It’s the time of year for all those reflective blog posts, in which we look back, think, and look forward and promise to do better next year. And while I think the world’s internet users have collectively decided that 2016 should get in the sea, generally speaking, on a personal level my memoir might reflect 2016 as a space with no words, pages instead filled with open screaming mouths, things on fire, and me in there somewhere growing increasingly panicked and straight-jacketed by circumstances, finances and in some cases my very own self.
I know I obsess about stupid small things given the people the world forgot this year, and the other people the world collectively screwed over. It does alarm me that people are upset by celebrities dying rather than that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than fish. Which is abhorrent, uncited and possibly true. But then I heard that Richard Adams died and I remembered the audio cassette we had of Watership Down when I was growing up and I felt incredibly sad. Sometimes the small sadnesses are worse than the big ones.
Most of the other 2016 posts you read will probably seek some glimmer of hope in the shards. This is not a skill set of mine. The phrase circles my mind, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, just forces me to wonder exactly how dark it can get. Pro tip: DON’T.
But look I suppose I’ve got my health.
I got 10 (TEN! COUNT ‘EM!) stories published, fiction and non-fiction, at actual respectable journals with editors and stuff.
I created some things that were painful and confronting to write and I think powerful to read.
But don’t take my word for it – I also got some kick arse marks for such pieces at uni.
I did paid work a bit, though not as much as I would have liked. I celebrated people voting for the first time. I survived going door to door for the Census. I learnt how to teach online.
I started to volunteer for arts organisations I really love.
I spent a dumb amount of time looking at my “author” tag on Goodreads.
But in a world in which everything is either on fire, sinking into the ocean or describing itself as not a Nazi while saying/doing things that seem kinda, a little bit, outright Nazi all of the above glimmers don’t seem to matter much. I spend a great deal of time at my computer, or phone, staring out at the world through a tiny screen, thinking in a horrified whisper: what have we done?
So here’s the thing. I haven’t reviewed a book for such a long time because I’ve felt a huge pressure to do “constructive” things. But it’s probably better to not view the world through a tiny screen.
When I run my route takes me through local bushland, the scrub opens up and the sky grows broad. At certain times of year there’s wildflowers, one time I saw a fat lizard, today there were cockatoos taking wing. I keep expecting to see a creepy clown in there on an overcast day (remember when that was the worst thing the world had thought of?), but haven’t as yet. And on those days the world is okay again. For a moment.
I think that that’s the way it works. Sometimes things are a bit terrible, sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say that adds anything useful. And that’s ok. But it’s also important to move often, and to give yourself permission to just watch the colours on the trees change, to eat slowly and to read great books that touch your heart and grab your imagination. Even though I feel I must always be busy, that everything just needs so much fixing, I write more and better when I also do those things. And I feel better too.
So here’s to excellent reading in 2017. Here’s to moving often, learning more, and spending time with people and in places that bring us joy. I commit to that for myself and I wish it for you.