Yesterday, I had a small meltdown in an airport toilet. Which is sort of the end of this story, as well as the middle. And the beginning, obviously. It’s a story about travel, literal and metaphorical. It’s also a story about neuroticism and change (there’s that word again). And about attachment.
I have never liked or appreciated the life is a journey metaphor. Perhaps because I don’t much like journeys. I like destinations. Checking-off-the-to-do-list end points. Getting It Done. This applies, in general, to everything I do in life. My PhD must be finished by the END OF TODAY or not at all. My car journey from point A to point B must happen in the shortest amount of time with the smallest amount of detours (and by detours I mean anything and anyone who gets in my way on the road). Dream boards or life lists don’t work out too well for me. They represent daily guarantees of failure. Find a husband! Get published! Run a marathon! Be a professional dancer! Tricky, when one expects to accomplish these things by the end of any given day.
As I said, I like destinations. Not so good at journeys.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I deeply dislike literal travel. Being a nice combination of neurotic, obsessive compulsive and competitive, with an overactive imagination and just the right amount of grandiosity to imagine that the whole world is focused on tripping me up, leaving my home to travel more than 15km away is somewhat excruciating. For starters, before I leave the house, my OCD and overactive imagination kick in. The handy thing about being convinced you are going to die when you travel outside of a certain radius is that your house is left in exemplary condition. The reasons are twofold: a) so your friends and family can walk in and start sorting out your neatly packed, logically filed belongings without the trauma of mess, and b) so that the CSI team can easily map out your life to figure out the events that led up to your death (also, so that the cameras filming CSI do not misrepresent your life to the world as disorderly – oh the shame!).
Did I mention grandiose?
Then the competitiveness kicks in. Must be first in line in check-in queue. Must be first through customs. Must be closest to boarding gate. Must get onto plane first. Must get off plane first. And so it goes. It is exhausting. Someone standing in a boarding queue behind me (obviously) once amicably said to me, “ah well, we’ll all get there together, won’t we?” And I thought, “What on earth does that have to do with anything?” And then, I get there. Because ‘there’ is typically anywhere not-home, I am hopelessly untethered from myself and my life. My home is what grounds me. Specifically, my cats ground me. (Did I mention neurotic?). They are my attachment to all that is safe. Away from home, I feel in constant danger of disintegrating. Every particle in my body and soul/spirit/psyche thingy has one singular purpose: Get. Home. Home has, largely, been the only destination I have ever wanted to reach.
So here’s where this story cleverly comes together. With all the change and whatnot going on in my life at the moment, I made the decision (daily decisions, really) to try and embrace new and scary things a little more. Part of this meant deciding to try and be a bit more of an optimist and believing that perhaps the world is both willing to put good things in my path and not quite willing to deliver everything I want (right now!) unto me. (I’m not sure there can be such a thing as a cynical optimist, but that’s possibly a dilemma for another post). Part of it means enjoying the, er, journey (shudder) and not being solely focused on the destination, with the journey only something to be endured.
And part of it means realising that there are some pretty amazing travelling companions along with me on this journey. The kind who will stop what they are doing on a Sunday afternoon to sit with you on WhatsApp and talk you off the ledge (and out of the toilet cubicle) and coax you, little by little (and with promises of wine), into the world out there. The kind who make you realise that perhaps, one day, you could be somewhere away from home and still feel tethered.