This book changed my life

Strolling through Brisbane’s beautifully eclectic Woolloongabba Antique Centre this past Christmas, I spotted a postcard in the TAKE ME, I’M FREE stand at the edge of the 1950s-style café.

post-card

Aside from my two zines I published, I hadn’t had a particularly writing-focused 2016 so I had hoped this card would give me the prompt or perhaps the elusive inspiration I needed. So, eleven days into the new year I find myself writing this post, as a break from my writing my third zine!

I’ve previously written a post about my favourite books. Literary classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and the childhood-shaping collection of Roald Dahl’s works made the list. But in considering the book that changed my life, I can’t go past The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. My original copy is one of my most treasured possessions.

In recalling our childhood memories, for reasons I believe are beyond our understanding (armchair/real psychologists, take a seat), there are some that are recalled with greater clarity and purpose than others. My childhood memory of discovering my life-changing book punches through so many of the others, but finding the word/s to describe the feeling of that discovery… I’m lost.

I want to know the name of the feeling I have when I recall my seven-year-old-self sprinting back to class from lunch for quiet reading; and then… The feeling of carefully dissecting C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece from my special hiding place on the bookshelf, unseen from the eyes of other kids; the feeling of flopping onto the cushions, trying to read as much as I could in the allotted post-lunch calm-down; the feeling of magic and adventure and friendship shared with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter. And I want to know the name of the sensation when I engorged my face into its pages, craving its old book smell.

While I can’t pinpoint the right words to describe those feelings and sensations (maybe I could with a little effort and research), its without hesitation I can pinpoint the exact time in my life when I knew that I loved reading (and writing). But not just as a kid, I knew that I would love reading for the rest of my life.

Thank you, changedmylife.org.au #respectcreators #freeisnotfair #poweredbycopyright

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Happy New Year! Welcome to 2016.

To wrap up the oyster blogger for 2015, I wrote about my inspirations as well as my highlights and lowlights of the year. For my first post, on the third day of a new year, I have thought about what 2016 has in store for me:

  • Next month, I turn 29 years old – the last year of my 20s. SHIT. Am I where I imagined I would be at this age? Probably not, but my pretty excellent Melbourne life is just a stepping stone to what I hope will be a pretty excellent New York life from 2017.
  • My friend Jacque and I have our long-awaited trip to Croatia and Turkey in March and April. We’re about to secure our Turkish tour and Cappadocia hot air ballooning tickets. (I’m told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience). Jacque is turning 30 years old while we’re there, so I can’t wait to share this trip and milestone with her.
  • Whether I remain at my current workplace for the next month or rest of the year, I hope to work more with my Communications colleagues Erin and Tim – both of whom are intimidatingly excellent writers. I’ve already learnt so much from them, and I’m keen to keep doing so. With this in mind, I hope to write on a more regular basis, attend more in-conversations and workshops, learn more from other writer-friends and explore new writing ideas.
  • I’ll for sure chuck another tantrum and deactivate my dating app for the 3,745th time. Men continue to be gross. I expect nothing to change here, which suits me perfectly, as I’ll be too busy being ***Flawless (grossness and flawlessness don’t mix).
  • I haven’t been to Sydney in a few years, so I’m excited to have a weekend there mid-year. I’ll attend a Dragons game, see my Nanna and Pa, and hang out with my cousins Simon and Emily. I can’t wait to fly somewhere (domestically) for a weekend for a reason that’s mine, and on frequent flyer points.
  • I’ll witness two sets of friends get married: Umesha and Militha in January, and Julia and Tom in September, the latter of which I have the privilege of co-MCing.
  • I’d like to get another tattoo. Maybe. It took me 20 years to get the first one, so it’ll probably take me another 20 to get the second – but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about the design now!
  • I have a big year of saving and researching. I’ve spoken and written about my NYC plan to death – 2016 is a year of action! BRING. IT. ON.
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My happy place.

I’ve written this post from my bedroom (I usually can’t fully concentrate elsewhere). I like to set the creative mood – with the lighting of a lamp and candle, and the sounds of my inspiration music. This year, I’ve begun with a new version: my cheap IKEA lamp has been replaced with a priceless antique lamp (the shade belonged to my Old Nanna), a Glasshouse Manhattan candle – a Christmas present from Mum and Dad and, recently purchased old-school Kanye tunes (how did I not have Stronger?!).

