Do you think you maintain a good balance of making yourself happy while making other people happy?
Absolutely not. If I’m truly honest about it all, I’m terrible at making myself happy – I’m generally putting others before myself.
Do you think you maintain a good balance of making yourself happy while making other people happy?
Absolutely not. If I’m truly honest about it all, I’m terrible at making myself happy – I’m generally putting others before myself.
You wake up one morning to find a beautifully wrapped package next to your bed. Attached to it is a note: “Open me, if you dare.” What’s inside the mystery box? Do you open it?
The morning sun began to peek in through a gap of the curtain, shining directly into Laura’s eyes. She clenched her eyelids, let out a small groan and rolled over. In doing so, she felt something at the end of the bed. Still half asleep and with her eyes still closed, she moved her feet around under the doona, unsure of what it was, but it was certainly heavy. ‘It must just be the washing I folded last night and forgot to put away’, Laura thought to herself, before nudging the weight with her foot in an attempt to knock it off the bed.
She gave it one last kick, which was soon followed by a small crash. In her sleepy state, Laura lifted her head slightly, confused by the sound that echoed from the end of the bed, but didn’t concern herself enough to warrant actually getting up to investigate. She propped herself up on her side, re-fluffed her pillow, and lay back down, enjoying the warmth of the sun on the back of her head.
Soon, the room was illuminated with a blinding light, as the breeze picked up and opened the curtains. The light was simply too bright for her to continue to doze, so she rolled over again, facing the blinding sunshine, and as she grunted and groaned trying to shield herself from the sunlight, she kicked her legs wildly, forcing the doona off herself, and squirmed over to the edge of the bed. As the sheet began to gather underneath her, she sat up on the edge of the bed, and stumbled across the floor to the window. She closed the window, and drew the blinds, letting out a large sigh of relief at the instant darkness and coolness around her. She walked back over to the bed, falling face down onto the sheet, letting out another groan at the thought of having to move again to pick the doona up from off the floor.
Crawling across the mattress to the foot of the bed, she began pulling the closest edge of the doona up towards her, eventually revealing the box that she kicked off earlier. Laura sat there perplexed as to how it came to be in her room. She certainly didn’t bring it home with her, nor did anybody visit her to drop it off. She climbed off the bed to check the door to her apartment – it was still locked, and the chain was on, so nobody could have gotten in, or out for that matter. Laura walked over to the balcony, and discovered that the balcony door was locked as well. ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’, she murmured to herself.
Returning to the bedroom, she saw the large black box sitting there. It was immaculately presented. The box was quite glossy and had been wrapped with three different width ribbons. White, black and white, all nestled atop each other to create a stripe effect. The ribbons were tied in a elaborate and intricate series of bows, and we’re all perfectly shaped. There wasn’t one crease in any of the bows or the tails. Laura almost didn’t want to undo them, because it just looked so pretty, but the suspense was just too much for her. As she pulled the tail of one of the ribbons, the bows began to collapse and unravel, gently falling down around the sides of the box, and just as she was about to lift the lid, she quickly stopped herself, leaning in to place an ear close to the lid. As she listened cautiously for any ticking sounds, she let out a sigh of relief when she heard silence.
Slowly lifting the lid off the box, she was greeted by a small envelope and some precisely folded tissue paper. On the front of the envelope was ‘Laura’ which was hand-written, but wasn’t any handwriting she immediately recognised. Laura opened the envelope and pulled out a small card, the embossed message read:
For years you’ve asked questions and received no answers. Now is the time to know the truth. Love, always.
Underneath was a small ‘X’, in the same handwriting as the front of the envelope. Placing the card by her side, Laura carefully unfolded the tissue paper, revealing more scrunched-up tissue paper. As she removed it from the box, discarding it onto the bedroom floor, her fingers suddenly felt something different. Something small and metallic. The cold metal surprised her fingertips, and she pulled out a small bronze spoon. Quickly glancing at it, Laura placed it beside her on the bed, before reaching back into the box. With each venture into the box she retrieved more small objects; booties, baby bracelets, photographs, and they were all nearly laid out around her on the bed, on her final grab within the box, Laura removed another envelope. This was larger than the first one, and considerably thicker, and as she studied all the small trinkets around her, she opened the envelope, removing the folded papers inside.
