Revelations from a shit year

Little moments of illumination from the darkness of 2013

The music and the noise

I’ve got music back. I can’t believe I ever let it slip out of my life. But I did, I lost it for years.

How did I lose it in the first place? That is a tricky one, but ultimately I cared too much about what other people thought. It started with not feeling entitled to like certain bands or kinds of music, despite being drawn to them, because I wasn’t as ‘dedicated’ or as fucked up as some of the other people who were into the same stuff. Then at some point in my early twenties, a certain kind of connoisseurship started to creep into the way people talked about music. You had to have such and such an album, you couldn’t possibly claim to like so and so if you’d never heard their more obscure influences. And you definitely could not own, let alone listen to, the dreaded ‘popular’ stuff. Heard it on the radio? Throw it in the bin. Way too commercial.

Moving in with a music nerd did not help. He never set out to make me feel uncomfortable, but I did. He had the ‘right’ CD collection, which was about four times as large as mine. He was the one people talked to music about. He was the one who got to choose the tunes when people were over. I just gave up, bowed to what I presumed was his superior knowledge and taste. I even stopped playing guitar. Which breaks my heart to think about now, because none of this really came explicitly from him. It was just there, this sense that he was entitled to music and I wasn’t.

It got the point where I wouldn’t put music on even when I was asked to. One evening really sticks in my head. I worked up the courage – seriously, courage – to put an album on, only to have him and a friend ask ‘what is this shit?’ This wasn’t a typical response from him, but that pretty much put me off playing tunes for people for years. (It was Ladyhawke, in case you’re interested – I’m not ashamed anymore!)

All of this also coincided with the rise of iTunes and mp3s and Spotify and the decimation of record stores. I’ve always been a browser, be it in shops or through a collection, choosing things on whims rather than knowing precisely what I want to buy or listen to. Two things happened with the emergence of iTunes et al. First, I felt deeply disconnected and disadvantaged when it came to finding and choosing music. Having it all organised for me in a library or online store left me – and still leaves me – at a loss. I need the randomness of the physical, the visual and sensual information to help me make choices. Shuffle does nothing for me either. I cannot explain it, but there’s something clinical, hygienic, cold, about having music neatly arranged on computer that leaves me feeling disempowered. At the same time, people were mocking those of us who were paying for music through official channels rather than digging it out of online crevices. I felt simultaneously overwhelmed, disempowered and like I was being conned.

Then my iTunes flipped out and deleted my entire library – purchased tunes and my entire CD collection which I’d diligently uploaded. All gone. For no apparent reason. Nowhere to be found.

I gave up. By this point, it was such a struggle to get to music that I’d forgotten why I liked it in the first place. I even stopped listening to my CDs. It either felt like music was a money-making scheme or something that I was not capable of appreciating because I had neither the knowledge nor taste to equip me for it.

I played classical piano for 8 years. I taught myself guitar. I’d been avidly into all kinds of music since I was eleven. And by twenty-eight, I felt like I wasn’t entitled to even listen to music. How did it get to this? Because I stopped listening to the music and instead listened to all the chatter about it. The harder it became for me to access my music, the louder the chatter got. Until I only heard the chatter and nothing else.

But when my world turned upside down, when I realised the damage I’d done to my entire life by listening to the chatter of others rather than to my own instincts, music was there to catch me.

In the darkest weeks after my eleven year relationship ended, I kept the lights and radio on when I went to bed. I couldn’t face the dark or the silence, not least because sleep was pretty elusive. One morning, I woke up 4am, already sobbing, just as ‘Pacifier’ by Catfish and the Bottlemen came on. And it caught me. ‘You know I try to fail, but you just don’t know how it feels to lose something you never had and never will.’ It caught me when I was falling into another pit. Because someone else knew what that pit looked like.

