With exams looming Stacey and I were in search of the ultimate study destination. We’d yet to find it but were determined. Partially because we’re both stubborn. Mainly because, despite both of us being full time students, law had been a barely there blip on our radar. It was getting awkward.
I disembarked, expecting Stacey to be waiting at the station to pick me up. She was still en route. Or so I thought. In actual fact, she was still at home getting ready. Nearly two hours later she arrived, flustered and apologetic. I didn’t have the energy to feel annoyed – I’d done the same thing to her only a few days prior. On the upside I had two hours less study to endure. On the down, I had two hours extra to catch up on.
‘It’s so weird. I keep seeing Penguins.’
Stacey gave me a strange look. When it comes to blurting out strange and random shit, I’m at Level Expert. Stacey is used to it but that was a whole new level of strange – even for me.
‘Sorry. That didn’t make any sense. Not real penguins. But just penguins. On ads. There was one on the billboard. The girl sitting next to me on the train had penguins on her shoes. I wonder what it means.’
There was no other option but to Google it. At least it meant we finally had a reason to get our laptops out. Well, other than our purpose for being there – to study criminal law. A spirit animal website popped up first. We clicked, eager to find out why penguins had taken over my world. Penguins were a sign that – although life was chaotic right now – things were about to get better. That made me feel relieved. I was over chaos. As someone who pulls inspiration from everything, I was particularly drawn to the concept that life is most chaotic right before the calm.
It had been a big week. No, a big month. No… a big year. Wait… it had been a big seven years. So much change. So many attempts to improve myself, to make myself into a person who didn’t get walked over. To create a person who no longer allowed people to treat her like shit. To accept myself as someone who could make mistakes and not spend days ruminating about the dumbness of it all. I was ready for calm.
With the knowledge calm was about to arrive, I felt I could finally dedicate my attention to law. I pulled up the PowerPoint slides and Stacey pulled out the textbook. This week was Homicide – Part 1. It was a big enough topic to warrant two weeks of content. And rightly so – murder is nasty business. No one wants to die. As humans, we work really hard to avoid death. To have life end prematurely and in such a gruesome fashion is too heartbreaking to fathom. It’s why criminal law continued to challenge us.
After struggling to understand the point of a particular case and no help from Google it seemed apt to take a break.
‘I’m sorry, I should have brought The Code.’
The Code. The Code is a book that contains all of the legislation relevant to criminal law. It weighs at least 2 kilograms and could constitute a weapon – should one decide to use it in such a fashion. It was too heavy to lug around to random places. I shushed aside Stacey’s apology and, in doing so, had the breakthrough I’d been waiting for. I’d been lugging around all this old baggage – the emotional equivalent of The Code, 20 times over. No wonder my poor body and head hurt so badly.
One of the fun things about being a writer is that you can create characters and kill them off. Sometimes it’s fun, cathartic even. Other times it’s heartbreaking. My first character killing was a character I liked. I cried for an hour after I’d exited her from the story. I wanted her to stay so badly. But she was destined for another journey, one that wasn’t in my book. A book that insists on remaining a first draft and may forever stay that way. Some stories are not destined to be shared.
If I had the capacity to kill off characters in my writing for the greater good of the story then perhaps I also had the capacity to kill off stories I’d created about myself. Stories based on other people’s opinion of me – based on their false perceptions I’d allowed to become my own. And as I continued to research penguins I realised that those cute, well dressed creatures had more to share with me than just chaos that was about the exit stage left.
When it comes to love and commitment, these adorable waddlers are a sign of real lasting (and enduring) commitment. They mate for life. And, when a little male penguin finds a little female penguin he’s interested in courting he brings her a pebble to prove his affection for her is real. I mean, really, who needs diamonds when you’ve got a pebble.
Reading this made me realise two things. There were relationships in my life who needed to be killed off. People who choose to bring other people down in order to make themselves feel better. They’d still be around but not in my inner circle. Their energy equated to chaos and I needed calm. But the most important epiphany was that I was surrounded by penguins. Human penguins.
There was Laura, my little Tort-Failing Penguin who made me feel better just by being around her. She accepted failure with a grace I’d yet to appreciate. There was Stacey, my Beauty Penguin who reminded me when assessment was due so I’d not forget. I had Sally – my Hippy Dippy Penguin who was everything crystals and star signs. Penguin Molly and I connected over cupcakes, coffee and cats, especially her cat Dave, a sturdy ginger who always makes me smile. There was Doris, the LLL (Laugh, Love, Life) Penguin who came into my life years ago and has remained a stable reminder of how far both of us have come. Her laugh is louder than mine. I know, it seems impossible but it’s true. Penguin Bernice and I knew each other growing up. We’d connect, disconnect, reconnect but always remained close. She’s a fellow Bowerbird Creator. Isabel-Lily, my Fairy Penguin, is a more recent addition. I fell in love with her the minute we met. Her style inspires me. It’s fairy magic combined with zero tolerance for bullshit. And the penguin who mentioned just yesterday about the pebble sharing, which was a reminder for me to write this article, well she’s my Dancing Penguin who always makes me laugh by telling it like it is. She’s also my Monty Python Penguin. Because she’s a very naughty boy.
And when I stop to think about it, I’m a very lucky penguin in my own right. So… to all my penguins – those who are in my life right now and those who I’ve yet to meet – thank you. I wouldn’t be where I was without you.