First day of term. A late September evening. It’s still warm; daylight lingers over campus. I’m happy to be back in the classroom, yet, that evening I already feel a certain physical and mental fatigue. Tiredness shortens my attention span. I step out of the building on autopilot, only partially aware of my surroundings. A young woman looks at me for a few seconds and then asks ‘are you looking for art?’ I mutter something incoherent: ‘What? Well… no, I was just going home’. I need a few seconds to connect the dots; she is referring to the Art Society meeting. I smile, amused and flattered (I can still pass for a student!). I’m not a new member, but I wish I were.
I had a difficult few months, hence the radio silence. I spare you the details.
I was trying to keep things together; most of my physical and intellectual energies were going towards this. I was exhilarated and flustered, thrilled and fearful, hopeful yet bracing myself for the worst. Concerns I could barely articulate tainted my excitement for resuming department life; I did not anticipate their effects on my body and psyche. I had energy for nothing but getting to the end of the day, possibly of the week. Writing, thinking, creating were luxuries I could not afford. The only exception, maniacal bouts of journalling.
I’ve been quite tearful. For a long time it felt like every nerve was exposed, any contact would startle me, unimportant details would get under my skin. Restless, hungry for life and knowledge, I looked for solace in relentless activity. There have been sleepless nights and drunken nights, long conversations, tears, encounters, love and loss, bike rides, walks in the woods, almost-compulsive theatre-going. And anger, unexpected, overwhelming anger. Relentless activity kept disquietude at bay. I needed to be surrounded by people.
Six months later, I am in a cafeteria in the city centre. The urge to write rises like water, fills every crevice, every crack. It overflows. I am on the verge of tears, but this time the emotion brewing is not fear nor anger. It’s gratitude, I think, or something close enough to gratitude to warrant for the uneasy combination of calm and emotional turmoil.
Now, political activism is back in my life. A strike against shameless cuts to pensions and yet a strike about so much more. A bold strike. Fourteen days of industrial action. I will write about the strike. Let’s say that, on a very personal level, I rediscovered politics. For the first time in years, I am experiencing the affective side of politics, the very thing that ignited my passion when, as a teenager, I encountered political activism. Underneath the theory, the parties, the committees, there is affect, community, passion, care.
It’s the end of the writing drought. And, yes, I am looking for art.