I got my ears back after that. Suddenly I could hear what I was experiencing in lyrics and tunes everywhere. I wasn’t listening to it theoretically anymore. I got it. I wasn’t worrying about taste or expertise or the latest release. I got it. And suddenly I remembered why I loved music before opinions and technology got in the way. Or more accurately, I remembered how to love music.

It feels like finding a forgotten piece of myself.

Fuck the chatter. And fuck the constantly updating, buggy technology that interferes with me getting to my collection. The grin on my face as I dance alone like a lunatic with my headphones on. The goosebumps I get when my writing and the music I’m listening to come together. The peace that comes after improvising on guitar or piano. That’s what it’s about. Everything else is just noise.

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The Knot

I suppose this is a reformulation of my previous post, but I’ve been digging around inside my struggle and think I’ve turned up ways of giving shape to what I’m pushing against.

In the simplest terms, it’s nothing revolutionary. It’s that hackneyed trope of mental health versus creative impulse, in that the two don’t always sit comfortably together. That in itself is nothing new to anyone, and not new to me personally – I started writing poetry at one of life’s low points, and watched my ideas dry up as my world got sunnier again. Which also says something about the kind of work I was producing: stream-of-conscious, self-involved, very profound for me but maybe not so much fun for others to read. And there’s an element of that to this blog as well; my mission was – is – to get myself writing and to write my way into a new place. If other people find what I say interesting or useful, that’s encouraging and starting to show me where I’m doing things right – so thank you! But really, it’s been for me. My space to write, to think, to become something else.

And it’s been working. I’m starting to turn my attention outward again, shifting my focus from writing for me to thinking about the fact that other eyes might be absorbing these words. Or that I might want other eyes to glance over my scribblings. This is the beginnings of one strand leading into the knot that I’m trying to untangle. One of the revelations I’ve had from getting into a writing habit after all these years of procrastinating is that my refusal to draw on my own experiences was actually stopping my writing. I kept fishing around for that perfect idea for a piece of fiction, waiting for the inspiration fairy to sprinkle the start of an astonishing poem or novel over me.

But fishing and fairies didn’t work, partly because I have a very low tolerance for clumsy fiction. McGuffins, forced plot lines, cheesy motives and morals, anything that shows the scaffolding propping up the scenery (unless it’s done deliberately – interesting . . .) exasperates me. So my own ideas for fiction have been exasperating me for years, to the point of preventing my pen reaching the page. Then, boom, revelation came – not from the inspiration fairy, but from making myself writing on a regular basis. Of course my attempts at fiction were frustratingly poor! How could I think they were anything but hollow, heartless efforts at ego-massage when real life had thrown much weirder, darker and more interesting things at me? How can anything I make up have blood in it when life’s given me experiences you couldn’t make up if you tried?

That has been a watershed, but it’s also left me the problem of translation, of transition. How do I turn real life into a fiction that means something to people who aren’t me? Or even more concisely, how do I turn life into fiction?

Which leads me to another strand feeding into the knot. How to be honest.

I’ve been to the depths these past couple of years. Both in terms of my mental health, but also in terms of losing the structures and faith that keep most of us going through the day. I know I’m not the only one. And I know a lot of this is now behind me. But it is a precious knowledge you gain from swirling around in the chaos beneath the day-to-day, precious knowledge that starts to dissolve or recede as ‘normal’ life washes in again. It alters you, yes. I’m just not the same person I was this time two years ago. But that alteration doesn’t necessarily preserve the knowledge, the wisdom you get from being in the dust-bowl beneath it all.

I can feel knowledge fading and I don’t want it to dissipate. I’m having mad urges to tattoo my entire body with symbols and slogans, snippets from the chaos, so that I can always keep it close; but I know it’s going and without it, those tattoos will be just ordinary ink. So I want to use this other ink to capture it, to pass on some of that precious knowledge. But it’s wordless, it’s chaos. It inherently lacks narrative and structure. And how the hell do you avoid stream-of-consciousness, self-involved, wallowing-in-my-own-agonies writing when it comes to trying to describe something like this? This is another part of my knot.

