So, people who’ve known me for a long while, or even a short while – everyone, really – are probably familiar with the fact that a) I’m constantly juggling a lot of competing priorities, and b) I complain about it a lot. I’ve been trying to minimise the latter in public places, as I know it’s annoying, and I’m hardly alone in having some woes, especially in the current climate. Evidence suggests that this has only been partially successful. I was recently described (and I hope he won’t mind me quoting this) as ‘endearingly tragic’ by someone who follows me on twitter. Upon reflection, this is progress – if I am being endearingly tragic, at least I am being endearing.
Anyway, I’ve recently come to a slightly different place of mind, and I think I hope I stay here. It’s almost like a positive outlook, and I’m gingerly feeling it out, as I haven’t had one of those for a while – I don’t want to touch it, in case it breaks. The (odd? nice?) thing about it is that it feels a bit like coming home. It comes to me in fits and starts – moments and fragments when I fancy that things are ‘actually sort of OK right now’, or even ‘rather enjoyable’. For instance: last week, sitting with my writers’ group, with an overpriced drink in my hand, and my friends all about me drinking and talking about writing and other stuff that I love, I realised: this is actually really awesome – this is one of the things I actually really want to be doing with my life, and, more than that: what I’m doing right now is really cool. It’s not like I was doing anything different last Tuesday to any other Tuesday for the past three or four years, but somehow it was like a weight lifting and opening a way, both back to how I used to be, and forward to how I could be again.
I’ve been engaged with one writing group or another for the last 9 years – first the university one, and then my current one, with @AlasdairStuart, @LeeAHarris, @Ellenscult, @stevecooperorg, @ultharkitty and others. I hadn’t stopped writing and valuing my critique. I hadn’t stopped working towards a future in writing. I hadn’t stopped enjoying the company of my friends, sharing interests, or making jokes with them. But it had become one of the many things I was trying to find a space for in my life, and even though it was often the relief from those competing demands – this was my time, with my friends, to talk about writing… that’s what it was. A relief. A comfort zone. It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t something I was throwing myself into headlong.
I think it’s starting to feel exciting again.
And it’s not the only thing. The next few months are going to be crazy, even for me. I’m teaching two courses, one of which I’ve designed myself, for a sort of student I’ve never taught before, both of which I’m teaching for the first time; I’m doing my regular 9-5, two day a week part-time job; I’ll do any ad hoc proofreading that comes my way; I’ll be trying to finish my novella; and, the biggy, I’ll be trying to write my thesis. A few weeks ago I felt like I was in danger of giving up again, contemplating it all, but suddenly, tentatively, I’m not.
I’m excited when I write. I’m excited when I sit in a pub talking writing with other writers. I’m excited when I’m explaining the problem of induction. I’m excited when I’m preparing course materials. I’m excited to be introducing people to new ideas and trying to persuade them that philosophy isn’t irrelevant to their lives. I’m excited to be meeting new people via twitter. And I’m excited to be trying to squeeze it all in whilst writing my thesis.
If I fail at all this, I want it to be because I was trying to be doing a bunch of exciting stuff all at once, not because I bit off more than I could chew and wasted 7 years of my life. I don’t want to be the grey, wan person who complains all the time. I want to be the person who may crash and burn, but at least dove into it all headlong. I’m going to be doing it all anyway. I know myself well enough by now to realise that if I try to cut back on any of it I’ll either get depressed again or find some new obsession. And the job stuff is there whether I like it or not.
So, at the moment I feel like – rather than being a victim of circumstance, or swamped by my own stupid inability to focus on just one thing – I’m on some kind of bohemian roller coaster ride, where I hang out on pubs and on twitter talking crazy creative shit, and then rush off to do philosophy whilst doing whatever I can to pay the pills. A little pretentious? Of course, but I’ve been killing myself trying to make my dreams reasonable and sensible. You can’t do a PhD in these financial times if you’re reasonable and sensible, unless you’re rich or have funding. And you can’t be a writer in these financial times unless you’re driven by something other than sense or money.
I know what I’m driven to do. I need to stop regretting my drives, which have gotten me into ‘so much trouble’ and start embracing the dreams that are propelling me forward into this insane situation. I don’t want to, because my dreams have a habit of falling apart, but knocking my dreams down to size just makes me feel sad and hopeless. I’m not going to sit idly by, feeling the jealousy for those younger and happier than me who are enjoying their dreams. I’m going to start recognising that what I’m doing is actually really cool, right now. This is what I fought for, and yeah, I’m going to need to keep fighting if I want to keep it up, but, for now… the magic is back again, sometimes, and I want to preserve that.