16 August 2009

What I wanted in my life

Last week I was nosing through some of my old journals (actually in the hope of finding references to movies I’d been to see, as research for a poem I’m writing, but I don’t seem to write about my movie viewing in my journal, unfortunately) and I came across some pages from the end of 2002 which I had entitled ‘Hellie’s list of things’.

I remember writing some of this stuff – I was sitting on the balcony we had at the flat we lived in at that time. The balcony looked out across the green valley towards Kelburn viaduct. I’d often sit with my feet up on the railing in the sun – but only for a few months each year, when it actually got any sun – the rest of the year the balcony just stopped us getting much light into our lounge. But anyway, when I wrote this is it was October, and so would have recently got the sun back late in the afternoon.

‘Hellie’s list of things’ was basically about what I wanted my life to be like and what I wanted to achieve. The first subheading is ‘Projects to do’, and there is a list of seven writing projects – including film and television ideas, and a novel. The only one I’ve actually achieved in the seven years since is to have finished another poetry book. (Though I haven’t abandoned all of the others).

After that the ‘list’ gets a bit more esoteric, but there’s some things I wanted to learn more about, some things I wanted to do, and some things I wanted to be. I was surprised to find that one of the things was to ‘work at Encylopedia of NZ’, which, indeed, I now do.

Then comes a bunch of names of people, almost entirely writers, who I can only assume are people I admired or was inspired by. There are such people as Jane Campion, Katherine Mansfield, Ursula Bethell, Douglas Coupland, Sylvia Plath, ‘Merchant Ivory woman’ (I meant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), Sylvia Plath, Artemisia Gentilleschi, Vivienne Plumb, Christine Jeffs, Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterson, Maurice Gee, Fleur Adcock, Vanessa Alexander and Janet Frame.

It segues, without even a line break(!), into some notes about wanting to work on some collaborations with Sean. (I’m no longer sure that’s a good idea. I’m not sure I work that well with others in a creative sense.)

Then there’s a list of things that, as I recall, are things I wanted in my future. Many of them I do now have – such as our own sunny house (yay!), enough money, close friends (which I had at the time of writing as well – I guess I wanted to keep them and add to them). Some are things I don’t have yet, such as working mostly from home, and a vege garden – though I’m not sure how much I actually want either of those things (I sometimes have a feeble sort of neglected vege garden).

It ends with ‘Publishing?/Design?', which are both things I have been able to do in various ways; and the final thing, which is something I have almost all the time: ‘Happiness’. How schmaltzy!

It’s interesting to take stock every now and then. To look at your life and what it is, to see how it measures up to what you thought you wanted, and how it measures up to what you actually want now.

I think I’m doing pretty well.


Anonymous said...

Me too – my annual audit usually happens at the end of August. Reading this sent me back to look at last year's notes. Makes me realise just how much has changed in twelve months. (Item number 1 – I kid you not – was “decide if you want to keep publishing poetry” … I think I can safely add a tick to that one now!)

I think an annual (or semi-regular anyhow) audit is a good thing to do though. Life has a way of muddling things, and something like this helps you keep focused on some of those more nebulous goals.

Plus it has great amusement potential a couple of years down the track …

Helen Rickerby said...

I tend to have these periods of reflection around New Year and on my birthday, which is almost at the middle of the year. What I don't do though, as you seem to, is usually go back and look at what I've said. I think that's something I'll do more of.

You certainly have had a good year in terms of poetry (and hopefully other things too), and aren't you pleased you didn't stop putting your poetry out there!

Anonymous said...

“Yes” would be the sort of understatement that could get me garroted (and justifiably so)! Hopefully the joy will last a bit longer too.

We writers are mad. I can only think of one other profession where “submission” is a routine requirement. And that pays a hell of a lot better!