The year before last I had a major realisation regarding the fact that it is OK for me to want what I want.
I managed to forget that, and this year followed it up with a major realisation regarding the fact that it is OK for me to enjoy what I enjoy.
There’s a part of me that’s very embarrassed about admitting to liking anything. Liking things is bad enough, but admitting to liking them? Nobody wants to know. Everybody will laugh. And so on…
I don’t know when those buttons got installed. Perhaps it was at school, when I found that the things that I liked were so weird that nobody else had heard of them. Perhaps it was at home, because liking things tends to cost money. Either way, they seem to have been with me for a very long time.
And then I’m suspicious of anything that looks like a fad, anything that seems to be flogging something. If there are twenty copies of The Little Book of Whatever propped up on the counter at Waterstone’s, I’ll avoid Whatever everywhere else it pops up. Even if Whatever is something that, left to myself, I’d probably enjoy.
I worry about what other people will think. Is what I’m reading/listening to/watching too juvenile? Too highbrow? Too tacky? Too problematic? Am I just showing off? Is there some reason why I shouldn’t be enjoying it?
The answer is always ‘yes’, of course. Nothing and nobody is perfect. What I am beginning to learn is that this is irrelevant.
This year I’ve begun to break free of all that and just enjoy things. This year I’ve been following rabbit holes. I’ve let myself be interested in things. At the beginning of the year with my virus-infested brain unable to cope with anything more heavyweight than a fluffy anime, I watched Yuri!!! on Ice. That got me interested in figure skating (leading me to re-read White Boots, watch the actual events on Eurosport, and resolve to learn to skate when they finally get round to opening a rink near me) and Russia (leading me to Tolstoy and an exhibition at the British Library). I read Blackbird, an alternate universe fanfic where the characters are reimagined as spies, and that took me off to John Le Carré and Helen Dunmore.
Some of that’s proper intellectual stuff. Some of it, less so. I don’t really care. It’s all been fun. Last time I got into something (cycling, by accident – but that’s another story) I got a whole book out of it. But I’m still feeling faintly embarrassed about being interested in anything, and I really do want to get past that. I want to be enthusiastic! I want to enjoy things and not care what people think!
I don’t need anybody else’s permission to enjoy things – but I’d really like to have my own. An exercise that I’ve been doing on and off and that I want to carry into 2018 is naming, every day, one thing that I’m enjoying or am interested in, and one thing that I want. Today I’ve been watching the snow. At the moment the freezer is defrosting and I’m enjoying listening to the drips and occasionally prodding at lumps of ice to see if they’ll fall off yet. It’s not remotely productive; it isn’t even inherently interesting, but I’m taking pleasure in it. And identifying that and admitting it and being OK with it is a very good start.