Retired at age 28

They say that Generation Y will change careers three times in their lives, or roughly speaking, about every ten years. I’ve spent nine in my current profession, which I am thoroughly fed up with, so now I’m heading back to uni.

As a 28-year-old student, I’m worried about the age difference between me and all those 21-year-olds. What will we have in common? They’re living with parents, I’m living with my defacto; they’re clubbing, I’m attending dinner parties; they’re buying cars where as I’m looking at houses. Still, I suppose we’ll bond over the things that have been uniting students for years – a mutual dislike of lecturers, bitching about too much homework and moaning about bad cafeteria food.

In other ways, I’m looking forward to being a student; the 12 contact hours a week as opposed to 50 plus in my last job. Then there are the student price movie tickets, train tickets, gym memberships and more. It’s amazing how one little card can have so much power. Of course, there’s a reason why you get mates rates. It’s because you’re poor, something which I haven’t quite faced up to yet.

I blame employment websites for actively encouraging me to change careers. I signed up for new posts in my current profession but instead I was emailed totally unrelated positions. Maybe a programmer out there in database-land was trying to tell me something. Or maybe it was just a glitch in the system. Either way, I got the hint and decided to pack-up shop.

In the olden days, if you stayed in a profession you hated, it wasn’t so bad because life expectancy was so low. These days, you’re looking at a good 40 years of working life. That’s like a life sentence really, if you don’t enjoy what you do. Perhaps that’s why there’s an increase in the ‘slash’ professionals – i.e. artist/designer/musician. It certainly keeps your options open, but not everyone is geared to work that way.

The thing with changing careers (apart from a massive pay decrease) is that you don’t get the golden handshake your grandparents received. That’s why my old work partner and I are throwing our own retirement party, complete with gold watches (spray painted plastic ones) and a large cake with naff-looking icing spelling out the word ‘Congratulations!’ The best thing is, we won’t have to share it, as no one else will be invited.

Change is scary, but of all the species on the planet, we humans are the best at adapting to it. Just look at some of America’s more famous individuals and see how well their career changes worked out for them. Bill Gates used to be CEO of Microsoft, now he’s a full-time philanthropist, having donated over $29 billion to charities since 2000. Al Gore was the vice president of the United States, now he’s a champion of climate change and recent Nobel Prize winner because of it. Of course, not everyone will be so successful in their ‘second life’.

Some people set themselves up for multiple career paths right from the outset – via a double degree at uni. This type of study is becoming more and more common, which is why I find it odd that tertiary institutions like Melbourne University have decided to abolish double degrees. They’ll certainly make more money from students doing back-to-back degrees, and save themselves the headache of timetable clashes. But in today’s commitment-phobic times (see Australia’s growing divorce rate), how wise is it to steer our youth in only one direction? Gen Ys are an ambitious lot, and after 10 years in one profession, there’s often no more corporate ladder to climb.

That’s why I propose the current job sites change their domain names to and I’m sure there are lots of jobs where the skill set required would be very similar to other roles. Personally, I’d love to see an ad that read, ‘Neurosurgeon Position Available, No Experience Necessary, Suits Patternmaker, Taxidermist or Butcher.’ As well as being mildly amusing, it’d give us Gen Ys a hint as to what we could do after our first career path has run its course.

In my case, the second career choice was easy. I have one skill – writing – so there were only a few options to choose from. After ten years in my next literary pursuit, perhaps I’ll become a scriptwriter for adult films, or a writer of fortune cookie messages. That way I can encourage others to change careers with profound thoughts like, ‘Many a false step is made by standing still.’ Or I could just get straight to the point, without the vagaries of Confucius; ‘Go back to uni. Success awaits in your next career’.


The girl with the infallible itch

There once was a girl with an itchy chest. It wasn’t the kind of go-away-in –five-minutes kind of itch. No, her itch was a constant. And try as she might, no matter how hard she scratched, she just couldn’t relieve it. Some people thought she had fleas. Others thought she had a nervous habit. But everyone knew her as the girl with the itch.

What they didn’t know was how much it affected her life. Chlorine pools aggravated it. Soap exacerbated it. She had to wear natural fibres to avoid irritating it. And she couldn’t wear low cut tops as they would reveal the angry red scratch marks on her chest.

