I published my last post just before my birthday. I was as excited as anyone could possibly be – not only was I showered with great gifts from family and friends near and far, but it was capped off with a premiership win by my AFL team – a win that is the equivalent of the American Superbowl. But just a week later, I found myself in a depression – feeling lonely and alone.
This, of course, I know, is not true. I have family and friends who care and love me.
And now we’re just over a week away from Christmas. This is traditionally a happy time for everyone, with parties and gift-shopping and everyone winding down from their busy year. I’ve attended three separate work Christmas parties within 8 days and ended the week on a high note and sore feet from hours of dancing. Sadly, however, when I woke up yesterday morning and checked my Twitter feed, I saw nothing but sadness, for it was filled with breaking news updates about the latest massacre in the US.
48 hours ago I had never heard of Newtown, Connecticut. Now, this small town has embedded itself into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. My heart broke with every tweet and every news article I read of the lone gunman who arrived at an elementary school where his mother was a teacher and shot and killed 20 young first graders and six teachers who had tried to protect them.
Every year I tell people I don’t like making a fuss over my birthday. But then as my birthday draws nearer, I start to get a little more excited and I start telling everyone within earshot that my birthday is coming up. Since my birthday is on the last day of the month, it always feels like such a long wait from when September comes to when it is actually “the big day”.
For the past couple of years, my birthday has been a bittersweet time of year. I spent my birthday in 2010 flying halfway across the world to be by my grandmother’s bedside as she laid in a hospital bed, and since she passed away four weeks later, my birthday has been a constant reminder of those last days I got to spend with her. But that emotional period also serves as a reminder of how blessed I am and how far my friends are prepared to go to make me happy. (You can catch up on my birthday posts for 2010 and 2011).
September 2012 got off to a wonderful start. First, I got a new contract, thus keeping alive my much-coveted dream of a trip back to the US (which I last visited in 1998). Then came the presents. The first completely knocked me off my feet with amazement because of the sheer unexpectedness of it.
I openly admit I have a massive crush on the writers of TV show White Collar. Everyone who follows me on Twitter or is a Facebook friend regularly see me post undeniably over-the-top comments about how in awe I am of them. So, imagine my surprise when I got a notice in my letterbox to pick up a parcel from the post office, which contained an autographed copy of the script from one of my favourite episodes of the show (it was the season 2 mid-season finale “Point Blank”)! It was signed by the entire staff in the White Collar writers room!!!
Halfway through my birthday month and I have got the best gifts already. First off, I got a new job (yay!) which means I can finally start planning the vacation I had been coveting for the past two years (double yay!). Secondly, a week ago, I received a most fantastic surprise birthday present from my fellow blogger/writer-wannabe/conspiracy theorist, Ceil, who had apparently been planning this surprise for three months (more on that another time).
The latest “gift” required a 4.30am alarm this morning, and an international phone call to join in a press chat with none other than my favourite TV showrunner, Jeff Eastin – creator and executive producer of WHITE COLLAR. How many people can say they have talked to their favourite writer whilst in bed? OK now I know I’m going too far with this and I don’t want to find my next gift in the form of a restraining order.
So, a word of warning, this piece of writing is the result of lack of sleep and over-excitement from this morning so I apologise in advance that there will be grammatical errors, possibly incomplete sentences and may not make complete sense (I have voices in my head arguing about White Collar conspiracy theories).
Armed with my long list of questions and being a little smarter this time around (my first press call was with the funny, talented and generous actor, Willie Garson), I managed to score myself second in line for the call. Being a bundle of nerves and trying to keep my brain and my mouth in sync at 5.30 in the morning proved more difficult than I expected. Maybe it’s time to use “English is my second language” as an excuse…
For those of you who have been following me on Twitter, you will have noticed my recent excitement over a visit to everyone’s favourite Swedish furniture store. Yes, I am talking about IKEA, home of flat-packed, D.I.Y., stress-tested furniture. I love the idea of being able to put furniture together myself like this. It makes me feel like I am building something which, for a person who can’t even be bothered sewing up a loose button on a shirt, is a huge deal. Some of you may well argue whether the furniture-maker should be stress-testing the effects installation of their products might have on their customers as well.
If you are an IKEA fan like me, you will know that their instruction manuals don’t have any text at all. This is a great idea as it overcomes any language barriers that are commonly found in products made in non-English-speaking countries with badly translated instructions such as “insert screw in round hole behind floor” or “hook nail with driver in proper hammer”. Huh? (Ok, so I may have made those two up, but you get the idea.)
When I recently brought up the topic of building my new IKEA desk with colleagues, this brought up a new debate that went something like this:
“Oh, I hate it when you get to the end and you find there’s a piece missing from the box!”
“No, no! What’s worse is if you find at the end there’s an extra piece and you don’t know where it’s supposed to go!”
I love meeting new people whenever I travel. As soon as I open my mouth, they recognise an “interesting” accent and the question inevitably follows: “Where do you come from?” I refrain from breaking out my Men At Work impression and I reply “I come from Australia.” That is the answer I have been giving for the past thirty years. Yes, it hardly seems real that it has already been thirty years since my parents packed up the family and moved us halfway across the world from Hong Kong to a city in a country we had never been to.
I never fully grasped the enormity of such a move back in 1982. At the time, I knew nothing about Australia – not even about the koalas and kangaroos that people ask me about nowadays when I travel abroad. The only people I knew who had even been to Australia were friends of my parents who had come here on a family holiday. I remember going to their house for a slide night but taking very little interest in what was on screen.
The only thing I remember thinking was that they spoke English in Australia. Having attended an English private school since kindergarten, I was not afraid of the language barrier, though if anyone had warned me about the accent, things might have been a little different! If only I had read Nino Culotta’s They’re A Weird Mob back then, I may have had a better understanding of the Australian slang!
The prospect of leaving behind all my friends and my grandparents, who I was extremely close to, never truly hit me until we were at the airport on August 15th, 1982, when I saw my grandfather cry for the first time in my life as we bade our farewells at the departure gate. Having always been an extremely sensitive and sentimental child, the sight of my grandparents and my parents in tears was the first sign that my life was about to change in a major way.