When I close my eyes and think about my future, I see a smattering of different scenes. I get a few pangs of feeling in my tummy- like a prediction of the way I will feel in the future but it hasn’t quite been given a name yet. In one of the scenes I see fairy lights, weird I know- but I see twinkly fairy lights and a big open fire in a cosy pub. I feel very warm and loved, I have my friends around me and I’m laughing. It’s a normal weekday evening and we are listening to dreamy acoustic music, drinking mulled wine and telling stories.
In another scene I am holding a copy of the book I have written. Gripping it with the ferocity that only comes from working very, very hard to achieve something you’ve wanted for a very long time. I’m on a stage in a pretty dress and I have tears in my eyes, I am trying to gather the words to explain what I’m feeling. However I quickly realise that there are absolutely no words in the English language that would ever come close to expressing the relief and the gratitude I am experiencing in this moment. While I was living in London last winter I worked for an events agency and I was working one evening at what turned out to be The Manbooker Awards. Whilst everyone else was biting their nails and flicking through Instagram I gazed through a crack in the wall and watched the evening unfold, promising myself that one day I would be a guest instead of the help. That one day I would sit in one of those chairs and look at how far I’d come.
Another scene is very simple and very achievable; it’s a little one or two bedroom apartment. It’s raining outside and I have two or three of my girlfriends round. We are drinking tea in our pjs on my big, cosy sofa that I’ve covered in soft pillows and a cool throw that I lugged back from a strange country. All around me I am surrounded by my things, my walls are dotted with art and photography that I have chosen because I thought it was beautiful, my kitchen is filled with obscure crockery from Tiger and my shelves are lined with glass jars filled with weird ingredients from health food shops. There are books everywhere. Piled high in a protective wall of knowledge and possibility, available to anyone who wants to take one and have a flick through. My home, my own little space that I worked hard to find and build; a place that I can enter, close the door, and spill the day’s contents onto floor and organise it. A place for everyone, my family, my friends, friends of friends- anyone who needs a little retreat. I want my girls to be able to come at anytime, even in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with me without any questioning or discomfort. Then in the morning, get up and make themselves a tea, curl up on my sofa and know they’re safe.
The next I am walking- as I often am. It’s chilly enough for a coat but not bitterly so, and I’m walking down a long path that’s dotted with the burnt oranges and banana yellows from the fallen leaves. My hands are buried deep in my pockets to keep them toasty and I can see my breath tumbling from my lips in barrel rolls. The sky is still a crispy blue, but the sun is getting tired and is low in the sky, its remaining rays filtering through the trees in golden, cloudy beams. I’m alone with my thoughts and I’m completely overwhelmed with pride and happiness. I don’t know why and I can’t pinpoint a specific thought in particular but I feel an overpowering sense of achievement and fulfilment, like everything I was worried and nervous about were just that- worries and nerves. And that everything is how it should be, that the life I spent so long questioning, the person I spent so much time moulding and guiding in the right direction is finally someone who I can say I am proud to be.
In any of the visions I have ever had of my future, I don’t see a man or a marriage. I don’t see kids (even though I would like them at some point) and I don’t see wealth. I see only me and my happiness; I see the flower-filled garden that is my mental state- plentiful and healthy. For me the ultimate happiness is the one you create within yourself, using your own tools and building blocks and relying on no one. I don’t want to give the responsibility of ‘me’ to someone else, and I don’t want to fill the gaps I have inside me with money and material wealth. I want to be solely responsible for my own contentment, and only then can I allow a man or children to boost me in a way that only adds to the overflow of happiness.
Life is an accumulation of memories, a sea of emotion and a mountain range of possibility and opportunity. When your body is old and your mind is tired, when there aren’t many scenes left to picture- the only things you’re going to see when you close your eyes are the moments in your life that made you who you are. The times where you were filled to the brim with feeling, where you loved until there was no love left and when you listened to and followed your deepest desires, regardless of the consequences. Whatever you picture when you close your eyes make sure you’re smiling in every vision, make sure you’re the type of person who you’d like to have as a friend and make sure above all that you’re proud to be the person you’ve become.