I have to push and pull myself through these questions, because I don’t have a choice anymore. I have to be honest. In a world full of bullshit, fiction has to be honest.

And then it comes back to my mental health. Trying to look at things honestly takes its toll. It doesn’t leave you much room for solace or self-compassion. And lurking with your darker experiences is perhaps best done under supervision. But then the thought of writing anything that is less than excoriatingly honest makes me drop the pen again. Another strand in this big fuck-off knot.

Some thoughts on an anniversary

Last weekend marked a year since we lost our home, which in turn marked the start of the gradual disintegration of ‘we’ back into ‘I’.

It’s been the longest year of my life and at the same time, it still feels as if everything happened last weekend. So much has happened, changed and not happened, not changed. There’s no reason a year should yield up particular wisdom, why a year after closing the front door on my old life that I should have any remarkable insights or life-changing advice. But it’s an anniversary and there are some thoughts in my head, so here we go:

1) The storm is part of me. It does not need to pass.

2) Thinking about writing is way more painful that writing.

3) Getting fitter made me feel better. Getting thinner made me feel worse.

4) Happy endings, just deserts and karma are fairy tales. If you turn to these ideas for comfort, if you offer those who are in the darkest moments of their lives these fairy tales as wisdom, you are denying the rawness and madness of suffering. Pain does not happen for a reason; to give it one by tying the pretty bow of narrative around it is to leave those in pain alone, silent and scared.

5) Time alone won’t make things better; it’s what you do with the time that starts to create the distance between you and what happened. New memories start to cushion you from the old.

6) Things do get better, but never in the way you expect and if you’re too wrapped up in fairy tales, you won’t notice.

7) Silence is the worst thing you can do to someone in pain. ‘Giving someone space’ when they haven’t asked you for it is the excuse we make when we are too afraid to face the vastness of suffering. If you don’t know what to say, find the person, phone the person, write to the person and tell them that you don’t know what to say. There is nothing to say in the face of trauma, grief, sorrow. But being there, being a presence, recognising the unspeakableness of what someone is facing, that is how you help people start to find their way back from the formless mess that’s swallowed their lives. Your presence and words alone are enough to start anchoring someone’s world again. Silence is the worst thing you can do, because you leave them at sea. Don’t give people space. Give them your speechlessness.

8) People are awesome, in the proper sense of the word. People will find ways to let you down, to twist a knife, to destroy the most basic foundations that let you exist in this world which are so beyond the horizons of what you can image that before the rage and pain can kick in, you are left winded and opened-mouthed in awe. People will find ways to reach into your darkest hour and hold your hand, will pull you into the safety of their lives when you’re spiralling off into danger, will make the smallest gesture that somehow captures what it means to be cared for and to care. It’s a quieter, gentler awe, but it’s equally breath-taking. What a fucking spectrum.

9) Leaving Facebook has done my mental health and my friendships a world of good.

10) Anniversaries mean fuck all.

Waking up

There’s a moment in grieving when you become aware that the clouds are starting to lift. Maybe it’s that you make it to the end of the day and then realise that you managed to become totally absorbed in that day, that for once your attention wasn’t split between the present and the past. Maybe it’s that you suddenly find yourself doing something that haven’t done for a really long time, like laughing with all of your body or giving yourself over to enthusiasm. Maybe it just didn’t hurt as much today. Whatever the sign, there’s a reason that people talk about clouds lifting – it’s clichéd because that is exactly what it feels like. Something huge is quietly shifting, and you get a reminder of what life felt like before this fuzzy, dulled sensation settled over your world. It really does feel like a shaft of light or a fresh breeze has broken through the fog.

Which is disconcerting, and in fact comes with its own set of mournings. As painful and muffling as the fog is, there is a comfort to it. It lets you pass through days in a state of suspension, allows you to tarry with the life you had even though time is pushing you forwards. It insists that you are gentle with yourself and that normal world rules don’t apply to you at present. It cushions you, acts as a buffer between the past and your future.

