2014 felt like a year of waiting for me. Maybe waiting isn’t the right word. A year of rest, perhaps. But not simply rest, more the relaxation between efforts. The moment of sitting down, stretching out legs and breathing deep, of letting muscles slacken and body sag, before slapping knees and standing to tackle the next job. 2014 was a year of repose.
But despite the sense of respite the year has left me with, things happened in 2014. The biggest and brightest that springs to mind was my trip through the United States. It was a trip that took me away from the comforts of home and family, and opened me up to new friendships and experiences. It wasn’t challenging in the way hiking up a mountain might be, or backpacking through a foreign country, instead it tested this introvert’s ability to participate and get involved without the safety net of heading home at the end of the night. I deliberately placed myself in a situation that didn’t include my normal supports in an effort to strengthen my rarely flexed social muscles.
The trip involved putting forty-two adults ranging between twenty-one and thirty-seven on a bus together, and driving that bus from one side of North America to the other. Not the usual past time of an introvert.
It took a while for me to ease into it, like lowering into a hot bath, my rigid and tense body sinking in small piece by small piece until, submerged and immersed, I relaxed. And a good thing I did too. Away from the stress and routine of work, I rediscovered the joy of impulsivity and spontaneity. I didn’t have to plan for things, to go to bed at certain times in order to be up at certain times, parceling my alertness to ensure I made it through the work day. I didn’t have to squeeze activities around an eight-hour shift, staggering to these events with the dregs of energy left to me.
Activities became my full-time job. Speaking to new people, sharing meals and experiences and drinks, was the sole expenditure of my vigour. Seeing new things, new environments, new communities, having new thoughts, was now the purpose of my day. And with that new purpose came new drive. I was surviving off five hours sleep at best each night and feeling more energetic than I ever had.
And by the time the trip wound to an end I knew this was what I’d been waiting for. This, this feeling, experience, frame of mind, was what I’d been inching towards the whole year without realising it. I was a hibernating bear sensing the first rays of spring, and that new season was kick starting my sluggish arteries. I decided I needed more of it; I was done hibernating.
Since before even leaving school, I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to be realistic, that once I left this complacent nest of learning and days dictated by ringing bells, I had to work towards supporting myself. I took two years to obtain a Diploma of Writing, an indulgence for myself I completed while working thirty-six hour weeks at Coles, but I knew in the real world people had to work, so I walked out of one tertiary building and straight into another, and began studying to become a nurse. Nursing meant job security.
I completed my three years of university, slogging through the trials of clinical placements, hours of lectures, and headache-inducing exams, without really giving any of it much consideration. I was being realistic, and on the right path. I completed the course, swapped the title of student for nurse, and started working. A lot of graduates entered the workforce doing only eight shifts a fortnight, an easing-in process. This I also didn’t give much thought to: I’d be working full-time. I knew this was what an adult did, had seen my father work endless hours, often weekends as well, and knew this was the lot of a grown-up. Of a provider. So I commenced full-time employment on forty-five hours a week.
I came out the other end of my graduate year almost burnt out, a withered black match with only a millimetre of unburnt wood left to me, pinched between shaking fingertips. I had gritted my teeth and clung to the resolution of adult work-ethic, and it had kicked my arse. I was ready to leave nursing — but not full-time employment, of course.
I found a job as a medical writer and worked in that position for three months until contracts dried up and I found myself unemployed. This felt very wrong to me. I was twenty-four and not working. This was not being very realistic. I found work as a district nurse, and discovered, much to my pleasure, that it was work I enjoyed. I was doing a forty-hour workweek again, and confident I was back on track.
I continued down the responsibility path and purchased a house with my girlfriend, and after a couple of years, garnered a promotion. My girlfriend and I split, but I bought her out of the house, my sense of adult responsibilities serving me well in still being able to make repayments. I was doing it, I was an adult, working full-time with a property to my name and succeeding in my job. And it wasn’t until this point, until I reached this peak of being a provider, this adulthood nirvana that I’d been slogging towards since leaving school, that I stopped to look around and question what the fuck I was doing.
Because I had overlooked a rather pertinent point. I had modelled my work ethic on a man who was providing for a family. A man who headed into work each day knowing he did so to feed and clothe his four children. I didn’t have four children. The only dependents I had were a lemon and lime tree that survived despite my months of neglect (Side note: Dad repositioned them to a sunnier location and probably saved their lives. You can see why he was an influential role model).
I had accepted the inevitable role of provider and the responsibilities that went with it without ever questioning if this was what I needed to do to survive. If, in fact, there were other patterns to self-sustainment, a plethora of varying patterns, that didn’t involve working forty-hour work weeks, particularly when the only one I had to provide for was myself.
This realisation opened up new avenues for me.
The combined insight that I was not a bear made for hibernating, nor a father providing for four, meant that the track I’d set myself on since before leaving school had played itself out. That track had given me incredible experiences and lessons, but they were lessons for a more black and white me. I was ready for a new path.
Which is why 2015 won’t be another year of repose, but a year of exploration. I have already moved out of my house and back into the comforting embrace of my previous residence in Brunswick West, and am once again enjoying the company of my brother and his girlfriend. But this is only a temporary lay-over. In March, I intend to fly to the United Kingdom which I will make my new home for at least twelve months. I will work, because I haven’t changed so much as to disregard the idea of a responsible income completely, but only casually, as a district nurse in Scotland, and later in London. My primary purpose will be to see. To experience. To explore. To engage. To discover. To act.
2014 was good for me in both the rest and insights it offered, but now it’s time to slap my knees, stand, and tackle the next adventure.