“You’re moving to London? YOU? But you hate change?”
Ok, so I used to cry when my Mum changed the cushions on the sofa. Or my duvet cover. Or when she straightened her hair. And just last night, I came back from a weekend away and my housemate had changed the position of the sofa and I had that old familiar twitch come back. But that doesn’t mean I HATE change. I like what it brings, I like its possibilities, but there’s also the possibility that the world as you know it could implode (even if it just happens inside your head).
This isn’t a cautionary tale about moving to London, or abroad. Or a whinge that my experience was super hard.
It’s to put a different spin on ‘seeking adventure’. That sometimes the pursuit of something life changing, isn’t always peppered with positivity. I appreciate my struggle (though I am yet to ‘look back and laugh’ as so many people were telling me I would be). To quote ye olde Chris Martin, “Nobody said this was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard”. I honestly couldn’t tell you what made me actually make the decision to move my entire life to London. I booked the ticket two days after I got four wisdom teeth out, so maybe the pain killers had something to do with it.
I had a nice life in Sydney – and know I will have a nice life when I eventually come home. Being someone who fears change, I didn’t book this one-way ticket and proclaim my boldness, nor my excitement for leaving my life behind. I think I actually clicked ‘purchase’ on the ticket, looked at my dog lying by my feet… and burst into tears. The inevitable flood of mixed emotions came. For months my internal monologue went a little something like this;
“I’m scared shitless. But I’m ready. But what if Tara falls pregnant and I’m not here? Keely you need to live your own life. I don’t have enough money. What is enough money? Am I really ready to leave my job? You were ready to leave a year ago. What if my Mum and Dad forget to feed my dog? Seriously? Get your shit together Keely.”
I really had to embrace the Lemony Snicket quote “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives”. Although, maybe I should have had the foresight to remember that the same person who wrote this quote, wrote a series of books called ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’. Red flag maybe? Because that’s what followed in my pursuit of adventure… a series of unfortunate, unforeseen events.
We think of the words ‘adventure’, ‘new experiences’, ‘opportunities’ as all having insanely positive connotations. That must mean one must only have positive experiences in the pursuit of all these cliché’s, right? That everything we experience has to be good enough to post on social media? To brag about? Of course, I shared my highs, and my ‘from where you’d rather be’ type of photos with my social media community because this is the mark of an ‘adventurer’ in our society. But it’s a double-edged sword – because all of those who have done this pilgrimage before me (my two older sisters among them) are doing the same thing. Only sharing their highs.
I had a guide to follow, goals to hit, and ones that had been set by all those before me. So my adventure had to at least match their adventure. With this in mind, I thought I would be frolicking all over Europe within months of landing, I would find a cute little flat, find a job, and at that job I would find friends. It would take a while to find my feet, but everyone does it. And by the looks of Instagram, does it fabulously.
As mentioned earlier, my arrival to London was a little less ‘Eat Pray Love’, a little more ‘Naked and Afraid’.
Naked in the sense that I felt so exposed, obviously (although I did have some near misses in hostel bathrooms). Everything was scary. But my senses were on FIRE. I was ALIVE. Whether this was felt when I first heard the Big Ben chime, or when I was sobbing into the phone to my Mum saying I couldn’t do this, it was still LIVING. I was experiencing emotions at their most heightened sense. Because for the first time in my life, I was truly alone. No one to calm me down, no one to shut me up, no one to take things out on. When you’re from a family as big and wild as mine, this is huge. It was a gaping hole in my heart, but at the same time, it was a window of opportunity. I had a chance to begin to really know myself as me. Against no comparison. What I can achieve, pursue, endure and overcome, just on my own. But of course, not having your (more beautiful, more successful, more talented) sisters around doesn’t mean the end of comparison.
Social media was my evil step-sister, showing me photos of other girls my age, living in London, smiling, surrounded by loads of new international friends, having the time of her life. I was watching this all through my phone, eating a tin of home-brand beans, wondering where the fuck I had gone wrong. Why wasn’t I on this grand adventure?
While my Instagram hashtags read #londonlife, the hashtag stamped on my brain was #downandout.
But it gets better. Now, 15 months down the track, and a realisation that comparison is definitely the thief of joy, I now look back and think what a freaking adventure I’ve had. I haven’t traversed all of Eastern Europe, I haven’t frolicked in snow covered fields, or been drinking every night. But I have adventured. I’ve experienced the hills and valleys of my own mind. I’ve seen depths of my personality I didn’t know exist, I’ve cried more tears than I ever thought possible. Just as you may watch in wonder, a whale breaching, throwing everything it has at launching itself out of the water, I’ve had to throw everything at launching myself into my new life. And I think that’s been a spectacular sight, for me and those who know me. So yeah, I’ve had an aversion to change. I still do. But the biggest change I’ve had to come to terms with is the concept of an adventure.
There is no ONE definition of adventure. There is no one like you, and your experience will be yours and yours only.
And for the record, my sister DID fall pregnant. I missed her pregnancy, and my heart hurt like absolute hell. But now I have a beautiful niece, who I hope one day may read this, and be proud of her Auntie.