It’s October, which means the main topic of conversation is how it is already October. 2017 hasn’t gone as planned for me. I’m still looking for a graduate job, I haven’t kept up with friends and, the elephant in the room, I haven’t kept up with this blog.
For me, 2017 has been a year of hard work and slumps. It’s been job applications and countless unsuccessful interviews. It’s been not wanting to get out of bed and wondering where the last week went. It’s been unemployment and double shifts. In many ways I feel like I’m in exactly the same position as I was at the end of last year, applying for jobs and not getting anywhere, giving up for a bit, trying again and not getting anywhere again. But I guess this is simplistic. I’ve improved my application and interview techniques. I’ve seen great shows at the theatre, interesting films, amazing concerts. I went to the Edinburgh Fringe and visited my family back in Scotland. I have a job I enjoy with colleagues that I genuinely enjoy working with, even if it’s not what I want to do for my whole life and it doesn’t fill up my week. I wish my life was different, and I wish certain things had improved, but you don’t get to decide how things work out. You can work hard, you can go for opportunities, you can try to shape them, but you don’t get to decide the outcome. Some jobs I didn’t get picked for I thought would be perfect for me and I would excel at but I guess they weren’t for me. I try to imagine a positive future but when the same things keep happening again and again it’s hard to maintain confidence.
Feeling like I’ve not progressed enough has made me lose touch with friends. I’ve never been the best at keeping in touch with people at the best of times, but nowadays I basically never send messages to my friends. I feel embarrassed to talk about my lack of achievements and I don’t want to be a downer and just whine to someone when I haven’t cared to listen to their problems in months. Everyone says that you should reach out to people when you need help but I’ve not been a good friend myself so I don’t feel right expecting things from others. I naturally rely on myself and whilst I am an honest person I’ve been let down by friends in the past and I don’t always feel comfortable being vulnerable with others.
But the thing that makes me despair the most is when I don’t write. I scribble bits that fall somewhere between first drafts of poems and journal entries in my notebook. However, I don’t have a big project that I’m working towards. I started NaNoWriMo last year on a story idea I’ve had for years, and whilst I didn’t get anywhere near 50,000 words at the time, I thought I might get there this year, and I’ve only written a tiny bit more since. I keep saying I’m going to edit my poems and I don’t. I stopped writing my blog, but more by accident than for any particular reason. Writing is the only thing I genuinely believe that I am really good at, and the only sure thing I know I want to do. In January, I was really low and didn’t feel up to applying for jobs, so I told myself everyday that I had to do two things: shower and write. That’s why I wrote so much in January. When I started feeling up to doing other things, started applying for jobs and eventually got a part-time job and interviews for other jobs, blogging took a back seat. I told myself when things all got sorted I’d pick it up again. But things weren’t that simple. So I told myself I’d write again when I felt more confident. But writing gives me confidence.
I’ve really wanted to blog again for a while but I knew my first blog post would have to be an apology for not posting for months and not keeping in touch with friends. I would have to admit that yes, I am still looking for a graduate job and I do still live at home with my parents and I haven’t travelled anywhere new recently and I don’t have stories from an amazing social life. Hell, I’ve not even read as much as I wanted to this year.
But I have had little things to encourage me recently. After being really worried that my birthday this year would be terrible, I visited the Bronte house in Haworth and rediscovered the importance I’ve always placed on an inner life and imagination, which can make even quiet girls from the North of England tell stories and make an impact. A few days later, I went to one of the best concerts of my life, which reminded me how much joy is possible. We’ve also just had Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Usually, I associate these festivals with guilt for all of my sins, however, this year I felt that they are also about redemption and the opportunity for change and renewal. I’ve felt bad all year for not doing enough and being enough in my career, in society, for my friends and family, but every year is a new year and I don’t have to just feel regret and self-hatred. I can see the new year as a chance to begin again.
Yesterday I went to a book reading with two young female Nigerian authors as part of the Manchester Literature Festival. Whilst I go to the theatre and concerts regularly, I’ve not been to an author talk in a long time. I felt like I was opening up a part of myself that I haven’t for a while. The part of me that sees the escape and connection of reading, rather than the chore and expectation. The part of me that so desperately wants to be a published author more than anything. The part of me that saw my imagination as a place of retreat, rather than a place of worry. I realised I’ve been losing my imagination over the last few years and I need to make sure it doesn’t leave forever.
I’ve always seen myself as someone who writes and someone who creates characters and stories. Creating used to come easily to me but the writing required discipline. Now I’ve realised that whilst I write more, even if it’s not “proper writing” that I would share with somebody, the part of my brain that just makes up people and creates new ideas constantly when I’m bored, or waiting for the green man when crossing the road, or when I’m eating food, has greatly diminished. It’s hard to explain how important an active imagination is to me, but I think it’s the thing that if I look back on my life and it vanished, I’d feel the most despair about.
So this might not be the blog post you want. But it’s the one I needed to write. It’s not helpful or witty. It’s not about culture or travel. I’m hoping it’s a bridge. Between my last post back in February and October. Between not sharing and sharing. It’s a new year, I’m a year older, and I may not be able to get every job I want or even any, but I can write. And if my achievement this year is getting my imagination back, it’ll be a damn good one.