In February this year, sitting across from my ex at a long wooden table in the outside part of a pub in Bayview, Melbourne, I signed divorce papers. I was 26 years old.
Four weeks later in March, I put my 5-year-old business up for sale and sold it to a stay at a home mum in Port Macquarie. At the end of April I submitted my resignation for my part time job in Communications at Melbourne Water. The next month, along with my two (gorgeous, I miss you gals!) flatmates, I found someone to take over the lease for my bedroom in our apartment in Hawthorn. In June, I registered for non-attendance at my Bachelor of Commerce graduation ceremony and got totally screwed over by WeBuyAnyCar.com.au cos no-one wants to buy 6 year old Peugeots. I also wrote a letter to the “Fines and Penalties Section” of the Department of Justice to explain that I was unable to attend Court to defend the $350 worth of fines I owed from allegedly not paying two $2.50 tolls on the M1 because 9 months ago I bought a one way ticket to Europe and in two weeks I just wouldn’t be around anymore. There may or may not be a Sheriff waiting for me at the airport when I eventually go home…
I left Australia four months ago owning a backpack of clothes, four boxes of books and memorabilia stored in the garage of my sisters place (including my 6 inch high heels; we’ve been together every Friday night for the past 18 months, how could I possibly just throw them away??) and a queen sized bed a friend let me set up in their holiday house. If you’ve ever had to buy a good bed on the cheap you’ll understand why I did this. I had a best friend, a British Citizenship, a 3 month Eurail pass and no idea what I was going to do, where I would go or who I would be with when it ran out.
It was The Dream Come True.
When do we ever get a chance to step back and look at life as a huge, blank canvas, waiting for us to paint whatever we want onto it? I’m just about the luckiest girl in the world to have had the opportunity to do this and now, here I am four months later in Bogota, Columbia, wrapped in a 9 year olds’ blue Kung-Fu Panda blanket on the couch of a local family, wide awake at 6am reflecting on the experience. I’ve been avoiding it, I realize. The initial plan was to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a week as a pilgrim, with plenty of time for reading, writing and reflection before heading to South America. Instead I went to Oktoberfest. I did learn how to drink beer without vomiting but it’s hardly a well-rounded ending to what was a life-defining trip.
So, in all the partying, trekking, photo-ing, meeting, laughing, crying, wondering and wandering moments of the past 13 weeks, who am I now? What do I know that I didn’t before? I’m finding this so difficult to write. It’s as though a part of me thinks writing these things down will make them disappear. After a period of having every truth and perception you hold about life turned on it’s head, stomped on and burnt up in flames, discovering beliefs you can hold onto as markers to navigate this world is as magical a thing for me as a butterfly landing on my shoulder. I have wonderful moments just noticing in myself a new sense of security, a desire to learn, a calm in unusual situations, a gratefulness and hopefully also gracefulness – glimmers of slowly flapping butterfly wings from the corner of my eye. If I take a swipe in the hope of catching them, will they fly away?
Only one way to find out, I guess. Here is what I have decided about life…
I Will Chase What I Want In Life Rather Than Security or Status
Ever since discovering, at the age of 23, the job ‘Change Manager’ even existed I’ve had a bit of an ache in my heart that I didn’t do the whole corporate world “Management Consultant with McKinsey” path. I firmly believe that if you want something, you can get it (well, maybe not McKinsey but at least Accenture?) and was staring down the barrel of what would be another 2 years of study, 3 years internships and a lot of arse-kissing just to get to a basic role in one of those companies by the time I was 32. And all women know what that age means. Depressing. But the thought would not leave me alone! It’s like something inside me believed that a role like that was proof of my worth; intelligence, superiority, a right to respect from other people. “Oh I’m a management consultant, I just got back from Hong Kong and heading off to New York next week.” Even just writing this, I’m not gonna lie, I still want it.
Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety is by far the best antidote to this general plague of ambition for things that won’t actually make us happy. It wasn’t until I read a book called The Pin Striped Prison on the plane from Melbourne to Dubai though, that I asked myself the specific questions: Do I really want to spend 12 hours a day in an office working on power point presentations about the fluctuations of the wheat market in India? Do I really want to write reports on what changes need to be made in a company rather than actually working to make them myself? But most of all do I really want to work in a large office where someone is expecting me at my desk from 8am – 6pm, regardless of whether I have work to do, a medical appointment or a burning desire to jump off a cliff with a parachute attached to my back?
The answer is no. No, no, no.
To get around this dilemma of ‘what path to take in life’ I asked myself the question; if you knew you were going to miserably fail at it, what would you do anyway?
This question separated for me, my ‘wants’ from ‘passions’. Of course I want to work for a famous company, walk into organizations as the Expert and take home a big steady paycheck. But if I worked for years at a desk over minute details in worthless power point presentations and I didn’t succeed, I would consider all that time to be a waste. My passion on the other hand… my passion is creating. It is forging new paths where others won’t go. It is negotiating the fine dance of relationships to foster synergy a team can throw at a challenge and succeed at. It is waking every day, not because there’s no way a boss will believe my tram was inexplicably late again, but because I am excited to be on the edge of something new and in complete control of my own agenda. Even if I never successfully build a company or publish a bestseller, I’d have enjoyed the ride and could proudly pat myself on the back for giving it go.
This means I’ll never get to say I’m a Management Consultant. And probably for a good part of the next 5 years will be just off broke. It’ll be fine though because then I’ll marry a rich Accountant, move to the suburbs and have babies. Nah, I’m kidding! A Hedge Fund Manager, at least… 😉
And so… I’m going to throw myself at doing what I really want to do; which is write a book and found a million dollar turnover business. Both those thoughts scare me so much I want to crawl under this blanket and use jet lag as an excuse to watch the Billy Madison movie for the fifth time.
Wondering and Wandering Part 2: coming soon.
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