What We’ve Learned
This month, for the theme of PERSIST, we’ve talked about all the ways in which you keep on keeping on – from persisting in the quest for love, to sighing when you feel like screaming, to taking things one day at a time. It seems to us the key to carrying on is actually to pause; to take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come and all you’ve learnt, before pressing on. That’s why we wanted to look back through our archives, at the themes that led us to this one – and everything we’ve learned from the writing that has come out of those topics of discussion.
Here are five things that stood out.
1. Everyone’s finish line looks different
You may not get
That crowning glory
It does not mean there
Is not victory
In your story.
Jennifer Richard’s poem ‘Finish Line‘ reminded us that crossing the finish line isn’t the only act of glory to be found in life. ‘Why,’ she asks, ‘is the silk rope / Only at the finish line?’ A wonderful reminder to celebrate the everyday victories. (GLORY, July 2017)
2. Your worst moments won’t last – and they can be an opportunity for revival
I am writing these words for that very moment, whenever you need it – it could be (and has been) the toilets at work, your empty bed, your parents’ sofa. At that moment, you’re free-falling into a kind of sadness that’s not even really sad; it’s more like an emotional distress call. But the thing is, it doesn’t last – it can’t last, it’s exhausting.
Olivia Sleet’s non-fiction essay ‘Words to Revive You‘ reads as one woman talking to another, laying out the steps required to bring yourself back from the brink of tears, reminding you that as bad as the moment feels, it simply can’t last. So the next time you feel like losing it, bear her words in mind, and know that ‘you’ll emerge one day slightly changed from this moment, but for the better’. (REVIVAL, March 2018)
3. At times, the only way to keep moving forward can be not to look ahead
I can’t hide from that thin, silver laptop forever and I can’t stay in my parents’ garden for long, but I can remember that however impossible the future seems, it is only formed of a collection of days. And today I’ve conquered the first.
Emma Boyn’s creative non-fiction piece ‘The Warmth of the Sun‘ takes an all-too-familiar feeling of tight-chested anxiety and offers up Emma’s own way to keep moving forward – by giving yourself permission to just focus on today, on just getting through the next moment. (NOW, June 2018)
4. Accept the lows – the highs couldn’t exist without them
But in having my ability to deeply feel given back to me, I cannot choose which emotions I feel. I can’t laugh until my cheeks ache and tears spring from my eyes but not feel my stomach lurch and sink with anxiety. I can’t overflow with love and satisfaction but not feel distant and uncertain. Love, joy, clarity and gratitude can’t exist without fear, pain, despair, emptiness. I suppose it always was this way, wasn’t it?
Nadia Henderson’s short story ‘A Hot Shower Shared Between Two‘ is a brilliant example of how fiction often encapsulates a message with direct applications to the real world. By asking what would happen in a world where all feeling, all emotion, no longer existed – except for three days in a year – Nadia Henderson paints a dystopia where even the most simple pleasures are a cause for elation. (THRILLS, May 2018)
5. Coming up the hill was hard work – but coming down the other side can be just as daunting
Today I will let go. Coming up the hill was hard work but coming down the other side is scary. What if something jumps in my way and I have to break suddenly? I have no control over the speed, all I can do is steer.
Sophie Renouf’s ‘The Steepest Hill‘ is a remarkable non-fiction essay about the writer’s experience of living with bulimia, in which she relates all of the pain of getting to a point where she feels able to let go of her own self-judgement – and embracing the fear that follows. (NOURISH, September 2017)