Compiling and now editing my next book, tentatively titled Of Hearts and Sea Glass, has been a bit of an arduous process, mainly because it's very autobiographical, and I am naturally a nostalgic person. It stirs up a lot of memories and feelings, some of which I am happy to wander through again, others not so much. I edited this piece this morning, previously published on Life With My Little Duck, a view into my early 20's and some of my travels...
Young Heart, Old Soul
In my world the devil dances and dares, To leave my soul just anywhere, Until I find peace in this world, I’ll sing a song everywhere I can, Just too young to know anymore. – Tim Buckley, Sing A Song For You
You know, I always thought that you turned 18 and there you were, an adult. All of a sudden the skies would open up with the knowledge you would need to understand everything around you.
Yeah, that doesn’t happen at 18 and it doesn’t happen at 21 either. Nor at 24.
I’ve been walking around the city recently, it some sort of a blur. Sylvia Plath is doing my head in and I can’t run away from her, not until I have finished my thesis anyway. I listen to the same few albums turning round and round on my record player, twirling round and round on the spot and wishing I could just click my fingers and disappear into a void.
I feel so bloody depressed.
Everything is in little pieces, little compartments surrounded by bigger compartments, and I shove each and every little component into its own neat little box, walking through a fog and pretending to reach out, but with no real zeal. I lost most of my spark somewhere between 9/11 and the twentieth time I read The Bell Jar. I go out some nights, wander over to the bars we all frequent, already drunk, and dance round and round, twirling to the sounds of The Cure and Bauhaus, wishing that I could be someone else, somewhere else. Those are paradoxically the moments when I feel the most free, hiding behind my “ivresse”, unafraid of myself and ridding myself of the fear of actually reaching into the future to become who I always imagined I would become.
And then comes that interminable nausea, the one that locks me into myself and gives me panic attacks, so that every time I take a step forward I end up taking two more backwards again. I can live with my timidity, but I can’t live with the inability to count on alcohol to give me the courage I need to be myself. I stand by the river, breathe in the stink and shout into the wind, feeling the bridge sway beneath my feet. Yes, I’ve contemplated jumping off and letting the cold water pull me away, but I don’t even know where I would want to be pulled to. All I know is that all of my life there has been this constant dream of just disappearing, taking off to never return, recreating myself somewhere else. It’s laced into my stories and my poems, dripping from the words I write every day in my journal and I honestly believe that one day it will just happen. I will snap and then be gone. It’s hard to manage the fear of having to compromise and this overwhelming need to shout from the rooftops I EXIST.
I need to get away from here, and I need to leave this cocoon behind. I love my friends, I love them with all of my heart, and I love this country that has become my home, but I need to be able to step out from the shadows and find the path or the paths that I need to take. I used to feel safe here, but the safety is beginning to strangle me, and this depression is getting worse and worse. Every morning I have to mentally prepare myself for the outside world, but the walls have crumbled so much and I don’t have the energy to rebuild them. I am too vulnerable and without my inner strength I won’t make it much further. I have to move away from my comfort zone and take that leap into a new world. What is there here for me right now anyway? Years and years of studying something I lost interest in a while back? Teaching in some random school hundreds of miles away from my home? Or just sitting her, stifling under my self-created and inflicted bell jar?
It really is time to go.
And all I ever wanted was the simple things, A simple kind of life. – No Doubt, Simple Kind of Life
It’s amazing how much difference a year can make. Last year I was treading water, breathing in the same recycled atmosphere, living in the shadows of my mind and wondering why I felt so trapped. Now I am sitting in the afternoon sun on my multi-coloured beach towel, contemplating the shiny Mediterranean and admitting to myself that there are times that life can seem pretty perfect. Or at least not as complicated as I was making it be.
I tried to stick it out back home, and then I tried to move closer to my family again, but neither option worked out for multiple reasons. So, instead of just going to London and aimlessly walking around searching for a job that I didn’t want, I chose Tel Aviv, the Israeli desert and finally a kibbutz up near the Lebanese border. You know what I discovered? I discovered that inner strength that had carried me through my childhood lifting me up again. I discovered that I could be a natural leader instead of pretending to be a follower, and I discovered that while running away may not always be the best solution, it is always an option.
