“A year of learning lessons you can only learn the hard way.”
Greetings, charming folks! And welcome to the latest set of ramblings poured from my brain directly to the comfort of your own home- super convenient! I have a couple of confessions to make about this post before we get started. First of all- get ready for betrayal, dear reader- this book wasn’t technically recommended to me for my birthday project. I know, I know, I’m a rotter. BUT it’s a very short book & I’ve wanted to read it for a while, so that’s my excuse; better to ask forgiveness than permission and all that. Secondly, (I know, I’m just heaping the misery on today), I actually finished reading this book well over a month ago, and I put off writing about it for a veritable age in the hope that I would have snapped out of the spell it had me under at least a little. But that didn’t happen, and I can’t very well avoid it any longer. So, apologies and grovelling out of the way, here is A Glamorously Unglamorous Life.
The best way to describe my experience reading this book is that it was simultaneously the best and worst thing I could have done for myself. It’s short, simple, and autobiographical, combining genuine journal entries with constructed reflections upon the year that author Julia Albain spent living and working in New York City, where she moved alone immediately after graduating from the University of Michigan. Julia is an actor, director and writer, most known for working with theatre group Team Starkid (those who’ve recently spoken to me for upwards of five minutes will be unsurprised to learn that this is what lead me to the book in the first place). The book is far from literary masterpiece- so if it’s flowery prose and flawless grammar you’re after, this isn’t the work for you. But I think the sharing of stories and experiences goes far deeper than this; my favourite thing about this book is the fact that it reads just like a good friend telling you their stories over coffee- a style that makes the account all the more accessible, personal, and- to me at least- inspiring.
The casual tone of the book allows ample room for the authors’ personality and attributes to genuinely blaze out from each page, and her incredible outlook on life- one of the things that makes her a personal hero of mine- are abundantly clear and available for absorption. Albain demonstrates a resilience of spirit that simultaneously inspires disbelief and courage- the words once recorded in her journal to bolster herself in times of struggle easily become words written for all of us. Every frustrated, scared, passionate and curious human being holding a year of her life in our hands- living adventure through her until the time comes to start our own.
Of course, as with anything, it is possible to take a more cynical view of the book. At times it reads more like a series of motivational poster quotes than an account of life, and sections are idealistic and romantic to the extreme, blessed as Albain is with the hindsight to recognise that even difficult times paved the path to happiness. That being said, Albain certainly doesn’t shy away from how (pardon the language) completely shitty life can get at times. The message through all the optimism is not intended to be that it’s always easy or that bad times won’t happen- but that it will be okay. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t need to be reminded of this every now and again. Besides, is a little romanticism really such a bad thing? As far as I’m concerned, taking a cynical view to the message of the book is a sincere and misguided waste of energy which would be much better spent working towards cultivating the frankly astounding outlook encased in these pages.
“I was born with a warrior’s heart. I am not one to shrink back. Though the adventures and challenges to come are many, the best is yet to come.”
I say that reading this book was simultaneously the best and worst thing I could have done for myself, and my reasons for both are essentially the same; every beat of my heart as I was reading bore out the same inescapable message- let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. Suddenly my goal became abundantly clear to me- I want to pack my life into three bags and bugger off somewhere new, up sticks, pick a city and just give it a go. It’s not that I’ve never felt a desire for adventure before, far from it, but this was (is) so different- closer & more real, because this book allowed me the understanding that it would be difficult, and challenging, and messy. The revelation came in the fact that this didn’t make me want it any less.
“I think at the root of it all is the decision that happiness is worth being the one single pursuit in your life.”
I want to learn lessons you can only learn by living. It can’t always be ‘good’, but I want it anyway. I’m ready to try new places that might not work out, wander unfamiliar cities getting to know my new home, take long haul flights alone, find a way to fix my own damn kitchen sink because the landlord won’t answer the phone, to be moments away from quitting, but keep going anyway.
This book was a rallying cry directly to my soul. It ignited the voice in the back of my head saying ‘get up, get out, go, you can do it!‘ And one day soon, I absolutely intend to.
Wow, you guys! That ended up very intense- not many jokes up for grabs, but few things have ever had such a real impact on my life as this did! In fact, it played a very real part in my finally taking the necessary action to get a little closer to my own adventure- switching my degree course from Classics to Drama and English Literature. I’d been giving it a lot of thought/soul searching/panicking, but it was reading this book that finally lit a fire under me to make a move and do something really a bit scary- “fear means you’re alive.”
So once again, huge thanks for making it to the end of this particularly self-indulgent post, most beloved readers. Please do get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts, questions, or even additions to the book list!
Until next time, Happy Reading!