The World Was Whole

The World Was Whole
Fiona Wright

I found out about this book during the hazy final days of editing my thesis, a body of work all about Fiona Wright’s first essay collection Small Acts of Disappearance (2015). My first thought was, ‘Oh no, now I have to go back and mention a book I haven’t read so my research is up to date’. It wasn’t until this year that I felt ready to tackle another essay collection, especially one by an author I’d studied so intensively for a year. Boy am I glad I did. Nonfiction lovers: this is a must-read.

In many ways The World Was Whole acts as a sort of sequel to Small Acts, though the two can still be enjoyed on their own.  At the centre of both books is Wright’s personal experiences living with anorexia nervosa and anxiety. In The World Was Whole, Wright uses her personal experiences to explore the modern world’s relationship with the home. She doesn’t look at the home as just the physical buildings we live in, or the spaces we interact with, but also the bodies we inhabit and how they can represent both sanctuary and uncertainty.

Throughout the essays in The World Was Whole, Wright examines her own life, which is built heavily upon repetition and routine, both of which are upset constantly by the circumstances of her health and finances. Like many millennials, particularly those with unstable financial situations, Wright rents. This means she is almost always on the move from house to house, from space to space. Forever trying to settle in and make these spaces her own, only to be flung elsewhere by circumstances beyond her control. She gets to the heart of the constant anxiety and uncertainty of renting when she writes: ‘I want to be able to get attached to a place, without knowing that my presence there is always subject to someone else’s needs or whims’.

Another strong aspect of Wright’s writing is her exploration of her own experiences of chronic illness. Within literature there is a tendency towards stereotyping the sick, particularly the mentally ill and female, as helpless victims or self-obsessed attention-seekers. Wright brings a strong current of humanity to her writing, showing what her lived experience of anorexia nervosa is like. She isn’t afraid to critique the limitations of Australia’s healthcare system, which often causes a great deal of grief and frustration for people struggling with chronic conditions. Importantly, Wright describes her illness in terms of the constant shift back and forth between getting better and getting worse, and the anxiety and fear that comes with this flux. ‘On the first day in the hospital,’ Wright writes, ‘I curl on my bed and cry for a full hour after every meal, and I keep thinking, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I don’t think I can do this. I panic at the piece of meat that’s on my plate for dinner, I gulp for breath, great ragged gasps that hurt my sternum and then I sob outside the dining room because I hadn’t realised, somehow, that I’d gotten quite this sick. I’m so afraid of what I’ve done and of who I have become.’

There is a rawness, a brutal honesty, to how Wright writes about her illness that is so important. It’s the kind of writing that gets under your skin, touches something familiar within you and forces you to experience, even for just a moment, what it is like to live with such an illness. The rawness isn’t always shown through pain. There’s also joy. Wright shows the complexity of her life in all its facets, both difficult and special.

Wright’s essays are a delight to read. Often painful, always beautiful, they represent the growing skill and relevance of Australian essayists today. Personal essays like these allow for engaging discussions of issues that affect contemporary society: from poverty to racism and the need for change on a government level. Wright is only one of many Australian essayists using the essay to spark conversation and give readers a new way of looking at these issues by engaging them through the personal, as well as the purely factual. To avid essay readers and newcomers alike, this is a book worth putting on your list this year.


Words and photography by Lisandra Linde

To an Aussie Millennial, Money, Money, Money really isn’t that funny

Gen Ys are lazy, narcissistic and can’t commit to anything. Or at least that is a common controversial cliché expressed by baby boomers.  Let’s face it, the economic environment that Australians are currently immersed in is not practical nor sustainable. Although the world out there is a little tough right now, it’s time to put down the avocado toast and have a read about the things YOU can do to lessen the burden of financial stress.

 

According to an interview conducted by The New Daily with the co-chair of the G20 Youth Summit, ‘Generation Y could be the first generation in modern history to experience a lower standard of living than their parents’  This is due to the increasing burden of debt, costs of living and education, as well as the issue of unemployment and the unpredictable nature of job security in Australia.

 

Furthermore, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 data on Household Income and Wealth, Gen Y have a relatively high substantial annual gross household income of $113,152.00 per annum. However, they also have low wage growth of just 5% over a two-year period. To put it simply, things are getting more expensive, but incomes aren’t getting any higher, making the Australian Dream of owning your own home a little more out of reach.

 

It’s okay, I’ll give you a minute to have a quick cry.

 

So, now that little sobbing session is over, it’s time to have a think about how you can try and master the mysterious and complicated process of ‘trying to adult’ (one that I am still yet to conquer myself). Over the years I have learnt a few things, some the easy way and some the hard way.

 

Firstly, BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET!

 

Take the time to sit down and follow these three very simple steps:

 

  • Step 1: Calculate your total income per fortnight using bank statements, pay slips, Centrelink payments etc.
  • Step 2: Calculate your expenses. List all essential expenses (rent, food, bills, petrol, loan repayments and so on). Remember to include the less frequent expenses such as car registration or insurance payments. Ensure your expenses are less than your total income per fortnight.
  • Step 3: STICK TO THE NUMBER YOU HAVE ASSIGNED TO EACH OF THESE EXPENSES. It’s as simple as that. If your income changes or your ongoing expenses change, remember to review and update your budget.

 

Secondly, make smart money choices!

 

Some smart money moves may include (but are not limited to):

 

  • Eat in, not out. Cook meals in advance and freeze them. This will help to avoid the temptation of getting take away just because you can’t be bothered cooking (we’ve all been there).
  • Have shorter showers. It’s good for both the environment and your wallet.
  • Wait to get a pet. Save getting a pet until you are totally comfortable with your income. Trust me, the pet can wait.
  • Don’t get into debt. That’s right, you heard me, that means no AfterPay.
  • Avoid getting a gym membership. Instead try and create a safe and easy routine that can be completed at home with minimal equipment.

 

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to do a little research, find out what works best for you!

 

 

With that said, being Gen Y doesn’t have to be all doom, gloom and compromise. In the workplace, Gen Y are often viewed as both enthusiastic and optimistic in comparison to their Gen X and baby boomer co-workers. Also, they are known to be one of the more accepting by being more open to different opinions, sexualities, cultures, religions and ethnicities than previous generations.

 

So I guess that’s something uplifting… RIGHT?


Words by Maegan Hadden.