Twenty-seven has come and gone. When I woke up this morning, I was 28.
Time has flown by faster than ever before this year – possibly because I missed a large chunk of it. At some point in early May, I sat down at my computer; when I looked up again, two months had passed, my feet were cold, the cat needed to be fed, and there was a 74,000-word document sitting on my desk. Twenty-seven is, most notably, the year I finished my PhD.
It is also the year I spent four days driving up the coast of Queensland, passing through tropical rainstorms, sugarcane plantations, and the Glass House Mountains, learning to change gears, stopping to take pictures of the Big Mango, the Big Ned Kelly, the Big Cane Toad, and the Big Pineapple, and waging nightly wars against relentless clouds of mozzies.
It is the year I finally introduced my parents to the city that has been my home for a longer period of time than anywhere else, apart from Buffalo. I wanted them to love Sydney as much as I do, so I took them to my favourite places and fed them my favourite treats and all the while, marvelled at the incongruity of it all – my own Mom and Dad, in Australia! A collision of two worlds. Mom said Australia felt “foreign” and I realized how at home I have become here.
The three of us travelled to Tasmania. For the first time I saw wombats that were alive and scuttling through the bush, not dead at the side of the road. My morbid imagination enjoyed a thorough exploration of Port Arthur, and my legs enjoyed a few good bushwalks. I learned how to make stovetop popcorn and developed a taste for ginger beer.
Following that period when I almost never left my house, almost never got dressed, almost never ate anything besides cereal and jelly beans, and thought of nothing but thesis both day and night, I stopped – and took a break. I delved into the centre of Australia, its dry, acrid heart, and found an entirely new world. It was a world of extremes, where Mother Nature does her finest and most treacherous work. I saw Aboriginal wall paintings, termite mounds four meters tall, the fossilized remains of jellyfish on top of a canyon peak, wild camels, and what I’m still not convinced wasn’t a misplaced Martian mountain.
Twenty-seven was the year that I discovered that cooking actual food really isn’t all that hard. I perfected the art of living in a very small space. I decided that sleeping is probably a worthwhile activity, and I might as well do it on a regular basis. I learned that if becoming an academic star means doing nothing in life but work, then I will not become an academic star, as I am too fond of playing.
At the end of it all, I went home. There was family and snow and all good things, and I decided that sooner, rather than later, I would like to live in a part of the world where family visits could happen more often.
I like having a birthday at the end of January. Apart from the fact that I can spend it skiing if I happen to be in North America, and that the whole of Australia celebrates it with a long weekend and fireworks, I feel as though I have a second chance for a fresh start. I can have another go with whichever leaves I intended to turn over in 2013 and haven’t yet managed to keep flipped. It’s like having two first days of school in one month.
Twenty-eight, I think, will be a year of great things.