Monday, June 08, 2015

two months, failure, etc.

Today marks two months since I left home. Since I boarded a plane and shifted myself to the other side of the world. For what? For something I couldn't find at home. For an adventure, one that felt so incredibly necessary. And yet, if I'm honest, the past two months have been characterised by intense emotional experiences that have tested everything I thought I knew about myself and this decision that I made.

Nothing good is easy. We appreciate things more when it takes a little something of us to get where we want to be. Only, sometimes you underestimate how much you have to give, how much of yourself you have to open up to get to that good. And sometimes, as you find these little pieces of yourself falling away, you wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. If the good is enough to compensate you for the loss.

They're questions I can't answer yet. They're questions I may never be able to answer. Maybe the point is in asking them at all, with no promise of an answer. Like moving to the other side of the world, with no promise of anything at all.

It's early summer in London right now and the sun rises before 5am. I lay in the single bed of my temporary home and stare our the window, thinking thoughts. I find myself musing like that quite often, moments when I'm alone and the city is spinning past me and I can stare out a window or across a street or straight ahead and just let my mind go. And often, more often than not, I find myself circling back to one theme. Failure.

I found the following quote on Brainpickings, my go-to site for, well, just about everything. And it feels quite pertinent right now. 

'The word failure is imperfect. Once we begin to transform it, it ceases to be that any longer. The term is always slipping off the edges of our vision, not simply because it's hard to see without wincing, but because once we are ready to talk about it, we often call the event something else - a learning experience a trial, a reinvention - no longer the static concept of failure' - Arts Advocate Sarah Lewis, in her book The Ride: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery

Before I left for London, a work colleague told me not to be afraid of failure. But, it's difficult to be afraid of something that you can't quantify. Something you cannot accurately describe. After all, what is failure? I've never been able to articulate exactly why I'm here, so what exactly does it mean to fail?

And if Sarah Lewis is right, it doesn't matter anyway. Because what might feel like a failure today, will be an experience tomorrow. 

kb xx

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

a week, a roller coaster

A week is a long time. And yet, no time at all. I've been in London for a week now. And I've found myself cycling through some intense emotional experiences. I'm calling it my emotional roller coaster. Up and down and up again. It's a strange thing, but not an unexpected thing. 

Moving your life halfway around the world, far far away from family and friends, from the people that are significant pieces in the puzzle of your life, how can that not be an intense emotional experience? How can that not split you open, spilling nagging feelings of doubt and fear and sadness into the world around you? 

The very act of separation feels like the end of something. Like something irreversibly changed. And yet being in London feels like a beginning, an important and real beginning. I wrote about beginnings here. I thought that one thing had to end for another to begin, but now I'm not so sure. Why can't things go on simultaneously? Why can't I be here and there, too? 

And so I ride my roller coaster and I feel myself splitting open, spilling those feelings of doubt and fear and sadness - and hope and desire and something that might be happiness - onto the page. I'm scrawling the thoughts as they come to the surface with a blue pen on the lined pages of my composition book. 

I wonder if it is there, amongst the scratchings of my pen, the loops of my letters, the messy and seemingly unintelligible scrawl that is my handwriting, that I can find a balance to the wildness and unpredictability of this space I'm in. If, in amongst the words, I can find what I'm here for. 

kb xx

Monday, April 06, 2015

endings and beginnings

One of my cacti is dead. Well, dying at least. Its stem has lost the vibrant green of its youth and is now dried and twisted. I noticed it this morning as I pulled my bedroom curtains open for what will be the second last time. It caught me a little by surprise, as death is wont to do. And yet, the sadness is permeated by something else. Something that feels just a little hopeful. 

Does one thing have to end before another can begin? Maybe. In a way it feels almost necessary. If nothing ever ended, how would we ever begin something else? 

A little over twenty-four hours from now I’ll be boarding a plane for perhaps the biggest beginning of my life - save the initial one perhaps - and the cactus and its untimely demise feels strangle poetic. 