So when the clouds start to lift, it’s a bitter-sweet experience. The first evening I got so engrossed in a conversation that I forgot I was grieving, I burst into tears the instant I realised what had happened. I was overwhelmed by a sense of disloyalty, of not being ready to move on, and shock. But even more than that, I was sad that I was starting to let go. It’s like grieving for your grief. And it’s a different kind of sadness, one that’s mixed with a profound sense of peace. I guess this is how we mark the past genuinely moving away from us.

As bleak and aching as the past months have been, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m eager to rush into the gaps emerging between the clouds. After all, it means giving up that sense of suspension, of life being on hold and getting back into the swing and mundanity of everyday life. I know this is perhaps not the case for everyone, but there has been something profoundly productive in this hovering state for me. I have unravelled myself and started to remake myself and my world in ways that I never thought possible for someone like me. Actual loss has released me from the fear of having something to lose. Life is too short to worry about invented consequences.

So I’m not in a hurry to leave this foggy landscape and life solidifying into something definite again. And I’m not in a rush to expose myself to press and callous bumps of normal life either – I want to insist on my fragility for a while longer. But it’s not entirely in my hands, because once the clouds start to shift, they start to evaporate all of their own accord.

The other cliché that crops up time and again because it’s captured a grain of truth is the image of waking up, of having slept-walked your way through the painful months and then gradually becoming aware of your world again. For me, this also encapsulates my current reluctance to rush into the next moment. I’m starting to sense the coming day, I’m beginning to feel the possibilities of that day, but I’m not quite ready to get up yet. I want to slumber a little longer, stay in the familiarity of my mourning, my fog, my dreams, as aching as they have been, so I can carry something of this strange moment into the day that’s breaking over me.

The need to be gentle with myself and with other people. The freedom to remake yourself, to remain unfixed. The time to pay attention to what matters to you in the silent parts of yourself. The ability to put the push of the world in its place when you need to. The astonishing quality of love you’ve discovered in the most unexpected places. And the loss of fear. I want to take these with me, carry them out of the fog and into the day. So I’m going to spend a bit more time experiencing them, learning them, living them, before I completely wake up.

Starting to start over

I’ve officially started over. I’m in a new city, in a new house, with two new jobs and a bundle of freelance work. It is terrifying and exhilarating and also very, very ordinary.

Having lost a home and had an awful experience with my last job, it feels incredibly good to be working again and being out of my parents’ home, able to support myself again. The moment I moved in to my new teeny-tiny room in a beautiful, welcoming shared home, a huge weight of anxiety lifted and a level of self-respect that I hadn’t realised I had lost returned in a rush. Starting my new jobs felt positive – challenging but rewarding having responsibility again and great to have some structure to my time again. And both in my new place and in my new jobs, I’ve been really lucky to meet interesting and supportive people.

The initial rush of starting over was quickly tempered by the daunting reality I’m facing. I’ve moved to a city I know slightly, and I’ve been lucky enough to move in with a friend of a friend, so things are a little familiar rather than completely strange and new. I also know several people in the city already, although I’ve never simply ‘hung out’ with them because my life was somewhere else. So I have a little head start in making a life here. But once the boxes are unpacked and the madness of moving fades, you realise you actually have to build a life in this place, for yourself, by yourself. You have to make things happen, otherwise all you’re going to do is shuffle between home and work. You have to go out there and make a world for yourself.

That’s a huge task to face alone. Even with friends around you, you still have to do it alone. I literally don’t really know how to start and have kind of had to get comfortable with the idea that I just need to put myself in certain places and then let life go from there. Joining classes and a sports club have been my initial forays, and actually talking to people when I’m there rather than just shuffling in and out. It’s been a push, but each time I’ve felt better.

