Superheroes

“My dream is to be a superhero and I will save people.”

– Lakota

I clear an hour out of my schedule every other Monday morning to help in my son’s kindergarten class. He loves it. The expression on his face every time I walk through the door is an impression that stays with me long after I’ve left. His big brown eyes light up and with a big grin he rushes forward, throwing his arms around me as if he hadn’t just seen me an hour before. He doesn’t care who’s watching either. I’m not sure how long that will last so I’ll take it with a side of pleasure.  

He is not the only one that loves it when I rock up ready to get my “silly” on. There’s something about hanging out with a bunch of six-year-olds that refreshes and inspires the mind. Don’t get me wrong; as much as I love it, I do so in small doses. I think teachers are like our modern-day superheroes.

This is going to sound a little creepy, but kid-watching can be extremely entertaining. We can learn so much from their zesty outlook, their resilient ability to go with the flow and their uncomplicated way of being. Those qualities are catchy. So much so, that when I cross the threshold and into the classroom, I (almost) shed the invisible cords that bound me to adulthood and barely even acknowledge the teacher.

“My dream is to be a ballerina and I’ll do a pirouette.”

– Keira  

I’m not like the other parent helpers. When those kids show up at my bingo table, they know they’re in for something different and a whole lot of laughs. I am not just another mum flashing words and adhering to the “quiet-is-better” rule we get thrown down our throats every 10 minutes or so.

I am their “Bingo Master”.

This self-proclaimed “Bingo Master” flashes word cards just like the other mums, but the other mums don’t suddenly break out in a song using the word of the moment as a cue or playfully tease them when clutching words like “home” and “baby” in their hands. I give them challenges, dive into their imaginations and pluck out their fascinating ideas.

I ask the boys to draw love hearts and flowers, the girls’ trucks and cars. Most boys screw their noses up at the thought of etching out a heart or a flower, but then I persist. Other boys take their love hearts very seriously and need no further coaxing. Those boys are probably the ones set to change the patterns of love in the future. They are the ones who might seek out new relationship dynamics and boldly go where no one has gone before.  

“My dream is to be a doctor and I will help people.”

– Jack

Kids teach us so much about life. For instance, did you know that Barbie dolls and unicorns can destroy a zombie apocalypse? And that helping yourself win on the sly isn’t actually cheating? Moreover, kids teach us to see the world differently. Their eyes are not yet contaminated by societal conventions and cultural conditioning. They remind us of sincerity with their transparent views and their beautiful curiosity. They remind us that everything is interesting, to live in the moment and to laugh at silly things. They remind us of our humanity.

 “My dream is to be a teacher and I will teach kids.”

– Harley

Children’s dreams are like precious drops of light. In a world where dreams are too often squandered beneath doubt and ridicule, kids dream big and without boundaries. In a world where we’re so afraid to love, kids love fiercely, forgive easily and listen to their precious hearts.

Every other Monday I spend time with my child and the children of others. Every other Monday, I leave that classroom feeling a little bit lighter than before I arrived. If you’re looking for a different way to kickstart your creative juices, go spend some time with kids. Go play, laugh and goof around a little. Breathe life back into those dreams and believe like a child again.

If just one thing would stick with me from the time I spend with children, that would be it. To believe in those dreams with the voracity of a child again.

“My dream is to be a scientist and I will create a robot to cook me food when I’m hungry.”

– Indiana

Where’s the Excitement at?

Everyone else had it nailed. They seemed to be sure of who they were and what they wanted out of life. My friends graduated from school with plans. I graduated with a half-baked idea of umm … hairdressing. I think. That was after notions of becoming a marine biologist or a photographer idled through my mind.

A few years out of school I ran into a friend at a train station. I was heading home after spending the day in Sydney working a modeling shoot. It was during one of her interludes between our homeland and the States. She’d met an American fella when he was visiting Australia some years before. It was an encounter that solidified her path and had her spending much of her time in America until they eventually married and she settled there permanently.

“How’s your sex life?”