On the plus side, the constant scratching meant she didn’t have to trim her fingernails. They were already worn down from constant buffing. And the girl discovered her calling as a turntablist. In fact her speciality was scratching.

One day, during a deejaying gig, she met a boy. He seemed nice save for his extremely hairy chest. The kind of coarse hair that’s not too dissimilar to steel wool. The boy was pilling, like everyone else in the club, so she thought nothing of the fact he kept hugging her all night. She couldn’t figure out why she so enjoyed letting this sweaty boy hug her. But then she realised what it was. When he hugged her, his chest hair scratched her itch, most deliciously.

From then on they were inseparable. Onlookers would always comment on how in love they seemed, always hugging. Little did they know the boy was merely relieving his girlfriend’s itch.

Five months later, the girl’s itch suddenly disappeared. For years she had put up with it, had it affect her wardrobe, had things whispered about her behind her back, and now it was gone. These days when the boy hugged her, his bristly chest hair scratched her painfully. It seemed their beautiful bond had been broken.

But the boy was brighter than he looked. He simply booked himself and his girlfriend into the local beauty salon. While she had her nails done (they were growing back faster now that she wasn’t scratching all the time), he got his chest hair waxed off. He was going to shave it but then realised he’d end up where his girlfriend had just been – with a constantly itchy chest.

The girl was ecstatic. Both with her boy’s now smooth chest and the fact that their relationship had been saved. From then on, the happy couple dedicated their lives to doing all things scratch-free. The girl gave up deejaying and he threw away his back-scratcher and mohair rug. And in the middle of the night, they’d often go on guerrilla missions to de-thorn neighbour’s rosebushes and cactus gardens.



Where do I belong?

I’ve been commuting from Melbourne to Sydney on business for 6 weeks now. And I don’t know where home is anymore. Is it the short stay apartment in Darlinghurst where my belongings lie strewn around my suitcase? Is it the office in Pyrmont where half my stuff sits in filing cabinet drawers underneath my desk? Or is it my apartment in Melbourne where there is even less recent evidence of me?

I went to farewell drinks for people from the Pyrmont office. There were lots of polite smiles, awkward pauses, me pretending to be absorbed by my drink. I was only there for half an hour but it felt like longer. The awareness of how much I didn’t fit in simply couldn’t be tempered by alcohol.

When I go to the Oncology Ward to get my 3 weekly Herceptin injection, I don’t feel like I belong there either. Everyone else is still in the throes of chemo, balding and fragile looking. Where as I left all that behind months ago. I’m the healthy one with the short curly hair, the tan and the loud voice who strides into the hushed room, then, remembering where she is, quietly sinks into a recliner chair with a book, trying to blend in.

I guess the reason why I left Perth 4 years ago was coz I didn’t belong. I grew out of the surfies, the small town conservative attitudes, the limiting career options. In Melbourne I felt like I belonged. But now I feel like I belong in Sydney also.

They say that when you die, sometimes your soul goes into limbo. I may not be dead but I am certainly in limbo. My heart and my head feel torn between too many places. My dad, my job and the lure of a new city attract me to Sydney. But my boyfriend, the arts and close friends pull me back down to Melbourne.

As Dorothy says, ‘There’s no place like home.’ That’s all well and good if you know where home is. The trouble is, I feel at home in Pyrmont, Darlinghurst, at my dad’s in Quaker’s Hill and in Fitzroy. That song ‘I still call Australia home’ is too vague. Why doesn’t the damn singer name a town? A state even?

Still I can’t complain. There are too many people who are homeless. Loveless. Friendless. I have all of the above and more. So now I will cease my petty whinging and allow people with a real gripe to seek your sympathies. Sydney is a short lived fantasy that will end when my 2 month contract runs out. Melbourne is where my heart is. And without a high paying job that allows me to explore Sydney’s overpriced restaurants and live in its overpriced inner city apartments, Melbourne is where I belong.



In 2008 our friend Paul Meates published Aislinns piece “colourblind” in his book “picturesworth” where writers interpreted an artwork of Pauls.

Reprinted with kind permission.


“Alrighty then. I’m going to hold up some cards and I want you to tell me what you see okay?”

I nodded, to show the woman I understood.

To the first card, I said, “An orange. Or maybe a lemon.”

To the second, “Could be a canary, could be a sparrow.”

The third was easy. “That’s a cloud.”

