2 March 2018

Letting go

Same old, same old

My three weeks of being home were up.

I left Melbourne for Perth at the start of February and I was scheduled to leave for the other side of the country by the end of the month. I was starting a new job, a Graduate Process Engineer role, after countless cycles of searching, applying, competing and failing in the past year. It was an opportunity to start a career in a direction that I thought was best for me in my life and at the time, I was actually excited at the prospect of leaving Perth behind.

View-from-airplane-window
Interesting views on the way from Perth to Brisbane.

Since my backpacking trip in Europe, a month of adventure in South East Asia and the 2 independent months I spent doing an internship in China, the chance to step away from the comfort and familiarity of home was always at the back of my mind. My most recent 2 month escapade in Melbourne reinforced this to me - having the chance to prove to myself that I can be independent and self-sufficient was something that I found personally fulfilling. To say nothing of the engaging work and amazing people I was able to meet in the new city, it was all fuel to the fire that was already burning quite strongly.

The 3 weeks of being back in Perth shook up this selfish and tunnel visioned ambition a bit though.

Upon arriving back in Perth Domestic waiting for my brother to pick me up, I remember feeling oddly neutral. No excitement, no resentment, just plain neutral as I stared at Perth and its surroundings. I was expecting to at least feel grateful for being back in the city that my family and I have called home for the past 10 years but this did not happen.

After a few days of settling in, this fuzzy mentality of 'same old, same old' continued and it was not until I started catching up with my friends, spent time with family and picked up old routines that I felt like I once again belonged. I drove my own car for the first time in months, brought the bicycle out on the familiar route up to Yanchep and back and ate too much food over good conversations with the people I knew.

As I type this out, I realised two things. The first being that I only left for a little more than 2 months but it feels to me to be way longer. The second being that the time I had back home was set in stone with a pre-determined expiry date, which might have contributed to the way I was feeling when I arrived at the airport. Time was short, this was temporary, there's no need to get too invested.

“As I packed up my belongings in boxes, sold my car and teared up at the drop-off zone at the airport, I realised that Perth was always going to be my home base.”

When the time came to leave for good, I was unexpectedly overcome with emotions. This was going to be unlike my previous departures to Europe, China and South East Asia, for each of them I left knowing that I would always be back. This time it was a one way ticket.

It reminds me of the cliche story in American films where the 18 year old high school grad leaves home to pursue higher education across the country. He has to leave behind his parents, his childhood friends and his home to pursue something bigger than himself. At 22 years old, I guess it was my time to experience leaving the nest to pursue the goals and dreams I had planned out for myself. As I packed up my belongings in boxes, sold my car and teared up at the drop-off zone at the airport, I realised that Perth was always going to be my home base.

Although my belief in self and past experiences prime me well to take on the uncertainty and chaos of the future, it really comes down to my support network in Perth who are giving me a huge confidence boost and sense of security in taking on this new chapter of my life. Having the knowledge that I will be always able to come back to what is familiar and secure whether I experience success or failure in this adventure gives me a firm footing in exploring the endless possibilities of the future.

I've recently been reading the work of clinical psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson and in his latest book he writes about the permeating existence of order and chaos in everything alive, not just us human beings. On one hand we have order when we have stability, when things go the way we expect them to go and everything is understood. On the other hand, we have chaos which is the "impenetrable darkness of a cave", "when something unexpected or undesired makes its appearance" and "when tragedy strikes suddenly". Peterson also writes that we seldom leave places we understand and go through life inhabiting places and times of order; we occupy a known and well understood territory while surrounded by the unknown.

I try to make sense of this by picturing the separation between 'home' and 'the rest of the world'. Home is where the stronghold of what constitutes order for me is while the outside world is full of uncertainty and shadows lurking in the dark. In many ways, stepping outside of home and into the outside world is crossing the threshold between order and chaos, however it is interesting to imagine that chaos can also manifest itself within your stronghold of order in the form of burnt pasta, brown water coming out of the taps or the lights not working when you need them most.

Peterson writes, "To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos, possibility, growth and adventure. The subjective meaning that we encounter there is the reaction of our deepest being, our neurologically and evolutionarily grounded instinctive self, indicating that we are ensuring the stability but also the expansion of habitable, productive territory, of space that is personal, social and natural."

In closing up this blog, I found this quote to be incredibly grounding as I try to make sense of events of the past few weeks. It clears up some of the fog and reveals to me that I am indeed consciously and deliberately stepping into the future with a firm footing of security and order and not just being swept into the whirlwind of life.

I would like to think that I am embodying the role of the explorer, slowly but surely expanding the space of what I think is possible day by day.

And I think this is exactly where I would like to be.

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