Somewhere Between ‘Failed Bogan’ And ‘Enlightened Yogi’.

Identity is a funny thing. We do things, say things, gather possessions, acquire skills, and have opinions… so we can be somebody. Then, if we’re on ye olde spiritual journey, we set about trying to lose them, then pick up more in the process.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” ~ Unknown

I love that line. We are blank canvases waiting for color and form. And as we get better at painting, we stand back from the work, appraise, reflect, change, add, subtract. Over time, we develop our own style while realizing that the true picture is the nothingness underneath the something.

But this is lofty realization that I imagine truly embracing in its entirety sometime in my 90s. For now, I’m having fun with color and texture, painting up a storm.

Here are some of my works to date…

Failed Country Bogan

Being a bogan was pretty much the pinnacle of social standing in the small country town I grew up in during the 80s. Flanno shirts were hip, before grunge truly made them cool. And hanging out at the Speedway drinking UDLs was the thing to do. As was skipping school and smoking pot.

I was way too nerdy to skip school or smoke pot, so there were two strikes against me straight up… not counting sports days, when my equally non-sporty mother would let me stay home, much to the bafflement of my level coordinator who otherwise knew me as a student that toed the line.

The conversation went a little something like this:

“Leonie, you weren’t at school sports yesterday. Where were you?”

“I was at home.”

“Well, I’ll have to send a note home to your mother.”

“She was home too.”

But I did manage to spend some evenings at the Speedway drinking vodka and orange UDL cans. You may be thinking classy in an ironic sense, but truly, the possession of a can of alcohol was the epitome of cool when I was 15 and trying hard to define myself.

I’d stand around in the dust and the dark and the noise of the cars tearing around the track, sipping on my UDL, feeling a part of something, wondering if any of the boys liked me, simultaneously feeling disjointed. I wanted it to be me, but it just wasn’t.

Failed Farm Girl

I’m sure I was a disappointment to my farmer father. Carting hay, tailing lambs, drafting cattle, shearing sheep, driving a tractor, holding the flashlight while Dad shot foxes, mucking out stables, emptying mouse traps — just not my idea of fun. I always preferred to be inside cooking, reading or watching movies.

My little sister (who is now a nurse) would be in at a moment’s notice, placenta up to her elbows, to help a ewe deliver a lamb.

I, on the other hand, was really good at making tea. I’m semi-joking, but on a farm this is a very important skill. Cups of tea (or cuppas) are like the punctuation marks of a farm day. Numerous and necessary — commas of pause between tasks.

My uncle once joked, “You’ll make a good little housewife someday.”

At the time I was a moody, opinionated, feminist teenager, and I’m sure he was hoping to get a rise out of me. But truthfully, I was flattered. However, one divorce later, it turns out I didn’t make a good little housewife after all.

Enlightened Yogi?

The initial ideas for this article came as I was on my way to teach a Yoga class after yelling at my kids and arguing with my partner, so straight up you already know the irony of those two words sitting side by side in my narrative.

But, I’m a work in progress, though I’m not sure whether I’m gathering that identity or getting rid of it. That’s the slippery nature of enlightenment. The very is-ness of it is its essential isn’t-ness.

Alan Watts, the self-described philosophical entertainer, gave an excellent talk on this subject, entitled Zen Bones. You’ll find it at the end of this article.

So there you go, another identity I’m trying on. Am I that? I did the training, I’ve been teaching for a few years, I read books, I meditate daily. Am I enlightened? No. Am I even a Yogi? Questionable.

Typically, after I’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn to make some quiet pre-kid time for my Yoga practice, it’s the busy getting ready for school morning.

Sometimes I feel like a cross between a movie director and a lunatic:

“Get dressed, clean up, keep your hands to yourself when you eat, do your jobs, yes you have to do them everyday, it’s why you get pocket money, don’t pick your nose, stop fighting, pack your bag, brush your teeth, get your shoes on, come on we’re going to be late.”

Hug, kiss, “Love you darling,”… exhale.

And here’s another non-yogi like admission: I may loathe a cliché, but I love to swear. Somehow, a well-placed, impeccably punctuated four-letter word is never clichéd and warms my heart. Unfortunately, I don’t always manage to keep the swearing-filter in place around the kids.

Here’s an example of a conversation I had a while back with my eight-year-old son:

“Indi, did you call your friend f’ing annoying?”

“Well, he was pissing me off.”

*turning my head away, stifling laughter*

Oh dear.

So, at present, I am somewhere between failed country bogan and aspiring yogi. Truthfully, I’m nothing at all, but I’m working on realizing that.

So did you fail at being something too?

Well, good!

Now you’ve got space to wade through the paint and come back to the canvas that was your true non-identity in the first place. And then either paint a new picture or refine the present one you’re working on… which might take you the rest of your life.

And now enjoy this wonderful talk by Alan Watts (who, in addition to being a wise and wonderful philosopher, was also an alcoholic). But whoever said an identity has a defined set of rules? That would be paint by numbers. Or heaven forbid, life according to the corporate policies and procedures manual. No, thanks!


LeonieOrtonLeonie Orton is a blogger who writes intimate stories about life. She is also a freelance copywriter for businesses looking for unique, emotive words. When not writing, she’s teaching Yoga, playing with flowers, growing vegetables, exploring Earth, and adoring two spirited sons. You can get in touch with her via her website and Facebook, or sign up at her weekly blog.


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