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What would you say to your 20-year-old self?

What is the one thing you’d say to your 20-year-old self?

Quite frankly, I didn’t know if I was Arthur or Martha, intelligent or stupid, boy or a man, barely sane or as mad as a cut snake.

I simply didn’t know.

Looking back from the grand heights of now being in my mid-40s, back then, as a 20-year-old, I was just a gangly, still pimply, dreamy post-youth who loved wearing Blundstone boots and listening to The Cure and The Smiths and playing my 12-string acoustic guitar. I attended university. I lived in a suburban grouphouse, which I didn’t like—my housemates that year were narrow-minded bigots from the bush. But I loved being in Canberra, Australia’s designed-from-the-sky-down national capital, which at the time had a population of only 220,000, most of whom were university students, or university students who’d become public servants. But I didn’t know anything about population figures or public servants; I didn’t really know anything about university students either. I only knew about melancholic pop music and the mystery I was to myself and the small group of friends around me.

Despite being born and bred on Sydney’s affluent North Shore, I really did love those Blundstone boots—they were the sort workers wear—and was fond of black jeans and dark-colored shirts with floral prints and black, misshapen woolen jumpers with holes in the sleeves. My browny-black fringe hung long and low; I seem to recall that I could easily get the end into my mouth and taste the stringy grit of the thing. It was, after all, the 1980s. I was tall, sometimes painfully thin, sometimes portly.

I studied landscape architecture, but really I’d always wanted to do something with music: be a rock star, or be a rhythm guitarist in a band (Robert Smith and Johnny Marr were my heroes, obviously). Or perhaps I could just become a studio technician so at least I’d be in the company of rock stars and rhythm guitarists; I remember how in my last year of high school I rang a private music studio training academy and asked them to send me a brochure. My mother, however, made it clear that a life in music would be tough, perhaps even an embarrassment (for her at least), so that dream ended in a series of long sulks over dinner.

At some point that final high school year, no doubt sensing that someone better come up with a decent idea before this situation dragged on too much longer, my older brother said that as I liked art and was good at geography, maybe I should look into landscape architecture. I’m convinced that he had no inside knowledge of the profession; perhaps he’d just heard mention of it and now it was an idea for my consideration. My mother, being a keen gardener, liked this proposal very much. So, not wanting to be a problem for anyone, I applied, got in, left home, and became a university student in Canberra who liked wearing Blundstone boots and listening to The Cure and The Smiths and playing 12-string guitar.

Keep reading over at Role/Reboot.  Thanks to Meredith Landry.

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The past