this (mirac­u­lous) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Si­mon Inglis

LAST year I fi­nally com­pleted my post­grad­u­ate stud­ies in avi­a­tion, the re­sult of a decade dream­ing of chang­ing my ca­reer. In 2002 I worked for one of the ma­jor banks, spend­ing my days gaz­ing at spread sheets, cov­er­ing two mort­gages and run­ning two Euro­pean cars. At night I would get a cab back to my home in one of Mel­bourne’s leafy sub­urbs and col­lapse with ex­haus­tion on the couch in time for Late­line with my din­ner. This was ac­com­pa­nied by a few glasses of wine to send me into a quick but rest­less sleep be­fore re­peat­ing the process the next day.

My mar­ried life had long de­te­ri­o­rated, the hopes and dreams of my early 20s had changed and I spent more time at the pub on Fri­day nights. I had my first panic at­tack in 1999 on a rainy af­ter­noon when I was alone in the house; a tight grip­ping feel­ing in my chest and in­ex­pli­ca­ble anx­i­ety. I was pre­scribed beta block­ers but still spent a lethar­gic week in bed mostly sleep­ing.

Af­ter my mar­riage broke down I de­cided to leave Aus­tralia and travel. It was a crazed roundthe-world trip of­ten with dar­ing ad­ven­tures fu­elled in al­co­holic glory; climb­ing the fire es­cape stairs on New Year’s Eve in New York, wan­der­ing fear­lessly through Ber­lin’s seedy sub­urbs at 3am and, re­flect­ing on it, shock­ing my­self even now. An ine­bri­ated night in Brook­lyn took me to a bar that my friends re­fused to at­tend; the mu­sic was great and I was the only white face to be seen. Af­ter a few more drinks I fan­cied the African-Amer­i­can girl sit­ting with her friends and I was lucky to have the es­cape clause of be­ing an Aus­tralian. Some­times these anec­dotes are fun to rec­ol­lect, but there was a dark cloud over ev­ery­thing; al­co­hol was a cover.

Re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia, I was greeted with mis­ery — a to­tal lone­li­ness and empti­ness. I started the stud­ies that would take so long to com­plete. They were the only thing I man­aged to do well in the first decade of the new cen­tury. The rest of my life was spent in a daze, and I won­der now if I was in fact crazy for a while.

An­other failed re­la­tion­ship found me again aim­less. It was yet an­other sad tale, per­haps one of the worst in a long se­ries of hope­less days.

I started talk­ing to a girl from Lima, Peru, in ‘‘Span­glish’’. In a spon­ta­neous mo­ment I bought a ticket to Lima, telling my fam­ily that I would bus my way through South Amer­ica and be back in six weeks if things did not turn out.

A year later we are mar­ried and our baby boy ar­rived last month. I am work­ing with a ma­jor air­line and have rapidly adapted to a new cul­ture. We have a nice apart­ment and have trav­elled through much of this amaz­ing land. Yet most im­por­tantly I have found what I never had, or thought I never had: love, the value of fam­ily de­spite lan­guage bar­ri­ers, the value of re­li­gion al­though I re­main par­tially scep­ti­cal, self-re­spect and dig­nity.

This has been the mir­a­cle of my life, a life saved de­spite the best ef­forts of doc­tors, a life with mean­ing and pur­pose. One day we will leave South Amer­ica but I will never for­get the legacy that I owe this coun­try, its peo­ple, the love and friend­ships that I have here.

Slowly the night­mares are fad­ing, I feel good again af­ter 20 years of not know­ing which road to take. I rec­om­mend tak­ing the one less trav­elled. It saved my life and has given those I love and who love me hap­pi­ness. In re­turn for this I am the rich­est man in the world.

Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 600 and 650 words in length. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to thislife@theaus­

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