All that I have sleeps beside me

As some of you know, a few days ago I finished up at my marketing gig of over five years, moved all my worldly possessions from my city apartment into a bedroom at my parents’ house in Gippsland and I’m less than a week away from trekking across the U.S. I know that you know this, because after I finish this post (and my second wine) I’m planning to throw my blog open to the scariest people in the world – my friends. Don’t get me wrong, you’re a pleasant-looking lot and all pretty tops people. But at this point I’ve shared my words with about zero people for fear that someone might, I don’t know, ACTUALLY READ THEM. This thought is at once both terrifying and – nope, just terrifying. But life is about to get all kinds of unnerving and exciting and if I’m ever going to share my journey, now’s the time right?

So as I sit here writing this, surrounded by every material object I have collected in my life so far, no job to get up for in the morning, not to mention having recently split from my partner, it’s a strange, leveling feeling. Between me and my cohort of stuff, everything I have done in my life until this point can be accounted for in this very room – and absolutely nothing else is expected of me right now. At the risk of sounding completely self-indulgent, it feels like a weird kind of rebirth; suddenly I’ve become acutely aware of the blank slate I’ve created for myself.
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Yes, that’s exactly the way I designed it. But when I woke up this morning, jumped on the treadmill, cranked up the iPod and the first lyrics to permeate the air were “…sweet dreams, when I’m alone, all that I have sleeps beside me…” this strange water-like fluid starting gushing out of my eyes. Okay, I burst into tears. And I realised for the first time that this next week between my old life and my new one is going to be a tough slog. I’ve been so busy getting through the last few weeks of finishing up at work, moving house and catching up with friends that I haven’t had time to think about what I’m giving up and the people and experiences I’m going to miss. Well, my tear ducts decided that 8.30am this morning, after exactly 20 seconds on the treadmill, was the perfect time to consider all of this. And yes, I finished my workout, because endorphins are ace when you’re feeling like a big, vulnerable bag of emotions.

I know it’s the right decision for me; the travel alone will be a game-changer and I’m setting myself up to actively create the life I want when I get back. I can, thank god, still count my ex partner as one of my best mates. And no matter what happens, I have always lived by the belief that I’ll never regret anything I felt I needed to do at the time. But I am, admittedly, equal parts excited and shitting my pants.

Luckily I’ve had friends go through this exact same experience who warned me there would be days like these. Days when you question what the hell you’re doing, when you’re feeling exiled from your old life and not quite settled into your new one. They told me there would be tears. And thank god they’ve been right so far, because they also told me that after a good night’s sleep and the next morning’s fresh perspective, I’ll wake up knowing I’m exactly where I need to be, on the cusp of the most amazing experience of my life so far.

Which I guess I knew all along. Stupid Patience from The Grates and stupid, stupid tear ducts…

Masters of the unsaid words

I stopped writing almost five years ago. I had just started seeing my current partner when I came across an article that linked personal writing to anxiety and depression. It suggested that the introspective activity – complete with deconstruction and over analysis of every life experience – was like crack for neurotics.

Do we writers write because we’re always in our heads, or are we always in our heads because we write? At the time, it was a curious enough question to make me stop the activity altogether. I must have been having a particularly dramatic day, as I recall ripping up the pages I’d written about the relationship to date and stuffing my little black notebook into the top shelf of my wardrobe.

Around the same time, I started thinking about what I should be writing. I decided that since the holy grail of a wildly fulfilling, self-funded life path had not laid itself before me, it was time to start actively creating it.

I filled a new binder book with lots of very responsible words and diagrams. Start up ideas, capital sources, ways to potentially monetise a blog… But nothing of any real substance. Even those that started authentically quickly morphed into scalable business models, until they were so far from my true interests that they felt daunting and impossible to start. So I didn’t. Insert a few years at this point and frankly, life became stagnant.

Don’t get me wrong, I had it good – good job, good rental, good social life. I was leading a perfectly comfortable yet soul-deflating existence. I’d repressed my creative impulses for so long that they were practically non-existent.

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So, I took a filmmaking course. I went to fashion design workshops. I tried (unsuccessfully) to learn guitar and I immersed myself in the philosophies of everyone from Eckhart Tolle to Friedrich Nietzsche. And these mini creativity fills were enough to sustain me, for a while. But I wanted a bigger change. I had accepted that the ‘good’ life just wasn’t cutting the mustard and I was ready to give it up for one of meaning and authentic purpose.

But here’s what I found about having it good; it’s a really effective roadblock to going out and getting something great. I felt like I had to uncover one hell of an artistic talent, a legitimate creative endeavour that I absolutely, unequivocally, 100% wanted to dedicate my life to, in order to justify leaving this comfortable existence. Not only did having it good give me something to lose, but it was starting to shape what I perceived to be a valid risk, a valid reward and a valid lifestyle.

So I did what any rational person with two maxed out credit cards would do. I gave notice at work, shipped my furniture off to my parents’ garage and myself into a share house to save money, armed with a big idea to trek across the Americas and absolutely no idea what I’ll do when I return home. I forced myself into a position of having nothing to lose. And for the first time in years, I’m facing an entirely uncertain future – with honest excitement.

So here we are. With twelve weeks left at work and home, one foot still in the ‘real’ world and the other already in an all-weather hiking boot. With all notions of what I should be doing now completely disregarded, it felt like as good a time as any to pick up personal writing again. After all, what’s a creative life without a little neurosis?