“What kind of cloud?” she probed gently.

“A grey one.”
The woman sighed and put the cards down.

“You’ve got a very unusual condition,” she paused to look down at my name on the file in front of her, “Violet.”

I could see the irony was not lost on her. Born with black and white vision yet named after a colour I would never see.

“That cloud was red by the way.”

I shrugged. It looked grey to me.

“I’m afraid you’re colour blind. Completely and utterly.”

It wasn’t like she was telling me anything I didn’t already know. I left, wondering why I’d paid $90 to see a specialist who was just as unhelpful as the others.

To cheer myself up, I went shopping. I only ever bought clothes in black or white. Or cream, which looked white to me. This saved me having to ask the shop assistant whether a colour suited me or not  (they were always lying). It also saved my clothes from going out of fashion. Black and white was always ‘in’. The other plus was I only had to separate my laundry into two piles instead of three.

As I caught the bus home with yet another little black dress from Nom D, I stared out the window at all the other cars on the road. They said red car owners tended to speed more. I’d never been able to tell myself. I wasn’t allowed to drive, not being able to see traffic light colours. Still, I knew red was at the top, orange was in the middle and green was at the bottom. I guess not being able to see other cars’ brakelights and indicator lights was more the problem.

Back in my apartment, I put on my favourite CD, The Black Album by Jay Z. Despite this morning’s appointment, I was in a surprisingly good mood. One of the benefits of my condition. The weather never affected my serotonin levels. To me, it was always grey outside.

My apartment was one of the few places where I felt truly at home. I knew there wasn’t any colour that I was missing out on. That’s because I’d chosen a white leather couch with matching ottoman, a white throw rug for the floor, white linen on the beds and in the bathroom, white tiles, walls and doors. Even the flowers in the vase on the coffee table were white. The only bad thing was that my stray black head hairs stood out like dog’s balls on the floor. (I’d been born with brown hair but to me it looked black.) Also, when I was hung over, the apartment was unbearably bright.

Tonight was going to be a good TV night. My favourite hospital dramas were on. I knew some people had trouble watching the operating theatre scenes. Not me though. Without colour, it just didn’t seem that gory. I would have loved to do medicine at uni. Or join the bomb squad. Of course both these options were an impossibility. I’d seen enough terrorist movies. Those bomb experts were always asking “Which wire do I cut? The red one or the green one?” If they were relying on me, I’d probably detonate that bomb every time.

Sitting on the couch by myself, I started to wish I hadn’t broken up with my boyfriend. We’d been going out six months. And would probably still be dating if I hadn’t ended it. He hadn’t done anything wrong per se. It’s just that he was a goth. And it made me really angry that even though he could see and appreciate colour, he chose not to wear it. Ironically, his black clothes and white skin was what drew me to him in the first place. But like all novelties, it soon wore off.

No, I didn’t mind being single. Because there was always one place I could go where I didn’t feel like the odd one out. The local arthouse cinema. They always played black and white movies on Monday nights. Hitchcock, Casablanca, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, they had all the classics. As I sat in my black and white chair, eating my black and white popcorn, I felt like everyone around me was in the same boat. They couldn’t see those films in colour and neither could I.

I was in the middle of pouring myself a glass of black wine (red to you), getting ready for an episode of Grey’s literally grey Anatomy, when I got the call. It was the card-holding eye specialist.

“Look I’m sorry to call so late. It’s just that I wanted you to be the first to know. A new drug has just come out called ROYGIBVÒ and it could help add colour to your vision. I’m looking for people to take part in clinical trials and thought you’d be perfect. Are you interested?”

“Uh yeah I guess,” I replied.

“You’ll be given either a placebo or ROYGIBVÒ for two years. It’ll be a double-blind test so not even I will know which one you’ve been given. It’s a tremendous opportunity. Plus you’ll help researchers cure colour blindness in either your lifetime or your children’s.”
I really didn’t mind if the drug didn’t work. I quite liked being different to everyone else. But it was almost certain that my kids, if I ever had any, would inherit my condition. And if the drug did work, well, I’d always wanted to see a rainbow. And get a pet chameleon whose changing colours I could actually see. Either way it was win-win. So I accepted.

“We’ll see you 8am tomorrow then?” the woman asked excitedly.

“Yeah definitely. Cheers for that”, I replied as I hung up.

