Anxieties, adulthood and au revoirs
Last week I gave up coffee. I’ve given up many things intermittently (sugar, personal observations on others) and some things more consistently (wheat, bad romantic partners) but I’ve never given up caffeine. I love coffee. And I’ve always been convinced that, like good romantic ties, coffee loved me right back. The proof being that I am one of those annoying people who can have a full strength (no really, make it a double, doesn’t matter) coffee at 9pm and be asleep 20minutes later. Coffee had no effect on me, I smugly concluded as I sipped its deliciousness 3-4 times a day.
But then, over the last few weeks and months, I noticed my anxiety levels skyrocketing. Which is a sort of funny-not-really statement because my anxiety was always pretty much non-existent. Even as a horribly overworked lawyer I wouldn’t have said I was particularly anxious (tired yes, anxious, not especially).
So the heavy feeling that sat on my chest and constricted my breathing on occasion was new, unpleasant and apparently at odds with a simultaneous improvement in life conditions and trajectory. In fact, only the news that a friend’s panic attacks were attributed to caffeine made me reconsider my own coffee habit at all.
The upshot? I’m no longer the annoying person who gulps coffee before bed; I’m now the annoying person who asks for a decaf flat white (extra hot please). Baristas give me looks of deep condescension but so far, a week in, I’ve had headaches (thanks withdrawal from a reliance I didn’t recognise) but no resurgence of the heavy chest-sitter (that sounds way more sexual than intended).
Quickly moving on, I’m currently on mid-semester break, the first term having flown by in a complete flurry only partly due to the fact that the clever cost-cutters at ANU took a week out of semester in order to realign the budget (as though university semesters could get any shorter without becoming farcical). Through some timetabling mischief and a dose of laziness I’m only taking two classes this semester, both of which are ceramics – surface decoration (underglaze) and mold-making.
So far, they’ve been a bit of a mixed bag. For some reason known, I suspect, only to the bottom line, ceramics elective courses have no prerequisites (unlike painting and the majority of other workshops) which meant an excruciating amount of the first couple of weeks was taken up with (re)covering basic clay handling and workshop procedures.
Mold-making since then has developed to become tricksy for me to conceptualise (into how many pieces will I need to split that object? Where do I cut it so that all the pieces will come out of their respective molds and fit together as a complete whole?) while surface decoration has largely continued its initial trajectory of covering material we did last year.
The second term for both classes is an individual project, which means I have to stop whinging and decide what I’m actually going to make… and whether I think I can make a mold of a giant horned cows skull I found (the sensible answer is no…)
I’ve been working most nights at the bar which is good for the most part (bank balance, grocery budget) and bad only when after a long day at school I yearn to be a hermit in a cave far, far away with only clay for company. My baby sister has started working at the same bar - which is also good for the most part and only occasionally irritating. (Siblings right?)
I’m also moving northside (Canberra, like Sydney, London and everywhere separated by a body of water, is big on which side you live on, believing it decides your personality, friends and future) where I’ll have an apartment to myself for the first time ever. The closest I’ve gotten to living by myself was living with a Argentinian couple and a Scot (whom I saw once in 8 months) in a creepy north London flat that had locks on all the doors. So this is a bit new. I’m slightly terrified but also comforted by the fact that I’ll be living with our family’s two cats (as my mum downsizes and possibly globetrots) - an excellently fluffy highlight.
Before then, though, I’ll spend most of the break in the car – visiting an art-school friend in Cooma on Friday, driving to Melbourne to see a close law-school friend for her 30th over the weekend and then on to Maryborough to visit my dad, before trekking all the way up to Sydney for the last Easter in my childhood home. A fitting farewell, methinks.