I hope my new-and-improved creative mood is indicative of my 2016: filled with strength and light.

I wish everyone a bright 2016, and to hold onto your strength and light whenever some of your days and experiences aren’t shining as brightly as you hoped.

I leave you with my 2016 ANTHEM PLAYLIST. You’re welcome to borrow it:

  1. She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer
  2. Drag Me Down – One Direction (yes, I’m totes a Directioner! Niall is my fave. Discuss.)
  3. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
  4. Power – Kanye West
  5. Wannabe – Spice Girls
  6. Empire State of Mind – Jay Z and Alicia Keys
  7. Just a Girl – No Doubt
  8. Believe it or Not ­– Greatest American Hero theme song, Joey Scarbury
  9. 28,000 Days – Alicia Keys
  10. Maneater – Hall and Oates (added for laughs for my sister – who says she originally selected this tune as my intro song for my speech at her wedding! She ended up going with with track 6.)
  11. Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift
  12. ***Flawless – Beyoncé

 

What’s in store for your 2016?

Who and what inspired me in 2015

As a classic introvert I draw my energy from within, but I draw inspiration from the things and people I surround myself with. So, as another year comes to a close I have reflected on who and what has inspired me to express all sides of myself during 2015.

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2015: New hair, don’t care!
Here is my non-definitive 2015 inspiration list (in no particular order), which will carry me into 2016 and beyond:

Tenneil Allmark

Since moving to Melbourne, I have made a bunch of new and wonderful friends and Tenneil is one of them! I’ve added her to my inspiration list for two reasons. The first is the way in which she is adjusting to a new city (she moved from Perth a year ago) and her endeavours to find a job. Tenneil currently works part time in retail and has done a few (unpaid) internships. After one year and an incredible amount of work in applying for jobs, she is yet to find one in her field of study and passion: social media and digital marketing in the beauty and fashion industries. It blows my mind that her talent has yet to be recognised.

Speaking of her talent, the second reason why Tenneil is an inspiration is her beauty and lifestyle blog, Like Neon Love. Every time Tenneil posts something new, I immediately read it, like it and share it. I’m obsessed with everything about it – the way she writes for her audience, her exquisite photography (I can’t stop staring at her photos!), and willingness to be open to new possibilities with her blogging. The way she curates Like Neon Love inspires me to continue to improve my own writing and blog.

Follow Tenneil on: Twitter @likeneonlovex | Instagram @likeneonlove | Bloglovin’

Giselle Nguyen

I met Giselle a few weeks after arriving in Melbourne when I moved into my new place – I was taking her old room! Of all the people that have come into my Melbourne life, I am most happy Giselle has. She is my Inspiration Queen. Giselle is an amazing writer. She is an experienced journalist and has worked in the music and not-for-profit sectors. However, like Tenneil, she has worked hard this year to find a job in her field (social media and digital communications in the NFP sector) and has yet to secure one – which, also, blows my mind.

However, what inspires me most about Giselle is her brave and honest writing (everything she writes makes me cry!) and the way in which has gone about establishing her unique authorial voice. In 2014, she got published in Rookie for an article detailing her experience with vaginismus. She followed it up this year with a recount of her most recent experiences with it – a conversation changer – in an article published in Fairfax’s Daily Life (as well as an article about her experience with depression which featured as one of Daily Life’s most popular 2015 articles). In October, Giselle was a panellist at the National Young Writer’s Festival in Newcastle, where she also presented a spoken piece about writer and feminist icon Roxanne Gay. To top all of this off, she has accepted an invitation to be a summer columnist for Daily Life. And did I mention her two self-published zines (about her favourite band, The Lucksmiths and how shitty single life can be post big break-up)? Giselle’s 2015 achievements will continue to inspire me and my writing in 2016.

