As one of the many ANU students hailing from the sunny suburbs of Sydney, I came to university with the pathological need to stand out from the crowd, to avoid being categorised as a common – and so unfairly maligned – type. Sure, my parents were office-working professionals, my home had doubled in value over my lifetime and not too infrequently conversations about the deplorable state of the city’s public transport system could be heard within my 206-something postcode. But I made it my mission to differentiate myself, and it was in the form of a mere reformulation of my answer to the question ‘but whereabouts in Sydney?’ that I found my salvation.
I am aware that North Shore residents are regularly lambasted for their snobbery, privileged norms and conservative ideals. It, therefore, quickly became a matter of necessity that I distance myself from those associations. I started explaining, upon introducing myself to new acquaintances, that I was from the ‘inner North’ or ’10 or so kilometres north of the CBD’, lest such unfortunate associations be made. Besides, I absolutely had the data to support my assumption of uniqueness! In my leafy locale, we didn’t have silver Range Rovers; rather, white Volkswagen Golfs lined the shaded streets. It wasn’t all free-standing Federation-era brick abodes either, we had apartment blocks! And better yet, we had proof of commerce beyond over-priced boutique businesses in the form of – gasp – factory outlets. The cherry-on-top of my proof pudding was that no one in the immediate surrounding area could possibly have water views, due to the tragically disadvantageous lay of the land.
This normally would be enough information to satisfy the average disinterested inquisition, but for those more adamantly non-gentrified Inner-West cynics, I had to bring out the big guns. I made it clear that I was closer to the Pacific Highway than I was to Military Road – ‘God forbid I enter that never-ending traffic jam’. I wasn’t talking about that stretch just past all the private schools either, I meant the part of the road that wound its way through the industrial centres and even some actual real-life second hand car dealerships! No self-respecting North Shore citizen would allow such unsightly clutter to disturb the neighbourhood ambiance but I, being more down to earth, was not so averse to these things.
The determined desire to move away from a typecast background may seem excessive, but I can assure you, I was this close to being lumped together with those who first UAC preference was Arts/Law at Sydney University. For context, it was only my second. But, you may wonder, does the elusive North Shore even exist? Is there really such a place where all of the above takes place outside of Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate? For evidence, I suggest taking the 144 bus route, and let Mosman be your barometer. There will be no denying that you, in fact, are in the North Shore.