To quote Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This is a rather accurate description for my life these past few months. Everything is happening incredibly fast, and I feel like I’m in a whirlwind. I didn’t write a post in May, for the first time in three years (this blog will be entering its fourth year in July) I missed a month. I guess I haven’t stopped in a while. But I did stop three weeks ago. It was tough weekend, once where I had to learn to deal with my own company in a foreign country and often I was at a loss as what to do. So I wrote everything down that I’ve been thinking and feeling recently. I didn’t publish it immediately, instead I waited, ‘slept on it’ if you will. But I’m ready now. Take a step inside the mind of a 21 year old woman living in 2018.
Featured Image: a sliced Japanese anemone I photographed for an art project six years ago.
25th May 2018
This compilation of thoughts and musings has come about after reading Maggie Rogers’ description for her new song, Falling Water. Sharing a photo of a handwritten letter addressed to her fans, she writes that ‘It’s a song that celebrates rapid change and how simultaneously scary and electric it can feel. It’s about giving everything and not knowing if it’s enough. It’s about the power of vulnerability – a cry for help and a battle cry at the same time.’ This idea resonated with me as I feel like I have experienced a period of drastic change in the past year. I’ve lived in France and Germany, met people from all around the world and travelled to eight different countries. So many thoughts and feelings are jumbled around in my head, and although this has been an enrichening experience, it’s difficult to absorb it all and reflect on everything that has happened. The stage I’m nearing to is a very drastic turning point, a moment in time where everything could change, and nothing has been decided. Up until this point, everything had been more or less certain, school, college, university…but now it’s up for grabs. There isn’t a clear route ahead – it’s like I’m staring into the foggy abyss. Its exciting of course, and I’m not afraid of this unknown at all; on the contrast, I’m eager to see what will happen. However, I have realised that every decision will play a bigger role this time, that the right opportunities must be seized, and everything should be considered. I am not sure of where I will go, but I am sure of where I have been.
I was recently asked the following question by a friend at a party a couple of weeks ago, ‘and who are your favourite authors?’. I couldn’t give an answer. I love reading and I love writing, yet I couldn’t name one single favourite author. Does this make me uncultured, less intellectual, under-qualified for my passion? But how can I, at the age of 21, have a favourite author? How can I, when there are so many legendary books in existence, have a favourite author? How can I, in the digitally saturated age that I live in, have a favourite author? Off the top of my head I can only name three authors whose work I have read several books of; those are Agatha Christie, Stephen King and JK Rowling. Now I admire all of these writers, yet I wouldn’t call them my ‘favourite’. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not having a favourite author, or any creative for that matter, I’m not ready to limit myself just yet. I’m trying to read as much as I can and focus on those novels which are considered ‘greats’ or are topical right now. In the past year I’ve read A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, among others. Should I have read more books by Atwood instead of the other two novels? Would that have been the ‘correct’ way to do things? The truth is, I’m saturated. Saturated with everything there is on offer culturally right now. I can watch any film I want, I can listen to any music I want, I can scroll through social media and get bombarded by cheap articles and the opinions of people who have nothing better to do. To have access to such a wide range of cultural creations is fantastic; during the past year I’ve watched so many celebrated films; only last week I watched Taxi Driver for the first time and appreciated why it ranks so highly on great films lists. I’ve listened to old music that everybody knows and new music that few people have heard of. I’ve read articles which wouldn’t otherwise have been printed if it wasn’t for free online platforms. I expose myself to as much I can. I am saturated yet somewhat not full.
Lately on my Instagram feed there have been posts about Interview Magazine, which has ceased printing. It’s a publication which I’ve never bought, although I’m intrigued about its story. I did some research and turns out it was originally started by Andy Warhol in the 60s and has featured anybody who’s anybody, dubbed ‘The crystal ball of pop’, but the irony is that it couldn’t predict its own end. I think the death of Interview Magazine is so poignant for me because it shows that something can start out with such positive intentions in the most happening of circumstances yet can fade away so easily. It makes me worried for the future, of what might come to an end unexpectedly and what won’t last forever. The magazine’s decline highlights another sad aspect of the industry: the death of print. I love print magazines; they allow the reader to truly interact with the material, be it storing magazines chronologically on shelves or cutting up images and text and creating a personal montage of the material in a scrap book. As previously discussed, the digital world is omnipresent today and it is the way forward, but it’s sad that we’re losing this medium. Things get forgotten as they slide down search engine results, the magazines of the future will never be discovered in forgotten corners of second hand shops. I don’t think print will die out completely, but its existence is threatened.
I am worried about the future. As I’ve become older I’ve realised that things change so rapidly that you barely notice the minute shifts, and then suddenly everything is transformed. Technology is one of those things; its progress is startling, and my age group was perhaps the last to just about have a technology free childhood, in the sense that most of my friends didn’t have a smart phone until they were 15. But in all honesty, it was there, bubbling away. And now it’s everywhere; devices are becoming disposable, the phrase ‘Designed in California, Made in China’ sums up about everything today. I would feel so lost without my phone and sometimes I wonder, will the internet ever die?
Time’s running out with environment, I don’t know what will happen if we carry on with out current behaviour. But as a young person with zero influence, what can I do? The shops sell me things covered in plastic, coffee is served in paper cups and polluting transport is just so useful. I feel guilty about it, and so very scared. Photos of animals trapped in plastic disturb me and make me feel sick to the stomach, yet I carry on with my actions and turn a blind eye. Do other young people feel the same way? I say I’ll be better in the future, but what if there isn’t one?
