On Growing Up

At one of my best friends’ twenty first birthday parties, a group of old high school friends were standing together and discussing what they have been up to lately. Some were still at university, some had already graduated and started working, some spoke about their long term (and serious) relationships. People congratulated each other on internships and jobs and mourned the loss of any free time they had previously had. Nearly everyone was busy seven days a week being an adult – including myself.

Nothing scares me as much as growing up. With my twenty-first birthday just gone, the whole concept of growing up has been playing on my mind even more. Sure, maybe you’re thinking “Hayley, you’re only twenty-one, you are still a baby really” – and honestly, I’d like to agree with you. I mean, twenty-one is hardly ‘grown up’ is it? But there are things I am starting to notice that are making me wonder – have I ‘grown up’ without even realising it?

So here are some of the warning signs I have noticed:

  1. The Dreaded Facebook Updates

There is a point in everyone’s lives where Facebook updates suddenly become an onslaught of engagement announcements, moving houses, and photos of newborn babies. Recently, my newsfeed became a showcase of the above, with friends younger than me getting engaged and the sister of an old school friend having a baby. At my age, the very idea of having a baby is terrifying, as is getting engaged – but people are doing these things. Don’t get me wrong, I am so very happy and excited for these people. But, when people you have known for years start taking these huge leaps into adult life, you start to wonder about how long it will be until you start freaking people out with your own milestone Facebook announcements.

  1. Last Semester of University

In about a month or two, I will finish my last semester of my Bachelor of Arts. As much as I intend to go back next year for my Masters of Publishing, finishing my undergraduate degree is a big step, a step closer to what my mother refers to as ‘the real world’. I am looking at jobs in my chosen field, trying to work out how best to throw myself into the nine to five working world, and honestly, the prospect of starting to work full time, even if it is in a field I love, is equal parts terrifying and thrilling.

  1. Freelancing

In a similar vein to the point above, I am starting to make deliberate moves to get my career off the ground. I have recently begun work as a Freelance Editor, and have been creating a portfolio of written work (INWORDSANDINK being a significant part of that portfolio). Running what had previously been hobbies as businesses, or at the very least, as business-like was a huge step for me, and one I would like to consider as an adult one. Making decisions about how you want to run your own work, pricing that work and then making the move to put yourself out there are all incredibly challenging things and require a level of confidence and assurance that I would consider a big part of growing up.

  1. Organising the Everyday

Okay, I’ll be honest, I had a mild freak out when I realised I had started to enjoy getting the laundry done – it has become very satisfying getting chores done. But it freaked me out even more when I found that after all these years despising the very presence of Microsoft Excel on my computer, I have begun to enjoy making up Excel spreadsheets to organise different parts of my life. Between that and my newfound love of to-do lists and weekly planners, my life has become less of a teenage mess and more structured – maybe even too structured.

  1. I eat vegetables – by choice

Does anything else even need to be said? My favourite foods are spinach and sweet potato. I order salads and make homemade veggie dishes WAY more than I used to. If this isn’t a sign of adulthood, I don’t know what is.

  1. “The Youth”

If you are younger than me, I have probably referred to you as “the youth” at least once, or asked you what “the youth” are up to or like these days. My sisters constantly look at me like I am completely bonkers when I do this, but it never seems to stop me, especially given that I have absolutely no idea what is going on in popular culture most of the time. Fads and phases come in and out of popular culture so quickly these days, especially with social media, and it has come to a point where I have realised it is easier just to stick with the things I like. Trying to keep up with the latest trends is so exhausting and I would much rather stick with the stuff I know and love, even if it makes me a “grandma.”

Similarly, I have been giving people younger than me advice that I probably am not qualified to give. I work with a lot of people who are younger than me so when they need reassurance or advice, I’m often the one to give it to them – whether they like it or not. From “DON’T DATE YOUR CO-WORKERS” to “USE YOUR WORDS” to “SCHOOL ISN’T THAT BAD”, I am an advice giving machine. Should I give out this advice? Probably not – I have very little experience in the ‘the real world’. But if people are going to call me “ma’am” and tell their kids to hand their item over to “the lady” to scan, maybe I am old enough to give out advice as often as I do.

