YesOut of Myself

REGULARS|LOUISE REID


Old(er) people aren’t too old for study!


I’d been 49 when we moved to Australia in 2005. For me, that certainly wasn’t old! In my hometown in Hamilton, New Zealand, I had been to university but I never finished a Business Administration degree. My future back then had no purpose or plan. I couldn’t find companionship. I worked in very good jobs, but I was made redundant twice — one from WEL Energy and one from Telstra; certainly not my choice but I wouldn’t — couldn’t — move to Auckland for Telstra.


I spent much of my spare time writing, starting when I was very young but I didn’t keep many old papers. In Australia, I did a lot of research for things that wound me up: rent, homelessness, refugees, income, rape… I worked for TEDx at Southbank for their first event at the end of 2012 and on the evening of the celebration, I fell into tears which I couldn’t get out of. I had some wonderful supporters.


At the beginning of 2013, my ex left our marriage. In December of 2012, I started a One Billion Rising Brisbane Facebook page. After my desperation from separation on the 14th February 2013, I took 30 wonderful dancers on a flash mob in Queens Mall. In March the same year, I joined a Vagina Monologues play in Brisbane’s CBD. I also volunteered at La Boite theatre and a magazine at QUT, both in Kelvin Grove. I walked the Zonta walk for 6km at Newstead and the Walk 1 Mile walk at Ipswich, I got my face painted as a ghoul for the Zombie walk. By July 2013, I received my Graduate Diploma for Occupational Health & Safety, found out I had a brain aneurysm, told my employer, and two months later after seven years with ‘that employer,’ I was fired. Too much to deal with!


I had six months to fill before I was taken into hospital in April 2014 for my brain aneurysm surgery, and I found out that under anaesthesia I’d had a stroke with aphasia. Life can change when you never wanted it to.


After my surgery and stroke, I moved to the north side of Brisbane, Redcliffe: firstly to Woody Point, then onto Scarborough. I wanted to volunteer — I couldn’t really do anything other than that, so I sat a barista certificate and volunteered for a kite event as a coffee maker. Later I joined the Redcliffe art gallery as a volunteer and took on the art gallery newsletter. I had a book meeting for my first novel, which surprisingly took me out of my intrusive thoughts about my rape which I had lived with since I was 17. The book wasn’t an inspiration because I wasn’t completely back to ‘normal’ language with my aphasia, but I had some wonderful reviews about it.


Having a stroke and aphasia affects people, so how was I getting on? To me, it seemed I couldn’t get on with most of the crowd. I joined a gym in Redcliffe, but I had to leave it because I didn’t really feel ‘in,’ even though I had been with gyms in New Zealand and ever since I’d moved here. I joined a heart group that did a walk around inside the Kippa-Ring mall, but I quit that because no one talked to me. I joined a canoe group for breast cancer — which I have not had— and I was talked out. Eventually, 15 months after moving to Redcliffe, I felt I was paying too much rent for my tiny house, so I left and moved up to Noosa for a short stay, then all the way down to Bethania, to a retirement village.


Which, of course, was my bad decision. I couldn’t believe what they did to me and my beautiful dog! Homeless, yes, that was me — but only for one week, thankfully! I found a converted garage unit in Eagleby and moved there until 13 months later when I found out that it was illegal. So I had to move again. I started my recovery online course, Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism with Griffith and very much enjoyed the study.


It had been three and a half years since my stroke when a carer at Mylestones found me a recovery job in Darra, 10 hours a week, my first recovery work. I moved on to Bellbird Park to be closer to work, and my unit has been the best place I chose so I hope I won’t lose it! I joined a Redbank Plains gym at the start of the year, but my beautiful dog died (naturally) in March, my NZ daughter-in-law died in April, I went downhill into depression and had to walk away from the gym. The recovery job only lasted nine months when I was — again — made redundant. I don’t think I could continue to work for 10 hours a week, but I could not work any longer than that because even that short time made me very, very tired.


This year, 2021, I completed the Business Administration and I applied and was accepted for the Master of Creative Writing with Macquarie University. Am I planning too far ahead?


I have memories of most of my life, some very good and some very bad. So if I start thinking I am planning ‘too far ahead,’ I need to shake myself up: I hope I will continue with the study year by year and won’t let it get me down.


I’m 64 now. That’s an excellent age!