Today I am hosting a guest post from Grace Coleman, the author of Walking Barefoot.
My Third-Life Crisis by Grace Coleman
I recently turned thirty. There is something about traversing a decade that makes you question what you're doing. Whilst I'm lucky in the career I've chosen (it has the unusual perk that I can watch TV and claim 'I'm working'); I can't help but feel like 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year is a lot of time spent working so that I can 'live' at the weekend. It's not just me who seems to be having an existential crisis: a lot of my friends are considering a change of direction. Creative lovies chucking it in to go Corporate in search of a better pay cheque. Accountants that have been playing it sensible since graduation quitting without a safety net to take up teaching, or join a start up, or just not-do-what-they've-been-doing-everyday.
An article recently published in the Guardian predicted that my generation will have to work into their seventies, maybe eighties, if we’re to have the same standard of retirement as our parents. Fifty more years of this? Of course I will get a mid-race break if I decide to have children, but it still seems like a rough deal when I look at how technologically advanced we're meant to be becoming. Meeting my partner a little over a year ago and the recent addition of my first nephew just exacerbated the problem – time at work is time away from loved ones.
In the quieter moments of life I search myself for answers. Should I take up meditation and wheatgrass? Do I need to spend more time with my parents – even if I can barely manage a weekend in the family home before itching to return to London? Or is this dull, dissatisfied ache just part of my DNA - as much as a sunny disposition might be part of yours? It's out of this internal tussle that the protagonist of my debut novel – Will Balston was born.
The world he inhabits in Walking Barefoot is a futuristic London, ravaged by war, but unlike traditional dystopian fiction it isn't that different from the city you'd find yourself in today. The truth is that when you turn on the news and see disturbed individuals running trucks into crowds, governments passing laws that will take away our privacy and international relationships to rival the Cold war - dystopian fiction can feel like an outdated genre.
The question that I attempt to unpick in my novel, and would like to see more fiction exploring, is how we should navigate the society we've built. I'm not sure our biological hardwiring is meant for the world we're creating – what will the consequence be? In my melancholy moments I chew this particular piece of fat. I'm yet to find any answers. Instead a poem by Philip Larkin springs to mind, and I smile:
To put one brick upon another, Add a third and then a forth, Leaves no time to wonder whether What you do has any worth.
But to sit with bricks around you While the winds of heaven bawl Weighing what you should or can do Leaves no doubt of it at all.
About Walking Barefoot:
Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who goes travelling in a bid to find himself. The city-living adult who struggles to be happy despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself - is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?
I'm a thirty year old Londoner who works in the business side of TV. Writing has always been a part of my life but discipline and distraction are an issue. When not pretending to be an author or TV hotshot, I like country walks, visiting the zoo and sitting in pubs.
www.gracecoleman.co.uk | @grace05087