 

So, what do you think? Have I turned into a grown up without noticing? Either way, I’ll always be waiting for Peter Pan to whisk me away to Neverland and rescue me from my impending future, but in the meantime, I am going to hold on to everything I love about not quite being an adult just yet. I’ll be damned if I don’t take all my favourite things about my non grown-up years with me into adulthood, because from my experience, all the best adults are secretly kids inside.

 

© Hayley New 2016

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A Journal of Small Pleasures | Breakfast at Tiffany’s

On the morning of my twenty-first birthday, my alarm went off at 6:45am. Most people would love to spend their birthday sleeping in, but I had decided I was not going to do that this year. I was going to celebrate my birthday differently.

While the rest of my family slept, I got up, picked out one of my favourite vintage style dresses, did my makeup, put my hair up and put my jewellery on. I left the house and walked up to the train station, the emptiness of the streets allowing the sun to glow uninterrupted on people’s front lawns.

The train carriage into town was also relatively empty – not a surprise for a Sunday morning. I rode the train in silence, not even daring to listen to music on the way like I normally would. I had big plans for the first song I was going to listen to on my twenty-first birthday.

I got off at Town Hall and walked straight into the Queen Victoria Building, heading straight for the little bakery at the entrance. I ordered a pastry and a coffee, and took my spoils with me as I walked from the QVB down George St. Being as dressed up as I was for an early Sunday morning stroll down a rather abandoned George St, I expected the looks I got from people. But I didn’t let it phase me. I was going to have my moment, no matter what.

Walking up Martin Place, my heart started to thump faster. This was it. I could see my destination just across Castlereagh St. As the crossing light turned green, I noticed the large group of people congregated on the corner of the building, noticed them looking at me in one of my best dresses with a jewelled clip in my hair and my most comfortable pair of heels on.

But I ignored them as I approached the building, turning around and sitting on the front stairs. I put in my headphones and pressed play on Henry Mancini.

Tiffany’s. I was having Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I sat there as Moon River played in my ears and ate my pastry, sipping my coffee in between bites. One of the men in the group pointed at me and said to the people next to him:

“Look, she’s having breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s even all dressed up and everything.”

I couldn’t help myself. I smiled.

After finishing my pastry, I put the paper bag in the bin on the pathway and took my coffee with me up to the windows. The night before, my Mum had said that she didn’t think they kept anything in the windows when the store was closed, but I was surprised to see that behind the open window grates, there were impressive window displays still visible. I walked up and down the length of the building, peering in all the windows and through to the displays further inside the store. Moon River still playing, I soaked in the moment. This was the one thing I had wanted for my twenty-first birthday – to have this moment in front of Tiffany’s.

And then, just as the final bars of Moon River echoed through me, I saw it. The portrait of Audrey Hepburn smiling across at me from the opposite side of the store. The woman who had made me want to come and to do this. Everything had clicked perfectly into place.

And standing there, with the sun warm on my back and Audrey smiling at me from across the room, I was full of pure happiness.

 

© Hayley New 2016

Why I Love Musical Theatre

Anyone who knows me even a little bit will know I love theatre. From plays to monologues to Shakespeare (be still my beating heart, how I adore Shakespearean plays), to the greatest of all my theatrical loves, Musicals, I am an ardent admirer of the performing arts.

I think my parents are to blame for my great love of musicals. I grew up on the films of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Watching old movies as much as I did, it was hard to escape the music, the dancing and the show stopping performances. I remember the first time I saw Singin’ In The Rain – I instantly fell in love with Gene Kelly, splashing around in the pouring rain with more joy than I had ever seen. I stayed up late at night to watch Xanadu with my parents, and then to watch Grease, mesmorised by how these musicals made me feel.

So, it wasn’t long before I found myself wanting to see these things on stage.

We were never really in a position to buy tickets to the theatre when I was growing up, so my first experiences of stage musicals happened at home, watching recorded live performances of The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. Both performances were filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and so suddenly, the theatre took on a level of decadence and grandeur that I had never really associated with it before. I loved these musicals, but they started to feel beyond reach – and it wasn’t long before the whole idea of Theatre soon followed.

Until, that is, until I saw my first musical on stage – Wicked.

