A Career Is Wonderful But You Can’t Curl Up With It On A Cold Night…

…Marilyn Monroe spoke that pearl of wisdom. Every person who ever called her a dumb blonde was a fool.

Though Marilyn (I believe) was talking about the fact that her career was important but not as important as having a husband/partner, I think it applies on a broader level and it is something that has hit hard in the last few days.

When I left the Sunshine Coast to return to Brisbane, I left a lot of good people behind. I wasn’t coping so I just shut the door. I work so hard that I often forget about life and my relationships with people. I put them on hold because I compartmentalise and most of the time, the biggest compartment is work/study. I realise that sounds completely dysfunctional.

Most people just accept this about me. I am grateful for their understanding. But this bizarre way of coping has cost me dearly and this time I can’t undo it. Yesterday I went up the coast to catch up with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in 3 years. The time I spent with them was bittersweet because it reminded me of the all the amazing times (good and dramatic) that we spent together and how much I missed them.

But there was someone really important missing and I can’t get that person back. I’ll never have the chance to say goodbye or apologise for not making the time to come and see him because he passed away several months ago. His granddaughter rang me at the time to let me know and I was heartbroken. And I was angry at myself for putting work and my crazy life ahead of the people who had done so much for me.

When I moved to the coast in 2002, I was 20 years old. I was fresh out of my first university degree and I was as green as they come. I was away from my family (who I’m incredibly close to) and felt generally scared and displaced. In 2004, I met a guy from work, a builder, who was to become my flatmate of 5 years and one of my best friends ever. His father was the other half of his building team and his entire family took me in as one of their own. For 6 years, his family was my support network… Particularly his parents. We had dinner once or twice a week, Friday night drinks and usual spent time on the weekends catching up.

Pop (my flatmate’s dad) was instrumental in my acquisition of knowledge about construction and building techniques. We were so close for such a long time and I’m having difficulty coping with the fact that I let our relationship lapse because of all the hell I was going through with getting sick, moving back to Brisbane, studying a new degree and trying to block out the negativity that was so prevalent at the end of my time on the coast. And although that negativity was diabolical, it is no excuse.

So when he passed away, it hit me hard. We hadn’t spoken for 3 years. I didn’t even know he was sick and then his granddaughter was on the phone to let me know he was gone. So I wanted to take this opportunity to remember him with one of my favourite stories from our time together 🙂

I started my own interior design business at 23, in 2005. In 2007, I had a client who wanted a complete refurbishment of their waterfront 3-bedroom unit but had no building plans to give me. So I had to measure the whole building up from scratch.

I cant remember if Pop was in the process of retiring or had fully retired but he offered to come with me. Despite some funny moments when he (a) nearly locked himself in the pitch dark laundry and (b) accidentally broke one of the ugliest bird sculptures I have ever seen (and tried to rearrange it so it looked unharmed), we got the whole thing measured up. Laughing the whole time. It was a beautiful summer day, I remember that. And I remember thinking how lucky I was. Incredibly grateful for the help at one of the busiest times of my career. He showed me tips and tricks for accurate measuring (in the days before the laser tape measure!!!). It took over 4 hours but – awesome teamwork – it was done. And then we went for our usual “coffee and muffin” break on the riverfront. My treat. I still remember the muffin flavour – raspberry and white chocolate. Sooooo good.

I went home that night to draw the building up on CAD while it was fresh in my mind. When I finished I just sat there stunned. We had measured up this enormous villa-style unit and it was 10mm out. 10mm. That’s 1 centimeter. Under half an inch. That’s just unheard of. Normally (and if I’d had to measure it myself) with something that size it would be somewhere between 50-150mm out. It just blew me away. 10mm. And when I told him, he just chuckled and said “See, Baby? I told you we’re good!”

So the moral of this story is that people need to come first. Relationships are more important than career or grades. I may not get the hang of doing away with my compartmentalisation tendencies straight away but I’m committed to trying. Life should be lived without regret but not having the chance to see Pop before he died is a huge regret. Huge.

I do my utmost best to be a good daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend (when applicable) and all the rest. I also have bizarre levels of perfectionism that don’t seem to allow me to do anything but my best with my work/designing/study. I rob Peter to pay Paul with my energy levels so sometimes I make bad decisions about what is important. I won’t always make the right decisions in balancing the two but I will try. With a little help from my friends, old and new and those looking down from above 🙂



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