Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week, Shanaya Donovan is 18 and a proud Darug, Dhungutti and Gumbayngirr woman from Western Sydney. A lover of music and art, and believer in knowledge and truth. She’s staunch and aiming to change it up through breaking down social and cultural barriers and rewriting the rules of the world. She performed this story at Blacktown Arts Centre as part of Kolour Me Kweer an all First Nations line up curated by Steven Lindsay Ross and hosted by Neville Williams Boney.
Hi, my name’s Shanaya I’m Darug, Dhungutti and Gumbayngirr, I’m 18, thank you for having me. I have a little story about what is was like starting year 7, cos I’m very fresh into uni and into the world, I don’t have much else to talk about, I’m kinda boring.
Starting Year 7 was terrifying. I was in denial about growing up and the transition from primary to high school was overwhelming. I grew up in Mount Druitt, then suddenly I was going to this big Catholic all-girls school in Parramatta and I knew no one.
When I got told I had to do an assessment every term for every subject, I was a nervous wreck. I was such a people pleaser and I was ready to do whatever it took to do my best, especially when I found out the first one was a speech. This speech was for an English assessment, and with it I had to do a presentation on what the most important invention was. As my teacher was handing out the brief, I was looking around at my class and trying to sus out how everyone was feeling.
The two girls sitting next to me were so excited to be receiving the first assessment of their time in high school, the girls across from me were terrified, and I could kind of sense they were nervous about having to speak in front of everyone, and having to be marked on their eye contact when they would barely keep their eyes open with how tired they were. The girls behind me didn’t seem bothered, but I still don’t know if they just thought it would be easy, or if they didn’t care about the outcome of it. Reading over the brief, I was so overwhelmed, reading through the content and the marking rubric and all the other stuff that in the end, didn’t matter. It was on last page that I finally read the assessment type: speech. I got this weird excitement in my chest. I hated high school, but hearing that I got the chance to speak in front of everyone made me bubble. I love public speaking and debating, I don’t know why, but I think I might just be an adrenaline hog.
I spent weeks trying to figure out what the most important invention was so that I could give an incredible speech. Some girls were doing massive amounts of research, looking into things like fire and lightbulbs, but I thought for my first speech I should make it a little more personal. Thus, I decided that the most important invention was the eyebrow pencil.
With an older sister who was a makeup artist there was no escaping being exposed to makeup super young, especially when she spent a night every few week waxing and plucking my eyebrows like the test rat I was. To me then, and now, eyebrows are everything. They change a person’s face depending on how thick or thin they are, how long they are, and how dark you make them.
I started preparing for my speech, making a presentation full of pictures of celebrities like Cara Delavigne and Harry Styles without eyebrows and with eyebrows, just to make my point. My speech was immaculate, and I was completely prepared to explain to my class why eyebrow pencils are so vital to me as a person. It was eyebrow propaganda.
But, I was an unorganised mess in year seven, and to be quite frank I still am. The night before my speech was due, I for some reason thought it would be completely okay to work until 10pm, even though I had to be up for school at 6. After coming home and stripping myself of my oil ridden uniform, I sat on my bed and stared at my presentation. I wasn’t sure what else I had to do, so I flicked until I was satisfied that I’d payed it enough attention, and headed to bed.
Flash forward to the next morning. The big day. Suddenly I wasn’t excited anymore, I was so scared that I didn’t have everything ready for my speech. It turns out I was ready for my speech, but what I should have been worried about was literally everything else. Laying under my blanket I realised I hadn’t washed my uniform, so I jumped up and put it on the shortest cycle. There was no way my bra would dry on time , so I chucked it in the convection oven. Wandering back to my room I was calm, thinking that because I’d woken up without my alarm, it must be earlier than I need to be up. How wrong I was.
Catching a glimpse of my laptop I realised it was in fact 6:30 and I had to be out of the house in 30 minutes, which would have been fine had I not just shoved my whole uniform into the washing machine.
I started to pack my bag. The precious cargo went first, my assessment brief, the speech cards and the usb with my presentation on it. Next was my diary and my pencil case.
Realising what day it was I almost went into a state of shock. Not only did I have my first assessment today, I also had a music prac where I needed to take my guitar, and a PDHPE prac, where I needed my sport uniform.
I would have been out of the house on time had I not sat on my bed for a while thinking , ’why me?’
Everything was packed and all I had to do was wait for my uniform to dry. The second the dryer beeped I was there like a moth to light. I’ve never gotten dressed so quickly in my life.
It’s now 7am, and my train comes in 19 minutes. I step outside ushering my mum to the car. School bag on my back, prac bag in one hand, guitar in the other. Everything was sorted.
I’m on the train by 7:15, at school on time, and ready to go. The speech isn’t until period 3 and I have PDHPE period 5 and music period 2.
I get to English and hand my assessment to my teacher, she looks at me and giggles, and I think I must be too eager to stand up and speak.
I’ve drank so much water, I’ve eaten, my eyebrows are done and I am ready to go once this girl has finished talking about how the most important invention is the pub, which is valid.
My name gets called and I’m filled with adrenaline. I pat around myself.
When I touch my pocket for my Speech cards? Check
When I squeeze my hand for Water? Check
When I pull my lanyard for my USB? Check
When I touch my chest, Oh no, Oh no
I didn’t get my bra out of the convection oven.
Very quickly I put my jumper on and I’m standing up the front.
I did beat mum home though, she left very early for work. I beat her home and got it out, it wasn’t on fire, the house was in tact. I think now looking back at it I felt so cringe and was so embarrassed but I feel like you have to be embarrassing when you’re 12, 13 years old otherwise you’re embarrassing now.
Thank you for listening to me and hope you enjoy the rest of the night.
Maeve: Thanks for listening! Check out queerstories.com.au for more episodes and please follow Queerstories on Facebook for news and event updates