My housemate has been amazing; we’ve been out a couple of times and she’s invited me out to various parties to meet her friends. It’s intense meeting so many new people in such a short time – it can simultaneously feel like you’ve come so far that you’re creating a whole new life and that you’ve isolated yourself so much that you’re surrounded by strangers.

I’ve also been trying to figure out how to develop the friendships I have already in this city, turning occasional socialising into hanging out. It’s really hard, because on the one hand, you’re potentially asking a lot of people – just because you want to spend more time with people, it doesn’t mean they want to spend more time with you! And I’m also conscious I’m currently learning to be alone after eleven years of always having someone there by my side – and that can mean I am asking too much of people, as I look for ways to not be alone at moments when in fact I should be.

It’s an intense learning process; how to build a life, where the boundaries are between you and others, how to live life alone rather than always thinking for two. And it’s peppered with moments of very cruel lucidity, where you see your current life with your old eyes. For instance, thinking about the fact I’ve crammed the remnants of what was a loving household into a tiny room in a shared home leaves me feeling winded with shock. But the key thing is that it’s shock at the scale of the change, rather than regret. I wasn’t happy in my old life. It wasn’t working. It fell apart. As huge as starting over is, it is better than the alternative.

Being well and well-being – aka grief and flu

I’ve been ill for the past few days, horribly glandy-achey-headachey stuff, which has been rumbling on for a while but actually only properly wiped me out two days ago. And really, I’m not fit to be writing this now, but I have to in order to stay vaguely sane – because it turns out that being physically unwell quite rapidly equates to taking a mental swan dive when it comes to grieving.

The week before last was probably the first time in a long time when I started to have flashes of feeling ‘normal’, seeing a bit of colour in the world again, actually fully enjoying the odd moment and starting to get a sense of my own strength returning. Then something resembling a cold started to make itself felt last week. At the same time, I found myself repeating cycles of thought and dwelling on ideas that just a few days before had been slipping into the past.

It didn’t immediately strike me that the two states were a consequence of one another. But then the moment I started to feel too physically unwell to do the things that are the makings of my new life, the ghosts of my old life and the grief I’ve been grappling with suddenly seemed overwhelming once again.

It’s partly because you can’t get on with the things that have been filling your days and helping you move on. Partly it’s because you’re tired and bored. Partly, it’s because there’s an intense loneliness to being ill which is made worse by remembering just how recently there was someone there to take care of you when you’re unable to take care of yourself. But underpinning all this is the sense that being physically vulnerable means you’re more vulnerable to your emotions.

Recognising that I’m feeling emotionally shit because I’m feeling physically shit does help. It takes some of the disappointment out of finding yourself back in a hole that you thought you’d clambered out of. And it does help you take it a bit easier on yourself, realising you’re not really back in the hole; you’re just ill and when you’re back on your feet, you’ll probably be able to see the same horizons you could before.

But still, grief adds a whole other level pain to being ill. The loneliness of being stuck in bed all day multiples infinitely when it serves to remind you that there is no one coming home at the end of the day to make things a little better. Your sense of life being out of control grows exponentially when you’re not in a fit state to do anything productive or proactive. And you’ve got time on your hands in which you can do little but feel rough and think badly-formed thoughts.

Tears and flu are not a good combination. I’m pretty sure that one makes the other worse. So along with the various medicines I’m taking for my body, I’m writing this as medicine for my mind. I’m fuzzy headed, feverish and aching all over – i.e. in no fit state to write – but getting some of the thoughts out of my head and onto the page feels like it’s just as important as sleep, medicine and lemon tea.

Shoreline

(for my father)

 

We saw the first wave coming,

standing together on the shore of my changing life,

and knew you would have to leave me soon.

 

As the wave’s shadow lengthened,

You said ‘I wish I could save you from all this’

before we even knew what all this would be.

 

Well, I’m in it now and the waves keep coming.

 

But as you keep watch from the distance of your life,

know that in the brief moments between surges,

your words are anchors in a tsunamic world,

 

Saving me from all that lies beyond the stability of land

even as my fragile world is swept away.