As Laura unfolded the paper, it opened to reveal a smaller and fragile piece of paper. It had holes in the creases and some of the edges were bent or ripped, but as she gently opened it out, her eyes were immediately drawn to the thick black font at the top, ‘Certificate of Birth’. feeling confused by this, Laura scanned all the object around her, and returned her gaze to the fragile birth certificate. She studied it intently, instantly looking for the actual date of birth, “Huh! Who’s Mabel? …she has the same date of birth as mine… Maybe I have a sister? Oh my god, what if I had a sister?” a smile washed over her face, and with excitement she read and re-read every single word on that page at least four or five times. Nothing made sense to her, except the birthdate, so she decided to give herself a moment to clear her head.
She packed up everything into the box, and carried it out to the coffee table in the living room. Standing in the kitchen, pouring herself a warm cup of yesterday’s coffee from her percolator, Laura stood there staring at the glossy ebony box, completely baffled as to where it came from or what it meant.
Sitting cross-legged on floor in front of the coffee table, she brought the box down to the ground, and carefully unpacked all the contents and laid it out on the glass top. She got to the letter and the birth certificate, and decided to take some time to slowly read this letter.
I’m hoping that this finds you safe and well. I know that it must be a very confusing time for you, and you’re probably wondering what all of this means. I know that you’ve had a lot of questions growing up as to who you are, and your family etc., and it’s now time for you to know the TRUTH, not all the lies you’ve been continually fed over the years.
First of all, as you can tell by the birth certificate I’ve enclosed, you’re REAL name, your birth name was Maybelle Lauranne Smithson. It was then changed by deed-poll to Laura Smith, when you were put up for adoption.
Continuing to read the letter, it wasn’t long before Laura was reaching for a tissue, as the first of countless tears slowly tumbled down over her cheek. The letter explained in quite a lot of detail about how she ended up being put into foster care and then adoption when she was only a toddler, which explained why she had so many strange and unexplainable memories from her early childhood. It detailed the issues of her (then) drug addict father, and her psychotic, gun wielding mother. It also went on to explain that both of them had since passed away. Her father from a heroin overdose in the early nineties and her mother ended up shooting herself, her then boyfriend, his ex wife, and their three kids in a murder-suicide, also in the early nineties. Laura discovered that she also has two siblings: a younger sister who was born three years after Laura, and who was put up for adoption from birth, who is still with the same family, and lives in another state; and a younger brother, who was born six years after Laura, who unfortunately died at seven months old. He was beaten with a telephone book, wrapped up in a shopping bag, and left under a pile of wet mouldy towels in the bathroom. His body was discovered during a drug raid on the premises, but the parents had already abandoned the property.
Overcome with emotion and grief, Laura broke down uncontrollably on the carpet of the living room, crying herself to sleep from the shock of these revelations. She awoke to darkness. Small tear-soaked patches of carpet remained underneath her face, whilst the letter was still in her hand.
What she couldn’t determine was the origin of this box. Who had sent it? Who was this person with all the answers, and how the hell did it appear in Laura’s apartment? If her parents were both dead, and had been for quite some time, then who was this mystery person?
Laura heard a small rustle echo down the hallway, and sprung to her feet to race towards the door. Pausing momentarily to look through the peephole, she saw nobody and quickly unlocked and unchained the door, flinging the door open and bursting into the building corridor. It was empty. She ran down towards the lift, pressing the button, and the doors opened in front of her revealing an empty lift. Maybe they took the stairs? she flung open the fire door to the stairwell, listening intently to any footsteps, but heard nothing.
Confused and frustrated, Laura walked back down the corridor to the entrance to her apartment, stopping to look at the envelope on the floor of her hallway. She stood there staring at the front of this envelope, staring at the word ‘Laura’ written on the front in the same handwriting as the letter that was in the box. Feeling somewhat spooked by this, she cautiously bent down to pick it up, slowly flipping it over in her hands. Laura took a deep breath as she meticulously opened the envelope and pulled out the piece of paper inside.
I can imagine that you’re feeling quite unsettled by all the news, and overwhelmed with emotion. I apologise for all the mystery, but you need time to process all of this information properly. I look forward to meeting you soon. X.
