What I Know So Far

09 Nov What I Know So Far

First published in the Press 8.7.15

It’s my birthday this week. Sometimes birthdays arrive with a dark cloud of “I’m running out of time!” angst but I’m thrilled to say this one hasn’t. I googled this year’s age – 54. Apparently, if I was living in many parts of Africa, this would make me the oldest person in my village. According to NZ government stats, I might make it to 89. I can’t tell you if I’m comforted or daunted.

By way of distraction, I’ve made a little list of some of the things I know so far.

That you can feel the most at home in places you don’t actually come from. A sense of belonging the first time you visit a new city – for me, New Orleans; or when you first meet strangers with whom you share some unique experience; or you’re surrounded by a family you’re not actually related to by blood yourself – my daughter’s whanau.

That my most fondly remembered flights are the ones that didn’t go smoothly – the flight cancelled out of San Francisco in 2013 that gave me a bonus night in San Jose; and the emergency landing out of Melbourne in 2014 – another bonus night in a hotel, and the sense that if I had been going to die in a plane crash, that would have been the moment.

That you can forget all kinds of important things – events, faces, mathematical calculations for circumferences – but you will never forget the smell of wet socks and raincoats and boxes of raisins in a primary school cloakroom.

That although you believe you can’t go to sleep without a glass of wine, you find you sleep better without it. But you’ll take a glass anyway.

That as much as you know you shouldn’t get wound up about the cruel musings of a 25 year old you’ve never met who is given a public voice largely because she’s famous for being the daughter of famous people who make frocks you can’t afford, you will still find yourself waking in the night wondering how the hell any of that happened. Like, any of it.

That there is no grand plan and life is chaos, and we will spend most of our interior lives attempting to construct a narrative to prove to ourselves that this is not true. That is possible to hold two diametrically opposed ideas in your head at once and this explains why you love patting your cat while you listen to birdsong.

That sometimes the best way to be still is to go for a long drive. That there is no “bad” chocolate flavour, but some are better than others.

That the only birthday present you properly remember getting is the blue bike for your sixth birthday which didn’t need training wheels because you could already ride, but your dad wired wooden blocks to the pedals because your legs were too short and the seat couldn’t go any lower.

That it’s never too late to start getting on with someone. And that the best thing anyone can be is kind.

– Michele A’Court