As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we commissioned 12 writers from Australia and the UK to write a letter to their past or future selves. In response to the question “Who are we now?”, these writers consider what conversations and stories need to be had and created for us to reimagine, rethink and rebuild the world around us.
Writer Jasmin McGaughey writes to her past self:
Hello, past self! I want to be optimistic in my words to you! I want to gush and tell you all the opportunities I’ve been lucky enough to access. The past five years have been a learning curve within the literary world, and you have enjoyed most of it.
In this letter, I am seeking to answer the question ‘who are we now?’. And I believe my sense of self begins, as always, with ancestors and family. In my writing, I am attempting to trace culture in conversations and research (the research that means tracing steps back to islands and connecting stories from family members and memories from my own mind).
But what am I doing now?
Writing has been both cathartic and an investigative method to learn about myself. I’ve narrowed my non-fiction into writing about place – specifically the climate crisis and how this impacts the Torres Strait Islands. I’ve tried to stop ignoring the anxiety the state of the climate causes in me. Now, I am trying to learn how I can play a part in saving lands and waters. And how I might bring awareness to this urgent, current problem.
The sea has crept closer to homes in the Torres Strait Islands. Sandbags have been put in place to defend against the rising tides, but it’s not enough. There is currently a case being brought against the Australian Government by the Torres Strait Eight to the United Nations. This is huge and it fills me with hope.
I wish I could give you the confidence to begin this writing journey earlier in life. Even now, sometimes it seems flimsy and not very powerful. But maybe, for me, writing is the biggest strength I can rely on and learn from. Trust that the journey you will experience will shape your writing and therefore your joy.
The stories of the past, the present, and the future are what we need to tell ourselves to flourish. These stories can tell us how to take care of land and how to survive. They can tell us how to pave the way forward sustainably. All these stories we tell, circle in on themselves. They are the base of our being, our past, and our future.
Family is teaching me always. I am (slowly) attempting to learn language, place, and being. Culture has been woven into my words more often now — and it builds my writing and my sense of self.
I am excited to see what I will have the chance to learn next. I know that the knowledge I have access to (in the form of family and friends) and the opportunities at my fingertips are a privilege. I can’t wait to start paying it forward.
Jasmin McGaughey is a Torres Strait Islander and African American writer and editor. She has completed a Master of Writing Editing and Publishing at the University of Queensland and is in the midst of a Master of Philosophy (in creative writing). In 2019 she was lucky enough to be a black&write! editor intern and win a Next Chapter Fellowship with the Wheeler Centre. She has been able to write for Overland, Kill Your Darlings, SBS Voices, Griffith Review and has had work highly commended for the 2020 ABR Elizabeth Short Story Competition and the 2019 Nakata Brophy Short Story competition.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves is a partnership between Spread the Word, The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne, City of Literature. It is part of the UK/Australia Season; a joint initiative by the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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