I raised my glass to no one in particular before taking a sip of my beautiful black shiraz. I may not have had a colourful past. But for the first time, my future looked bright.



Break-ups are just plain inconvenient

When you look up the term ‘break-up’ in the thesaurus, ‘inconvenient’ should be listed as a synonym. That’s because when a couple you know hits splitsville, catching up with them individually is a royal pain in the arse.

It all started with my divorced parents. Once I’d moved out of home at age 19, I got into a horrible pattern of visiting my mum and dad each twice a week. After not having a life for 4 years, I soon got fed up and moved to Melbourne.

There I befriended another couple. It was all going swimmingly for the first two years. Double dates, scrabble nights with the perfect amount of players, dinner parties with recipes for four. Then the bombshell dropped. Their break-up was so bad I couldn’t even cc them both on the same email, let alone invite them both to a warehouse party containing 500 people where there was a 0.01% chance of them running into each other. By the time they were on speaking terms again a year later, another break-up happened.

This one was a lot less painful. The guy was working overseas in Dubai. That’s one good thing about long distance break-ups. No one has to move out and find a new place to live. And there’s no awkward ‘which one shall I invite to my birthday’ decisions to make. By the time the guy returned to Melbourne six months on, another couple I knew were history.

This break-up was really problematic. My boyfriend would always invite the guy out whilst I would unknowingly invite the girl. Then we’d realize that we’d both fucked up and that one of us would have to go about the tricky business of uninviting someone. Not pleasant. Plus when their respective birthdays came up, you’d have to quiz the other person for gift ideas. But then you’d be worried that reminding them of their ex might be too painful. And so on.

I hate difficult situations. I also hate the Apartheid mentality that comes with break-ups. (Did Apartheid last? No.) From now on, I’m not making friends with any new couples. I’m not going to do any matchmaking either. If perchance I do befriend a pair of lovebirds, I’ll just avoid getting too close to either one of them. By seeming standoffish, neither party will want my shoulder to cry on during the aftermath. Nor will I be required to take sides.

Why can’t we all learn from the O.C.? Through drinking problems and extra-marital affairs, Sandy and Kiersten simply stuck together. Having said that, I’ve probably jinxed it now and the next episode will feature Sandy with a pre-nup defending himself in court. Meanwhile Kiersten’s divorce lawyer will be saying to himself, ‘This break-up sure is damn convenient. Now I can justify upgrading my Beamer to an Aston Martin.’



Rittenhouse charity bra dedicated to Ais

Our generous friends at Rittenhouse recently partook in the “support” charity event with designers such as Akira Isogawa and Ben Frost. The auction raised $23,000 towards breast cancer research.

Sal and Micah dedicated their design to Ais, with a hand embroidered “A” just above the heart using a fabric which was printed with a Husmann/Tschaeni painting called “Tea Time with Stalactites”.


The six months since Aislinn passed we have been busy with Aislinns legacy website, which currently provides Aislinns vast research in one site, please forward on to others that may find this information helpful.

Aislinn was never shy about sharing her experiences, both positive and negative. She wrote a series of upbeat articles for ‘The Big Issue’ magazine about her breast prosthesis, Bob, after her mastectomy. So we knew that she would have wanted us to share all her research with the world, and to ask the world to help us build up a freely available database of people’s experiences with cancer for the benefit of mankind. If you, or someone close to you, has or have had cancer, please fill in the online survey (coming very soon!) so others can have the benefit of what you’ve learned.

Thanks and good luck,

Aislinn’s family & friends

Celebrating Aislinn’s Life Lived

It is eight weeks since our daughter Aislinn left us. She was in a sick and painful body where she didn’t want to be, where she was in a prison, but now she is free. Aislinn was happiest when she was able to allow her talents and creativity to flower, and when she was in the company of friends and family. She was always so willing to give and share of herself with everyone she encountered. She gave her very best to all her relationships and in return she received the very best from all her relationships. Self-expression was her greatest gift and is the best gift you can give to anyone, not material goods but a gift from the heart. She is still touching everyone’s lives, whether through her blog , her drawings or the wealth of memories she has left behind. When life handed Aislinn a lemon, she turned it into lemonade; she never let her pain cloud her beautiful smile and caring heart.

