As I write this, I’m sitting at Waterstones watching snow drift past the windows overlooking Newcastle city centre. To my left – a red pot of Earl Grey tea (fitting, since I’m so close to Grey’s Monument) and a teacup, with a cherry and walnut chocolate tiffin beside it. What’s a tiffin? I have no real clue, but it’s biscuity and amazing. A few years ago I wanted nothing more than to be in this exact place, just reading a book or doing some research. And now I live here, and I do that – perhaps too often, judging by the number of Waterstones Cafe loyalty cards I fill up. Today, the sky shifts from icy grey to bright blue with sunlight bouncing off the snow – almost blinding. It’s perfect.
It’s perfect because today is one of those days where I remember that I’m doing something I’d dreamt of doing for years before getting the gumption to actually go out and do it. Sometimes, somewhere between the ever-present deadlines, self-induced crises and little worries here and there that come with living alone, I forget how special that is and how much it means to me. So when I crunched through the snow on my way down here today, I felt happy. I feel light. I won’t ramble on about it – just don’t forget to take a moment from time to time to appreciate what you’ve achieved. Just be for a while.
February is at an end and spring is technically just around the corner – although I am curious about when the season will actually show up. Winter seems intent on overstaying its welcome. Yes, spring is synonymous with rebirth (or in my case, awful hayfever), but rather than that, I find that I’ve been thinking about change recently. Small changes, specifically. Changing bits of my day or shifting my habits because it’ll make me feel better in some small way. I mean I’m doing typical things like eating more fruit (ish), maintaining a balanced diet, going to the gym three times a week and all that jazz. I’ve even cut down my coffee intake to a maximum of two cups a day. But I’ve been thinking about one thing in particular: ‘authenticity’.
If there’s one theme in all my work, it’s about authenticity and self-expression. It’s the idea that some things are, in some real sense, really you – or express what you and others aren’t. – Bernard Williams (Philosopher)
I don’t exactly mince my words when it comes to saying what I think, and I do try to be myself, but I feel like there’s something nagging at me. I think that moving to a new country, not knowing too many people, it can be easy to say or do things that you don’t necessarily think or want to because in your anxious mind it means winning favour or friendships (even if you’re sbukkata/outspoken like yours truly). It’s totally wrong, of course. Back in Malta, your people know you and have done (for the most part) since primary school. They know how old you were when you disobeyed your parents and got wrecked in Paceville, they know who first broke your heart and how long it took you to get over them, and they know exactly how you like to take your tea or coffee. There’s no complication there, no need to ‘appear’ any certain way. Move abroad, and it becomes tempting to be a little too agreeable because you want certain people to like you. Forget ‘silly’ – it’s stressful and unnecessary and should have been left behind in secondary school. People who are meant to become your friends will become your friends anyway, bullshit or no bullshit. With that in mind, I want to work on being a more authentic version of myself, or more authentically me – whatever way you’d like to word it. It’s a strange thing to try and express, but my guess is that if you understand what I’m trying to say you’ve probably experienced it yourself. I don’t even like using the word ‘try’ up there – if you’re trying to be authentic then I feel like there’s still some kind of artifice involved. I suppose it’s something like being the you that you are when you’re alone in your room folding clothes, or happily walking to Waterstones with snowflakes settling in your hair – and not compromising that for anyone, really. The only person you should be concerned about ‘liking’ you, is you. Isn’t that who you can always depend on in the end? Anyway, that’s just been on my mind recently and I felt like sharing – it’s probably some sort of weird way of holding myself accountable to this commitment to authenticity.