You’re not stuck. Believe me, you’re anything but stuck. You’re not redundant either. The tide, it can seem completely still in places, but there’s always something going on under the surface.
I can still remember the exact time I wrote those words in my leather journal, a year ago now, sitting on a relative’s sofa. I was looking after her house and dog for a long weekend, and I remember being just so incredibly grateful to be there – grateful and scared as hell. I’d finally gotten out of a disastrous and controlling relationship, been made redundant from the company I’d worked for since I turned 16 and left the flat I’d shared with the disaster. It was pretty much everything in my life. Gone. And the feeling was completely indescribable. Freedom is the closest word I can think of to it – and for those who have been in a situation with no freedom, you can remember how drunk on it you are when you finally get it. Freedom comes at a price though; I had a small redundancy amount that was slipping away fast, I had no home (I was sleeping on the parent’s living room floor) and absolutely no clue at all what on earth I was going to do next. I couldn’t drive. I had no qualifications to my name. I didn’t have any close friends, and although they put me up when I left the flat, my family weren’t very supportive or understanding of the situation.
So when one of my relatives asked for me to look after her beagle while she was on holiday, I jumped at the chance. It was in a couple of towns over, and the best part was I actually got to sleep on a bed, not just on the floor! And yet, while I was crying tears of sheer happiness and gratitude most days, just for the sake of being alive, I was also scared as hell as to what I was going to do. I had to do something. Being jobless and homeless doesn’t get you far. There was so much choice, yet my limitations kept me back – education, experience, funds and transport. In the London/home counties area, unless you have the bank of mum and dad after a split and job loss, living is very hard going. Things are very expensive. A month’s rent is anything between £750-£1200, not looking at every other bill to pay. I didn’t even leave it a day after being made redundant before trying to find a new job. And it was hard work.
It was the drive back home from house sitting that something finally clicked into place. My relative was asking me what I’d been up to over the weekend, and I told her I was job hunting, dog walking, and enjoying being alive. She asked how the job hunt was going and I told her, truthfully, not too well. Countless applications led to one interview, which didn’t land me the job. She asked me what I wanted to do. And it just came out, before I’d even thought about it.
I told her I wanted to move away, somewhere on the coast, I wanted to work hard summer seasons and play harder off season. I wanted sun and sea and sand, I wanted to learn how to surf, I wanted to drink coffee and learn yoga and get my own flat. I wanted to work my bollocks off 12 hour shifts, earn some good money, and get a banged up 4×4 that I’d go exploring with on the weekends. I wanted to get to know some pretty cool people, make great friends and go on hikes together. I wanted to make and sell my own soaps and jewellery, I wanted to read all the books (ALL the books) and have my own reading chair with a bookshelf and sheepskin and coffee table and oversized mug. I wanted to adopt a dog and go for a run every morning as the sun came up. I wanted to ride horses. I wanted to live holistically and ethically, yet still go for a booze up. I wanted to complete my falconry training that I started before I met the disaster but had to stop in case he got jealous. But the thing I wanted more than anything else… I wanted to be goddamn single. I did not want a relationship. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with any male creature. I did not want to answer to anyone, or have to consider anyone else in any of my life decisions. I wanted to just have to belong to myself.
All of this seemed impossible after spending years of coming home and crying every night, wishing, dreaming that I could just feel, just feel a tiny bit alive. Feeling nothing. Throwing up from stress when my ex would come home and start having a go at what must have been perceived affair number 42. Cause you know, you can’t smile at a stranger on the bus without it meaning you want to rip each others clothes off. You can’t wear perfume without it meaning you were trying to make yourself sexually available to anything with a penis in the vicinity. And you definitely can’t hitch a ride home with an old family friend, oh by the way a married, strictly Christian one, who just wanted to make sure you got home safe. Nope, women who do those things must obviously be seeing someone. Take note boyfriends, husbands and partners.
Anyways, bitter rant over, after I’d told my relative in much simpler terms that I wanted to move away, she simple replied: “Well, why don’t you?”.
Ok, so this answer shocked me in more way than one. Let me give you a simple explanation of that side of the family: we’re Hobbits. Minus the hairy feet. We’re pretty much short people (averaging around 5ft) and very very unadventurous home based. My mother especially. I remember when I was 17 my absolute dream goal was to go to a volunteer wildlife sanctuary in Africa for a two month period looking after animals and learning a new language and culture, inspired by my beloved travel and gap year magazines. My mum’s reaction? “Oh no you can’t go there. You’ll get raped and killed.” And you know what, she said exactly the same thing when my sister wanted to go the New York. I laugh out loud now just thinking about it. Bless you mummy. I swear, she thinks we live in the 1940’s with her attitude towards pretty much everything. So, needless to say, for someone to actually encourage me to get out there on my own and live, really live, was kinda a shock to the system. I was too used to the “Oh no you can’t do that” attitude. I never expected anyone to say to me with certainty; actually, you can do whatever you want.
That drive home, that conversation, was all I needed. I used to have just a dream… and after that day, I had more than that. I had a plan. I wrote the opening paragraph above to myself on that dead end day as a consolation that things weren’t going nowhere. It was a very small voice. But it was definitely there. I never disbelieved it, but, all of a sudden, I found myself believing it with ferocity. I just had to work out how I was going to do it.