*Trigger warning: This post discusses depression, PND, and suicide.
It’s International Women’s Day, and this morning my Facebook memories were filled with wonderful, empowering posts from March 8s past, but when I got to March 8, 2013, I found some posts I had forgotten belonged to this day, and the tears began to well. On this day in 2013, I said goodbye to a friend I met (oddly coincidentally) on Women’s Day in 2009 at a company breakfast. I had only been working there a few months, and was in the engineering department where there weren’t many women. I was seated between two women I didn’t know and, as I tend to do in these situations, I kept to myself and hoped someone else would break the ice.
. . . will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger?
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is one of my great pleasures. I love it the way you love anything that set you on your path.
As a child, I had a reading of it on cassette that I listened to every night to fall asleep. I loved (and still love) the other stories—The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Birthday of the Infanta among others—but nothing quite touched my heart like the plight of the Happy Prince and his little swallow. It is a love story in its purest form. The prince’s love for his people, and the swallow’s love for the prince, are selfless, and tragic, and painfully beautiful. I don’t remember now who the voice on the cassette belonged to, but it was a lovely reading, slow and musical—the way I always hear the story in my head when I read it.
I’m sure there are millions of writers the world over who have been inspired to pick up a pen by Oscar Wilde for more than a century. He was, and remains, incomparable. I am no different to those millions, I suppose, but it was specifically the story of the prince and the swallow that made me want to write. The way the words flowed like water, the way each character, no matter how insignificant—and Wilde is a master of tiny yet complex cameos—pulled at my heart. Even as an eight year old child, I knew I wanted to create beauty like this through words of my own. I wanted to write.
Alone is getting home at 1 in the morning and not having to worry about waking anyone up. In fact, you can make a cup of tea, turn all the lights on, and play some music. Continue reading
A couple of months ago my relationship of almost fifteen years ended very suddenly, leaving me reeling. Aside from the actual break, one of the hardest parts of accepting what happened was knowing I was going to have to stay in Norway, even though my every instinct screamed to run home into the open arms of concerned friends and family. But to do that, I would need permission from my daughter’s father to take her out of the country, and though I knew he’d give it for a short period, moving back to Australia was always out of the question.
Luckily (or not perhaps not luck—maybe my subconscious was hard at work preparing me all those months ago), I had already booked a trip back for my daughter and me before everything fell apart. Through November and December, we spent five weeks surrounded by the Australians who love us, not one of whom didn’t want us to stay forever, yet not one of whom said or did anything to make it harder to do what I had to do: return to Norway.
Last night I went to a concert I had been waiting to see for six years—the last time I saw Kings of Convenience I was six months pregnant, and it was, without a doubt, the best concert I’ve ever attended. Eirik and Erlend are a Norwegian duo I have been following since their first album came out in Australia in 2001; not by coincidence, I discovered them because I had just begun dating a Norwegian boy. The concert began with an interview by journalist and author Ørjan Nilsson, who released a book about the band last year, followed by a performance of the entire debut album that shared its name with the book, Quiet is the New Loud, and which contained the essence of their appeal: unassuming, profound songs that are at once relaxing and deeply passionate.
“You don the disguise long enough, and you can’t even recognize that you are acting. That you are behaving inauthentically, from a place of fear and insecurity. That you can’t figure out how to reconcile the real you with the pretend you.”
So writes Facebook’s Product Design Director, Julie Zhuo, in her article The Imposter Syndrome. She talks about the insecurity and fear she used to feel while she studying and working in software development. It spoke to me because not only have I felt that way working in software development myself, but because even after a change of career paths, I still worry that I don’t belong, despite feeling all the while like this is what I was born to do. And I’m not the only one; so many of the writers I’ve come to know have these thoughts all the time.
What is it about being in your thirties that makes you particularly nostalgic? It can’t just be that it’s the most likely time to be raising children and therefore thinking about your own childhood; previous generations were equally susceptible, and most of them were well into parenthood by the time they were in their thirties.
I can remember growing up in the ’80s amid a wave of ’50s nostalgia, echoed in movies like Back to the Future, The Karate Kid II, and Grease. I remember a car commercial [see the whole scary thing here] featuring a woman in ’50s style polka-dot dress over layers of tulle singing “Gotta Get a Holden Nova” to the tune of Blame it on the Bossa Nova on which I based my primary school graduation dress—with the inevitable addition of 80s iron-crimped hairdo. Poodle skirt + poodle hair = cringe-factor one million. But I was twelve, so I’ll give myself a pass. The ’50s were everywhere in the ’80s.
Year Seven graduation
I would love to be able to say I’ve always been a feminist. And, in fact, if you had asked me fifteen or twenty years ago if I was a feminist, I would have said yes. I was never one of those girls or young women who think feminism belongs to some mythical hairy-underarmed, bra-burning, man-hating monsters. But honestly, I didn’t even know what the word meant back then. I would have said yes because I was a Lisa Simpson-esque goody-two-shoes who would identify with, and pledge allegiance to, any social justice-related cause. I wanted to save the world, even though I had no idea what I was saving it from. But if you look at some of the life decisions I made back then (case in point, moving in with an idiot right out of high school because he said all the right adoring words), you’d know I was clueless at best, a hypocrite at worst.
An ode to women still in the game in 2015
Writing this post feels like playing a game of Bloody Mary. Put your finger on a keyboard and say “Quinn, Wu, Sarkeesian!” and a bunch of gamerbros will appear as if by magic to take your life and/or your sanity.
Before I was an author, I was a Woman in Tech. Yes, capital letters are needed these days, because it’s a Thing. It didn’t feel like much of a thing then, and I don’t know if that’s because I worked for a company that never made it a thing, or because Our Time hadn’t come yet, but there is something happening in the tech world that makes me glad I’m no longer part of it, and yet simultaneously sorry I’m no longer part of a solution that needs to be realised.
The Norwegians I know who have been to Australia, even lived in Australia, say one of the things they missed the most was a sense of the seasons changing, something they felt was demonstrably absent from their time down south. Being from the south of Australia, I never really understood this claim; it’s only way up north that they talk about “The Wet” and “The Dry” as opposed to the four seasons. But after nine years here in Norway, I begin to see the difference with greater clarity, and it is not really about four seasons at all, it’s about at least eight.
Now, in early March, there is often still snow and ice about, and not only that, there is frost that reaches deep into the soil, reminding the dormant seeds and bulbs to go back to sleep; it’s not yet dawn. This year, however, almost all the ice and snow has melted after an unusually warm February, with a lot of rain and—very unusual for this part of Norway—wind. But, spring has not come yet. Spring, as I describe it to my almost-five-year-old daughter, is when the trees get their leaves back, the birds and animals bear the results of winter snuggling, and colour returns to the earth in a confetti-like spray of flowers and fresh, green leaves. This is not what we have now. We are in between, balancing, waiting . . .