In praise of staying, deliberately

Much like Penny, I’ve spent a great deal of time wondering if I should move overseas. And in an unlikely turn of events that has surprised myself more than anything, I’ve decided to give this whole Really-Deliberately-Living-In-Sydney thing a crack.

Choosing to stay in a city you know like the back of your hand is hardly the most romantic of life decisions. I get this. To borrow Penny’s words, eventually a place can start to feel like a warm bath that you used to make an occasion of, “with candles and red wine and soft music, but now you don’t even bother to put bubbles in”. Things can get stagnant when nothing is changing.

Even Aziz Anzari thinks so. Patterns are the work of the devil is a truism that’s been plaguing him, and after reading this interview, it’s been plaguing me too. In the interview, he speaks candidly about grappling with fame, fortune and loneliness. In a bid to find happiness, he’s rejected the idea of following the structure of routine in favour of a nomadic lifestyle.

But here’s where I think we’ve got this all twisted. I don’t think it’s routine that’s to blame here. It’s not where we live and it’s not the bath with candles and red wine. What’s really to blame is our decision to not put the bubbles in the bath. Complacency is what’s making us discontent within our own cities, rituals and routines.  

Up until recently, routine was not something I’ve ever been great at and it’s not something I had a whole lot of exposure to. I grew up with the constant change of moving to a new country every year or two. When the possibility is high that you might come home from school and be told you’re moving halfway across the world with a month’s notice, establishing a routine doesn’t really factor into your mind. 

But now that I’ve lived in Sydney for the better part of a decade, sometimes I think that maybe, I’ve come to grips with the idea of following a routine. But as soon as things get hard, or my identity is shaken, or my friends move away, all I want to do is GTFO. I want to pack up my things and leave. To Oslo, or Copenhagen or Tokyo – all places I have at one point in my life called home.

The thing is, you can’t afford to be complacent when you’re moving all the time. You have to constantly remain open to new people, experiences and ways of doing things. There really is nothing quite as liberating as stepping off a plane into an unfamiliar land. If you really want to avoid complacency at all costs, I suggest moving abroad.

But moving abroad is not something I feel like doing right now.  It means throwing a lot of things away that I’ve put put my heart into building. And I want to keep on adding to the life I’ve built. There’s comfort in slowly adding little things to your life, just like there’s comfort in pattern: like the pattern of your boyfriend bringing coffee to your bedside every morning. So I’m not buying into the idea that patterns are inherently evil. 

Just like any long term relationship, if you want to keep things interesting, you’ve gotta put in the work. Invest in it. You’ve gotta put in the bubbles and live in your life deliberately.

Really-Living-Deliberately-In-Sydney. When I say this is, I guess what I mean is that I want to live in one place without having one foot out the door. Without one foot in Oslo or Tokyo or wherever-the-hell. Not in limbo, not in flux.

When you live your life with one foot out the door, there are a number of things you can’t do. Like get a cat. Or line your walls with books, buy art and have a garden where you can grow things. I want a space where I can have my people over and we can cook and drink and laugh and do whatever. I want to have people around me who I’ve known for longer than two years. You know, the ones who really know you. They know your flaws and eccentricities and they’re cool with them.

It means I can focus on some other things that will satisfy my kick for discomfort and new experiences. Frequently travelling abroad will always be part of this, but so will taking that course, learning African dancing or calling that old client I’ve been meaning to reach out to. It also means taking nothing for granted. I want to keep exploring new parts of my city. Going to gigs, readings, talks, exhibitions and involving myself in the community. Putting in the effort.

Like moving overseas, staying to find the wonder that exists in your own city is a hard and brave thing to do, too. It’s easy to think that there is a better life waiting for you if only you moved somewhere shiny and new. That life would make better sense, people would ‘get you’ so much more and that you’d finally be elevated to the most sophisticated version of yourself. I know people who have been travelling for years, not satisfied with their life, endlessly searching for this elusive place that will suddenly ‘feel right’. Let me tell you right now that this type of thinking is painfully flawed – because the place they are looking for doesn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Sydney’s not perfect. But despite its nanny-state antics, lock out laws and the ubiquity of activewear, this is a place with many great and life-affirming things on offer. So, for now, I choose to live here deliberately, and I’m going to give it my god-damn everything. In return, I hope it will reward me with not only good coffee and beaches, but also challenges, opportunities and all the other things that make a good life (if only I  remind myself daily to remain alert and open to them).  

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