Follow Giselle on: Twitter @heyschoolgirl | Instagram @heyschoolgirl

Jonathan Thurston

In an effort to minimise attracting douche bros, friends have encouraged me to remove all references to rugby league on my dating profile. (Yes, I have recently re-joined). I feel weird about it because it’s such a huge part of my life – so much so that even though it’s the off-season, I can’t stop thinking about this year’s Grand Final.

The 1989 Grand Final has been considered to be the greatest of all time, until 4 October 2015 – and all due to one man, Jonathan Thurston. He didn’t, generally, have a super game (he in fact made several errors), but he rose to the occasion when it mattered – kicking a field goal in extra time to win the premiership. I’ve been watching rugby league my whole life, and I never thought I’d see a better player than Andrew Johns. WRONG!

Thurston is the 2015

  • Captain of the Premiership-winning team,
  • winner of the Rugby League World Golden Boot award (best player in the world),
  • winner of the Dally M Captain, Halfback and Player of the Year awards (equivalent of the AFL’s Brownlow and the NFL’s AP Most Valuable Player),
  • winner of the Clive Churchill Medal (Grand Final man-of-the-match),
  • winner of the Provan-Summons Medal (NRL’s People’s Choice), and
  • winner of the Rugby League Players’ Association Player of Year.

He has unequivocally proven this year to be the greatest player of all time. Jonathan Thurston is one of the reasons why I love rugby league so much, and why I am such a proud supporter of the greatest sport in the world.

2015 NRL Grand Final highlights: North Queensland Cowboys v Brisbane Broncos, final score: 17-16 (skip to 3 minutes 41 seconds where all the excitement begins!)

Follow Jonathan on: Facebook

Clementine Ford

Writer, social commentator and feminist killjoy, Clementine Ford is a modern day feminist hero. She is a passionate advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, challenging the existence of rape culture, anti-slut shaming and victim blaming, free, safe and legal abortion and birth control, and smashing the patriarchy. Clementine has also actively taken steps to learn more, and share her learnings, about intersectionality in feminism and acknowledging her position as a white woman (rather than a woman of colour or transwoman).

Well-known in feminist circles, Clementine reached beyond this circle in a big way this year. She posted a Facebook status about her shift to no longer being polite about feminist conversation for the sake of including men. She simply had zero f*cks left to give about placating men’s privilege. She was banned from Facebook several times for publicly sharing private abuse she received from men (which included vile and graphic rape and death threats). The unbelievable irony in these incidents was that none of the men were banned. According to Facebook’s community standards, it was Clementine that didn’t meet them, not the men who abused her. She did experience a small win – she publicly named a man for calling her a slut on Facebook, and as a result he was sacked from his job (although she did receive a barrage of abuse for apparently ruining the man’s career). Clementine’s most prominent act was sharing a near-topless photo of herself in support of the (famous and non-famous) women who had their private nude photos hacked and publicly shared without their consent. Clementine did this in response to the victim blaming approach TV show, Sunrise took in how they reported the story.

Clementine Ford inspires me to continue learning about feminism and my place in it, and of course to maintain the rage! And I can’t wait for her first book, Fight Like a Girl, which is due for release in 2016.

Follow Clementine on: Twitter @clementine_ford |                                Instagram @clementine_ford | Facebook | Tumblr

Kim Kardashian West

I have so much love for this woman! I’ve previously written about my love for the Kardashians/Jenners and how easy it is for me as a feminist to have such admiration for them. But it was Kim that started it all. Sure, it started with a sex tape but I hardly think its relevant now – it was almost nine years ago. Since then she has built an empire and continues to have a profound impact on pop culture.

Just this year, she released her lifestyle app and emoji app (which I am obsessed with!), launched her website, released her Selfish book, reached almost 125,000,000 social media followers, and with her sisters she continues to expand their Kardashian Beauty, Kardashian Hair and Kardashian Kids lines. She also nailed her fashion choices, including her perfect Met Gala look. Kim’s burgeoning status as a fashion icon has been validated this year, with stunning covers on Brasilian, Australian and Spanish Vogue (the former two, make-up free).

