by Tutku Barbaros
Before I started my period I was in anticipation of a big change – I thought I was going to become a woman. I expected an intensity of experience. In reality, I discovered that cold water really is the best way to wash blood out of your knickers and cracked on with my life.
The expectation of a revelation is a sticky thing. Biology isn’t all that makes a woman but there’s something to be said about the mysteries of the female body that lend itself to this obsession with firsts though. There’s all these things it can do, that we have no idea about until they actually happen. Will the mythic mother goddess awaken in my soul the first time I lactate – or will I just be lactating? I mean, it’s hard to know, until it actually happens. And there’s no telling it will. Granted, I’d presumed I’d know by now, but how I thought life would be, isn’t how it’s been. There’s an awakening.
I’m turning thirty soon, and I keep thinking about the sheer number of round-up articles I’ve read where people share all the knowledge they’ve accumulated throughout their twenties and how they plan to enter their thirties with this garrison of life experience. Blah blah blah. I just think, why wait? If you had a particularly educational March 2017, why wait ’til your 30th birthday two years later to actually write about it, talk about it, process and move on from it? Or enjoy it, or celebrate it, or whatever, whatever it needs. If there’s one thing I know it’s this: awakenings happen every day and in all sorts of different ways. A milestone isn’t the same as an awakening, so there’s no use in waiting for the first this, that or the other. No use at all.
I didn’t realise at the time, but it was love at first sight. I thought that was meant to be like a lightning bolt, not me, a person who hates cycling, cycling through fields at 3am. But there it is, months after it’s done and dusted, whilst reading an old diary, I have the revelation; yeah that was absolutely love at first sight. The next time it happens I’m like ‘right, yeah of course, this is who I am now, I fall quickly’ and that time it goes horribly wrong. Not the same love twice, there’s a revelation. I find it hard to fall at all now.
I always cry at Happy Feet. That’s an awakening: I’m soft, I’m soppy, anything to do with collective kindness will always get me. Also, you know that bit in 13 Going On 30 where she gets everyone to dance LIKE CANDYYYY? Yeah that was a revelation I had approximately two weeks ago – in spite of having seen that film one thousand times. I suddenly thought, ‘yes actually we would all benefit from doing the thing our unfiltered, untainted teenage self would do every now and then’.
Realising that pop culture has a massive impact on my life both as a person and an artist and leaning into that, rather than forcing myself to read more (any) Proust, is imperative. Knowing what you enjoy and allowing yourself to really guiltlessly bask and indulge in that thing is a cheek to cheek smile of an awakening. Knowing you have the capacity to learn from everything and anything levels that awakening up.
“I’ve led my life differently because of that grief, I have used my time differently to how I did before.”
Rage is an awakening, too. Pain is. Sadness is. Two times, twice I’ve felt something very visceral, very different. The first was the image of Aylan Kurdi face down on the shore and the second was Grenfell going up in flames. Two things that, even as I type them, I type with held breath. Nothing will ever dilute those images in my mind. Nothing. They awoke in me the abject need to do more. I’ve led my life differently because of that grief, I have used my time differently to how I did before. I wasn’t asleep before those incidents, not by any stretch, but I definitely wasn’t this awake.
And there’s something about that kind of awakening, which on your darkest days you will use against yourself. You will punish yourself for having the audacity to feel any other thing.
But – and this is a revelation I’ve been working on lately – the you that’s an individual is not at war with the you who wants to change the world. Realising you’re ten people at once is a complicated awakening but maybe if we think of it as more like a super power, then that’s quite exciting. Quite calming. Clark Kent was Superman as well, innit.
A relationship ending, due to some bland thing such as distance, is an awakening: life can be arbitrary. A scrape with mortality is an awakening: life can be VERY arbitrary. How you felt on the anti-Brexit march was an awakening. Realising your mood swings and funny obsessions are actually unchecked anxiety, is an awakening.
Kissing somebody else’s boyfriend in somebody else’s garden is an awakening: your moral compass has a grey area. A lover treating you like shit is the awakening that you are, sadly, disposable to some. Really authentically believing you’re not disposable to you is the most important thing and probably one of the biggest awakenings we can strive for.
All these realisations arrive on their own watch. Sometimes illusive, in enigmatic form, other times they’re front page news. They live in between, underneath and around the things we thought would define us. The truth is we’re more likely to have an awakening on the 484 to Brixton on a Tuesday morning than as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. Realising this leaves us wide open to revelations and digestions and life-changing moments every minute of every day. For better for worse.
Tutku Barbaros | @tutkubarbaros
Raised on hummus and hip hop, Tutku Barbaros is a writer, artist & activist. She’s one third of the confrontational and cake covered Plunge Theatre with whom she’s currently writing a sitcom.