Last week, I cycled to the post office to pick up a parcel: a collection of stories, of which my Conversations with My Parents, is one.
When I opened the parcel, and saw the book, I wanted to ride home immediately to start reading it. Instead, I had to ride to work and start work. I was bursting with impatient excitement for lunchtime, but I did not know where to go for lunch. If, as would usually be the case, I had a sandwich, I could just head to the Common and read my book on a park bench. Sadly, I needed to buy something to eat, so I decided to go ‘next door’. I did not want to go any further afield, because that would reduce the amount of time I had to read my book. The main problem with having lunch next door, is that other work people are next door. I did not want to talk to anyone.
Luckily, no one I was actually friendly with was next door, and all I had to do was chirp “hi!” to some people, take my own seat at my own table and stick my nose into the book. There, I was transported to a world of stories – some comic, some poignant, some familiar, some less so. I was a bit discombobulated when a work mate said, “What are you reading?” And I mumbled into myself with eyes far away, so unlike my usual work self, “Just a book”, showing her the cover and hoping she won’t take it from me to flick through, to find me in there, to force me to be pleased about my inclusion in the collection with her, whom I care nothing for, when I have not told most of my friends nor indeed any of my family, except one of my sisters. Thankfully, she says, “hmm, interesting”, in a way that indicates she finds it very UN-interesting. I walked off without saying anything else.
I’m not exactly sure why I haven’t told many people. I told my sister as an afterthought, at the end of a telephone conversation, about two months after I knew my piece was included. I told friends at random, and I’m not even entirely sure who I’ve told, and who I haven’t.
I wrestled with whether to give my full name to the piece, or a link to this blog. I kept most of the wrestling to myself, although I did precis my thoughts for my partner. As usual, he helped me order my thoughts, and come to a conclusion.
Reading through the book gives me the same odd feeling I have mentioned before, when viewing a migrant exhibition: a depressed sort-of lassitude mixed with urgent inspiration. I can do this, people are interested in my stories. But I don’t have time. I’m not good enough. My writing is mundane, imprecise, amateurish. My stories are so similiar to all these. It will bore everyone. I’m just flailing about the place, pulled in a myriad directions. I’m not that passionate about my family. I’m not that passionate about my work. I’m not that passionate about my self, or the struggles I’ve been through to become happy about being me.
I love my family. But they deserve their privacy.
I’m okay with my work. And not stupid enough to jeopardise it on my blog.
I’m reconciled with my self, and if I’m completely honest, quite happy about being me, and for most of my life have been so. Hell, I never struggled very hard. I had a big, accepting, loving family. I went to school in a large multi-cultural community, where if you called me chink then I called you whitey, and we were square. The cuts never cut much deeper than skin, because I have a reserve of strength, because I fought, because I was me, and I have always been okay about that.
Don’t buy the book for my story. You’ve probably already read it, and if not, just click on that handy link up top. But do buy it for the whole collection. There are some duds – there always are in any collection – and your duds will differ from my duds, because, you know, we’re different people and we have different tastes.