As I write

As I write, I’m trying to adjust to being in the 20th year of the 21st century, although it often feels more like the 19th century. And, I’m thinking about options and choices. At the start of a game of chess, the player with the white pieces moves first. He, she, or it (if it’s a machine) has a choice of 20 possible moves. As the game continues, the number of possible options for each move by each player increases, until they quickly number millions of possibilities. Life is a bit like that. Sometimes.

Sometimes, it seems as if you have very limited options. Dirty Harry may be pointing a Magnum revolver at your face, and asking if you feel lucky. You can gamble that Clint Eastwood’s character has run out of bullets, and you may survive. But if that’s the wrong option to choose, you will die. Tip: don’t feel lucky. Or, maybe your life has shrunk to a non-Hollywood but equally drastic two options. You may feel that life itself is not the best option to choose.

Considering what your options in life are can be a hard thing to do in any life. Big changes in the politics of a nation can steal from us important options we once had. The option to go to University supported by a grant. The option to apply for a job and have a reasonably good chance of getting it or another one. These options were stolen from us years ago; and now the future for many people is a series of gambles or frantic hopes, often crushed.

A choice made in the past can later become a rabid terrier, eager to to bite you on the bum the first chance it gets. Choosing a partner to be with can change into a relationship irreparably soured; or, a choice to be a window dresser may seem a great career move, until an old episode of Dr Who leaves you with an overwhelming terror of mannequins. (Because they come alive. If you find a clip on YouTube, don’t tell me.)

The possibility that you have more options open to you than you may realise is something worth considering. In these times of crisis, when our options seem to be closing down around us, like metal doors slamming shut on a spaceraft, as an alien politician – sorry, monster – chases us – it’s healthy to realise that life often remains rich in possibilities if we can gather the strength and hope to search for them.

I’m trying to find out what my options are for my future. The familiar path I was on, for decades, has become as scary as an old Dr Who episode, when I was eight. Not so much mannequins coming alive, as feelings so alien to me that they may have come from outer space. I can no longer think of the work helping desperate people I once did without shuddering. What a weird thing to happen. Not that long ago, I felt able to assist people to get out of diabolical situations, and now I feel I am my own client. I’m not yet sure how to advise myself. But I feel a little bit certain I have a few options.

Just over a month ago, partly as therapy, I decided to write a book in one month. It is a fictional account of some of the terrors faced by people in poverty. On 1st January 2020 I completed a written draft. All I need to do is type it and post it to a publisher. And then -hope.

Soon, I will also be having a meeting at work, to see what options are open to me there. And I’m looking at other possibilities too. Whatever happens, I aim to keep this Blog column going every week in 2020. Being so uncertain about my future, at a time when millions of people are deeply uncertain of their own futures, may yet turn out to be useful to me as a writer. It shouldn’t be too hard to tune in to the spirit of this new decade. And I can write about our common struggles to survive and find a path to a better future.

Harvey Duke

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