I’m sitting here in my bedroom in a small town in England, with three (now two) hours left of the year that was 2017. My computer is still set to Australian time, a stubborn attempt to cling to notion that I’m simply on an extended holiday, my out-of-office message waiting to be reset. I don’t even know why I still write on this blog – it has long ceased to serve its original purpose, but I suppose this clinging thing extends further than I’d like to admit.
A year ago I’d never heard of the place I now live in, never pictured living my life in a brick veneer house in a cul de sac with a concrete-paved backyard and gas heating in every room. But here I am, in a place I call home, for now.
Where is home? Is there such a place? Should we even aspire to construct a home in this temporal world (it’s all temporal, I tell myself through gritted teeth), or is that an illusory and ultimately fruitless pursuit? I never called myself Australian until I left the country; the words didn’t sit comfortably on my tongue. But Australia is the custodian of all my memories, even if an unwilling one. It’s where I was born, where my sister who was born alongside me died and is buried. It’s where I went to school and where I first had my heart broken and got my first paycheck and where my favourite noodles are. It’s where I married my husband and where my friends are and where I still dream I am, in the house I lived in with my family for over two decades, a house in which none of us live anymore.
This year was not one of my finest. I stagnated, fell into old habits and created new ones far worse than those I had discarded. I travelled constantly and stayed in nice hotels and ate lots of good things. I posted pretentious things on social media. I cringed at the ease with which I spent money and crossed borders while so many are caged behind high walls and guarded fences. My friends got married, got pregnant, got mortgages; I pretended to be a real adult like them, but really, I just wanted to stay at home in my pyjamas and stalk friends of friends of friends (of friends of friends) on Instagram. I baked brownies and tried my hardest to be a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend, good at keeping my toiletries in a clear plastic bag and my carry-on baggage under seven kilograms.
These things are so elusive, adulthood, home, goodness. I know with certainty that I am getting older with the passing of each year, but I am far less certain that I am getting any better or any wiser. In some ways I know far less than I did at seventeen; there is a cruel clarity to the melodrama of those years. I think of a line from one of my favourite books, The Gathering by Anne Enright:
‘I look at my own children and I think you know everything at eight. But maybe I am wrong. You know everything at eight, but it is hidden from you, sealed up, in a way you have to cut yourself open to find.’
So maybe, just maybe, this is what we’re doing, year by year. Cutting through the layers we’ve constructed to arrive at something resembling self-awareness. Getting closer to being the person I could be, if I could just stop aimlessly clicking on Facebook posts from 2012. Cutting through the multitude of lies we tell ourselves, tell others. I’m happy. I’m over you. I’m having so much fun, that’s why I’m on my phone posting about how much fun I’m having, filters and all. I care so very much about Syrian refugees. I know how to use the word dialectic without looking it up. This is the life I’d imagined for myself – really, it is.
The truth of it all is known only to the One closer to us than our jugular vein. All there is for us to do is to keep cutting through the layers, painful and frightening and awful as it may be. Here’s to creating temporary, beautiful homes. Here’s to trying to be good. Here’s to another year of cutting through, of fumbling and flying and falling, with only love to break the fall.
Over to you now, whoever (if anyone) is reading. What was your year like? What are you hoping for and what do you love?