The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)

photo: elle ds photography

Decadent December has dawned. So much I haven’t blogged about. What the hell happened to 2017?

My year was dedicated to up skilling and finding employment. That old chestnut. When  most of your adult working life has been arts projects and casual/part-time employment in the arts, education and disability sectors, the future can look grim. So I completed a Certificate 3 in Individual Support (Disability and Ageing) and got some work with Tutti Arts, a terrific company making arts accessible to people living with disabilities. I worked a cross a range of programs – visual art, performance and writing poetry.

Poetry has been where it’s at this year. It feels like going back to my roots. I remember writing poems as a kid, feeling pride at having set something down that told a story or explored an idea. I wrote a poem about Ned Kelly, about digging, and at fifteen one that asked questions about identity (though at the time I didn’t know that was its theme). I was a British child migrant and, as a teenager, poetry helped me ask questions like: where is home? I didn’t know I was thinking about this stuff, until I began writing.

It took me a while to recognise that home is not always country. It can be future or a feeling. It’s also taken time to discover that working with people, with community, feels like home. Working at Tutti Arts means that my working life is an intrinsic part of my arts practice, not separate from it. The same goes for the work I’ve been doing at Mockingbird Lounge, the ongoing casual classes and annual short story course I teach. Most of the people are women, young, middle-aged, mature.  Often they haven’t had the time, money, confidence or support (et al) to make writing a priority in their lives. It’s a wonderful thing to sit with them in the book-lined rooms at Mockingbird Lounge in Glenelg South and make stories happen.  A graduate of the short story course began with the belief that writing for her was impossible, and yet this is where she arrived at: ‘Thanks for getting me writing. I actually wrote a short story – I can’t believe it!’

This year I did more one-on-one tutoring too, with a young blind man who is keen on writing horror stories. It meant re-evaluating how I teach, making resources accessible for a person with visual impairment. And not for the first time, I appreciated the fluid exchange between teacher and student. It’s not a one-way street.

For most of the year I have been contemplating 49. Turning 50 is quite different to turning 40. My life is most likely more than half way over. This shit just got real. It matters. Also not. There’s a sense of urgency. And of letting go. There’s less to prove, which is handy because  there are less days in which to prove it. Whatever ‘it’ is. I am trying to hold these contradictions within me. Live with them. Examine them.  Play them out. What else is there to do?

Poetry. Performing poetry. It combines things I love. Writing, performance, musicality, rhythm, and audience. Communication and connection. I entered four poetry slams this year, made it to all four finals and won one (Draw Your Swords). A part of that prize was making a poetic short (video) of the winning poem. It’s being made and will be ready for viewing in 2018. I was invited to be a guest poet at the launch of a fashion label, FromFound. These women are doing fabulous things to build community and business.

The novel (work in progress) took a back seat. I opened the manuscript in June. Closed it in July. Opened it again in November. Closed it. Now I’m sifting through journals, writing up all the notes I’ve made through the year. Will probably forget them all when I start writing the next draft this month. Or next month. All the to-ing and fro-ing is part of my process. I used to get torn up about this stuff but now I know what I’m doing is circling, thinking, digesting. And that’s okay. Building courage is part of process.

Holidays are important too. I’m going to Tasmania in January. First time ever. A grown up holiday with the fella. You can read about him in a new poem at Bluepepper Poetry. There’s another (not about him) in fourW twenty-eight. Forthcoming in E*Ratio in January is a series of 9 found poems. Not quite poetry, I also had a monologue from my play ‘Prayer to An Iron God, included in Contemporary Australian Monologues for Women published by Currency Press.

2017 saw me guided by three words instead of the usual one. They were: Leap, Learn, Love. They weren’t rules. I started with them. Forgot them. Came back to them. Words and actions to live by, to write about.  Choosing action words are important.

Continuing with threes and action, my words for 2018 are Courage, Crusade, Conquer. They might change, but they feel good today. I can see how they fit. At 49, the future’s not what I thought it would be. I’m better now than I was at 18, the year this song was released. At 49, the future is home, and home is brighter than its ever been.
photo: pamela boutros