Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Losing control and taking it back

It's two months today since I made my last trip from Masterton to Stokes Valley, this time with a trailer fully laden with all that is material in my life. It was a change that I had hoped for for a long time and finally my chance to live my "real life" instead of what I felt had become my "temporary life".
I should have expected it, having gone away for a long period of time and come back twice in my life, but it still took me by surprise. "It" is hard to explain with simply a word or a sentence, hence why I'm writing a blog post about it. Yes, it's a bit personal, but I hope by writing about it, I can help myself as well as others who have been in a similar situation.
"It" is that horrible, crushing feeling you get when you leave everything you know and love - get out of your "comfort zone" if you will - come back, and after a month or two of euphoria, rediscovery and general happiness about being back, you realise you're back where you started and life is now routine again.
I first experienced this when I came back from Australia, where I was an exchange student for three months. Although, I had an Australian exchange student come to stay with me for three months after that, so it was after she left when it began to kick in. At the tender age of 15, my life was all about friends, being cool, and fitting in, and going on that trip disrupted all of those things. Three months is a long time in a teenager's life - enough time for your group of friends to either replace you or close the gap in the circle, leaving you on the outside - and even though I had made many friends in Australia, I had to accept that I would lose contact with a lot of them. But I missed them a lot.
I wasn't very "cool" and I never quite "fitted in" at my school here, so going to Australia and being the foreigner was great because, all of a sudden my host sister's friends were my friends, and there were a lot of them. But then I came back and my small group of friends had carried on without me, closing the gap, and I never really got back in, choosing instead to form close friendships with a select few people who I valued far above "being cool".
Then there was my three month trip to the USA. This time I was leaving behind a whole different life, as I had made it to that age (19) when you finally start to appreciate how important family is and "fitting in" becomes the ridiculous concept it is. Job wise, I hadn't quite found my way, so I was temping - mainly because I didn't want to commit to anything before going overseas. I was in a new relationship, one that I knew was for keeps, and one that I've now been in for five years. He knew from the very beginning - I think I even mentioned it on the night we met - that I was planning on doing Camp America, as I had been for years, so he knew what he had signed up for.
After two months of teaching art in the sunshine every day in the middle of nowhere, then a month of travelling - sleeping in tents and hostels and seeing things I never thought I would get to see and experiencing things beyond my wildest dreams (you haven't lived until you've laid down inside a massive, red cave-like rock in Monument Valley and heard a Navajo Native American play the wooden flute, its sound bouncing off the cave walls with acoustics as good, if not better than any theatre) - I came back to where I started: temping with no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
Although my New Zealand world had not changed much - my family were trucking along well and my relationship was strong - I had changed. And there's nothing more frustrating than when you've changed but the world around you has not. But you can't leave that life because the people you love are in it. It took a long time for me to put my extensive travel ideas on the back burner and focus on carving myself out a career before travelling again.
And carve out a career I did, which brings me to my next journey. I ended up studying journalism after meeting someone who had been one through my temp work, thinking "I could do that", and starting the course the next Monday. After the course I was offered a job in Hastings on a community paper and after talking it over with family and Josh and, after agreeing it wouldn't be forever and I could always come back if it became too hard, suddenly I was leaving home for the first time, moving into a flat with people I didn't know which was four hours away from home. Six months later I was on the move again, this time to Masterton, which was to be my home for a year.
In February I finally got the break I had been looking for and I was able to come back home to Wellington, and moved back in with my parents until Josh and I can move in together.
I love my wonderful supportive parents and my lovely Stokes Valley home where I grew up, but yet again, I'm back where I started: living with my parents. And I have changed a lot over the past 18 months, and lately, since the excitement and euphoria about being back has worn off I'm afraid of losing the new qualities I have gained by being out in the big wide world all by myself. It's easy to say that you leave home a kid, being bossed around and told to do chores and argued with, then you come back an adult and you should be treated like a flatmate, but that's simply not true. You're always your parents' child no matter how old you are, and both them and you end up getting back into the routine that is parent and child, even if you have been cooking your own dinner, buying your own groceries, getting yourself out of bed and off to work in the morning, for the last 18 months.
I guess I became a little selfish over that time, because I only had myself to look after and when I went home to visit, I was centre of attention. Now that I'm back, the attention has shifted and "that time when Sarah lived miles away" has all but been forgotten, and my life revolves around a lot more people than just me. I'm not saying I don't like the shift in attention and the demands of more people in my life, it's just that it's a lot to get used to. It's also hard to stay strong so that I can keep those qualities I've gained and my general outlook on life - my new, positive outlook on life where anything is possible.
So this week I've slipped. I've given in to the old, negative me and become this stressed out, irritated, frustrated person that I once was. But this time, instead of being content in my self-pity, I'm fighting back, refusing to be pulled down into that familiar, strangely cozy black hole.
There's a lot to be learnt from experiences such as this. Patience is the most important thing to have, a quality that comes from knowing that there will be more adventures to come, some of which will be scary and risky, and will sometimes have you wishing you were back in your snug routine.
Yes, it's a cliche (I know, not exactly shying away from them today - "beyond my wildest dreams"? yeah... couldn't help myself), but the most important thing to remember is what's most important in your life: People. Wherever you are in the world, be it New York City or lowly old Masterton, it's always the people you miss. So instead of obsessing about what the next step is going to be, I'm trying my best to sit back, employ copious amounts of patience, and enjoy having the people that I love close by.


  1. "And there's nothing more frustrating than when you've changed but the world around you has not. But you can't leave that life because the people you love are in it."

    Totally agree with this, and also the idea of being patient when things aren't as good as they might be. Just remember that whatever happens, there's always some light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. Thanks Raul, I am definitely starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel - making plans and having goals helps a lot, and I'm very lucky to have supportive people around me who push me relentlessly and don't let me give up on anything. :)