We had Ajahn Brahm (through Aislinn’s request) conduct Aislinn’s service. He is the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery and the spiritual director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. In the service, Ajahn Brahm shared a story of ‘Falling Leaves’ with us, and this is perhaps one of the most touching stories of the nature of death in our communities. I feel Aislinn would like to share this story in her blog so that her friends who weren’t able to attend the service and anyone reading the blog could be more accepting of her passing. What Aislinn left behind is a beautiful spirit that is omnipresent and omniscient, that is real and permanent and can never be destroyed.

Probably the hardest of deaths for us to accept is that of a child. Most parents go through the obsessive demand for an answer to the question ‘Why?’. There is no specific answer but the following helped our understanding and acceptance. This is Ajahn Brahm’s parable:

A simple forest monk was meditating alone in the jungle in a hut made of thatch late one evening when there was a very violent monsoon storm. The wind roared like a jet aircraft and heavy rain thrashed against the hut. As the night grew denser, the storm grew more savage. First branches could be heard being ripped off the trees, then whole trees were uprooted by the force of the gale and came crashing to the ground with a sound as loud as the thunder.

The monk soon realized that the grass hut was no protection. If a tree fell on top of the the hut, or even a big branch, it would break clean through the grass roof and crush him to death. He didn’t sleep the whole night. Often during that night, he would hear huge forest giants smash their way to the ground and his heart would pound for awhile.

In the hours before dawn, as so often happens, the storm disappeared. At first light, the monk ventured outside the grass hut to inspect the damage. Many big branches, as well as two sizeable trees, had just missed the hut. He felt lucky to have survived. What suddenly took his attention though was not the many uprooted trees and fallen branches scattered on the ground, but the many leaves that now lay spread thickly on the forest floor.

As he expected, most of the leaves lying dead on the ground were old, brown leaves, which had lived a full life. Among the brown leaves were many yellow leaves. There were even several green leaves. And some of those green leaves were of such a fresh and rich green that he knew they could have only unfurled from the bud a few hours before. In that moment, the monk’s heart understood the nature of death.

He wanted to test the truth of his insight so he gazed up to the branches of the trees. Sure enough, most of the leaves still left on the trees were young, healthy green ones in the prime of their life. Yet although many newborn green leaves lay dead on the ground, some old, bent and curled up brown leaves still clung on to the branches. The monk smiled; from that day on, the death of a child would never disconcert him.

When the storms of death blow through our families, they usually take the old ones, the mottled brown leaves. They also take many middle-aged ones, like the yellow leaves of a tree. Young people die too, in the prime of their life, similar to the green leaves, and sometimes death rips from dear life a small number of young children, just as nature’s storms rip off a small number of young shoots. This is the essential nature of death in our communities, as it is the essential nature of storms in a forest.

There is no-one to blame and no-one to lay guilt on for the death of a child. This is the nature of things. Who can blame the storm? However, this helps us to answer the question of why some children die. The answer is the very same reason why a small number of young green leaves must perish in a storm.

        The tide recedes but leaves behind bright seashells on the shore,
        The sun goes down but gentle warmth still lingers in the sand,
        The music stops but still it echoes on in sweet refrains,
        For everything that passes, something beautiful remains.

Thank you Aislinn for being in our lives.

Lany (Aislinn’s mum)

Aislinn’s Drawings

In the fortnight before she passed away Aislinn was finding it hard to have enough energy to write, she found a creative outlet for herself in drawing. These drawings were made at the Charlie Gardner Hospital and at her Grandparents house in Perth which sits across from a lake with a childrens park which Aislinn could see from her bed. Of these simple line drawings in black pen some are simple observations, some are metaphorical, some witty. Similar to her writing, all are honest, direct and with style. Her family would like to share them with you.

We would also like to thank John for putting this blog together for Aislinn.

We will have an update soon on how the funds from the “Fundraislinn” auction have been distributed.




Bedside table at Charlie Gardener Hospital


Violin – before and after (Charlie Gardener’s)

Violin. Before and after

Swamp Hens getting blown over at lake by gale-force winds

Swamp hens getting blown over the lake by gale-force winds

Pelicans at the lake

Pelicans at the lake

Ninja fish for Paul Meates

Ninja fish for Paul Meates



Dad, Mum, Spud and Ais

Dad, Mum, Spud and Me

Swans at the lake

Swans on the lake



Kids on swings at the lake

Kids on swings