Probably because I ran towards myself rather than away from myself.
I am made for kibbutznik life. I love the work, the freedom. I love the volunteer house and the volunteers. I love our routine and I mostly love that I feel like I can be me here, ME with a big, fat capital M. I can’t stay here forever, and I will never be able to stay here forever, but I can stay here for now and that is all that matters.
The parties, the love, the friendship, the family, the walks to the beach, the train rides down to my family in the desert. Learning and speaking Hebrew and passing for Israeli wherever I go. The market shuk every Sunday after work with the colourful clothes and the serve yourself falafel stand in the centre of town. Dancing in the rain and touring Egypt on $200, memories that I know will be stamped into my brain for the rest of my life. I’m in love, in love with a country, in love with a boy (maybe) and in love with life. This was the jolt I needed to wake me up; this was the change I never really knew I needed.
It’s so warm here, and time passes more slowly, we sit around sipping coffee and tea, smoking endless cigarettes and pondering on life and love and friendships. Friendships are made fast and firm, bonds created over the manual labour and the long nights of vodka and dancing. We are all here for our own reasons, but these are now the people I would trust with my life. I can’t ever imagine never seeing these people again, not talking to them every day or laughing about the silly things that we get up to when drunk. This is the life that I have always wanted, simple, but I also know that it’s only a halfway house really. I can’t stay here, not unless I make some drastic choices in my life, and I’m not ready to make any permanent choices now.
Israel has taught me to accept that sometimes you cannot control the outcome, and as frustrating as it may be, there are other solutions, other places to go, other lives to live. Our world is so huge and full of people, cultures, history and things to learn that I need to use the dead ends in my path as signs to go find another direction. I am no longer scared of myself or of what I can accomplish in my life if I put my mind to it. I am lucky enough to have choices and places to go. I am free, so why create a prison for myself?
In the meantime I will continue to enjoy the warm sand in my toes and the sun on my skin, waking up before dawn and sleeping way after midnight, watching the stars light up the expansive sky, guiding me to the extent of what this world has to offer me.
Always the same, nothing ever changes, English summer rain seems to last for ages. – Placebo, English Summer Rain
Have you ever felt like you make one choice after another and it becomes a chain reaction of sorts, pulling you one way and another? I’m twirling on one toe, pushing myself faster and faster but willing the world to stop for a minute so that I can catch my breath and my balance. London has served its purpose, a place to tiptoe through while looking elsewhere. Every time I lay my head on my pillow I think of elsewhere, every time I write a poem by the river on my lunch break I dream of where I want to be, and every time I walk the same steps back home I wonder how I am ever going to leave. London is comfortable and foreign, we speak the same language but I see further than the end of the day. I’m sure others do too, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for spring to arrive, year in year out.
I walk over to the corner shop and buy my Sunday papers, reading them in bed with a pot of coffee and a pile of toast and butter, reading stories that I wish I had written, and staring aimlessly at the screen of my new iBook hoping to squeeze just a little inspiration out of my apathy. My housemates are wonderful, there are a lot of comforts in my life here, but it’s not enough. It will never be enough will it?
This is why I am off to New York City next week. I have never been there, I have never really even dreamt of going there, but I am still going there. A new job, a new life and another choice to be somewhere else. Ever since I left France I haven’t been able to find that one place where I really feel I belong or at least that one place where I belong and where I can actually stay. Visas and documents may stop me from staying somewhere, but they won’t stop me from looking for my home.
I’m 27 now and although I have experienced more than many, I still find it hard to believe I am actually an adult. Yes, I arrived in London with no place to stay and no job and within a week I had both. Yes, I have a job with responsibilities and I pay my rent on time every week. Yes, I have orchestrated my own move to NYC with no idea where I am going to live or what to even expect when I get there. Yes, I have traveled extensively on little to no money. And yes, I even managed to get an MA before I left France. But I still feel like that shy little girl is right there, just below the surface, waiting to pop up at any given moment. She makes me second guess every move and makes me doubt everything I say. The only way I can make her go away is with vodka and I still haven’t learnt how to get past that stumbling block yet.
I’m sure there will be enough vodka for me in NYC. I just hope I won’t lose myself in that big beating heart of a city. Or maybe that is just exactly what I need to do?