The past few months I’ve had a handful of dreams that featured snakes quite prominently. The dreams were vivid and I would wake from them and instantly push a mental rewind button to play them back as I lay in bed. Some cursory research revealed dreams about snakes can indicate change or transition.

The demise of the cactus, the appearance of the transition snakes - strange indicators of fate?

Relying on fate is nothing new for me. It’s the basis of my wardrobe and it’s served me well. Perhaps that’s why I’m comfortable taking the cactus and the dreams of snakes as signs from the universe that this decision to take my life from its comfortable space right here and drop it into one of the biggest cities in the world is the right one. That getting on that plane tomorrow night is the best choice for me right now. 

I am of course overflowing with feels that I cannot quite reconcile. Happiness and sadness, excitement and fear. Doubt, great big doubt. And yet, in part I know because of the snakes and now because of the cactus, I must get on that plane. I must do this. I can’t stay here. 

This part of my life is ending, this chapter in this safe and warm and comfortable environment is coming to a close. But there will be more chapters. Tomorrow marks the opening sentences of the newest, and so despite (or perhaps because of) the chaos of my current emotional state I will get on that plane tomorrow night and I will begin my new chapter. 

Wish me luck!

kb xx

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

comfort is a double edged sword

I’ve been trying to narrow down a list of possible suburbs to live in using a tube map from 2008 - the first time and only time I’ve been to London. On the back of the map is an advertisement for Ikea: ‘Travel is a means to an end. Home.’

I wonder if that’s really why we travel. If the reason we take ourselves out of the comfortable and force ourselves into the uncomfortable is to attempt to discover what home really is. 

For most of us home is more accident than careful planning. Home for me right now is the house my parents built in a smallish country town about an hour from Melbourne. It’s the place I feel most comfortable in the world. It’s the place I’ve lived most of my days in. It’s the place I’m leaving in a  bit under two months. 

Comfort is a double edge sword. Being comfortable equates to feeling safe, secure, generally happy. It’s a nice feeling, a warm one. One many of us spend years trying to find. But it’s also the reason why I find myself distracted, the reason why I leave projects untouched for months, why I don’t send pitches, why I wile away hours watching old episodes of Grand Designs or downloading old books from Project Gutenberg. Being comfortable can often be more of a hindrance than a help. Being comfortable makes it easy to not move, to not challenge yourself, to sit yourself in the safe, secure and generally happy space and just be. 

When I try to peer under my own skin, to scrape away at my desire to take myself out of this comfortable space I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in, the truth feels a little like freshly squeezed lemon juice on a paper cut. It stings. 

The truth is, it’s easy for me to not do the work, it’s easy for me to not challenge myself, to not put myself in positions that guarantee nothing but an almost certain failure. It’s easy to not do those things when you’re comfortable. 

I don’t think that Ikea advertisement is true for me. I’m not travelling to find home. Home is already established. But home is too comfortable, too easy. I’m travelling to find those hard, uncomfortable spaces. I’m travelling to fall over an edge not knowing what lays beneath me. 

I’m travelling because sometimes the only way to see if you’re good enough is to throw yourself into a deep pool, fully clothed, and see if you sink or swim. 

kb xx

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

forever a rookie

I stopped being a teenager nearly a decade ago. I am currently very much ensconced in the late-twenties age bracket. Which feels increasingly odd. It is a space in which I sometimes I feel like an outsider, removed from a life and lifestyle that doesn't fit. This feeling becomes stronger when I glance around at many of my contemporaries: long-term relationships, marriage, children, houses and mortgages dominate their landscapes. 

Society tells us that as we get older we're supposed to possess a greater understanding of who we are. We're supposed to know what it is we want and where we want to be, we're supposed to be confident and assured and articulate. We're supposed to be all these things we associate with adulthood. We're not supposed to be brimming with self-doubt, we're not supposed to be unsure of our place in the world, we're not supposed to be still figuring stuff out as we look down the barrel of thirty. But you know what, some of us are. 

I am. And I think it's why I love Rookie so much. 

Ostensibly aimed at teenage girls, there is something about the ethos of the site and the associated yearbook that feels like a welcoming embrace, despite the fact that I fall so far outside the intended audience. 

