3000 Public Transport Stories (How I learnt to stop worrying and love the tram)

I sat on the tram yesterday, the first time I had for a very long time. I tend to train it or walk nowadays but I thought for a change I’d catch the 57 up through North Melbourne and to home, even though it is a much longer journey than the train. I sat opposite a woman who got on at the start of the line like me and was still there when I got off. Her actions, demonstrated to me how much my attitudes have changed over the last couple of years.

Within a few minutes of getting on, she had the song ‘My Prerogative’ playing on YouTube without any headphones so the whole tram could hear. Previously this might of annoyed me and in some circumstances I may have spoken up and questioned what she was doing. But, in some ways this brought some vibrancy to my journey home. However, she played it three more times, stopping the YouTube clip after it had finished and replaying it. Then she phoned someone after the third play and I couldn’t tell whether she was arranging a date or setting up musicians to meet. The pretext definitely sounded like the second but I think she was trying to arrange the first. After the call had finished, she put the phone down, ate some carrot and dip and then played the song again until I got off.

It made me think that at some level, the song meant something to her. And particularly the words ‘everybody’s talking all this stuff about me, why don’t they just let me live’ and I wondered whether her playing of the song was either meant to prompt interaction with the people around her or maybe the song on some level was a comfort to her. I think at times in our lives we have all associated with the lyrics of a particular song, a song that has spoken about our own situation and perhaps we haven’t played it obsessively to an audience on public transport, but maybe in the privacy of our own homes, we have. This women managed to nudge me about three or four times but apologised every time so I didn’t once question her niceness or that she was deliberately trying to antagonise people.

About a week ago I attended a school play for the school I’d taught at for my first placement. As I walked into the venue and up towards a seat at the front, I heard a chorus from one side of the auditorium shout ‘Ian’ and then a group of students ran towards me and hugged me. If I ever wondered what appreciation for the job I’ve done was, it was there in those few moments. To see that I’d made an impression on a few young minds and that I’d done something that they would remember and hence they remembered me. As my class walked off stage after their part was over, one of the boys in grade 1 must have known I was seated where I was and looked over and waved at me with a big smile of his face. A smile of how proud he was of the job he’d done and how glad he was I was there to see it. That is powerful stuff and a few seconds demonstrated an appreciation I haven’t felt in years in other jobs. And that’s a shame. I’ve too easily settled for comfortable positions where I could easily do the roles without much of a challenge, but with that comfort came a feeling of emptiness and I never really appreciated a job well done or felt I was adding value in the way I wanted to.

Today I reached 3000 different beers in the last 6 years. An achievement eh? A numerical one maybe, but not really an achievement in any other sense. At 2000 beers I made a claim that, that was it and I would just enjoy my beers instead of this constant search for new ones. Perhaps though the times just weren’t right for that and I wasn’t ready. It’s a very human characteristic to be constantly searching for something new, to seek happiness from external sources instead of internal ones. But perhaps I’m in a better space on many levels; I feel I’ve returned to me. The true me. The one that does things because I enjoy them rather than because they may impress others. I’m sure that feeling for many of us comes out of a lack of security, and however many people seem full of confidence; my experience is the most seemingly confident tend to be the most insecure.

To err, after all is to be human. I’m very much in transition internally, I’m returning to the things I love because I love them and they bring me genuine joy, not because of what they look like from outside. A great example is my love of horse racing, which I’m indulging more, and more at the moment. I understand that people may object to horse racing and indeed gambling for many reasons, but they are their objections and not mine. I don’t force my advocacy of my pastimes on my friends and I appreciate that they don’t enforce their objections on me. I shouldn’t feel that I need to defend my enjoyment of it and why. We shouldn’t be shamed into not liking the things we like because of other peoples opinions. I feel that my individual opinion is as valid as anyone else’s and differences should be respected. A long time ago, I was vegetarian for 5 years and I remember that everyone had an opinion and in the end I became such a moralistic vegetarian just to defend why I was vegetarian in the first place. The truth was at the time I just didn’t like the texture of meat but this reason didn’t seem to be enough for people.

Life changes at such a pace and our attitudes to it. Friends come and go through our lives, some remain constant, and some leave and some just drift away. At times we choose to listen to our friend’s counsel and at times we ignore it. That maybe justified, that may not be. All these relationships on some level are transactional, we give and we take. Although that balance can be temporarily skewed, in the long run these relationships provide us with something valuable and them with something valuable too.

We should be grateful for those that share our journey, that light the dark corners and remember that they like us because of what we are and not what we think they want us to be.

IJS 20/06/2018

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