I will meet you again, but on an altered shore.

5am Grief

I am reliably informed that what I’m experiencing now is grief. A totally expected and necessary response to everything that’s happened. And looking over this blog, I guess you can read it as tracking the course of grieving.

What I hadn’t realised was that it’s not just the loss of a living presence that you need to grieve. You can mourn the loss of your own life, the one you had and thought you were going to have. When things, huge things, drastic things, things beyond your control happen to you that bring about irrevocable changes in your life, you need to let what was move into the past. That full realisation of what you’ve lost because of what’s happened so you can start to rebuild and letting what was move into the past, that’s what grief is for. At least that is what I’m hoping it is for.

As I say, I’m looking at this blog now and seeing gestures of grief; moments where I’m trying to understand the bleakness and pointlessness of some of the huge changes that crashed over my life, peppered with efforts to think myself into the next moment, the space beyond the aching, the bit where life starts again. But I didn’t recognise it as this until now. It’s only now, when the absolute last remnant of the life I was hoping to lead has gone that I can see the loops of hope and despondency, creativity and stagnation for what they are – the cycle of grief.

Letting go of possibilities, leaving the hopes you held for one particular future behind altogether, leaving the lives you dreamed of sharing with people behind – I’m trying to figure out how to do that. Because grieving alerts you to the fact that those hazy, warm hopes will become daggers in your new world, ideas that will tear a hole in anything you try to do and lacerate your new efforts with the failures of the past. You can’t ever leave them behind totally, as much as you might feel you want to at moments, but for me, grieving is a process of blunting these newly- formed blades. Finding the hidden daggers that used to be your hopes and blunting the blades. That takes time.

It’s the rollercoaster nature of grief that makes it almost unbearable at times. Each peace you make will be punctured by something – a stray thought, a seemingly unrelated comment from a friend, a trace of your old life interrupting the new. And then you’re back in there, in the midst of anger at the injustice of it all, despair that anything is worthwhile anyway, horror at the enormity of what is happening to you and just pain. Throat-blocking, thought-blocking pain.

You work your way back up to some kind of peace again, although you know it’s fragile. I’m told that the spaces between peace and turmoil get larger, but it’s early days for me still. But even this early on, I guess the depths are getting less deep. The fact I can write this is telling me something.

The worst part about this process for me is that it’s something you have to do alone. And when part of what is causing you pain is getting used to being alone, it’s even harder to accept. Yes, you must talk to people about it, you can’t bottle it up. But talking to people is one thing. They can’t share your pain, even if they’re suffering the loss too, because the shape of that loss is so different for everyone. And no one can do the work of blunting the daggers but you, because no one else knows where they are. But you don’t want to be alone and you want people to understand and tell you the answers, and when they can’t, it hurts all over again. It’s amazing how angry and frustrated grief leaves you at the very moment when everyone is actually doing all they can for you.

And no one can do anything about the 5am grief (5am if you’re lucky – when it starts at 2am, you’ve got a long night ahead of you). You can’t call anyone because the world is resting, but even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to say anything that comes close to the enormity of it. It’s wordless, directionless, thoughtless. This morning, a single thought woke me up at 5am, especially to ensure that I got my daily dose of horror and hopelessness before the rest of the world began its day. A single thought. Oh my god, how has this happened to my life? Then, thoughtless, chest-heaving pain.

No one else can get you through these moments. You literally just have to live them out. I guess it’s the last gasps of my old life breaking in when I’m at my most relaxed and leaving me gasping instead. But if I just keep breathing, I’ll get to the next moment. And the next. And then the next.

Unravelling and re-threading

I’m not a fan of similes and forced metaphors. Things get very cheesy very quickly. But the ones that occur in daily life are pretty startling. I don’t if it means you can learn something profound from them, or whether the only similes and metaphors that work are the ones that give you pause for thought. The ones that snap you out of the flow of daily life and make you aware of something bigger going on behind your day, behind your thoughts.

