A Writing Life
I was driving home from work today, listening to the radio as I usually do on the way home. It’s at least an hour’s commute, made worse by repeated roadworks all the way through Swansea and out the other side, and the radio helps me to pass the time. I don’t listen to the radio on the way in, first thing in the morning; my brain craves peace, quiet and thinking time. And indeed, I get some of my best thinking done during my two hours in the car each day.
Today, I was listening to the non-stop oldies, and the person who had chosen them was a burglar alarm mechanic. That phrase set off a chain of loosely-connected thoughts that shifted rapidly through my magpie brain, connecting a relative of an ex-partner, an image of a random engineer, and thoughts about my working life. My commute to work is often characterised by moments of mindfulness, sudden awareness of the beauty of the mountains, the graded greens and greyish browns of the trees and serrated brush and scrub, the clouds and patches of blue sky, the reservoir’s reflective surface. As I drove home, I thought of my own job, and how lucky I am to do something that I love. I always wonder what it’s like to have a job that involves the same thing day in day out, and whether other people reconcile themselves to their work in other ways than reminding themselves that it makes a difference. Do people really enjoy fixing alarms or cars or cleaning houses, working in supermarkets?
I’ve hated a lot of the jobs I have had along the way, and spent hours praying for my worktime to pass more quickly, realising later that this equates to wishing my life away. Now I relish my time in work because I have plenty of opportunities to keep broadening my mind, testing my skills and learning new things. And the best part of it is that I constantly meet new people and learn from them. Still I can’t help wondering, what if? If I wasn’t doing this, what would I be doing? Would I hate my daily grind?
In the last 24 years, I have been a cook, chef, administrative assistant, barmaid, waitress, nurse, midwife, FE lecturer, and HE lecturer. I have become a published academic, and have realised a lifelong ambition of becoming a published novelist. I see quotes and memes on Facebook and Twitter that give inspiration and guidance to people, and sometimes they seem trite – yet at times it seems to me that they were written for me. Writing quotes say work hard, keep trying, accept rejection, and I think yes, that’s right, it’s worth it in the end. And then at the end of a long, hard day of admin – writing learning calendars, planning timetables, writing module handbooks, answering emails, completing evaluations and reports, marketing a new programme – I sit in front of my writing and the voice is still there, the narrative voice that wants me to write, write and write, and I think yes, this is the life I wanted to live.
It seems as if I spent too many years thinking ‘one day.’ One day I’ll finish my course (whichever one I was doing), one day I’ll have a PhD, one day I’ll be a senior lecturer, one day I’ll get published. One day I will find the relationship that really works, one day I’ll have good friends. One day my father will treat me like an adult and finally be proud of me. So many of these are empty promises to myself, the vain and fruitless yearnings of a younger self who still longed for false ideals. It has taken me to the age of 43 to realise that this is it.
This is the life I wanted to live, and now I’m living it, it’s time to slow down and enjoy it. This is the person I wanted to be. I’m not perfect, not even close, but I’m getting better each day. My writing grows with me as I work honestly and hard at it, and the sense of satisfaction at the end of a day’s work is equated to the amount of effort I put in that day. Living with my partner is an ongoing lesson in how to compromise (and how not to), but I’ve never been happier. I’ve come to realise that life is not about waiting for good things to happen, it’s about every day being a good day, somehow. I started this blog with an ideal – to focus on my identity as a writer, and here I am as a published novelist at last, blogging about something much bigger than myself. My book has taken flight, and every time someone tells me they enjoyed it, I feel validated as a writer. I don’t feel arrogant – far from it, as I tend to focus on whether I can possibly keep up the same standard for my next novel, but it feels good to have others reading my words and being moved by Amanda’s story.
So, this is it. This is life. This is me being a grown-up. I get up in the wee small hours, kiss my wife goodbye, and go to work. I prepare lessons, teach, set and mark assignments, and do research. I meet colleagues, do audits, visit placements, attend exam boards. I read others’ research. I come home, cook dinner for my family, do housework, share a cuppa with my wife, and watch tv. I chat to my son. In every spare moment, I write or read. I listen to music, feed my cats, think about dinner, watch a film. And I write some more. I think about things intensely – from how to do my job better to how to be better mother.
This is me, now. Living the life I was waiting for. This is my writing life.
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