At 22 life can feel a little overwhelming. Maybe it always felt overwhelming. I think 18 seems to be the age of limbo of childhood and adulthood – one foot on each piece of unsolid ground. And maybe that’s what 22 is when you’re a late bloomer.
And that I suppose is my first bit of advice to my younger self.
You don’t have to know yourself completely now. You don’t have to know where you’re going or where you’re from. You have all the time in the world even though the world is telling you that you don’t. There’s a fixation we have with adulthood and reaching a point where you’ve finally got it together – I’m sorry to say a decade on I still don’t really know what I’m doing. But the good news is – that’s fine. You can still be happy and tumble through life doing your best.
"Reinvention by necessity is a brave move."
We are not particularly fond of the concept of reinvention. There are arrogant connotations to it. It’s confronting – the idea that you could just be someone else. But sometimes reinvention is survival. Reinvention by necessity is a brave move. You’re allowed to shed your skin and be someone else. Try on different selves until you find one that is right. That is who you were always meant to be. You don’t have to be who you are now.
You don’t have to suffer to be a good human. You definitely don’t have to be miserable for your art. You don’t have to be sad to be a good writer. You don’t have to be a phoenix rising from the flames, you can just be a happy house budgie that people smile at and leave in peace. You don’t have to explain hurt away with hallmark card sentiments. It’s OK to believe nothing happens for a reason and just sit in that. You don’t have to just accept your sadness as if it’s a lesson you’ll one day learn.
"You don’t have to suffer to be a good human. You definitely don’t have to be miserable for your art."
Becoming a mum was actually the start of my career in writing. I’d all but given up and thought that parenting was the final nail in the coffin. I had absorbed the social narrative that mothers aren’t seen and barely heard. My children are my greatest inspiration and I feel more alive creatively than I ever have before. Becoming a parent is a beginning in so many ways and I’ve found it was the key to really finding myself. In that way, my work has been more fulfilling and luckily successful than ever.
Hero image for 'Rants in the Dark', photographed by Matt Grace
Emily Writes is the editor of The Spinoff Parents and has been a columnist for a diverse range of media outlets. She edits her own website, has written two books, and has two children. Her book Rants in the Dark: From One Tired Mama to Another was the natural progression from the successful blog Emily started in the wee small hours while feeding her first baby, in a valiant attempt to reclaim her adult brain. Her first post – Fuck off, I’m grateful – had nearly a million hits and sent over 15,000 emails to her inbox.
Adapted for the stage by writer and performer Mel Dodge, Rants in the Dark runs May 16 - 18 at Takapuna’s Bruce Mason Centre.