Law school and an unintentional hiatus

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Do you ever find that there are so many things happening to and around you that you just don’t know how to talk about any of them?

Or that there’s one big thing, just one thing, that you’re not ready to talk about yet – and it makes all your other words get stuck in your throat?

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged; to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about blogging, too. A lot has happened in the 9 months since I last put fingers to keyboard in the service of this little corner of the Internet. Finally, I think I’m ready to talk.

When I started law school back in June of last year, I was determined that that was going to be the last big change in my life. I’d already left my partner, moved in with my best friend, and booked a big European holiday, and That Was It. I was done with changes, done with making hard choices and struggling with the consequences. Life, of course, had other ideas. I struggled with unemployment. I tried my best to support my friend through her first year of teaching. I stayed in bed until midday, far too many days in a row.

Now I’m back, or I’m getting there. I’ve remembered that I’m valuable, and so are the things I have to say. I’ve remembered that this is my blog, and no-one here is going to judge me for changing my reading habits during my unintentional hiatus. Because that was part of it – I stopped reading, and so I stopped having things to write about. Even now I mostly just read court judgements and textbooks, or spend too much time in the fanfiction corner of Tumblr. But I do what I can, and every couple of days I read another page or two. That’s all any of us can do.

So stay tuned for a return from hiatus. We’ll be back to your regularly scheduled program talking books, studying, and real life in no time.

It’s great to be back.

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Queer Book Club

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At the beginning of this year, I went to this year’s Queer Book Salon, put on by Readings as part of Midsumma in January.

It was excellent. I heard about an author who writes historical romances, ensuring that the lesbians who were always there got their turn in the spotlight. I heard about the plethora of gay men who are well known for their writings, and considered the idea that being gay does affect your writing – even if you’re not writing romance stories.

Which, when I think about it, is kind of obvious. I mean, of course the fundamentals of who you are and who you love affect your writing. My writing is as affected by the fact that I’m straight but confused as it is by the fact that I’m white and a woman and grew up Catholic.

I was so struck by this that I decided to join Readings’ Queer Book Club this year; once a month, for ten months, we’d get together and read books by and about queer people, and discuss them in an open environment. I loved this idea of getting to know the culture I felt I was being thrust into, of experiencing more of the issues and feelings and ideas that queer people have.

Reading that sentence, you might feel a bit uncomfortable. Like I’m treating queer people like I might treat French culture, or Arabic, or Jewish. Foreign and worth studying, for their differences as well as their sameness. Well guess what – I realised that as well.

We were discussing Holding the Man, Tim Conigan’s memoir of love and AIDS, and I was struck by this feeling that I was being a total voyeur. Sure, I had good intentions – how could I be a good partner to a queer person if I didn’t understand what they were facing? But that’s not how it ended up. It ended up with me retreating even further into my heterosexuality, knowing that in this situation, I could be an ally, but I would always be Other.

I’ve only been back once since that session – too afraid to say what I think, lest it be wrong or offensive. I feel like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, invading safe spaces for my own voyeuristic pleasure. I don’t even really read the books anymore – it’s taking me longer to be able to pick them up, to shake off this unease and remind myself that it’s just a book and your intentions are honorable. Now that I have the idea in my head, though – all I can think is the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

So far, I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read as part of my queer book club. They’re all great stories about interesting people, trailblazing and honest and just great writers and characters. Self-consciousness aside, being in this book club has enabled me to read more widely than I have before, given me a vehicle for motivation, great recommendations, and encouraged me to challenge my reading in a way that I might not have otherwise had the energy to this year. So yeah, it’s been a great seven months, and I’m looking forward to the last three.

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What I really wanted to say with this post was that you may notice a new queer book club tag floating around. I think it’s important to branch out in one’s reading, to pick up books you might not have otherwise. I certainly wouldn’t have picked up any of the tagged books without the prompting of the book club. So if you’re looking for something a little different, but essentially the same, click on the queer book club tag and see how you go from there.

What, like it’s hard?

