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Going 'round in circles
Living life in a loop-like fashion has its ups and downs
Living life in a loop-like fashion has its ups and downs
Over these past few years, I’ve had to ask myself where home is many times. My journey somewhat resembles a circle, where the beginning endlessly meets the end, and I never quite stop moving: France, Australia, France, Australia. I have left, and returned, over and over, without ever being sure whether home was where I was headed, or what I was leaving behind.
I am left with the feeling that, in my adult life, I’ve only ever passed through the places I lived in, never quite knowing for certain how long I’d stay there, or where I’d be living next—freeing myself, in a way, from the responsibilities of having to think long-term, but also denying myself the stability that comes with it. I never accumulated much stuff, because I always thought, in the back of my mind, that I might have to sell it in a few months, and what a hassle that would be. I never believed in the idea that my career had to be linear, forever shooting upwards. I let myself meander, recognising opportunities when I saw them, letting them go if I needed to. I put my money into travels instead of investing it. I never seriously considered buying a house (a solid manifestation of the concept of home) or having kids, because “where” kept popping up, and I never had the answer.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel at home in the places I keep returning to. I do. Knowing that I might (that I will) leave only makes me better appreciate what each place has to offer. I just happen to have more than one place to call home, and the difficulty lies in never quite being able to let go of one to embrace the other. For that, I would have to finally answer “where” with absolute certainty, and I’ve never felt brave enough to face the consequences of finding out the answer.
And yet I’ve been fantasising about living somewhere that would be truly mine, beyond the notion of property. Somewhere I would make mine—not another share-house where furniture has slowly accumulated in corners and no one really knows where the dining table comes from or who bought the fridge; not an apartment laid out by someone else, with strange quirks and unpractical details I can’t begin to understand. I would like to grow my plants without having to wonder who will take care of them in a few months. I really would like to get my cat back. Buy some pretty mugs or some other frivolous item I don’t really need but that make me happy regardless. Project myself further than one year or two into the future.
I was recently sharing these thoughts with old friends of mine, nervously weighing up possibilities, drawing pros and cons lists in my mind, searching for directions. One friend in particular seemed more affected by my words than the others. I quickly realised that she was at a similar crossroad, but feeling the exact opposite pull. As she listened to me, she was drawn to the life I was considering letting go of: untethered, with the opportunity to travel, to leave my job, to move countries every so often. She was surprised, I think, that I could be envious of certain aspects of her own life, if it meant giving up part of the freedom I was lucky enough to enjoy. But for me, being free also meant foregoing stability; the opportunity to be truly, deeply rooted in a community, in a family; the foresight to develop long-term projects—all of which she was lucky enough to enjoy.
I realised then that we often picture our lives as a straight line, where each crossroad quickly and irrevocably fades into the background as soon as we make a choice, leaving us only with “What if” and “I wish.” Every choice we make becomes an act of bravery, terrifying in its finality, and many of us stay paralysed, agonising on the road for years sometimes before we finally make a turn. Moving forward always feels like giving up something, whether it be freedom, stability or something else. But I’ve come to believe that they are loops on the path that’ll lead us back, if we muster up the courage to take them. Side tracks, unkempt trails that might allow us to discover new and exciting ways of life, even if they have already presented themselves to us and we have chosen not to explore them. My friend has found one recently, and if the first steps were not easy, it enabled her to create pockets of freedom and creativity for herself, while continuing to nurture (and be nurtured by) her community and her family. It’s been liberating, since then, to realise that I don’t need the answer to “where” to be a place I choose forever. I don’t have to break the circle that takes me from one place to the other to invite stability into my life. I can just slow it down, without having to let go of all that I have built elsewhere. I know now that I can always find a path, somewhere, some time, to lead me back to some version of what could have been.
And this is true, I think, of most areas of our lives: the choices we make for our careers, for our loved ones, or just for ourselves need not feel so irrevocable that we’d sometimes rather stay rooted in deep discomfort than take a single step. The pressure that can build leading up to a big decision—Make the right choice! Don’t fuck it up! This is a life-changing opportunity! Think this through—can be so significant that we forget that we are, in fact, capable of courage, of resilience, but, most importantly, of change. So what if it wasn’t the right decision? Sometimes knowing that a path isn’t for us is better than forever wondering about taking it, and adapting to new circumstances can lead us to unexpected places, where we might strike a balance we could never have foreseen.
These side tracks, however, might not present themselves in the way we expect—we might need to compromise, to step away from the beaten tracks—but I believe that they’ll be there, if we look for them, leading us to the places we need to flourish, to grow, and to move forward, once we feel brave enough to take the first step.