I recently finished reading The Happiness Project - I picked it up at the airport on the way to Houston, last minute to find a house last month. Not something i would normally have read but I did, and although i found it difficult to read (her approach is very logical and rational, it was an intellectual approach to being happier which didn't sit that well with me) some of the ideas she wrote about really resonated. One of the things she mentioned is 'being Gretchen' ... the idea that we are all so different in terms of what we love doing and what matters to us. I know this sounds so simple but actually she's right - it's hard to separate our own values and pleasures from what we think we should be doing, what other people expect of us. She mentions thinking that she should appreciate classical music because it's mature and grown-up ... it was a big step for her to let that go and realize that she loves contemporary pop. It's about being true to the things which really move us, which we love, not the things other people necessarily appreciate or feel strongly about.
For me, one of the things I have always been passionate about is Travel and cultures different to my own. I left the province I was born in for the first time when I left for college and I remember how huge that was for me, I felt like I was in a different world when I arrived in the Eastern Cape. All through college I dreamed of living on a Kibbutz in Israel, backpacking through Europe, studying painting in Paris. That love of travel has never left me. I haven't been to half the places I want to go to and some of my trips have been way too short - I haven't yet travelled an entire continent or taken a year long road trip but I've seen a few countries and I have lived in the UK and now in the States and so in some ways I have felt like I am travelling all the time. Experiencing a new culture, different ways of thinking and doing and being.
Whenever I have a life changing choice in front of me - like should we move to Texas or stay in New York - I imagine myself on my death bed (at a ripe old age of course) thinking back over my life. And i tell myself that all I will have left are the memories, the things I DID not just thought about - the chances I took, the cliffs I jumped off into the water, the fires I built on the beach. The people I met, the new foods I tried, the people I have loved along the way. I want to live my life fully and richly - I want it to be a tapestry of new experiences woven in. I may not be brave enough to bungee jump and I won't count eating worms or frogs in my life experiences, so there are many things I would say no to, but I try to live openly, embracing what comes my way. This is not always easy and sometimes I feel way too safe and in my bubble, not fully immersed - missing out on so much adventure.
Lately it has felt that way a lot. We have been happy in New York - mostly. I love so many things about it. There is loads to do, we are busy, we have friends and are pretty settled. The one thing we haven't managed to do is to buy a house. Not for lack of trying. In fact it's been a huge focus of our time and energy over the past few years. We didn't have our Greencards and so it made sense to wait - we found that out the hard way. So the drive to settle down and find roots has been a big one, but at the same time I have been restless and feeling unsettled too. Not sure where to go next. Is this it ? Are we staying for good ? How do I feel about that ? I love my friends here and I love the seasons but there are things I miss and some things I am not happy about. Like anywhere I suppose, it's the good with the bad. I miss Africa and the heat beating down on a dusty floor. I miss the sense of the unknown. I miss life feeling bigger than the school run and going shopping. New adventures are calling and they have been far between of late.
And then along came Texas with the promise of a slower pace and at last a house of our own. A pool to survive the heat and thoughts of the kids coming home from school and jumping into blue water - chilling out in the backyard year round. I love the heat more than the snow and I was excited to grow cacti in my garden at last. A whole new state to explore. Closer to Mexico. A whole new part of the States. And i was desperately sad to be leaving and worried about how the kids would adapt, but I got my head around that and started to look forward to a new adventure. New experiences to blog about. New places to explore. I wanted to drive to San Antonio and take a road trip to Florida, try new foods, find new styles of furniture - explore a new city. That sense of adventure is strong and I felt so invigorated over the past weeks, once the decision had been made. I flew down to Houston alone to house hunt and find preschools, I drove around and got my bearings. I got a little bit excited at a new life waiting for us, a little daunted too but excited all the same. We started working our way through a list of places to say goodbye to in New York ... things we wanted to do before we left.
And then there we were, two weeks from closing on our beautiful house with a pool in the backyard and one down the road - literally seven houses away. Boxes half packed and charity donations almost done. The whole house stripped down and things piled up ready to pack. The call came out of the blue - the job we were moving for was just not viable anymore. Cash flow problems. Big ones. After all this. The ups and downs and heartache of making the decision. The pulling myself out of sadness at the idea of leaving and the building of excitement. The hopefulness and worry of a new home - finally after 6 years - putting down roots but somewhere new. Dashed.
Because here's the thing. I love change. It invigorates me. I love absorbing a new culture and Texas would have been that. Love the newness, love figuring it all out. Not too extreme - it's the same country and the same language. But for me right now that was as much change as I was going to get, and I was looking forward to it. To some fresh (not literally !) air. And now after all that soul-searching we are back where we were before. Possibly in the same house, Clint definitely in the same job (I am grateful, honest I am, but still - the same job still, again, after all this - really ?) I feel like a hamster going round and round in the wheel and right now my spirit feels tired and overwhelmed. How am I ever going to get out of this cycle of nothing changing and same same same ? Is this really it for me ?
So New York ... we can stop half way down our list of places to say goodbye to. The Zoo, the Children's museums, the Aquarium, MOMA. You get to have us for a little while longer.