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If anyone asks, I usually say that my favourite movie is one of the Marvel franchise – maybe The Avengers, or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Or The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Or Love Actually, if I’m feeling Christmassy. Or Aladdin, if I’m in a Disney mood. Point is, I have a lot of favourite movies. But if you were to ask me which movie had actually affected me the most? Hands down, Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde came out when I was eleven years old, too old to want to follow my parents blindly into teaching (though a part of me still believes that I’ll end up in front of a classroom, because teaching’s in my blood), but too young to really know what else I should be pinning my hopes and dreams on. Enter Elle Woods, cute, sassy, smart as hell, and unwilling to let anyone dictate to her what she can and can’t do. From the moment I saw that movie, with it’s dark wood panelling and heavy books and strong moral code – no, you can’t break the bonds of sisterhood! – I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, and I spent the rest of my adolescence secure in the knowledge that that was what I was going to do.

Now finally, after a couple of roadblocks and a major detour, I’m finally studying law. And honestly? It feels like I’m doing what I was meant to do. All that reading, wading through dense cases and history and pages and pages of legislation, comparing judgements and writing case notes – this is it. This is my calling.

I’ve never cycled back to a dream the way I have with this one, and I’m so glad I did. It’s like when I got my tattoo – the idea existed in the abstract for a long time, so that by the time it materialised in the real world, it was absolutely the right thing to do. It’s made me surer than ever that even if you miss a chance the first time it comes around, if the idea of it keeps bugging you, you have to get out there and create a new chance, and get where you really want to be.

Unhinged

In not-quite two weeks, I’m headed off to Europe for a month. Four weeks, five countries, six or seven cities – I’m so excited. With all this free time I’ve been having, I’ve had plenty of time to plan, to pack, to dream about what I’m going to see and what I’m going to write about.

I love this part of the holiday – the part where you’re planning and dreaming and it’s all excitement and booking flights. It’s a time of hope, almost like the lead-up to Christmas, where everything is joy and anticipation.

It’s terrifying as well, though. I’m in a time of my life where I suddenly have no job, no partner, no money. I have this holiday to look forward to, but after that, it’s just… empty. I have to take a break from my studies because my holiday falls right at a crucial time in trimester. I’ve been putting off properly searching for jobs because I’m not sure it’s worth trying if I’m going away for a month, but the upshot of that is that not only do I have very little to do with my days now, but I also have nothing to fill my days when I get back.

I’ve learned that I’m only a motivated worker when I have someone else enforcing a deadline over my head; isn’t that a terrible feeling. I can’t motivate myself at all, no matter what strategies I try. I called this post Unhinged because that’s how I feel. Unhinged. Adrift. Aimless.

Oh, I have plans for sure. Heaps of things I want to do, pieces I want to write, holiday research I want to do. Plans upon ideas upon inspirations. But how to implement them? Of course, now, when I’m in the midst of writing, it all seems so straightforward. When I’m in the midst of planning it all seems so easy: get up at a reasonable time (early, even!), go for a run, write for a few hours, maybe hit up the library or my favourite coffee shop if I need a change of scenery – but then when my alarm goes off I blink myself awake reluctantly, pull out my phone and wander my way through blogs and AO3 and Tumblr for a few hours, get up somewhere around midday, put off my run because I want to eat breakfast first – you get the picture. And it’s not even that it’s hard – it’s just that I have no pressing motivation, no one to notice if I’m not at my desk, made up and ready to work, at 9am.

I’d make a terrible freelancer. I have no self-discipline.

This blog was always a way to change all that – to cultivate a little self-discipline in my writing, to be writing and creating regularly, to give myself the freedom to write about the things that I love so that I have the motivation to write about the things that I have to – had to – for work. So here I am again, after an embarrassingly long hiatus, to write and create and research and, hopefully, to inject a little structure into my days.

In a little less than two weeks, I’ll be in England. In the meantime, I’ll be posting a little about where I’m going, how I’m planning my trip, what I’m going to pack, and how I’ll put together my outfits while I’m away. Your regularly scheduled programming of Comic Book Mondays, book reviews, and other cultural ponderings will be airing as well.

