Another speedy one. Not because I have a lesson. I do have lessons but they start at 12 today because I like to take Monday mornings to do creative stuff. Like this!
Look at me! Watch me create!
I feel like I’m walking a tightrope at the moment, a tightrope over a very big chasm. What shall we put at the bottom of the chasm? We could have distant tiny villages and farmland, Loony Tunes style, or we could put a river down there with crocodiles. Maybe there’s lava at the bottom, glopping and glooping in big orange bubbles. Whatever: chasm.
The tightrope is the lifeline – the lifeline is money and not being insane. If I teach every day, six to eight lessons, I continue to walk across the tightrope. I make progress. But this is a very long tightrope. It’s so long, in fact, that I can’t see what’s at the other side of the chasm. The tightrope stretches away into mist and haze, and I know it’s attached to something – it has to be, otherwise it would fall down – but I don’t have any notion of what that might be.
When I think about things too much, such as the fact that teaching six to eight hours currently brings in about £35 a day, this is me looking down at the lava. I look down and it flares my face in red light to cast spooky shadows around my bulging fearful eyes, and I hear the roar of the flames and I freak out and wobble and nearly tumble. Then I think of words like ‘pension’ and ‘taxes’ and ‘student loan’ and I do a little shriek and slip and I’m hanging onto the tightrope with my fingers.
And then sometimes I think of other words: Friends. Alcohol. Thirty. Romance. Success. Abs. Morals. Hereditary Baldness. And with each new word, another finger twangs loose from the tightrope, and I go EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
And when I’m hanging on with just one finger – index, throbbing – I take a deep breath and say new words. I say: Rome – Built – Day. Patience. Family. Health. Still Young. Good Things – Coming. Trust. Courage. And my fingers creak and unfurl and grasp the tightrope, and heave myself up, hugging the rope with my legs and arms, still face-down over the lava moat but hanging in there, like that cat on all those posters.
And then I stand up and gulp, and I take another step. Each lesson I teach, each workout, each healthy meal, each hour editing my book – another step. Another step into the mist.
The mist is dense because there’s mist in my head. I don’t know what I want most, so I don’t know what I’m working towards. Being a successful author – that would be nice. Perhaps that’s what waits in the mist. Or maybe the mist contains lots and lots of money, though that seems unlikely. The mist, if I can continue teaching until I reach a full time wage, might contain more travel, more adventure – the Seven Wonders of the World!
I’ve seen three already, you know: The Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, and Chichen Itza. There are four more: Petra in Jordan, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Great Wall of China, which is in China.
But I’m not as sure as I used to be whether I want the mist to contain adventure all by itself. Adventuring alone is wonderful, but I feel tired of coming home from trips and having all these vivid memories gather dust – books on shelves that are never again opened, because there was nobody there with me to live them. All I have from two months in Mexico is these diaries and a little wooden skull that sits on my desk and watches me while I teach. All I have from Colombia is a couple of drawings and some leaves I pressed in the Amazon. And I can dance salsa. No bien, but I can.
It’s nice to feel as though you’re building something, while you’re away having adventures. People on big wooden ships used to go on adventures, but their adventures were a means to an end: usually they wanted to find treasure, or new lands, or crazy new creatures with fuzzy hair and tendrils. They didn’t adventure just for the hell of it. But then, ah — maybe all the treasure and new lands and creatures were just an excuse, and really they just wanted to do something cool with their time on Earth. I don’t know. I don’t know!
I’ve seen a lot of family since being home. That’s nice — I like that. It’s nice to spend time with grandparents and relatives and my many siblings. I saw my gran and grandad together for the first time in a long time yesterday, along with my cousin, whose name is Meg. There was also my dad, whose name is Mike, and my sister, who is only seven years old and is called Katie. She has a lot of energy and wanted me to play tig with her for an hour. I didn’t have the energy to run after her, so I had to trick her into coming close so I could tig her: hey, look at this crazy leaf! Tig.
My youngest brother, Jack, is back from a stint in Europe now. He spent 3 months there, travelling and working. He had never been in a hostel before and he loved it. He went to Pompeii. He’s on his own journey and I feel very proud of him. He is living at home for the next week, so I have somebody close to my own age to talk to – that’s good. And my brother Charlie came back home last weekend, one night only, to celebrate my mum’s birthday. It was the first time Charlie, Jack and I have been all together since Christmas 2022. It felt special. I felt a lot of love, quietly, in my head. You know when you feel love, quietly, in your head? It was like that.
A few weeks ago, Charlie was visiting for a night from Manchester. We sat around the dinner table with my nana and grandad and my auntie, whose name is Kez, and ate food. I was talking to Charlie and Kez and my grandad. Further down the table my nana was talking to my mum, whose name is Adele, and my stepdad, whose name is Andy. Charlie and I were laughing about something – my grandad’s rude jokes, I imagine. And then there was a lull in the conversation as we ate food, and my nana, who had presumably been trying to remember the name of something – no idea what – yelled into the silence: NUT HATCH!
It made Charlie and I laugh a lot. And look! – boop boop boop – another little step along the tightrope, into the mist of whatever comes next.