How many awesome things do you want to do with your life? Do you have a bucket list? Or a few secret dreams locked away in your brain?
And how many of them are you delaying, waiting for the right time to do them?
Here’s something I’ve realised lately: it’s easy to change your life when you cannot stand the way things are any more. It’s also easy to change your life when the time to move on naturally presents itself, thanks to some external factor.
I’m sure you’ve made some drastic changes to your live in those situations. I know I have.
Moving to a new city because you finished university. Upgrading to a better flat because your landlady gave you notice. Quitting your job because you’re going to rip your boss’s cheeks open with your ballpoint if you don’t.
It’s easy to move on to the next thing under those circumstances. Whether the motivation is internal or external, you simply don’t have a choice: something has to change.
Making a change when there’s nothing in particular driving you forward though? That’s tough.
When I was thinking about starting out as a freelance writer it was easier to keep coasting along, working a bar job and living in a cheap apartment with a couple of weirdos (seriously, who writes a cheque for 17p? and who doesn’t know how to clean puke out of a carpet – then asks you about it two days later?). And so that’s what I did, for ten long months: I didn’t start freelancing because it was easier not to. It was a scary thing to dive into and life was kind of okay as it was.
Until it wasn’t. Until I got promoted to bar manager and suddenly my boss decided in the middle of the busiest season of the year that there was a whole load of other stupid bullshit I should be doing, too. Ugh, I couldn’t stand it. And it was only then – only then – that I got my shit together and launched my freelance writing business. INSIDE A WEEK. I had my first paying client literally within days. But it had taken me ten months to get to that point, because it was easier not to.
There was this other time, too: I once moved into a catalogue-worthy flat with a pretty young blonde lass… who turned out to be fucking insane. She would slide placemats and coasters under anything and everything I left lying around. Under my laptop, guys, seriously. I don’t know if you know this, but those things have fucking rubber nubbins on the bottom. What the fuck are rubber nubbins going to do to your precious glass surface? This chick also told me I wasn’t allowed to close the curtains (I am still baffled by this). Just dumb shit like that. I managed four months in that place. It was very easy to move on to the next thing from there, I assure you.
However, when there’s something you think would be really awesome to do, but you’re living a cushty, comfortable life, there’s not much incentive for you to actually go out and do that thing. Instead you can keep putting it off and delaying it and waiting for the perfect time — or, as is often the case, waiting until you can’t continue on in your current existence any more.
But what if that time doesn’t come? What if your current existence is perfectly okay, and there’s nothing else prompting you to move on? To try something new? To change your life?
Are you doomed to live a mediocre, bland, stagnant existence forever? Simply because continuing on with the status quo is easier than pursuing your dream?
This is kind of where I’ve been for the past few months.
I feel weird about moving out of my flat and hitting the road. I am sad about it. Which is completely unlike me. Every other time I’ve made a big decision, like moving house or going travelling or whatever, I have not felt sad about it. I’ve been excited for it. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not not excited about this. But something’s different. And it dawned on me the other day that it’s because I am making this decision – doing this thing – before I’ve hit the natural moving on point.
This is the first time I’ve made a choice like this when I didn’t have to.
My life here is nice. I like it. Right now, my life is pretty sweet. I live in an awesome flat in a cool part of town. (I don’t know why, but I am totally in love with my kitchen. Kitchen, I will miss you most of all.) I have everything set up how I want it. There’s a co-working space down the road that I love. I live near the gym, near the supermarket, near the sea, near a park, near the city centre, near the train station, near a major bus route. There are nice pubs and restaurants and theatres here. I know some pretty cool people here, too. I love my work. All that. Oh, and Edinburgh is god damn gorgeous and continuously ranked as one of the best places to live in Britain, if not the best.
In every other situation in my life – every time I’ve made a big choice – there was no other option. I just couldn’t keep going the way things were, either because I couldn’t bear it any more or because the time had come when I had to change. Finishing university, breaking up with someone, insane flatmates, hideous bosses – all stuff that clearly marks the ‘OKAY IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE NOW’ moment.
I’ve had no such moment this time. This time, it’s been more of a creeping realisation. It started with ‘for fuck’s sake, Scotland, look at England. It has 30 degrees. Why do we only have 18?’ and it grew from there. I read a memoir about a young woman – it wasn’t even really a travel memoir – that reignited my passion for travel. And then there’s Instagram, of course. A constant stream of travelspiration (I hope this doesn’t make it into the dictionary any time soon and I’m sorry for saying it… though, er, not sorry enough to edit it out. ENJOY.) in my eyeballs, fanning the flames. I can’t ignore the fact that this is why I started my damn business in the first place, either – so I could do this.
I’ve coasted into a nice, comfortable, easy life. There is no obvious reason to leave Edinburgh, other than the fact that there is something else I really want to do. But I could probably quite easily stay here and live a perfectly nice life. I could – what do they say? – build a life here. I could settle down. Something I have vehemently avoided doing so far, because I knew there was always this other thing waiting for me.
The only thing driving me forward now is my desire for the new, the novel, the exciting. My thirst for new experiences. Essentially, it comes down to this, I think: I no longer feel the need to escape. I’m not running away from anything any more. Instead, I’m running towards it. And to be honest, that’s a pretty fucking great place to be, even if it means I feel sad about not being able to mooch around in my fabulous kitchen every morning.
I have dreamed about the path I’ve been intentionally not taking while I’ve been here. Dating. Getting a dog. Oh my sweet baby Jesus, GETTING A CAR. (I miss having a car so much. Cars are the best!) Sometimes I’ve thought about going after all that shit. But something’s always stopped me. And if I don’t pursue that something, well – I’d need to go after all that other settling down stuff, because I am ready for something new. But I’m not ready for that stuff yet. And I don’t want to stagnate any longer. I want forward motion.
So on the road, I go. It’d be easier to stay.
… or would it?
I don’t think I could stomach a life of mediocrity. I hope you couldn’t either. I hope you get to the place where you no longer need to escape – where you no longer feel the need to run away from something. And that when you get there, you keep running – on to the next thing.
Because if not now, when?