It starts with a death.
Warning, reflective, rambling piece ahead…
I did a search for my dad on Google about a month ago. It was about time. The last time we spoke was in 2010. I called him from Qaanaaq in Greenland. The last time I saw him was when we were pallbearers, carrying my firefighter uncle to his grave. I was 18. My father and I hadn’t seen each other for two years. I didn’t know then that I would never see him again. Through the search on Google I discovered that he died over a year ago. I still miss my uncle, but my dad… that’s another story.
Stories have become my life.
Since January 2018 I have focused on writing as a career, ditching the teaching job, ignoring the year-old mortgage, and basically deciding that life really is too short not to do what I want to do. I chose to disregard what is expected of me. Chose to ignore the bank balance, or lack of one. I realise that I am privileged to be able to do so. My life is not affected by war or corrupt governments, I am not sick, I am able to do this, so long as I am willing to give some things up. A lot of things really.
But giving things up brings other opportunities.
I pretty much gave up meat a long time ago, only half-heartedly eating burgers and chewing – not enjoying – the occasional steak when forced to. But, since January, I have adopted a plant-based diet, with the occasional travel-lapses – I must get better at preparing for journeys and visits.
So, that’s two changes, two opporunities – a new career and a new diet. Anyone might think I had hit middle age. Well, I turned 45 in August, so I guess it’s starting to make sense.
The third thing – it’s all about threes, right? The third thing is running. I’ve started to run again, building up slowly. I’ve now hit the 16km mark – that’s 10 miles. It sounds so much better in miles. Now my sights are set a little higher and longer.
I must keep up.
But it’s about showing up too, and that’s basically where I am headed with this post, just in case you were wondering.
I showed up every day to teach, but I hated it. I can say that now. Although I have many good memories of positive students (especially in Greenland) and good colleagues, there were far too many negative moments (especially in Denmark) with a fairly toxic working environment, enhanced by some fairly crappy colleagues. It was pulling me down, and I needed to make a change. My all-time favourite teaching job was teaching cadets at the Police Academy in Greenland.
I loved that gig.
As for regular teaching, I’ve never said it publicly for fear of needing to go back to teaching if the writing doesn’t pan out. But I now know that I will never go back to teaching.
And the writing? Here’s the thing – you really have to keep on showing up. I get that now. Every word, story or book I write is practice, developing the craft, and I’m getting there, slowly but surely, because I show up.
It helps that I am absolutely loving it.
That’s the message then, isn’t it, to keep showing up. To just keep doing what you love doing, to get better at it.
Since January 2017, when The Ice Star came out, I have sold over 16,000 books. Added to that, over 1.4 million pages have been read via the streaming service. All this without much more than two pay-per-click ads and almost zero social media.
As an indie writer it’s also about research and learning, being inspired by other writers, not getting bogged down by tradition and myth, and not giving a damn about what other people think or do, but just getting it done, and then doing it again.
Again, and again.
So, this death I mentioned, my father’s, I guess there’s an element of “showing up” there too. The fact that I didn’t meant that I never got past the shadow of my father, and who he was or what he did, and what it meant to me. On the face of it, he wasn’t necessarily a bad man, he was just a bad fit for me. Now that he is gone, despite never resolving our relationship, I can move on. I feel lighter. The chip on my shoulder has been dislodged and I have no excuses anymore. I certainly can’t use him as an excuse.
Time to move on.
Time to keep on showing up.
So, as the nights start to get a little darker, and the end of the year approaches, I plan to show up in the new year and kick in the afterburner, light some fires, burn away the shadows.
Dead is dead, done is done, and it’s time to move on and show up.
And the photos? How do they fit in? One word: Alaska.
If you live there or have been there, you’ll know. 😉
P.S. To Jane – thanks!