I regularly review my life as it stands now. Am I happy with life in general? Have I achieved everything I wanted to achieve by this age? Should I have done things differently in the past? Do I regret some of my choices? The answer is ‘yes’ to all of the above. I often think about what I wanted to do career-wise when I was a child, a teenager, and a university student. Let’s review.
Pastry chef: I used to love baking cakes. At one stage I dreamed of working as a pâtissière in a glamorous hotel in Paris. I wanted to start at Claridges in London before moving to the City of Light to hone my craft. I’d live in a garret above a florist and read Baudelaire like an insufferable try-hard. Following my time in the French capital I would return to Sydney to open a pâtisserie in Potts Point or Surry Hills. People would queue for my apple tart tartins! Perhaps I could have written cookbooks.
During my first trip to Paris I made a pilgrimage to Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre, featured in the film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. My obsession with quirky cafés and Montmartre knows no bounds, so it was an emotional experience. Maybe one day I’ll live in Paris where I can make like Amélie and crack the top off all the Crème brûlées I want. At least I won’t have to slave over a hot stove for them.
Author: But only if I could win the Nobel Prize for literature with my debut novel and then become a recluse like Greta Garbo or Harper Lee.*
After winning the Nobel Prize I would lecture occasionally at Ivy League universities and attend parties with the sort of people who opine that the New Yorker is trash and who translate ancient Greek into modern English for fun.
During my first trip to Paris I made a pilgrimage to Shakespeare and Company bookstore. To stand in a place frequented by such giants of the literary world as Hemingway, Joyce, Stein and Ginsberg was one of the thrills of my life to date.
*I can’t even go there with Go Set a Watchman. What a shameful grab for cash by Lee’s publishers. The only good thing to come out of that whole fiasco was reading a funny alternative title for the book on the internet – ‘Tequila Mockingbird: Scout’s Journey into Adulthood.’
TV presenter: For a long time I wanted to be a newsreader or a presenter. When I was very young I loved putting on plays for family, was on the debating and public speaking team, and enjoyed drama class, but then crippling, all-consuming shyness and fear took hold and I stopped those things.*
I studied journalism at university but youth is wasted on the young and all I did was attend toga parties and skip lectures. I should have worked harder and sought work experience at the local TV station.
I also thought about being a foreign correspondent. During a trip to Phnom Penh I walked past the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and thought it was the coolest place I had ever seen. I fancied sitting at the bar with a martini pretending to be as glam as Catherine Deneuve was in Indochine.
*During my first trip to London I got stopped in the street by a talent scout who kept asking me to come into the agency. Alas, I couldn’t pay for the copyright of professional shots since I was a lowly traveller with no money. It was probably a scam, but maybe that was my chance?
Working with children: I get on well with children. I used to love playing mum to my younger cousins and often thought about becoming an early childhood teacher. Telling stories, doing arts and crafts, teaching children to read. I wanted to be like Miss Honey from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I find that most people remember the teachers they had when they were very young, and that’s a nice thought. But what if something happened to a child when it was in my care? What if I suspected a child was being mistreated at home? What if a child ate a peanut butter sandwich and went into anaphylactic shock?
Reality as of now: I work in the arts and cultural sector which I love. I’ve been lucky enough to have tip-toed backstage at concerts, sat front and centre in the audience at famous opera houses, attended soirees in fancy private homes, and had sneak peeks at exhibitions.
Sometimes I think that if I combined all the things I wanted to do then I’d open a second-hand bookstore that also serves cakes, has a children’s reading corner, and hosts book launches. There could be a monthly music night with a jazz band purring while readers pick up dusty tomes and engage in conversation without a screen in sight. I’d also like to write and illustrate children’s books in my spare time.
As for Paris, well, I’m sure I’ll get there again one day.
In the meantime, I can lurk in one of my favourite places in Sydney – Gertrude and Alice cafe bookstore. Talk about literary giants and a big fat reference to Paris! It’s basically the most perfect place ever. Mosey on down to Bondi and marvel in its glory if you haven’t done so already. Gertrude and Alice, 1/46 Hall Street, Bondi Beach.