Just over three and a half years ago, I was not in a good place. I was most likely depressed. After a very stressful time with a job I severely disliked and an unrequited obsession that at I now realise was a futile attempt at finding meaning in a life that had none, I decided to pack everything up and leave. Before I made the decision to leave, I often burst into tears at my work and resorted to copious amounts of alcohol at the weekends to numb the overwhelming unhappiness I felt daily.
Just before I made a decision that would change my life forever, I walked around the town I lived in and wrote an entry in my journal that very clearly shows to me just how incredibly far I have come on my personal journey since then, because my perspective on EVERYTHING has changed.
Saturday 11th September 2010
I am so bored with it all. I have always known that I was not meant for the banality of this place. This town holds so many bad memories for me. It is like the smell of smoke on your hair after a night out, it lingers and I cannot seem to wash the smoke or the memories away. I can never get clean. The small insignificant high street with more shops closed than open is like a hundred towns in Scotland. It takes about two minutes to walk the length of it. There are a few high street stores, takeaway shops, pawn shops, and charity shops. The pavement is grey, the buildings are grey, the sky is grey and the people are grey. It is early evening and it is almost deserted. Every few steps there is a pub surrounded by dirty fag douts and the awful wailing of some drunk attempting to sing on a karaoke escaping from the open doors. The sound echoes through the rough streets and makes them seem ridiculous. Women stagger from one pub to the next dressed in high heel shoes they cannot walk on partly because they are too high and partly because they have drank half a bottle of vodka before leaving the house. They are dressed in clothes that are too tight, too short and too cheap. They stink of smoke and their hair is streaked yellow, their faces lined and hard looking. Everyone I pass is either drunk or on drugs, the heroin addicts walk past with their stuttered, jerky walks, their faces like hollowed out grey wood, their eyes like dolls. Grey just clings to everything, and it smothers me.
I did leave. I left in May 2011 for Australia on my own with nothing but a backpack and a couple of thousand pounds.
My mum said to me before I left: “You know V, there is nothing wrong with being ordinary.” I said: “That’s where you and me differ, because for me, there is nothing worse than being ordinary”.
It was the best decision I ever made. I spent two years in Australia, working, travelling and exploring a part of the earth. At times I was as scared as hell, at times I was lonely, at times I wondered what I was doing, but most of the time I wondered at how amazing the world actually is. I looked around me at the sky, the landscape, the sea, the hills, the buildings and the people. Looking at everything new was like looking at the world for the first time and thankfully that is something that I have kept with me.
I came home a year ago and I was worried. I was worried that I would go back to the sad place I was before I left. I was worried that I would not be able to stay, that I would hate my home town as much as I did before I left. I was wrong to worry. The place has not changed much, but I have. My whole perception of the world around me has changed. It did not change overnight, and the change in me had already started before I left, but going away and coming back made me realise two things: what I want to really do with my life; and that how you feel inside can completely change the way you see everything. You can see all the depravity, or you can see all the wonder. The earth has equal amounts of both. What you see is what you choose to see.
Sunday 18th May 2014
Today the sun is shining, and I am going on my favourite walk. I walk down past the residential streets, the council houses, the high rise flats and the old school. I walk up a hill and within several minutes I am walking past large sandstone houses with beautiful gardens. I walk across a path that goes over the motorway, the sound on that bridge is deafening, but I know that within minutes I will not hear it. I walk past a large abandoned community centre and already on my left the fields start rolling up towards the hills in the country. This road goes for ten miles and takes me from the town I stay in to the valley I grew up in. On either side all the way along are fields lined by either rows of bushes or trees. A few minutes down the path and there is a perfectly kept, very small riding school. Tiny birds twitter and tweet from bushes on one side of the road to bushes on the other. There are horses in the field, and a hen swaggers around the courtyard. Someone is renovating their large house on the left, there are a few piles of rubble in their garden and one looks like a face smiling at me. I walk uphill and through a path with many trees which are bursting with green leaves, to my right a river flows downstream, through the spaces in the trees I can see the water glittering in the sun. I walk even further uphill and the countryside opens up to as far as I can see on every side. There are a few farmhouses scattered around the hills and sheep everywhere. It is just after spring and there are sheep and lambs dotted everywhere resembling the green bushes dotted with white flowers. I look up and the sky is blue with many billowing white clouds, it looks like a painting. I turn left up another road and up a much steeper hill. When I am at the brow of the hill I turn around and I can see the valley unfolding onto the horizon. I turn left down another road back to the town and I walk past a field of cows who decide they will come with me, stampeding down the hill. I have to stop so that they calm down and stop running. I take a deep breathe in and inhale the clean, nourishing air of the countryside. I watch the birds soar across the sky, free and where they belong. Rabbits run along beneath the hedges of ploughed fields. I come to the last part of my walk where the road climbs and then dips and it looks as though the road ends in the sky. I love this part of the walk, I love that view, it makes me feel like I am on my way to the clouds. In the distance I see that the clouds are gathering in a hurry and that they have become dark and heavy, I can hear the mumble of thunder a long way off. I can feel and smell electricity in the air. My home is not the town, but the earth itself and it exists perfectly as it is, that is what I am aiming for.
I am not unhappy here now, but what I want is to see the whole world. I want to walk right around the world. I am not unhappy now because I know I will do it again. I am mindful of slipping too far back into normality. I take care to make sure I am always in a position to up and leave whenever I want. It was difficult getting money together to go and to come back, but I did it and I know that I can do it again. The journey I took made me realise that I am brave and that if I truly want to, I can do anything. So now I am on another path, I am trying to achieve what I have always wanted to achieve. I am going to keep going until I can do the two things I love more than anything else in life: writing and travelling. I always said that if I ever decided what I wanted to do with my life, I would be unstoppable. I know now and I am in no mood to turn back, but I will take the time to look around me and appreciate all that is, because without doing that, nothing is worth it and my life will have flashed by whether I publish a book or not.