All my bags are packed but I’m not sure I’m ready to go…I have been given an allowance of 3 suitcases to pack up my personal effects and move to another continent. In one, I’ve stuffed food and drink -enough pesto sauce to feed a family of Italians for…well, probably about a three days. In another, toiletries, in case there’s a mysterious shortage of deodorant, skin lotion and hair paraphernalia in Africa. And in another some clothes which will be dust and mud-stained beyond recognition within a few weeks. Yes, it’s finally time for me to move out and make a home of my own. Well, sort of…3 suitcases is not enough to hold most of my stuff, as anyone who has seen my wardrobe can attest. The bulk of my material belongings are still in my old room, anchoring me to my parents’ house and allowing me to feel as if I haven’t truly left and that I can just come back every few months, as I’ve done over the last few years and reoccupy my groove in the couch.
I want to have the best of both worlds -travel to new places and work with new people, while still having the comfortable safety net back home. But that’s not generally how things work, right? This domain of work, with its country-hopping, is one that lets you live a totally abnormal life, whereby it’s considered natural to go away for 2 years and then show up back on your parents’ doorstep and crash in the basement for a few months. You can live perfectly “normally” having no real home of your own and always ready to pack up and head to the next exciting opportunity. Back in the real world, your high school friends are establishing careers, getting mortgages, planning families, and generally being responsible adults…
I feel ambivalent about this situation: on the one hand, I’m thrilled to even have to opportunity to go to new places and not feel trapped in a particular career or life path. It’s also a convenient way to dodge the inevitable questions from concerned (older and usually female) family members about my personal life (“Oh yeah, I’ll definitely start looking for a husband once I’m settled somewhere…”). The truth is I’m unable to project myself into the future. Till now, all my jobs have been short term contracts and consultancies. When I started my current job and talked about performance goals with my supervisor, I was asked where I saw myself in two years. There was an extremely awkward pause as I tried to figure out a way to tell them I didn’t necessarily see my future with them…or even necessarily in this field!
But, on the other hand, I know the day will come when I have to “grow up”, as it were. I will have to confront the scary possibility of actually having to build a life somewhere and settle on what the heck I’m going to do with my “career”. That idea is terrifying enough now, but I imagine it will be even more so when the time comes and I realize I’m totally unprepared, having pushed all those kinds of thoughts to the back of my mind for years.
I think what I’m trying to say, as I embark on a new phase of my life and take on new responsibilities, is that being a grown up is frankly terrifying and I have no idea how people do it.