Past burdens hard to shake

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 11:05 13/10/2012

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It was supposed to be a clean out. The annual suburban middle-class act of unburdening to make space for new burdens, new unnecessary possessions bought at yet another Briscoes sale.

It was supposed to take just a couple hours of my Saturday but I hadn't counted on finding the green shopping bag.

For some reason in the foggy past I had packed this green shopping bag with a number of things that should have been burnt.

There was my first CV, the first and only travel diary I had written and some of my first newspaper stories. For some reason just as foggy as the one that kept them, I stopped my unburdening and sat down to read.

I started with the CV though I could only manage a quick flick through before getting a strange feeling in my stomach which I knew from experience preceded an attack of thumb sucking and foetal curling.

It was embarrassing stuff. Though I had put it together after 12 years of schooling and a university degree, it was idiotic stuff. And even though it was typed out and neatly spaced there is no escaping the fact the first draft was obviously done in crayon.

Under work experience and skills I listed I liked camping, gardening and that I had once worked for a builder for three weeks. I can only assume I was applying for a job as goldfish or perhaps a door stop.

My record of academic achievement section is just as depressing. Five years of high school and all I had was a diligence award for economics, which I think I got for an explanation of why the tuck shop custard and apple pie was better calorific value for money than the apricot one.

Things didn't get any better at university, my results reading like the musical score for Chopsticks - C, C, B, D, F,C,C, B, B etc.

My one A is for a second year microeconomics course, which was a surprise to me as much as anyone. I still don't know what microeconomics even is.

It was ridiculous, I know, but I hoped the travel diary would show I had since become a man of some worth. Unfortunately the page I started reading on dealt with a day in Thailand back in 2006 where I got into a frothing rant about the dry sandwich crusts at the resort restaurant.

"How hard is it to butter right to the edge," I wrote with a handful of angry exclamation marks. "Do they even understand sandwiches," I asked in disgust. I even drew a picture and, to be fair to my younger self, the crusts certainly did look dry.

Things weren't much better for the arrival in Beijing entry. This time the page is devoted to the stench of the taxi driver.

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"How hard is it to wear deodorant," I wrote.

"Do they even understand underarm hygiene?"

There were other less ridiculous entries, which gave me hope that the diaries might improve with age though I know this hope is the hope of an imbecile.

If any children I might have were to discover this diary they will probably and justifiably conclude their father was hit on the head with a shovel at some important developmental stage.

Thankfully, some of my past newspaper stories held up better, if only for me.

There was one from 2008 about a plague of rats at New Plymouth's Pig Out Point and, one month after, a story about a man sent a letter by Work and Income telling him he was dead.

"But I'm not dead," he said, which is usually a pretty strong argument.

There was another gem one year later when Canadian Innuit visitor Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons got so riled up at our beloved Eskimo lollies she was sending a packet to her prime minister.

"It's just not the correct term," she had told me.

I also remembered how professionally I had handled that job. Not once during the interview did I ask her to open a packet of Eskimos and hand me a few of those delightfully soft lollies, despite that being the only question I wanted answered.

It was probably the first piece of evidence I was on my way to becoming an adult even though back then I must have been at least 32 years old.

There were other things in the bag that I hadn't written to provide some relief. A watch my grandfather used to wear, some long expired McDonald's vouchers and two shirts I was supposed to have taken to the hospice.

They were good shirts too, which made me think I must have put them in the throw-out category before saddling myself with a mortgage. I shook them out, threw them in the wash, put them up to dry and after that I gave them an iron.

If I sucked in my stomach and stood ramrod straight they still fitted. It made me feel quite good about myself and for a brief moment, a second or two in time, the burden of years gone past felt just that little bit lighter.

- Taranaki Daily News

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