Friday, 17 July 2015

What's it all about?

When I was a kid, back when adults were strange and boring beings, always sitting about and talking instead of running around, playing and having fun, I asked my dad what philosophy was. "It's when you ask questions like 'Why are we here?'" he explained. That's a silly question, I thought. I got here without anyone asking or explaining why, so what could it matter? It was a silly and also annoying question. It made me not much look forward to being an adult if that was the kind of thing they talked about. I would probably have been mortified to know that some thirty years later (the other day), I would have this conversation with Dad:

"What's it all about, Dad? Why do you think we're here?"
"Does there have to be a reason?"
"I guess not." I pondered. "But wouldn't it be awful if there was and we never even asked?"
He laughed and buttered some toast.

So, I'm still stuck with this blasted question and only a rough sketch of an answer, which I didn't even come up with. It was a teacher, on a school report. "Tania has not reached her potential." Annoyingly, this continues to be a problem. I think I'm here to reach my potential and I still haven't. Even a glimpse of it would be nice.

I mentioned this to my best friend while we were sitting about in the pub and talking. Although she is far too nice and considerate to use these specific words, I believe I can paraphrase what she said to "You're thinking too much," and I don't disagree. She is fully occupied with a gorgeous child, a husband, a house, a good job that she enjoys and I completely understand it if she, and indeed anyone, thinks that looking for an invisible and perhaps fictional concept such as 'potential' is a pointless and wasteful luxury.

On the other hand, it has led me to some very interesting things. So for now, I will leave you with a fruit of my, er, 'labour' which, hopefully, can show that this journey is not as miserable and pointless as it may well sound.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The journey continues...

It has been just over four years since we returned from our travels. Perhaps the most common question I was asked was 'So, what's it like to get back to normality?' After deciding that they weren't deliberately trying to wind me up or bring me down, it was still a tricky one to answer. What did they mean by 'normality'? Having no job and no money? That the first violent experience I encountered in over two years of travelling happened on the tube when it pulled into my home station on the night of my arrival back to the UK? Finding that a KitKat now cost 60p? Was that 'normal'? And what did they think was going on in everywhere else in the world? Oddness? Obviously, it would have been somewhat abrasive to respond honestly to what was clearly assumed to be an innocuous question (and no one likes it when you answer a question with a question, let alone several). The closest I could get to both truth and courtesy was 'I feel like I haven't stopped travelling,' and even that would trigger a long pause and then an awkward change of subject. It would have been a lot more straightforward if they'd asked me what it was like to come home, because that was great.

I existed in a quiet and stable state of euphoria right up until I got promoted at work about a year later. My excitement at life and all its possibilities (for a person with a British passport) was slowly and eventually entirely consumed by concern for issues that I'd spend all day trying to sort out, all night worrying about and all weekend zonked in front of the telly trying not to think about. None of which was the problem. The problem was that it was not for what I could describe as a worthy cause. No, I'm not really sure what a worthy cause is either.. maybe meaningful or important or fun or interesting or to support a family or household of my own (which I still don't have)? Or maybe just knowing what you're doing it for? Because I don't think the job provides the meaning - that's up to the person and I can't find it. But if this was the normality they were banging on about, then it was shit. So, six months later, I quit.

I'm no stranger to existential crises, I have one at least every couple of years, but this one's a humdinger. So, I invite you to join me on another journey. And this time, it's spiritual!