footnotes on existence

I moved to Zurich from Hong Kong in September 2020, and have since become severely algorithmically challenged.

From almost the very beginning, my social feeds were a disaster to wrangle. My first social networks consisted mainly of ex-classmates migrated off chat programs from three different countries.

 Then came the friends and family furthering that geographic sprawl, add colleagues, folk from the literary community, and the different social and interest groups as life took its course, including several dreadful parenting groups for the Schadenfreude (and occasional restaurant recommendation.)

In recent years, for better or for worse, we have all observed politics splinter the superficial veneer of our lives online. In 2020 this reached a fever pitch with the plague of our times and a litany of public opinion amplified in the absence of physical places to gather. 

I started dropping platforms despite an intense desire to ‘stay in touch’ remain ‘accessible’ and only be ‘one whatsapp away.’ Scrolling made me listless, everything I encountered felt mildly chaotic and a list of connections built up over a decade was unmanageable. It made me yearn for those top 8 days. Posts competed with ads in different languages, time zones, and news cycles leaving me somewhat bleary eyed in the blue light.

The algorithmic shift was a circuit breaker to lifelong digital habits.

My corporate life had springboarded with the advent of social media, and quality content remains part of what forms my professional identity today. The algorithmic shift was a circuit breaker to lifelong digital habits. As a digital native, I was raised on blogs, and cut my teeth on the ‘content economy’. It was not just a way to consume content but to participate and make sense of the world. All milestones had their pixelated counterparts, and became a digital undercurrent to life – over time, and as my family grew it became my scrapbook. Despite this, I have been ruthlessly editing where I spent my time in the last year. 

My most used social network is currently causing waves as older millennials bristle at the way it is changing. I am one of them – constantly irritated at not being able to listen to music as I scroll because of the barrage of video content. I am mortified at how much space this thought takes up in my brain but oddly it’s this, and a comment from a friend about reverting to older digital habits that brought me back to this blog. I had given up the domain and was happy to include it in my platform purge –  until now. 

It’s fair to say I have an unusual name, so the fact that I could never claim the domain was a little bizarre. By strange coincidence, somebody with the last name Gallagher who was in local government in Nashua, New Hampshire had driven the domain price into four figures even years after it was retired – that is, until I checked this week. Even more coincidentally, somebody with the last name ‘Nash’ contacted me for the ‘aDashofNash’ domain for years, and in my lofty ideas of what I wanted previous versions of this blog to be, I held on to it longer than I should have. 

A little bit of domain roulette reminded me that it doesn’t need eyeballs or reach for me to want to exorcise white spaces with words. It’s nice to own my own name, and have a place for these footnotes on existence. 


The remains of my many childhood journals are in various stages of decomposition in landfills in at least four different countries. I have preserved very little, and what I have kept I cannot bear to read. Nor for the most part can I make out the handwriting or the knotted thoughts I was trying to unpick underneath the writing. As an adult, if I take pen to paper, it’s generally in response to some other symptom that can only be sweated out, purged in whatever metaphoric fever I find myself fighting. Some may call this inspiration. 

The thought of leaving out a journal that could be read, (judged, really) – childish scrawls, ideas shallow and new, shocking punctuation et al caused me to panic-rip pages and dispose of them immediately. My subconscious regrettably came to some sort of conclusion that I wrote in order to be read and therefore all my words had to be read-y.

It’s embarrassing to think about now. As though every sentence I wrote began with a shot from the muses’ well, as though folk would be interested in again, the diaries of a _child_, whatever success I would go on to have in later life. Is it any less self-indulgent than your average aspiring writer?  Perhaps even on-the-nose considering my particular poison is poetry. Thankfully, this writing-to-be-read feeling didn’t last. If it did, I doubt it would have ever moved beyond a feeling. 

It took me ten years to publish my first poetry collection and I have a blog that averages one post per quarter on a good year. This is hardly the behaviour of a rational person who primarily writes to be read. Having actually experienced the pleasure of having my work published and read – even taught (!) I can confirm whilst thrilling, it was not the motivation behind the work. It’s clear now that wanting to publish a book so other people can read it, is like wanting to get married just to have a wedding. To abuse this metaphor further, I find that just like a dress that may not fit years later, there is a stylistic statute of limitation on a piece of work too. This is likely the main reason I will always write. To hear what I sound like, on the outside. It is not elegant or inspiring and is hardly less self-absorbed – but I feel a little bit better that it doesn’t presume perfection, or even an audience.

For years I would chide myself for not being prolific enough. Being a part of a spoken word community helped maintain the habit on a good day, and produced bad poetry on a bad one. I would often grasp at whatever was happening in my life at that time, ram it into the shape of a poem so I could show up on a stage and prove I had something to say, which is in itself the quickest way to say absolutely nothing. Then I would edit it within an inch of its life and find the thing that caused the poem in the first place. Sometimes, several years later. (This is why I have a particular distaste for poems that are forced to rhyme. A natural rhyme is wonderful, a forced one conjures images of a baby straining against a swaddle – parents are told it is the natural order of things, contrary to the wailing evidence in front of them.)

I also loved the extra-curriculars afforded to a writer. Reading feels like a side-hustle, participating in literary events, long conversations dissecting books, performing my work, workshopping with other writers, writing reviews and generally having a space to talk about all the parts of life we have collectively dog-earred. This also serves as a brilliant distraction from writing, and when I grew sick of reading the same poems out loud over and over again, it eventually became the fastest one-way ticket to imposter syndrome.

It’s been a couple years since my first book came out. I have made some big swings in my personal life, shed miles of skin – real, metaphorical, other – and needed to lie down a lot. I am no longer a part of a wonderful spoken word community as this is now on the other side of the world. The pandemic has meant that my goodbyes here sort of petered out, no dramatic farewell, just life that had to be gotten on with. 

The pressure to write is gone. The good kind is always within reach, but I am glad to let go of the bad kind, which would often detract from the point of it all. Some of this has to do with having scratched that childhood itch. I wrote a book, people have read it, some have even liked it, but the dream wasn’t the book. The dream was to keep writing.  

I do not regret the journals I have thrown out. The words I have deleted. Poems that start in the shower or as I am falling asleep that never get written. The times I have forgotten my notebook, or a pen, or simply forgot to think about it. I am no longer desperate to only archive the things that make me look best, because writing is a true thing, and the process is the point. I do not feel guilty when life gets in the way. In fact, for my kind of writing, life HAS TO get in the way. Just living is passive writing. In many ways I don’t ever stop. In my head, on social media, when I tell stories or write emails.  So perhaps, what I am really trying to say is that writing is the way I know true things. This is how I know there will be another book. A truer book, to reflect the next writer I am, and the next, and the next.