Life is hard. Whenever I find myself whining over how things are difficult or praying for things to come to me without me having to expend any effort, I need to remind myself of this. We were never promised a simple existence. Life isn’t meant to be a gentle glide through calm waters.
Do you ever listen to a song and find it impossible to stop yourself from singing along? Or read a book and suddenly feel your face hurting because you’ve been sitting there smiling as you flip through the pages? There’s something so incredible about finding art that make you feel something like that, that indescribable experience of being so lost in someone else’s creation that for a moment you forget all the flaws around you or the problems you face and just fall into something other than yourself.
I used to believe that every life had an ‘aha’ moment. That thought where all at once everything comes together and creates a whole picture, and suddenly you know exactly where to go next, how to be, what to do, who you are. The older I get, the more uncertain I become about this theory. It seems that the further I move away from the tether of adolescence, the structure of school, university, internships and all the formalities of career and life development that keep us on course in our early life, the less certain I become about my direction, and to a further extent my purpose.
When I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time with my ex-boyfriend, I was completely unprepared for the huge adjustment period. I not only moved from the Northern Beaches to the Inner West, but I also left the home I had spent my entire life in. I never realised how much I would miss the house in which I’d spent the majority of my 19 years; the creaky stairs that led down to my bedroom, the 35 second wait in the shower while the water warmed up, and the large spacious kitchen that gave me so much space to cook and dance around. Very soon after moving I realised that I am a person who forms deep (and often irrational) connections to inanimate objects. Despite the fact I had basically been living at my boyfriend’s before we moved in together, there were still all of these things about the house I grew up in that I missed. Even now, after living away for almost five years I still call Mum and Dad’s place ‘Home’.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. The decisions and choices we make create the structure on which we build our existence. As I start to pull myself together and try to determine what shape I want my life to take, I have begun to notice how much our decisions are influenced by external forces, particularly as a young woman in today’s society.
My life has always been filled with a lot of empowering and inspiring women. My mother, for one, is an incredibly intelligent, diligent and hard-working business woman. Someone who can never be beaten down in an argument, and knows the value of hard work and perseverance. She is one of four sisters. My aunts all equally awe-inspiring, each working in demanding careers and striving in their field. Not to mention their roles as mothers, daughters, nieces, wives, friends and incredible and supportive aunts. The women of my family are strong, passionate and have enduring senses of humour (some would say that McDonald women are characterised by their ability to find a good laugh in even the bleakest of scenarios). I like to think that I one day might have a fraction of the strength and devotion that my aunts and mother apply to all they do. My spectacularly empowering female role models don’t end there. My two grandmothers, great-aunt, aunt on my father’s side, and three female cousins, have all moulded my life in indescribable ways. Each of them has taught me something unique about what it means to be a woman in the world.
After it won the Stella Prize this year, I pushed The Natural Way of Things to the top of my reading list. At this point, most avid readers will have heard of The Natural Way of Things and the huge acclaim it’s receiving for the unique way it discusses the darker elements of society through exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control.
I’ve written about body image a few times in the past, but always more in social commentary than on a personal level. Lately, body image has been something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, and I’m just now beginning to realise how massively it shapes my life and my mental state.
Epic. From the first glimpse of The Goldfinch I could tell that the book would live up to the summation given to it by Alex O’Connell from The Times on the back cover. The book itself (or at least my copy) is plastered with very encouraging praise from many well-known authors and publications, including Stephen King, The Times and The Guardian, the back-cover displaying at least nine quotes declaring The Goldfinch ‘a triumph’.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was an absolute pleasure to read. I started the book on a trip to Victoria for the Clunes Booktown Festival. The book was next up on our book club list and I’d been excited to get into it after hearing a rave review from a reliable source. I loved the book from the second I started reading. I think one of my favourite literature devices is the dual narrative; a technique which was utilized in such an engaging way in this novel. All the Light We Cannot See follows two incredibly unique stories. The first is of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young French girl who lives with her father in their apartment in Paris. Soon after Marie-Laure’s 6th birthday, she loses her eyesight. Marie-Laure’s beautiful father uses his woodworking talent to recreate their area in miniature form, allowing Marie-Laure to roam the streets with her fingers, learning to navigate without her eyesight. The books second protagonist is Werner Pfennig is an orphan who lives in a children’s home in Zollverein, Germany, with his younger sister Jutta. After they discover a broken short-wave radio, Werner realises his natural skill for circuitry. Together, he and Jutta listen to a variety of programs, including a regular broadcast from France hosted by an older gentleman who shares stories about the world of science;