Long time, no see.
A lot has changed, perhaps most conspicuously Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction (and if my rather belligerent response to ‘Steal My Girl’ had anything to do with that decision, I apologise). It’s long since been time to update the site with regard to these changes. Although it’s only been a year, I feel as if the passage of one single, solitary year somehow shouldn’t quite have made me feel so much older. I left England somewhat nervous for what was coming, which consisted of 10 weeks volunteering in Central America, a month of solo travelling afterwards, and several months working in Yellowstone National Park. Yet despite these nerves, I felt calmed, steadied- perhaps grounded- in the knowledge that if it all went terribly, there was university waiting for me in September, which would begin three years of reading books, writing about books, and talking about books with some of the best minds on Earth. Which, for the understandable sake of clarification, I thought sounded fantastic. I certainly didn’t leave with an expectation of bad experiences, but I’d concede that I left with an expectation that these experiences, whatever they turned out to be, would be over in September.
And damn it, it’s November and they’re still not over.
Three hundred and sixty four days ago, I was fawning over the nihilistic anti-morality master that is Joseph Conrad and thinking I finally had people figured out. Now I find myself viewing people completely differently. People are amazing creatures. They are capable of doing incredible good, as I was lucky enough to see over the last few months, and incredible harm, as we all see everyday on the news. These latest attacks in Paris, Kenya, Beruit and Baghdad knocked the wind out of me. There will come a time, most likely very shortly, when we all come to blows about what should be done and what should have been done. And I am ultimately a teenage literature student. I cannot answer those questions. But that time has not yet arrived. All I am actually capable of at this moment is feeling. I feel sad. Hundreds of people lost their lives, hundreds of families were irrevocably changed, and all of it senseless, all of it horrifying. All I can do is gape at the tragic paradoxes of the human condition. I suppose even I fall victim to these paradoxes- surely I should be running back to my Conrad, seeking the warm solace of meaninglessness? But to do so, I believe, would be an insult to my memories of the last year. That assurance of the eventual arrival of university actually became a destabilising, rather than a grounding, influence. As the year progressed, I found myself telling people from all over the world, “I’m not actually like this”, which was probably short for “We really shouldn’t be friends; I spent most of the past year locked in a room with little human contact reading books. I write essays for fun.” After a while I just gave up saying it. It had begun to sound a little like self-denial. I’ve now realised that it was. I will always love the written word. I doubt that this love will ever truly waver. I still see myself working with the written word one day. But I’ve found that a voracious appetite for the new, for the unknown, for the different, seems to have partnered this love. In many ways I see it almost as a physical manifestation of the reasons why I love the written word. The new, the unknown, and the different are all central facets of the reading experience- it seems that it’s just taken ten years for me to start applying the reading experience to how I live my own life. The way this affects me in reality is probably sufficiently cliched and predictable- confronting my fear of mountain climbing, applying for summer jobs in Alaska, et cetera. So, anybody feeling disillusioned or bored with whatever they’re doing, this teenage literature student has a smidge of advice. You have every right to be disillusioned. And well done on spotting it now! Best way to reverse the process is to say yes to the silliest thing you can think of, be spontaneous, take risks, and be kind.
So, readers (if you exist), prepare for a slightly rejigged blog. I wrote every single day during my time volunteering, so expect the full account in the near future. I’ve got lots of bits and pieces I’ve been waiting to share with you all as well. And there’s also (ironically enough, given my digs at him just now) a huge Conrad essay that basically deifies him, which trundles ever onwards.
It’s good to be back.
“Warts and all. Let’s start this shit up”
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