It's a space where it's ok to be unsure, to have doubts, to have questions. 

Perhaps a lot of that comes down to its founder, Tavi Gevinson, who while surely the most articulate and considered teenager you've ever encountered is still just that: a teenager. And with that teenage-hood comes the wrestling of the self as you attempt to find a place for yourself in a world that sometimes doesn't want to let you in. 

Much is made of the desire to describe something as serious writing, to place it above all other work, to point to it as the peak of the human consciousness poured out onto the page - or a website, it is 2015 after all. Generally we, to our own detriment, posit the work of adults, particularly white cis male ones, as this beacon, this peak, we must all aim for. But in doing so, we miss brilliance and vigour and enthusiastic interpretations of the world, we miss places like Rookie. 

We miss pieces like this one 'How To Deal When You're Caught Masturbating' and this on making friends, pertinent given my impending move. And we miss all of these videos, touching, heartfelt and brimming with actual real world advice, Ask A Grown Woman/Man is Rookie gold. And Tavi's monthly editors letters, a curious mix of personal and cultural that often just say shit that is kind of perfect, take this tidbit from this months letter

'I am wary of coming off as obnoxious or opinionated or in possession of any personality whatsoever. I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable or suffocated or imposed upon. But a full realization of this goal looks like: a chunk of air in a human-shaped outline formed by dust particles. It feels like: sinking into a La-Z-Boy that is not even that comfortable, then slowly folding into its brown flannel buttcrack and dispensing the occasional self-deprecating joke until I have vanished completely.'

The thing is, this writing is serious, in the way that serious means different things to different people. I think talking about sex and masturbation, particularly to young girls, is serious and something that doesn't happen enough. I think adults contemplating friendship, like teenagers do, is serious and something that doesn't happen often enough. I think young women too often become that chunk of air, too often sink into that La-Z-Boy, and we don't take that seriously enough. But serious doesn't have to mean staid, serious doesn't have to mean devoid of humour, serious doesn't have to mean without feeling and emotion. 

As I approach thirty, I don't see my appreciation for Rookie waning. Perhaps, if anything, as I'm about to throw myself headlong into some serious life upheaval, a safe and warm and reassuring space will be what I'll need more than ever. 

kb xx

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

one day, one sentence

Sleep in.

Wake up, finally. Curse yourself for sleeping in. Get up, have a shower and get dressed.

Make breakfast. Make a mug of tea. Eat and drink.

Sit outside to enjoy morning sunshine, ensuring daily does of vitamin D.

Sit down at desk.

Get up to make another cup of tea.

Sit back down at desk.

Check email.

Check Twitter.

And Facebook.

And Instagram.

Fine yourself typing youtube into browser. Watch episode of Grand Designs.

Open current project. Fiddle with pens. Realise desk is atrocious. Spend half an hour cleaning and tidying.

Open project. Decide you need tea, go make a cup of tea.

Check email.

Stare out the window for five minutes.

Google tips to counter procrastination. Read article on procrastination.

Wander down the rabbit hole of the internet. Lose an hour.

Watch another episode of Grand Designs.

Make lunch. And a fresh mug of tea. Eat. And drink.

Check Twitter.

And Facebook.

And Instagram.

Check email.

Open current project. Make some notes, write three sentences. Delete two.

Stare out the window.

Wonder if you can get those travel bags you want on eBay. Go to eBay.

Open project. Close project.

Sit at desk pondering direction of life.

Decide you need exercise: healthy body, healthy mind. Go for a walk.

Get home. Have a shower.

Check Twitter.

Check email.

Make a fresh mug of tea.

Sit at desk. Open project. Write one sentence. Delete it.

Stare into mug, watch the tea leaves floating at the bottom.

Google reading tea leaves. Discover it's called Tasseography. Wonder if you could write something about that.

Check Twitter.

Check email.

Look at open project. Feel guilty.

Close project.

Make dinner. And a fresh mug of tea. Eat. And drink.

Watch an episode of Grand Designs. Wonder if you could write something about that.

Read three short stories.

Check Twitter.

Check email.

