I’m transfixed by the images of my past life. Stars, waves and open spaces adorn my walls, reminding me that the world of 2010 was one that had a profound impact on my life. I was on an ‘endless quest for new‘, which has continued unabated for the 30 months since I wrote that post, my past self brimming with inspiration and freshness and self-confidence and, well, bragging.
The job I’m in now is close to a dream. I’m working with a team of people I really like, surrounded by stunning historical science stories and tasked with finding and drawing attention to new ones. But when I get home I am mentally battered by huge issues of the world. They make me question whether what I am doing now is what I want to be able to reflect back on. Issues I have a burning passion for – environmental ones, mainly, but not exclusively – seem impossibly distant and difficult, but also pressing and existential. And when I look at what I am spending dozens of hours per week on – really look at where the time goes, not what emerges – I feel doubt.
And then I go and read this:
So you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. As much as your countries represent and fulfill different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. For the rest of your life, or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one naggingly longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there. –Chelsea Fagan
The whole article hit me pretty hard. London has held me for longer than I anticipated, and it is continuing to plant hooks into me. I’ve made more new and diverse friends in the past 4 months than I have in any time since I first settled into Clayponds. Throwing myself into climbing and joining a Chinese martial arts class has connected me with people who share very little with me but are willing to share a lot.
And the stories of other people’s lives in the two places keep me guessing about my own. What’s left of me from 2010 is shouting for me to go back to Australia, to the culture and places and activities that let me live so much more in the moment than London does, equipped with new skills and experiences and a mind a little broader than it was before. 2013 me wonders what the hell I might actually do, if and when I return. London’s shown me tantalising glimpses of interesting futures, but the raw experience of a dark winter makes me shudder at the thought of another year here.
The exhortation I gave myself at the end of my road trip was, in the words of the Temper Trap song I chose, to “Go, don’t stop now, go.” But last week, while being interviewed about my experience with ZombieLab, I was asked if I had a ‘personal motto’, and found myself at a dead loss (it was a little awkward). How do I know where to “go”?
I realise that what I feel is, simultaneously, unique to me and shared by thousands, or millions, of people, present and past. It’s the classic ‘what should I do with my life’ conundrum. I’m under no illusions that there are answers, or that this is even of passing interest to people reading this post. But I’m curious to know: how do you choose your life? Have you faced the ex-pat dilemma? Have you found yourself in a role that just didn’t seem to fit, even though it was a good one? And how did you react?