Letter from my 21 year old self

Dear friend

I am writing to you from the upstairs caf in the Melbourne Uni student union, sipping a strong long black with a half smoked cigarette smouldering in the ash tray next to me. Filthy habit I know, but I only took it up to shake off my girly swot image at high school. I truly hope you’ve given up smoking by the time you read this.

I’m hanging out in between production meetings. Yes that’s right, meetings and not lectures. I gave up on my economics lectures some time ago. While I dutifully enrolled in a Commerce degree as Mama and Baba expected, I soon realised I couldn’t stomach the rugger-bugger private school boys in my classes who sculled schooners at Naughton’s and organised marathon pub crawls. Instead I gravitated towards the student theatre department where I’ve found my kin on the stage of the Guild Theatre.

Together with the other misfits and renegades, we’ve formed our own theatre company, an enterprise that occupies my every waking hour. We’re in pre-production for an outdoor season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the law quad. The campus theatre scene is buzzing – there’s a wonderboy director called Barrie Kosky who has started an opera company and the law revue crew with Magda are about to tour with the D Generation. Then there is this stunning actress Cate Blanchett who is performing in an obscure German play. I managed the all night bump in for the show, rigging lights and hanging scenery. We stumbled out of the theatre at 8am and celebrated our marathon endurance with a breakfast stubby of beer before fuelling up on a carbo laden breakfast at Mario’s in Brunswick Street.

It’s an intoxicating world so far removed from my traditional Greek upbringing with its restrictive code and expectations of a university degree, white-collar job, marriage and kids. While Greek girls my age are hitting the clubs and Saturday night dances in search of husbands, I’m drinking bottles of vodka with the other mavericks so we can use the empties to decorate the set for an upcoming Chekhov production. That night I had to stagger to Twins for a fizzy lime drink and half a dozen fried dim sims to sober up before going home. Baba is usually waiting up for me no matter what the time and if it’s really late, he sometimes locks me out of the house and I have to sleep in the car.

I know the time has come for me to move out of home and stand on my own two feet but it’s easier said than done. When I first tried to discuss it with Baba, we had an ugly screaming match. In his world, good Greek girls don’t leave home until they marry. Baba couldn’t understand why I needed my independence. He said I could have all the independence I wanted as long as I stayed at home.

I also haven’t told Mama and Baba that I’ve abandoned my degree. I can’t see the point of continuing with my studies, it seems so futile.  My future belongs in the theatre, not in an office job armed with a Bachelor of Commerce*. And no it’s not a rash decision which is what Mama and Baba will say. This is what defines me - fearlessness and a resolute sense of possibility.

Please hold on to that feeling of possibility, don’t be constrained by other’s expectations. Always find your own path and be true to who you are even though at times there will be costs.  You are strong and resilient, and will overcome whatever tough stuff comes your way. But don’t be afraid to seek the support of others, it’s not an admission of vulnerability or weakness as you think, it is in fact a sign of strength. And one more thing, don’t shield your heart from love. You have created these impenetrable barriers where no one can reach you and it’s time they came down.

Lately I’ve been reading Jeanette Winterson and I have taken this quote of hers to heart: You play, you win. You play, you lose. You play.

Whatever happens dear friend, make sure you keep playing.

From me

 *Endnote: I’ve had an office job in the public service for the last 20 years and now have two Masters degrees.

This letter was read during a radio interview.