Thursday, June 9, 2011

Re: My Other Life

Today I'm veering off the beaten track of databased rants, railing against all things breast cancer and general pink cultural disruptiveness, in favor of a writing assignment set by Marie, author of the excellent Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer blog.

So this one's about My Other Life.  You know,  that life outside of breast cancer.

Let's start at the beginning shall we?  I was born in 1970 in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia.  Australia's a bloody big country and Western Australia is about the size of Texas, with a population of a little over two million people.


A recently discovered photo of me and
my naughty little sister,  circa 1976
I'm the eldest of three children, two girls and a boy.  My younger sister  Tarn, epitomized the protagonist, from the "My Naughty Little Sister" series by Dorothy Edwards, and was my beloved nemesis growing up.  We were three years apart in age, and what strikes me looking back at old photos, is that we were always photographed together.  Even though we were constantly fighting  and jostling for attention, it's always me and her together.   Truthfully,  as we got older we drifted apart.  We were very different people and she led quite a troubled life.  Tragically she passed away in June 2007 at the age thirty-four.  I don't think I'll ever really get over losing her.  She was a part of me.

My really cute Granny
with baby brother circa1976
My younger brother now lives in the U.K. We see and talk to each other often.  I adore him and love nothing better than just hanging out and talking about ridiculous things like Australian politics, ghosts, aliens, cryptozoology, annoying people and anything else that takes our fancy.  He likes the odd rant too.  Although he's now 35 years old, I still think of him as four years old. And treat him as such.

My Dad's a character.  He's an old Communist from way back who's living out his retirement in the tropics learning advanced Russian, and harboring dreams of a visit to North Korea at some point before he dies.  He also enjoys a good rant any day of the week.

Ranting?  Does that sound familiar.  Yes, along with the BRCA1+ gene,  the ranting gene is endemic in our family.  My Grandfather also had the gift of the rant.  As children, when we visited we knew to avoid certain trigger words.  Like "hello", "How are you", "It's a nice day". Lest we be subjected to professional ranting, the likes of which I can only aspire to.

My Dad in 1976.  At work. He was a
soil technologist and was averse to T-shirts!
Growing up in Australia was great.  I highly recommend it for any child.  I don't really remember ever being indoors, and a family holiday for us was a three-day drive in the old family Kingswood, sleeping in the car on the side of the road, and then pitching tents in some isolated National Park somewhere.  If it had running water and plumbing of any sort, well that was just not getting away from it as far as my father was concerned.  He liked to 'rough it, translation; "here's the toilet paper, now go behind the bush", or "make sure you zip the tent up so snakes can't get in", or "showers are for wimps, as are sunglasses" or "don't worry about the crocodiles, they're freshwater so they're not interested in eating you, now go for a bloody swim".

Typical Aussie backyard.  Hills Hoist, woodpile and outhouse!
We also had indoor plumbing.  Circa 1976

But all these holidays instilled in me a lifelong love of adventure and travel.  In my late twenties, I packed up my life in a backpack and went to London for what was supposed to be year-long European working vacation.  Well that was 1999 and I never went back.  I lived in the U.K for three years, met my beloved and then moved to the U.S. for graduate school and the bright lights of New York City.  Now I'm happily settled in New Jersey (who knew???), but I still love to just get away from it all when I can.

Travel holds a special place in my heart and is something that I think my soul requires.  I've been very fortunate to have had the means and opportunity for most of my adult life, and I think I might have been a migratory bird in a past life.  Too bad that my wings have been clipped during this last year thanks to that thing I'm not going to mention in this post, but I still amuse myself with thoughts of the next great trip and memories of trips past.

My favorite countries would have to be Egypt and Italy, although I was very taken with Oman as well.  But I'm also quite interested in seeing more of the U.S. since I live here now and am practically a citizen.  I loved Maine, and Colorado holds something special for me, and I have to say I do love the Florida Keys and those conch fritters.  Still want to get to New Mexico and see Montana and Wyoming whilst I'm at it.  The Scottish Highlands and islands are up there too.

So today I'm remembering my love of travel, and the spirit of adventure and impulsiveness that I think are some of my character trademarks.  Here's a slideshow of snapshots from some of my memorable trips starting from 1999 through to 2010.

It seems the only appropriate way to finish this post is to ask a question.

Where to next? So long as it doesn't involve doctors, waiting rooms, hospitals or chemotherapy, I'm game!


  1. I'm so glad to learn more about you, my friend. Your spirit, intelligence, wonderful observations & kindness come through loud and clear.


