Episode 17: A decade and a half later, peace?
In which our protagonist reflects on 15 years away from home
Every morning, dear reader, as I start my daily journaling, I’m cultivating the habit of picking an affirmation card at random. This morning, I picked one that proclaimed: “I am at peace with myself”.
I thought, “Am I though?”
Not really. But I’m getting there. And I’m sure a lot more at peace than I was when I arrived in this strange land.
I’ve been thinking back to that time leading up to my fleeing the homeland. I’d decided more than a year previously, in early 2005, as I drove along the Great Ocean Road heading home after covering a music festival in Victoria, that I was sick of merely existing and not living. That I needed something more than what I was dealing with. Despite having the dream job, I was ridiculously unhappy and feeling desperately lonely. I was on the edge. I needed to pull myself off that edge before it was too late. My brain started whirring away; plans began to form.
And so it came to be that on 29 April 2006, my friends and family gathered at Adelaide airport to make sure I got on the plane - ahem, to wish me well and see me off. I wrote a little something for the socials last Thursday, the 15th anniversary of my departure:
“Me getting told off by the customs agent for trying to use the wrong passport to leave. Mum putting her hand against the glass to embarrass me in the waiting lounge. Me getting on a plane and falling straight asleep because I am so damn knackered from preparations, and yet I don’t feel prepared at all. Me arriving in London 20-something hours later. It’s so early the tubes aren’t working, and my friend hasn’t arrived to greet me yet. I cry, a lot. And I’ll cry a lot for the next 15 years. But I’ll also laugh, and deploy neutral face, and experience amazing things, and shake my head in disbelief…”
In the intervening years, I’ve been told many times about how brave I was coming here. I knew one person. I had no job. I had little savings, no place to live. No idea of what to expect. I just knew I needed not-Adelaide. Not-where-I-was. And London seemed as good a choice as any, given my dual citizenship and my love of the creative arts. Bravery didn’t enter the equation for me - though that seems to be my way, with the biggest and baddest decisions. I just jump in. It’s the little things that paralyse me.
Brave? Maybe. Stubborn? Definitely. Determined? For sure. I didn’t want to go home with my tail between my legs, so I stuck it out. I was finding myself. I’m still finding myself.
The pain and the anxiety and the unbelonging
It’s been tough. There have been long periods of pain. There have been times the family would’ve much preferred me to get on the plane and never turn back. I just… couldn’t. For all its faults, I love the diversity and anonymity of London. Back home is two degrees of separation; here, I’ve been able to explore myself. My style. My passions. My comfort zone and what’s beyond it. But I’ve also been stuck. I quickly learned that sharehousing wasn’t for me, so I put all my money into living on my own. I’ve travelled, yes, but I haven’t seen as much as I wanted to or planned to. Much of my London life has been buried in working, and in that respect I could be anywhere at any time. In that sense, moving across the world didn’t change my default position: it didn’t change the fact I hid where I was comfortable, and though work has never been a place that made me happy it is a place where I feel safe. I kind of know what I’m doing, and I can feel needed and necessary and indispensable.
Dear reader, I hear you shouting it: No one is indispensable. I’ve learned that the hard way time and again. And it took my umpteenth round of burnout and my insert-multiple breakdown last year, in the midst of a pandemic, to realise none of that - none of the stress, the anxiety, the pain at unbelonging - none of it would be fixed by external factors. It was up to me. It was my job to stop seeking external validation, to stop wanting other people to tell me I was enough. It was my job to believe within myself that I was enough. It was my job to find that peace within.
Would I have got to this point back in Adelaide? Honestly, I doubt it. I needed these 15 years of experiencing the world, of setbacks and living without safety nets, to get here. In that respect, leaving was the best thing I ever did. It led me to the boy, and the bunny, and to you, dear reader. It led me to myself. Is it enough, still? Well…
My anniversary social post continued with a promise of sorts:
“I don’t like what my adopted home is becoming. It feels like it’s time, but there are ties now that keep me here. Check back in with me when it’s the 20th anniversary of me fleeing home; who knows where I’ll be. Where we’ll be. My ties that bind and me.”