Hmmm, maybe this person lives in the building? But if they did, how do they know who I am? How did they disappear so quickly? Oh shit, what if it’s one of the neighbours? But how did they get in with the box? Laura’s thoughts began spiralling out of control at a rapid rate, and the more she thought about it, the more questions she began asking herself. Deciding that she needed a distraction, she dressed herself and grabbed her handbag, the letter and the birth certificate from the box, and headed out the door to go do some research on her own.
If you had to make a mixtape of sad songs for someone, what would you include?
This is actaully quite simple because I have a series of playlists in iTunes for different emotional states.
Are you a good judge of other people’s happiness? Tell us about a time you were spot on despite external hints to the contrary (or, alternatively, about a time you were dead wrong).
I generally tend to be a pretty good judge of character, unless of course that person is a complete pathological liar.
Have you ever had someone break your heart?
It’s funny how one simple sentence can completely change you’re entire perception of somebody and your history with them. Continue reading
Do movies, songs, or other forms of artistic expression easily make you cry? Tell us about a recent tear-jerking experience!
I have a really strong connection to my emotions at the best of times… it’s just that usually they’re repressed so far deep inside, I just tell people that I’m dead inside and void of emotion.
However, from time to time, I’ll hear a song / watch a movie / watch a tv show when I’m in a particularly emotional state, and I can completely lose it and end up a blubbering mess.
Do you play an instrument? Is there a musical instrument whose sound you find particularly pleasing? Tell us a story about your experience or relationship with an instrument of your choice.
Without question it would be the cello. Followed by the piano. Continue reading
The idea that the weather and people’s moods are connected is quite old. Do you agree? If yes, how does the weather affect your mood?
I’m one of those people who’s mood is heavily affected by the weather… hmmm.. hang on a sec… I was going to say that when it’s cold and miserable outside, I just want to stay in bed and sleep… and when it’s hot and sunny I just want to stay in bed and sleep…
Whether a person, a pet, an object, or a place, write about something or someone you connected with from the very first second.
Easy. My last trip away which was only 100-or-so kilometres away to a place called Torquay.
What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?
Please allow me to preface this by pointing out that I spent almost an hour writing this post yesterday, only for my auto-save to not work, resulting in me losing my entire post. Such a pain in the bum, so I’ll try and recreate it from memory again… Fingers crossed
I initially struggled when I thought about this, and spent a lot of time trying to come up with a scenario, but I thought that I would write about one of the dance auditions I went to when I was younger.
It was during my year of full-time dance, and I had never been to an audition for an overseas gig before. I’d only ever auditioned for dance schools and that was stressful enough. I didn’t really have much interest in the actual gig (which was for an overseas theme park), but I wanted to do it for the experience, and so I could determine what areas I needed to improve on for any future auditions that I might have.
So I turned up to this audition, not really knowing what it was going to be like and I walked up a few flights of stairs which opened up to this giant space – full of guys. Now for anybody in the commercial world of dance, you’ll know that all the guys are usually tall and good looking and quite well built.
…and I was pretty much the opposite. Well, except for the height.
When I walked in, it was, quite literally, one of those moments where everybody in the room completely stops, the music stops, and everybody stares at you. Although it was only a brief moment, it felt as though time had completely frozen. I walked around all the people sprawled out across the ground and found a small space in the corner, and started to stretch.
Everybody else was already sitting around in their little cliques, and most of them seemed to already know everybody else. Nobody paid me any attention – even when I tried to say hi to a couple of people, if they didn’t completely ignore me, they either brushed me off with a one-worded answer, or just advised me they didn’t want to be disturbed.
One woman came out and called all the girls into one studio for a vocal audition and the rest of us, the majority, were all guys who were ushered into the main studio. From there we were all split into smaller groups to make it easier for the judging panel to watch each of us a lot more closely.
I quickly realised that even when our group wasn’t performing, we were all standing around the studio watching the others, which really threw me. I had anticipated that everybody else would leave the studio , and we’d be called in group by group, but clearly, I was wrong.
First up was out jazz audition. We learnt a small routine which was actually quite fun, and when danced as a group, it looked incredible. I quickly realised that I wasn’t actually as bad as what I had initially thought. Watching some of the other guys trying to learn the chorey, quickly gave me an idea as to who was a threat, and who wasn’t.
