I can procrastinate no longer in getting my Christmas letter out. It has been an awesome year. I have shed tears, and I have laughed so hard my sides hurt. It has also been a year where I have been made aware of my social responsibility as a citizen of the world to contribute in any way I can. I know this is a long letter, but I hope you will read to the end and enjoy what 2015 meant to me.
January saw me in quite a depressed state. It seems I get this way when I have no structured activities. In fact, I have found that I can stay in bed for hours and even days, sometimes really sleeping if I don’t have something planned that I am committed to. I pushed myself to get out and take photos, and to draw and paint, but had no real motivation. The weather didn’t help motivate; sometimes it was sweltering hot, other times bucketing with rain. I took some good photos in this period, and experimented with watercolours as a medium.
February saw me preparing for my first year of honest to goodness University. Yes, I had finished the University Certificate through Catalyst/ Clemente and Mission Australia, but now I was starting my University studies at Australian Catholic University. I enrolled in Introduction to Literature, 2D Studies 1 (drawing) and a course called HUMA111 which taught the basics of how to structure an essay to university standard as well as do oral presentations. Although I found HUMA111 boring and easy, I think I didn’t take it seriously enough, and so only achieved a pass. I also only achieved a pass in drawing too. I bombed my first 2 assessment tasks for it. I learned that I could spend a lot more time thinking about what I am drawing: looking at shapes instead of the overall object. I did however manage to achieve a High Distinction in Introduction to Literature in my first semester.
Sam and I were in a car accident, where a woman who was unlicenced, under the influence of drugs, and not driving her own car smashed hard into the rear left corner of my car. While we were uninjured, the car had a bit of damage which cost me close to $1,000 to repair prior to registration renewal. Also in February, we joined the Polly’s club, and now assist to put on dances and shows for the LGBT community, raising money for charity.
March through May was very much focused on my studies. The highlight of this period however, was not my studies, but the extra curriculum activities in which I chose to engage. I auditioned and was accepted as a bass singer in the ACU Strathfield sacred choir, and later the ACU national choir. In the first semester, we performed for The Bishops Conference in March, then went to Melbourne for a workshop with other campus choirs in preparation for our performances at the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) which took place in July. We also performed for the opening of the school year Mass, and the May Graduation Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
May saw my own first graduation, accepting my certificate for Liberal Studies, which I completed in 2014. It was an incredible time, and although I was one of many hundreds accepting their awards that night, I was proud to be there.
While June was a holiday period for Uni, it wasn’t holiday time for our choir as we continued to rehearse for IFCU and the 25th Anniversary Celebration Mass.
The choir trip to Melbourne for IFCU in July was amazing. We sang at the St Patricks Cathedral a number of times as well as venues inside the Catholic University down there. It was bitterly cold, as it had been here in Sydney too I believe. It rained most of the time we were there. The conference was attended by Bishops and heads of Universities from around the world. We sang in Latin, French, Spanish, Italian and English. Among the Australian VIPs were His Excellency General Sir Peter Cosgrove, and the former Hon. Mr John Fahey who is now the University chancellor.
We came back to Sydney and the next week sang for the 25th Anniversary Mass, which was attended by the then Prime Minister Hon. Tony Abbott. We also were privileged to have dinner with the PM at the Harbourside Brasserie at Darling Harbour.
August saw the start of second semester at University. I had increased my workload to that of a full time student; that is 4 courses. I studied 20th Century Literature, First person non-fiction, 2D studies (painting) and UNCC100 which is a subject which focuses on social justice, human rights, and the common good. I am pleased to say that I coped well with the workload achieving a High Distinction in 20th Century, a Distinction in first person non-fiction, and credits for both Painting and UNCC100.
August also saw Sam’s immigration interview which went very well, and after a long and patient wait, he was granted permanent residency in October. We are currently trying to save so we can afford to move in together in the New Year. We are still waiting for the Australian Government to change laws so we can marry.
September through to November saw me once again immersed with my studies. I really enjoyed exploring the First World War poets, and the modernists, as well as George Orwell. At this time, I wrote some of my best blog posts, but also a short story and a poem. The horror of the realities of war hit me.
We, the children of the warriors before,
Learn nothing from the horrors of War
Lest we forget we say with our lips
But from our minds, the lives lost slips.
“How does the uniform look Mum?”
“It looks smashing Ted, remember to keep your head down”.
“Don’t worry Mum, no Jerry is gonna get me”.
He kisses her on the cheek, salutes, smiles, then turns to begin his journey to war, and manhood.
As mother stands on the footpath, holding the gate, so she won’t fall under the grief, she watches her third son go off to do his duty, she smiles, swipes at the tears and waves him goodbye…forever.
The reading we had to do for first person non-fiction included a lot of different memoirs and autobiographies in preparation for our final task, which was a personal essay. So now I have started to write my own memoirs. Don’t hold your breath though, they will be a long time coming.
Our choir only had three performances in second semester. The first was to sing at the September graduation Mass, then sing the University Hymn and the National Anthem at the September graduation ceremony. The third performance of the semester was to sing advent lessons and carols at the University chapel. This was attended not only by university personnel and students, but also people from the local community and some invited people of different faiths. We had a great time and sang really well. But we had rehearsed really hard for it. Following was a celebration dinner, and it saw the farewell of our choir director. Dr Clair Johnson has been honoured with a full professorship. This comes with an increased work load and no time to continue to be our director. We can only hope for someone as dedicated and as talented as Clair to step into the role for 2016.
With the mass migration of people from Syria, our University decided to partner with the House of Welcome to raise funds to assist in the training of immigrants to new careers, housing, food and welfare needs. I am proud that I could be part of that inaugural meeting and could donate my talents as an artist in the project “Arts 4 Refugees”.
The course called UNCC100 awoke in me a passion to somehow contribute to the good of the world. I have an idea on how Australia can further assist people in other countries and through my contacts in the University and with influential people whom I have met, I am starting to construct the concept so that others will get on board to assist. I won’t go into it here, it would take 20,000 words to explain, but think along the lines of “give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime” (Anne Isabella Ritchie).
My health remains the same. I am still in pain from Arthritis and Bursitis, still cannot shift any weight, and still sometimes greatly suffer from anxiety and depression. I am understanding my mental illness a lot better now, and realise danger periods and triggers for depression, which could land me in bed for a few days. Of course I try to avoid those things that cause it and recognise when a danger period is coming up to circumvent it.
I have exhibited my art only twice this year. Once was in the Kaleidoscope exhibition, that is associated with Reclink and Mission Australia. Whist I didn’t sell any works there, it was a much better organised exhibition this year and I enjoyed giving a short speech on opening night.
The second exhibition was in Melbourne for Project New Dawn. This was my second year of being invited to give a speech, and to sell some of my art work at an auction of benefactors. I sold three works and donated a fourth. 50% of proceeds went to Project New Dawn and 50% to myself. I am pleased to have contributed again this year, and will continue to do so. I have a standing invitation.
My work as a stocktaker finished in November and I have taken up a position with a contractor to monitor and assess loss prevention and service practices of retailers. This is still a casual position and I take assignments as I wish and am able. The good thing is that this job is not seasonal. It doesn’t stop during peak periods or have any quiet times, so I can generally get the amount of work I want.
Christmas will be a quiet one, Sam and I will get together in the afternoon on Christmas day, but he is working every other day. There is no such thing as Boxing Day or New Year’s Day holidays in Sam’s work.
On Behalf of Sam and myself, we wish you the warmest wishes this Christmas and a happy and healthy 2016.
Figure 1Three French Hens