AS A YOUNGER man, when I fell over, it didn’t really hurt. Now if I fall over, not only does it really hurt, sometimes I can really mess myself up. A few months back, I fell over and like most blokes, I ignored the fact that it hurt, thinking it would get better until it didn’t get better. A few scans later, I head off to go see a surgeon.
This surgeon has an office right behind the old Channel [V] studio where for many years I worked at the very centre of Australian music television. Turning the Harley onto that very familiar road, it’s clear something big is happening. There are generator trucks, lighting trucks, and catering trucks. Getting closer, I’m noticing the pedestrians are looking really good, everyone’s all dressed up. What’s all this about?
When the iconic Sydney venue, the Horden Pavilion, comes into view, I see the marquee and it reads “Welcome to the Australian Recording Industry Awards”. Holy smokes, it’s the ARIAs.
In a flash, I get to spend a moment in the skin of my former self. It was only a few seconds but I felt once again like I did when the ARIAs was once the biggest night of my year. There was always so much expectation around it, the kind of expectation I had around my high school formal. What will I wear? How will I get there? Which after-party can I get into?
At the time I had an external sense of validation, so if I didn’t gain access to the coolest of the coolest party, clearly, I was an absolute loser. I would spend days figuring out how much potential debauchery I could line up in the weeks and days leading up to this night. Just in case Plan A, B and C failed. When you add on the prep for the number of interviews I would do on the night, it was all-encompassing.
Snapping back to the present (a good place to be on the back of a motorbike!) I hear the cheers of the crowd as limousine doors open, and I notice that there is still a petulant pang of ego complaining that I didn’t get invited. But I have to be honest and recognise that it’s actually the part of me that used to drink and do drugs (I’m sober now) who’s upset, so I get to tell him, Come on, mate, it’s not for you anymore, and that’s a good thing.
It’s easy to do now, but it took a long time to get to that head space. In the beginning, I complained like a teenager who’s just had the Wifi password changed on him. It hurt when it was over because for a long time that’s all I wanted in life—yet as I got older, what I want in life has changed.
There’s something to be said for willingly embracing the time when you’re no longer in the cohort of the coolest of the cool kids. I didn’t want to embrace this idea, but I had to. I was so bitter about it. I carried so much resentment that I wasn’t a part of it anymore that I was a total punish to be around. For me, the way to make those feelings stop bothering me is to willingly embrace the reality that that period of my life is going away, and instead put deliberate effort towards being happy for those enjoying that adventure today.
So as I ride past the glorious rivers of hot and talented young men and women having their turn at the centre of it all, I wish them a night of fun, exploration and the adventure of seeing how many people you can actually fit into a toilet cubicle. Because mark my words, I have done my fair share of field research trying to find joy doing such things. I’ve been on my knees inhaling mystery nose chemicals off filthy toilet seats in a stall full of best friends I’ve just met more times than you’ve lost a multi-bet on Eastern European Soccer leagues. And yet as I get older, along with the aches and pains of a body I’ve punished way too much, what I value has changed, and with it the value that I bring to others has changed, too.
Inside, the surgeon tells me, “You’re 50 and it’s bad but it’s not terrible. I won’t operate unless you’re a professional athlete. See if you can live with it” (Another benefit of getting old, you make choices about living with things that hurt every day). So I ride home, swap the motorbike for a pushbike and go to pick up our four-year-old son from daycare.
We listen to the Flaming Lips all the way home and then spend ages cracking up as we play a game where he is Yoshimi and I am a Pink Robot trying to eat him. At bath time I pretend-narrate his Jacques Cousteau undersea adventure while he tries out his new goggles. Out of the bath, he throws his towel off and streaks naked through the house at top speed. I chase him down like Josh Papali’i (just with more cuddles and less ankle taps). We snuggle up, read some Oliver Jeffers books and I spoon him as he goes to sleep.
Lying there with him tucked under my chin and softly snoring in my arms, I remember when I held him for the first time. Cradling him on the day he was born, smelling his newborn head while he and his mother slept, whatever bonding pheromones his body was secreting found their way into my brain and just let off an explosion unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
That rush, that breathtaking high, that overwhelming concussion of oxytocin was the high I’d been searching for in every single line of questionable chemicals I’d ever snorted over the years. I wouldn’t want to make an unscientific claim here but based on my own extensive field research into the matter, I can absolutely say that my night with my son was hands-down better, more fun, more incredible than any after-party I’ve ever been to. But those after-parties only happen once a year.
I get to do this again tomorrow.