4. Paradise Lost

Sheltered under tall eucalypts my home was a friend’s old caravan lazing outside the gate of their home at the end of the road in a small country town in the hills.

Its condition and location were a metaphor for how things had worked out for me. The roof leaked. The water pump was broken. The gas stove didn’t work. Both tyres were flat.

The whole thing felt like it might collapse in a heap at any moment. Yet this had become my home and within its thin walls was stored everything I owned.

The scents of nature – pine mixed with eucalypt and, on cooler days, the smoke of wood fires – drifted through on the gentle autumn breezes as if there were no walls at all.

The birds were my neighbours. Squawking galahs. Screeching white cockatoos. Cawing crows. Gossiping magpies. And an occasional laughing kookaburra.

I could hear the endless rushing of water from the creek which had cut a deep gully beside the caravan. It was here along Doctor’s Gully some 150 years earlier that Swiss-Italian immigrants first struck gold.

Not so for me.

I’d stand on the footbridge outside my door and be mesmerised by the small waterfall and wonder how in hell I got here. As for the familiar world I knew, well, I’d had no choice but to leave it all behind me. I found myself in another world, a stranger where I didn’t belong.

Or so I thought.

I was still haunted by the memory of a year ago standing, stunned, on a city street in Melbourne in the fading autumn light.

Following a three hour grilling on the ninth floor of the building right behind me, my freelance business of fifteen years and I had just been officially declared bankrupt.

My personal documents, passport, business files, banking records and cheque books, credit cards, pretty much everything that represented who I was, and who I might have been, I’d surrendered to the Official Receiver.

In that moment I had ceased to exist. I had been stripped of my identity and I was nobody.

This was an emptiness I'll never forget. I just stood there, in shock, watching people rushing off to their homes and families at the end of their day.

I had neither.

I really thought, in that moment, my life was over.

Bankrupt.

It’s something that only happens to other people. But in the last hour or so, I’d become one.

Want to read the whole story? Click here!

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Neil Smith has written extensively on life (and how to deal with it) including 3 non-fiction books and numerous blogs. To read more CLICK HERE.
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Illustration by Jeff 'Wizard of Draws' Bucchino at www.cartoonclipart.com

Note: Illustrations are used only in this blog and are not included in the book

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