This weekend's trip to Adelaide was far less fraught than the last time. I was there two weeks ago and the aftermath took me a couple of days to process. This time, I've come away unscathed - something that doesn't normally happen when on my return from my old home town.
Too much crap from many years ago tends to get dredged up.
Discussing this with Jonella at lunch today, I worked out that I left Adelaide twenty years ago almost to the week. October 1991 I departed. I left a rather shitty life - family troubles, non-existent career, no self-esteem, totally miserable. Twenty years later I could say that not much has changed - but it has. I'm happier. I'm employable. I'm solvent. And most importantly, I've got a very good idea about who I am.
The main reason for this visit was to run the Adelaide City to Bay Fun Run. It's a twelve kilometre hike from the centre of the city to Glenelg beach. When I was home in May, I challenged my sister to participating in the event, walking the distance. I'd run it, of course. She was up to the challenge, hoping the scant training on which she was going to embark was going to help her gain a bit of fitness. A four or five times a week, she and the dog would set out for an hour for a walk around the hilly Adelaide Southern suburbs. I'm really proud of her for sticking at the training and coming with me. Okay, I did shove in a sweetener - I paid for her entry and found her a new pair of trainers (we measured her up at a local footwear store and then found them on ebay at half price - I'm not that generous).
Arriving in Adelaide around lunchtime on the Saturday, Affectionately known as Manhands collected me at the airport with a cold. She didn't look too bad, but she was suffering a little. All that was planned for the Saturday was a nice relax and maybe wash the dog and that be all.
This sounded pretty good to me.
Washing the dog, a large, very affectionate Golden Retriever named Bozley, is one of my favorite things to do. Brings out the child in me. Changing into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and we got to work on the beast out on the back lawn. Boz tolerates being washed just for the rub down with a towel at the end. Then it was my job to brush him out over the rest of the day. By the time I'd finished there was half a yellow dog in a plastic supermarket bag. And I smelled like a clean, wet Golden Retriever. Attractive.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with Big Niece and Little Niece watching Pixar films. Monsters, Inc never loses it's appeal. Boo!
Sunday morning, Affectionately known as Manhands and I rose around 5.30 am, showered, changed and made our way down to Glenelg to park the car in a side street and make our way into town on the free tram.
Being her first "fun run" I showed her the ropes. The City to Bay run has been run for 39 years. It's the biggest fun run in Australia, per capita, as the guy on the microphone kept touting. 35000 people lined up near the Festival Theatre on King William Street. I think half of those people were in the loo queue - well it felt like it. Adelaide hasn't quite got the hang of mass public events it seems.
After twenty minutes of waiting, I was off on my run. Manhands would start about ten minutes later and walk the distance with a friend.
Somewhere just before Grote Street a tall, lumbering guy in a flourescent green t-shirt caught my eye. I passed on a bit of encouragement, as you do. Running is about generousity of spirit, so you pass on a bit of encouragement.
I'd arranged to meet up with Kip, and old university friend after the race. Well, here he was, jogging along for the charity, Canteen. We ran together for a kilometre or so, then he needed to slow down and I speeded up. Said I'm meet up with him later. It was cool to meet up with somebody you haven't seen in twenty years.
And hour and seventeen minutes later I passed through the blow up arch. I would have been happy with an hour and twenty, but the Running Gods were on my side. Thrilled with my time.
It was mayhem at the end of the run, so I went to find a bit of civilisation a few streets away, where some other friends had congregated for breakfast. It was great to catch up with them while I waited for Affectionately known as Manhands to walk the distance (and she did well, came in in under two hours, with a cold - very proud of her)
Later, Kip and I met for coffee. We arranged to meet on the proviso that he drop me at the airport, saving my brother-in-law the trip.
It's strange. Kip and I knew each other at college. We were in the same year. He was always a nice guy - a bit nerdy, but nice. Like me, he wasn't part of the cool brigade, but he wasn't unpopular either.
How to you wrap twenty years of your life up into a neat little package? How do you compartmentalise twenty years? It was lovely to see the Kip was in a great space. Career changes, marriage, kids, travel. He's married to his girlfriend from college days. He seems really happy. It's wonderful to see.
For me, it's just nice to know that I no longer feel inadequate being 43, umarried and childless - and I don't feel like I have to justify any of my decisions. I finally feel like I'm achieving something, even if I do have to go find a new job in a few weeks.
Besides- I'd just run my fastest 10 kilometres (63 minutes) and a great run. To add to the equation, I'd beaten Kip in by ten minutes... but that isn't fair - I'm trained up - we wasn't - I run regularly - he doesn't. But still ...
Meeting up was Kip was great on many other levels - and I truly hope it's not another twenty years before we catch up again. It would be great to see his wife, Katie, as well.
For me, I just remember how inadequate I felt through university. How unworthy, ugly, fat and stupid I thought I was. After having it drummed into me that I was fat and ugly and stupid for so many years, yesterday was a bit of a revelation. All that stuff has gone. It was lovely to be able to sit down, some twenty years later, with somebody who knew me back then and just be myself. To just be, and to acknowledge that things are alright.
My life certainly not the same as everybody else's path - but that is okay too.
It's just the way it is.
And it provides a little bit of courage for another reunion I have in a few weeks time. But that is another story for another day.