Wicked was the first musical that really took us all by storm. It was pure fluke that I got to go see it as part of a school excursion. I went in to see it knowing pretty much nothing about it and walked out laughing and crying and with my heart full to bursting with joy. I had never felt so full as I did then, and for months my friends and I sang Wicked lyrics back and forth.

Since then, I have seen ten musicals on stage, and many more on screen, with an ever growing wish list of musicals I want to see live. My sisters are constantly telling me to stop singing/rapping the lyrics to Hamilton and In The Heights, and are completely horrified when I switch to Rocky Horror or Hedwig and The Angry Inch. To be fair, I was definitely never made to be a singer, or for that matter, a booty shaking Broadway star. Secretly, I think my Mum is proud of me for loving something as much as I love theatre, even if she frowns at my horrific vocals.

I know that Theatre has a history of being notoriously inaccessible, both for audiences and performers alike. It is an industry, though very openly inclusive off-stage and as a community, often shuts out fantastic talent for very little reason at all than their physical appearance, and it is horribly expensive for audiences to access. I am lucky that I have been able to see as many shows as I have as a result of gifts at Christmas and the occasional birthday from my grandparents. But as shows like Hamilton have shown us, theatre doesn’t have to be exclusive – it can open itself up to us through diverse casting choices and rocking cast albums. Musical soundtracks have been the door for many into an amazing relationship with theatre, but they also do so much more – they allow us to escape into that theatrical world whenever we need to.

Theatre, particularly Musical Theatre, is as much about escapism as it is about the joy and magic that envelopes the audience. Sitting in the theatre for two or three hours and being entirely mesmerized by a story that is performed with so much love is a wonderful way to combat your skepticism. Even if you can see through all the stage tricks and performance, you cannot help but appreciate all the work and love that has been put into a single show. You cannot help but be thankful for all the effort that has gone into it, all the talent and imagination. And the more people who become immersed in this world, the more diverse work that will be borne from it.

As much as I know I will never be Sutton Foster or Lea Salonga, or even one of those dazzling Schuyler Sisters, I know I will always sing terribly off-key to Musical Soundtracks and Cast Albums as long as I live – because to me, Musical Theatre is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

© Hayley New 2016

“Burning With Stars”: A Review of ‘Hide’

Books such as Hide don’t come around very often, but when they do, they break your heart.

Hide follows the story of Wendell Wilson, a taxidermist, and Frank Clifton, a veteran, who meet just after World War II, a time when their blooming relationship is not only considered socially offensive, but is also illegal. Deciding that their life together is more important than anything else in their lives, they move away from town, severing all ties with the outside world to protect themselves and their love for one another. But when Wendell finds an eighty-three year old Frank lying outside having a stroke, all the work they have put into their relationship starts to unravel.

I have never read a book that looks at domestic life between a gay couple like this, but I wish that a book like this had found its way to me sooner. Whilst, there is an element of tragedy to this story that I think is always closely linked to historical homosexual relationships such as this, the tragedy is not their homosexuality – it is the fact that they have to remove themselves from their community in order to live an ordinary life. The tragedy is the law that caused this, the society that made these men feel unsafe, and beyond that, afraid, to even be seen together in the supermarket. I was worried in some places that this book would play into the “sad tragic gay” trope a lot of fiction tends to fall into (purely by accident), and while there were moments where these men suffered because of their homosexuality, it was never their fault, it was always because of the law that forbade their relationship, it was because they were trying to protect those around them from ending up in jail because of a fundamentally sickening law.

But this book is about so much more than just the fact of their homosexuality. Hide is just as much about the changing domestic lives of couples as they age, as their bodies and minds start to fail them. As Frank gradually deteriorates throughout this novel, so too does Wendell, broken as much by Frank’s inability to live the life he was once able to, as he is by his own ageing body. Frank’s stroke at the beginning of this novel really cements for me what this book is about – it is about how love continues and grows, how it changes, over a lifetime together. There were moments of gentle bickering and poking fun at each other that reminded me of my own grandparents, the grumbles and jokes and regularities of everyday home life. These men felt like family – and that is no easy feat for an author to achieve.

