The university works in mysterious ways

In the early 90s I studied law and art history at university. Art history because I loved art. The law, because I was advised by my career advisor at school to not just study art history.

I spent five and half years at uni and for the most part, wondered what the hell I was doing. There was no burning desire to be a lawyer. Nor, for that matter, did I want to pursue a career in the history of art. I nearly flagged the whole thing several times to pursue fashion design but didn’t. Partly because I couldn’t sew, in part because of the family pressure (and to be honest my own self imposed pressure) to finish a law degree.

I can still remember sitting in the law library looking around at all those self-assured young people, who seemed to know exactly who they were and what they doing and feeling an almost overwhelming sense of discomfort in my own skin. I had no sense of the direction in which my life was heading.

I’m not sure how many people were in my year of law school, hundreds I guess. Obviously, there were many I passed daily in a corridor and yet never had a conversation with. One in particular haunted me for all my years at uni, because she appeared to be everything I wished I was.

Lucinda (not her real name) exuded confidence. She was beautiful, smart and popular. Striding through the law school, she wore floaty flowery skirts in the summertime and trailed the scent of some expensive French perfume behind her. I would look at her, with gritted teeth, and just know that she would go on to be an extremely successful lawyer, marry an extremely lawyer, have beautiful children and live in a beautiful house.

Years passed. I found myself guiding media around a yet to be opened Te Papa. Participating in a disaster relief effort in India. Making a documentary film. Having lunch with a famous author in New York. And today, I found myself in the same street as Lucinda. At least I’m 99.9% sure it was her.

And because this is 2010 and you can find anything on the internet, I’ve discovered that just as I anticipated, she is indeed an extremely successful lawyer, has married one and has children. I’m going to continue to assume that they’re beautiful and that their house is too. I’ll even throw in an Audi wagon and a labrador for good measure.

Was I surprised to see Lucinda in the street? Of course. But what surprised me even more was my own reaction. Not one of discomfort, but absolute delight.

Because it might have taken me a whole lot longer than Lucinda the Confident, but today I am truly comfortable in my own skin. I love what I do, I know who I am, I have found my voice. And although I may not have a floaty, flowery skirt in my wardrobe, I’m wearing the prototypes of my own clothing range and trailing the scent of a beautiful English perfume.

Finding comfort in a young tree

Today, in the wake of hearing David Suzuki talk last night, I’ve been aware of myself feeling a very low level yet lingering feeling of discomfort. His words were challenging. His message wasn’t a particularly hopeful one and yet I’ve been thinking about it on and off all day. In particular, about the extraordinary ability of foresight we have as human beings. And how at arguably well past the 11th hour, we are turning our back on the very strategy that has allowed us to flourish.

As human beings, isn’t it so often a feeling of discomfort that motivates us to change?… I’m not going to even try and elaborate at 1am on Saturday morning. If I’m being really honest, tonight, all I want to do is take off this very light but prickly robe of discomfort, hang it up in the wardrobe and replace it with one that feels reassuring. And I have just found comfort in an unexpected place.

Uploading photographs onto my laptop, I’ve found one I took yesterday of a very young tree tree growing in Wellington’s botanical gardens. I find enormous comfort in the way this little plant rooted firmly in the earth, is getting on with growing. Bathed in sunlight, surrounded by trees of different shapes and sizes, with plenty of space to grow, it is quietly thriving and I can almost hear it tell me to simply feel the earth beneath my feet, breathe deeply and and together we can dream a bright and brilliant future into being.