Dear reader, I am working at being at peace with myself. Every day. I hope you are too. But I’m restless, and I’m weary, and I’m ready for change. Once again, I’m ready for something more. I can’t wait to meet the next phase - I just wish I knew what it was. I’m an impatient being, really. Bring it on already.
The week ahead 🗓
Top secret project almost revealed!
Before I get into specifics, please permit me a little self-plug. I’ve been teasing my Top Secret Project for the last few weeks, and we’re almost - almost - ready to launch. What I can tell you is that it’s a collaboration with the wonderful Joanne Bell from Write to Thrive, it’s my first official foray into coaching, and you can find out all about it by joining us on Instagram Live at 6pm UK time on Thursday (I’m @lozthewriter). What could it be? You’ll have to join us to find out…
As for the rest of the week?
Writing: The Arvon course was a godsend; I’m fired up about this novel thing now. I’m aiming for 1000 words a day, but in the back of my head am thinking if I do 3000 a day then I’ll finish the first draft by the end of the month. So crazy it might just work?
Work: I’m still on sabbatical so should be shirking the working, but I’m dipping my toes in the coaching world. I’ll tell you all about it in next week’s newsletter.
Health: I’m just really drained lately. Restless. Unable to concentrate. Will try some energy-expending remedies this week and see what I’m craving. Got any ideas? Share them in the comments, please? It’s also the beginning of Mindful in May, and I’m already behind. Le sigh.
Routine: And of course, I aim to continue my daily practice: morning pages, 15 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of stretches. Plus, join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every week day: 8am London, New York, California and NZ.
On the stereo 🎧
Khe Sahn, Cold Chisel
My first Christmas away from home, December 2006. A mountain in the Tyrol, near the German-Austrian border. A bunch of Aussies gather in a chalet, drinking homemade schnapps and have a white Christmas. One of my most vivid memories of that week is standing on the mountain top in the middle of the night screaming this tune at the top of my lungs. Y’know, ‘coz Straya. This one’s dedicated to the Adelaideans (pictured below) I spent the festive season with that year, and to our snowlady Svetlana (RIP).
Off the shelf 📚
The Magical Writing Grimoire, by Lisa Marie Basile
I made a mistake last week in a very public way - an unintentional total accident of a mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. I was wracked with guilt that I didn’t feel I could talk about because that would make the issue all about me, and it really wasn’t. I desperately wanted to prove I wasn’t that person that I was now assumed to be, but I couldn’t. So what did I do? I wrote about it. Privately, I wrote about it, in a way that will never be seen by others, but I wrote about it. I got it out. I processed it and I’m trying to move on from it and learn from it. In that way, words and writing are magic. It’s no wonder I felt drawn to this book. I stumbled across it via Treadwell’s online store, and put it in the cart without even thinking. I needed to have this book. It’s full of prompts and rituals to connect with your words and your writing, even if you’re not a poet or a writer or a witch or a spiritual person. It’s about writing for self-care, and it’s pure magic.
“As anyone who has been pushed to the margins knows, language is at the heart of magic. Our words, full of intent and evolution, are our wands… When we speak about our injustices, bodies, fantasies, magic, desires, sexualities, shadows, or mental illnesses, we are often seen as radical, crazy, or broken, proving that our words still hold immense power - when spoken digitally, on the page, or in a diary… When we strip away the need to fit in, or appear “okay” - in physical, mental, cognitive or emotional ways - we become powerful in our vulnerability. It is in this state that we grow and bloom. It is in this state that we encourage others to join us. It is in this state that we embrace magic. Writing allows us to feel and be there.”
Visual confirmation 📷
Have I mentioned lately how much I bloody loved Promising Young Woman? Thanks to Girls on Tops for adding to my collection. (For the record, I now celebrate Emerald Fennell alongside Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis and Greta Gerwig, and my t-shirt wishlist is long.)