I like to say my boyfriend is a recovering Anglican. He’s actually not even Anglican, he just happens to go to an Anglican church and I just happen to enjoy having a go at Sydney Anglicans. What I really mean when I say he’s recovering is that he is no longer doctrinal about his faith and how he practises it – in fact, he’s ardently against legalism.
Similarly I’ve described one of my colleagues as a recovering vegetarian. She’s in the process of easing back into consuming meat, beginning with seafood. It’s not an easy switch to make when your body doesn’t really know what to do with that stuff anymore.
And me? Among other things, I guess you could call me a recovering nomad.
I’ve been back in Australia almost three years, now.
I’d been lukewarm about Sydney, keeping my options open. I’d been trying to hold things lightly.
And then, this year, that became not just too hard, but straight up pointless.
I was doing two part-time jobs, working for two causes I believed in. I enjoyed the variety but I felt like I was spread so thin as to be neither in one nor the other.
I was toying with the idea of doing further study as a pretext for spending extended time in Europe, one of my life dreams. But I realised that this was the only reason I had for doing a masters. And it was a pretty terrible reason.
I’ve moved house six times in less than three years – in fact, I haven’t lived in any single dwelling longer than eleven months in the last five years. It kept me from accumulating junk, but it also left me feeling like a temporary guest wherever I lived. I started to understand what it is to want to make a space your own.
It’s better to be recovering than to have it all together, I say.
It’s not necessarily that being Anglican or vegetarian or nomadic are negative things that we need to escape from.
It’s that “recovering” from these (as from anything else) is about accepting change – even in things that have been a significant part of our identity. It’s about recognising that as human beings we’re works in progress. That nothing is static. That none of these things define us.
It’s funny that just a couple of stints in South America had me labelled as a nomad, a free spirit. Three years abroad; a quarter of a century in Australia. Yet many friends and acquaintances have doubted whether I will stay in Sydney long-term.
This year some big things happened in my life with my job, with housing, and with the aforementioned boyfriend. Good things. I thought this was what I wanted, and yet these pushes towards stability have made me feel uneasy.
What if this isn’t really the life I wanted?
What if I’m closing the door to a better, more exciting path?
What if I change my mind?
What if I get bored?
My travels and time overseas have been so much a part of how others see and interact with me that I’ve pretty much assimilated that aspect of my life into my sense of self. Three years on from my re-entry, I’m experiencing something akin to an aftershock of the wave of inverse vertigo I felt on returning to “normality”.
Not all the time. I can hardly complain about the way things are going. It’s just the occasional moment of hesitation that reminds me life is changing, I am changing. And what I’m trying to say is that this is exactly the way it ought to be.
Header image: Asdrubal Luna.