One of the reasons I feel so home in Australia is because we share values. Mateship, fair-go and freedom are the foundations of this multicultural society.
Though some individuals, companies and countries claim certain values and don’t necessarily walk the walk, Australia, from what I’ve seen thus far, does a fine job of behaving in line with her values. There are formal and informal social nets to protect individuals from feeling unsupported, all alone, out on a limb or in a real place of danger. This is probably one of the reasons Australia “punches above its weight” when it comes to Hollywood actors/actresses, athletes and other world-class performers coming out of this country of only about 25 million people.
The real danger to dreams is not negativity but isolation, Barbara Sher says. With mates around you, your dreams can be kept alive. Now, I will add that not every Australian is willing and able to accept dreams that may not be in line with providing social value in the form of capital (*cough* liberals *cough*). It still takes guts to come out as an artist, especially if you haven’t received formal education in a field of art. However, I would argue that a formal art education is a misguided attempt which turns off real artists as all art is an expression of one’s individuality.
Anyways, I digress.
Though mateship is a foundation of the society here in Australia, it places the onus on every individual to be a good mate. That means when you first come to Australia you will not have any mates. I know, what a contradiction!
Its funny, I observe many newcomers, who are pretty much left alone for the most part, turn inward, become mates with themselves and in most cases embark on a journey of self-improvement. They discover passions for health and fitness, or if they’re wives of corporate expats, they get into Yoga so that they can be the best version of themselves for their families.
During my early years in Australia, I had to struggle with the job market to avoid getting deported as I relied on work visas initially. So I missed out on the opportunity to turn inwards and discover and nurture my true gifts. Now, ironically, as a busy mother of two, I have more of an opportunity to get to know myself, tap into my creative flow and really be present to my nearest and dearest who are also my mates.
In my early days in Australia, I mistakenly I thought my workmates would be my mates. However, my positions in small businesses were precarious and I changed jobs often. This meant I never spent enough time with any workmates to develop those relationships into true mateship.
My true mateship was my partner who is very, very Australian in that he can trace his ancestry to the first fleet. However, I was also lucky that his friends and family are people who prioritise the company of each other above all. Over the eight years I’ve been in Australia and with my partner, this group of people have become my closest friends.
Every once in a while I still get my partner asking me “how come you don’t have more friends?”
These days it’s all about quality over quantity. I have maintained friendships with ex-workmates who are also growing in their creative fields. However, those who choose to get stuck don’t have anything to offer me and vice versa.
Sir Gawain and His Mates
Last Christmas was a time of intense transformation for me. As I looked around the table and to the gifts I’d received, and they revealed what I already knew. I wasn’t coming through as a writer. There was not one notebook or anything writerly within the mix. In fact, I still struggle with calling myself a writer. When my occupation is asked I draw some daggers from a certain someone if I say “writer”.
The Christmas feast of last year reminds me of one of the best stories from King Arthur’s Court. Sir Gawain’s run-in with the Green Knight in the 14th Century Chivalric Romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a true testament to the power of mateship.
Last year’s Christmas feast, like the set-up for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was one of a visitor. The visitor in my case wasn’t of body and flesh but a mere idea which I hoped would evolve into a physical form, specifically, a book.
Let me take you into the world of Camelot. On New Year’s Day each year King Arthur’s court exchanges gifts and it’s in the middle of these celebrations that the mysterious Green Knight, a gigantic figure riding a green horse, arrives at the table and challenges the men to a “Christmas Game”. He asks the men who will take the axe and deliver a deadly blow which he’ll return in a year and a day. None of the men stirs so King Arthur gets ready to step up then Sir Gawain, the hothead accepts the challenge. He picks up the axe, swings it with all his might and off comes the Green giant’s head in one neat piece.
“Nice try” the head smirks as the Green Knight’s arms reach for it and place it back on top of his neck and he looks at Gawain and reminds him, “see you in a year and one day…”.
A year and a day pass quickly as they always do. I mean it’s almost Christmas once again in our world and I’m anxious whether I’ll have my book ready to share on time and even if I do have the manuscript, will I have the guts to even mention it to anyone? Back in Camelot, Sir Gawain embarks on the journey to meet the Green Knight at the Green Chapel.
Mateship Means Keeping Your Word
While staying at Bercilak’s place, Gawain and Bercilak agree to exchange whatever they receive for the next three days. Bercilak brings Gawain the game he’s hunted on his daily expeditions and Gawain is in the awkward position of giving Bercilak kisses and Bercilak’s wife gives Gawain. Wisely, Gawain refrains from intercourse with Bercilak’s wife. Such is mateship.
However, Gawain holds one thing back from Bercilak. Lady Bercilak gives him her green garter which she says will protect him from the Green Knight’s deadly blow.
So when it comes time to face the Green Knight, Gawain feels protected wearing the green garter from the lady. Nonetheless when the Green Knight swings his first blow he flinches. The Green Knight calls him a coward and strikes again this time Gawain doesn’t move and the axe stops just a hair short of Gawain’s neck. The third blow nicks him but he’s still alive and overcome by joy.
Lo and behold the Green Knight is none other than Gawain’s mate and fellow knight of the roundtable Bercilak who’s been enchanted by that mischievous sorceress, King Arthur’s jealous half-sister Morgan Le Fay. Can I say they lived happily ever after? Nope.
Sir Gawain has intense feelings of guilt for having kept the green garter from Bercilak and is miserable that he’s made of such loose moral fibre. He makes his own life hell all the way back to the roundtable. However once at Camelot, what does he see? All of his mates have donned green garters in support of him and his humanity.
I think if I were Gawain I’d tear up. I certainly felt emotional when this year I made the decision to wear more green to feel spiritually supported on my journey to transform into a writer. And lo and behold, after Christmas I started seeing my close ones wearing more green and felt the uplift of going full speed after my dreams of becoming a published author.
The Magic is in the Reveal
Over to you…
When was a time you felt your family and friends’ support and how did this lift push you over the edge in achieving a goal?