We went for our favourite walk this morning, the dog and me, across campus and through the woods past the nature reserve. There were students everywhere, about to start university, carrying boxes of things, odds and ends of furniture, lamps, laptops, to their new homes. They were young and happy and beautiful; wide open and ready for the future.
I realised that it is exactly 17 years since my parents dropped me off here (the pic of the street with the red houses, at the top of this page, is where my halls of residence was). I was eighteen. Angry, and strange and brilliant. I was not a happy person. I did not like much about myself, other than that I knew I could scare people away, if they wanted to hurt me.
My parents dropped me off, and almost immediately my world cleaved open, and there were two chunks of it, broken in half – home and the future.
For probably the first time, I met people who I liked, who genuinely liked me in return, and who accepted me in all my strangeness and rage. People who just wanted to be in my company because they thought I was great. Good things started to happen, but I couldn’t hold onto them. I was scared to let go of the home chunk of my life. I clung desperately to it, even though it was painful and humiliating and made me insane.
For all these years, everything good that happened to me felt temporary and frightening, and I believed it would be taken away, because the message I had absorbed as truth was that I was strange and terrible; that bad things would happen to me because I was a bad person.
For so many years, I could not hold onto a vision of myself as anything not bad. And all the time, I tried so hard to put the two halves of my life back together, even though they didn’t fit properly anymore, and could not work, and maybe there were more than two halves now, and I couldn’t find the splintered off bits. I kept looking back, even though the future was waiting for me and sometimes there were glimpses of how amazing it might be.
Anyway, this morning I’m about to start my fifth year as a lecturer back where I enrolled as an undergraduate all those years ago. The past year or so has been a process of letting go, of listening to my strangeness. Of trying to hold onto the people who like me, rather than ones who make me feel bad.
Last year, when I got hit by a car on a street in New York, and smashed the windscreen with my face, and walked away with a limp and few scratches, it felt as if everything blew away and the good things flooded in. I felt strong and whole and unbreakable, which I am.
I stood there in the woods this morning, looking at the blue sky, thinking about the passing of time and who I am now; the grown up version of that strange angry brilliant girl.
It’s been a long a summer of travelling and working and drinking and writing and meeting all these inspiring, beautiful people and allowing myself to be moved by them; letting people in instead of scaring them away. And over the past year I’ve been so touched by the artists who’ve allowed me to write about their work, who’ve asked me to collaborate with them, who’ve given me feedback and supported me with my own work and life. And all these people who love me. All this creativity and beauty everywhere.
Sometimes the goodness still seems so fragile and temporary and not like the thing I have made of my life.
But as we walked this morning there were white feathers all around, everywhere, I kept seeing them, like a message from the universe telling me: you are in the right place, keep going. And the sky was so blue, and the leaves were falling off the trees and in the wind I could hear the last line of the Kim Addonizio poem that my friend David sent me on Valentine’s Day: ‘listen I love you joy is coming.’