I remember 1999 and 2000 well. Maybe I've been reminded because it's been the turn of the decade and we've all been getting nostalgic. But I think it's because 10 years ago, my life changed so much.
In 1999 I completed my Higher School Certificate (HSC). I remember sitting up in the secret library room, studying during SWOTVAC, but mainly writing poems that were inspired by confused emotions about love, the John Donne poems I was studying for English, and also by Silverchair's Neon Ballroom album. Maybe I would have done better in my HSC had it not been for me writing the poems.
I also remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom creating artwork out of shells, poetry, onion bags and torn paper. Some paintings represented to sea. Others represented the isolation and pain I felt. Either way, I wasn't very good at art. Yet I was doing it for my HSC.
I also commenced a casual job at a large department store. This was such a great experience. I was learning professionalism. Responsibility. How to deal with people that asked about my skin condition in a positive and polite way. And I made heaps of friends that I'm still close to today.
At the start of 2000 I received an academic scholarship for university. This was a great achievement, looking back, particularly because it's helped to pay my HECS (university fees) and I now don't have a crippling HECS debt from my undergraduate degree, making my Masters much more affordable. I began uni, didn't like the course much at all, but I made lots of new friends there, too, some of them will be friends for life.
I was finally free of the restrictions of school. Not that I was a rebellious student. I was very conscientious and got mostly excellent grades, especially in English and History. I loved learning. And I loved succeeding.
School for me was restrictive because of the way I was treated by my peers. Teased. Misunderstood. Shunned. I was very lonely at school. I was pleasantly surprised to know that people liked me for me outside of school and wanted to be friends with me. There are people from school I am friends with now though. But sometimes I see people from school, the ones who gave me a hard time, and my mind goes back to a difficult place.
The end of 1999 and 2000 was the start of my new life. I attribute these years my confidence today.
I was in love with Savage Garden. I mean IN LOVE. Not just a fan. A fully fledged devotee. I knew everything about them. I had everything about them! Their lyrics made me feel secure. I identified with the darkness of Silverchair's lyrics because I was in a dark place. Not at home. Just with the isolation felt because I was so different. I just wanted proper friends and to be like everyone else. (Today is another story, I'm happy being me. Happy not truly fitting in. Mostly.) But with Savage Garden, I felt uplifted. I felt as though Darren was singing to me sometimes, reassuring me that I was ok, that I did belong, and everything was going to be ok. And for a few years I had a best friend that also loved Savage Garden and we were inseparable.
I used to listen to Savage Garden's debut CD over and over and over and over from when I first bought it at Brashs on 24 March 1997. I loved it. I still do. Darren Hayes was, and always will be, a big part of my life.
In August 1999, my life did change forever. Savage Garden's new single, I Knew I Loved You from the upcoming Affirmation album came out. It was released on radio around the country at midday on Monday in August. I had the day off to listen to it. Maybe I was unwell. But the day off was probably to listen to the new song.
I remember hearing it and thinking it was the most romantic song I'd ever heard. Well since Truly Madly Deeply. 'A thousand angels dance around you. I am complete now that I found you'. Sigh. It was divine. It was later revealed that Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones wrote this song as a bit of a piss take, as apparently Sony wanted a romantic, sappy love song. As I type this I am actually listening to the Affirmation album. FYI - The Lover After Me is my favourite song on the album.
After the song was played on the radio, I got on ICQ. Remember ICQ? That chat program. 'Uh-oh' it used to say, alerting users to incoming messages. ICQ was a big part of my life back in 1999 - 2000. I don't use it now.
An 'uh-oh' sounded. Just another random person looking to chat. He was 18, male and in Queensland. Nothing special about him. Nothing special was said to make me think about this new chatter.
A few weeks later, it was knuckle down time for my HSC. This was about to be the biggest two weeks of my life, ever. A bad score could mean working in retail all my life. A good score could mean getting into speech pathology. (The score I did get, however, placed me in an ecommerce degree.) I remember one night before an exam and I was talking to this person a lot. He said some things that caught my attention. Told me about how sad he was. Told me he had broken up with his girlfriend. Showed me a photo of himself.
He was sensitive.
Different, odd and eccentric.
Interested in me. Maybe more than anyone had been until then.
I didn't show him a photo of me yet. I was scared that he would shun me because of how I looked. I was supposed to be concentrating on my HSC, but all I could think of was him.
