Changes

It’s hard to believe we’re only just over a week into December. Already, the madness of November and NaNo feels like eons ago. And despite the lack of emotion and satisfaction I talked about in my previous post, I do feel like a very different person, or at least like I’m in a very different place. I look back at October and it feels like years ago.

My diminshed presence on WordPress is probably mostly due to habit – but I also feel that, in a way, I have less of a need for it now. Maybe I have accepted my achievement of the 50,000 words on a deeper level than I thought. For the past year, I have validated myself as a writer though blogging. And although I’m definitely not going to stop blogging any time soon, I feel less of a need for it.

It’s a season for change – maybe a year for change. My life is in total upheaval. And at the centre of it, I have moments of amazing calm, amazing certainty that I am in the right place right now. I don’t believe in fate or destiny, but feelings of belonging and contentedness and connectedness are things I’ve been searching for for a long time. Maybe I’m actually getting close.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading and development in terms of my (albeit atheistic) spirituality – though for some reason I don’t feel that this is the place to talk about that. So there are internal changes happening with the external ones. I am striving to become the person I have always expected to be some time in the future. But with my 24th birthday, something clicked with me that I will never become her if I don’t start moving in the right direction now.

I was going to write a post about Christmas, and I will in the next few days. But for now, this rambling fragment will have to do. To regular readers – I’m sorry I have been neglecting your blogs! I do miss reading everyone’s posts, and I’ll get back to it at some point. But right now, I’m not in a mood for forcing it.

Lazy Weekend

I’ve been having a wonderful, mostly lazy weekend. It started out not so great, as some of my plans on Friday fell through and I found myself finishing dinner with some friends and on a bus home at 10:30. I had just been turned down for another job and was feeling a bit miserable, so I rang my boyfriend who was at the Hard Working Class Heroes festival in town. And so my night turned around – I met him and a few of his friends in the Workman’s club for the last three bands, one of which was particularly wonderful – an electronic trio called Chips. I drank tequila with abandon and we danced up near the stage, and life felt better.

Saturday and today consistent entirely of lazing around in my flat and in my boyfriend’s, faffing around on WordPress and doing a bit of writing. My boyfriend follows football (soccer) so yesterday evening mainly consisted of watching Match of the Day, and we went to a pub for him to watch a match this afternoon while I edited some photos. For lunch we got pancakes, bacon and maple syrup in a café near my flat – an inspired combination, and something we don’t eat enough here in Ireland.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a little insular these days, and I’m not making enough effort to spend lots of time with my friends. And I wonder what my life would look like if me and my boyfriend hadn’t got back together – would I be spending more time with other people, or would I be lonely and adrift? But I’m happy, content. I reckon I’ll let myself settle into this new life and see where the chips fall.

Comfort or Passion?

Left dangling as I am over the edge of the adult world of employment, I find myself thinking a lot these days about the future, and about my priorities in life.

It all comes down to the question of happiness. Having been raised in an upper-middle class home, and being someone who generally enjoys pleasing aesthetics, good food, and the arts, I find it hard to imagine being happy in life without having sufficient money to be comfortably well off – to indulge in little luxuries, to have a beautiful home. I came to a decision a few years ago that I needed stability in my life, that I couldn’t bear the thought of not having a stable income. It’s not that I have any aspirations to have a super-high-paying job – and indeed, the life choices I have made so far haven’t exactly set me up for that lifestyle. But a stable career – a career in which I would be sure to make a certain amount.

But over the last year, something of the truth of life has struck me. And that truth is: life is really, really short. It is starting to seem to me that hours spent every day on something that I am less than passionate about are precious hours wasted in a short lifespan. I acknowledge that being able to turn a passion into a career is not something that is possible for everyone. But surely, at the age of 23, I should not yet be giving up on it.

I think the problem is that I have always been afraid to actually sit down and do the things I think I passionately want to do. Perhaps it is a fear of failure – a fear of not being able to achieve what I hope to achieve. When I was a child, I expected to have my first novel written before I turned 20 – but 20 came and went, and all I’d managed were some 3,000 words on a story that didn’t feel like it was going anywhere.

