1992. Wynyard, Tasmania. A brochure from the Faculty of Education at the University of Tasmania sat on the counter at the radio station. Two words spoke to me as soon as I picked it up: English/Drama. Before that moment I couldn’t have articulated my passion for either of them. They didn’t fit in the world in which I lived; a world of domesticity on the one hand, and male-dominated sports on the other. Football, soccer, boys basketball, cricket.
But the brochure did more than cause a realisation in me that here were two areas of interest to me. When I read that it was possible to study English Literature and Theatre a rumbling began deep within me. Over the next few weeks as I pondered whether it was possible, the rumbling became louder until it was a roar in my head. I discovered that it wasn’t possible to not do it. To not enrol. To pass up this opportunity.
Opportunities that allow us to begin, to change direction in our lives, to choose the direction in which we head may not present themselves on a regular basis. They certainly hadn’t for me. I had had no choice in the move from NSW to Queensland, or in the decision to move from Queensland to Tasmania. They were life changing decisions, they changed the direction of my life, but I was not in control of those decisions.
But here was an opportunity to take control, to make a decision. I knew instinctively what my choice was going to be, but my decision also impacted on others. It was a life-changing decision, and it wasn’t only my life that would be changed. It meant yet another move to yet another new place, yet another move away from family – this time my own children. It meant sacrifice – theirs and mine – again.
It meant making a decision that was ultimately selfish. It was a decision that was all about me.
1993. Launceston, Tasmania. I made the move, began again, and changed my life.
And I learnt.
I learnt that making life-changing decisions means your life changes and you can’t predict the ripple effects those changes have.
I learnt that making life-changing decisions requires courage and resilience and a willingness to sacrifice.
Any new beginning, no matter how big or small, requires us to adapt, to hang on, to allow it to happen (and we never fully realise what ‘it’ is when we first start out).
A beginning is not a moment in time; while it begins with one step it requires more than the first step. Beginnings take time and energy and commitment and desire. We have to want to begin and we have to commit to the messiness that often accompanies a beginning, the messiness of the steps contained within the beginning.
Beginnings lead to new identities. We try them on, test them out, sometimes deny those identities because they don’t fit comfortably with the view we have of ourselves. We often can only see ourselves with the old identity on … wife/mother not student; teacher aide not pre-service teacher. Others see the shiny new identity, but denial is strong. Sometimes we only see that new identity when we’re about to lose it.
Beginnings lead somewhere. They inevitably lead to endings. Beginning a university degree leads to ending a university degree. We might not be able to see that ending when we first begin. It might seem out of reach at the beginning, but the end of that particular beginning means a new beginning.
Beginnings mean journeys. It’s a journey we’re not wholly in control of … the pathway may seem clear when we’re looking at the satellite image, but when we zoom in a little we see a connecting maze of laneways, dead-ends, cul-de-sacs, open spaces. Changing the view to street view means we see the detail up close – letter boxes, flowering shrubs, front yards, driveways. We can get lost in the minutia when we only see through street view and it seems to take an age to move from one block to another. We see the complexity of the journey in a whole new light, and we need spaces/time/semester breaks to step back and re-look from the distance of the satellite.
Big beginnings contain many smaller ones. Beginning school as a five year sets the child on a journey through education that will take many years, but within that big beginning are many other beginnings: beginning a new grade, beginning with a new teacher, with new students, making new friends, learning new rules and expectations, learning new skills that lead to other beginnings – learning that squiggly lines on a page can be interpreted and can lead us into new worlds, new ideas, new imaginings.
2013. Burnie, Tasmania. Another beginning.