For years and years I roamed, I gazed a gazely stare.

David Bowie has, as far back as I can recall, been the soundtrack to my life, though the setting unexpectedly, and seemingly indiscriminately varied, largely as a result of my dad’s work.  From the sweltering heat of Houston, to perching on coral in the warm Indonesian waters at night looking out towards the ominous glow of the child of a volcano whose namesake wiped out thousands of people over a century before; from the lazy summer recesses playing tetherball on an Oklahoma schoolyard to checking for scorpions and tarantulas in warm places before submitting to sleep in Venezuela; from the London flat where the drummer from Motörhead lived (and frequently had parties) upstairs to the rugged, unpredictable, but beautiful, countryside of the Scottish Highlands.  It would be wildly ungrateful to say I had anything but a privileged childhood (I mean, shit, we had maids).

anak-krakatau-2009-storm-mf2224

Anak Krakatau

But one of the enduring aspects I’ve taken away from my transient existence in some of the world’s most spectacular places is that I have always had the sense that I am an outsider looking in; observing the lives and cultures of other people whilst having nothing concrete or persisting or meaningful in my own life.  Friendships were often fleeting, so I learned to be an open book, giving everything about myself away and voraciously discovering everything I could about the new strangers around me.  Relationships with anyone felt like having a passionate love affair, knowing that your days were numbered until you had to leave them behind, ignoring the knowledge that gut-wrenching heartache was ultimately what there was to look forward to when, inevitably, the setting altered.

It was easy to become quite adept at shutting off my own emotions and cutting people out of my life.  Especially in the days before technology became a catalyst for communication with lives lost over the years, itself falling into the trap of being unsure of its place in the world.  The ability to interact with millions of people is both amazing and overwhelming; enabling and restrictive.  In a world where people seek instant gratification, what point is there taking the time and effort to do something considered and thoughtful, like write a letter, when an e-mail or a text message will – ultimately – suffice?  My enthusiasm for writing lengthy cards at Christmas has been noted (but not acted upon) by my friends, but my letter writing ultimately went to the grave with my grandmother, for whom technology bamboozled.

I’m often asked where ‘home’ is, and I usually struggle to answer.  “Everywhere and Nowhere” is my stock reply, but I feel like it encapsulates both my desire for acceptance and my need to roam in order to feel in control of my life.  Entering the dating world in your 30s and you’re faced with an overwhelming number of men who allude to wanting to ‘settle down’.  There is no other single phrase that strikes more dread in my heart than this; if anything, it’s a repellent.  When you’re in a relationship you have someone other than yourself to consider, which in the past has translated to feeling trapped – harnessed to one place with one person.  It might sound selfish, but when you have been dealt a single life to live, why accept something that doesn’t make you happy?  I’ve learnt that I’d much rather face the thought of being alone for the rest of my life than resentful of someone – through no fault of their own – for not sharing my outlook on life and my sense of wanting to discover more.

Even the phrase ‘settling down’ has connotations of disappointment – a sense that you’re unwilling or incapable of striving for something you really want.

Ultimately, I think that the majority of people want to find someone to share their life with – a soulmate – and I’m not unrealistic enough to realise that nobody will be perfect, but it should be someone who shares your general view on life.  In my case, someone who doesn’t want to be rooted to a single space until they turn to dust.  Someone who I want to pounce on.  Someone who becomes almost obnoxiously enthusiastic about trying new things, visiting new places, throwing caution to the back of their mind because the potential pay-off for trying something far outweighs the possibility of something going awry, or, worse yet, the regret of not trying in the first place.

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This guy gets it.

Death is something that both terrifies and fascinates me, and throughout my life I have always felt a vivid sense of my own mortality.  I would shoot bolt upright in bed with a suffocating knowledge that I won’t be around on this Earth forever, that life is a flash in the pan, and I’m not even ashamed to admit that sometimes I need to phone my mother or watch old repeats of Friends to quell any thoughts of my transitory existence that happen to be invading my thoughts.  In Bowie’s Cygnet Committee he claws, repeatedly, urgently, “I want to live” in the chilling culmination that has an almost primal desperation to it, and that’s exactly how I feel right in this moment.  I want drama that can’t be stolen.  Memories to bank for my 100th birthday (glass half full).

