Why I am Writing (unlike Sartre)

It is currently half term, halfway through the academic year. This is significant because I am spending my precious teaching-free days painting my flat, separating piles of bills into ‘file’ or ‘shred’ categories and most definitely not marking all the KS3 assessments that sit in my work backpack, untouched (probably until next Sunday afternoon, when I’ll tackle them with three mugs of violently strong coffee and a feral look in my eye).

Today I revived my dying, redundant Kindle and downloaded Dolly Alderton’s book (‘Everything I Know About Love’) and inhaled the whole thing in one glorious sitting, like a ravishing meal. It is difficult to put the effect it had on me into words without using ‘profound’ or ‘relatable’ (thesaurus.com suggests sagacious and gnostic, but I draw the line there). I used to be quite sniffy about life-writing or the idea of personal essays, but if everyone wrote like Dolly, I would sniff no more.

For one, I’ve started writing – after a whole lot of fiddling with theme settings, I’m rather pleased with the look of this (give me a serif italic font any day!) and am hoping that whilst my physical home is getting a brush-up, my – brace yourself – ‘intellectual home’ might be properly manifested. Vomit. And yet, I don’t really want to apologise. Besides, writing like this, memoir- or diary-style, is respected and self-reflective. I’ve written in other forms publicly before (more on that later), but this format and genre is certainly a first.

Alderton spends some time in her book detailing her experience with therapy in her late twenties. I can’t afford therapy, and besides, I seem to be coping okay with cheaper, dialogic means. Still, I’d jump at the chance to have my mind poked and prodded for answers in my past if it would help to explain any of my masochistic tendencies. Briefly, a list of symptoms:

  • leaving everything until the last minute (common, I know, but defensibly masochistic)
  • choosing the teaching profession
  • falling in love with my best friend (since ended, and source of eternal embarrassment, but must be listed)
  • consistently eating sour sweets despite nagging tooth erosion
  • consistently ordering takeaways despite nagging bank balance and Cleo app (I KNOW my account has dropped below £100!!)
  • pining after someone I’ve known for barely three weeks who just might be the best person I have ever met with a Y chromosome, but is ostensibly absent in emergency circumstances
Soundtrack to masochism!

(The latter is a pain point right now. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to bump into someone in public quite this badly. To make matters worse, I started listening to Cut Worms lately and made the mistake of watching a music video. The artist is a doppelganger for the current object of my affections in a) appearance and b) mannerisms.)

The point is – finally, inevitably – as a young person living in the capital, grappling with creativity, relationships and a fucking difficult job, I want to acknowledge both the challenges and the joys to be found in these circumstances. On the bad days, when you’re broke, cold, being ignored by children you’re meant to be educating, with bloodshot eyes and behind on every task imaginable – you’re not alone. I want to be honest about those times, whilst trying to verbalise big and small euphoric moments, in a tiny gig venue, kinder classrooms, in a cinema, eating alone or with your favourite people in the world, or just thinking and feeling excellent with little or no explanation.

This experience is overwhelming, impossible to summarise or encapsulate or fully digest, but by god, I’m going to try to make it tangible.

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