Travelling has been everything to me for the past three years. I have placed it centrefold in my life and arranged the rest accordingly. Most other things have come and gone and I have been OK with that. It’s a part of the process.
When everything flies by, you can’t hold on too tight.
You learn how to release.
Release came from relax, which came from the Latin word, "relaxare" meaning to "loosen or stretch out." And this is fitting because release is expansive. You expand when you release because you are making room for growth and allowing for newness.
Each departure is another release. And I have left so many times. Each place held in forever in my mind as not just another chapter completed as much as a whole book that has been finished and shut and slipped into its place on the shelf. It feels like I have lived many different lives. Maybe I have.
There's a quote in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: "Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living."
I used to feel like my bones strained under the weight of all the lives lived. The heaviness of all the perfect and imperfect days that I could never get back was like a mountain on my shoulders. It has gotten easier over time though. I have learned how to better accept the impermanence and not wallow in my grief over all the shut books on my shelves.
The only constant in life is change. I think travelling intensifies this but it is a reality that is universally unavoidable. Sometimes it is saddening and sometimes it is exciting and other times, it is exciting as it happens and then saddening in retrospect, which is especially true if you have chronic nostalgia like I do. But regardless of the emotions it triggers, a level of acceptance is needed. You cannot stay lodged in your past and you cannot even stay lodged in the present. To be present is to allow the present moment to move through you. You can't grip onto it—it always pulls away. You can only observe and appreciate it.
Everything is change even when we wish it wasn’t. The book finds a way to shut.
But letting go can be hard. It can hurt. In a way, it's heartbreak in its simplest form. We thought the story was going in one direction but then there's a plot twist.
The stories that we tell ourselves are the fabric of our reality. The stories about who we are, how we got here, what this means, why it's happening, and where we are going. We get attached to these sagas and while we can always choose how to interpret them, we aren't fully in control of how they develop and the direction they take or where they lead us. And they often don’t turn out exactly how we thought they would. Sometimes, we decide to take a different path. Sometimes, the path we were on falls into a vortex and ceases to exist.
Either way, resistance doesn't change anything and doesn’t usually bring peace or happiness.
I think a large part of allowing change involves enthusiasm for the future and a gratitude—not obsession—for the past. Usually when we are refusing to let something go, it's because we have constructed a belief that the future will never possibly compare and we are focused solely on the past. Excitement for newness tends to welcome the newness in.
Still we are very good at stubbornly staying in the same place even when it no longer serves us. We try to etch the stories we tell ourselves into stone, turning the temporary into concrete foundations of our identity. You are not your career, your relationship status, your location—you are not even your beliefs. All these things are in flux.
One thing that I am constantly reminded of is this: Do not hold on so tightly.
Life is evolution.
One book will shut but there is a new one waiting with blank pages aplenty.
There's a line in a song by City and Colour that sings, "if I try to change direction, I might not find what I’m looking for." It always comes to mind when I'm yearning to fight to stay in one place. I sing it to myself as I walk away. Life is progression and change and I want to see what's on the horizon if I can.
What I want most of all is to drift on the currents of all the things I cannot control and find beauty in the ripples.
Self portraits in Melbourne. June 2017.