where do we go from here?


I'm back! I took a few weeks off to finish my academic year, and then another week off work to go on a caravan holiday with my family. The holiday turned out to be approximately 50% shit, but that's a whole other story.

When I go on holiday, I often have these grand ideas about what I'll do when I get back. Something about the distance, about removing myself from the four walls in which I spend most of my waking hours, makes me feel differently about it. In the moment, I feel like I can see myself with more clarity. Unfortunately, that means I can see all the flaws clearly, too. So I decide that when I get home, I'll become a changed woman, like I do when I'm sick and I swear I'm going to actually look after my body properly. I make lists. I plan ahead. When I get home I'm going to get more organised. And more confident. And more wealthy. Easy! Piss easy, in fact. What am I always worrying about?

And then I get home, and I realise that it's way easier to see clearly when you're not in the thick of it.

During a lecture in my most recent literature module, we learned about marginalia. Marginalia are the doodles you find in the margins of books. You see them in ancient manuscripts. Sometimes, they're just decorative. Other times, they are a glimpse into the mindset of people I can only presume lost their minds due to a lack of entertainment. Either that, or medieval people were just a bit naughty. Who doesn't like to catch a glimpse of a pooping king while they're trying to read? Or a nun harvesting a phallus from a tree? Or a man sticking a finger up his arse for some reason? It's fun. It's like a terrible surprise on every page.

I mean, sure. Why not.

If you've played the 2023 game Inkulinati, you'll also know what I'm talking about. (I have yet to play this, but it's on my list; as far as I'm aware there are no phallus nuns or bum-fingering men in this game, but if I find any, I'll report back.)

During this lecture, I also learned the proper name for the little finger you see sometimes. Like the one in the Monty Python films. Theologians used them back in the day to highlight important passages they felt people should focus on. Manicules, they're called. I didn't know this.

And I thought, during that lecture: this is what I need. Only for my actual life.

Trying to discern what's ahead of you, in life, is a fool's errand. At least to a certain extent. Anything can happen at any time. I know too many people who are ill (including me) to think otherwise. It doesn't matter how meticulous your plans are; life can knock you right off your feet without warning.

Having said that, it's nice to have at least a vague idea of where you're going. And it's suddenly dawned on me at the age of 35 that I actually don't know. I've only ever really wanted to do one thing. I've only ever wanted to be a writer. Now I, like thousands of others, find myself wondering if there's any future in it. And it's not as though I can confidently pivot to anything else, because layoffs are everywhere.

I knew I wanted to be a writer by this point. Also yes, I did spend an entire summer with the word CATS emblazoned across my chest and forehead, thank you.

I draw some comfort from the fact that it's not just me. It's a collective uncertainty. There are so many of us wondering 'now what?'. It doesn't make it easier, I suppose, just a bit less lonely. I don't know what to do. I don't know if I want to just make content forever. The idea that everything from art to music to films should be swept under the umbrella of 'content' makes me feel a bit sick, but that's a thought I'm trying to keep firmly locked up in a filing cabinet somewhere in my mind for sanity purposes.

So where do I go? It's like trying to build a house on a foundation of donut blocks. (That means it's pointless, in case you're reading this and you're not an unrepentant nerd.)

I suppose I didn't think I would be wondering what I want from my own career at this stage of my life. For some reason, when I was younger, I thought that by the time I hit my mid-thirties I'd be pretty settled in life. I didn't think I'd be uprooting my entire belief system. Or leaving behind a community of people I loved. Or not knowing what kind of job I want to do. I thought I'd just be, you know, sorted.

The older I get, the more I realise I need to build a life that works for me, too. I was a stay-at-home mum for five years, and then worked from home since then: everything in my life revolves around the kids, and will continue to do so. But I do need to have stuff to look forward to. Meaningful work to get stuck into. A life that means something outside of them. They will grow up and leave me behind, and that is the way it should be. I don't want them to ever feel guilty for growing up; that's not their baggage, it's mine. This means I have to have stuff in my life that is important outside of them. It's my responsibility to put these things in place, to make time for my friends, to pursue hobbies even though I'm tired, to find a job that means something to me.

I've been thinking this for a while, but the downside of working from home is that it's really tough to make new friends. Or even just to have grown-up conversations. This is something I keep thinking about. Working from home has so many advantages for family life, but there are drawbacks. Figuring out what I want to do next is going to involve balancing everyone's needs.

Anyway. What I could do with is a manicule. I need a little finger pointing me in the right direction. Back when I went to church, I had this idea that there was one ideal path, a golden shining thread among many others, and that thread was the one I had to follow, that was the one that would give me the most satisfaction in life, and if I prayed hard enough God would keep me on track and stop me from stepping onto a different, suboptimal path instead. I don't believe that anymore. My choices are my own. It's both freeing and terrifying.

It turns out that life is actually just a long series of of new beginnings, or small revelations and losses and opportunities and stupid, scary changes. All the time. Again and again.

The thing is, I'll always write. It's very boring and I know people say this all the time, but I can't not write. Even when I'm on holiday, part of me is thinking about writing. Whether or not it's still my job in a year's time won't change that. I'll still be here, banging on about games I love and books I think everyone should read.

But the next few years are going to the ultimate test of our collective zen. How do we fight for human-made art while also adapting where we need to? I don't know. I guess it'll be interesting to find out.

I am, however, feeling a modicum more positive than I was pre-holiday. So maybe it was worth it, despite the shit bits.

Thanks for indulging me. Sometimes when something's going on in my life, I feel like I can't move on without talking about it. Now that we've got my general anxiety about the future done, we can move on. But please talk to me if you're in a similar boat: I know a lot of us are facing either loss of income or redundancies for all sorts of reasons, and it's not an easy thing to deal with.

I've got some books I really want to talk about, I've got a Lorelei and the Laser Eyes review coming up, and I've got some Discourse I want to wade into. Everybody loves a bit of Discourse! So stay tuned for that. <3