From the creators of the Shameless podcast
There are few books in the world that I have felt the urge to highlight, scribble in and write all over. That is because I’m a book purist; I don’t even dog-ear pages. But The Space Between is one that I wanted to commit to memory. Obviously, because the cover is pink and yellow, the highlighter colours must be pink and yellow also.
I was hooked even before I opened it because of the hilarious blurb: ‘there’s this weird gap in life that’s fuelled by cheap tacos and even cheaper tequila – also known as our twenties. It’s that specific limbo between being a teenager and a Proper Adult’. Immediately, I internally screamed in the aisle of Kmart I was in, THAT’S ME. And I know I’m not alone.
As a roadmap for all the bumps women in their twenties they will encounter, the authors Michell Andrews and Zara McDonald don’t shy away from any hard topic. They cover anxiety, heartbreak, relationship breakdowns, ambitious women, sexual health, career goals, toxic work environments and the dangers of comparison, with a sprinkling of hilarious little checklists for easy reading. There is a pattern emerging in this day and age that women are constantly fighting – for validation, for attention, for recognition and for the ability to be heard over the noise. This might be a tough battle but reading this book allows you to realise that it’s often about the small wins too as well as the big ones.
Let’s backtrack for a second, though. The Space Between is written by two Melbourne writers and queens of the digital space Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald. Together they have hosted the Shameless podcast since 2018 (and it was on the list of Apple’s Best Podcasts in that year). Even though I’m late to the listening game of ‘the podcast for smart people who love dumb stuff,’ this book has done wonders for my catching up.
All of the issues covered in the book are ones that women specifically will relate to in a personal or bystander capacity (we experience them ourselves, or we watch our girlfriends experience them) – and that made it harder reading for me because it hits home a little too much.
The Space Between brings great literature into a community of like-minded women existing together to build each other up (and laugh at great memes). And in the world we live in where our endless social media scroll shouts at us all the things that we need to improve about ourselves, reading this book is honestly a breath of fresh air.
I know that there are armies of women the same age as me who deal with the same crappy situations that I find myself in and sometimes we think we fight these battles alone. We don’t.
Initially, because they share similar titles, this book brings to mind a song i listen to regularly, and that is Kelsea Ballerini’s ‘In Between’. The catchy chorus goes;
Dumb enough to think I know it all
Smart enough to know I don’t
Young enough to think I’ll live forever
Old enough to know I won’t
In the In Between
And that is exactly what I thought about first when I read this book. When you read you will understand why. Right now, we think we know it all and then we absolutely don’t. We think this time of our lives will last forever and it absolutely won’t.
My favourite chapter is one that is titled ‘The space between finding your voice and feeling self-conscious about having one’. I have a confident voice and I’m sometimes sceptical of how people see me, but obviously we all slip into self-doubt and claw our way back up. As someone who is aspiring to find my way through the messy and terrifying beginnings of an almost unattainable career in the media industry, it’s really nice to see wom*n succeed and still be grounded in their space.
There’s a question asked to guests at the end of every Shameless ‘In Conversation’ podcast and it’s mentioned in this book about the definition of success. It’s something we all aspire to and something we all have different definitions for. Success for women looks different to that for men, and sometimes it feels like we can’t see the greater victory. But it is there.
A final word on this book besides go and buy the shiny fluoro yellow loud book and please read it faster than I did, is to Mich and Zara.
I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to pull out my pom poms. The book hit hard and it was way too real and I’m used to reading juicy fiction. Reality isn’t as juicy and infinitely more sadder. But we don’t have to be sad all the time knowing there is a collection fight going on. There are moments where I laugh and moments when I want to cry because you’re speaking such truth. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to listen to Shameless, I’m in it for the long run now. I’m here for a guide to our thirties whenever we get there.
I’m really glad that this book exists and that I’ve read it because it makes me feel a little less lost. If you feel stuck like me, if you want to read other people’s truths about the big women’s issues that should get talked about more – this book is waiting for you. Once more for the people down the back: go grab your highlighters.