‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
Best answer to that question I ever heard! A familiar question, right? But there are so many assumptions within it:
“What” – does it have to have a label? Does it have to be only one thing?
“To be” – does this mean a job? If so does a job have to define me?
“When you grow up” – do I have to feel like a grown-up?!
Someone very recently said to me that she always knew who she wanted to be when she grew up and she’s achieved it. When I pressed for details, it turns out she meant “what she wanted to do” but had unwittingly phrased it as “who she wanted to be” and it struck me that there’s a big difference, but the latter is a far more fundamental question at any point in life!
So I’ve been home for a couple of months now and no, I didn’t return with a better answer to that question than the one above! I wasn’t sure whether I would keep writing but rather than having nothing to say, it’s because I almost have too much to say. In many ways I feel like a fraud writing about depression right now, it’s not beating me at the moment, but perhaps that means even more that I should share why I feel like that? Frankly I’m amazing myself that I’m ok: history of depression followed by biggest post-holiday blues ever, plus being frustrated/disappointed to realise that things I’ve now come to value are difficult/impossible to find here… Basket-case time, surely?! Nope.
A list of some things that are helping me
1. Doing stuff for other people. No matter how big or small, helping others seems to help me. (This is one reason why I’m writing this – lots of people tell me it helps them, which makes me happy!)
2. Writing stuff down. I advocate this all the time – streaming a crazy whirlwind of thoughts onto paper can get them out of your head and knocked back into perspective where they belong.
3. Remembering to not believe everything I think.
4. Smiling! Things come back to me with smiles because I’m putting smiles out there.
5. Trying to appreciate things through the eyes of non-Brits I met travelling who see the beauty in Britain and can’t be here. There will be no “amazing” landscape pictures on this post, because it’s just more difficult to see something as beautiful when it’s so familiar, and I miss the mountains!! But as the sayings go: ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes’ and ‘Don’t let comparison steal your joy’!
6. Continuing to challenge myself in small ways. Ok I can’t snorkel with sharks right now but I can do stewarding at a festival for the first time ever or be more honest with people than I’ve ever been brave enough to be before… instead of doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. (‘The definition of insanity’!)
7. Taking responsibility. Focussing on what I can do differently instead of what other people ‘need’ to do differently.
8. Continuing to watch my thoughts; trying to catch myself if I think of anything as a ‘problem’ and instead see it as an opportunity to think differently/get creative.
9. Letting stuff go (thanks to this awesome blog http://www.surrendertotheinfinite.blogspot.com ) and remembering to do that on a regular basis – there’s no “oh I’ve let that go now, I’ll never have to deal with it again”. Some things are easier than others!
10. Let myself be sad. I do miss some of the exquisite travel moments so much and it would be churlish to ignore that. The more I let the emotions out at the time they arise, the more quickly they pass!
11. Trying to remember that there’s no rush for anything. I don’t have to sort my entire life out right now! It can evolve.
12. Remembering to have gratitude for the freedom and abilities I have and the huge support that people are giving me.
13. Let myself fail. Sometimes I do none of the above and I feel rubbish, and once I realise that I forgive myself because no-one’s perfect!
Still, ‘home’ is a more difficult place to be, which on face value makes no sense. Home in any other setting would feel as displeasing. Home should not be offended; the people and things that are labelled with home should not be offended, I don’t love them any less, it’s just the sense of home that’s offensive after such treasured travels. Home is no more or less perfect than any other place. I try to give the place that tag as little as possible: home is just wherever I am! I stay a bit detached from home. These are my needs right now and I’m continuing to listen to them instead of letting guilt stop me; I’m not criticising anyone else at all, these are just my needs and I’m not apologising for them!
I’m not trying to find ‘a job’ right now, my focus is not on money and I’m lucky that it doesn’t have to be right now, but I’m definitely working towards ways of living. If I’m honest I currently feel less capable of functioning in the mad-paced life of work here! Yet deep down I know that I am still capable in the same way as before, I’m just continuing to determinedly focus on being capable of something else. So I’m still travelling: I’m wwoofing again, in Wales and Cornwall… I have some more observations to share and I’m meeting new people who have a broad view of life’s possibilities.
In one way, travelling in strange places forces you to accept limited choices, which helps you grow as a person, and in another way it broadens your choices to an almost infinite extent, because you realise you don’t have to listen to so many ‘should’ voices any more. This means you have to decide things in your life based on what you actually truly need (including happiness), which as Westerners we do far less often than you might think. And it’s actually harder (we’re out of practice!) as I referred to in a slightly different context a few posts and thousands of miles ago!