The main thing that happened while we lived in Abu Dhabi is that seven years passed. Lots of the woodo-psciences say that Seven Years is a Thing. If you google, you’ll learn that all of our development occurs in blocks of seven years, that our cells regenerate entirely leaving us (literally) a new and different person every seven years, that a different chakra dominates at each of our seven year cycles…all this and much more besides.
To be honest, I’m up for a bit of woo. I mean, I believe in climate change, and my kids are fully vaccinated, but I like to have a tarot reading every now and then. Astrology and tarot talk about seven year cycles too. There’s the seven year itch, the 7-Up movies, and maybe George Costanza wasn’t as silly as he sounded when he wanted to call his kid *swish-swish* in the shape of a seven.
So, anyway, we were away seven years (well, the mister was away for nearly 9, but when I say ‘we’ I guess I mean ‘I’) which means that when I came back I was seven years older. And so was everyone else. I’ve noticed this in all the obvious ways – children are taller than I am, for example – but what has taken me by surprise is the sudden appearance of a whole new generation coming up behind me.
They were always there. The twenty-somethings. And for nearly twenty years I’ve been older than them. Until recently – until I got back to Adelaide—I could sit in the lunchroom or a workshop with a twenty-something and it would be clear that I was older than her. But I wasn’t old enough to be her mum. Now, I sit in the same lunchroom or a workshop, and it is clear to both of us that there is a distance between us. The change has been generational.
I think one of the reasons this has taken me so much by surprise is that in my part of expat-world there weren’t really all that many twenty-somethings. They are too old to be there with their parents, too young to be there with work. It’s a segment of the population that I didn’t see. Out of sight, out of mind. And now, bam! Here they are again, everywhere I look.
My dad used to say that every five years or so (let’s call it seven) you look in the mirror and see yourself as they age you really are, not as they age you think you are. So maybe it would have happened anyway. But certainly, being away has exaggerated this effect.
If there’s a younger generation, then I must be part of an older one. In most respects, and as I think I’ve mentioned before, I like to think that I’m jiggy with getting older because truly it’s better than the alternative. But confronting the reality of my writing career has been a little confronting. Lurking in online writing groups, I see the many wonderful young women who have so very much to say and who say it so beautifully. They are so much better at navigating the world of writing now, working much more intuitively with a sense of what is needed in a world of always-on connectivity. Their writing has resonance and relevance that I only recognise after the fact and not in advance.
It makes me think that maybe I had my chance. It makes me ask myself: Is it realistic to expect that a middle aged woman in Adelaide can advance a rather patchy writing career?
The good thing about this is that I’m asking from a place of peace and satisfaction with my life. I am very happy to be a middle aged woman in Adelaide. After many tumultuous years I welcome the simplicity of my life as it stands at the moment. Not only that, but counterintuitively, recognizing that I have only a slim hope of establishing a writing profile of even small significance has given me back the joy of writing. This was really brought home to me a little while ago when I was listening to a conversation some people were having about the frustrations of trying to establish a career as a writer. I realised that I was entirely free of any of those problems. I don’t expect to be able to make a living from it and I don’t want to. I don’t expect to be able to do it full time and I don’t want to. I don’t expect to make shortlists (though I’d like to). I could empathise with every person in that conversation. I remember clearly a few years ago when I was paralysed first with grief and second with the knowledge that I would never be anything more than a second-tier writer (and not even that because no words would come not matter how I tried). For some time, I was sure that I would never write again. So when I heard them speaking about these sorrows and frustrations I knew exactly what many of them were describing. But I also realised that I don’t have them anymore. That I am, as I said, at peace with myself and my place in the world.
This year, I’ve had more energy and enthusiasm for writing than I ever remember having before. I’ve mapped out my next novel with a clarity that I have never experienced. And a few ideas for short stories and essays that have been wallowing in the deepest recesses of my brain have developed some form and some shape that seems perfectly do-able. And I feel confident that I’ll be able to get a script together in time to put on a fringe show.
This won’t last. I do know that. Life will happen around me or to me and projects will get put on the backburner. Someone will write a horrible review and I’ll be back in the pit of self-doubt and agony. I’ll get to a point in my novel where all I can think is, ‘What’s the point?’ But for now, I’m going to let myself enjoy this feeling. I think I will celebrate with an evening of solid procrastination catching up on half a season of Nashville.