I’m under no illusion about the fact that there is a lot of hate for Mrs West and her family (sure, they’re not curing cancer, but neither are most people so if you don’t like them, don’t make vile comments on their social media pages!). But, I admire that Kim completely owns who she is, knows what her strengths and faults are and is open about her success as a businesswoman, as well as her fertility and pregnancy struggles. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and much to my delight, is not going anywhere!

Follow @kimkardashian on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Amanda Whitelaw

Amanda is the Brisbane-based artist of Hungry Designs. She creates original illustrations and wearable art inspired by popular culture and Disney characters in Day of the Dead, steampunk and gothic styles. I was first introduced to Amanda’s art when my sister bought me postcards of Ariel (The Little Mermaid) and Jasmine (Aladdin).

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The postcards that started my Hungry Designs obsession!
Since then, I have expanded my postcard collection to include more Ariel, as well as Merida (Brave), Poison Ivy and Jessica Rabbit – all of whom are bad ass ladies in their own way. My postcards are pinned on a huge New York City map canvas which is positioned on the wall above my bed. I refer to this make-shift art piece as my inspiration board.

I’m obsessed with Amanda’s unique art and I’m always looking on her Etsy store and Instagram for new designs to add to my collection. While I love all her art, particularly her Disney-inspired pieces, I can’t help but concentrate my collection to the red-headed alter egos of my dreams!

Follow @hungrydesigns on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Shop Hungry Designs on Etsy

Suffragette (film)

Suffragette tells a portion of the true story of the foot soldiers of the early 1900s feminist movement, which was led by the legendary Emmeline Pankhurst. It was at a time when women had no rights (not even to their children) and were the property of men – they were treated like animals. The centre of their campaign was votes for women, and equal pay for equal work. It defies belief that over 100 years later, we are still having the same conversations to varying degrees all over the world.

Needless to say, watching this film was an emotional experience for me – I was in tears for most it, gripping the cinema chair with absolute disbelief, and I’m pretty sure I was frothing at the mouth with rage. These courageous women physically fought and protested, were bashed and jailed, they starved themselves and were force-fed through their noses, and literally died in their campaign to have women’s voices heard and respected. I left the film questioning why a woman now, particularly a white woman, would not consider herself a feminist and why some women reject their opportunity to vote (because “it’s a waste of time” and “all politicians are the same”). To these women, I say pull your goddamn heads in, and show and act with respect for the women who gave you the rights you take for granted. While I am deeply aware we have a long way to go, and in some countries and for transwomen and WOC even further, I remain forever grateful for what the Suffragettes did for women.

Everyone needs to see this film, everyone. While the film itself is not a masterpiece, it features powerful performances, and was written and directed by women (a feat in itself). Suffragette is the film we needed this year.

Suffragette_poster
source: Wikipedia
Suffragette was released in Australian theatres on Boxing Day (26 December).

New York City

In a surprise to absolutely no one, New York City is on my list. Earlier this year, I made the commitment to myself to move there sometime between February and May 2017 (pending job related factors). I decided on a date, because it’s about time I stopped trying to turn my bedroom into a NYC shrine and actually lived in the real thing. I’ve made small steps toward researching my options, and I will move this process along with gusto in the New Year.

I knew I wanted to do Travel Writing when I first enrolled in my journalism course. I left it until my last semester because I wanted to finish on a high, and put all that I had learned into the subject out of respect for the place so dear to my heart.  It turned out to be an incredible challenge, but in the best possible way. I poured everything into my travel narrative, and with the eyes, ears and expertise of my Writing Support Team (you know who you are!) I produced a piece of work that earned me a distinction, and most importantly it was something that I was proud of.

I’ve been spoiled this year by family and friends sending me links to articles and giving me gifts about New York. At my sister’s May wedding, she selected my intro song to my speech as Jay Z and Alicia Keys’s Empire State of Mind – it was one of the highlights of my year. The fact that my friends and family know that I feel so connected to New York gives me the warm-and-fuzzies. I’m excited about next year and making practical steps towards making my dream a reality.

***

Who and what inspired you in 2015?

 

 

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow!

