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Wellington, September 2022

Reflection 5/10 - Objective Number 3: A Working Holiday

Central to my three city tour is the overarching theme of trying to work out what's next, aka Objective number 3. My high school instilled an urgency to look ahead and move forward. If you weren't, you were stagnating. Ironic given their fondness for tradition. This attitude was often at the expense of appreciating the here and now. I didn't get to enjoy my final year of school, with meetings or rehearsals every lunchtime and most evenings. At 17 I burnt out. This is why quality of life and prioritising enjoyment were the primary reasons that I studied music - funny given how much I then detested a lot of undergrad. Now that I'm older, agency is paramount to decision making: a reflex to the pandemic.

When I finished my masters I wanted nothing more than to go out and enjoy life. I didn't regret the year of sacrifice, but I was sure glad it was over. I justified postgrad by thinking, if I was unable to go outside for the next few years, I might as well spend that time doing something useful. After 3 months of government-imposed lockdown, it was easy to self-impose a further 6 months of intense research. The freedoms of the latter were so vastly superior. However, I didn't expect to go to bed at 21 and then waking up to be "25-next-year". Whilst I managed to do lots of things during this period, they tended to be one offs. There was no regularity to fun. It was limited to short and intense bursts scattered between extended periods of work - perhaps a metaphor for modern society.

And so I wanted come out of this tour with a clear idea of what I was going to do next and more importantly, how I was going to do it. Wellington was added as the final leg for this very reason. Breaking away from the theme of music-based reflections, there were no musical reasons to visit. However, to be totally honest, I think I was using the rest of the trip as an excuse to end up here. I'd always felt that I left Wellington under a bit of cloud. There were a few friendships and collaborative relationships that had just run their course. At the time it felt like things were falling apart, which in turn prompted the move to Auckland, but now I recognise that they were just regular parts of life.

Before I get into this trip, I should probably delve into a few details of my last visit to the capital. They are, of course, why I was so keen to get back. In 2021, Sean, a good friend from undergrad, had recently started working for Weta, a company renown for their visual effects and their staff Christmas parties. Due to covid delays, this was set to be held in January 2022, and Sean had invited me as his plus one to this extravaganza. A month out of lockdown, it seemed only appropriate to have a little weekend away from my thesis. Ironically, I ended up writing the first chapter in Sean's living room whilst he was at work. I've yet to crack this thing called the work-life balance.

With Sean working 12 to 10, I had a Friday evening to try and fill. That morning I texted Elliot, a fellow composer, letting him know I was in town. His response was nothing short of perfect. "Quick beer this evening?". Elliot at the time was a DINK, and there was no such thing as a quick beer on a Friday evening. We met at the Realm, a seedy bar in Hataitai which my cousin used to manage. Like clockwork, half an hour in, Elliot's wife Sophie arrives and after a few rounds an invitation was extended for dinner at their place just around the corner. It's worth noting, three months of abstaining from alcohol does a lot to your tolerance level. Sean came over after work, and there were talks of going to a house party. Having not been to a party in almost a year, I was in.

As we get into the Uber to Mt Vic, I realise that neither Sean or Elliot were joining. Nevertheless, Sophie and I arrive stylishly late at 11:30. I'd never been to a party that had a whole table of food. Or one where they would offer you drinks. It was heaven. I also only knew two people there, but this didn't phase me. After working the room (or as I prefer to call it: reading the room) I was feeling nostalgic and in need of a D&M. Sophie had told that "so and so" was fun and I should talk to them. And so I did. It turns out that we had very similar research interests and spent part of the evening talking about definitions to various concepts and words. I recall waking up the next day wondering if I would ever get to see them again, a tinge of sadness set in a the prospect of not. It was much to my surprise that there was already a text from them waiting for me. This would be the start of one of the most valuable friendships of my life to date.

Somehow Elliot brings the best people into my life. I don't think it's ever intentional, but I trust his judge of character. This time it wasn't even him. He did it again in Nelson by suggesting a friend as a last minute replacement for somebody in the workshop. In what's a relatively poor segue, I had been looking for reasons to visit Wellington so that I could see these friends again. I could have easily just gone down for a weekend visit, but instead I rolled it into my tour. Perhaps I thought "going on tour" would make it seem like I had my life together. Although this was certainly not the case.

Anyway, I feel at this stage I should probably at least mention a little bit of the trip in question. Here's a quick run down: the final leg begins with Sean very kindly picking me up from the airport at an hour that was frankly antisocial (a 7:15 arrival time tests the strength of any friendship). After breakfast at the Surf Club we made our way to Te Papa to put our masters degrees to good use as we meander the galleries, deeply appreciating the art on display. By 11:30 we run out of free touristy things to do and so naturally made our way back to Miramar to play video games. The weekend was filled with various social activities as I stayed with another friend and then my brother Dexter, who took great joy dragging me to work at 7 O’clock each morning. I reconnected with a high school friend, and aimlessly wandered through Wellington seeing the sights. I left after grabbing coffee with a friend from Nelson, and deeply grateful to have gone on such an adventure.

In what's probably a much better segue, ultimately this trip felt like catching up with a good mate. You’ve hardly said anything of importance but when you look at your watch, 3 hours have passed. I don’t really have too much to say about the activities aside from that they were nice, enjoyable, and pleasant which I’m aware are just synonyms. I think it helped with objective number 3, as I did end up moving to Wellington only few months later. But correlation is not always causation.


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