I’m a big Offspring fan, but it’s not Nina’s storyline that really pulls me in.
I often find myself looking past her amazing boots and scarves and awkwardness, eager to find out how Billie and Jimmy are doing. Their story lines ring true to me and to many 30-somethings who haven’t yet ticked off the big milestones, who are still figuring out who they are and what they want.
The people whose lives don’t look good on paper.
Where Nina is secure – secure in her job, secure in her finances, secure in the knowledge that some handsome leading man will come along again – Billie and Jimmy are more untethered. They’re still figuring things out.
Nina is the smart kid who lived up to everyone’s expectations. Meanwhile, Billie and Jimmy have both jumped from job to job, house to house, opportunity to opportunity.
Billie desperately wants children but hasn’t been able to fall pregnant. She’s had to watch everyone else around her welcome children into their lives and not experience it herself. And there’s been no miracle cure for this. It’s years since she and Mick started trying to conceive and they’re still waiting.
Jimmy wasn’t planning on being a dad, but became a great one by default.
And I think that’s where the writers of Offspring get things so right. They’ve brilliantly captured the unease of not having a clear path in life. Of trying to make the most of your failings and shortcomings. Of battling on.
In a recent episode Billie met with a recruiter. The scene was cringeworthy to watch as Billie tried to say all the right things and put a positive spin on her patchy resume, only to have the recruiter be dismissive and downright rude.
Billy explained that her professional life has been diverse, that it’s been a colourful career. And the recruiter wrote off Billie’s professional and life experience as a bit ‘choppity-changey’. Billie had to sit there and watch as the rich tapestry of her life was devalued before her eyes.
The recruiter told Billie to go away and think about what it was that she actually wanted, to come back with some clear goals. Like that’s so easy.
As Billie walked out of the recruiter’s office, feeling dismissed and belittled, I recognised that feeling. It’s the feeling of utter despair, of wondering where it all went so wrong. You know you want more than this but you don’t know how to get it - and you're not sure what it is you want anyway. You’re angry at the recruiter and you’re pissed off at yourself.
At the same time, Jimmy’s had to sell the Tacoria, leaving him once again trying to figure out what his next step will be and how he is going to support his family.
If your 20s and 30s haven’t been smooth sailing and you haven’t hit all or any of the milestones – career, marriage, home ownership, kids – at the right time, what are you left with? Little bits of a life that don’t make a whole. And that don’t look good on paper.
Billie and Jimmy’s characters have experienced massive highs and huge lows, they have brief moments where it looks like things are coming together for them, only for their worlds to come crashing down again. They keep finding themselves back at the start asking ‘Well, what next? What am I going to do now?’
That night when Geraldine asked Billie why she was sitting outside by herself, Billie replied that she was quarantining herself, so she didn’t infect anyone. She didn’t want her miserableness to rub off on anyone.
‘A recruiter pulled me apart today. It’s true, I’ve got this handful of pieces that won’t make up a whole. I’m sick of this patchwork life, Mum.’
I’m sick of this patchwork life too, Billie. I feel like I’m still paying for not making the right career moves almost a decade ago. I’m still waiting for other parts of my life to happen, which seem to come so easy to others.
And I know I’m not alone in this.
I cheered when Billie called the recruiter the next day and gave her a piece of her mind. And when she offered Billie a job and Billie’s whole face was flooded with relief, I was filled with relief too. I know that feeling well.
The thing is, it’s all those little fragmented pieces of Billie’s and Jimmy’s lives that make them the interesting characters that they are. It’s what brings them to life and makes them loveable and watchable. Even if they don’t look good on paper.
So I guess I’ll keep plugging away at my patchwork life for now.