I woke to a world coated with ice crystals, crunching underfoot and glittering in the weak early morning sunlight. I don’t do cold well (I’m a Sydney girl, the British weather kills me!), but mornings like this it’s worth the three layers of thermal underwear under my jeans and jumper and the three pairs of socks inside my pretend Uggs.
I want to appreciate all that’s good about the UK while I’m still living here, try to experience some of the magical England I dreamed of back in Australia. Turns out, it’s harder to find than I thought. So easy to get caught up in work and socialising, and much of Britain is ugly suburbs and motorways. The magic places are still there, but you need to search them out, and I haven’t given myself the gift of time to do that. Too busy rushing from one thing to the next, focused on simply surviving and making money.
Now I’m quitting the Day Job, I want different priorities. Yes, I still need to earn money. Yes, I’ll probably have to work way harder than I am now to earn half as much (that’s how it was last time I worked for myself, running an internet used and rare bookshop). I’m okay with that. What I won’t have to do is live my life to someone else’s timetable, run to catch the train and catch the bus and walk to the office on time to spend all day running to keep up with tasks someone else decided they wanted from me. I’ll have to work hard, but I’ll be in control.
What I don’t want though is to make my new work, writing, as much a drudgery as my Day Job. I need to make sure I allow time for enjoying life. I need to make sure I appreciate the simple pleasures of my life.
I’ve lived most of my adult life on the “I’ll be happy when..” principle. I’ll be happy when I have my own house. I’ll be happy when someone loves me. I’ll be happy when I have a child. I’ll be happy when I’m in England (when I was in Australia). I’ll be happy when I can live in Australia again (not I’m in England!). I’ll be happy when I give up the Day Job and write.
Recognise a pattern there?
None of those goals are bad ones, but I won’t magically become happy then if I can’t find happiness now. Yes, my job is a PITA. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s an energy drain and brain fryer of the highest order. It sucks in almost every way except for the pay packet. But the fact remains- if I can’t be happy now, I won’t be happy then.
So, this morning, a rare and precious day off in the week, instead of whingeing about the cold, I got up and dressed and went outside. Walked around the garden, marvelled at the ice, took photos.
I do want to be a fully time writer. I do want to live back in Australia one day. I have strong ideas what I want my life to be, the sort of place I want to live. I don’t have that now.
But what I have is still good. For now, I go to the Day Job, for seven more weeks. I write when I can. I live frugally but well. I take joy in all I have, in the frosty mornings and a warm bed to come back to and the crazy cats and a good man and my little writing shed. What’s meant for me will come to me, or I’ll come to it, all in time.
In the meanwhile, I’m here, living my life.
Having long term goals and working towards them is a great thing, and necessary if we’re not to just drift through life (not sure that’s a bad thing, sometimes, too!), as long as we don’t let not being there yet suck the joy out of the present moment. It’s easy to get so focused on what we want for the future we miss the small delights of life right now.
I want to find the simple joys in my life. I want to make the most of these last weeks at work, appreciate the gift of travelling into London each day, working with the people I work with. Once I’m done with the Day Job, I need to remember not to get too focused on making writing another job. Work-life balance is such a cliche, but so important.
I want to love writing again. I want to love my little house and garden. I want to love my husband and play with him like I used to, before I got so tired and so serious. And I want to make the most of being in the UK. See those places I want to see, experience the England I dreamed of back in Australia. Take time to sit and truly experience somewhere, not just tick the box and move on. There are special places very close to me I’ve never seen, only whizzed past the signpost in the car, on the way to somewhere else.
It’s time now to take the detour. Take the scenic route. Take the time to experience what is wonderful in life. This is a chance to live life to the full. Every moment is a new opportunity to experience living in the now, not in dreams and hopes of a different future.
I’ve never let myself do that before. It’s time to learn how.