I used to observe people and enjoy imagining what their lives were like – what made them tick, what they enjoyed, what their scars that can’t be seen are. I’m now making it a conscious decision to stop wondering (but keep wandering) and start knowing.  Open myself up to embarrassment, to failure, but also to success, awe, and life.

And if I happen to meet someone who throws the same enthusiasm for learning back in my face, who has that intrinsic yearning to experience everything new, who wants to be my duprass (read Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Cat’s Cradle’.  Incidentally, ‘Cats in the Cradle’ by Harry Chapin is a haunting lyrical song – originally a poem by his wife – about life slipping by that tugs at my gut every time I listen to it) – then great!  Hopefully one day I will meet somebody who doesn’t make me feel trapped: who is the David to my Iman.

And so I start my new life with eyes completely open, but nervous all the same.  I want to make mistakes.  I want to live.

IMG_1907

Brixton, August 2016

This way, or no way/

You know, I’ll be free/

Just like that bluebird

12 thoughts on “For years and years I roamed, I gazed a gazely stare.

  1. Crikey Rachel, seems like you’ve been wanting to write that for a while 🙂 A lot of duelling thoughts and emotions in there. On one aspect I’ve long since decided I’m not going to compromise my selfishness for someone else again.

    Have you thought of writing a book – create one or two characters to work through a few of life’s dilemmas and contradictions?

    • I would love to write a book! Writing a blog post seems much more manageable with my attention span, but it’s something I’m always striving to do. Thanks for reading.

  2. Two of the most important words I try to live by: Never. Settle. Good words, powerful words, empowering words… words that will lead you toward a happy life. Oh, and I also try never to listen to the Ugly Kid Joe remake of “Cat’s in the Cradle” from 1992, yikes.

    “May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.”

    • The Ugly Kid Joe rendition is not up there in my top ten songs, I’ll freely admit. Never settle are indeed good words to live by, though I’m enjoying my new mantra of ‘make mistakes’.

      “I’d rather be happy than right any day.”

  3. I hear ya. It wasn’t until May of this year that I realized I haven’t lived anywhere for longer than two years since 1997. Back then, I was 14, and my family moved back “home” to Costa Rica. I was too immature to realize at the time that I had just made my lifelong best friends, only to leave them at a time where most people already have their social groups set. Changing schools, countries, and cultures at such a volatile, unpredictable age, taught me how to make friends, which has come in handy many times later in life (but at the time, of course, it sucked).

    Since then I’ve found myself to be quite resilient in the face of new situations and people … but, and I don’t know if this applies to you, it has made me very efficient at making new friends but not very adept at nurturing those friendships into close, intimate ones. I made it a point in college to meet as many people as possible, but ultimately found that I was more a peripheral friend to many groups.

    The long-term effect is that every guy that I have ever considered my best friend isn’t my best friend today. They all have their own super friends that they see or talk to on a daily basis. We all still stay in touch, but there’s no one, singular chum that I can count on to have a beer with me when shit goes wrong.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if any of the above made sense or was even germaine to your beautifully written, introspective post. People say to keep an open mind … with writing like this, I’d say you have that covered.

    • I completely get where you’re coming from when you say your downfall was nurturing the friendships you made, though thankfully I’ve gotten better at that (I think), and I also have a scattering of friends around the world who absolutely will meet up for a beer as if no time has passed, but again, it seems like the closeness is only fully there when there is physical proximity.
      I guess being a peripheral friend of many has its advantages, and I also guess there is no right way for everyone. Thanks for reading.

  4. A very honest post to put out there amongst ‘strangers’,and not what I was expecting to read when I came to catch up on your antics.

    You know the answer already but being yourself is the only way. I’d not worry about the settling down bit though. After all, all us blokes are really just big kids, few of whom want to settle down. It just, once you reach a certain age you feel you have to say that because it’s what you feel most women of a similar age want to hear. That and our mum’s constantly asking “when are you going to settle down and find a nice girl?”.

    Be assured, there someone out there just as mad as you and you’ll find them eventually. In the meantime, continue enjoying life.

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