No, she didn’t say that, but it was the first thing that popped into my head when I spotted her; along with fuzzy memories of a Diesel concert, Love Cats and Working Class Man. Ah, the impression people leave in our minds – crowded school halls, The Cure and Jimmy Barnes scrawled over her canvas bag, and her staple line reserved for me when our paths collided.

“Hi Kimmm, how’s your sex life?”  

“Steamier than 91/2 Weeks.”

Grin.

We both knew the only thing happening between my sheets was a whole lot of sleep after some imaginative fantasies starring Michael Hutchence, but that’s what made this quirky exchange even more interesting.  

I wish I could say the same when faced with her incoming statement on the station that afternoon. Sometimes, snippets of conversations can stay with you for eternity. This was one of them.

“I always thought it would be you with the exciting life and not me.”

“Huh?”

I mean, what the actual fuck? I was 19 years old for crying out loud. Did she expect me to have an exciting life already? What constituted an exciting life anyway? I was smothered in studio make-up after a day beneath heavy lights and a fast stint on location, and that didn’t spike her “excitement” radar? Was America where the excitement was at?

I walked away feeling somewhat flat. I didn’t have an American boyfriend. My guy’s idea of adventure started and began with the car engine he kept mounted in his bedroom. Throw in a Van Damme flick, a bowl of weed and some munchies and it was happy days.

I never had it sorted. The modeling career was short-lived. I discovered very fast how much I loathed being photographed, and I couldn’t work out which was worse – the catwalk or the cameras. When my agent told me to drop five more kilos for a gig in Japan, I walked. I turned down an opportunity to experience excitement. Was Japan where the excitement was at? 

I’ll never know.

Not long after, I was walking home from the bus stop when a man drove by. He hit the brakes, chucked a “uey” and parked up ahead of me. He got out of the car with a huge grin. I was thinking I had a nutcase on my tail. Nothing new there but there was no place to go other than forward – he was on my street. I could almost spot my house if I squinted hard enough.

“Hi beautiful.”

“Hey.” Keep walking.

“Wait – I saw you and I had to stop because I know you’re perfect for a job.”

Stop walking. I was in-between jobs and needed cash.

“What job?”

“It pays well, 100 bucks an hour plus tips. You’ll get A LOT of tips, trust me.”

“A-huh, what’s the job?”

No, I’m not going to tell you he was looking for a hooker. He ran a high-end underground gambling house and wanted me to be their waitress-cum-eye-candy-cum-grope girl. The look on his face said it all.

He pushed a card in my hands. “Call me. You can start right away.” 

Was working in an illegal gambling house where the excitement was at? I never made that call. I’ll never know. 

There was another conversation that stuck with me. When I turned 40, a friend told me that I was going to love the 40’s. I was skeptical. 

“Okay, why?”

He laughed.  

“Because those are the years you discover who you really are and begin to own it. You just don’t care about as much – only the stuff and the people that matters.”

Sounded good. Maybe even a little exciting. I wasn’t sure that I believed him, though, because this was coming from a man who’d never had kids. He lived the life of a carefree artist without responsibilities. Enter wife and kids and that’s all changed now. I wonder how that’s working out for him. In his 40’s.

But it begged the questions: Who was I really and how would I find out?

I was never like everyone else. I’d spent my life trying to be like everyone else and feeling at odds with myself because I wasn’t. I mean, time and time again I’d turned down excitement, mostly because my idea of excitement didn’t gel with the usual. Or maybe because I never knew who I really was or what I wanted.

There were years when I devoted my life to my children. They filled the void. That happens, you know. To mothers. Children can provide that sense of purpose. Except, it’s a farce that cannot be sustained because we are not here for our children and nor are they here for us. They are here to fulfill their own destinies as we are.

Some people know right off the bat what they want out of life, but I never did, and I’d spent years trying to figure it out. I remember thinking that I probably didn’t have a “purpose” like other people. I was just here and that had to be enough. But it never was, and it wasn’t excitement that I craved; it was purpose. Soul purpose.

The moment I let go and stopped worrying about “why I was here” was the moment I knew where the excitement was at. It wasn’t in America or Japan, or an underground gambling house. It was in the little things and the big things, the simple stuff and the complexities. And it was ingrained in my experiences.

