Sunday, February 3, 2013

Song To Woody

I think most of you know by now that I am a massive fan of Letters of Note (absolutely worth following if you don’t already). The blog’s owner, Shaun Usher, also publishes a similar blog called Lists of Note, which is intriguing for someone like me who eschews lists, by and large. This one, Woody Guthrie’s new years’ resolutions for 1942, hit home to me with a wallop.

For Australians, I think the urge to make new years’ resolutions is especially strong, as the new year is not only the beginning of the calendar year, but also the beginning of the academic and working year, smack in the middle of summer. To be honest, I’m not usually prone to making them, or at least not any more so than every Monday morning or after indulging in too much alcohol or unhealthy food. But I do often approach the year with broad ideas of what I want. Last year I wanted to be more adventurous and work harder – let’s just say I was more successful at one than the other.

Two of the greatest casualties of my illness were my ambition and then my hope for something better. Since late 2011 these have both returned, although when I have depressive episodes they’re the first thing to go, and their absence makes it difficult to fight the despair that often shrouds me. That helplessness is exacerbated by certain life events that threatened to overwhelm me last year, despite being what I thought was ancient history, and sometimes just waking up and making it through the day is a win. Actually, ‘sometimes’ is an understatement, but let’s move on.

Guthrie’s list is both quaint and comfortingly familiar, universal in its charms: ‘WASH TEETH IF ANY’, ‘CHANGE BED CLOTHES OFTEN, ‘READ LOTS GOOD BOOKS’, ‘KEEP HOPING MACHINE RUNNING’ and ‘MAKE UP YOUR MIND’. But the final entry on the list hit me right in the gut: ‘WAKE UP AND FIGHT’. It helps that it’s in caps lock; it is a directive to attack every day, and it’s one I desperately need to follow, even if I’m only fighting my own mind. If I have a resolution, this is it. In fact it’s less a new years’ resolution and more a life one.*

I know the readers of this blog have mixed feelings about life lists. It’s not really one I’ve ever set about writing, mostly because if you write something down it makes it solid, and certainly by writing it down where others can read it I’m left hanging. What follows isn’t a complete list at all – some things are much too private to throw out on the internet – but maybe some of them are worth sharing. A few of them will even be crossed off in the near future.

The last few months/this year/next year:

*See Morrissey live at a great venue

*Prepare and then present research at an academic conference.  Don’t throw up or have panic attack during said presentation, but afterwards feel free

*Get through opening drinks at academic conference without panic attack or throwing up in front of people. Maybe drink something new and eat some cheese

.*See Women of Letters event in Melbourne (ticket bought!)

*Write and publish research in a refereed journal

*See Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live (ticket bought!)

*Finish researching and writing Honours thesis, also known as Frankie.

*See Glen Hansard live at the Opera House

*See Something for Kate live in Canberra at a venue I haven’t visited before, see friends on getaway trip (tickets bought!)

*Be accepted into the M.Phil programme at my university, convince mentor not to dump me after Honours and take me on for postgrad

*Host 30th birthday party for close friends (invitations bought!)

*Have some proper photographs taken, maybe in Melbourne after Honours?

*Pay off medical debt (oh please, yes)

*Consolidate superannuation

*Get a university job, preferably in a library

*See The National live

*See Glasvegas live

*Consolidate superannuation

*See David Bowie live (c’mon dude, please tour the new album….)

*Go out with my sister more often

*New place to live

*Learn how to drive and get licence

*See my specialist more often, ideally once every 4 weeks

3 -5 years

*Finish M.Phil thesis

*Get Australian Postgraduate Award to make life financially easier while working on PhD programme

*Relearn Italian and become proficient to the level I need for my studies and then later for a fellowship. (This is probably the hardest thing on the list, intellectually.)

*Research trip to Italy

*Tutoring work with either A., N., or J. Maybe all 3! Work consistently and learn how to teach. (This is also one of the hardest things on the list.)

*Present at a few international conferences. Maybe go to one of the conference dinners and get through it without drinking heavily or throwing up.

*Travel with Bea - Spain and Italy?

*Travel a little with my sister

*Relearn Latin (urgghhhh…this one might spill over the 5 year period)

*Reduce frequency of panic attacks

*Go out on a date. Throw up. Maybe try it again if it doesn’t go so well.

5 – 8 years

*Finish PhD

*Write up research for a book and try and find a publisher.

*Undertake weekly therapy (this is something I apparently have to do at some point, as wretched as it makes me feel)

*Travel with F.

*Fellowship at Villa I Tatti (This is one of my big dreams, one of the biggest)

*Stop throwing up so much

The main reason I wrote these down is because this way I can look at it when the madness comes and remember that I do have ambition, that I do have plans, and that I can have a future.

If I fight for it.

*At this point, I think it’s worth saying that when I told my best friend this I started to describe the list and she said ‘yeah, I read that too’, (she’s not on social media and we’d never discussed this before) – and before I got to saying my favourite she added ‘I love the last one – ‘,
‘WAKE UP AND FIGHT’, we both said together.
This is true friendship, I think.


  1. Great list! But be flexible :)

    While cleaning out my papers recently I found a similar list that I'd created a couple of years ago. I hadn't achieved one thing on the list. Ouch.

    1. That's partly why I've never made one and exactly why I've put stuff on it I know I can cross off like concerts and things that are partly accomplished.

      There's this great bit in the West Wing where someone says to Toby that she likes crossing things off lists (she's sightseeing) and asks him if he likes the same. 'Crossing things off lists?', he says. 'I'll let you know if I ever manage to do that.'

  2. I love your list, specially the part where you come to Spain!!!! ;) You know Barthelona is waiting for you!!!

    I only have lists of books, series and films. (I don't write down places I want to visit because it'll be frustrating).


Comments are like crack, please enable me.