It’s good to be back.

Reading resolutions for 2015

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I’m a big fan of resolutions. I rarely achieve what I set out to at the beginning of the year, but I find that resolutions have a way of keeping me on track, keeping me mindful of what I’m doing on a daily basis, and if nothing else, they help to remind me of my priorities when they fall by the wayside. I find that the resolutions I make in hopeful, earnest January are the things that remind me of what’s important when I get to distracted July and apathetic August.

I try to make a broad range of resolutions; fitness resolutions, travel and language goals, writing resolutions. Below are the reading resolutions I’ve made for for 2015; perhaps ambitious, given how I went with my reading goals in 2014, but more detailed than I’ve made them before.

1. Read 50 books

It’s an ambition of mine to read 52 books in a year; one for every week. I’ve yet to hit more than 25 or 30 in a calendar year. Let’s hope this year, with it’s (slightly) more achievable goal of not-quite-one book every week, I can hit my target.

2. Read 12 Miles Franklin winners

I’ve always been interested in the Miles Franklin Literary Award, awarded each year for the novel by an Australian author that represents Australian life in any of its phases. I’m interested to see how the prize represents what the Australian literary scene of any given year (since 1957) views as the epitomisation of Australian life. This year I’ve joined a Miles Franklin book club through a friend at work, and I’m super excited to see how it goes.

3. Read 6 books written by Australian women

I’ve never really weighed in on the women-in-literature debate, except to say rather noncommittally that there seem to be fewer women represented in popular literature and literary prizes because women writers seem to write more genre fiction than “serious literary fiction”, but I do believe that as an Australian woman, the best lens through which to critically evaluate the culture I live in is through the writing of Australian women. I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge a few years ago, and failed miserably, but I feel like between my Miles Franklin goal and my to-read pile, there’s no way I can miss out this year.

4. Read 10 works of nonfiction

I’m so glad I started getting into nonfiction in 2014, and I can only imagine that my love for a good essay will grow as I explore more of the essay collections, memoirs, and other nonfiction works that pique my interest.

5. Read 10 works on my to-read shelf

Forget a to-read pile, I have a whole bookcase crammed full of books I’ve bought with the intention of reading, and then never read. Fiction, nonfiction, award winners, classics, Australian fiction – all the works that I’ve bought with the best of intentions and then gotten sidetracked from. This year I’m going to read (at least) 10 of them, and I hope that once I get the ball rolling my to-read shelf will shrink before my eyes.

6. Read every book that I purchase

I went into a bookstore three or four days before Christmas, and I was only in there for about 5 minutes when I’d found three books that I wanted to buy. Being the week before Christmas, I refrained, but it got me thinking – if I’d bought those books, they no doubt would have ended up shoved on my to-read shelf as soon as I got distracted by something new. So, a resolution – try to buy books one at a time, and above all else, read everything that I purchase. Hopefully that’ll curb my tendency to walk out of secondhand shops with towering piles of oh-I’d-like-to-read-this-someday books.

So there you have it – my reading goals for 2015. Have you made any reading goals for this year? What were they? Let me know in the comments!

2014 in review

Goodbye, 2014. Hate to see you leave, love to watch you go.

Wait. Nope, I’m thinking of something else.

2014’s been both a challenge and a delight. Personal problems, professional challenges, and a lot of time spent in my own head and on this blog were basically the common threads of the year. Here are some highlights.

Books I read

As this is nominally a reading blog, here are my reading highlights of the year.

Comics

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2014 was the year I finally delved into comic books, fully embracing my inner Marvel (and Chris Evans) fangirl. Comic highlights include my first, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, as well as Andy Diggle’s The Losers and Brian Michael Bendis’ Age of Ultron. Last comic of the year was Mark Millar’s Civil War, because I just can’t wait for Captain America: Civil War to come out (I may be doing a little happy dance in my seat just thinking about it).

