Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been spoilt by all this adventure. I often hear myself refer to the “real world” as if it is something separate, something once very familiar but now quite alien to me, as if the real world was something other than the place and time I exist in now. It shares the same surface area but it may as well be another dimension. It of course is not separate, how I chose to perceive everything around me is my real world, so I guess what I mean is a world where I and everyone around me fulfilled what was expected and encouraged.
The real world has certain practical connotations which include knowing your limitations, knowing what needs to be done in life, knowing the unspoken agreements we’ve silently signed up to in society, knowing that fun cannot last forever, knowing there are obligations to be met, that all rides must come to an end and bills don’t pay themselves. Anyone who fails to acknowledge these knowings is nothing more than the fool on the hill.
The funny thing is that to me the real world doesn’t seem very real at all, these days it seems more like some very elaborate dress up game, children in oversized suits, one we’ve all been taught to play. Occasionally I try and throw into conversation something sensible sounding about my future, mention that at some point I will work again, at some point something will happen and I won’t keep moving from country to country.
It’s not that I don’t think this is true but the only reason I say it is to reassure that I’ve not completely lost my mind, that I am not the fool on the hill. I know real life is in charge, I’m not crazy enough to think I can leave real life, it’s obviously just an extended holiday away from it….but shall I tell you a secret?
(*whispers) The truth is I am never going back to “real life”.
Now a lot of this hinges on your definition. Technically, as I rather astutely pointed out before, there is only one life, and many people on this beautiful earth live a very varied and vast existence, meaning there cannot be one standard, so called, real life. So to clarify what I mean is my own version of real life. I don’t ever want to return to a life where I let fear imprison me and stop me from doing exactly what I want. That includes a whole broad spectrum of fear, fear of failure, fear of being different, fear of isolation, fear of change, fear of loss…many fears.
You see, I worry that “real life” gets waved around as a limitation, capping so much of our potential. Real life demands that we must have a realistic and sensible plan or idea for what can be achieved. If we have desires yet no carefully etched out plan then we’re in trouble.
About a month ago I found myself sat in paradise with nothing to do all day other than surf, sunbathe, hang out and drink the occasional beer. I am willing to concede that there are far worse existences, and that is why I knew it was definitely time for something different when I was suddenly struck with the overwhelming feeling of ‘I’m done’. Almost overnight the suitcase lifestyle, with a constant stream of different places and different faces became very tiring.
I wanted to have a home again, I wanted to work. Throughout the couple of years I’ve been living like this I’d always secretly hoped that my new path would be so well marked that Angel Gabriel himself would swoop down and personally light the way. I’d stumble upon something, a person, a place, a job and things would go CLICK. Of course I knew enough about life to realise things rarely work like this, but a girl can still hope.
A defined path would also have helped me with a credible plan to pitch to “real life” but instead, although it was disappointingly less elaborate than an archangel of the Lord, I just got a nice feeling about the idea of heading back to Portugal and a lifestyle that appeals to me of the outdoors, community, sunshine and surf. Great, so I’m moving to Portugal. To do what? Er I’m not sure yet. To live where? Er I’m not sure yet. Forever? Er I’m not sure yet.
The wishy washy answer to these, arguably basic questions, initially made me a bit sheepish about sharing my plans when they emerged from a corner of my mind a few weeks ago. Can you even call something that stops at simply arriving in a country a plan?! My embarrassment largely came from fear of getting told off from real life, and therefore the more connected to real life a person was the more I didn’t want to inform them of my vaguely thought out (dreamt up) idea.
We never really feel like grown ups and maybe that’s why however old we get we can’t help but look around for approval and permission to make choices about how we live our own lives. I couldn’t entirely shake the feeling that not knowing the answers to these questions somehow many me irresponsible and with my head in the clouds. It was different when I was just on an extended holiday, that was my excuse to the world for carefree living and for following my impulses to see where it lead, but to try and extend that into proper life felt like new ground.
Maybe though, just maybe my refusal to carefully plan out my future makes me flexible and not irresponsible. Perhaps focusing on the many possible routes towards happiness and success that lie ahead of me means that I cannot lose, and not that I am naïve. I certainly hope so, in fact more than that…I really believe so.
Everyday I’m becoming less concerned about looking like the fool on the hill because I have made myself a promise, a promise never to go back to the “real world”. If I’m going to play dress-up ever again it is not going to be grown ups, in an oversized suit. Why would I want to when you can just as easily play pirates, or fairies, or Peter Pan.
So this week I pack up my car and drive to Portugal, and although I do have some ideas, the truth is I have absolutely no way of knowing what is next. I’m happy to admit part of that terrifies me, but the promise of new horizons within my grasp excites me far more, and a dash of terror mixed with a large dose of excitement sounds to me like a pretty good recipe for life.