is me we’re talking about. I started giggling and decided to march along and shout with them.

“**** Tony Abbot! **** the cuts! ****.. whatever! YEAH! **** THE.. WHATEVER-NANANAH.. BLAH, BLAH.. yeah.”

The police made some unnecessary arrests and were very aggressive toward us at times for no reasons whatsoever. There were a couple of times where I actually almost got caught up in the fracas – luckily swiftly moving away at the very last minute by chance. There was one moment where I had a gut feeling telling me to instantly walk away from the march, so I stepped into a shop and watched them go by. Straight away, 7 or 8 policemen literally jumped on a man and ripped him to pieces – that guy was the same guy I was just walking next to a few seconds earlier..

When we got to Parliament, I decided it was time to leave and prepare myself for the interview – I didn’t want to get arrested and be deported back to England. So I found a cute cafe, listened to Paper Aeroplanes (so in love with them right now – check them out) and chilled out.

Interview day – I got all dressed up and went to Vicdeaf to meet Brent and Phil. We had a pleasant interview – I spoke about the weather.. how very English of me. They spoke about barbecues.. how very Australian of them. In fact it was probably one of the most comfortable interviews I’ve ever had. I felt very at ease with them, and hoped that I would get the job.

As it turns out. I did.

I’d say that it’s probably the main reason I haven’t been writing as much as I have – it’s because I’ve been working, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. When I came out here, I came out with the notion that I’d just stroll onto a farm and say, “G’day
cockie!” and the farmer and his wife would open me with wide open arms. She’d bake pies, he’d crack open the beers, I’d have my own wicked way with their daughter, and we’d sit around the kitchen table where I would regale them with tales of my series of unfortunate events. I’d live off the fat o’ the land and earn enough money to go back and buy a house.

No. Life is not like that.

Apparently, according to my friends who have done the compulsory three months work in order to get a second year visa, farming is cold, wet, windy, stressful and depressing. Having said that, some have also said that looking back on the experience a while down the road, it was also one of the best times they’ve had. It’s also very competitive – MILLIONS of backpackers are competing for a place. I decided I would much rather go for a job in the city, because I wasn’t sure how long I would be staying in Australia for – I would much rather explore the city, the food, shops, bars, etcetera, just in case I decided to go back before the year was up.

Also, I had underestimated how expensive Australia would be – I was well on my way to becoming flat broke. To get a job within two weeks of setting foot in Melbourne is pretty damn good, if I may say so myself. *pats my back*

So.. I’ve been in Melbourne for a month and half already. How has it been? It’s been brilliant. I’ve had the most amazing time so far, and I honestly do believe that the best is yet to come.

What’s next for me? Well, I’m currently staying with a friend in Brunswick – if I had to explain what it’s like, a mix of Camden Town and Brick Lane – no wonder why I feel very at home here. But next week, I’ll be moving into my own place. Yes! Finally! I’ll be moving in with a girl called Steph and a guy called Nikhil. It’ll be nice to finally be settled for a while. As much as I love travelling, packing can be an ****, you tend to worry about whether or not you’re overstaying your welcome and the lack of privacy can get on your tits. Getting changed in your bedroom aka the living room, continuously living in fear and praying to God that Christopher Joy (Penny’s husband) won’t walk in and see me naked and end up curling into a ball, screaming, “MY EYES! MY EYES!!!”.. actually, to be fair, that happened a fair bit when I lived in Woodford with the boys. I’d catch Mark about to step in the shower and felt like someone had just thrown Napalm on my eyes. Lee having a **** and felt like someone had just stuffed Napalm up my nostrils and they’d catch me walking around in my bras and knickers – music to their eyes, but they won’t admit it. Our bathroom lock works just fine, but for some reason, we never used it. God.. we had NO privacy in that house, but when you’ve known someone for 15 years, those kind of things don’t matter.

Big thanks to the guys in the T.A.R.D.I.S apartment – Janelle, Penny, El and Christopher Joy.. Actually, thanks to everyone who has let me stay with them – Danny, Liz, Andrew and Mija. I honestly do believe that you are meant to meet certain people. Each person has something to teach us, regardless of how long they’re in your life – they may stay for an hour, a day, or 10 years or even forever.

I also realise that when you think of success, you tend to think about from an academical or a wealthy point of view – “Oh, my son has just graduated from university with a 2.1 in Psychology.”, “Oh, my daughter has just been promoted to Marketing Executive.” or “I’ve just got $10,000 Christmas bonus. Suck on that!”

But for me, I measure success very differently. I measure it by how happy I am. I measure it by how proud I am. Notice that I’ve used bold ‘I’s.. that’s because I’m trying to emphasise that it’s important that whatever you do, you’re doing it for yourself, not anyone else. I know that my family will be happy with whatever I do, as long as I’m happy. In fact, if you ask my mum and nan what they’re most proud about, they probably would say the fact that I’m a strong and independent woman? If After all, when my grandchildren ask me what I’ve done in my life, what would I rather say?

“Oh yes, your nanny Abi worked her socks off. I became a Marketing Executive when I was 32 and CEO when I was 40. My proudest moment was when I made my first million. Look at my big house. Granted, I’m divorced. Your grandma left me and took your mummy/daddy because I was never at home, didn’t pay them enough attention and thought too much about what other people thought about me.” (Ok, that’s a little bit extreme.. but you get the picture.)


“I lived on a farm in Ireland.” (Ok, we didn’t have animals, but we lived next to several farms. It was a very farmy area.)

“I lived in Nepal in a house with 15 people and three dogs.” (I NEVER have any privacy.)

“I got thrown off a plane with 22 people, because we were deaf. We kicked up a fuss, and all the news stations got into touch with us, and we made national news. Never stop fighting for your rights, by the way.” (True story.) and/berkshire/3919249.stm

I had fly to Egypt on my own and stay in a Mafia area because you know that annoying woman who sometimes comes around, Seeta..? Yes, her.. she thought it would be a great idea to sleep walk and throw her passport on the day we were due to fly off.” (I still think you’re a ********, Seeta.)

“I volunteered at a human rights organisation in Nepal, and I created accessibility for deaf people, so they could get information to LGBT issues and AIDS.” (One of my proudest achievements.)

“I was an amazing aunty to all of your aunties and uncles.” (Ok, that hasn’t happened yet, but seriously.. hurry up, will you?!)

“I lived in Australia.” (OR it could be, “I was born in England, but Australia stole my heart.. that’s why you’re all Australians..” who knows..?)

I also believe that everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and wait for things to magically appear in your lap. No, you have to get out there and make it work. How successful I’ll be by the time I talk to my grandchildren, I don’t know.. but so far, I’m happy with what I’ve done so far.

But most importantly.. learn to appreciate what’s in front of you, instead of romanticising what’s yet to come.

I’ll sign off with an article written by a nurse, Bronnie Ware.

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female
patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.


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