‘Congratulations, you’ve finished.’
‘Yes, I’ve finished.’
‘Must be a great feeling.’
‘Yes, I feel great,’ I lie.
‘So when is it out?’
‘As soon as I can find an agent or a publisher. As soon as I finally have the courage to have it picked apart and rejected,’ I laugh.
‘I look forward to reading it.’
‘Yes, fingers crossed.’
So I wrote a book. I sat down at a time when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing anymore and I wrote a book. 388 pages. 97,878 words. More hours than I care to add up, more self-questioning than is absolutely necessary at this stage in my life. More hoping. More dreaming. More thinking, ‘is it too big a dream?’ Perhaps I should have kept quiet, hidden away until it was completed, kept away from social media. You see, I was lost. There it is plain and simple. I was lost and I genuinely thought that by completing this project, by realising a dream I had always secretly harboured, that I would find myself.
So I worked hard. Every minute I had spare, I sat and I wrote this story about three women. Three women, so different but all linked in one way – they didn’t feel as though they were in the right life. Sound familiar? I didn’t know where the story came from, until I read it back. In many ways it’s me. I’m Margot – feeling as though I’m running out of time. I’m Marjorie – feeling as if I’m trapped inside looking out. I’m Ann – feeling as though I’ll never find what I’m looking for.
What will I say if I ever have the privilege of being interviewed about the book?
‘So, tell me, where did the story come from?’
And If I ever have the privilege to answer, I’ll say, ‘It came from me. It came from feeling as if I wasn’t good enough. It came from wanting more, from wanting the life that I felt I deserved. It came from a place of feeling lost and scared, of wanting to change but not knowing how.’
‘And which character do you identify most with?’
‘There’s a little piece of each of them inside me – I think there’s a little piece of all of them inside us all.’ That’s what I’ll say, if I ever get the chance.
I was lost when I started writing Evolve. I hoped when I typed the last sentence that everything would come right. But it didn’t. I was still lost. Maybe more than I was before. I’ve become almost institutionalised in my writing. I’ve become a recluse and I’m not sure it suits me. I was always an extrovert, loud, annoying probably, loved a party, a night out, getting dressed up and lately I don’t feel like any of that. Because I’ve gone and done what everyone tells you not to…I put all my eggs in one basket, placed all my dreams out on display. I almost wish I was that person that claims to have a book in them, but is too busy to ever let it out. I let my dream out and now it’s out there and I don’t know what to do with it.
Evolve probably isn’t the book I should have started with. It’s too personal. It’s my baby. Or at least a very high fashion outfit that I’ve flung together and you run the risk of people saying, ‘What was she thinking, shorts and a see through tulle skirt?’ Perhaps I should have started with the kind of book I want to write next, something light and airy and funny. Like me. But instead I wrote a book that reveals my soul and maybe I’m not ready to have my soul torn apart.
I received my first, of what I know will transpire to be many, PFO the other day. Thanks but no thanks. Good but not good enough and it tore me apart. ‘You have to get tougher,’ they say. But the problem is, I’m not tough. I’m strong under pressure. I’m determined. I’m a fighter but I’m not tough. Are you ever tough enough to hear that something you created is not good enough? It’s like someone telling you that you are wearing something horrible or your kid has sticky out ears. (Yes that happened.) What would I say to that? The old me would shout, ‘fuck you, asshole.’ The new me would say. ‘I’m sorry I’m not good enough.’ For God’s sake, I almost got sucked in by a couple of Jehovah’s witnesses recently. The old me would have flung open the door and said, ‘back the fuck away.’ The new me, attempted to answer a question about the devil doing evil on earth!
So where did I go? Come back old me. Don’t evolve, you were perfect just the way you were.
And there it is. Just like that, I realise…I was perfect just the way I was. Not to everyone’s taste, of course, but perfectly me. I didn’t need to evolve. I was right here all along. Like Margot, like Marjorie, like Ann, like Judy.
So, today I sit here and write. I write the kind of piece, I like to write. On Tuesday, I’m going to chop my hair back to the way it was, when I liked it, before I started to grow it, before I said the words, ‘I may as well have it long one last time, before I have to cut it short.’ Like WTF? I’m forty, not eighty seven. I remembered why I don’t like my hair long, because it grows into a mullet shape and I don’t like mullets. I don’t like looking like Jon Bon Jovi in the mornings. I want to look like me again. I’m going to evolve back to the way I was before I decided I needed to evolve. I never needed to change. I’m frickin’ awesome. I’m great at a party. I have fabulous clothes. Jesus, if I had the money I would spend all day in Dundrum and apologise to no one for it. I’d give a big wave to the person I saw on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, hiding behind the rails in Zara, so as not to be spotted again. ‘Look, let’s not judge each other, we are both here every day. It’s ok. I won’t tell.’ In fact I might bring an extra coffee with me next time so we can cheers each other in the changing room. Because she’s obviously just like me – perfectly imperfect and fuck off anyone who doesn’t like it.
Will I ever get Evolve published? Who knows? I won’t give up trying but I won’t accept anyone telling me it’s not good enough. Not for them, yes, I can take that. But there is a place for everyone. My book is good enough, because I’m good enough. Evolve won’t change my life. I honestly thought it would. I thought I’d become this greater being with Winnie the Pooh pots of cash and even though everyone kept telling me it wouldn’t happen, I didn’t believe them, because I’m the type of person who still believes that dreams can come true. I thought that someone would pick up on it, throw me a lifeline, give me a chance, and change my life. Maybe a magazine would notice and ask me to write a ‘Judy’ column. Maybe I’d be asked to give inspirational talks to women who have a dream. Maybe I’d be asked to produce my own line of fountain pens. That’s the problem with having an imagination big enough to write a book – you start to imagine and sometimes it’s hard to stop.
But I know now, it won’t change my life because my life didn’t ever really need to be changed. Truth is, I need to find a job. I need to earn some money. I like earning money, it gives me freedom to do the things I like to do. I can’t keep working at this level for nothing. I’m not rich enough. I wish I was, but I’m not. So in the New Year I’ll try to find a job, or some other hair brained way to make money and then I’ll go shopping in The Kooples, because you know what, that’s who I am.
I love writing. I love words and no one can tell me, the way I arrange them on a page isn’t to the level they require. I’m at my own level. I’m no genius. I never claimed to be. I don’t have a degree in English. My punctuation sucks! But I have stories to tell, my way, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. I can pluck at your heart strings, like Jimmy Hendrix. I can make you cry, like The Notebook, and if I want and I KNOW I can make you laugh. That’s what I can do. I will write another book because the next one will be more me; light and airy and funny. Not for everyone, but appreciated by those who get me.
So I wrote a book. I wrote a book to find myself and I got so lost in it, I almost disappeared. I didn’t find myself in the pages. I didn’t find myself when I wrote ‘the end.’ I shared a dream. I shared a wish. There’s a saying about that. ‘Be careful what you wish for.’
Do I have regrets? No. I wrote a book, that’s pretty amazing. I set out to do something, and I did it.
I became a little obsessed with it – let my hair get totally out of control, there was no excuse for that and I got lost along the way.
But I’m here now, back at the start and ready to never change again.
Evolve. By Judith Cuffe. On bookshelves maybe someday. Or maybe not.