The way Griffin describes these men leaves a very clear image of them in my mind, both of them in their youth, and in their older years. I can see Frank with all his tattoos up and down his arms, I can see Wendell watching Frank intently, trying with his eyes to ask the one question he can’t actually voice aloud. I can see them both poking and jabbing each other in their old age, sinking into wrinkled armchairs and trying to find each other in the murkiness of Frank’s disappearing memory, in the mess of their lives post-stroke. These men were vivid in my mind, and I can’t help but congratulate Matthew Griffin for the way he has brought them to life.

I will warn however, that some moments in this book could be disturbing for readers. For me at least, the scene where Frank tries to mow the lawn himself, with devastating consequences, was particularly uncomfortable to read, and honestly, made me feel sick to my stomach. I have to say though, that the methodical and non-accusing tone of Griffin’s writing really struck me in this moment. At no point does Griffin ever blame Frank for what he has become, but instead looks to save him in the very same way that Wendell wishes he could. And the heartbreaking thing is that we know that Frank’s brain will probably never let that happen.

I cried more than once reading this book, at both the happiest and saddest moments. This is a book about loss, and the harsh reality of losing someone even as they stand right before you. There is something beautiful about Griffin’s writing, the thoughtfulness of it, the way it rhythmically moves in and out and then in again. The dialogue feels genuine and familiar, whilst the prose rings true and bright and wonderful. I can’t wait to see what Griffin does next.

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Hide by Matthew Griffin (RRP $28) is available in all good book stores from September 2016, or directly from the publisher, Allen & Unwin, here. 

As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from, and support their local independent book stores.

 Thank you once again to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy of Hide. Whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

© Hayley New 2016

A Letter For Mr Wilder

Dear Mr Wilder,

This one hit me hard. It hurt all the way through my heart. When I heard the news about your death, I cried solidly for some time before I was able to wrap my head around it and get on with the rest of the day. In fact, it has taken me a few days to process your death and write this letter for you, mostly because I don’t know what I could say that could even remotely do justice to you and your work.

Like most children, my first encounter with your work was your infamous role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I won’t lie; your performance scared me as much as it excited me. You were equal parts wonder and terror and it was this very performance that played a massive role in teaching me that people weren’t at all what they seemed. The scene where Wonka went into a rage and told Charlie there was no prize at the end still makes me nervous, even to this day, and frightened me endlessly as a child, but it taught me something important as well – it taught me to pay attention to people and their actions. I equally remember the moment you made your entrance and hobbled out with that cane, tumbling into a somersault in front of the roaring crowd, and to this day it still makes me giggle. Being older now, I can appreciate your humorous delivery of many wry lines in that film even more.

When I was older, my parents introduced me to the films of Mel Brooks, and there you were again, making me laugh to the point of tears. When I needed you most, there you were, as the Waco Kid or Young Frankenstein, a constant comic genius. You’d make the Wild West a little more wild, and do “Puttin’ on the Ritz” intensely comic justice. And you would be the epitome of cool – so straight faced and cheeky all at once, the only hint of mischief slipping through in your eyes or in your smile. You were and still are one of my favourite actors, and people of all time, a role model that I didn’t know I needed until I found your name in my mouth when people asked me who my role models were. When my light went out, you always reached out your hand, smiled at me with that glint in your eyes, and pulled me into a crazy and delightful world of comedy and fun. You wouldn’t just turn my light back on, you’d do it with a fireworks show. And for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

So thank you, for Wonka, for Waco, for Frederick, for the Mockturtle, for Mr Stein, for all of it. For every time you went wild on the screen and made my sides hurt because was I laughing so hard. For all the ways you taught me to imagine and to dream. For licking the wallpaper. Because even though you are gone, to me, you’ll always be sitting in a room full of chocolate, drinking tea out of a buttercup and telling me that if I want to change the world, there’s nothing to it. And that is a lesson I am endlessly grateful for.

You didn’t want anyone to know you were ill, because you couldn’t bear the thought of one less smile in the world. But there is; that magic smile that always shone light into our lives. And I’ll dearly miss it, and you Gene, as so many of us will.

Vale Mr Wilder.

 

With all my heart,

Hayley New

 

 

© Hayley New 2016