The rent’s been paid and the clock has ticked over. With a little jump into the middle of May—with all the British sunshine that brings—I have officially entered my second month in England.
The last time you heard from me was shortly after the raucous funeral for Murcia’s sardine and my own departure from the city of sun and lemons. In that short time, it feels as if my universe has been reset. Some great and pudgy finger has flicked one cosmic light-switch off, shuffled some paperwork and props behind the scenes and then turned on the lights again to reveal that the entire set has changed, the cast of characters has been replaced and a new set of character motivations has been added to the script.
That’s what it’s always like moving countries, isn’t it? I’ve certainly done it enough at this point to be something of a go-to guy on the subject. You find yourself suddenly thrust into a brand new world, forced to play a new role, in a new language, to a brand new audience, while the script keeps running behind it all and you’re left to catch up.
Perhaps the only thing I know for sure at the moment is that the cosmic play has entered a new act, one in which the characters will be faced with hard truths, come face to face with the realities of a post-university, post-gap-year world, post-Brexit world.
It’s bound to receive rave reviews on the West End, just you watch.
About as far-bloody-of-a-cry from Murcia as any place could be, but all the more refreshing and energising for that fact, Reading is my third “city-on-the-fringes”. Never in my life have I had the (dis)pleasure of living in any sort of promising metropolis. I grew up on the fringes of Adelaide, not in the bustle of Sydney or hustle of Melbourne. I spent a glorious six months (two and a half years ago now!) in Mannheim, a half-sized industrial town rather than in Berlin or Frankfurt. And of course, my past half-a-year stint of Spanish life was set in Murcia, an agricultural hot-spot that, unfortunately, barely registers on the map for those outside of the country (with a little detour to the mountains of Catalonia thrown in as well).
Now Reading is my base of operations, a city that has undergone radical change in the past decade to become a small city of white-collar tech workers, generously stocked Polish grocery stores and compact, blooming gardens. In fact, Reading is, so far, the smallest city (by population) that I have ever lived in, if you are to disregard the bloody obvious fact that one of the world’s most ridiculously bloody HUGE cities is a short hop on the train away.
A month later I am still struggling to call the place home. I remain in the early stage of weightlessness, unable to attach myself and floating like a spore coming down to settle. I fear being blown off course by fate. I fear slipping and sliding and being unable to land at all. And so, I’m counting my pennies, buying only the things that tempt me enough (a few books isn’t too bad, right?), and hoping, searching, waiting for the opportunity to settle to reveal itself.
Dealing with this uncertainty has been the first, and greatest, challenge of the move. It’s quite a big ask to relocate oneself, finally, without the backing of all too generous Spanish families or the comfort of the family home. It’s an even bigger one to make the leap without a solid career move to come with it. I’m edging closer and closer to that every day, however. It’s tantalisingly close, what with me having five interviews a week at the moment. But the stress of rent, of daily expenses, of a bank account reaching critical depth, is a constant pressure. There is something like a vacuum in my chest, dragging my ribcages back towards my backbone. It opens whenever I see the potential void in front of me and it doubles me over. Though I’m not proud to say it, I am finally seeing the truth of the world as run by capital. For too long I’ve lived well, ignorant even, supported by love and by generous family that I, by the simple lottery of birth, had access to. Reading is something of a welcome reality check and my next big challenge.
And so, I’ve made it my project to overcome the stress of uncertainty with gratitude, humility and courage. Setting myself daily goals, getting out to exercise and move every day, and avoiding long-stretches of home-bound time are all tactics that are helping. Taking the random small trips, whenever I can, out to Oxford or London (though there won’t be many of them considering the outrageous price of tickets) has also helped me feel a bit more “on the Electric Holy Road”, or, in other words, on the path to somewhere.
It’s also been an opportunity to look critically at myself, which is something I’d like the reader to take away from this instalment. Unbiased self-reflection, self-critique and self-awareness is central to healthy life, no matter where in the world you end up or with whom you start working. The first major job rejection I received here, something that came after months of anxious waiting, was a massive blow, but the gaping wound turned out to be a door to myself. By receiving the feedback that I hadn’t pushed my own ideas forward enough within a group task—that I hadn’t made my voice heard in the crowd—I faced a significant revelation. I have been going with the flow for too long. I have been following the expected, pre-paved roads for so long, expecting others to succeed around me, without realising that the test all along was to find and voice my authentic self in the face of the raging flow of time.
I dip my toe in the flow of uncertainty, preparing to plunge myself straight in. Though the water is cold and raging, I know that soon I will have to dive, I will have to swim, as we all do at these turning points. I have suffered under fear and worry. I have bled dry on winding detour roads. Wrecked, renewed and refreshed, the reality of the situation is this:
Dive. Dive and swim with everything. Dive and swim despite the fear. Dive and swim with your own strokes, your own style and with the re-assurance of miles of swimming already completed. If I can get this far, far enough to see a possible dashing-against-rocks-scenario, then I can go further.
Next time: A bit more about Reading and its surrounds, a bit more on what it means to be here