Excitement is:

  • Desire and yearning – feeling the pain and learning how it shapes you.
  • It’s in creation – carving out your life and choosing something different.
  • It’s taking chances, believing in yourself that little bit more and cultivating faith.
  • It’s listening to your gut, following your heart and claiming your joy.
  • It’s getting vulnerable, making mistakes and breaking the rules.
  • It’s passion – deep kisses that last forever and making love till the sun comes up.
  • It’s not caring if you lose sleep.
  • It’s letting the small stuff slide.
  • It’s feeling your baby kick for the very first time.
  • It’s forgiving people and forgiving yourself.
  • It’s taking a deep breath and telling someone you love them.
  • It’s pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • It’s choosing not to play it safe.  
  • It’s daring to dream and appreciating each step it takes to realize your dreams.
  • It’s failure and disappointment, then gritting your teeth and trying again.
  • It’s tears and missing somebody until your heart cracks.
  • It’s finding a message from someone special.
  • It’s recognizing the rare.
  • It’s the person that makes you feel things that you never thought possible.
  • It’s the one that takes your breath away.
  • It’s in the grit and the profane, the utterly crude and rude.
  • It’s the beauty and the mysterious.
  • It’s the sun emerging from the sea and the star soaring across the night sky.
  • It’s the way your heart flutters when love comes calling.
  • It’s learning to love yourself.  
  • It’s in the perverted underground clubs.
  • It’s the hookers and hustlers working the strip.
  • It’s the filthy homeless man asking for a dime.
  • It’s getting stuck out in a summer storm and laughing like a mad person in the rain.
  • It’s finally being to true yourself and having the courage to follow through.
  • It’s plugging in and plugging out.
  • It’s not equating death with the end.
  • It’s discovering your connection to life.
  • It’s music and dancing like a crazy person.
  • It’s exploring the unknown.
  • It’s not being afraid to love through the storm because you know it’s worth it.
  • It’s not being afraid to be different.
  • It’s the way someone looks at you.
  • It’s the way you look at yourself.
  • It’s spending time with the people you care about.  
  • It’s finding your wings – realizing who you really are and filling in the missing pieces.
  • And it’s finally knowing your soul purpose and being good with however things turn out.  

Excitement never eluded me; it was already there, every step of the way. And my purpose? When I stopped overthinking it and searching outside of myself for the answers it found me and I realized that too was always there. I just wasn’t looking in the right places. Maybe my friend was right about the 40’s after all, because these years belong to me, and I’m owning them.     

Real Friendship knows no time

I have a friend. Her name is Sharon, but I call her Shaz. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but she’s really Scottish. Luckily for me, her family migrated to Australia a few years before we met during my first year of high school.

Shaz is like a breath of fresh air on a sweltering day. She’s grounded and practical, yet also open to new ideas and alternative possibilities. She can make me laugh till I cry and my cheeks ache, yet she has an extremely sensible disposition. She’s also a dreamer. Artistic and creative at heart, her brushworks are extraordinary and she’s smart – numbers are her thing and she excels at it.

What I like most about Shaz are her gentle and positive qualities. She has this beautiful, calming energy and she’s as loyal and patient as they come. And when it comes to me, she doesn’t play games or mince words, even when it comes to delicate matters. She has a way of expressing the truth without cutting to the bone. I love that about her. Seldom will she allow anger or frustration to influence her reactions, and this was true of her nature even when we were kids.

I can always count on her honesty. I hate guessing games and fart-assing around, so I guess we suit each other. Generally, we all like to know where we stand with others. With Shaz, I know where I’ve stood, still stand and will always stand. In turn, she knows where she stands with me.

We’ve had our differences over the years. Like, how best to cook baked beans. Yes, that’s as far and as heated as our disputes have ventured. We were 16 years old and she was holidaying with my family on the Gold Coast. The debate got heated that day. We stalked from the kitchen in opposite directions and didn’t talk for hours following that argument. Baked Beans almost ruined a good friendship, but it didn’t. Good friendships practice forgiveness.

