What Is Your Next Big Thing?

That’s my question today, to you and to myself. What is the next big thing?

Early Morning Influences

I’m inspired to ask this, by two influences that have crossed my path already today, and it’s not even 11am!

First, was finishing Birdcage Walk, the final novel of that most poetic and insightful of writers, Helen Dunmore, who died earlier this year aged just 64.

The book focuses on what a person leaves behind, and asks what traces remain of an individual lifetime?

I read it, not realising that Dunmore was already ill without knowing it when she wrote the book, and afterwards thought it no coincidence that her subconscious had directed her towards this topic. A dark shadow was building in her body, that her mind was aware of before it became obvious in her body.

As a much-admired poet and novelist, Dunmore could look at her legacy of words. Yet she also knew that even the written word can fade away after time.

The book is named after Birdcage Walk, a path through a derelict cemetery in Bristol, where she lived, and where all traces of the people buried there had disappeared into clouds of wild flowers and undergrowth. And that, she suggests in the afterword of her book, is where we are all headed.

Sounds depressing perhaps, but instead I found it inspiring.

I believe that we all end up as part of the rich humus of human existence, indistinguishable from each other. But before that, there’s an opportunity, for creativity, for life – to be part of what Dunmore calls ‘the eagerly living’.

You Don’t Have to be Young!

With this at the top of my mind, I turned on the radio to find a wonderful programme called The Gamble, part of a series about risk and creativity.

The singer Laura Mvula was talking about pushing herself, feeling fear, singing at the top of her range, unaccompanied, from the balcony in the London Barbican. She spoke with beguiling honesty about her desire to extend herself, even though it can be terrifying.

She asked herself: ‘What’s the next big thing?’

As I heard the question, I felt a thrill, but then my pragmatic mind chimed in.

‘She’s young! She’s got time for lots of Big Things. You, Elizabeth, are the same age as Helen Dunmore was when she died. New Big Things are not for you.’

For a moment I believed myself. But then Older Me, who’s never far away, struck up:

‘That is ridiculous! You’re not done until you’re dead. If you want a Big Thing, or a Small one, then you go get it, you hear?’

And so I leave you with the question.

What is the next Big Thing for you? What can set your heart alight, give you a delicious thrill down the spine, make you want to leap out of bed in the morning?

I don’t know the answer to my own question just yet. I’m going to live it, and see what responses appear. This blog’s in there somewhere. It’s exciting! Thanks Helen, for inspiring me with your words. I’m grateful.

4 thoughts on “What Is Your Next Big Thing?

  1. Barbara Wallis

    Yes, next big things are quite a thing to contemplate, aren’t they. The first reaction is to think big as in dramatic, noticeable, a new commitment or a fresh initiative. All about novelty. And those things can be very tempting, almost seductive, as one decides how to spend the time that retirement frees up (and how lucky to have that). It’s almost as if for some activity to matter it has to be a new departure. But actually, for me, the next big thing might be doing just a bit more of what I’m doing already, with extra curiosity, whether that’s a creative exploration, volunteering for a charity, or getting round to reading books I’ve never quite found time for. Big as in meaningful. Thanks, Elizabeth, very thought-provoking!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Good point, Big things can be Small things too. As long as they hold meaning for us, it’s all good. Thanks for your comment.

  2. abbie

    Thanks for recommending Birdcage Walk, Elizabeth. I look forward to reading it soon. I relate to Barbara’s comment because I am in a time of working on self compassion.

    Today, for Halloween, my 28 year old daughter dressed up as the Galaxy. She painted her forehead purple, splashed with silvery stars. She wore a dark blue sequined gown and attached a flowing cape of black and silver. I loved seeing her preparations but also found myself wondering if I would ever have the opportunity to get dressed up like that again.

    I think my next big thing will be to challenge my growing tendency to stay plain, stay at home. I’d love to dress up like Jane Fonda at the Emmys, take ballroom dance lessons or a writing workshop. It’s exciting to think about making one of these dreams come true.

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Abbie, your daughter’s Galaxy costume sounds fabulous. How inspiring, and I can hear how seeing her has brought your own dreams up to the surface. Maybe there’s one small step you can take today, towards making one of them come true?


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