I’ve made a lot of claims about going through difficult times on this relatively young blog. So I apologise for the blatant moaning. But I guess it’s not surprising that things continue to be difficult – and even get worse – because once certain events happen in your life, they set off a chain that has to play itself out for a while. That said, in the shit-storm that seems to have been my world for the past couple of years, the last two weeks were an extra-special low. The last vestiges of the life I had finally unravelled. And I unravelled with them.

I’m not entirely sure how I’ve gotten from then to now. It’s hazy. But between now and then, somehow (I really don’t know how), I’ve managed to produce two of the most beautiful tapestries I’ve done in my short career as a stitcher. I actually don’t know how I did them, but they’re there. They exist and they sparkle with light, the very thing that has been almost completely absent from the past two weeks.

It struck me today, the first day I could say I’ve been properly present for a while, that this is one of those metaphors that happens in life but would be awful in fiction. I unravelled and got through it by stitching. And I made two of the best tapestries I’ve done so far. Can’t take more from this than what it is, but it made me stop and think.

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Mistakes

I had the oddest moment yesterday, one of those moments that should only happen in films. Someone asked me what was my biggest mistake?

A little context. We were discussing questions that come up in interviews, in particular academic interviews. And specifically, we were thinking about the unexpected questions – or as it turned out, the increasingly common questions, which seem to follow some kind of corporate psychometric logic. One of which was, ‘What would you say was your biggest mistake?’

Obviously, the context of the original question and our conversation implied that it was perhaps a question intended to get the interviewee to reflect on their professional practice. And yet, its parameters are deliberately vague. It’s allowing you to stray into any area of your life if you so wish. If you want to lay your heart bare before the interview committee, here is your chance. If you’ve had a burning desire to confess a haunting error, now is your moment. Nothing is ruled out of bounds by this question. It’s as open as you want it to be.

Of course, we all have a sense of what the ‘right’ answer is. We practiced self-satisfied responses such as ‘My biggest mistake is that I’m always early/ I try too hard/ I’m a perfectionist’ blah blah blah. But amongst friends, we were also curious as to what the genuine answer would be, albeit in terms of our careers.

One of us had an answer immediately, a clear regret that was a missed opportunity. One of us somehow managed to escape quizzing. As for me, I was appalled by my response – not least of all because it was utterly genuine.

Some more context. In the past eight months, I have lost my home, I have moved back in with my parents and most recently, my eleven year relationship seems to have come to an end. In fact, I spent the weekend with the man with whom I’ve had the best times of my life, working through all our possessions, helping him pack what has now become his into a van and watching him drive potentially out of my life. The only way to explain how that leaves you feeling is by telling you that when my sister asked me what I wanted to eat on Sunday night, my response was to cry.

There are just no words for this feeling.

And here we arrive at the filmic moment. I mean, seriously, who gets asked this kind of question two days after the love of their life has gone? Well, I did. And my response, which in fact I didn’t say out loud, was shocking. In my most private thoughts, in my secret self, I had nothing.

I know I have made mistakes, huge ones, painful ones for me and for people I love. But faced with this question, I realised none of them have stayed mistakes.

Mistakes are momentary. They’re mistakes for as long as you don’t respond to them in some way. I won’t say learn, because they’re not all lessons, and learning alone isn’t enough. But if you’ve responded to mistake, then their moment has passed. They’re not mistakes anymore. They become part of who you are. After all, it’s your mistakes as much as your successes that bring you to where you are now, and in fact, your mistakes make you the person you are more than your triumphs, as they help you find the lines you don’t want to cross, the limits of who you want to be.

I have no home. I’m facing life alone for the first time in eleven years. But right now, I can’t say I’ve made a mistake that’s stayed a mistake. So pat, so corporate, so appalling good for an interview answer. But in this moment, which is all we ever have, it’s true.