Unconventional

I have a favourite spot to sit on every bus. On the one that shuttles between the Monash Caulfield and Clayton campuses, it’s the fifth row seat, right next to the window, where I can see the whole world unfold before me. I can watch the cars go past, people walking on the pavements, the clouds shift and change shape and the birds glide the skies as though mechanical engines pose no contest whatsoever.

I was sitting in my special spot this morning as we waited for the bus to fill up, and I was doing my usual watching when I caught sight of the most unconventional thing. Up on the roof of the bus platform shelter, three little plants stood, strong and majestic in their bearing. I was astonished and so I asked them, “hey little things, how did you get up there?” They just danced in the cold breeze as though they expected me to know the answer to my own question. Even as the bus drove off, I could not take my eyes off them. How did three little plants, healthy and sound end up on top of a bus shelter? There was obviously something nourishing them in the little soil that was up on that roof. I felt as though life was speaking to me.

Just 10 minutes before, I was seated in my honours course coordinator’s office and he had been telling me how difficult it is to go straight into doing a PhD without doing a masters’ degree; how difficult it is to be a writer; how expensive postgraduate programs are; how I had no choice but to finish my thesis draft by the 24th of September. The air was saturated with negativity. And even though there was some truth to his words, his talk had dampened my spirit, made me feel like I was gulping air instead of enjoying my breaths.

And so as I watched through the window I realised that those little plants growing in the most unlikely place was life’s way of rescuing me. They were doing something unconventional, beating the odds. They found a way to survive, to flourish in difficult and foreign terrain…so can I. I am not going to walk a path just because everybody else is walking it, nor will I speak a speech just because everybody else is speaking it.

The world seems to function in a way that tends to protect its own systems and barriers, so those for instance, who are at the bottom stay at the bottom and those at the top stay at the top and the gap between is made to seem insurmountable, and the journey for those who dare venture to go up is made arduous. As Alice Walker so eloquently put it, the common attitude in the world is that the only way I can bloom is if I step on your flower, and the only way I can shine is if I put out your light. And quite frankly that is the most exhausting and saddest way of looking at life.

But as those three little plants said to me today, you don’t have to worry so much about the world’s conventions. What you need is to find soil, nourishing soil and then you too, can grow and strive in the most unlikely place. I know the road I take and the ground I stand on might not make conventional sense to most people but that is only because I choose to be unconventional.

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