“I just wish something exciting would happen,” I told my best friend last month. She is living in rural Australia on a six-month placement as a midwife after taking the last year and a half off to travel the world. Whenever we speak, her updates are about the cities she’s seen, the men that she’s dating, the adventures she’s had.
My updates are somewhat less enthralling.
“I got a composter,” I tell her. “That is quite literally, the most exciting thing going on in my life right now.”
She laughs, “Maybe you need to manufacture something exciting – try something new, book a holiday?”
“You’re saying buying a 220 litre composter wasn’t enough excitement?” I ask.
“Today, I saw a crocodile on my walk to work.”
The thing is, ever since I left school, my life has been this dizzying adventure; moving countries, cities, jobs and boyfriends at the drop of a hat. I’ve moved nine times in six years. I’ve lived in Sydney and Washington DC and Oxford and London. I’ve had nannying jobs and desk jobs and jobs that only lasted six weeks. I’ve dated idiots and douchebags and nice guys that weren’t at all right for me. It was an exhausting whirlwind of ups and downs and vodka shots.
But then, three years ago, I fell in love with an unsuspecting British man and turned his life upside down. We went on dates and travelled to faraway cities. We moved in together, we argued about the washing, we adopted an eight-year-old cat. A year and half later, I was given a job I loved in a city I adored. And so, I learnt my way around the tangled streets of Soho, I left lipsticks on my desk and spare jumpers draped over the back of my chair – I got comfortable.
I realised that I am – for the first time in my adult life – still. There are no job boards to trawl through or men’s faces to swipe. And there’s something about that that terrifies me
Then, last month, I found myself planting tulips and daffodils and snow drops – certain that I would still be there, living in the very same city, in the very same flat, with the very same man when they flowered in the spring.
I realised that I am – for the first time in my adult life – still. There are no job boards to trawl through or men’s faces to swipe. And there’s something about that that terrifies me. I always found comfort in the chaos of my life, I liked that I could always throw some clothes in a bag, book a flight and move cities with a few days notice. I found that there was something liberating about having a job that you don’t care about, a job that you can walk out of without a second glance. And without the dating disaster stories to fall back on, what anecdotes was I meant to entertain people with at the pub?
But here’s the thing I didn’t know about staying still, with this stillness comes a sense of… calm. Without my own life dramas competing for space and time in my head, I have been able to be a better friend, a better employee and, probably, a better girlfriend. Magical hours have appeared in my day that I fill with seeing my friends and walking. Hours that I fill writing and cooking and watching a bad TV show about a doctor in Alabama.
Of course, I know this stillness won’t last – stillness never does. I grew up near the ocean. When you’re a child, you learn that the waves come in sets. The water will be quiet and gentle and then suddenly, four, five, six waves will rise out of the ocean, crashing through the tranquil. When you’re a kid, you play games in the waves, jumping into them and laughing. The breaks between the sets are boring and you wait, impatiently, for the chaos to start again. But now, on the rare chances I have to swim in the ocean, I like to float on my back in between the sets, staring at the sky. Over time, you learnt to intuit when the next set is coming and you dive underwater and hold your breath, waiting for it to pass.
I don’t expect this stillness to last for ever; I’m sure that a day, a week, a month from now, I’ll look back at this article in bewilderment. But for right now, I’m learning to look up at the sky and enjoy the calm.