  2. Anna - love this post. Your freedom shines through! You will LOVE the Scottish islands with a passion... you gorgeous free spirited soul.

    I love the pic of you and your sister with the lovely haircuts. Mmm. sigh.

    More posts not about 'you know what' please?!

    Love, Sarah

  3. I love this! I love to find out about how we assimilate our childhoods and family influences into our adult selves. Who you really are comes shining through...but you know, it comes through even when you are ranting about "that other subject."


  4. Anna, I learned so much about you through your travelogue of life. As a fellow traveler I especially identified with your comment,"Travel holds a special place in my heart and is something that I think my soul requires." I feel the same way. Wherever you go next (outside the medical kingdom), you will make your mark--and your memories. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Anna, i love reading this post, by waking up, coffee in hand and reading it like a novel.
    The freedom of your childhood with your "analyser-brain" offer to us what you're now, a gift. Thx xoxo

  6. Oh sweetie, I laughed and cried in equal measure reading this. Your descriptions of your grandad and your dad and your family vacations made me laugh out loud and splurt out some of the tea I was drinking while reading it! Your sense of adventure, your independence, your lust for life just shine through this and I am so grateful that you shared the "other you" with us. Oh and if I am giving out prizes for the person who went to the most trouble by illustrating your other life with pics..then you win!!! Love you xxxxxxxx

  7. You are amazing, my friend. I LOVE the pictures.


  8. Fantastic post! I laughed out loud at your dad's sayings in the wild. Spread your wings, girl, and enjoy the journey. If you ever get down to South Texas in your travels, I'll mix you a margarita.

  9. This was such fun to read. One of my favorite lines was when you said you were always photographed with your sister. I KNOW about that since I have three siblings and I was number three out of the four. I always noticed the number of photos declined significantly by child number three! I love how you have such an adventurous spirit, of course, I can kinda tell that by your blog posts! I admire your zest for life and it shines through in this post. Thanks for sharing. I suppose I should write one of these soon too.

  10. Don't mind the crocodiles!?! I do love travel, that is my life long goal after my wings grow back in a year. So many places to go and things to see! Utah is beautiful, if you ever feel like adding it to your list.

  11. I love this so much! I love your photos. I love your wit. I love that you have a rant gene. I love your sense of adventure. I love the story of the crocs. I love your wings. May you stretch them out and soar over to New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, and - even though it's not on your list - TEXAS! Xxxxx

  12. Thank you for sharing. I need more time than all your other readers here and it's such a mutally enrichment to follow you. The picture of your little sister and you is a dream and symbol for the treasure and costliness of life ...

  13. I'm 4?? You think of me as 4???? How does it feel to constantly lose arguements to a 4 year old then! Ahahahahahaha! : - )

  14. Anna thanks so much for the lovely post giving me the opportunity to get to know a little of you.'
    Yesterday I met my sister for coffee. Today I called her to say how much I enjoyed the time together and how proud I am of her. She looks stunning and has real class.
    You have reminded me again of the value of family.

  15. Dear all- thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Unfortunately dealing with breast cancer seems to take up so much of my time these days, that it sometimes it is a conscious effort to remember who I am outside of breast cancer. This writing assignment was the perfect Rx to that condition, and although I felt kind of sad writing it, it also gave me a bit of a jolt and some really happy memories as well.

  16. It was a pleasure to read about your Other Life. Your old pics remind me of my childhood too and your travel pics are amazing (I have got itchy feet).
    P. told me once he was the baby of the year 1975... :-))) ... I think he is right..
    Take care..

  17. I've loved this exercise of sharing our lives with one another. Your grandfather sounds like he was a character. The "gift of rant." That made me smile as did you "might have been a migratory bird in a past life." Thank you, pretty lady, for sharing your story and your photos. You're my kind of woman.


  18. Perth! I always wanted to go to Perth. Going to Australia has been a dream of mine for a long time. My other was going to Hawaii - I made it there. I hope I get to Oz too! How nice you shared a snippet of your life with us, and I'm sorry about your sister.

  19. Hi Anna, I'm just catching up your blog. I had no idea you're from Perth, among other things including your current proximity to NYC.

    Love the photos, and the nifty slide show. (How did you do that?) Thanks so much for sharing your story, Elaine

  20. I loved reading this, Anna, and learning more about you. I've always wanted to visit's so beautiful, and I too would love to see Perth.

    LOVED the photos and the cool slide show.

    You are one cool person!


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