Hardmans do Europe

It is getting colder and our friends are getting closer. We checked out of our current accommodation and caught a cab around town to our new place, the place we would be staying for the next 3 nights. We were met by our host on the street and taken up to the most beautiful apartment that had cathedral and castle views. Jeremy and I went to buy some food items to make some platters and grabbed a couple of beers to share with our friends when they arrived. Shortly after we receieved word that they had landed at the airport and were on their way! No less that half an hour later, we jogged downstairs and opened the door to find Matt and Hazel waiting…hugging, how-are-youing, more hugging, yay! After we all settled in, we enjoyed some snacks and beer in the loungeroom, then decided it was time to hit…

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2015: A Year in Review

At this time every year there is always is a chorus of “I can’t believe its December next week!” or “I swear this year has gone quicker than last year!” I agree with both sentiments. So, with a new year almost upon us, and my 29th birthday less than three months away, I’ve begun reflecting on my 2015. As always, it’s been a mixed bag but a big year of accomplishments.

Work:

I pulled off two huge projects – a gala ball (I’ve coordinated hundreds of events but never a gala ball) and a video production that seemed to take 120 years to complete, but it got there in the end. Both projects received a lot of push back from certain areas of management, but one of my favourite things in life is proving people wrong. I got to do that for both of these projects! My work year hasn’t been without stress though. My boss thought it was a good idea to – twice – suggest that I’m “offensive”, “threatening” and “negative” and those characteristics were affecting the team (not actually true, my colleagues laughed when I asked them). She’s also showered me with compliments in between. Whatever. I’m lucky that I get to work in a team with the most incredible people who I can truly call friends. It makes the shitty days feel so much better.

I also reached my two year anniversary on 23 November. This milestone has prompted me to think about moving on, particularly onto a role that would pay me what I believe I’m worth. This time of year is typically slow on the job ad front, but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that comes up.

Writing:

I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve accomplished with my writing this year. I’ve written 24 blog posts (this is my 24th!) While consistency with timing isn’t there, I’m thrilled with the content I’ve produced. Earlier this year, I considered curating my blog to a certain theme or topic but in the end decided against it. I’m still green in the writing world, so I didn’t want to restrict my creative outlet in any way – it explains how my posts fit into wide-ranging topics including dating, football, favourite things, and travel!

I also completed my Graduate Diploma in Journalism.  Reflecting back on my accomplishments over the years, I’ve never been prouder than I have of this one. I received four high distinctions, two distinctions and two credits – which resulted in a distinction GPA. In fact, I missed a high distinction GPA by 1%. I worked incredibly hard during this course, so I definitely deserved the grade. The reason why I did this course was to study something I enjoyed as a hobby and to prove to myself that I’m a good writer. I achieved what I set out to do. I still have so much more to learn, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am now on my writing journey.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “what are you going to do now that you’ve graduated?” and my answer every time is that I have no idea. I didn’t do this course so I could automatically change everything I was doing the minute I graduated. I’m still figuring it out, but I’ll let everyone know when I do.

Travel:

I’ve travelled overseas every year since I was 21 – 2015 was the first year I didn’t. Unfortunately I didn’t get my annual leave approved. However, in March and April of next year one of my best friends and I will be travelling to Croatia and Turkey. We’ve been talking about this trip for years, so it’s a dream come true to be finally making it happen.

I had the opportunity to apply for a support role on a 2016 New York work trip. I never thought I’d say no to an opportunity to go to New York, but after careful consideration I decided against applying: I wasn’t sure that I would still be working there by the time the trip departed, so I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time; I’ve been to NYC several times and I thought I’d give others more of a chance to apply; and I plan on moving there in early 2017 anyway. As it turns out, one of my fabulous work friends got the spot, and I’m beyond excited for her!

By the time the year is out I would have travelled to Brisbane five times and Adelaide once, even though I don’t consider it real travel. It’s meant that this year has been a financial disaster – but that’s, literally, the price I’ve paid for moving away from Brisbane the minute all my friends and family decided to get married! A few months ago I boldly and naively declared that I wasn’t going back up to Brisbane in 2016 other than for Christmas and a friend’s wedding in January which I had committed to attending more than a year ago. I’ve since been told to expect invites for two more weddings (I’m sure there are more coming that I don’t know about yet). I would love nothing more than to be at both of them, but next year I need to be selfish and focus on my savings and working toward my own goals (and not feel guilty about it).

