FROM THE ARCHIVES: A Time to Reassess
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We had our house rewired last week.
Don’t ask me why. The council decided, for a purpose known only to them (though I’d like to assume safety reasons?) that most of the houses on our estate needed their electrics completely redoing, so we were given a date, a deadline to have all of our belongings boxed up and sent into storage. Curtains taken down, kitchen fridge emptied, every blue-tacked photo off our bedroom walls. When the big day arrived, we left our empty shell of a house to stay with kind friends up the road, and returned five days later to a freshly wired, dusty, dirty house with bare plastered walls staring blankly at us. Oh, and some vouchers to buy paint with.
In the middle of our busiest term, in final year of university, with deadlines and final exams looming: safe to say it’s been pretty disruptive.
There are things about myself I wish I could change. Not in a dramatic, self-hatred kind of way: largely, I’m pretty happy. But there are habits and tendencies that I wish I could just shake off. I wish I was more disciplined, stuck at things when they’re hard. I wish I trusted my voice more. I wish I was more compassionate, went out of my way more to love people. I wish I went outside more and watched Netflix less.
Granted, I am in total control of my own actions—I’m not going to sit here and play the victim. But habits are hard to break. When lectures are tiring and essays stress me out, it’s easy to go straight to Netflix to wind down before bed. I’m trying to be more outward looking in my actions, but daily life gets in the way time and time again. I’m learning to like the sound of my own voice more, but group settings can still make me nervous and it’s hard to trust that I have something valuable to offer when all the other voices seem to shout louder. It’s not so easy to snap out of patterns that I’m so accustomed to wearing.
New Year’s resolutions don’t really do anything for me. I’m not likely to stick at them, so I make little effort. Lent is similar. I know there’s no real pressure to give anything up, but it’s still tempting to set idealistic goals for myself: I’ll give up social media! Or caffeine! Or sugar! All noble ideas in theory, but likely to fail by day one. I do try to use these times as a jumping board though. A pause for reflection on what could do with a bit of adjusting, bring me a little closer towards the life I’d like to have. So this Lent I deleted Snapchat and Instagram – not because there’s anything wrong with them (I actually really miss the dog-selfies), but I recognised an unhealthy habit in me to look to them for comfort, affirmation, easing boredom, and decided to cut it out.
I know there’s no real obligation in these times to give up or take up. But for me occasions like this offer valuable time to reassess. I love that these spaces are built into our calendars, alongside the changing of the seasons and even the shape of the school year. I think they’re life carving out time for us to re-evaluate. To take stock, rejig some things, reflect on what’s going well and what could change. These markers are often small and gentle, but constant encouragements to be assessing and adapting my life as I go.
I think life knows that I’m reluctant when it comes to change, so every now and then it gives me a nudge. Shakes things up a bit. Breaks into our calendars, our rhythms of stability.
Sometimes life tears down our walls, throws everything we know into chaos, and all we can do is hold our breath until the dust settles.
And when it does settle, eventually—for surely it always does—it looks a little different from before. Some of the things we thought were always going to be stable, solid, safe, are still recognisably there, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes we have to relearn our way around our home, the place we thought we’d always know off by heart. Or we have to relearn bits of ourselves, re-tread areas in our minds that we don’t visit very often, but when you dare to peek in you see that things are a little different. We grow and change and adapt and the insides of us don’t look the same forever.
Having my house taken over and made a mess of was tiring, physically and emotionally. Home should be a safe place and it’s surprisingly distressing to have that privacy taken away, even for a few days, and the task of repainting and putting each room back together since then has been a constant energy drain. But in a weird way, I’m grateful for it.
Being exhausted has meant I’ve been sleeping through the night for the first time in months, driving me to have productive 9-to-5 days (whether that’s spent writing essays or painting the kitchen) and well-earned sleep each night. Having to do “adulating” things like choose paint colours and phone the plasterer has reminded me that I’m capable of these tasks, even when they’re a little frightening. Offers of friends to help paint, move furniture, invite us for dinner, makes me insanely grateful for the community I live in. Being out of my own house for my birthday made the comfort of blueberry pancakes and wonderful friends at the beach all the more joyful.
Yes, it was disruptive, and messy, and the dust is (quite literally) still settling. But my room is purple now, and I love it. My desk faces a different direction, I’ve organised things a little differently, and it’s cuter and tidier and has given me a renewed surge of enthusiasm for my work. Our house feels brighter with a fresh lick of paint, a little more like it’s ours.
I think that these moments happen a lot in life as we go along. When a friendship changes and you wake up to the fact that you’re not 15 year old anymore. When an unexpected job offer, or rejection, throws your plans in the air. When you find out something new about a person and it throws off all the assumptions you’d made.
I have no doubt that graduation will be one of these times: a shaking up of everything I currently know, and waiting to see what things look like when they land. I’m sure there’ll be a hundred of these moments in smaller ways before then, too. They’ll be tiring, and messy, and a little disruptive. But they’ll shake up life’s monotony and stop me from becoming stale, from living on auto-pilot. So I’ll embrace them, the gentle movements of the seasons, and the harsher interruptions that life throws at me. I’ll hold my breath until the dust settles and face the new day a little clearer.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]
[This post was originally published on March 9, 2017.]
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