When we started to perform in our groups, we also got to watch the others closely, and I was amazed that there was such a considerable number of these so-called dancers who couldn’t actually dance. I mean it was Jazz. Everybody needs to be able to cut it when it comes to jazz – or maybe I just have high expectations?!
So our group was somewhere in the middle, and everybody was watching everybody else like hawks. These bitches were hungry and we’re scoping out the competition, just like I was. I got up to dance and purposely stood in the back row so as not to come across as being an ‘attention seeker’. The music played and two of the guys in the front row made a massive fuck up, so they stopped us and made us start again.
The music started again and it was go-time. Just as quickly as we started, it was over. Almost got through it without making any mistakes, but I made one or two small mistakes, but nothing compared to some of the other guys. Compared to some of them, I was actually doing pretty well. At one point as I was dancing, I caught myself in the mirror as I nailed some complex move, and as I finished it, in my peripheral vision, I caught the eyes of one of the judges who, I thought, was watching me. And as I finished this particular move, she got a smile on her face, and then put her head down to write something… like she was secretly rooting for me, perhaps?
Everybody was then ushered out to the waiting room, where some people took the opportunity to have a bite of some food, and down some sports drinks. One of the people from the judging panel said that they were going to begin the callbacks, beginning with Ballet. Then, one by one they started calling out numbers of who they wanted to return.
It was nerve-wracking having to sit there and watch peoples reactions. Some were really humbled when their number was called. Others were more celebratory and flaunting of the fact. The ones who didn’t make it though either got really angry about it and stormed off in a huff, or they just accepted it for what it was. There were quite a few though who got really upset. I think they may have been the ones who were really hoping to get the job. Then whilst I’m sitting there watching everybody else’s reactions, I hear something, but I can’t quite work out what it is. Then I hear it again.
It’s me. My number. I’ve made it through the first round of callbacks!! I couldn’t quite believe it. For somebody who felt so intimidated at the beginning, it would appear as though that was slowly changing. However, I wasn’t necessarily going to get too excited just yet. It was time to get my ballet on.
We went back into the studio to learn a rather basic adage., and then split into new groups. Just like before with the Jazz audition, the ballet audition really gave some of us the perfect opportunity to show the others how it was done. I was really quite shocked that so many of these guys were so terrible at ballet. Here I was thinking that this was the foundation of all dance training – obviously just not theirs. There was only a few guys who really stood out, and even I was surprised at how well I managed with it. But I think I got lucky, because the other guys in my group were pretty bad, so they made me look even better. So I’m not sure if I stood out for actually being talented, or if it was because I was the best of the worst.
After we had finished, we were put back in the holding room, and they made the next round of announcements. Again, my number got called. ‘You have 5 minutes before you come back for your hip-hop audition’.
This was right up my alley. Suddenly, the number of guys had dramatically dropped. This was starting to get a bit real, and as much as I didn’t want to pay any attention to it, there was a tiny, tiny part of me thinking that there was a possibility, something might eventuate from all of this.
We went back in for our hip-hop audition, and surprisingly, the routine was short, but quite technical. I found it quite challenging. I went over it and over it and over it, but it just wasn’t sitting well with me. Suddenly the groups had changed order and my group was now second.
I only had a couple of minutes before I had to dance again, and I was really feeling nervous. I felt as though I had somehow managed to prove myself, and I couldnt mess it up now. The music started, and my group started dancing. When the music finished, I let out a giant sigh of relief, but it was quickly interrupted by the judging panel announcing that they wanted us to do again, but they wanted the front and back rows to swap. I was in the back row. I wonder if they want to watch me?? Oh, don’t be so stupid, why would they? SO the music began and I found myself back in the zone. In the corner of my eye I could see the same female judge watching me, then writing down some stuff on paper, and then talking to the judge next to her. And again, when I finished the routine, I caught her smiling. I tried not to think anything of it, but I couldn’t help myself.