What if I fail myself and never achieve my dreams, it’s not a guarantee after all. No one is guaranteed anything. Cheesy but true, all I can do is my best.
I’m always waiting for those ‘and that was where everything changed’ moments. I think a few have happened already, I can remember times where certain events have led to opportunities, changed my outlook or introduced me to important people in my life. Yet still I long for these turning points, wondering where I’ll go next and how things will change my life.
I had a conversation with a close friend I met in Lille, and we were discussing the year abroad and what it feels like in the sense of time. She said how she spent the year before looking forward to it, then during it counting down towards the end and now its suddenly over there’s a sense of nothingness. Every time I describe my current situation, I always say ‘I’m so happy and really enjoying myself, but I can’t wait for the end’. Its not even logical! How can you enjoy something but want it to be over at the same time? Chances are I’ll look back and think ‘why did I wish it away’, but in the moment, there’s this desire for the end, for the experience to be complete in a perfect way. If it ends now, I know it would be perfect. But there’s still time for things to change.
Perhaps it’s the things I’ve been exposed to, but I am obsessed with nostalgia. I feel nostalgic for things which happened a year ago. I would go as far to say that I get pre-emptive nostalgia, already viewing the present with rose tinted glasses. In my first year at uni sometimes I would lie on my floor in halls and look up at the ceiling and the ugly light staring back at me and think about how many people had lived in that room before me, and how many people would do that after me, and how I would never be in that room again despite physically living there for a year. It was the first time I realised that places can be temporary, and how they can quickly move into the category of ‘nostalgia’. I’m lucky enough to have lived in the same house all my life. It must be a strange and sad feeling knowing you can never set foot into your childhood bedroom. I’ll know that feeling one day. That same friend described how she was so excited to visit bars again in her hometown with her friends; some things are allowed to stay for us to revisit, but others can never be revisited, and exist only in our memories.
It’s a privilege to live abroad, both challenging and rewarding. You extract yourself from a familiar environment and enter a foreign one with one simple goal: to get on with it. The sad thing is, for me it’s an eye-opening experience and one which I’m proud of and want to say, ‘hey look what I achieved, I’ve lived abroad, it was so hard’, but for others they have no choice. Immigrants, asylum seekers and people who have left their country for something better and have to start afresh somewhere else. They’re not doing it temporarily, there’s no going back home at the end of term for them. Its permanent, and they must put up with that feeling of being ‘the other’ until they are just about ‘us’ enough to fit in. A foreigner is no longer foreign if you let them belong. Do I belong here?
Different countries are just variations of our own, like parallel worlds we exist alongside each other, sometimes ignorant of our similarities and all to aware of our differences. There have been so many times this year where I’ve stood the at the queue in the supermarket checkout, mentally preparing what I’ll say to the cashier, fearing that something will go wrong and completely aware that the person in front and the person behind do not share my mother tongue. Yet take away the language difference and this scene is identical to one in my home country. Our words are the most powerful thing we have, they can change anything without even being spoken.
Could I live abroad again? Could I make another country my home? What’s it like knowing you can never go home again, to start in one place and end in another?
When I was 11 I drew circles in my diary and ranked my friends by ‘inner circle’, ‘outer circle’ and ‘try to get to know more’. Or something like that. Back then my year group was all I really knew. At the age of 16 I broke free and suddenly the pool of potential friends was no longer stale, but it flowed with fresh water. Now opportunities to make friends are around every corner, and I take pleasure in that. Those early stages where you don’t really know people, then you become closer and sometimes you realise its just not meant to be and you move on; but every now and then there’s a sweet moment when you know you’ve made a friend for life. I’ve learnt that life’s too short to spend your time with just anybody, the people you surround yourself with have to enrich you. During my semesters abroad its often be said that our time is limited so you should spend it with the people you actually care about – I think this idea can be adopted on the larger scale of life. I don’t want to waste my time, its precious to me and I’ll never get it back.
One thing I’ve found myself doing is comparing my friendships with those of my mother. I’ve met her friends from her childhood, her friends from her first job, friends she’s made abroad and friends she’s made in recent years. I think that’s a beautiful thing to consistently make new friends. I notice making parallels between my friends and hers, one which always strikes me is the friend I made on the bus to college – just like the friend she made on the train at the same age.
I stepped into an art gallery while being in a strange mood, as the white stillness swallowed me whole the weird feelings disappeared. I didn’t have to think about other things in that moment, I could focus on the artwork in front of me, deciphering its meaning and let myself be absorbed by it. Creativity keeps me going. When I make something, I get to release these ideas which have been taking up room inside of me. And when I’m empty, enjoying the creativity of others fills me up. It can be completely unrelated things: I’ve watched James Bond films which have left me wanting to paint, I leave art galleries with words buzzing in my mind and the right song can help to crystallise a memory like a film.
But creativity can be limited. How can I write everything I want to when I know who’s going to read it? How do you put yourself out there and be completely unafraid of what others will think?
A Conclusion of Sorts
Throughout this I asked a lot of questions, the answers to which I do not have yet. However, I ask you this: what do you think of these ca. 2453 words? Are they written with naïve hands, by someone who has not lived enough to make these comments? Or do they reflect the confusion of youth, the act of discovering the things and questioning them in turn? I had to write this to clarify my thoughts, let every word tumble out and shape it into ideas. And now I offer you these ideas.