Voice of Real Australia: No matter what happens, it's a new year and it's time to live better

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Zoe Cartwright, the board and her friend Rhys (far right).

Zoe Cartwright, the board and her friend Rhys (far right).

Two things happened to me at the end of 2019 (and doesn't that seem an age ago now?).

Actually a lot of things happened to all of us at the end of 2019 and it feels like they haven't stopped happening since. Anyway.

I asked Mum for a longboard for Christmas.

And a former colleague and friend died suddenly.

Rhys Pearcey was smart and funny and kind and brave and the sort of person who made life better by being in it.

He had a talent for seizing the moment, for seizing joy.

Work days were punctured with rounds of office cricket, snacks (always free - we'd shamelessly drop in on anyone we thought would feed us) and road trips.

Everyone talks more in the car, and we'd both expound on our thoughts about pretty much everything - family, community, gender, race, and the shared experience of growing up in a small town.

Rhys was a relentless advocate for women - I don't think I've ever met a bloke with such a genuine respect for the opposite sex. He'd pull other blokes up on their rubbish (in the least aggro, most Rhys way). He never expected to be praised or thanked.

Rhys was a relentless advocate for his community - growing up on the coast there aren't a lot of opportunities. He seized every one that came his way and never judged anyone who lived their life differently. Sometimes people don't make great choices, but that didn't make them people not worth caring about.

He had a keen sense of humour and a cutting wit and if he thought you were getting too high on your own supply he could pull you back down to earth with a well-timed jab.

He was genuine - if he was hurting you could see it, and if you were hurting he wanted to hear about it.

But mostly he was happy. Because he gave for the sake of giving and chose things that made him happy and didn't give a stuff about the things that didn't.

Rhys always had faith that things would be alright, even if things were hard, even if he was doing something slightly outside the rules - and being around him made you have faith too.

We used to sneak off for lunch time surfs and pump Sublime (the American reggae rock and ska punk band) on the way.

I've loved surfing since I can remember.

As I got older I traded in my obligatory (and beloved) mini mal for a shortboard, because only losers and kooks and old blokes rode mals. I grew up and surfed less and got more frustrated every time I paddled out and sucked.

It took me until last year to realise my surfing didn't have to impress anyone, that I didn't have to give a stuff either; that I could decide to try something different.

I asked for the longboard, and it arrived the day Rhys died in a car accident, at the beginning of the bushfire summer.

And I never got around to using it.

But one morning I found an old beanie of Rhys' in the surf tub in the back of my car. I put it on and I tried to be a little braver. I snuck out for a lunchtime surf. I pumped Sublime and I cried a bit and I stuffed around in the white-water like a lame duck and laughed out loud when I managed to walk to the nose.

Now it's a new year, and whatever happens I want to live it better.

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