when growing means going
by tate fountain
A few months ago, when I was putting together the manuscript for my poetry book, I jotted two lines down on my phone:
I learn to love by leaving. / I love in retrospect.
They didn’t have a home, these sentiments, and hard as I tried I couldn’t construct four stanzas and a roof to shelter them. They were their own beast. Their own ache. Their own reality.
When I wrote those lines initially, I was talking about Manila – about the people I’d left there when I decided to move back to New Zealand; about the lasts I’d experienced in ignorance of their passing. Now that I’ve up and flown just about as far from New Zealand as you can get, the words resonate a little differently. I think it’s because, when I left the Philippines, I had a home to arrive back to. All I had in Ireland, to start off with, was a goal to chase and literature to consume. (Instead of coming home, I was leaving it – hard and fast, fervently.)
That was part of the appeal, though. I’m always best when I’m establishing myself, when I’m fighting to prove my worth. The optimum place for me to perform is always slightly out of my comfort zone. Anyone trying to assert themselves in the arts sector probably feels this to some degree. As I first heard in this glorious video from online powerhouses Lucy Moon and Grace Victory, “You can’t grow when you’re comfortable.”
Because I know this is how I work, I’ve started leaning into the part of myself that wants to run. To run, anywhere, and quickly. To take it all in, as much as I can, any opportunity. (As Jay Cee says of Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, “she wants […] to be everything.”) I can’t stay anywhere for too long, for fear of growing stagnant.
I spent my first year of university balancing classes with two part-time jobs – one of which involved blogging and vlogging in a professional capacity – as well as writing/acting/assistant directing/stage managing for theatre, presenting in a mock court case to some of the country’s top legal figures, compiling a book of poems, and diving more than 25,000 words deep in the first draft of a novel. I still felt as though I hadn’t utilised my downtime. I felt – and continue to feel – guilty for chilling out. A side effect of the grind, I guess: I constantly have to keep fighting to better myself. I have to keep growing. That’s why I decided to study abroad – I’d done the Auckland thing, and while there’s always room for more, I wanted a change. So I relocated to the other side of the planet, all by myself.
My book, Letters, came out in January. It was nigh on five years’ worth of poetry, of introspection and maturation, and as someone who intends to do this with the rest of their life, it was kind of a momentous occasion. It was exciting, and it was exhilarating – and it was empty. Because my friends and family were on the other side of the world, asleep. The friends who were elsewhere, awake and congratulatory, were splendid. But they were just that – elsewhere. I was sitting alone in my bedroom on the opposite side of the world from the people who had read the work first.
above: photos of Tate's book, Letters via @tatefountain on instagram.
You can purchase her book here !!!
Self-growth and assuagement of ambition come with sacrifice, yes – it’s a tale as old as time. I just didn’t expect how much I’d feel the lack of my friends in the room, or how little I’d feel the milestone – the triumph – that had just occurred. It didn’t feel quite as tragic then as I’m describing it now, but that’s because it didn’t feel like much. The achievement didn’t sink in until I started having pictures sent to me of people receiving their copies. Letters in the arms of those who knew the addressees.
Immediately following the book release, out came the first issue of Perception – a zine I’ve written for. Fast-forward a further twenty-four hours and I was frustrated again, feeling static and unfulfilled, like I wasn’t working hard enough. The cycle repeats, and the chase begins again.
I’m always running: running towards a dream, or a goal, or whatever exciting thing I can dive into next – anything to satiate my ambition. Dublin has been wonderful to me, in the two months I’ve been here so far: I’m academically enriched, culturally inspired; I’m neck deep in history and I’m contributing to different publications left, right, and centre. I’m reading and writing more than I ever have. I’ve got a handful of good friends, and I’m fast becoming the person my preteen self was desperate to. (I always remind myself of that, when the going gets tough – “Remember everything you’ve done that you were dreaming of.”) I’m constantly moving forward, manifesting opportunities for myself; chasing the next chance, and the next one, and the one after that.
But recently – more so than ever – I’m realising just how much I’d like to turn around. To take a moment. To pause. To be there for my friends’ birthdays, rather than seeing Snapchats of the casual living room set-up with cake from some supermarket and the faces I know so well. To be able to walk into the flat and collapse on the couch next to someone whose first week of classes left them feeling just the same as me. To not have a friend fall asleep over video call because there are thirteen hours between our days.
"But recently – more so than ever – I’m realising just how much I’d like to turn around. To take a moment. To pause."
All I’ve been able to write about for the past couple of weeks (plotted fiction aside) is home. I’ve written about a bedroom my friends used to congregate in, about the last weekend we were all together. It’s hard, sometimes, knowing they’re now reunited, and the pocket of what was that lives in my chest still exists and is evolving beyond me – because, for all the growing I’m doing, my friends will be doing the same. But that’s what life is! And I certainly wouldn’t rather be at home, because then I’d have none of the payoff of the past couple of months. I’d have countless novels that I hadn’t read, countless poets undiscovered; so much of my own material wouldn’t exist. Part of leaving a place behind is always going to transition into either demonising it or dressing it up like the lip of an upmarket daiquiri glass. (Which is to say, applying a sugar coat.)
I’m aware of that now, and resultantly try to immortalise moments as I live them – dancing home through the snow with my two closest friends; singing loudly and affectionately along to a pub musician’s medley of classic hits. I walk down the streets of Dublin, through the gates to Trinity College, seeing everything through the double exposure of real and recount.
Every step closer to something is a step further from something else. (It sounds profound, but it also sounds a bit like well, literally, yes – just go with it.) Oftentimes, the rush of chasing and actualising a dream comes with the bittersweet catch of being separated from those you most want to share it with. But the experience – the grind – is still absolutely worth it, in the same way that what you’re sacrificing is still worth missing.
Like anything, there are summits and valleys. You can’t appreciate one without the other. Everything fits together. Sophrosyne, if you will. (And, all factors considered, I wouldn’t change a thing.) Run towards your goals. Run like a sprinter, like a marathoner – whichever works; just run hard. It’ll be difficult – the terrain’s a little uneven. Remember that it’s okay to pause, or to take a breather. It’s okay to decide you’ve done enough running for the time being. Running is allowed to lead you home.
"Like anything, there are summits and valleys. You can’t appreciate one without the other. Everything fits together...Remember that it’s okay to pause, or to take a breather. It’s okay to decide you’ve done enough running for the time being. Running is allowed to lead you home."
Tate Fountain is a writer, actor, and creator from New Zealand. She lived in the Philippines as a teenager and used her undergraduate degree – Law, English, and European Studies – as an excuse to escape to Ireland for the duration of 2018. Three weeks after moving to Dublin, she released her debut poetry collection, "Letters", in which she addresses life, love, grief, and feminism through an adolescent lens. Other soft spots include ancient Greek theatre, Greta Gerwig, and vine compilations.
You can find Tate on Instagram and Twitter : @tatefountain
You can also support her work + purchase her book here !!!