“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
Change happens at 27. I think it is because you finally truly realise (if you haven’t already) that you are your own person and you do not actually need to conform to society or live up to someone else’s expectations.
I decided I was not at all happy with the life I was building for myself and what my environment was doing to my mental health. I felt like I was holding my finger in the dam while spinning at least three plates, working from pay check to pay check with no clear goal that I cared about.
You hear about this constantly at the moment- Millennial syndrome- if you like, and it is all a bit cliche but my life is my life. I have a Masters Degree, my career was going well, achieved 2 promotions in the first 4 years, was living alone and looking to buy a flat in the far reaches of zone 5 (just affordable) London. But 2016 was a hard year work wise and due to various circumstances I hit breaking-point, and then my Gran, my last grandparent, died, good friends drifted away, panic attacks became a morning routine, anxiety bubbled under the surface and started spilling over more often in angry and frustrated reactions to people and things at work… So come February 2017 I decided it was time for some help.
Not that I actually knew what I wanted, or what would ‘make me happy’ at the time, but I knew I had to make a change. And please, believe me, I know life could have been a million times worse! But that’s the thing with mental health, its all chemical, its all relative, and perspective is a slippery fish.
Now, its best that you don’t actually wait and end up in a place where your day starts rocking back and forth in the corner of the kitchen floor every morning before eventually making it into the office acceptably late, but for me, timings worked out well, and I am happy they did. I got a brilliant private talking therapist, courtesy of my work health insurance (Catch 22), I started doing mindfulness meditation daily as well as upping my yoga practice, the 5 month relationship that I wasn’t sure about anyway, broke up, and I went travelling to Guatemala for 3 weeks, continuing my solo travelling adventures. I got back, and had a (rather obvious in retrospect) ‘revelation’, and decided that by the end of 2017 I would have left my job. Personal and professional pride made this 7 months away as I was currently in the process of employing a mini-me to hand over a lot of workload to and wanted to make sure 4.5 years of mentally and physically exhausting myself wasn’t a total waste of time.
On the 28th May 2017 I wrote the below prose poem on my facebook page:
The momentary blissful happiness of walking through your front door after travelling back from the other side of the world. Safe. Easy. Shanti Shanti. You are sucked back in for a moment with the relief of hair products, reliable Internet and having clean fingernails for more than an hour. Possessions, career, structure & city life gleam back at you. You see the place as if for the first time with new eyes…you missed it…but then you quickly long for the life just had.
The two weeks that felt like 2 months. More than a lifetime of adventure for some… you have to be thankful. You go back to work into the mouth of the corporate monster chewing your mind numb between momentary glimpses of what could be inspiration.
You think of the people you will never forget and the experiences had together… the “moments that took your breath away”, excuse the cliche. The instant connections, the late night conversations, the fascinations shared, the expanding global network of these interesting people, the hugs you never want to let go of, the motivation and the life plans made, the awe and wonder, the challenges overcome and strength achieved, the views you never wanted to stop staring at, the look in your eyes and the smile on your face, the ‘crying wolf’ of goodbyes when paths cross again and again… and the joy in each new day of it all.
The heart pounds with each step forward.
These memories play on the mind like a carousel, unblocked by the limited stimulation of the daily routine returned to. The quiet whispers of dreams yet unfulfilled, spinning. Dizzy but driven.. you open the door to your new perception of reality… you now have a goal, a light, something to guide you through this maze.
Didn’t this happen last time you returned from solivagant? This time it’s different! Sure…Growth, understanding… Samsara! Many kindred spirits from different walks of life imagine the same metaphorical cliff to jump off. To find meaning, purpose, to stop serving your ego and feeding your karma, find a selfless nivarna at one with all the universe, the quest for all knowledge, to “scare away the darkness”, to live for and in the nature and the beauty of the world.
All ideas are good ideas, you are told in school, you can be whatever you want… but when you try and fly with them, the encouragement wavers and the self-doubt flows in and you slam hard against the floor. “I just don’t have time” becomes your excuse.
But, that 80% of your brain not yet accessible they say- kicks starts the thirst, again and again, slam after slam…each time the 20% settles for the conformity of ordinarity… it instils a wanderlust or a motivation and cycle starts again.
“We shall not cease from exploration,” said Ts Eliot, “Climb that goddamn mountain!” Said Jack Kerouac. “Optimism is true moral courage…Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” Said Ernest Shackleton…
And little Dumbo, flew because he believed in an idea that everyone laughed at and said was impossible…
Each and every step forward the heart should pound…
Hold your magic feather and stand on the cliff edge…
The whispers get louder…
Those whispers got so loud, I couldn’t think of anything else. I had a plan. I proceeded to leave my flat and pet sit/sofa surf in London for the next 5 months to save money! I then resigned from my job, which given I have skydived, was the scariest thing I have ever done.
It is interesting looking back in reflection to see the path you have walked and what you have learnt and how you have grown. It is needed particularly when self-doubt sneaks in…