I’ve had a slightly strange couple of months, hence the posting delay. Taking a break from here (I say that as if my posting was regular, watched by millions and so this excuse is necessary. Awkward.) was important because I didn’t want to share how I was feeling angry and disappointed.
Being unemployed is a really mixed blessing. I had a horrible final year and there’s nothing more I want to say on it, so all I needed afterwards was to pause and become normal again. I needed time unemployed with no responsibilities to make up for having 60-bajillion responsibilities throughout my second term, but I have essentially been killing time since May now. Having time to sleep and look after myself has been good, but having no purpose or having no confirmation of when this monotony will end has been less good. It’s difficult trying to not waste my time feeling resentful, but I wonder if I went back in time and told my 17/18 year old self that having a degree would disadvantage me for casual jobs and give me no advantage for the ones that I dream of, I probably wouldn’t have come to university. It’s tough being £20k in debt with the knowledge of mistakes on my shoulders. Of course now I look back and think that those three years were wonderful and taught me pretty much everything I know, but I don’t feel that they prepared me for any future.
So, I’m back at home. The boxes that sat with uncertainty on my bedroom floor have slowly unpacked themselves; their contents have weedled their way back into my day-to-day existence. I am no longer a guest here, a temporary being, but rather a permanent member. Those boxes, the same ones that are squished full from last-minute university packing at the end of term have been filled with mixtures of things I wanted to find and things I couldn’t help but cry over as I brought them out. Why did I bring them home? Perhaps I thought that these memories would be dealt with or at least understood by the time they were forced back into my present consciousness. Maybe I just wanted to fill the boxes and go home to free food as soon as I could, which meant leaving the sorting until later.
The biggest box of memory sits on my floor with an uneasy promise of nostalgia within. When I directed Titus Andronicus in second term of final year, I submitted it as part of my degree (why write an essay when you can direct a play, I thought, foolishly) and so created a box filled with the details, including a huge and terrifying diary of every idea and rehearsal as I had them. I promised my friend Lily (who, in turn, promises to be a regular reader – hello!), who produced the play, that I would go through that box and write a blog post about why I love it. I do love that play, I still talk about it with fondness, and when I ran a workshop recently I boasted about my cast’s abilities with things like Harry Potter Zip-Zap-Boing. The box was submitted to external moderators as part of the marking, which meant that I wasn’t able to pick it up until the start of December, yet even though I have had it at home for over a month, I still can’t bring myself to look inside. Directing that play was a great experience, even if the finished product wasn’t quite what I wanted (my fault, no blame elsewhere), but there was so much other mess going on in my life at that time that it was much more misery-inducing and stressful than it should have been. As soon as I open that box, I will have to read that diary I wrote while directing and I will be forced to remember. I promise I will do it, but it may take a bit more time.
I’ve never been able to write diaries before. As a child I tried on many occasions, but my life was so boring (clearly creative writing was my outlet: see earlier posts…) that I didn’t have anything of interest to write and they are an embarrassment to look at now. Two choice examples (judging by my writing, you’d guess I was around 3, but the fact that my sister was in Upper-Two means I must have been six/seven and this is horrible and embarrassing for me. )
Sat the 2nd of August
Today we are going to wales on holiday we are going for two for the first week we are going to a converted farm house and for 2nd week we’re going to a cottage.
The second entry reads:
1. My biggest secret is that the upper-two play is called the wizard of wobbeling rock.
2. I don’t really have a second secret so I gues thiss book is a secret.
This is then followed by a drawing of a fat girl jumping. No self-portrait jokes, please.
The other thing that those bits of creative-writing showed is that I was never much of a writer anyway. I’m trying to write a play at the moment but I’m beating myself up over every word because I can’t get them right, even though I care a lot about what I’m writing. At two of the most important stages of my life, when I could feel myself and the world beneath me changing, I did the lame literature student thing of writing a poem. (I don’t include in that list of two the one I wrote in my first year about a friend who made me very angry: it’s rubbish and not worth sharing because I think he reads this occasionally and I’m over it now, eek)
I wrote the first one in Sixth Form. I’ll admit it was for a competition on the subject of change, but I really took it to heart and it was genuinely important to me.
Change marks the not yet tangible but seemingly solid
movement of time. Temperless optimism lost as sand
filters through the crude bone structure that ebbs,
flows and curls its way to create the new. Fading
dreams no longer attainable dance in the memory like
paper in the wind – there for a moment but lost and un-
recognisable until they are gone. Dreams are not all
dreams but the apocalyptic foresight of realisation: the
end is nigh and Cotardian beliefs slip upon us just for a
moment, as if remembering past lives or emotional
strays. Inheritance comes upon us and we question the
dead, we were invincible until now – we would never join them yet
must we? Joining a world of lost souls, growing in all but
maturity – we come of age yet feel the same. Dancing
lights among us reveal the path but must we follow? Too
tempting is the soft comfort we left behind yet
regression is not an option. Juxtaposed against the
Elysium fields in which we, too, danced yet now we
trump and slod and delay, still awkward in the new
stresses of change
I grew up a lot in sixth form. I earned myself a reputation of being boring amongst my old friends, but I also earned myself the university place I had wanted, which was a relief. I think when I wrote this poem I didn’t know where I’d be going, I don’t think I had been accepted yet and I knew it depended on my exam results which were not guaranteed. I have always worried about change and have had varying anxieties since I was quite young. When I wrote this poem, I was feeling anxious about the change not just that I could foresee but also that I knew I had just had. This isn’t about to be some gross puberty paragraph. I think there’s meant to be a psychological moment when you recognise that you’re going to die and I definitely had this quite late in my teens. This poem was written when I had realised that I wasn’t invincible and there could well be future repercussions from a past hedonistic summer. I felt awkward and stressed about change: changes past and changes future.
So here I am 4 years later, once again completely changed. But coming back to this poem for the first time in a long time gives me comfort that I am still awkward, still stressed about change and yet, like then, I am excited. Just like then, my recent past has been full of change and I continue to hope for it in my future. I was angry then and I’m angry now and though the things that impassion and anger me have mostly changed, I take great comfort in reading this and knowing that I am still recognisable. Even if I don’t have complicated syntax and poetry inside me anymore, I have a whole play inside me instead that I am desperate to write. I hope I keep changing, but I hope I don’t ever stop feeling angry and passionate. I hope that in four years time, when I am changed and different, then I can look back and read the things I write now and recognise myself in my feelings about change. It’s cyclical, it makes my head hurt a bit.
While this may all sound unimportant, it’s not. Going back to the beginning (cyclical again, nice touch) and the frustration with being unemployed: the frustration lies in that every day is the same with nothing ever changing and that monotony is pretty depressing. To go through old university things and find this poem makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief that I had no need to worry about change in the past because it turned out ok. And I’m praying that this time it will turn out ok too.