I’ve really enjoyed branching out into comics this year. It challenged my ideas of how and why I enjoy reading – confirming some suspicions that yes, actually, I am just in it for a ripping yarn, and debunking previously held opinions about the word-to-picture ratio of a complex, gripping story.

Nonfiction

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Another way I’ve branched out this year was by properly diving into reading nonfiction. I’ve been dancing around the edges of memoir and essay for a few years now, and jumping into George Orwell’s Essays and Benjamin Law’s Gaysia only served to encourage and delight. I walked into a brand-new bookstore just up the road from my house in the week before Christmas and found not one but three nonfiction books I was interested in. I’m challenging myself to purchase and read all of them by the end of February – gotta keep that nonfiction spark burning!

Fiction

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I joined a couple of book clubs this year that broadened and challenged my choice of novel, and helped me get around to reading books that I’d been thinking about reading or that had been recommended to me a while before. I loved loved loved Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I shared with my local book club and pressed onto a good friend and both my parents with much success within weeks of finishing it. Many thanks to the Bloc Club for introducing me to Brooke Davis’ Lost and Found; other favourites include Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five (I’m still puzzling over that one), and Wayne Macauley’s Demons and The Cook. Unforgettable, that last one.

Songs I couldn’t get out of my head

I love pop music aimed at teenagers and I’m not even ashamed. The only reason I’m not going to see Taylor Swift in 2015 is that I missed out on tickets – $250 is a little out of my budget. There were a lot of songs I listened to in 2014, but these three (once they came out) I listened to every day, every week, sometimes multiple times in a day, because I couldn’t get them out of my head.



2014 Highlights

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My partner and I went to Tasmania for our ten-year (ten years! What the actual deuce?!) anniversary, and it was pretty amazing. My favourite moment was walking around Lake St Clair on a drizzly, grey day, breaking in our new snow jackets, getting our jeans wet, and not even caring.

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I don’t take pictures much, but I Instagram my coffee a lot. So many instances of taking a quiet moment with a coffee and a book made up what feels like the bulk of 2014, but this one was a particular favourite, as I was taking a moment in between sessions at The Wheeler Centre’s New News journalism conference. So many great speakers from publications including the Herald Sun, The Age, the ABC and the Guardian Australia challenging, questioning, and confirming the role of Australian media in a world where anybody can be a reporter, and we all want to get our news for free. I’m still turning these panels over in my head, and I can’t wait for next year.

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So many drunken Thursdays with this angel and her seemingly neverending TV queue basically kept me from unravelling this year. Thanks, bb. You’ll be awesome in your new job.

So that’s 2014 in a nutshell. Hard to believe that 365 days of books and coffee and wine and birthdays and travel and challenges and support and pop culture and peanut butter on toast can be distilled into one short post, but that’s life, I guess. We remember moments, not days (thanks Kikki.K). Here’s to a great, challenging, decisive, wonderful 2015 filled with good books, great friends, and many bottles of wine.

Not wrong, just unrefined


So I’ve just finished reading Isaac Asimov’s essay ‘The Relativity of Wrong,’ first published not long after I was born in the (northern hemisphere) fall of 1989. In it, he describes all the ways that the theory of the shape of the earth has evolved since the huma race began thinking about it, from flat to spherical to oblate shperoidal to ever so slightly pear-shaped, and discusses how each of these jumps was not a proving wrong of the previous theory, but rather a refining of it. The mathematical differences between each of these jumps are not large at all, and so each theory is more a reflection upon the sophistication of the measuring equipment we had at he time than of any backwater hick mind sets we may have had at the time. 

I kind of feel like this theory on the relativity of wrong – how it was less incorrect to assume that the earth was a proper sphere than to assume that it was flat, because the difference between an oblate spheroid is smaller than that between a flat plain and a sphere – applies to the experience of navigating the world as a grown up. You think a thing, and then as you get more information and learn more about taxes and navigating your job roles and how friendship is still much the same as it was in high school except that everyone pretends they’re above all that shit, you gradually change what and how you think about the thing until you look back at what you thought and say to yourself, How did I ever think that? And that’s how you grow.