Fearless by Taylor Swift plays softly from the room next door and the air is warm and sweaty. It is officially Autumn but we're having nicer weather than we had all Summer. We eat porridge and my mother goes off on her own adventures, and I wonder what will change when I move away. I've come a long way. It’s funny, creating. How free do we feel to create just for the sake of it? I am coming to know myself again. Through all of this business called life, I am arriving at the threshold of who I am, who I might become.
In English we study some of George Orwell's essays from Burma and I think more about India, and where I'll be a year from now. My friends tease me, and ask questions like "are you really going to India?" because it so different from everything we've discussed before. Everything around me ignites me with inspiration. Suddenly the idea of travelling to India this time next year, and having the freedom to be no-one but myself gives me fresh eyes and a canvas rises up in my mind. I've always been interested in walking a different road to the one more travelled, dancing to the sound of my own heart with its unique tune. I need to live my truth, to live these hushed dreams. I long to see the colours that dance in my soul, to paint this world anew and see the beauty that sometimes I forget is there. Perhaps I can be a better writer, a better artist, a better support person for the people in my life and the world, if I am true to myself.
One late night my brother and I have the worst fight we've had since we were children. I love how rarely we argue now that we’re older, but this time we've been so busy that all the little things have gotten bottled up and compressed tight. It all spills out in a ugly mess of accusations and name calling and eventually he leaves the room with anger, and I am so exhausted I do what I used to do, I curl into a ball and cry. The hopeless, messy kind of crying, spiked too with hot anger. Then suddenly a kind voice in my head reminds me that I am the one in control of how I feel. That’s right, I am. I get up from the table, wipe my wet face on my wrists and smile. It feels wrong to smile but the smile works its way into my brain until I actually feel happiness. I go to bed and wait. Then the door opens slowly, like I knew it would, letting a path of yellow light grow into my room. He sits on the edge of the bed, giving me his full gaze, and apologises again and again. Then I apologise too. I feel our friendship grow stronger, backdropped against the recent anger and I'm glad for moments like these where I can feel fully. We recognise each other again. This is the way it always is now, no matter how small the disagreement. We can never stay mad at one another for long and never overnight. We say sorry, we talk it through with new understanding and we are friends again. Having older siblings is something I will always be grateful for.
I can’t be someone else. I can’t do the leaving school for four more years of university without some sort of passion first. I can't embark on anything if I'm not 100% sure I'll see it through to the end. I don’t think I can be happy there. Not without some massive sacrifices. Not while I know I could be out there achieve things beyond my wildest dreams. I know so many people before me have done it, and they have been happy to make those sacrifices, but something tells me that’s not what I really want. It’s been fascinating discovering what I really want. As always as I press against the door of what I think I want, it doesn't open, so I turn around and see a quirkier, different path that feels more like home. Thank goodness for that. I have to be true. We have to be true. It doesn't make sense to me to hold these facades any longer. I feel them all around me in the world, too. So many people pretending, trying to make something happen, trying to get a result. I don’t buy it. I just want to be real and see your realness too. Your true self, your quirky, poetic, dancing colours.Let's get together and rewrite this tired song because the melody haunts me (and thank goodness for that.)
You see, while I'm so incredibly excited about India, at the same time I know I'm going to miss this place with every fibre of my being. It surprises me- I honestly never thought moving far away would be hard for me. I am close to my family, but they are relatively spread out, and most of them travel a lot anyways. So, it’s not as though I’ll miss seeing everyone by moving away. However, as many people who move more than an hours drive away from their family can tell you, there is a “what if?” gap that comes with not being able to get home at a moment’s notice. One of the most calming things about living close to your family is that you could get home if you ever needed to. The thought of giving up that security is already proving harder than I thought it would be.
So much has being going on in my family in the past year and within the last few months they have reached a crossroads and had an incredible amount of stress on them. Death, illness, heart-break, new jobs, new relationships, new homes, new additions. They've faced challenges that have shaken everyone. More than anything, what my parents need is support, help around the house, and someone to talk through things with and help do the dishes. The only way I can help is to be there.
I was brought up living round the corner from my granparents and my aunties and uncles and my cousins. My dad was brought up that way too, never not living less than half-a-minute from the ones we love the most. But now that my cousins and siblings and I are older, while we appreciated and loved that upbringing. right now we've spread ourselves around the globe: India, Brazil, Peru, London. Malan, Madrid, New York. We are as far apart as people can be at the best of times.
Over the last two years, I've been pulled between the obligation to stay at home, the desire to move away and make a home in an entirely new place, and the guilt that comes with choosing. Whenever I meet people who moved abroad, or chose to take a job across the country, I can’t help wonder how their family reacted to the news. Were their parents supportive of the fact that they’re fulfilling their dream of living in America? Or are they constantly chiding them to come home?
Moving across countries, oceans, continents, etc., is a sacrifice in as much as it is a joy. There is a nagging worry that comes from not being able to get home in an emergency, the risk that the flights home will be too expensive to make it to a cousin’s wedding, or the thought that you will be the only one not home at Christmas. Even if you’re like me, and your family is spread out, and wouldn't necessarily gather for the holidays, it’s easy to feel like you’re letting people down by not being an hour’s train ride away.
Such a big part of adulthood - or as much of adulthood as I've experienced thus far- is deciding where exactly your priorities are, and then realising who that disappoints. It’s learning that you cannot please everyone with every decision, and that, at some point, you will have to be honest about what you want, and choose for yourself. There are always times when you’re going to make a decision based on yourself, your job, your significant other, or spouse, and feel like it’s the decision your family wouldn't make. And I think that’s more challenging than any of us care to admit, because we still have a tiny instinct that reminds us to listen to the people who raised us.
That’s not to say we shouldn't. Next year my family will be 7,000 miles away from me and I know now they will still have a huge influence on me. Making your own decisions doesn't have to be incompatible with respecting your family’s wishes. And regardless, your family ends up being proud of you for making a definitive decision, and carving out your own path, because they want to see you take advantage of life in every way they did, and far beyond.