Photograph by: Yaroslav Blokhn
Somewhere between August and September, I always find myself pining for a new beginning.
A new job. A new place to rent. A new country. A new project. If my life is not transforming with the seasons, I become restless, gripped by the desire to change something – anything.
But it has to be big.
I had not paid much thought to this until last August when I was on holiday with my parents in Mallorca. While lying on a deckchair and musing about all the things in my life I didn’t like (not the most fun way to spend a holiday), I freaked out and decided I would go and teach abroad in Korea. Yep. Just like that. It seemed logical to me at the time. After all, I had a friend in Korea. I had taught abroad before, for a couple of months. I was bored with my current situation. It was a no-brainer! The deckchair had enlightened me!
I versed with my parents on my new plan (as in, I sort of chucked the idea in their face and ran away with it before they could stop me) then promptly went through the entire process of applying, and had even secured myself an interview with a school, before I freaked (again) and backed out.
Perhaps this doesn’t sound like a very spectacular event. Perhaps this story could end with the moral “don’t try to make life-changing decisions after one too many strawberry daiquiris and a little heat stroke”. However, for me it doesn’t end there because I encounter epic freakouts of this ilk at least once a year – an indecisive panic egged on by my not-so-fun mental cocktail of anxiety, depression, and paranoia, which always dares me to feel uncomfortable with my life. Many times, I have been tempted to completely overhaul everything for little to no reason – then, just before leaping off the cliff, I scramble back up the rocks out of fear (or sense). It’s exhausting.
So how can I – and other people who suffer from similar freakouts – tell which changes are logical, and which aren’t?
To answer this question, I decided first to look at the August/September phenomenon, to see why my impulses were particularly strong at that time of year – and found that actually, it’s quite common to desire change during those months. Those of us who are used to something starting then – namely school, college, and university – are now wired to expect something, and anticipate change. And in my case, if no change is coming, my mind freaks out and wants to make change happen.
But, of course, I can’t quell the voices in my head by simply following through on my flights of fancy whenever they appear. If I had moved to Korea, I am sure I would have quickly found reasons to be unhappy with that situation, too, and would have ended up feeling exactly how I felt on that deck chair. As I said – my panicking has a pattern, and you don’t stop patterns by perpetuating them.
I knew I had to dig deeper – and what I found, unsurprisingly, was that my desire for big change was propelled along by a badly-veiled fear – that of losing, or “wasting”, time.
As long as I have understood the concept of death, I have felt the fear of time, a part of me believing that I must be doing everything, and all at once, to make the most of my life. It’s a deep-rooted anxiety that has led me to make rash decisions, seek big, bold transformations, and feel at least a little uncomfortable and unhappy at every state of normalcy in my life. It was an anxiety that desperately needed dispelling if I were to find any sense of inner comfort and peace.
I told myself this…
… So I won’t get to do everything in one lifetime? Good. If I did everything, I wouldn’t be able to devote myself to anything – I wouldn’t be able to focus on the things I love, plant roots, and grow.
Further, happiness and comfort would never simply “fall” into my lap from hopping between one big change to the next. It’s an inside job, and grows the more you learn about yourself and tackle your issues.
Lastly, I would never achieve peace by making changes and tweaks to my life based on fear, instead of on my actual values and character.
When I think back to that moment on the deckchair, I laugh.
I laugh because my Korea plan was so ridiculous – and I also sigh, relieved that I didn’t follow through. Because I didn’t go – because I caught myself running away from fear, instead of pursuing a dream – I have been able to make a different change, based on an opportunity that wouldn’t have existed had I gone. I was able to make thoughtful, progressive step forward, to further something much more valuable to me. All thanks to looking within.