My life in California is very different from my old life in the UK in a lot of ways. Some of it is due to location, but I think it’s partly due to getting older, and not really being arsed about tiny things anymore.
While I can’t say I miss working (because I’m not an idiot), it does feel a little weird not having to go and sit in an office for a good eight hours every day. I guess you could argue that a job should give you “purpose”, but I don’t feel like I was defined by my past career in Higher Education. There were times when I loved it, and times when it was unbearable, but it was never a crusade for me. I guess the only times when I’ve felt what I was doing had a purpose was when I “worked” in arts journalism. Reviewing and promoting theater, and music before that, I felt like it was something worth doing. In a small way, I helped people achieve their dreams, and enabled them to continue doing what they loved. Plus, free tickets to stuff, and getting to speak to some of my idols didn’t exactly hurt either; I’m not completely altruistic.
So, with this new-found luxury of free time, I’ve started volunteering. This week, I began my training to become a Literary Tutor at Livermore Library. This will basically entail spending a couple of hours a week with an adult learner, helping them to achieve whatever literary goals they may have, whether that be enabling them to help their kids with homework, passing their high school equivalency exam, or just generally giving them more confidence with the written word. During the training, we’ve been faced with some pretty scary statistics regarding adult literacy in the US. Apparently one in four young adults drop out of high school. Madness. So I’m happy to be doing my bit. Plus, I’ve met some lovely people from the local area, who I will hopefully stay in touch with.
In Manchester, it would just be part of my daily routine to shove a bit of eyeliner on before even contemplating leaving the house. Here, I just don’t bother painting my face on. Okay, I’ll make a bit of an effort if we’re going out drinking, but otherwise, I don’t really feel the need (apart from drawing my eyebrows on. I don’t want to scare children). Plus, I have some pretty awesome freckle action going on.
And you know what? The world hasn’t crumbled, I don’t get abused on the streets, MAC hasn’t gone out of business, and Will hasn’t left me. I know there’s a certain sense of self-confidence that comes with “looking your best”, but if you’re at your best all the time, doesn’t that then just become normal?
Saying that, my barnet is in desperate need of attention.
For various reasons, my mental health suffered in the few months before we left the UK. It was a very stressful time, and given the pace at which I had been both living and working for the past couple of years, something had to give.
Out here, my mind isn’t exactly quiet, it’s just filled with good stuff. I’m not really worrying about the tiny minutiae of conversations I have or have not had, nor letting out my valuable headspace to negative people. Instead, it’s been replaced with thoughts about writing, the books I’m reading, what I want to do with my time, and all the other exciting stuff Will and I have to look forward to.
I’ve also taken to going on daily walks, which feels fantastic. I’ve found a nice route in the park near where we live, and do just over three miles a day. I’m slowly working my way up to running, but let’s not go mad.
Ah, time to read! It’s brilliant. I’ve gone a bit mad. Here’s what I’m on at the moment:
A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara) – Still working my way through this one (it’s a whopper). It’s brilliant though, and the characters are amazing. But it’s so harrowing. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does. But it’s incredibly gripping. Can someone else read it so we can talk about it, please?
Locke and Key (Joe Hill) – Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, and he’s a brilliant author (I constantly recommend his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and N0S4R2 is fantastic as well). Locke and Key is his graphic novel series, with illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve just read the first book, and really enjoyed it. Really creepy.
Armada (Ernest Cline) – Ready Player One is my jam, I absolutely love that book. Armada is Cline’s second novel, and I started reading it as soon as it landed on my Kindle app yesterday. I’m three chapters in and I’m already in love. If you’ve never read Ready Player One, just do it now. It’s fantastic. Then pick this one up.
Love, Nina (Nina Stibbe) – £1.99 in the amazing Amazon Kindle summer sale. I’ve been wanting to read this one for ages, and it hasn’t disappointed. The book consists of letters from Nina that she sent home to her sister while she was working as a nanny in London in her twenties. Alan Bennett pops up in it quite a lot. It’s hilarious.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) – I was absolutely gutted to miss this when it was on TV, as we left the UK after the first two episodes. No doubt I’ll see it at some point (the blu-ray comes out over here next month), but I’ve had this book sitting in my Audible account for literally years, so thought I’d make a start while I’m on my walks.
I did also start David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, but wasn’t giving it the attention it deserved, so I’ll come back to that one. Although there was a great line:
“I’ve never met a Tracy I didn’t like.”
I can forgive the misspelling of Tracey as the intent is quite lovely.