And following your passion is not easy. I am well aware that attempting a career as a writer or as an academic could lead to relative hardship, difficulty in acquiring a publishing contract or a position in a university, and potentially not enough money to be as comfortable in life as I might wish. But really, what should be more important to me? Should I really give up on my dreams before I even attempt to turn them into a reality, all just to avoid stress and acquire a stable income before I’m 25?

I am a qualified librarian now. I may not have as much work experience as may be needed to find a job in this environment, but I could very feasibly move into an internship and from there into a paid position in the next couple of years. And could potentially work in this company or area for the rest of my working life. It would make the other areas of my life easier – my social life, money issues, buying a house and raising a family in about 10 years’ time.

But would it make me happy?

Would I be satisfied with my life?

I’m not sure that I would be. And yet – I find it difficult to start doing those things about which I might become passionate. I have done some writing, and I have thought about my area in English literature and started playing with an idea. But it feels difficult, like wading through mud. And I think – will it get easier? Or is this really how it would be if I stuck to this path? A constant uphill struggle with my passions in life.

But the alternative looks less and less appealing to me. I’m not ready to settle for less in my life.

Living in the moment…

…how do we go about it?

It’s amazing how such a simple, almost clichéd idea can still manage to have a profound impact on me every time I am reminded of it in any well-thought out or well-articulated way. And it makes me wonder – am I ever going to stop “forgetting” to do this? Will there come a time when it truly becomes ingrained in my day-to-day existence?

But the problem isn’t just with forgetting to do it – the problem starts with managing to do it in the first place.

Essentially, a call to living in the moment should be a reminder of the insignificance of material things, the pettiness of small irritations with loved ones and days whiled away in boredom. We might feel moved to reach out to a loved one, or to engage more in what we’re passionate about. We might engage in such activities as meditation, and attempt to think only about what is happening to us right now without reference to the past or the future.

The problem is this: we are, as human beings, hardwired to be constantly thinking about both the past and the future.

And this tendency is present instinctually, emotionally, and intellectually.

Our ability to reason, to compare, to analyse, has led us to this evolutionary point. It is the secret to our success. And so, letting go of this tendency seems to run contrary to our very nature.

So what are we to do about it? It is often true that we would be happier if we let go of memories of incidents in the past, no matter how recent – if we allowed our consciousness to reset and focus on the now. But it is almost impossible to avoid bringing things up in your mind and assessing the probability of it happening again. And if we do consistently focus on the present and avoid this type of analysis, how are we to look at the bigger picture of our life and assess our own happiness, and the successfulness of how we are going about it?

It’s also true that we may be happier if we avoided obsessively thinking about the future – attempting to plan out the weeks, months and years ahead. This kind of thinking can be inspiring and exciting, but leads to one of our greatest barriers to happiness – waiting to be happy in the future rather than focussing on being happy right now. But again, without this future planning, we cannot build lives for ourselves.

So I suppose this goal of “living in the moment” is rather qualified. Perhaps it is something we should aim to do every day, but perhaps just for a few hours, or even for a few minutes. But is it really possible to do, when the rest of our lives revolve around the-moment-just-passed and the-moment-about-to-happen?

I feel I have been struggling to find the answer to this for many years now. At what point do I give up on this particular holy grail, and decide that the answer to happiness lies elsewhere?

At Peace

The panic has left me over the past few days, and I am feeling incredibly peaceful right now. I’ve just got home to the flat after spending two days at my boyfriend’s flat, and admittedly a glass of wine and other (cough) activities might have something to do with it, but I haven’t felt this happy to be coming home to this flat in a long time. I had started to find it very clausterphobic and dark, and although I signed the lease for another year, I had decided very firmly that I wouldn’t stay longer than that year.

It is a relatively dark flat – although it faces north-east rather than full north, a return at the back of the house blocks any possible direct sunlight, and the large window can only compensate so much. And I spent too much time in here over the summer, working away at my Masters thesis and feeling a bit pessimistic about the whole situation. Summer afternoons are particularly bad in here – admittedly, we had hardly any sun this summer, but the contrast between the dim light in the flat and the few bright glorious days we did have was pretty depressing.

