“In the right place at the right time” – A musing

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This phrase has always filled me with a kind of despair – or at least, a niggling irritation.

It’s something you hear often in our plugged in, career-focused world. I think it goes with the millennial way of things, implying a freeing, unstructured synchronicity that happily befalls those shiny people who are doing everything right. Apart from the phrase being all about luck. Let’s cut to the chase; it’s misleading!

 

People who say it

The people from whom I’ve heard this phrase uttered include:

  • The editor of a literary magazine being interviewed as part of a creative writing lecture at Melbourne University:

Long dark hair, immaculate, only 27. Gorman shawl cloaked sumptuously around her, still holding her 9am coffee cup – body faced towards her interviewer but polished boots toward the meek, bespectacled audience.

“Well thanks, Marie, but actually I never even studied creative writing. I was just an avid reader, writer, critic, tutor, art historian – the lot – you know! (laughs) All just for fun. Really, when David approached me tentatively for the position of editor, I just happened to be at my waitressing at my colleague’s jazz gig. He really rivals Brubeck, honestly. (laughs) Anyway I was at the gig, cleaning a smear of late-night espresso off the tablecloth… and David just came up to me in the interval, out of the abyss you could say, holding two glasses of champagne. And I never waited tables ever again! (laughs) I was simply in the right place at the right time.”

  • World-champion barista on a tv show about high-achieving Australians:

White dude, also only 27. Short back and sides, gleaming brown man-bun and laughably stereotypical hipster tattoos. Smugness disguised as a casual grin emanating from his cheeks.

“Yeah, man. I was just bumming around Byron and after a jaunt in New York working in several cafes, and I realised I just bloody loved coffee. I took a proper barista course, and realised my dreams in the form of the best bloody crema you can imagine. One day, who else but my mate Matt Preston sauntered into where I was working on Flinders Lane in Melbourne, and we just took it from there. You just have to be there in the right place at the right time. You know, man?”

What it implies

When heard, the phrase implies a kind of carefree drifting about in the creative ethosphere waiting for something to happen, a kind of entanglement with fate – where you catch it on the right side of the dial, the sunny side up, the aha! moment of time where all the good things align in your favour. However, it also implies that you know where the right place is and what the right time is, for your particular pursuit. That, through your careful scrutiny of the vagaries of your particular pursuit, you’ve listed all the possible places and all the possible times that ~ something amazing ~ could occur.

You’ve listed them all, maybe in an excel spreadsheet on your perfectly matte MacBook, or written them laboriously out in a neatly gridded Kikki. K notebook. With your silly, squinty monocle or your tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, you’ve deciphered – out of the thousands of possibilities – that you’d better be in Brooklyn on the 23rd May 2018 in the newly-opened tequila ‘n’ tacos bar, standing casually next to the owner. Or loitering stylishly in the Deloitte lobby in Paris on the 15th June. Or talking loudly but articulately on the phone to your boyfriend about the script you’re writing (it totally takes Arthur Miller to a whole new, 21st century level) on the train from Edinburgh to London on the 9th December in two years’ time.

This way, you’ll have the best opportunity of bumping into the right people under the right circumstances –  IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME. Omg you did it.

Revelation

As I was cycling home in the rain last night, I realised that I was a freelance writer.

What a ridiculous sentence – sorry. But anyway, as part of this realisation, I traced the journey in my head: how did this happen? Okay, I did an arts degree. Then honours. I applied for internships. I did them. I socialised with people. I am here. Was I ever really in the right place at the right time? I was!

So, why do I feel indignant towards the magazine editor and the champion barista? It’s because the phrase makes it seem like I always missed out, and I was destined to miss out, and I am still destined to miss out and never quite scheme the schmoozy date with the publisher of my acquaintance’s poetry collection where I just stumble into her on the street (and not spill soy latte all over her).

No, it’ll happen through simply doing the things you like, working moderately hard, and having a healthy modicum of nervous energy and social skills. I don’t think you need to try to be in the right place at the right time. Just… be yourself, man!

(And go easy on the italics next time.)

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wednesday with modern art

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Francis Bacon’s life mask
one half-eye and a nose

Tips for kids in summer
and winter and half-spring in their step,

Green-eyed
Green shoes

Blue eyes filling with Rothko red

Blue-nailed blue eyes filling up books
anxiety, ekphrasis and pictures

Bacon’s silky oils – curtains dissolving
in front of her face

disappearing into the thick world
outside of the quiet white

Flies – Pt II

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This day, like others in the house

away from the wind

is filled with small plotlines

 

Squashed by a clap of the hands in an hour

as the pen scribbles out the point

 

Plotline, space, plotline, space

one fly killed, space, ten flies killed

 

A walk around the block

(a purpose slotted into a space)

 

The flies appear aimless, but they’re not

 I appear full of purpose, but

 

 I find

the day whittled away

with only squashed flies to show for it.

Continue reading

Flies – pt I

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All day long, away from the cloudy wind

grabbing flies from the air

Absurd irritation in their dizzying dance
and so rude,
the small and silent attack
on personal space

Poetry works when small and large things
are put in dialogue

Like my hand on this page, or me in this house
and the flies around my face

Is that rain?

Parallel Universe 1: No Cars

In my universe, we walk everywhere. Because of this, we have extraordinary calf muscles. Everything in our culture revolves around the love of calves. We love baby cows too, but moreso, the glowing lower half of the human leg.

One day, Rohu was walking to school. On the way, he trips on some thick and mysterious rope and is paralysed. He lies here for several days and no-one realises. See, school is secondary to calf-training. Rohu has always been fantastic with his calf-training, so we simply assumed that he was forgoing school for extra calf-training. He’s such a committed boy like that.

Whilst Rohu is lying, still as a bean, on the foot-friendly bitumen, he is inadvertently face-to-face with the tiny creatures that dwell in the dirt. He realises that in this dirt, there are tiny cars. Seeing the tiny creatures in their tiny cars causes Rohu’s consciousness to expand.

The key fact that I have as of yet forgotten to tell you is that before this, our society had no conception of a car. We love travel. We live to travel. But travel depends solely on the strength of one’s calf muscles.

So when Rohu’s consciousness expanded, it was because his fundamental truths of our universe shifted. I.e., the truth that calf muscles are the most superior items we could imagine.

Sand Down the Western Highway

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The words I’ve been reading
Sand I’ve been treading
Pasted on my ankles and hands

And what I talk about
When I talk about now

Your long hair
Tied back in the days I’m gone

I hope the same song
the same lilting chords
Are stuck in your head too

As you watch trams, rain, money
I’m seeing you
and the wide open sea

My favourite backdrop