Arthur is downstairs fiddling about with the washing machine, after he decided to clean it, and it decided to respond by ebbing foam onto the garage floor. I don’t think it would ever occur to me to clean a washing machine. Sometimes I think I’m not cut out for adult life.
Right now I feel so happy to have carved out some freedom to not behave like a grown up. I’m only working 30 hours a week, in a cafe. Plenty of time for writing, napping, walking on the hills by myself. I’m happy. But I feel a little guilty. Is this why so many of us work so hard at things we care little about? We like to feel useful. I’m telling myself that making people coffee, most days with a genuine smile, is useful. But I don’t worry about it most days. Only when I’ve had a stretch of not enjoying my free time. Then I doubt my choices.
I used to worry a lot about helping other people, and I used to chide myself a lot about not being good enough. Then, a few years back, I decided to accept that I was never going to be able to help anybody, or make the world better, if I was miserable. It was an important turning point, though I couldn’t tell you quite when it happened. But I accepted that happy people are good for the world. Joy is infectious. Happy people get stuff done. They’re resilient, and creative, and stuff. Or that’s what I tell myself, to give myself permission to be happy.
I still have twinges of worrying about not contributing. But I’m letting myself take my time. I’ve felt in the past that I was building my house without foundations. We had lots of the parts of a fulfilling life, but it all felt very shaky. Now I feel like I’m finally getting around to building a solid footing.
Travel was an important part of this process. It let me disassemble myself a little, and examine the pieces. See which ones I liked, and which I didn’t. Try out some different ones. But it wasn’t until we stopped travelling, and found a new home, that the pieces began slotting back together again. I’m still not sure quite where I’m going. Who is? But I know I’m getting closer to where I want to be.
And I know that everywhere I’ve passed through on the way has got me here.