Dear my past self by Cath Moore


As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.

Writer Cath Moore writes to her past self:

“You are still little so people refer to you as Cathy. It will be some time before the ‘y’ is dropped and you grow yourself into a one-syllable-adult. Right now, your brown skin makes the parameters of safety unclear. The world is marked by hard borders and unfriendly territories; such are the geographies mapped by anxious thoughts. Public spaces full of unspoken hostility. People carry it in their eyes that flit between you and mum:

You are a discomforting shade of confusion, what with your white single parent. Come on, stop mucking about. 

You think your body looks more like a question mark than a full stop and you wonder how this will change, when you will forget about your punctuation status altogether. Wishful thinking is what one plays in solitude because there are no conversations about this wondrous transformation. In your 1980s Australia, the raucous white cultural default is wedged tight like a rock barnacle. Damn near impossible to budge, and you might be cut sharp in the process. You’re not there, on the page. Omission is a bruising sort of violence and I’m sorry for your lack of reference points. That is what literature is supposed to offer: a bridge between yourself and the world.  

I’m glad you got my message and agreed to meet me. This curb side in our collective memory isn’t very glamorous but sitting on the pavement playing with loose bitumen pebbles feels like a good meeting place between the past and present. Watching time bend around this corner you ask: ‘who are we now?’ I can see you want to be delivered of that question mark body of yours, so don’t grit your teeth when I tell you it remains.

At some point you will realise this natural form – curving and curious – is a beautiful thing to be. Not to others, because it makes you mouthy and ‘difficult’. You have sat with so many questions they are breaking out of your skin. They must because they belong to a world not yet lettered with your thoughts. Many things are lost and found in this persistence, dissent, the unrest in letting go. 

You will challenge the status quo. You will ask why some children can travel through their education having never read a CALD author. When creative industries write ‘groundbreaking’ studies on the lack of opportunities and visibility you reject it as their discovery and remind them this is OUR knowledge and trauma. When will the gatekeepers look like us? When will words in a policy translate into long lasting cultural shifts? It feels uncomfortable asking so you must persist!

Your body is also a full stop. They say: ‘gee we’d love to see more stories from diverse people of different places.’ You say: ‘they are only different to you – they are everywhere and every day for us and always have been.’ There’s your full stop. 

And yet. You will see a more compassionate future that holds our pain and hope together. Holds its tongue and listens first in weighted conversations. That world that you lived in will slowly be dismantled and put back together again with a different set of questions and full stops. Take all this with you when you go your way and I go mine. Please use those questions to reimagine yourself; they are armour and a tonic. Do not wait. Do not ask for permission to start writing into your future because that is the only way it will look more like you; if you are brave enough to enter the world via the front door and make your Self known. 

Tooroo for now. Look both ways before you cross the road Cathy and hold their gaze on the page. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”


Of Afro Caribbean and Anglo Irish heritage Cath Moore is a freelance writer, award winning filmmaker and educator. She has written for The Age, Huffington Post Australia and SBS Life and has also worked as a story developer for screen content. Cath is a published academic with a PhD in Danish screenwriting practices. Her debut novel Metal Fish Falling Snow won the Victorian Premier’s Literary award for YA fiction. She was a contributor to the anthology Growing Up African in Australia and is currently working on her second novel. Cath teaches creative writing at The University of Melbourne.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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