Dating:

A disaster as always. My dating life this year has featured: getting dumped by someone I quite liked, going on dates with two guys – one of which was with the most boring person on the planet and the other had such tiny man hands his name should be T-Rex. Plus, there was the train guy who appeared perfectly normal and then disappeared without a word. I also got asked by a friend if we could be friends with benefits (it sounds dodgy, but it wasn’t) – even though it caught me completely by surprise, I was extremely flattered but I declined in the interests of “preserving our friendship”.

A few months ago I deleted my dating apps. I was prompted to act after a constant stream of dick pics, explicit introductory messages, and absolute morons. It’s soul destroying stuff. But, after encouragement from friends I’ve decided to jump back on (just one) to see what happens. Now that I’ve finished studying, I have more time to explore Melbourne and go out more. I’m trying to be positive, but I’m not holding my breath either.

Friendships:

I miss my Brisbane friends more and more each day (although a few of them are here with me in Melbourne!), but my obsession with my Melbourne friends has taken on a new level this year. I continue to learn so much from them and their selflessness is with compassion and without agenda. Love to you all.

What’s next in 2016? More savings, writing opportunities, love, and travel!

As we all crawl toward Christmas and New Year for a much needed break, I wish everyone the most amazing festive season! I also hope that 2015 has been good to you, and if it hasn’t that there have been sparks along the way that encourage you toward better things in 2016.

Perspective

Hardmans do Europe

I have been to the killing fields in Cambodia, where the ground you walk on still has teeth, bullets, shoes, bones…the unimaginable stuck in time, stuck in dirt. If it wasn’t so real, the feeling, the evidence, the tears, you wouldn’t think it was real. I have seen the atrocities of the Vietnam War, millions of Vietnamese killed or maimed, from a war the Vietnamese call The American War. I have stood at Ground Zero, before the memorial was built, when it was just a giant, gaping wound in heart of New York city, swallowed by an eerie silence of the dead, with only the footage I saw as a 12 year old girl playing in my mind, of people choosing to jump from the 80th floor, rather than be burned or crushed to death. I have stood at the ruins of the now called ‘A-Bomb Dome’, in Hiroshima, just some of…

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What if . . .

A friend of mine is encouraging me to join him in the online writing quest, National Novel Writing Month. Otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, it’s a worldwide community of writers who support one another to each write a 50,000 word novel in one month. The idea is that participants get, at least, a skeleton plot and character plan together ready for the first writing day of the month.

It’s a feat that seems unachievable to me – but I’m assured it’s possible, and fun!

My friend is already well ahead with his planning. While there is a huge amount of creative freedom in terms of topic and genre, I’m in panic mode trying to think of an idea. One of my challenges with writing is coming up with the original idea. I’m not one to go looking for inspiration, I kind of hope it just happens by chance – which is probably not the most effective option, but I’m still learning my craft.

During our conversation about inspiration sources, my friend ended up suggesting ‘what if’ as a starting point. “If you consider a possibility that doesn’t already exist”, he said, “it can become anything.” I usually enjoy writing based on truth or realism rather than impossibilities and fantasies. However, in the interests of creative exploration, I pose the following ‘what ifs’ based on my truth.

#selfie
#selfie

What if . . . Paris was my dream and not New York City?

What if . . . I didn’t have red hair?

What if . . . we stayed in Wollongong?

What if . . . I finished school at 18 years old and not 16?

What if . . . I never worked at Pizza Hut?

What if . . . I did journalism and not events management as my undergrad?

What if . . . I didn’t move to Melbourne two and half years ago?

What if . . . I didn’t accept my current job after months of being unemployed?

What if . . . he didn’t lie and he was what I wanted him to be?

What if . . . I was more extroverted than introverted?

What if . . . I said no?

What if . . . I said yes?

My ‘what ifs’ listed here make up a small sample. There might even be a story idea in there. They aren’t meant to be negative or deeply self-analytical or regretful in any way, nor disrespectful to anyone else’s ‘what ifs’. But they’re mine. I do wonder. But I look forward to the future – and coming up with an idea for NaNoWriMo!