Shaz is an excellent listener. She’ll listen until there’s nothing left, then she’ll offer an opinion if asked. Let me tell you this about Shaz. Her guidance and advice never originates from a self-satisfying or judgmental position. She has this ability to see a situation from all angles, keeping the bigger picture in mind and still often surprises me with her insightful suggestions.

Good friends have our backs when life gets tricky and keep our stress in check.

Good times.

We flew to New York city once and spent a week exploring together before parting ways – she on a pre-booked North American tour, while my sights were set on a trip to Canada. We’d spent the week sharing a hotel room the size of a peanut and sleeping in a double bed that caved in the middle beneath our weight.

That’s another of Sharon’s abilities; she can sleep soundly even in the most uncomfortable circumstances. I’ve always envied this about her. Then again, she didn’t have to listen to herself snoring through the night.…

On our second last night in New York, we had recovered enough from jetlag, sightseeing and shopping to hit the town. We had a plan – we would start out some place near Times Square and make our way through as many bars across the city as we could squeeze in. A NY bar-crawl.

Woop!

Out came the heels and lipstick; in came the delicious alcoholic sour concoctions served up at our first stop, an Irish bar called the Playwright. Truth is, we never had a chance at that planned bar-crawl. It began and stopped right there, in a cozy little bar on West 49th. Yep, we got talking with the barmaid, the charming Irish owner named PJ, the locals and the drop-ins, and it wasn’t long before we’d settled in for a night of – well – you know.

That night was packed with laughs, unusual proposals and surprises. I was asked out on two dates, hit on by a local hustler, rescued by the bar staff and offered a bed if I agreed to ditch my Canadian plans and instead stay a week longer in New York – thanks PJ. A guy from the NBC asked me to join him in the basement for a couple of lines of coke, and my foot was savagely squished and injured by Sharon’s heel when, at the end of the night, we raced through our extraordinary long hotel corridor toward our door in an effort to secure the bathroom first. I think I lost.

I could barely move the next day, and it wasn’t because of my swollen foot. Last day in New York city and I spent it in bed nursing the hangover from hell while Shaz took a helicopter ride over the Hudson river, almost puking mid-flight. Heee!

Early next morning I left her standing on the sidewalk in a foreign city as I set off for LaGuardia airport. That was one of those moments that stick with you. I’d said goodbye to her a million times before that, but that time was different. That time it felt more profound.

Good friends accept us for who we are during the good and bad times. Good friends don’t expect, demand, manipulate or control. 

I had another friend once. I loved her. But she was too controlling. She gave me ultimatums when my choices didn’t suit her. She’d tell me how long I could keep a man in my life, for example – husband.

My current husband and I had a rocky start. Passionate, yes, but our union resembled a spinning yo-yo for the first few months. Round three, and this friend gave me the hard word – him or me. I mean, whaaaat?

Umm .… see ya, hun. I’m not in the business of ultimatums. My life, my choice. Family members do the same kind of thing. My brother stopped talking to me too. When he realized my man had really manned-up, was sticking around and in it for the long haul, he backtracked and turned his decision into something else. I talk to our mother, you see. He doesn’t. Another story, same shit. His hang-up, not mine.

Good friends are respectful and supportive.  

Regardless of the personal choices you make in your life, a genuine friend will support you through adversity. They’ll also tell you when you’re being a dick, but they won’t use emotional blackmail as a means of control. Good friends won’t bring you down or try to hurt to you, but they’ll keep you humble.  They will celebrate your accomplishments and remind you of your roots. They will uplift you, and in turn, you do the same for them.

Real friendship knows no time.

There have been long stretches of time when Shaz and I haven’t spoken. Not because we’ve had a disagreement, simply because life happens. You know you’ve found a good friend when time means nothing. When you can pick up the phone after a year and talk as if you’ve spoken yesterday. That’s the kind of people I want in my life. The kind of people that have time for me.

In Shaz I know how fortunate I am to experience the rich and beautiful friendship that began in high school and continued to grow and strengthen with me over the years. I must have done something right to score a friend like her, I must have.