Things social media is great for: There’s so much wonderful stuff happening in the world, just waiting to be discovered. Yippee!
Things social media is shite for: Everyone’s off having fun without me! Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms.
It was about life as an expat. The strange feeling of not-belonging that hits you when you return to your native soil. Which mirrors the feeling of not-belonging in the place that you live; the perpetual cycle of abandoning and being abandoned, as you or your friends move on to the next stop.
Monica has been living in Beijing for more than three years now, and was pondering her next move. She felt like it was “time to choose”: to either put down roots in Beijing, or return to Sydney. Or pick up to yet another place and make her life there? (The answer, of course, and somewhat selfishly, is that Monica’s next move should be wherever I am. Monica should be in the same city as me.)
Reading Monica’s article made me ask myself the same questions. Was it time to commit to London, to throw myself into it fully and without reservation? Or was it time to cut my losses and put the wheels in motion to move on to somewhere else, somewhere I might “fit” better?
It’s a silly question to ask, really – the ultimate in “first world” problems – but it’s been one that has preoccupied me ever since I left Australia two and a half years ago. And maybe it’s not so silly, after all. “Where should I live?” may be a question infused with privilege, but the emotion that lies beneath that question is common to us all. “Where do I belong?”
I’m conscious that when I write about London I often sound overly negative. Too inclined to focus on what’s missing from my life here – the ways that I feel awkward and out of place – rather than on the things I love about it: the friends I’ve made, the constant opportunities for adventure. (Next week I’ll be travelling to Berlin for the day, for a meeting associated with my volunteer job and a potential story. To another country! For a day! Who does that? Only a Londoner, I tells you. Or someone else who lives in Europe.) The truth is, I would be sad to leave.
But I am also prone to spending a lot of time thinking about not just what I want from my life here and now, but what kind of person I want to be in the future. “What kind of middle-aged person do I want to be?” (To which one of my friends responded, “But you’re not middle-aged, Rachel.” Which is true, but it’s never a bad time to start planning for the future.)
And the kind of middle-aged person I want to be is kind of like Nora Ephron as depicted in this New York Magazine article: working on interesting projects, meeting great people, surrounded by friends and mentors and mentees and collaborators. Can I be that person in London? Possibly, but I definitely don’t feel like I am her now. I feel like it would be a hard slog. And I’m not even talking about the career bit (which of course would be hard). I’m talking about the social life.
But here’s the funny – and perhaps not so surprising – thing. It is infinitely easier to be happier with where and who you are, if you stop evaluating what “is” against your final destination.
When you (I) stop feeling embarrassed that your career is based primarily out of Australia and the United States, even though you live in the UK. When you stop fretting about where your creative community is (across the Atlantic, you fear?), and throw yourself into your immediate future: the events you want to go to this week, the people you’d like to meet this month, and the places you’d like to visit and the projects you’d like to pursue this year.
As they say in Avenue Q, everything in life is only for now.
So, January’s done, and I didn’t exactly stick to my monthly resolution (do an hour minimum “hard writing” every day), but I did make some serious progress towards my end goal, and that’s what counts, right?
I also wrote some sweet freelance stories, and dreamed up a post-book project that has me more excited about writing than I’ve been in years. And I’ve found the planning I did when I was back in Australia over the holidays really helpful in deciding which work to pursue and where to send it. My mental dance card is now pretty much full until I submit the book at the end of March, with story ideas, speeches, and of course, lots and lots of book writing and editing.
Inspired by Sarah Von of Yes and Yes (who is launching her 9 Days of Nice challenge today), I’m making my resolution for February “small acts of kindness.” Which is not to say I’m usually a raving bitch, but let’s face it: holding back on the negativity and bringing light into the lives of others is something most of us could stand to improve on. And it’s a nice distraction from the very self-absorbed state of writing a book.
Other forthcoming monthly themes may include:
Body is a temple.
Live it like it’s Pinterest.
Blog like nobody’s watching.
Crash the comfort zone.
Experiment with aesthetics.
Thirty days of yoga.
And more that I haven’t dreamed up yet. Suggestions welcome.
Elsewhere: Let’s be nice for 9 days. Um, starting Monday. (Yes and Yes)