TALES: 8 YEARS

I never know how I’m gonna feel until this day arrives.

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Previous years I’ve felt really buoyant and strong in the lead up then I wake up that morning and feel like a shell and have to drive to some blustery location 2 hours away to be by myself and mourn.

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This morning I woke up, 8 years on. And I feel a huge shift. I was surprised. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been.

My Facebook memory from two years ago shows that I said I was feeling ‘grateful’.

And that’s always the word we use. Grateful. Cos it’s true. We are. So very very grateful. But I think as the years go on, the things we attribute gratitude to on this day evolve. I mean, you’re never NOT going to be grateful for not getting killed, losing a limb, or experiencing the loss of a family member or friend on that day. That stuff goes without saying.

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But there’s hundreds of other things to be grateful for. And they change as we go through this long, long, aftermath and recovery cycle.

Year one – still running on adrenaline and frazzled nerves, I was probably grateful just to be here, that another aftershock hadn’t come and wiped us out, that I was still going (just keep going, keep moving, don’t stop moving, don’t ever stop).

Year 2 – for my freedom. Getting shot of my busted up house, sunken boggy land and a dead end, and well, just, DEAD, relationship.

Year 3 – to be allowed back to Latimer Square for the anniversary, for the first time – a space so significant to me leading up to, then on that day. Grateful to finally be given our wounded city back. Another important step.

And so on and so on. Until today. Year 8.

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Today is yet another different, new, kind of grateful. An incredibly forward-facing one. For the first time, on this anniversary, I spend more time looking ahead at the next 8 years, than I do reflecting on the last 8. And that’s a really great feeling.

I mean, who can blame me…just look at this place. It’s berserk. It’s beautiful. It’s full of surprises!

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I created Cracked City last year because I felt that no-one was documenting this rapidly-shifting, strange, broken, little city in the way I wanted. Out of fear that it’s changing and growing up so fast that the old ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ thing will apply and suddenly it’ll be 2025 and all the empty spaces and transitional projects will be gone and we’ll go ‘oh shit, someone really should have documented that time’.

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I’m real late to the game. I wish I started this 8 years ago. But hey, we’re here now. I wasn’t ‘me’ back then anyway. 2011 me would have said ‘oh no, I couldn’t possibly, people won’t want to read my words or care about my opinion’. So I just wouldn’t have. As it turns out, I don’t actually care who reads it, if anyone at all. This is for me. For my records. My own piece of mind.

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This weekend marks another huge step in terms of changes and progress.

Tomorrow the Town Hall reopens for the first time. Like many of our iconic buildings, it was a space I took for granted until that day. I would go there for events, but didn’t for one second appreciate the architecture, significance and form of the place. I thought it was dated and cheesy. But then we almost lost it to bulldozers. So then I signed a petition to have it saved. And the petition worked. And that was the tiniest thing possible to be able to do towards this. But I played my role in my own little teeny way. So tomorrow we get it back and everyone is just so fucking happy and tearful to see those funny dandelion fountains in operation once again! For that we are grateful.

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The lantern festival is on tonight through to Sunday. The gorgeous new Avon promenade is open and lined with all of the lanterns and tens of thousands of people will come back into town. I live and breathe the CBD, so I KNOW how gloriously it’s taking shape, but many don’t come in. This might be their first time in months, if not years. And I’m beyond excited for them to come back in this weekend and feel that emotional pull and happiness of what’s going on around them. For that they will feel grateful.

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For the first time, many of friends and family from overseas and around NZ are all moving back here, or talking about how they’d like to move here in the coming year. They visit and I show them good food and nice vibes (and good house prices) and they see a slice of what I see and they agree.

See, I’m done apologizing for this place. For shrugging when people say there’s nothing here or we’re a hick town or too bleak. Instead I’ve adopted a role of city ambassador and I’ll be damned if I let a friend visit this place without giving them the five star treatment. And then they come. And then they move here. As each year passes I’m surrounded by more and more love and meaningful friendships. For that I am so very grateful.

What I’m trying to say is there’s all the good stuff here. There’s so much to feel grateful about. In that joy-filled, living-for-the-moment, seize-the-day way.  It’s finally happening!

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Yeah it’s not perfect. We can argue about convention centers, covered stadiums, shitty politics, car parking and cycle lanes for the next 30 years, and we probably will. But where IS perfect? Who even WANTS perfect? PERFECT is a dangerous word.

I want fucked up, quirky, interesting, mixed, curious, character, hodge-podge, strange, diverse…and above all HAPPY. And in Cracked City I am happy. For all of its weirdness, unusual sights and flaws. I adore the heck out of it all.

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Someone said to me yesterday; ‘It doesn’t feel like 8 years. it feels like only yesterday’. I used to say the same. But now 8 years feels like a lifetime ago.

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I don’t know who I was back then. I mean, not in a desolate, broken, movie adaptation of my life kind of way… I was hardly Amy Winehouse stuck in the gutter struggling to exist- I had my shit together – but I wasn’t ME. I was heading on a path of un-fulfillment, suburbia and safety. Muted, dulled down, with clipped wings. I was afraid to shine, to speak-out, to carve my own identity. I wanted things but I didn’t know what, how to get them…or even if I deserved them.

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I am often cagey to say this, out of fear of seeming to glorify or minimize the utter utter sadness or trauma of that day – but in so many ways, the changes forced upon my life in 2010 and 2011, as awful as they were at the time, made me who I am today. They were the catalyst for change that I needed in my life.

Today I strive to be strong, free, sparkly,  living life, and trying my very best to make a positive difference in this city.

Myself and my life today, like my city, is unrecognizable from 8 years ago.

I am so filled with happiness, energy, passion, pride, light and love, it’s probably quite irritating. But again. I’m done apologizing for any of it.

I look around, and I look ahead, and there’s nowhere else, or no-one else, I want to be.

8 years on and my gratitude is for my life, right now. Just as I am.

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I love you, my Cracked City.

-Bonjela

xxx

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