As far as I knew, that was the end of the auditions process. I felt relieved, and was looking forward to getting out of this confined space full of stress and tension and hyper-emotional people. Just as I started to re-pack my bag, a lady walks out to us and says that there’s been a change in the audition, they were doing one last round of callbacks. Again, she started to read through the numbers, and only 4 guys got cut, the rest of us were all through again. I actually couldn’t believe that I’d made it this far. It was quite surprising, given that I hadn’t actually worked professionally in this industry, whereas most of the people here had, or still were.
We sat there looking a bit puzzled, as we didn’t really know why they were having a final cut? Maybe they wanted us to sing? Or do a reading? Nobody knew. The lady left briefly, and then returned to say, ‘I’ve just received confirmation that they would like to see you complete a Tap audition. We understand this is last minute, and understand you probably don’t have your tap shoes with you, but if you could, we’d love to see what you’ve got.’
Now, that’s what I call a **PLOT TWIST**
I instantly knew that I was out. I couldn’t tap to save myself. I can do a couple of basic steps, but other than that, I’ve got the skill of a monkey rollerskating on an oil slick. A couple of people cracked the shits, saying that this was ridiculous and unfair, and they stormed off. A couple of others brought their tap shoes with them ‘just in case’. I followed everybody back into the studio, and they made us line up across the studio side-by-side. Everybody was feeling nervous, because we didn’t know what to expect now. I looked at the lady who I’d made eyes with earlier, and she gave me a quick little wink – which, really, could have have meant anything, but she only did it to me, so I felt a tiny bit better.
They explained to us, that they wanted to see roughly 16-counts of some tap skill, to try and judge what level our expertise is. It could be anything we want, as long as it was between 16 and 32 counts.
Shit. Oh shit. Oh shit shit shit shit shit shit.
Knowing that tap was the absolute worst style for me was already bad enough, knowing that I was now going to be last (!!!) made everything even worse. They’re going to go through us one at a time, and all these guys are going to show off their fancy foot skills and then they’re all going to watch me completely ruin everything. Maybe I should just leave? There’s no way I’ll get anywhere now. It’s a guaranteed no. I’ve stil got a chance, perhaps I should just thank them for the opportunity and excuse myself.
I opted not to give in so easily. I’d spent so many hours here already, I may as well see it through until the end, and let’s face it, I had no intentions of actually getting a job out of this, I was only here for the experience, and I should make sure that I get the whole experience, regardless of how uncomfortable or awkward it gets. That’s what it’s like in this industry. It’s cut-throat and you just have to roll with the punches. No time for you to be self conscious and weak. We all watched each other as the tap-a-tap-a-tap-a progressed down the line. The whole time I kept taking bits and pieces from everybody else’s ‘routines’ to create my own little series of steps… and well, in theory it worked in my head.
However, when I had to actually perform it, it was a completely different story. Turns out, I had no fucking idea of what I was doing. I’d even managed to completely forget even the most basic of basic steps. It was just a complete disaster. I was so humiliated, but all I could do was laugh. There were a few concerned looks my way, but by this stage, I was kinda over it. I’d achieved everything I had come to do, and made it through to the final cut. The lady on the panel looked at me with a small grin and shook her head slightly. The guy in charge of the audition thanked everybody for staying, and for being so gracious and doing the tap audition, and that those who were successful would receive details via email later that evening.
We filed out of the studio into the holding area. People got changed; some called their friends / family; a couple of the guys walked off crying. I went into a toilet to change my clothes, put on some deodorant and wash my face. I let out a big sigh, picked up my bag and headed down the stairs. I got outside and was almost blinded by the blaring sunshine. I had almost forgotten what the weather was like because I’d been in fluoro lighting all day. I stood there on the steps of the building trying to work out what to do with myself for the rest of the afternoon. One thing that couldn’t be denied was that I was STARVING!! But having just stressed out and danced my arse off, I wanted to eat my feelings. The most important choice was whether I wanted to go buy half a dozen pastries, or if I wanted to get a tub of ice-cream and hire some dvd’s.
I was enjoying the sunshine, and whilst thinking of the pro’s and con’s of what I wanted, I grabbed my iPod and started untangling my supposed ‘tangle-free’ earphones, when I heard a group of people coming down the stairs. It was the judges from the panel. The lady that had smiled at me a few times noticed me and said goodbye to the others, before she started walking towards me.