But right now, I’m feeling much more positive about it. The size of the place doesn’t bother me, really, I just crave a bit of sunlight now and then. So I think I’m going to say to the landlords to let me know if any of the rooms on the front of the house become available – as the contrast in light between this room and them is incredible. I feel I would be happy living in one of them for a few more years.

Now, in the early evening on an autumn day, I don’t mind so much coming in from the light, as it’s getting too cold to sit outside anyway. I turn my armchair around to face the window, and it’s almost as good as being outside. From here, I write and read and do a lot of thinking. And on days like today, I feel completely happy.

  

Arrival

Those of you who have been reading my last few posts might be glad to hear that today for the first time in a while, I am starting to feel a bit more emotionally stable. At the very least, there might be a reduced amount of whiney posts for you to be bombarded with! The last few days have been really, really nice – spending relaxed time with my boyfriend, meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in ages for brunch. And I just feel very happy.

I think the freedom has finally hit me. It’s seeming less scary – as I was saying in this post, I am excited about properly thinking about a career for the first time, or even just trying out some kind of real job. And the trepidation that goes with that is finally started to leave. I have realised today that I really don’t need to worry about my finances. I am used to watching all the people around me struggling with student loans, PhD funding and poorly paid first jobs, and I have a tendency to want to be able to feel immediately financially secure and independent. But the truth of the matter is – I know it’s going to be fine, whatever way it turns out.

I’m also starting to feel for the first time in a while that I may actually turn out to be a “real writer”. I have set a target for myself this year, and have already started chipping away at it. I’ve accepted that being a prolific short story writer may not be for me, and that’s ok. I’m quite happy to keep posting here, and to chip away at a bigger project on the side. I think this blog has done wonders so far – even when I’m just writing off-the-cuff updates like this one, I am at least sitting down and putting metaphorical pen to paper, and it’s kept my hand in more than ever before. Now when I sit down to write “properly”, it flows much better than it ever did before. I feel prouder of my writing than I ever did before.

Sure, it would be wonderful to walk into a nicely paid, interesting part-time job and be set up for the next few months, but I always knew that it would be a slow process, so the important thing is not to get stressed about it, and to just make a plan for the meantime.

I’ll probably try to get up something a bit more creative later today – and tomorrow I’m finally buying my own camera! So expect more creativity and less whining very soon!

Life building

For the first time in my life, I have come out the other side of an educational institution or university degree and have nothing standing in the way of me and the rest of my life.

It’s a scary experience. As a fresh-faced 17-year-old, I went straight from school into university – and after that, as a not-so-fresh-faced 22-year-old, almost straight from my undergraduate degree into a professional masters. The year in between was spent applying for the masters and doing the relevant work experience, and just generally trying to feel like a human being and get over my ex (now once again boyfriend).

So this is the first time I’ve really been left bare to the world. No particular plan – just an apartment with an obscenely high rent, some savings, and a slight feeling of dread at the daunting prospect of having to – for the first time in my life – look for a job.

That will make me seem like a bit of a spoiled brat. I did, in fact, work part-time through school and university, but all I ever worked at was teaching Irish traditional music to various groups of people (mostly small, bratty children). It paid extremely well, and I was blessed to have this opportunity – I knew it at the time, and I know it now. But it meant that the first experience I ever had of trying to get a job was looking for my work experience during my gap year. And now, looking for a real, actual, honest-to-god, money-paying job – it kind of scares me.

So here I am putting together my first ever job application. My CV is finished, I think; I have a cover letter ready to go; and the application form is nearly filled out. Now it’s just a matter of proof-reading it, printing it all out, and bringing it to the organisation in person, because the deadline is in a couple of days and I just don’t trust our postal service.

I imagine I’ll be doing a lot of more this over the next couple of weeks and months. And to be honest, it’s not just scary, it’s exciting. Exhilarating. Sure, I’m not going to walk into my dream job anytime soon. I don’t even know yet what my dream job could be. But the thought of actually being a real adult with a real income, contributing in a real way to society – it’s exciting.

I’m just hoping that I’ll have time on the side to continue looking into academic research and all my creative endeavours. I think I didn’t give academia a proper go-around, and I’d like to take this year to get back into English literature and see if anything really grabs me. And maybe get back into writing more, painting, photography. But it’s time for me to get out into the real world and give myself something to write about. I’m looking forward to it.