Scroll through Instagram. Lose one hour of your life.


Total written for the day: One sentence. (And this, I guess)

kb xx

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

the pursuit of perfection

Two years ago I bought the most delicious fabric. A shiny burgundy with a gold and white paisley design swirling across it. Delicious. My plans for it involved a simple bomber jacket, something easy and casual wrought in the most detailed and intricate fabric I could find - it felt like the perfect reflection of my sartorial leanings. Last weekend I finally cut that fabric. I pinned the deftly trimmed pattern to it and carefully snipped out the pieces for the jacket it had always been intended for. As I cut, first the pattern pieces and then the fabric, it occurred to me how similar my sewing is to my writing. 

In a conversation with a writer friend recently we mused on the pursuit of perfection, the fear that filled us both that our words could not fall perfectly from our pens. And how this fear stopped us from writing. We were filled with ideas, with ways we wanted to tell our stories and yet this pursuit of some idealised version of perfection acted like a obstacle we lacked the skills to pass. If it cannot be perfect, it cannot be written. Madness, folly; and yet, surely we are not alone?

Sewing, like writing, is an art. The only difference is that the pieces that must come together, the ones that must be joined by careful stitch after careful stitch, are clearly identified. Unlike writing, sewing provides instructions, pictures, clearly outlined courses of action; pin this to here, stitch that to this, trim here and press that. But, still, this pursuit of perfection permeates my sewing, too.

My sewing, like my writing, is constantly second guessed. I question my own skills, my ability to sew through a problem, to fix a mistake, my comprehension of a pattern and its instructions. I wonder every time I reach for my pins and my scissors and my sewing machine if it is all a pointless exercise in nothingness; if the time spent head bent over a machine, pins held in my mouth with pursed lips, eyes focussed intently on the task at hand, is time wasted because surely I will never be able to create anything like the picture in my head. Surely I will never be able to create something perfect. 

And yet, I still sew. I still write (as evidenced by this space). Aristotle said that taking pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. So perhaps the point is to want to sew, to want to write, more than that to thoroughly enjoy the process. To take pleasure in a nicely stitched and pressed seam or a handful of words that smoothly push against one another.

Perhaps the how in overcoming the fear is simply doing. With every stitch, with every word, with every project that nears its end, we realise that the mistakes we so desperately do not want to make, are only visible to ourselves. And not just that, but that it is these very mistakes that makes our work uniquely ours.

Perhaps it's both? 

I've decided that the jacket I imagined two years ago in that delicious burgundy paisley fabric must come overseas with me. I've decided that despite my doubts, despite the hopeless pursuit of perfection, this jacket will get on the plane with me in April. I'm sure there will be mistakes, stitches in the wrong place, problems masked with the adeptness of a sewer accustomed to doing so; but, like the sentences I write, they will be noticeable only to me and they will be exactly what makes it unique to me.

kb xx

Thursday, January 08, 2015

89 days

3.17 months
12.71 weeks
89 days

The closer I get to leaving, the further I feel from ready. What is that about? The abstract is most certainly a landscape now. The details become clearer every day, the reality more potent.

I wondered about cold feet. And turned to the internet. And Italian proverb? American writer Stephen Crane's 1896 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets? Change is daunting, not least because routine is comforting, but it's also really ridiculously exciting, too. Well, at least when it's planned. 

2136 hours
128,160 minutes
Too many seconds

Time seems like such an arbitrary measurement sometimes. Because it feels so strange sometimes, it doesn't make sense: too quick, too slow, too much, not enough. 

There is so much I have to do before I go. And yet I want to really enjoy these last few weeks. I want to soak up the warm Australian sun as summer rolls on. I want to imprint the sound of the cockies as they settle in for the night in the pine trees the border the boundary of my backyard. I want to lay in my bed and watch the sky change colour as the sun rises. I want to create new memories with the people that matter, ones that will stick. 

And yet it's not like I'm going away forever; like I'm catching that one-way flight to Mars and will never return. It's a strange contradiction of thought and feelings that are running through my mind. 

89 days. It's nothing and everything. 

kb xx