‘You were quite an interesting one to watch today. You did a really good job’
‘None of us have seen you before, so you’re obviously one of the new kids on the block, so to speak’
‘Yeah, although I don’t think I have ‘The Right Stuff’ hehehe.’
‘*laughs* Good one. Listen, I’m glad that I bumped into you, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed watching you today. You really did a great job. Although you were nervous, you danced with passion and authenticity. I don’t actually know anything about you, but a few of us couldn’t stop watching you… even when you weren’t dancing, we were still watching you..’
‘Oh god, why? I was probably picking my nose or something…’
‘Eww, no, you just, there was something about you. There’s a light within you that just makes people want to watch you dance. You need to perform. You need to continue on this path. It’s just so refreshing to see somebody different to the same people we see all the fucking time. It just gets boring, and we tune out, because we’ve seen them all before. They all look the same. Like clones. Except you, you look nothing like them. And you’re clearly talented. There were people with a fuck load more experience than you who got knocked out in the first round, and yet, you made it all the way. We just wanted to see more.’
‘Really?? I don’t know what to say to that’
‘Although your tap was fucking abysmal. One of, if not, the worst of the day! Which was suuuuch a fucking let down, because we were expecting some awesome tap routine from you, but we didn’t get it.’
‘Ha! yeah, well, tap certainly isn’t my favourite style. Actually, I really don’t like it. I have to do it as part of my course, but I’m terrible at it. My ankles don’t seem to want to let me do it. I just can’t get it. And well, I’ve only been doing tap this year for the first time EVER! When the other lady said we were going to do tap, I almost walked out because I knew that I would bomb out on it, but I wanted to be the person who didn’t just give up when it got too hard. At least I can say I completed the audition. I may have completely mucked it up, but at least I finished it, AND I made it to the final callback, which completely shocked the hell out of me, so for that, I must say a big thankyou to you and the rest of the panel.’
‘Yeah, you need to really work on your tap. It’s not a major audition component, but some auditions require solid tap skills. Not all of them do, but it’ll work in your favour if you can get them up to speed. It’s going to work in your favour if you do, trust me. You’ve already got that spark in you, like an x-factor, but if you can do a good, solid, clean, tap solo, you’ll be more of a threat. I’m glad that I got to meet you, you actually made my day.’
‘Seriously? now that’s something you don’t hear everyday!’
‘Hopefully we’ll get to see you again sometime soon. I’ve got your details, and so have some of the others, so if we see you on the audition list, we’ll happily make sure that you get an audition. BUT WORK ON YOUR TAP FOR FUCK’S SAKE!! GOD, THAT WAS SUCH A LET DOWN!!’
‘I’ll try, I can’t promise though. How about if I do audition next time, we just skip the tap altogether, and you just let me do a good job with everything else instead?!’
We both laughed and said goodbye before walking in opposite directions. I think that was one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had in terms of dancing. It felt a little weird to be honest. As a dancer, you rarely hear somebody praise you for your talent. Most of the time you just keep getting told that whatever you did could have been better. You get told about all the flaws and imperfections of your talent – you need to work on your turnout, you have bad feet, you’re not flexible enough, you didn’t jump high enough, you need to work on your spotting, your arms are too sloppy, you have ugly turns, your back is too swayed, you look like your trying too hard etc etc etc. That’s just something that you have to get yourself used to very quickly. You need to have a thick skin if you’re going to pursue something like dancing, because everybody will pick you apart for every little thing that isn’t 100 percent perfect. That’s just how it is. It’s not nice. It’s not fair. But that’s how we improve.
For somebody to then turn around and have that kind of positivity and praise for my talent is almost completely foreign, and something that I have always struggled to accept and deal with. I’ve always been quite humble with my dancing. I’m not denying that I’d be quietly confident about my talent, but I wouldn’t be the one displaying the ego telling people that I’m the best and everybody else can just suck it. But for somebody like her to say something like that to me, felt amazing. Audition judges are always seen to be quite hard, and extremely blunt in their feedback or comments, so for somebody to say that they loved watching me dance just blew my mind.
I was on cloud-nine for the rest of the afternoon, and I practically inhaled a tub of ice-cream when I got home and enjoyed every single spoonful!!
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Reflections on Life through poetry, essays and photos
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