It Takes A Village... to raise a child. So, I'm asking bloggers from my village to each write a message for me to pass on to my girls. If you'd like to write one, let me know.
This week's letter is from a writer whose talent I covet. She was the Sydney Writers' Centre 2012 Outstanding New Blog winner and is the brains behind the new online magazine Bide. One day when I grow up I want to write like her. Introducing the delectable Anna Spargo-Ryan. Remember that name.
One day you will be standing at a bus stop or sitting on a park bench or karate kicking someone and you will feel like time is running out. It will hit you like an angry mob, this sense that you have to do everything before it is too late, that you can’t believe you’re already twenty-three and you haven’t even read the complete works of Shakespeare yet and really, what are you even doing pretending to be a real person in society?
I just wanted to let you know that it turns out you don’t have to do everything to feel like you’ve done the things worth doing.
I once crunched some numbers and realised that I could expect to read no more than 4000 books in my whole life, even if I was really dedicated. Suddenly I was devastated by all the books I would never read. I was overwhelmed by the decisions I had to make about which books wouldn’t make the cut. I spent hours standing in bookshops, reading hundreds of blurbs and, you guessed it, no books.
I literally did this. You may not have the same level of mental.
What I realised was that the act of reading the masters wouldn’t enrich my life on its own. That actually, standing in a bookshop for longer than a sane person really should stand in a bookshop, and being around other people who were also standing in bookshops, and breathing in the pages of the books and wondering how publishers choose which typeface to use and in the end only buying a bookmark with a quote from Moby Dick on it was, in truth, one of the things worth doing.
Girls, people have probably already asked you what you want to be when you grow up. Part of being a grown up is pressure to know what you’re doing all the time: what’s your job? where do you live? are you getting married soon? are you having more children? where will they go to school? how can you afford that? when will you retire? But the older I get, the more I realise I am just the same person that I was when I was young, feeling obligated to provide answers to these questions. That when I said, “I can only read 4000 books! I have to choose carefully!” what I should have said was, “I can read 4000 books! Which pyjamas should I take with me when I hide and pore over the pages and have a hot chocolate and listen to the rain?”
Life isn’t a competition and it’s not a race. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re wasting it because you’ve chosen to veer off the beaten track. The only boxes to tick off are the ones we create for ourselves. You will never do everything there is to do in life. What they don’t tell you is that you don’t even want to. Everything? Pfft.
No time is wasted if you let yourself do the things that make you feel fluttery inside. Buy kittens. Write poems. Flirt. Drink wine. Take photos. Watch trashy movies. Eat breakfast. Read picture books. Have fifteen pillows. Go down waterslides. Swim. Yell. Sing. Cry. Laugh.
Your old self will be glad that you did.
Anna Spargo-Ryan is an impatient, but well meaning, mother of two living in Melbourne with her extremely handsome dog. Anna writes on life, love, loss and chocolate and tries to maintain a sense of humour about it, but is occasionally overwhelmed by soft words and hand holding. The rest of the time, you can find her saying things on Twitter or on her eponymous blog.