If someone had said to me a year ago, when I was in the clammy grip of depression, that within twelve months I would have won two grants (one from Arts Queensland for my book on Rosa Praed, and another from the Australia Council’s new Artists with Disability fund) and been shortlisted for a third (for the Peter Blazey life writing award); that I had chanced upon a kind and sincere man of dazzling intelligence; and that I was shortly to board a flight to Italy, I would have laughed them from the room.
Life can be flipped in an instant, from good to bad, but also from bad to good. Over the past year, I’ve also tried to take on board some of the things my psychologist recommended: I no longer beat myself up for not being perfect, I’ve stopped worrying so much about the bourgeois ideal of a mortgage and kids (which isn’t always compatible with the life of a writer), and I’ve learnt to sleep when I feel myself getting sick instead of battling on through it and making it worse. I’ve tried to stop working so hard, but failed abysmally. But then, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Regarding things Italian, I’m heading to Prato to present at the European Association of Australian Studies conference, where I will see my lovely ex-supervisor Ian Henderson after many long moons, plus lots of other friendly academics whose company I enjoy. After that I’ll head to England to catch up with friends who I haven’t seen for five years, and will look up some archives to try and find traces of Maud Praed, Rosa Praed’s deaf daughter.
I used to have bad dreams repeatedly about having to go back to London, because every time I left Australia in real life, while I was doing my PhD, I ended up in tears. My conscious self has also barely given a thought to London over the past five years, but the more I’ve contemplated it recently as I’ve organised my itinerary, the more excited I am about seeing it, and my friends, again.
Of course, one of the best things about leaving is coming home. I shall return to my beau and to my novel, the first draft of which needs to be rewritten because the voice is wrong; to warmer days and that unworn frock I bought last season; to the lilac jacarandas, flaring against Brisbane’s blue skies; and, if I can make it happen, to a slower pace of life.