HSC started. I went to exams. Wrote a lot. I recall writing 24 pages in my English exam. It was hard. I wasn't quite sure what this exam period was preparing me for. I didn't realise my life was about to change for the better.
This boy and I chatted online regularly. I liked it. I was a bit certain he liked me too.
I told him about my skin condition. He was fine with it. I was surprised.
I showed him a photo of me. He said I was beautiful. No one other than my parents had said that before.
The day of my maths exam Affirmation was released. I remember going into town on the bus after my exam to buy it, and then playing it on my discman on the bus trip back to school. That and Rob Thomas/Santana's Smooth. It was magic.
One night before my second last exam, I told my parents how I had been chatting to this boy online. I asked if I could call him. They agreed.
So I called him the night before my history exam. We talked for ages, only about an hour, but ages for me, back then. I loved his voice. I loved that he was paying attention to me.
I remember feeling elated. Special. I had never spoken to a boy on the phone before, aside from when I was in year six and this boy rang me to thank me for giving him pictures of Cindy Crawford in scripture class. Hell, I was so nervous in year six. I was even more nervous in year 12.
The next day, before the exam, I told someone about the call I made to this boy. I told a girl that never treated me well. She asked me if he knew about my skin condition. I said yes. She said 'he'll never love you because of how you look'. I was devastated, but I was strong. This was probably the last time I'd ever see her. I told her that she'll never be beautiful because of how ugly she is on the inside. She cried a lot, right before her exam. That was maybe the most empowering, self defensive thing I've said during my school life.
The day after that, I had one more exam and my graduation presentation, and then school was over forever.
The boy and I talked more frequently now school had finished. He'd call me after he finished work at about 11 pm. We'd talk for four, sometimes five hours. Then he'd call again in the morning.
I loved our chats. We grew to know eachother so well through our coversations. Sometimes we'd never speak. Just breathe. But that was ok too.
I was also working more at the department store.
My confidence was growing so much.
We arranged to meet on 14 January 2000.
That was 10 years ago this coming Thursday. I remember it so well.
It must seem so silly, me recalling these moments in such detail. But I cannot reiterate just what a turning point it was for me. Though I don't dwell on those days now. But this week I'm thinking about it a bit more. I always do around this time of January. There is a great singificance of that Savage Garden song, I Knew I Loved You. The words ring true for my experience.
He stepped off the plane and I was really nervous. He was nothing I'd seen before. Probably quite a different looking person for the country town I was living in then. Long plaits. Knee high boots. Piercings. He was beautiful.
I remember him looking at me from the front seat of the car when my Mum had stopped for petrol. It was amazing. There was an entire butterfly enclosure in my tummy. He told me I was beautiful.
The 10 days he stayed with me were a rollercoaster of emotion. We had lots of fun together. I felt accepted. And loved. I still remember him and the time we spent together so vividly. He was willing to hold my hand. Unafraid to touch me - he knew he wouldn't catch my condition. He accepted me and loved me.
I remember when he was staying, I Knew I Loved You went to number 1 in America. This was huge! I woke him up to tell him the news. He was indifferent. More of a Marilyn Manson fan.
When he left to go home I was devastated. Absolutely devastated.
I've never seen him again.
We chatted on an off on the internet and by phone. He controlled when we'd chat. Things got really complicated and he is not the person I thought he was, not in the slightest. That's a long story, and I don't want to tarnish the adoring memory I have of meeting him on 14 January 2000.
Those that know me, and know the aftermath of this shortlived love story, will probably say he's not worth thinking about. That's true. He hurt me a lot, and hurt others too. The bad parts aren't worth thinking about.
But for me, the short lived love story really changed my life.
He gave me the confidence to believe in myself as a person. And I thank him for that.
Writing this really brought out some sad emotions. All my blogs are honest. But this one was difficult.
I've been sitting here listening to Savage Garden's Affirmation album, to take me back to 1999 - 2000. And the line from my favourite song from the album as mentioned (and possibly one of my favourite songs ever) resonates.
'I shouldn't be holding on, but I'm still holding on for you'
This was the way I felt about him for so many years.
I don't feel this way now, thank goodness. I'd be so unhappy and stuck in a space that would be bad for me if I did feel this way.
He was my first love. But he was more than that. He made me feel like a person.
Although I haven't spoken to him for almost five years, and he did some really terrible things to me, I sometimes think of him, and miss him.
Maybe I'll remember him forever.