Have you ever had an unexpected year, a year when nothing proceeds the way you would have thought it would, let alone planned. The year I left my husband and found myself living in a two bedroom flat looking after two grade 12 students, only one of whom was my child, was my surprising year. I spent most of the time fighting tooth and nail to make two teenagers pass grade 12 , when neither of them really cared that much. Dragging my child out of the surf and the other one out of her bed cause she “just had to sleep a bit longer,” was my usual scenario. I felt like a sergeant major directing traffic, one to Maroochydore High and the other to Mountain Creek. That definitely wasn’t what I expected when the clock struck twelve on 31st December the previous year.
The day after I moved into the flat in Alexandra Headland I walked to the top of Pacific terrace. The view was amazing, the sunlight sparkled on the water and there was barely a breath of wind. I sat down to contemplate exactly what I was going to do.
I was 40 something and single, after trying desperately to revive something that I should have left dead and buried, retrenched from my job and at that stage neither of my children were living with me. The situation could have seemed quite bleak, I had left all my furniture with my ex, lent money to someone maxing out my credit card at the same time and I was broke. Sitting on top of that hill, taking in the view on that spectacular autumn morning, I thought to myself, I can either become bitter and twisted or make this an adventure. I’ll tell you later what I chose.
I got a job at a local seafood shop, not really very glamorous, but if you have ever tried to find a job when you are over forty you will understand. There was method in my madness though, I had partly applied for this particular job because I knew how physically demanding it could be. At the end of grade 12 I had worked the summer holidays in a fish shop so I knew what I was getting myself in for. I had lost my peace in the last ten years of my marriage and I really needed to rest my mind. After years of office work I thought it was a good way to begin my reinvention.
So there I was shovelling boxes of fish, prawns and ice, in and out of cabinets, I didn’t have the time to sink into the bitter and twisted mind set that I was trying to avoid. I did learn to appreciate the little things. To this day nothing gives me more pleasure than to sit down on a hot summer night with a dozen natural oysters, sprinkled with salt, pepper and lemon juice, on a bed of ice, a can of dark and stormy in my hand, watching the Gilmore girls. Oh the unequalled bliss of it all.
So I rode my pushbike to work every morning, up and over the Alex bluff, sunlight dancing on the water, my mind sorting through all the sludge of the past twenty years, defragging as I went. Early on New Years Eve morning, as the year drew to a close, I was making my way through Mooloolaba. Riding in the middle of the road as I approached a narrow section near the “Loo with a View,” a racing bike attempted to flash past me. The problem was I had a string bag hanging off my handlebars and his handlebars became tangled in it. As anyone would I came to a complete stop planting my feet firmly on the ground as I felt my bike being pulled by the other bike. Unfortunately for that rider it caused his bike to also come to a full stop, he and his bike then hurtled to the bitumen. I saw the whole thing happen in slow motion, unable to do anything to stop it. I watched his thankfully helmeted head smash into the curb and he lay there with his expensive bike resting on top of him.
I felt so bad ….. really, really bad …. until he started to scream at me.
“You bloody idiot, you moved to the side, you bloody idiot” over and over again. I tried to apologise in a soft consoling voice, but he went on and on. Now I’ve been screamed at by the best of them and the more he screamed, the more defensive I became. In the end enough was enough and I stood over him, hands on hips, waggling my finger and stamping my foot like I was scolding a naughty child. “You listen here” I said in my best school marm voice, “It was an accident and you’re very rude and don’t you ever call anyone a BLOODY IDIOT again”
And that’s when I saw it, I wish I hadn’t, I couldn’t believe it. The bloke lying on the ground, hurling abuse at me, was missing a foot. It was like a scene from a bad Monty Python movie, It was awful, Excruciatingly unexpected.
I do want to assure you that he didn’t lose it when he fell of the bike, I just hadn’t noticed it before.
The missing foot made me feel even more incredibly bad than I already did. I probably should have stayed; however, his behaviour, which I am sure was just shock on his part, had made me so angry that I got on my bike and rode off into the sunrise. I then spent the whole of the day in fear that I’d get a visit from the police to cart me off; cause there emblazoned on my tea shirt was the name of my employer, a well known seafood supplier.
Since then many unexpected things have happened, amazing jobs. I worked for a now defunct Childcare Company as an event coordinator. They flew me all over the countryside. I had one trip to Tasmania to open a couple of centres where I only worked for 8 hours the entire five nights I was away and they paid for it, car, fuel, accommodation, meals, amazing. I do sometimes feel that I may have contributed to the financial demise they eventually experienced.
I’ve even been known to wear a purple bear suit when there was a need, now that is another story. I have travelled to many other destinations, that I actually paid for. I have a peace I didn’t have in my marriage and I am unbelievably happy.
So I guess you know which choice I made! Honestly sometimes it is just that simply, you have to choose. Who would have thought, very unexpected!